Yes, Napa reds can age very well (and more tales with Washington D.C. winos)

By Panos Kakaviatos for

8 August 2015

Back in Washington D.C. I flew in to see my mother who is going to have to undergo surgery. At 85 years of age, a delicate matter. It was great to be able to meet great friends from the Washington D.C. tasting group I have known now for over 10 years. The theme was Napa Valley reds – including some older ones – and white Burgundy, with a few other regions including, of course, Champagne to start. We were Ben Giliberti, former Washington Post wine writer and currently working for Calvert Woodley Importers and fellow D.C. -based winos and wine aficionados Ken Barr, Howard Cooper, Paul Marquardt, Ken Brown, Chris Bublitz, Randy McFarlane and myself.


Randy getting ready for some bubbles!

This tasting proved yet again how quality wine producers from the Napa Valley make wine that is built to age – as well as seductive early drinking wine. The white Burgundies we enjoyed were all delicious. Three clearly flawed bottles including a 2004 J-M Pillot Chassagne “Clos St Marc” that Paul brought, tainted by TCA. Ben brought a 1987 Burgundy that was also corked. Randy’s 1995 Spottswoode could not shake an excess of what seemed to be volatile acidity. But most of the bottles brought were great. Many thanks to dear wine friends for bringing in some of their drinkable treasures, which we drank with much pleasure! Always good to start with bubbles. Two NVs and one 2008, that shows the promise of that vintage! Read More

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“Sweet” is too simple: Appreciating late harvest wines

By Panos Kakaviatos for

9 July 2015

“Sweet” wine?

Some people shrug. Many who dislike “sweet” wines base their judgment on supermarket shelf stuff, the kind of wine that is merely sticky (and/or sweet), without vivaciousness from balancing acidity and/or intriguingly complex flavors and aromas from botrytis-derived spice.

Yet some of the world’s greatest wines are “sweet”. Most readers have heard of Yquem. And I am certain you have come across Klein Constancia Estate or Domaine Disznoko or Weingut Dr. Loosen. In fact great “sweet” wines can be found worldwide.

Why the quotation marks? Because that adjective diminishes the complexities of truly fine late harvest wine. At least for serious producers.

Yes, you can start with fabulous fungus

Also known as “noble rot” (pourriture noble in French, Edelfäule in German), botrytis tends to develop later in the harvest period, shriveling grapes, removing water and leaving behind concentrated fruit sugars, minerals and natural acids, yielding a more viscous juice. The fungus typically occurs when warm, dry and sunny conditions follow early morning humidity, generated from nearby lakes and rivers. Take for example the famous Ciron – a tributary of Bordeaux’s Garonne river – which has cooler waters than the Garonne.


Thanks to botrytis

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Haute Couture at Haut Bailly

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

30 June 2015

This is one of a series of articles on some superb lunches and dinners I was lucky enough to attend during the intense Vinexpo week in Bordeaux in June 2015. Keep checking my website for more Vinexpo highlights throughout July 2015! 

Dinner with Pingus, Le Pin, Bonneau du Martray, Quinta do Noval Nacional and Haut Bailly? And with the owners all present? Sure! Guests included winemakers, sommeliers, esteemed wine writers and others associated with the wine industry – from China and Europe to the U.S. and India. I had the pleasure of having Will Harlan of Harlan Estate seated across from me.


That’s Will Harlan of Harlan Estate and Bloomberg writer and wine author Elin McCoy being served Haut Bailly 2009

All in a thoroughly elegant setting.

Haut Bailly is a veritable cru classé de Graves of tremendous breed and refinement and the 17 June dinner ambiance reflected that style. Every two years – at Vinexpo – owner Robert G. Wilmers organizes a lovely dinner, preceded by a comprehensive vertical of at least the last 10 vintages. This year lucky participants tasted vintages from 2004 until 2014 from barrel and then – over dinner – enjoyed a superlative 2009 vintage and a very good 2000 vintage – with the aforementioned wines from around the world.


With master chef Alain Dutournier of Carré des Feuillants, who prepared a superb dinner for the superb wines!

The entire event, from A to Z, reflected the elegance and refinement of the wine. Following the vertical and servings of Pol Roger 2004 vintage Champagne, some 100 participants were enchanted by the superb culinary art of Alain Dutournier, chef of the famous Carré des Feuillants restaurant, who prepared a meal that was as savory as it was aesthetically appealing. Read More

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No Greek myth: Assyrtiko can be really great

By Panos Kakaviatos for

28 June 2015

Wines in bold, I liked in particular. When red and bold, even more. When underlined, too, that means top of the pops!

It was great to meet with a dear friend in Frankfurt, who loves Greek wine. Spyros is a #winelover who is half German and half Greek. He grew up in Greece before studying and then working in investment banking in London. Since 2013, he has been working in Frankfurt. Obviously, the current situation in Greece was a subject of conversation as we met with some of his friends over dinner with plenty of Greek wines, mainly Assyrtiko from Santorini.

Spyros and his Taiwanese wife organize wine dinners with friends on a monthly basis, and it was a great pleasure to join them. Our dinner party included a couple from Beijing who live and work between Beijing and London and a Greek doctor based in Frankfurt.

Assyrtiko is a famous white wine grape indigenous to the gorgeous and volcanic island of Santorini, which is known for its amazing sunsets, among other things. Spyros has traveled to the island and knows some of the top winemakers there. Read More

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Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg Les Chaignots Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru 2009

By Panos Kakaviatos for

2 June 2015

I have been to Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg on several occasions and the wines from this estate are terrific.

Sisters Marie Andrée and Marie-Christine run the estate, which was once run by their father the late Dr. Georges Mugneret. The style is suave yet with structure for aging. Friend and Burgundy lover Micheal Lux brought over not too long ago a magnificent Clos Vougeot 2002. I have purchased more recent vintages, mainly Vosne Romanée and Echezeaux but decided – somewhat foolishly – to crack open this my only bottle of their Les Chaignots Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru 2009… As Jasper Morris describes it in his excellent book Inside Burgundy, this wine “shows the elegance and harmony of Vosne Romanée on top of a solid base of Nuits-Saint-Georges.” Read More

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