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News




 

 

PHILIPPE BASCAULES APPOINTED MANAGING DIRECTOR OF CHÂTEAU MARGAUX

Mrs Corinne Mentzelopoulos, owner and manager of Château Margaux, has announced today the appointment of Philippe Bascaules as Managing Director of Château Margaux starting the 1st of March 2017. Philippe Bascaules, an agronomist engineer, has a thorough knowledge of Château Margaux's estate, having been its Estate Director between 1990 and 2011 under the leadership of Paul Pontallier, General Manager for 33 years and sadly prematurely deceased last spring. For the past 5 years Philippe Bascaules has been Managing Director of Inglenook, the Californian wine estate of Francis Ford Coppola, where he will be supervising the technical decisions.

At Château Margaux, Philippe Bascaules will rely on the experience of Aurélien Valance, HEC graduate and Deputy Managing Director who has worked at Château Margaux for 15 years, as well as that of Sébastien Vergne, agronomist, oenologist and recently promoted to Estate Director. Philippe Bascaules will also be reunited with Olivier Pinon, Managing Director based in the head office in Paris where he has been working since 1983. Corinne Mentzelopoulos thus reasserts her wish to rely on a competent, loyal and experienced team who will undeniably sustain the tradition of excellence Château Margaux has pursued over the past 5 centuries, while simultaneously maintaining its constant quest for progress and innovation. Corinne Mentzelopoulos and her daughter Alexandra are delighted at the return of Philippe Bascaules, whose brilliant career, quite logically, goes on at Château Margaux: "During the 20 years he spent at the estate, we all deeply valued Philippe's competence and wisdom. His great knowledge of the estate is an invaluable asset with which to guide and prepare the future of Château Margaux". "I am very honoured Corinne Mentzelopoulos has appointed me Managing Director of Château Margaux and I like to think that Paul Pontallier would have been happy for me to carry on his work. I am thrilled to be reunited with my former colleagues at Château Margaux and delighted to be working on the wines and vineyards of the estate" Philippe Bascaules adds.

 

 

 

Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux – 1956 to 2016 / Few Bordeaux châteaux manage to transmit the warmth, friendship and pleasure that comes with wine in the same way that Château Margaux did under the direction of Paul Pontallier.

 

Paul Pontallier, who died on 28 March aged just 59 years old, had been managing director of first growth Château Margaux in Bordeaux since 1990. He would have turned 60 on 22 April.

Margaux a ‘perfect fit’
Obituary: Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux – 1956 to 2016 He first joined the estate in 1983 aged 27, two years after graduating as an agricultural engineer with a doctorate at oenology. Besides 18 months teaching winemaking at the Catholic University of Santiago, Margaux was to be his only full-time professional role and proved a perfect fit.

Hired by owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos – following a recommendation from his mentor Emile Peynaud – just three years after she stepped into her father’s shoes, the two shared a complicity and friendship rarely seen between owner and director. Together they worked to ensure that the transformation of Château Margaux that had begun under André Mentzelopoulos continued until it reached the exalted position it holds today.

 

A partnership ‘unsurpassed’ – Steven Spurrier

Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier described their partnership as ‘something that has never been surpassed even by that of Jean-Bernard or Jean-Philippe Delmas with Haut-Brion. It is difficult to imagine Margaux without him’.

Early years

Born in the Bordeaux region, Pontallier spent his early life on his parents’ wine estate, Château La Loge Saint-Léger in AOC Bordeaux Supérieur and went to the city’s most exclusive school, the Catholic-run Sainte-Marie-Grand-Lebrun.

He first considered a career as a doctor, and once told Decanter.com in an interview that ‘wine was so natural to me that I couldn’t imagine it being a serious career choice’.

But, he decided to follow his heart into agriculture. He gained his first degree in 1975 from the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon that is today known as AgroParisTech. From there he specialised in oenology and viticulture, first in Montpellier and then at the Bordeaux Institute of Oenology in Talence, where he wrote his PhD on the effect of barrel ageing on red wines.

 

Joining Château Margaux

His first seven years at Château Margaux were spent alongside Philippe Barré, and he took over as managing director when Barré retired in 1990. Under his direction, Château Margaux delivered consistently magnificent vintages and confirmed its position as one of the world’s truly great châteaux.

Outside of Château Margaux, in 1984 Pontallier started the venture that would become Domaine Paul Bruno in Chile with his longtime friend Bruno Prats, and also consulted for Stellenbosch’s Plaisir de Merle. More recently he helped his son Thibault Pontallier with the creation of the Pont des Arts wine brand. But there is no doubt that he will forever be linked to Château Margaux, a place that he loved and frequently said he would never be tempted away from.

An ‘extraordinary talent’

‘The world is a sadder place today for the loss of Paul Pontallier,’ Decanter’s managing director, Sarah Kemp, said. ‘An extraordinary talent, an extraordinary man. He was the embodiment of the wines he crafted; elegant and refined. His humanity and kindness enriched many lives. He will be missed.’

Philippe Bascaules, who worked alongside Pontallier for eleven years at Château Margaux before joining Francis Ford Coppola at Inglenook in 2011, said, ‘I admired not only his humility but his passion. He used to say that doubt is the driving force of all scientific research. This was something that he felt very deeply, and that made him both very open and very human. (Decanter) 

 

 

A SOTHEBY’S AUCTION EXCLUSIVELY DEDICATED TO CHÂTEAU MARGAUX WINES

 

An extensive collection of wines, drawn directly from our cellars, from the 1900 vintage up to the present day has been put up for auction. It is the first time in the history of Château Margaux that an auction has been entirely dedicated to our wines. The sale, which was organised last Saturday by Sotheby’s Wine, in New York, was a remarkable success. The entirety of the 239 lots, which had an estimated value of $1.4 million, was sold for a total of $2.8 million! Among the lots offered for sale were exceptionally rare vintages such as those of 1900, 1929, 1945, 1953, 1961, 1982 and 1990. A balthazar of Château Margaux 2009, estimated price between $30 000 and $50 000, was greeted with incredible enthusiasm and sold for $98 000. The auction surpassed all our expectations! A bottle of Château Margaux 1900, a legendary vintage, sold for $61 250, six times its lower estimate! This sale paid great homage to Château Margaux, as well as to the Mentzelopoulos family, owners since 1977.
 

TWO CENTURIES OF ARCHITECTURE IN TRIBUTE TO A GREAT WINE

On June 14th and 16th this year, Château Margaux celebrated the bicentenary of its architecture. In 1810, the Marquis de la Colonilla, then owner of Château Margaux since 1801, requested one of the greatest architects of the time Louis Combes, to design a new layout for the estate whose wines had been famous since the XVI century. The old buildings were demolished, except the XVIII century Orangery which served as a cellar during the construction. The project was completed in 1815. This building complex, which was registered as an Historic Monument in 1946, has remained unchanged until the present day.

 

Two centuries later, Corinne Mentzelopoulos, the current owner, decided to entrust the design of a new extension to the prominent British architect, Lord Norman Foster, with a view to responding to the challenges of the XXI century, with the construction of a new cellar next to the old ones with a Research and Development Centre in the middle, the construction of an underground Vinotheque and finally a new vistor centre to welcome the thousands of visitors who come from around the world.

Corinne Mentzelopoulos hosted the international press, on June 14th, at Château Margaux, for the dinner of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855. Bordeaux wine merchants and importers were also invited on June 16th. On this occasion, Château Margaux inaugurated the new buildings designed by Lord Norman Foster. The dinner, prepared by three Michelin star - Guy Savoy, ended with a film about the bicentenary of Château Margaux architecture, directed by Bruno Aveillan.



 

End of the harvest        

How wonderful this 2014 harvest is! Just about the opposite of last year… The weather is still magnificent and so we’re picking the plots that have reached full maturity in quite a leisurely fashion. The alcohol content is high, very high even, and the acidity intense; a quite rare balance. We are exactly halfway through the harvest. By this evening there will only be five days left, and the weather forecast remains excellent!     Today it’s the « gerbaude », the traditional celebration to mark the end of the harvest. We finished the day before yesterday with the Petit Verdots, magnificent again this year. The cellar is far from full, but fortunately, the yields are largely superior to those of last year, without however reaching the average for the last ten years. Let’s not complain, the quality looks magnificent, as good for the Merlots as for the Cabernet Sauvignons. Of course, for 2014, we will have missed the beautiful month of August, so essential for very great vintages. But so many other examples have shown that a beautiful Indian summer can lead to a very good - almost great - vintage; we have good reasons to think that it will be the case for 2014. Let’s look forward to the moment of the blending to see what we have.        

Our main team arrived yesterday. Most of them were part of last year’s harvesting team, and a lot of them have been loyal to us for years. Last week was very quiet ; we only picked two plots of particularly early Merlot. It’s really now that things get serious ! The fine weather is staying with us and the forecast is excellent, at least until the end of this week. The prospect of a very good, or even a great vintage is starting to become a reality…        

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History

It was 1977, and young, 24-year-old Corinne Mentzelopoulos was very impressed as she stepped out to the bright white stairway of the palace that was built in the 19th century. They had just finished lunch that had taken place in a dark, ramshackle dining room. She could not yet foresee that as a result of the handshake between the two gentlemen on the stairs, her life would soon change. Her father, André Mentzelopoulos, became the first Greek winegrower in Bordeaux, as he bought the Château Margaux from Pierre Ginestet for 75 million francs.

The historic estate had changed hands once again. The estate has been occupied since at least the 12th century, but it was only with the arrival of the Lestonnac family in the 16th century that wine production became of particular importance, and in the 1570s Pierre de Lestonnac cleared many of the grain fields to make way for grapes. By 1700 the estate covered its present area of 265 hectares, and the 78 hectares devoted to vines has remained essentially unchanged since then.

Château Margaux has sought to achieve excellence in its wines for over 400 years now through painstaking and necessarily long studies of its terroir, through a constant desire to learn and innovate, by remaining sensitive to demanding markets, and above all through a passionate commitment that has been shared by the families that have succeeded each other at the estate. At the end of the 17th century, it became part of the nascent elite “First Growths” – long before being established officially by the Classification of 1855. Since then, Château Margaux has known fame and fortune, seeing by experience how ephemeral both are.

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Vineyards

Terroir is a concept so French that the word doesn’t have an equivalent in any other language. Terroir is a genetic heritage of great wines. Without it, nothing is possible, however its character is only truly revealed as a result of the work and determination of men. In fact, without this passionate work and attention of men, a mound of gravel would never become as “privileged” as a great vineyard. It has been necessary to choose the best adapted grape varietals, define their growing conditions and refine the vinification and ageing techniques. This work has been going on for nearly five hundred years.

At the end of the year’s work comes, at last, harvest time. Everything is finished, or nearly finished: the ripening is completing “August develops the must”, the great balances are happening, or not, in the grapes. However, a bit of suspense remains, because it’s in these last days that a good vintage still has a chance of becoming great. First, we have to choose the date, examine the grapes and analyse them, squeeze them, feel under our fingers and our tongue the softness of the pulp and the firmness of the tannins; ignore the big clouds rolling around in the sky in order to gain several more days and allow the Cabernet Sauvignon to finally reach perfect ripeness. In the meantime, we’ve formed our two hundred pickers into five teams, each made up of wine growers, and a majority of young students, who, instead of experience, bring us their willingness and their good humour. The pickers, more than half of whom come back year after year, receive training. 
Here they are now, working hard in our plots. First, the Merlot, always earlier, then the Cabernet Franc, and finally the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, always later. The thinning operations in the summer have already allowed us to dispose of the unwanted clusters but a last rigorous sorting is imperative. The responsibility comes back directly to each picker and then to a specialist team for a final sorting before the grapes are destemmed.

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Winemaking

It’s the alcoholic fermentation that is responsible for the transformation of grape juice into wine. This spontaneous phenomenon was empirically mastered well before being scientifically explained by Louis Pasteur in the 19th century. The biochemical transformations brought into play by fermentation are multiple and complex. That’s why this process should be carried out in the best possible conditions. 
This is undertaken under rigorous temperature monitoring so as to avoid the heat produced by the fermentation hampering and finishing by killing the yeasts that are responsible for it. Equally, by pumping the must from the bottom to the top of the vat, this favours the dissolution of the composition of the grapes, as well as the small amounts of oxygen required for the metabolism of the yeasts. The more recent use of selected strains of yeast enables certain difficult vintages to avoid a languid fermentation. 

Once the alcoholic fermentation is finished the maceration continues until the running off: the wines are almost “finished” at this point. But so that they are completely stable, a last biochemical transformation has to be accomplished: the fermentation by bacteria of malic and lactic acids. It’s spontaneous, but it doesn’t always start easily: the wine has to be maintained at a temperature of at least 20°C (68°F). The objective of ageing in barrels is to allow the wines that so deserve to acquire a potential of harmonious ageing in bottles. During this period of about two years, a certain number of physico-chemical transformations occur naturally, which lead to a perfect transparency and a better wine stability, as well as a refinement of its organoleptic character. 

Nowadays, the barreling is effected as early as possible after the completion of the fermentations, towards the end of October or the beginning of November. It almost always takes place in new, French oak barrels, of which the aromatic finesse and the powerful tannins have a natural complicity with our wines. The temperature and humidity conditions that are prevalent in these two large cellars follow more or less the rhythm of the seasons: the winter cold favours the precipitation of the unstable components, therefore the stability of the wines, whereas the moderate highs of the summer temperatures speed up the chemical reactions and allow the wine to evolve both in finesse and sweetness. 
The beautiful sobriety of these cellars, the one constructed at the beginning of the 19th century, the other in 1982, is a marvelous symbol of the personality of our wines which know how to combine with so much pleasure, power, finesse, strength and voluptuousness.

Few decisions are as important in the life of a wine than blending, because we have to produce three wines: Château Margaux, Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, our second wine, and then a third. The blending, therefore, is primarily an operation of selection but also of creation during the course of which several plots merge as one, producing a wine greater than the best of the individual constituents. For us, it is a real new beginning. Of course, we think about it from the first day, when, toward the end of the harvest, we start to taste the result of the vinifications, carefully separated, from each plot. But it’s only after putting it in barrels that the moment of blending arrives. 

Two, sometimes three, grand tastings bring us together during the month of January around a long table covered with samples. The atmosphere is slightly solemn. We eagerly find the generous fruit in the Merlots, the delicate sweetness of the Cabernets and the slightly rustic strength of the Petit Verdots. It’s with emotion that we discover the finesse that was hiding behind the slightly severe tannins, or the balance that we never suspected under this power, still raw. Little by little the blendings of the first, then the second, then at last the third wine are built and refined. 

The Pavillon Blanc also is subjected to very rigorous selection. Only a low percentage of the Sauvignon harvest is retained in the final blending which takes place during March, as as barrel-ageing only lasts six to seven months for the whites. Thanks to this selection, we obtain a perfectly balanced Pavillon Blanc.

After eighteen to twenty-six months’ ageing in barrels, it’s in bottles that our wine will spend the rest of its life. It will experience the vagaries and the fatigue of travel before finding the tranquility of the bottom of a cellar and ending its days in the hands of a wine enthusiast or connoisseur. Ten, twenty, thirty years, sometimes a lot more, will have passed. Time doesn’t frighten it. But it’s important to take the greatest care with the conditions for the bottling process, starting with the wise choice of date. 

At the end of its ageing process in barrels, the wine has “matured”: its aromas have lost a little freshness but have gained a lot in complexity, its tannins have become more rounded and softer, it has acquired a somehow indefinable ripeness that can only be recognised by the experience of those who love it. When it has arrived at this delicate balance, it becomes fragile and can go off very quickly. If we don’t pay attention, it can spoil like the ripe grapes that it’s made from. It’s at this stage that it must be bottled whatever other pressing issues we may have at that moment.

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3 different wines with 139 vintages

Winemaking since 1572

  • PAUL PONTALLIER

    MANAGING DIRECTOR
    “I believe that progress has to be based on experimental science”
  • CORINNE MENTZELOPOULOS

    OWNER AND MANAGER
    Doubt as a driver, progress as an objective, scientific research as a tool. Innovation does not stem from our dreams, it is not the result of a trend, it is experimental science in action.

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Jan-Erik Paulson, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  25 wines 

This was definitely the most amazing dinner I had the pleasure to attend this year. 30 wines from 1947.
2 bottlings of Pétrus and 5 bottles of Cheval Blanc.


Thank you Robert.
My favorites were Cheval Blanc, Pétrus, Mouton and Margaux.

21d 6h ago

 Juha Jormanainen, Wine Writer (Finland)  tasted  4 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Bordeaux tasting with wines like Haut-Brion 1945, Latour 1959, Yquem 1976 etc.

1m 6d ago

 Jan-Erik Paulson, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  20 wines 

This was a fabulous lunch. Six vintages each of Dom Perignon, Roederer Cristal and Veuve Clicquots Grande Dame followed by 12 Bordeaux from 1986. I preferred Dom P in most vintages. The premier crus are good in 1986 but many others are getting too tannic as the fruit dries up.

1m 30d ago

 Mikke Frisk, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  12 wines 

Bordeaux First Growht -tasting from vintages 1970-2003

2m 1d ago

 Igor Sill, Wine Maker (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  9 wines 

It took me some time to assemble my list of the very best Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends I’ve ever tasted over these past 8 years. To relive those memorable tasting experiences over the span of those years was hauntingly unforgettable. I assess a wine’s quality based on its coloration and purity, complexity and balance, aromatic flavors along with the memory of its long finish after the glass is emptied.  I hope you appreciate my “top ten best wines ever” list as I had fun retrieving these great memories along with the very special folks and occasions I shared those memories with. Here are my top 10 best ever red wines:

2m 2d ago

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  6 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  20 wines 

Cardboard was the first thing that I noticed in the nose of the 2004 Pavillon Rouge du Margaux, in the best way possible and not in a corked way, I should add. Coffee, roasted nut and cassis were all secondary, with pinches of earth blending into the coffee. Tertiary aromas of cedar and fir spice emerged in this round and tender wine. The palate was earthy with that gout de terroir, possessing candle wax flavors and a very dry finish, typical of the vintage. I remembered this wine being more impressive at the winery, but then again doesn’t it always taste better there? Gil insisted that the white was so good, it knocked down the ’04 a notch or two.

2m 13d ago

 Omar Khan, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  30 wines 

Le Cinq "Wine Legends" Dinner with wines like Bouchard 1865, Beycheville 1899, DRC Conti 1940, DRC Richebourg 1942, Margaux 1928, Latour 1929, Mouton 1949, Petrus 1949, 1955, 1959, and 1966 etc.

3m 22d ago

 Christoph Hons, Wine Blogger (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  15 wines 

New tastingnotes. 

4m 29d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Pro (China)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  13 wines 

My TOP Bordeaux from 2010 vintage / Deep ruby in colour, the Lafite has wonderful aromatics, with a gorgeous perfume of violets, cedar, cassis and blackberries. With its velvety tannins and layered, delicate flavours, there is a succulent juicy character to its fruit profile, accented with hints of violet. It is a gorgeous wine that is filled with delicate layers of flavours and at the same time is not heavy or dense. This is clearly a very successful vintage for Lafite in both style and intensity, producing a wine that will outlive the outstanding 2009. 100 points

5m 2d ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  4 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  18 wines 

The Friday evening went with friends and Bordeaux's best wines. We started with the almost perfect Haut Brion 1945 and ended the perfect Yquem 1976 vintage. A total of twenty bottles were shared with our friends at our home.

5m 10d ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Pro (China)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  11 wines 

Petrus 2009 / 100 points / If a wine's aroma can be sexy, then this is it: Vibrant mixed spices, sweet, ripe plums, blackberries and violets. The wine has amazing density and richness with Petrus' signature layers of flavours including hint of game, anise and exotic Asian spices that go on and on. This is an intoxicating wine that will be a hedonists' delight in its youth or after decades of aging.

5m 20d ago

 Mikke Frisk, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  3 wines  from  Château Margaux . In a tasting of  15 wines 

Latour 1973 surprise d all of us - 96 points?

5m 20d ago

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Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2012, Valentini
Casisano Brunello di Montalcino 2012, Tommasi Viticoltori
Heggies Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2015, Hill & Smith Family Vineyards
Skurfberg 2016, Sadie Family
Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Bryant Family Vineyard