In praise of Philippe Dhalluin

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

by Panos Kakaviatos for 

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 Café 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

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

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 Classé 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


Bordeaux 2019 en primeur

The COVID19 vintage

by Panos Kakaviatos for

29 May 2020

As we slowly open things up and muddle through “mask on, mask off”, it is important to take into consideration the common courtesy to wear a mask for shop owners who have to deal all day with customers whom they do not know. While opening up is important, it is equally important to be safe.

And it also clear that after some 50 days in lockdown in Strasbourg, France, followed by travel restrictions, I did not go to Bordeaux to taste the 2019 vintage from barrel.

And I am beginning to think that this has been a good thing. And not just for health reasons.

For now.

Château Pontet-Canet 2019 was released on 28 May for €58 a bottle ex-Bordeaux: that is over 30% below the opening price of the much (sometimes over) hyped 2018 release.

Indeed, as Decanter reports, “Liv-ex data showed that it is one of the lowest priced vintages of Pontet-Canet on the market, and the lowest ex-Bordeaux release price since 2008. The 2019 barrel sample received a score of 96 points from Decanter’s Jane Anson.”

So, without yours truly and other wine hacks taking part in the annual late March/early April wine tastings, creating concomitant hype, producers are left with less incentive to raise prices.

Of course the market is in bad shape given reactions to COVID19, but you may have noticed that the stock market has been doing very well lately. There is a good chance that things will “return to normal” with a V-shaped economic recovery. Airline prices are going up. As of 2 June, in France, one can travel beyond the 100 kilometer limit that has been in place since the obligatory lock down ended earlier this month. And it looks like beaches from July on will be open for business. Heck, Cyprus is ready to pay for anyone who contracts the virus while vacationing there, as you can read here.

A lingering risk remains in some quarters that may have “opened too soon” without having “flattened the curve” or that COVID19 will mutate later this year into a more aggressive form, but, for now, things are looking good. And “looking good” is a relative description. Many have lost jobs, are applying for unemployment insurance and restaurants and other venues that cannot do business in a social distance model are suffering enormously.

But we have a wine buying opportunity whatever the case may be elsewhere. Even not having tasted Pontet Canet, I am tempted to pull the trigger on a six pack of the 2019 vintage. My dear friend Jane Anson has giving it 96 points, and I like her palate, so you have that to fall back on. Among others who are having some wines shipped over to taste.

I look forward to tasting the wines later this year in Bordeaux.

But, for now, there is something nice about less hype.


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Wine snapshot : Volnay Champans Premier Cru 2010

Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Champans AOC Volnay Premier Cru 2010

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

25 May 2020

It is always fun to asses wine 10 years later. And although the harvest of the bottle that is featured this week has not been in bottle for 10 years, it has been nearly 10 years since the 2010 harvest.

For this week’s wine snapshot, we look back to almost exactly seven years, as well, since my Wednesday morning, 29 May 2013 visit to the Domaine Marquis d’Angerville in Volnay. It was at that point only five days without rain over the entire month, remarked owner Guillaume d’Angerville, at that time. Note the sound of draining water – lots of it – because it had rained so much. A difficult, but prolonged growing season in 2013 did eventually deliver lighter wines, graceful and fresh rather than concentrated.

About 2010  

But here I feature the 2010 vintage, since I bought some back in 2013. 😉… It is interesting to read rather critical assessments of the vintage just after it occurred, as they tended to stress the difficult growing season at that time, too. Some were writing more favorably about 2009, but I think that such assessments may be a bit of hogwash. As a cooler climate vintage, the 2010s exhibit more elegance and refinement and nuance than many 2009s. You want a racy style? Go for 2010. There is much freshness, ripe and focused fruit, lifting and floral aromatics, supple tannins, vivacity and extract. Read More

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