There's a new Decanter. It is the December 2021 edition. It looks like this:
Before the wines (+ chat, commentary etc), a note:
Exel customers will know that our schtick is to share with them the highlights of a new edition (typically, such as we stock) as soon as we can. That has tended to create the event that is Decanter Friday, when we telegraph that news here and by our Friday newsletter/mailshot (send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive this).
The game has changed. We work closely with Decanter - as do other merchants - and receive pre-warnings of what is coming up in Decanter so that the wines can be brought in (in sufficient number) and made available. We make no secret of our specialising in this field. The quid pro quo is that we respect a Decanter-imposed embargo of when we can share the top wines, their scores and their reviews with customers.
The embargo timeline has recently moved from the moment that Decanter hits UK doorsteps (typically the last Friday in the month) to the Monday immediately after.
Why? It's to try to level up something of an anomaly that causes Decanter problems, being the difference in release dates of their physical, hard-copy edition (ie the traditional magazine) and their new(ish) digital, online edition. For reasons that defy me, the former - the hard copy - is available some 5 days before the latter, despite every bit of commonsense dictating that the e-version should be easier to issue.
The problem this causes is that e-version subscribers are typically finding out about the top wines from merchants like us rather than from Decanter, who are not entirely comfortable with this.
The pushback of the merchant embargo is something of an obverted, tail-wags-dog solution to this problem, but we respect it.
To this end, the wines we offer in each new edition will
The two main panel reviews are Bordeaux whites (specifically Graves and Pessac-Leognan, which accounts for a very good proportion of the best Bdx whites) and premium Californian Pinot Noir.
We have one of the top three (Outstanding, 95-point) wines from the former, as you will find below (along with more commentary).
We make little apology for not going to town on the Premium Californian Pinots. The clues are all there. Being a) premium b) Californian and c) Pinot Noir, they are all proper pricey. Also, the top ones are available in such tiny quantity (if at all) that, frankly, we're not bothering with them. Now and again, such decisions are made.
There is a little more joy to report with the white Bordeaux(s), although their story is not entirely different.
Here again, one faces a wall of wines that are either "UK N/A" (ie very hard to find outside outside France; we know this as we tried to bring them in!) or just plain unavailable. The latter occurs because of the samples that Decanter allow to be submitted. That is "producers and UK agents were invited to submit their Graves AP and Pessac-Léognan dry whites, up to two vintages each, one recent and one mature (including grand cru and cru classé de Graves)".
Now, many of the top-rated wines are in that latter (mature) category. Which is no surprise at all: good white Bordeaux/Graves/P-L ages beautifully in the main (that's its USP), and these older wines are more likely to wow the judges, however well they may be abe to gauge the onward potential of the younger wines.
Thing is, you can't buy the older wines. They all sold years ago. The chateaux have sat on a few bottles of so-called library stock of wines that reviewed well years ago and have now re-submitted them. Result: great score, radiated glory on the chateau(x) in question, but no availability or joy for the UK customer (except a few rather pleased/smug ones who bought these at the time).
I know I grumble about this often but it's a pain and bad for customers.
On the upside, we do offer one of the top three 95-point Outstandings. Its a 2017, so it sits at a mid-point at the above problem. It's not so old as to be unavailable, but we don't have much. In fact, we have ~50 bottles, being almost the entire UK stock. It's got some age in its taste profile, but it has a way to go. We have it in stock (which is lovely in a world of endless delays). And this is it:
The review about says it all. I'm a fan of additional commentary, but there's really very little to add. Although I tasted it a few months back, there's so little that we can't go breaking one open for a video tasting. There's good detail on Ch Bouscaut on the product page. If you're into white wines that cellar, or good white Bordeaux, you should not tarry long. Its a rare opportunity indeed when a wine like this pops up. Over to you.
Beyond, it's a very quiet Decanter for us. Our one other star wine appears in the expert review of Greek Xinomavro. If you don't know Xinomavro (but are into good red wine), you should. It's often termed the Barolo of the South, and the parallels are compelling (acidity, tannins, flavour profile, ageability).... except the price (typically 30-50% of Barolo). Our wine is this one, at a market-busting £21.35, a single vineyard beauty from Alpha Estate ... and again, the review gets it spot on: