Dry whites for summer quaffing in or out of quarantine

Some even won “Oscars” this year 😊

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine review online

(This text was published earlier this week in Wine Review Online)

23 July 2020

I sparked a series of comments on Facebook the other day with the line, “Life really is too short to drink average wine.”  Some 100 comments – written or as emoji – reflected how widely that line is open to interpretation.  Some took it to mean that life is too short to drink inexpensive wine.  But the idea popped in my head not after sipping Mouton Rothschild, but, rather, cheap dry white Bordeaux.

Every summer the past several years, the AOC Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur Regional Wine Growers’ Syndicat – also known as Planet Bordeaux – designates “Oscar Awards” for top Bordeaux AOC summer wines.  A jury of international wine writers and critics designate the winners, but COVID-19 concerns this year led to a virtual event.  I joined 19 other judges who received “finalists” out of over 300 applicants in categories often associated with summer quaffing:  AOC Bordeaux Blanc, Bordeaux Rosé, Bordeaux Clairet and Crémant de Bordeaux.  Only 24 wines were chosen as Oscar winners for each category, and here you can get the full results: OSCARS 2019.

My category was dry white Bordeaux, which accounts for just over 10% of total Bordeaux wine production today.  Most wine geeks know that in the mid-20th century, Bordeaux produced far more white than red wine.  Producers then used white grapes to make sweet wine or sold them for distillation.  But a combination of factors – from the popularized “French paradox” that led to more dry red wine consumption, to the power of influential critics like Robert Parker – turned production to favor red over white since then. Read More

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Fine signs for Bordeaux 2019

Let’s start with some top Cru Bourgeois

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

15 July 2020

As you may recall, back in May, I dubbed Bordeaux 2019 the COVID19 vintage.

That was not meant to decry quality, but rather to set context. And as I wrote back then, my intention was not to add hype, but take time to taste when I could, as the official tastings in late March and early April had been cancelled due to the pandemic.

As we know, many other things were cancelled, vulnerable people died, including my own mother, and we are still grappling with COVID19 today: in some countries it is still wreaking much havoc.

Unlike some of my fellow writers and tasters, I avoided having hundreds of wines delivered to my home during the quarantine in France. Partly because I felt that so much hype exists already around nearly every vintage of Bordeaux, so why rush to taste this year in the terrible COVID19 situation? I still believe that less hype and a more questionable economy has contributed to welcome lower pricing.

En Primeur campaign “reawakens” demand 

By all accounts, the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign has been going quite well. No doubt you have read plaudits from critics, with many high-90s scores. Liv-Ex, the global marketplace for the wine trade, recently issued a report claiming that the Bordeaux 2019 campaign has “grabbed the market’s attention in a time of great uncertainty and considerable financial stress”. Combining scores of notable critics, “2019 is the highest scoring vintage (on average) of the past 15 years”. So you can sleep tight tonight: you will find plenty of 96-98s and even 98-100s or even “100+” scores and incentives to buy the next “vintage of the century”. When Château Pichon Longueville Baron was released, for example, last month, the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW had such effusive praise to score above a potential 100 points for that wine, initially proposing a range of “97–100+”, concluding: “This is an absolutely beguiling expression that is classic Pauillac and yet it is Pauillac like no other”, as published in this Liv-Ex report from last month. I could expound more on why I think the 100 point scale is generally suffering from inflationary pressure, but that will be the subject of a future text. Suffice to say, the scale no longer reflects its original purpose. An 89 point wine, for example, and as you can read below in my notes, is a darn good score. But now that is considered by too many to be sub par. Basically, the “100 point scale” has been reduced to anything 95 and above to sell wine, many merchants tell me. WTF!
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In praise of Philippe Dhalluin

Château Mouton Rothschild director – and all around great fellow – to retire

by Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

14 July 2020

“People in the north of France, they know Bordeaux wines. They love wine in general.”

I met Philippe Dhalluin, the director of Château Mouton Rothschild, last month while on a short visit to Bordeaux for Decanter Magazine. We met at CafĂŠ Lavinal next to Château Lynch Bages for lunch to talk about the 2019 vintage when he broke the news to me. As I noticed the massive, new cruise ship like construction nearby, just the overground part of the impressive new cellar space at Lynch Bages, Philippe said: “I think it is time to go fishing”. Of course he does like to fish, but in announcing his retirement at the end of this year, he looks forward to indulging his keen interest in repairing and collecting classic cars, flying mini planes via remote control and cultivating a passion for physics, as in lab physics. He was coy about too much detail, but Philippe has serious scientific inquiry on his mind. And he is one of the nicest people I have ever met in Bordeaux: generous, smart, kind and a true bon vivant.

Opened in 2011, the €13m winery of Château Clerc Milon is certified Haute Valeur Environmentale: one of the great achievements under the direction of Philippe Dhalluin with Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy (Photo with permission of Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A.)

Winemaking did not run in the family, but wine drinking sure did. His father worked in the aviation industry near Lille, in northern France, but moved to Bordeaux because of the wines. “My father loved Bordeaux,” Philippe, 63, recalled. But what awakened his interest in wine was not Bordeaux at all. “It was a Châteauneuf du Pape 1970, which friends from Provence brought to our home. It really affected me. It was delicious and explosive.” Read More


Iconic Santorini: Vantage point for wine and food and luxury

And safe for COVID19 free tourism

Text and photos by Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

7 July 2020

Despite continued COVID19 concerns, many people are taking vacations to relieve 2020 stress for a summer getaway. It is a tricky period, but Greece proves a popular destination, given its solid track record in reacting to the virus.

The independent Paris based think tank Institut Montaigne noted in an essay “Europe Versus Coronavirus: Greece, an Unexpected Model”, that Greece had time to prepare itself against the virus spread, with the government taking drastic measures just as the first cases were detected, including canceling cultural events, closing schools, and prohibiting public gatherings. On March 23, with only 13 dead, the authorities ordered a general lockdown. As early as April, a person with COVID19 infected less than one other person.

With some confidence, then, at the beginning of this month, Greece opened for tourism to most countries, and media report that over 21,100 passengers on 55 international flights arrived at Athens International Airport on 1 July alone.

Safe destination this summer

According to the Greek government, flights resumed to Greek airports from “all countries”, except from those “seriously affected” by COVID19, as per EU guidelines. For example, while passengers from many countries this month already can travel to Greece, direct flights from the United Kingdom, Turkey and Sweden will resume only as of July 15.

Numbers are positive so far, as Associated Press reporter Elena Becatoros tweeted on 5 July: Since June 12, 29,450 coronavirus tests were carried out on incoming flight passengers. Of those, only 62 were found to be positive: 0.2%.

This Visit Greece page updates and answers to frequent questions that come to mind if you are concerned about travel, from permitted border crossings to testing requirements. Read More

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Wine snapshot: Château Corbin

Sure-to-enjoy from Saint Emilion, with a good price/quality ratio

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

4 June 2020

Ripe plum, red berry and floral aromas beckon drinking from the get go. The bottle was pretty much “popped and poured” but it opened up more in glass. After nearly 10 years in bottle the Château Corbin Saint Emilion Grand Cru ClassĂŠ 2009 vintage is drinking quite nicely.

The juicy palate is both full bodied and fresh. The 14% alcohol from this warm vintage is well balanced by acidity. The flavor profile just begins to suggest tertiary elements, with the primary fruit character dominates. I like the depth and impressive length coming from this blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, ending with crushed mint notes.

While mostly resolved, albeit still youthful, evident tannins lend structure for the longer haul. Because of its tannic edge, the wine paired very well with lip smacking, skewered lamb. Read More