Champagne: Spotlight on Pierre Péters

By Christine Havens for

15 February 2015

My first encounter with Pierre Péters happened innocently enough, at a trade tasting, as such encounters often do. “How much is this?” was my knee-jerk response after the first sip. The company’s owners wanted us to keep our opinions to ourselves until the tastings’ end, including questions about price.

At that point in my tasting career, I’d had much less experience with Champagne. Yet, Pierre Péters was instantly memorable, even though my introduction to this celebrated house had been in tasting their Cuvée de Réserve, a wine that cannot be described as humble, despite the fact that it is an entry-level label. (With some searching, the Cuvée de Réserve can be found for less than $50.00, and it’s well-worth seeking out.)

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Business lunch at the one star Buerehiesel

Restaurant review by Panos Kakaviatos for

7 February 2015

We were seated in a well-sunlit space, the large windows offering lovely views of the trees in the surrounding Orangerie park on a cold, yet sunny February day.


Lovely setting for a menu affaire: photo courtesy of Buerehiesel restaurant

The site was the Restaurant Buerehiesel, located in the heart of Strasbourg’s rather expansive and pastoral park, the Orangerie, just across from my workplace, the Council of Europe.


Beautiful building: photo courtesy of Buerehiesel restaurant

I have been in Strasbourg for many years, but this was my first ever experience at this legendary restaurant, housed in a beautiful half-timbered 17th century farmhouse that had been once dismantled from its original location and rebuilt in the Parc de l’Orangerie.

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Bordeaux 2005: high tannin, freshness and balance

Some high alcohol Merlots in Saint Emilion annoy me, but most all wines yield balance and poise, with freshness and opulence

By Panos Kakaviatos for

3 February 2015

Special note: for tasting notes below, I use a simple system: When bold, I particularly liked the wine. If red and bold, even more. If red, bold and underlined: wine nirvana. A star  * in addition to all that means THIS*.

Bordeaux 2005 was when Bordeaux started getting really expensive en primeur, but not yet when top brands began to sell wines to negociants at sky high prices, leaving little margin interest – and leading to much frustration and end-client recrimination, the effect of which lingers today.

Of course when you talk about top tier Bordeaux, you talk about money. Just take a look at this news brief from, about “Bordeaux 2005 raising interest on fine wine market” …

But let’s get to the quality.


Legends in the making

2005 is worthy of “vintage of the century” status in spite of all the inflated critic scores (and the other vintages of the century of the 2000-2010 decade) that leave you searching for 120-point scales. Yes, from humble cru bourgeois level wines like Poujeaux to the most extraordinary wines Lafite Rothschild and Petrus, you find much to love in 2005.

Many thanks to Giles Cooper of Bordeaux Index for the tremendous opportunity to retaste many Bordeaux 2005 from bottle, nearly 10 years on. Giles said that he loved the freshness in 2005: “It’s freshness without being green,” he said. Indeed.

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Bring prices down in 2014 say Bordeaux buyers: open letter

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles 

25 January 2015

Last month, I purchased a bottle of 1966 Chateau Montrose, a top second growth from Bordeaux’s Saint Estephe appellation, which apparently did well in that vintage. The price for the bottle, which I purchased at an auction with apparently very good provenance, was less than $190. I love mature Bordeaux, as the wines are ready to drink and a product of long term aging that can work magic for #winelover-s.

As Bordeaux’s top estates tour the world to have their latest in-bottle vintage – 2012 – tasted by merchants, these same merchants are preparing for the en primeur campaign of 2014, when the latest vintage from barrel is tasted in early April.

The fact that I need to spend more money for Chateau Montrose 2009 and 2010 than for Montrose 1966 indicates that something has gone a bit amiss with pricing in recent years.

The bar set in Bordeaux for initial offers has been set too often too high, resulting in less interest in en primeur campaigns, and many alienated end consumers.

To illustrate the point, I have scanned a January “open letter” to Bordeaux signed by top UK Bordeaux merchants – from Farr Vintners and Bordeaux Index to Berry Bros & Rudd and Majestic Wines – urging a “much needed correction” in the market for Bordeaux.

Open letter

“Much needed correction” in Bordeaux pricing urged, according to top UK wine merchants


An evening of Château Pichon Longueville Baron: 1989-2010

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

21 January 2015

This was my sixth consecutive annual Bordeaux gala dinner in Washington D.C. The wines of Pichon Baron have been particularly excellent in recent memory since the 2000 vintage. Jean-Rene Matignon – who flew to Washington for this tasting dinner – has been at the helm since 1987 as technical director, when AXA Insurance bought the property. Their investments in the vineyard and the vat room have borne fruit especially in vintages since 2000. And yet, 1989 and 1990 were both marvelous, made from higher yields. No false notes from any of the 13 vintages enjoyed by assembled merchants, sommeliers, wine bloggers and wine lovers who attended this tasting dinner on a cold January Martin Luther King Day in the nation’s capital. And a word of praise to the relatively weak 2007 vintage, which was charming and very aromatically pleasing for current enjoyment, even though it, too, has Pauillac power, as it should, with tannic structure.

Although I sought to do a double vertical with both Pichon Baron and Pichon Comtesse, it was great to see Jean-Rene again, as I had organised verticals with him in three German cities back in 2006, where we had tried several of the same vintages as here in Washington D.C. including 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Five years ago in New York City, I had co-organized a double vertical of both estates; private individuals and wine lovers brought their own bottles and we compared the wines blind over several vintages and then-Pichon Comtesse wine director Thomas Do Chi Nam, who later joined the team at Chateau Margaux, took part. 

Pichon Baron the chateau under clouds

As most readers of these pages would know, both Château Pichons were once a single, larger estate, owned by Pierre de Rauzan. In 1850 the estate was divided into the two current châteaux, facing each other as one enters Pauillac along the D2 highway. In 1987 the French insurance company AXA purchased the estate and appointed Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages as administrator, but the estate has been run since 2000 by Christian Seely, whom I last saw in Florence for the 8th annual Master of Wine Symposium in May 2014. In any case, much of the team’s continuity over the last 30 years guarantees that the unique character of this wine is maintained.

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