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Speak to the winemaker: Caroline Decoster, Fleur Cardinale

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-08-09


Caroline and Ludovic Decoster from Chateau Fleur Cardinale


Wine Owners: What is your greatest moment/regret as a winemaker?

Caroline Decoster: It’s a little bit sad to start this interview by a regret, but I have to say that we lost 95% of our vineyard in one night last April. It was heartbreaking. We’ve already invested in new machines, called Frostguards, for the end of the year, that will prevent us for this kind of catastrophe, but our main regret is not to have had them before.

WO: In what ways have your wine making changed over the last 10 years.

CD: The global warming has affected our wine making. We are located in the coolest part of the appellation of Saint-Emilion, which means that we have a late ripening terroir. Ripening the berries over the past decades could had been difficult in this part of Saint-Emilion, because of the lower temperatures during October - which is the moment of the year when we usually harvest. But nowadays, due to this global warming, we can benefit from Indian summers year after year, to reach the optimal ripeness effortlessly.

WO: What vintage are you proudest of?

CD: It’s very easy to be proud of a successful vintage. Like in 2010 and 2015, the wine growers were most of all very lucky, thanks to good conditions all year long. But in difficult vintages, all the right decisions that we took in tough moments were decisive to make a good wine in the end. Like in 2014 and 2016 : after months of rain and cold temperatures, the sun came back at the end of the summer, and everybody was so excited to finally have good conditions of ripening, that some vineyards completely de-leafe the bunches, which could be a mistake in some cases: the weeks after that we’d had the hottest temperatures for September since 50 years. We did not de-leafe completely, because we were sure that everything could still happen, and it was the right decision to take.

WO: If you had to define your wines/domaine in one sentence?

CD: Lots of wine owners will say how passionate they are about their wines : but we believe that passion can isolate you and make you blind. That’s why we rather prefer to talk about the « enthusiasm » that we have for our life, a positive and dynamic way of life that we want to share in each glass of Fleur Cardinale, with a lively fruit, and wine with a great energy.

WO: Tell us about your terroir & microclimate, and your approach to winemaking.

CD: The vineyard is located at the east of Saint-Emilion, on one of the highest points of the appellation, and is planted on clay-limestone soil in the middle of the hillsides. The planting is 75% Merlot with 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Our aim, vintage after vintage, is to preserve the freshness of the fruit in the glass.

In terms of viticulture, it means for instance that we want each vine to be very healthy, and to express the full potential from its terroir. This year, we’ve been certified High Environmental Value (HEV). This certification is the highest level of a generalised scheme for the environmental certification of farms. It guarantees that the presence of factors of biodiversity (hedges, grass strips, trees, flowers, insects, etc.) is very widespread on our vineyard and that the pressure applied to the environment by our practices (on air, water, soil, climate, biodiversity and landscape) is kept to a minimum.

In terms of vinification, it means that the ageing time in barrels is perfectly well-managed : The wine is aged for 12-14 month maximum, in new French oak barrels. Our coopers provide us with barrels produced exclusively from wood of the 3 most qualitative French forests. A Burgundy toast has been adopted for all our barrels: this kind of toast is realized at a moderate high heat and for an extended period of time, so as to preserve the purity of the fruit and the silky touch of the tannins.

Thank you so much to Caroline for taking the time to answer our questions. All our best wishes to the entire team at Fleur Cardinale!

You can visit the domaine's website here and follow their dedicated work on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Ten tips to get through Valentine's Day

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-02-13


Romance and wine are irrevocably linked for the simple reason that alcohol reduces our inhibitions and allows the true poetry in our souls to bubble to the surface. And if we're not quite as lyrical as we'd hoped, it gives us a very good excuse the next day. So here are 10 tips to help you navigate the wine pitfalls of Valentine's Day. (But that is all. We can't guarantee love).

1. Order a couple of glasses of champagne whilst you're looking at the menu. And let your date have one of them. Champagne shows you have class and you care.

2. Try Italian. Any Italian wine will enable chaps to pretend they're Casanova, whilst ladies can dream they're in Venice or Florence.

3. Women like pinot noir. Yes, it's expensive, but is she not worth it? Try one from Russian River or Oregan or go wild with a Nuits St Georges or Chambolle from Burgundy. Speak like Louis Garrel and she'll have shivers down her spine.

4. The Spanish are arguably more passionate than the French or Italians. Lively whites from Verdejo, Godello and Albarino and intense reds from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero. You can get all emotional and wear a cape and tight trousers, but girls, avoid the moustache.

5. Look into your dates' eyes as you sip red wine. It will light your face with a rosy tint and make you even more attractive. Yates wrote "Wine enters through the mouth, Love (through) the eyes." Make sure you get it the right way round.

6. Spice up your relationship with a peppery little shiraz or grenache. Try wines from the untamed landscapes of the Southern Rhone and Languedoc. Think Wuthering Heights with grapes. Adding pepper to a glass of house red may not have the same effect.

7. If you're nervous and tongue-tied, splash out on some proper claret. You will feel like a Scottish Laird and talk like Sean Connery.

8. Sweeten the mood. Try dessert wine. Perhaps have it instead of dessert, if you're watching the waistline. Sauternes, Coteaux du Layon or great German Riesling will inspire all manner of affectionate language like honey and sweetie, but we suggest you avoid calling anyone pudding.

9. Beware the rugby club humour of buying wines with names that talk for you. "Flowers" and "Fairytale" are just cheesy. "Flirt", "Menage a Trois" and "Fourplay" (an Italian red) may leave you facing an empty seat.

10. Finally, however well it goes, bear in mind Rosalind's words in As You Like it. " I pray you do not fall in love with me, for I am falser than vows made in wine."



Domaine de la Romanée Conti 2014 vintage

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2017-02-06


Let me first put my hand up and say I’m a fan of 2014 as a Burgundy vintage. It seems to me to be a year of rather lovely balance across the board. No doubt with exceptions, it’s a vintage to buy as high up the qualitative tree as you can afford, quite unlike 2015 where the hot summer provided a metaphorical leg up to wines on cooler, less exposed sites and colder soils.

Adam Brett-Smith, Managing Director of Corney & Barrow the UK exclusive agent for DRC, describes 2014 as the ‘happy vintage’ but warns that it’s easily underestimated. I do agree. The wines may be ‘on the fruit’ and correspondingly expressive, but there’s sufficient fine-grained structure, dry extract and acidity to see the wines develop over the medium to longer term.

The ability of Burgundies to age from classic or un-showy vintages seems consistently under-called by wine critics, especially where there’s a degree of natural concentration through moderate or normal yields, which seems to make a big difference to the finickety nature of Pinot Noir. 2014 should age effortlessly for 15-20 years.

TASTING NOTES

Corton

Warm, red fruited nose. An expressive, spiced attack with nice energy and a twist of licorice. A degree of firmness merely hints at the character of the archetypal Corton appellation (although there is huge variation between the various Corton soils) and leads into a giving, fruity finish.

Échézeaux

An inviting yeasty nose, in turn earthy and creamy. Once again, a degree of firmness that’s overridden by open, expressive, croquant fruit. It’s a wine that pinotents – delivering the essence of Pinot Noir, into a finish that’s framed with an orange citrus cut.

Grands Échézeaux

A fresher nose, vinous and earthy. There’s greater complexity, finely balanced with a bit more structure, more defined and an elemental, vinous character. On its reserve for now, with a freshness and depth that tempts a prediction of a great GE.

Romanée-St-Vivant

Sweet pastille fruit on entry, less evident grip, more expressive with greater mid palate volume. Super upfront fruit with a fine grained back palate. Freshness kicks in on the finish with good persistence.

Richebourg

Liquory aromas rise from the glass. Power comes through on the nose but paradoxically there’s a balancing restraint to it. Greater intensity than preceding wines, much less up-front fruit but with a bit more torque - progressive, earthy and very complex. Flashes of fruit push through, towards a grainy back palate with building intensity. Real grip and substance with old vine character.

La Tâche

Another step up, right now it presents as a more chiselled form of the Richebourg, a rather elegant and cushioned expression of La Tâche at this early stage. There’s lots of latent power and a sense of reserve on the back palate with a long and persistent finale.

Romanée-Conti

Expressive nose of fruit, earth, and a greater sense of minerality. Powerful yet very refined. Darker character, with a brightly illuminated outline to the dark fruit. A controlled finish with fine-grained grip and a sense of penetrating depth.




Merry Christmas! 10 tips for peace on (your own little patch of) earth

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-12-22




Christmas is perhaps the only time of year where families embrace our passion for wine, but just occasionally we may get a bit carried away. So in the warmest of Christmas’ spirits, we offer you ten tips to keep everyone merry over the next few days.

 Champagne shows you’re trying. People see the magic word and relax in the knowledge that everything’s going to be all right. You do not want to start the festivities having to explain how rare and expensive your alternative sparkler is.

 Your mother-in-law must have her usual. Whatever it is. It is not about good manners; it is about world peace. (And it will cut off at the pass any attempt to open your bottle of Louis XIII brandy).

 The cook’s glass must never be empty. Def Con is at level 5 over the festive season, primarily due to the cook’s fear of missing out.

 Extraordinarily, some people may feel the food is more important than the wine.  Once you have carefully laid out glasses for champagne, white burgundy, red burgundy, claret, pudding wine and port, you may just want to check where the plates will go.

 Beer shows you’re a man of the people and not some wine snob. Don’t stint on the quality or quantity - if Uncle Tom were drinking your Chambolle, it would be a darn sight more distressing.

 There is a reason the waiter uses the simple lever corkscrew. Proudly bringing out the dual-powered, multi-functional Super Deluxe digitised Wine Opener for that magnum of Leoville-Barton '61 is at the very least reckless.

 Plan ahead. Your gently slumbering 1963 Quinta do Noval will need to stand upright for a couple of days to allow the sediment to settle.

 Decanting is not always showing off. Crunchy is not a wine descriptor you want applied to 50 year old port.

 Everyone loves chocolate. Don’t fight it. And don’t try to match a wine with it, unless you’re into aged Sake. Champagne is the universal panacea.

 Finally, whilst wine lovers know that great wine will never give you a hangover, some people are in denial. Do not blame the food. Remember the cook is not just for Christmas.

WE WISH YOU AND YOURS A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!



What does Brexit mean for the wine lover and collector?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-10-24


Market context and performance since June 24th

Serving as a general fine wine market tracker, the WO 150 gained 6% in the year to June (6.5% in the previous 12 months) but is now up 19.8% YTD.


Focusing on the all-important Bordeaux market, the world’s single largest region of fine wine production, the WO First Growth Index was up 8.7% year to date on 24th June, but is now up 23%.

As regards Bordeaux Firsts, this performance is on the back of 4 years of decline, following the bursting of a Chinese-inspired bubble in late 2011. The market in these blue chip Bordeaux bottomed in Q3 of 2015, and has soared since. Chateau Latour, released at £11,400 per case of 12 bottles, is now back within £100 per bottle of that release price.

The rest of the Bordeaux market had tested its lows the previous year, and so its performance year to June 2016 was a slightly higher 10.25%, reflecting the additional momentum gathered over the previous 18 months. Looking at all classified growths, the market is now up 22.5% YTD.


Whereas Bordeaux is a market driven by liquidity and large production volumes, scarcity-driven markets such as Burgundy, Piedmont and cult Californians, have enjoyed a long-term run stretching back 20+ years, and these wine markets have not suffered the roller coaster ride of Bordeaux.

The WO Northern Italy index is up 171% over the last 10 years, the WO Blue Chip Burgundy Index is up 311% over the same period, and the WO California index is up a whopping 427%.




What’s going to be the effect on new releases?

New releases are already more expensive to buy due to the pound buying less euros or dollars.

Brexit will cause new releases of two sought after vintages (Burgundy 2015 and Bordeaux 2016) to rise by 30%+, caused by producer increases of, say, around 10% compounded by the 20% effect of devaluation.

First in line: the impending 2015 Burgundies are due for UK release as futures in January 2017. With a compromised 2016 vintage assuring small production volumes, 2015s from some addresses will rocket to compensate for next years’ lower production.

Bordeaux will follow in April 2017.

Given the UK’s preeminent role in global fine wine trading, Brexit has turbo-charged market performance, and given the relatively recent recovery of Bordeaux markets a boost after a prolonged period of decline.

As the pound falls, assuming a rising fine wine market (key as it means there's strong global demand), the price of secondary market wines will rise since they are cheaper to buy for buyers holding currencies such as HKD or dollars.

This increases the value of collectors' current stock since the market is global. London is still one of the most important global trading hubs for fine wine, if not the most important.

Could price rises kill demand?

Because top burgundy from the best producers can double after first release it is unlikely to dampen initial demand – by much. And if it does there’s always the USA, Japan and other markets that’ll mop up the relatively small volumes.

Secondary market prices of older vintages may rise, pulled up by the higher new release prices. But as they rise, the number of potential secondary market buyers may decrease, causing these scarcity driven markets to become less liquid. As a result, it may take longer to sell your wines at these higher prices. The moral of the story is that scarcity driven markets are not for the impatient seller who needs cash tomorrow. These are better seen as long-term holds.

Bordeaux prices of the new vintage (2016) will also rise when they are released next year. Whether the UK Market chooses to buy or sits this one out remains to be seen.

However, the USA is more or less certain to be buying these futures aided by vintage character of ripe, powerful wines from a hot summer that will suit their palates.

As a consequence, enduring weakness of the pound will place further upward pressure on back vintages.

We predict that recent back vintages will increase sooner than is normally the case (1-2 years instead of the more common 5-7 years), as top Bordeaux producers are becoming principal stockholders in an attempt to capture more of the downstream value of their wines and increase the value of their balance sheet assets.

 


Restaurant tips

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-08-19



It has been said by some wise sage that 1% of people care way too much about wine and 99% of people don’t care enough. This rings true, and I thought it would be interesting to investigate why this is.

Most of my friends and peers drink wine. With sufficient regularity to alarm the British Medical Council in many cases. And most of them drink rubbish. Seriously – any £5 bottle will do the trick normally, and the second cheapest wine on the restaurant wine list is pretty much as far as they go.

This baffles me.

OK, so not everyone is going to spend a fortune on a wine collection, or consult Parker or Robinson for every wine buying decision, but it is really simple to drink more interesting wines without breaking the bank or having to do hours of painstaking research.Here are a few rules of thumb, aimed at buying wine in a restaurant (assuming it isn’t one of the growing numbers that allow you to BYO for a modest corkage).

1) The cheapest wines normally have the highest % mark-ups, and the second cheapest wine normally has the highest mark-up. Restaurateurs know how people make buying decisions, so be aware of the relative lack of value.

2) The first few wines on a list will have tendency to be ‘neutral’ in style, as they are likely to be bought to match all foods. One size fits all is not the best way to approach buying wine – think about what you are going to order.

3) Don’t be afraid to buy by the glass. Technology such as Coravin means a far wider array of wines can be sampled, so you can avoid just plumping for a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, or a bog standard Rioja, and narrowing your options. Why not order a suitable wine for every course of you meal?

4) Look for exotic grape varieties or little known regions – these are likely to be the sommelier’s attempts to stamp their expertise and personality on the wine list, and will likely be good value and interesting. Think Greece, Portugal, Austria, or regions like Swartland in South Africa or Salta in Argentina.

5) Embrace the joys of dessert wines. Seriously, sweet wines are amazing things that are criminally overlooked. A little bit of ‘sticky’ at the end of your meal is always a good thing!

6) If the restaurant has a sommelier, get their opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask seemingly silly questions. These guys are there to ensure you get the most enjoyment from your meal.


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Palate Profiling

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-04-27


I’ll admit to having been a little apprehensive when walking into my session to be Palate Profiled by Master of Wine Marina Gayan, accompanied by her business partner and chef Helen Nathan, as they geared up to observe my every sniff and swirl.

You see, my love of wine stretches back more than 30 years to my first ‘proper’ job at a restaurant in leafy South-Wes London. The seeds of my vinous enthusiasm had been sown during quite a few years already thanks to Augustus Barnett, a large chain of Off Licences for whom I’d worked since the age of 14 during every single school holiday. Apart from having to fib about my age for 2 years and 6 working stints across many of their outlets (it’s illegal to work in an Off Licence under the age of 16) it was a fantastic early education – in wine, the cleansing properties of gin and life in general. I earned good money and even better tips. As a casual worker, no one bothered with background checks in those days…

That first restaurant job: I’d been recruited as restaurant manager, although it quickly became apparent that my newly acquired degree in Law was deemed rather more useful by the proprietor who was due to appear in court to answer allegations by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs that he’d been illegally importing South American hooch (which he had).  

Although an expert in distilled cactus juice, the proprietor-cum-smuggler knew very little about wine, and gave me carte blanche to build an interesting wine list. This was exciting, and my first chance to taste in-depth across abroad range of wines and styles.

In the early 1980s the large importers and suppliers to the restaurant trade were taking the proverbial piss, selling emperor’s old clothes in the form of tasteless Entre-Deux-Mers in transparent bottles, stringy clarets and thin, acidic Burgundies. Within a few weeks the old hack reps had been shown the door and I was off on a voyage of discovery, taking the restaurant’s clientele with me.

Fast forward three decades, and I was curious to understand whether I really did understand my own palate and my assumed preferences. I’d completed a detailed questionnaire a couple of weeks before the session that gave Marina a sense of my sensitivities towards certain parts of the aroma and taste spectrum, whilst giving her food for thought with the odd contradiction.

The session kicked off by smelling different teas, from fruity, floral, to aromatic and smoky. Having woken up the senses, and torn off a corner of the still-warm Challah prepared by Helen that morning, it was straight down to business.

The focus was on whites, although she’ll profile via reds or champagnes and sparkling wines too.

As you might imagine, the wines served represented a very broad church, at one end of the spectrum being herbaceous, showing delicate floral aromas and infusions of sweet oranges and zesty lemons.

Occupying the middle ground were aromas and flavours of lemonade, nectarine and peach.

At the more powerful end of the spectrum there was smoke, gorgeous oxidative notes balanced on a tightrope of acidity,powerful fruit; un-oaked wines with higher levels of alcohol and oaked wines with much lower than expected alcohol levels, to baffle and challenge taster preconceptions.

By the end, I’d tasted a range of wines in a single session, expertly arranged, that I’d not experienced for ages. My own palate preferences were pretty much confirmed (which was reassuring) but I learned something much more significant: the excitement of discovering new wines that I loved. The session awoke the ‘wine child’ in me, opened my eyes afresh, and definitely broadened my mind.



Wines tastedAlc.RRP
12015 Felsner Moosburgerin Grüner Veltliner. Kremstal 
12.5% 
£12.49
22014 Grosset Alea Riesling. Clare Valley 
12.5% 
£24.99
32014 Pazo de Señorans Albariño. Rias Baixas 
14% 
£16.95
42014 Larry Cherubino, Laissez Faire Fiano. Frankland River 
13.5% 
£23.95
52014 Francois Chidaine Les Argiles. Vouvray 
12.5% 
£22.99
62009 Domaine François Villard, Le Grand Vallon. Condrieu 
13.7% 
£29.25
72010 Neudorf Vineyards Chardonnay. Nelson 
14% 
£29.95
82000 Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva. Rioja 
12.5% 
£32.99 
92007 Brokenwood ILR Reserve Semillon. Hunter Valley 
11.5% 
£33.99


On the back of this experience, we’ve teamed up with Gayan and Nathan to offer a special deal.

They will arrange a profiling session for two people at £695 (usually the cost per person). The special Wine Owners price includes:

Initial conversation and questionnaire

Eight wines (around £20.00 RSP per bottle)

Blind tasting session with Marina Gayan MW (lasting approximately around 1.5 hours)

Substantial canapés prepared by Helen Nathan to match the wines

Follow up findings document

To allow as many of our members as possible to experience a sneak preview, we’re giving away complementary taster Guyan & Nathan online profiles (via questionnaire) with some feedback included about your taste palate. To quality, you simply need to sign up to one of the Wine Owners premium subscriptions - Wine Lover or Collector – and you’ll receive the initial profile exercise free of charge.



Spotlight...on you!

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2015-10-29


There was one thing we were really clear about when first launching Wine Owners. This was a platform created by and for wine lovers and collectors.

Fast forward 2 and a bit years, and there are an amazing 12,000 of you using the platform to access, organise, track and explore your wine collection in one way or another.

We've had such great feedback from so many of you who love what we've created, that we thought it would be great fun to throw the spotlight on you, and give you the stage for talking about the bit of your life to do with wine. Those of us who are into wine (some might say slightly obsessed by it) really enjoy reading other collector stories, so if you're happy to share, we'd love to hear from you.

Just contact me on nick.martin@wineowners.com with your thoughts and a photo!

To make it a bit more fun, we're offering each member whose story we publish a smart dinner in London, not to mention some brilliant wines from our private collections (which should keep all our lovely shareholders happy).



So what should you talk about? Anything you like really, but here are some pointers...


  • How did you get into wine in the first place?

  • What was the first ever wine you tasted that gave you goosebumps?

  • When did you start collecting?

  • What's your favourite region and style of wine?

  • Who's your favourite producer?

  • Best ever wine decision and worst ever wine decision?!

  • Most amazing wine and food combination?

  • The greatest bottle you've ever had and why you liked it so much?

  • Your favourite wine critic?

  • Your desert island wine.


Closing date for the invitation to share your wine life with us and be invited to a beautiful wine dinner is 31st November 2015.


Once again, contact us to say yes via email on nick.martin@wineowners.com or call us on + 44 (0)20 7278 4377.


What's so great about a fine wine exchange?

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2014-07-02


What is so great about a fine wine exchange

You might also like our first infographic: The 9 Commandments to Wine Collecting


9 records

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