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All Articles

This is a selection of articles from all our current and previous issues that you may dip in and out of time to time. You can search Académie du Vin Library Membership area articles by date, or by keyword.

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The New Life of Chenin Blanc

Alheit Vineyards It is doubtful that there has been a greater transformation – in terms of quality, reputation and price – in any wine-producing country in the past three decades than in Cape Chenin Blanc. In 1990 it was the most widely planted grape in South Africa (over 30% of the national vineyard). Used for [...]
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Barbaresco Asili: No More Refined Barbaresco!

What might be the best descriptor to describe the Barbaresco wines of the Asili cru? If you listen to what the local producers have to say, the choice appears to be an easy one. Time and time again, when talking with the area’s winemakers (especially those among them who know the features of this cru [...]
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A Wine Cellar in Lockdown, Take Two – Memories are Made of This

Steven Spurrier makes some more lucky finds in his cellar Eric Sauter, my Académie Internationale du Vin (AIV) colleague and co-owner of Domaine Mondivin, whose superb Cabernet Franc wines I referred to last month, told me that a perfect cellar should have bottles for every meal, every type of person and every occasion. With time on [...]
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Montalcino & Covid-19

The landscape in the far south of Montalcino. Vineyards owned by the Ciaccia Piccolomini winery. You miss most the little things when they are no longer in your gift. My early morning stroll to the village baker, so our son can have a still-warm pastry before he hooks up to Montalcino's secondary school online education [...]
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A Wine Cellar in Lockdown

Steven Spurrier in his cellar. Photo credit: Munchies Steven Spurrier makes some lucky finds in his cellar at home Hugh Johnson was of the opinion, when all wines worth cellaring were sold in 12 bottle cases, that one opened the first three bottles before they were at their best while appreciating the potential, the next [...]
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Time to Reflect on Provence in Times Past

I am in lockdown in my house in southeast France, and, like so many of the wine trade, unable to get out to taste and visit vineyards. So I am doing what I never have time to do, going through my piles of tasting books, extracting information collected over the past year (or two or [...]
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Breaking the Merlot-Cabernet Hegemony

Château d'Haurets vineyard. Photo credit: Jonathan Ducourt @jonathanducourt Bordeaux’s massive red vineyard is dominated by the Merlot-Cabernet axis. Of the 98,888 hectares (2018 figures) of red plantings (89% of the total AOC surface area) 66% are planted to Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Cabernet Franc. Do the maths and you’ll see that doesn’t leave [...]
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Chateau Musar

‘Wine is not human life, but it is real life all the same.’ – Serge HocharChateau Musar, The Story of a Wine Icon Serge Hochar’s skills as a winemaker were legendary. He not only crafted wines under the most difficult wartime conditions imaginable (bullets and bombs pelting his Beirut office, roadblocks and rockets making the […]

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The Burgundian Dream…Still Flourishing

The Harbour Family: Colleen, Madeleine, Jack and Nicholas Burgundy is mecca for many wine collectors and lovers. From its rolling vineyards flow mineral-driven, ethereal wines that enchant. Understandably, this magic comes at a price. According to SAFER, the agency that manages many of the region’s viticultural sales, in 2018 a grand cru vineyard averaged €14 [...]
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Bodega Garzón – Uruguay’s Icon Winery

Entrance to Bodega Garzón Compared to its neighbours, Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay is tiny, with just over three million inhabitants, half of whom live in the capital city Montevideo. Yet it has the widest river – Rio de la Plata, 45 kilometres wide at its broadest – and at 2,500 million years, the oldest bedrock [...]
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Alice Feiring and the Rise of Natural Wine

Alice Feiring The wine industry, in case you haven’t noticed, has entered a moment of reckoning. Earlier this month, Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division released its 19th annual State of the Wine Industry Report, an authoritative forecasting and trend-analysis guide. The overview is unsettling: We are at a point of oversupply…[but it] isn’t due to [...]
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The Revival of Carignan

Katie Jones' Carignan vineyard The Languedoc has always had something of a love hate relationship with Carignan. For some it is ‘the emblematic grape variety of the south’, but for others it was Carignan, along with Alicante Bouschet and Aramon, that was responsible for the bad image of the south. But now Carignan is enjoying [...]
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Wines of Santorini – Moving into Luxury Territory?

Reputed to have some of the oldest grapevines on earth, with roots dating to over 400 years old, the island of Santorini in Greece is experiencing some changes that could propel its age worthy Assyrtiko wines into luxury price territory. Long known for its bracingly high acid Assyrtiko wines, which some call the ‘White Burgundy [...]
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Grenache: Australia’s True Blue Superhero?

Giles Cooke MW in Blewitt Springs Grenache Vineyard Pretty much every New World wine-producing country I can think of has a hero grape. I don’t mean that South African Chenin Blanc goes about in a Batman mask or that Argentine Malbec can leap tall buildings with a single bound. What I’m talking about is that [...]
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The Lucky Country

An aerial shot of Woodside in the Adelaide Hills is clearly showing the fire damage I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror – The wide brown land for me! [...]
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Uruguay – Small is Beautiful

Pisano Brothers: Gustavo, Daniel, Eduardo Compared to the neighbours who surround it Uruguay is tiny, almost pocket-sized, with just over three million inhabitants, half of whom live in the capital city Montevideo. Yet it has the widest river – Rio de la Plata, 45 kilometres bank to bank at its broadest – in the world, [...]
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Winemaking in La Palma

Viki Torres inspects Listán Blanco in Las Machuqueras When you’re on the island of La Palma, there will be at least one moment in every day when the scenery around you strikes you dumb. I felt this even after four months of being there this year. But sublime as the landscape may be, for the [...]
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The San Francisco International Wine Competition

Anthony Dias Blue, Jim Harre and Steven Spurrier at the SFIWC. Photo Credit: Gerald Weisl www.weimax.com The SFIWC is the world’s second oldest wine and spirits competition having been founded in 1980, beaten only by the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) here in the UK which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2019. Managed now [...]
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Yarra Valley – Phylloxera Has Given us a Chance

Yarra Vineyards. Photo Credit: Christine Austin Phylloxera. That word must strike fear into the hearts of all grape growers. The vineyard pest that caused devastation across Europe in the late 19th century surely causes panic in the few parts of the world that it has not yet reached? But rather than panicking, winemakers in the [...]
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Balance – A Constant Struggle

We imagine – romantically, but erroneously – that balance is a state of calm and tranquility. That while all around is hustle and bustle, balance reigns unperturbed, aloof from the clamour and din. Nothing is further than the tantalizing truth. Balance is a contest of will. A struggle between competing forces. Take, for example, balance [...]
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Adegga – Their Innovative Wine Markets and More

Adegga Trio: André Ribeirinho, André Cid and Daniel Matos. Photo credit: Ricardo Bernardo The last Saturday in November 2019 saw the 10th anniversary event of the Adegga Wine Market that brings wine consumers and producers together in Lisbon. It’s a great opportunity for wine lovers to meet and chat with some of the best Portuguese [...]
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The Game of Rhônes

Rhône Timetable: 1974: California’s first Syrah made by Joseph Phelps from a 4-acre plot. 1978: Estrella River plants Syrah in Paso Robles 1982: Qupe produces Syrah from Santa Barbara County 1984: First Cigare Volant made by Bonny Doon, from Central Coast 1989: Rhône Rangers Organized; 350 acres of Syrah exist 1994: Tablas Creek develops vineyards [...]
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Stellenbosch: Too Perfect to be Interesting?

View from Neethlingshof vineyards over Jamestown and surrounding mountains. Photo credit: Charmaine Greiger via www.wosa.co.za Stellenbosch is the one Cape wine appellation that even the most amateur of wine amateurs could probably mention by name at a wine quiz. While the country's first vineyards were planted in and around Cape Town within a few years [...]
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Okanagan On The Up

Judgement of British Columbia. Photo by WineBC.com The Okanagan Valley in Canada’s British Columbia represents 3,575 of the total 4,249 vineyard hectares planted in the State. The most planted grape varieties in descending order are: Merlot, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc across 185 registered wineries. [...]
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Dry Chile

There’s no starker image of Chile’s water crisis than Laguna de Aculeo – or what’s left of it. Six years ago it was a scenic 12-square-kilometre lake close to Maipo Valley wine country, on which weekenders from Santiago sailed and jet skied. Now it’s empty. The water receded until it vanished completely last year, leaving [...]
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Monferace, Grignolino Reborn

Noble, refined and pure. These are some of the words that those who know Grignolino well use to describe it. Yet, the variety lingers in the Piemontese shadow of the mighty Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes. In its homeland of Asti/Monferrato, an area that encompasses most of its vineyards as well as Grignolino’s greatest terroir, only […]

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2019 Loire – Six in a Row!

Muscadet Pickers Incredibly 2019 is the sixth good quality vintage in the Loire. Incredible because the Loire has never in its recorded history seen six consecutive good to very good vintages – previously a run of three good years has tended to be the maximum that the Loire enjoyed. Since the start of the new […]

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Montalcino’s Rollercoaster 2019 Vintage

Organic Brunello grapes about to be harvested at Col d'Orcia for 2019 Brunello ‘Very happy and rather relieved’ are the words many Montalcino growers might use to describe their feelings following the 2019 harvest. It’s one to file under the ‘abundant but turbulent’ category. Warm, wet spring weather at the end of March provoked an […]

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Kincade Fire

HEALDSBURG, CA – OCTOBER 28: A stone facade is all that remains standing at the Soda Rock Winery, which was destroyed by the Kincade fire. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) In the late evening of October 23rd, the Kincade Fire, as it came to be known, was started when gusty winds […]

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The Japanese Indigenous Grape – Koshu

Koshu is said to be Japan’s only indigenous grape. It is named after its supposed prefecture of origin: Yamanashi. Koshu is a traditional name for the prefecture, so the grape is literally ‘the grape of Yamanashi’. It has two origin stories. One suggests Koshu was found growing wild in Yamanashi in 1186, allegedly grown from […]

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Connecting Art and Wine

On a Saturday evening at the end of September I found myself at the Sladers Yard Gallery in West Bay, Dorset, near to where we live, to attend a private view of collages and sculptures by the acclaimed Tuscan-born artist Marzia Colonna, whose work I began collecting thirty years ago when Bella and I moved […]

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Madiran

It’s been 15 years since my last visit to Madiran. I’d forgotten how pretty it was, with its gently rolling Gascon hills interspersed with woodland and vines. But no one would call the wine pretty. Made principally from Tannat grapes, though often softened with a dose of Bordelais varieties, it can be a bruiser, thanks […]

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Autumnal Rosé

Repeat after me: Rosé is not a vegetable, rosé is not a vegetable. Yet, people still refer to rosé season. There is no rosé season any more than there is a season for white, red, sparkling or sweet. Remember when umami was finally recognized as an official fifth taste along with sweet, sour, salty and […]

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Questions asked and some answered…

To fully answer the question ‘is Bordeaux better than burgundy?’, I shall sadly never have a cellar (or pocket) deep enough. But there are wine writers from across the ages who have had access to the best of these fabulous wines (we’re talking family money here, stately homes with cellars stacked with Lafite, and colleagues […]

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Sustainability in Bordeaux

Believe it or not, the ‘S’ word is being voiced in Bordeaux. Sustainability has been pushed to the fore and whether through concern for the environment and terroir, or having to face health and safety issues, an environmental movement in various guises is gaining traction. Recent figures from the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de […]

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The Rosés of Italy’s Salento Peninsula

Puglian rosé (rosato) has deep roots. There is even a local family name Rosato. Recognition in the wider world for the rosati of the southern part of the Salento peninsula can be traced back to 1943, when a twist of fate brought American General Charles Poletti to the region. In need of army supplies, he […]

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South Australia Loosens The Stays

At first glance, no one would take Steve Pannell for a member of the aristocracy. On the morning I meet him at his McLaren Vale winery, he’s wearing slightly crumpled khaki shorts, a stripey T-shirt and several days’ worth of greying stubble on his chin. Make no mistake, though; if Australia’s winemaking community had a […]

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A Large Reserve Brings Many Benefits

Alice Paillard ‘We have a lot to thank Jean-Claude Rouzaud for,’ says Alice Paillard. We (Alice and I) were talking about the just completed 2019 Champagne harvest and how wine growers generally seem more prepared to wait for the perfect moment to pick grapes, rather than rush into the vineyards the minute the opening dates […]

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God’s Work

You wait ages for irony, and then three come at once. Here’s an explanation of terroir told in a joke by a German historian. ‘An angel came down from heaven to visit a winemaker on the Mosel,’ begins Achim Ochs. We’re on a tour of the once mighty wine-trading town of Traben-Trarbach. ‘The winemaker showed […]

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Tuscany

Geography: Located in central Italy. The climate varies from Mediterranean on the coast to continental inland influenced by the Apennines. Wide variation in day and night temperatures. Grape varieties: Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Trebbiano Toscano, Vernaccia Significant DOCGs: Chianti, Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Vernaccia di San Gimig… For a […]

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Chianti: The Art of Wine

Peter Femfert, the German owner with his Venetian wife Stefania of Fattoria Nittardi, is an artist. He would not think so, for his main profession consists of running Die Galerie, Frankfurt’s leading art gallery specializing in modern painting and sculpture, so he might say that he works with artists, represents them, befriends and understands them, […]

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Loire: Five Top Restaurants

La Promenade Restaurant If I am asked for a really good Loire restaurant, here are five that I would always recommend. One is in Anjou, three are in Touraine and one in Chavignol by Sancerre. They are favourites because they are consistently good, the cooking is inventive without being gimmicky and their food is complemented […]

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California: The Happy Valley

Winemaker Joe Webb punching down Pinot Noir Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, once dismissed as too ‘remote’, ‘sparsely populated’ and ‘laid back’ is now arguably the most exciting New World region for Pinot Noir. What happened? Located over 125 miles northwest of San Francisco, it remains remote. But it is a rare transverse valley, running east to […]

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England: Back to the 1970s

Winning the Gore-Browne Trophy for the ‘English Wine of the Year’ in 1980 In 1974, at the tender age of twenty-seven I had the wild notion that there might be a future in growing grapes and making wine in the English countryside. At the time, the industry – not that anyone called it that then [...]
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Champagne: A Question of Yield

Champagne producers agreed to set the maximum yield for the 2019 harvest at 10,200 kilos per hectare, 600kgs/ha down on the base level set for 2018, to produce around 300 million bottles. The CIVC Comité that represents the two sides of the champagne business – the growers and the merchant houses (négociants) – see this […]

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China: Burying Vines in Winter

Vines have to be dragged into the ground and buried as the temperature can dive to minus 20 degrees Celsius in winter in Xinjiang It is not possible – not yet anyway – to be buried alive and come back in the flesh. That may be the subject of a future Marvel or DC Comics [...]
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Languedoc: The New Whites

Traditionally the Languedoc is a region of red wines. With the exception of Clairette du Languedoc, all the early appellations concentrated on red and tended to ignore white wine. St. Chinian and Faugères were appellations for red wine in 1982, whereas their white counterparts were not created until 2005. In the extensive Coteaux du Languedoc, [...]
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