Pomerol 2016 from bottle wins big

Including brands at $35-$55 per bottle

(Bordeaux 2016 from bottle, part I)

4 November 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

Writing about 2016 from bottle, let’s start with Pomerol, an appellation that is often better now in bottle than it was from barrel in April 2017. This small appellation of some 150 estates is not cheap, but the 2016 vintage seems to have lifted many boats, including less expensive $35- to $50-a-bottle wines.

2016 tends to have more acidity than 2015. The tannins seem more structured, too. The vintage conveys cooler blue fruit but not without Merlot charm, richness and body. Some wines exude dark fruit opulence, but not as obviously as they did in 2015 (and certainly less so than in 2009). With some exceptions, they are not as big and as bold as the 2010s, either. The most successful Pomerols in 2016 convey polish, fruit purity, structure and palate density, with long finishes marked by pleasing lift and tonicity.

Sounds good, right? Well, for the most part, it is!

Dear reader: just a reminder that to keep this site free, I appreciate subscribers. I travel to Bordeaux on a systematic basis – at least twice a year – and have gotten to know many of the industry players as well as producers quite well over the past 15 years now.

So, thanks for asking your friends to subscribe.

One other thing: I missed a few from bottle this time around, including Clinet, Evangile, Lafleur, Le Pin and Eglise Clinet. I will try to get to them in future. Read More

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Assyrtiko: A Comet beyond Santorini

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

9 October 2018

In recent articles about Assyrtiko in Greece, in Wine Review Online and in Decanter, I focused on Santorini, the grape’s main island claim to fame. But, as Yiannis Karakasis MW reminded me over a marvelous lunch earlier this month just outside Athens, do not limit yourself to the volcanic island.

We found ourselves dining in a where-time-stops seaside town called Voula. Yiannis Papadakis, sales consultant for the Oenocosmos (that’s Greek for “wine people”), joined us. I met Papadakis for the first time over this lunch, although we have been Facebook friends, where we differed on who is the best rock drummer ever. For me, it is John Bonham and for Yiannis it is Keith Moon. Both were great to be sure.

Great food and wine match, and notice that fresh taramosalata

Many thanks to Karakasis for treating us to lunch: Yet more proof of Filoxenia from Greece and Greeks. I owe you one, mate. He brought two wines, to boot, starting with the very tasty Tio Pepe Una Palma Fino. The Fino Sherry was selected from just three casks of six-year-old Tio Pepe, with a flor yeast veil, displaying golden hues. Bottled sans filtration or fining, this Sherry evinced an elegant nose and distinctly saline notes. Its 15.5 % alcohol was barely noticeable; it was refined in expression. Read More

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Swiss wine visit

From the Alps to Lake Biel

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com 

15 September 2018

Greetings dear readers – and sorry for a long absence.

Looking for a new apartment here in Strasbourg, and my work for the Council of Europe, which will be taking me to Vienna, Austria ; Odessa, Ukraine and Athens, Greece in the next few weeks … And I may have been listening to too many podcasts when not working.

So, as we approach the final days of summer, I want to highlight a visit to Switzerland, last month, when I tasted some fine Swiss wines, thanks to friend and fellow Bordeaux wine critic Yves Beck.

I see Yves at every barrel tasting season in Bordeaux, where we had met a few years ago.

And thanks to Michaela Gabriel, a professional wine taster whom I meet regularly as a judge for the biennial Mundus Vini wine tastings in Germany, as she co-owns a fine winery in Switzerland.

Excellent Pinot Noir and better than usual Chasselas 

But first let’s focus on a gorgeous sunny August morning near Neuchâtel, as I pulled into the driveway of Domaine Sainte-Sébaste in Saint-Blaise.

Yves drove up shortly afterwards, and we met with owner Jean-Pierre Kuntzer. He tends to 19 hectares of vines, after having taken over from his father since the mid 1980s. His grandparents owned a house with vineyards, but his parents Alice and Jean-Claude Kuntzer built the cellar in Saint-Blaise back in the 1950s.

The main grape variety for production is Pinot Noir, followed by Chasselas, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer.

Although we did not see any of the vines, it was great to view the vat room and to of course taste the wines.

Jean-Pierre Kuntzer with Yves Beck (seated) in the tasting room

If a tree fell in the forest ? 

As with most all Swiss producers, his wines are mainly sold to fellow Swiss. And it begs the question: Would you know if a tree fell in a forest, if nobody was there?

The very best wine we tried was a special cuvée of Pinot Noir, the Clos de la Perrière Neuchâtel 2015, which could easily rival a fine village Burgundy of the Côte de Nuits. Even a premier cru. At €44 a bottle, you may think it pricey, but actually it is a great price/quality ratio. Read More

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An elitist wine snob should know where to draw the line

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

1 September 2018

Greetings readers, writing to you from lovely Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in Germany, where the harvest has begun earlier than usual given the hot summer. I am here for yet another series of tastings of Mundus Vini, one of the most important wine competitions in the world.

And as usual, it has been another fascinating experience judging wines by panel.

Winemakers who judge tend to be more “understanding” in assessing wines than merchants who sell wine. And merchants who sell wine tend to have more understanding than hacks like yours truly, who like to write about wine, but do not need to sell it.

Jury number one #mundusvini #summertasting

Mundus Vini is a great opportunity to share opinions about a series of wines tasted blind by flight.

This has been my fifth year participating and something always interesting comes up. In this case, we had flights with wines that were made with residual sugar in excess of 4 grams per liter, but not more than 12. Wines, which I would think, should be inexpensive and somewhat simple, made from grape varieties that do not typically have so much residual sugar, as we were assessing, for example, Montepulciano reds with up to 12 grams of residual sugar and another flight featuring Chardonnays from southern France, also with 4 to 12 grams of residual sugar.

Chardonnay, don’t hold the extra sugar 🙂

While most of our panel agreed that many of these were “well made”, quite a few meriting silver medals, I could not go to gold for any of them.

Wine people versus people

Now trade tastings like Mundus Vini are meant for assessing wines that for the most part are currently being sold for on the market. Judges are meant to assess the wines based on their market interest and their estimated “pedigree”. As the esteemed wine author and expert Robert Joseph said one evening after a day of judging here: “Most people do not eat in three star Michelin restaurants”. Indeed, many eat fast food. By the same token, “wine people” may look with disdain at, say, average ho-hum Pinot Grigio, or the current Prosecco craze. But these are popular wines for the people. And there is a reflection of this in politics today: elites look with disdain at Trump voters or Brexiters. But one must have understanding for the popularity of both, in order to accurately assess “the situation”: and so it goes in wine and in politics. So, yes, read the Daily Mail as well as The Guardian, to get a more rounded picture of what the hell is going on.

But I digress.

So, yes, we should not necessarily exclaim “What the hell!” when we see Chardonnay with up to 12 grams of residual sugar. If it is a balanced wine, then it has merit. And some markets enjoy wine that is on the somewhat richer side of “balance” …

However, I do think that there are limits for “wine people understanding people”.

So in my group this time around, I categorically refused to give any gold medals to any of the Chardonnays or Montepulciano wines with so much balancing residual sugar. I was told that one gold in question was balanced and excellent and that it did not matter how much residual sugar there was. Well, to a certain extent …

I would have been more inclined to give gold to a well-balanced Chardonnay with no residual sugar, than to a well balanced Chardonnay with 6 grams of sugar. There is balance, and there is balance.

We did agree that it would be better for such wines with such residual sugar to include that information on the back label: now that was a “wine people, wine geek agreement”. Information to the people brings power to the people. An educated public may pick a better president next time. I digress, again.

But, yes, there are well made Chardonnays with residual sugar and well made Montelpulcians with up to 12 grams of the sweet stuff.

But gold?

An elitist wine snob has to know where to draw the line. ?

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Croatian (wine) Journal, Part II

White wine pleasure in Dubrovnik 

20 August 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for Wine-Chronicles.com

After spending a few days at the charming waterfront harbor resort of Cavtat – see Part I –  I took a picturesque boat journey to Dubrovnik, which is the focus of this second part of my Croatia summer blog wine chronicle.

As one writer had already noticed over 10 years ago, Cavtat is ideally located should you want to visit Dubrovnik. The one-hour boat ride alone is worth the $15 round trip ticket.

Nearing Dubrovnik

Gorgeous seascapes include little islands and many boats, from large sailing vessels to luxury yachts. You could take a cheaper bus, but then you would not get off directly in the center – and the ride is not as charming.

Arriving at the dock, medieval walls surrounding narrow Venice-like pathways look gorgeous. It is easy to see why Dubrovnik has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.

Charming paths

Thanks to restoration of damage caused by war following the break up of the former Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik has re-emerged as a top tourist destination in the Mediterranean. More recently it is the theme of Game of Thrones tours… but let me get to the wine angle ?.

Meeting Croatia’s Best Sommelier Read More

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