Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Vincent Ricard and Thierry Puzelat on McDuff

Vincent Ricard in his new tasting room: April 2009

Two good postings on the McDuff Food & Wine Trail blog:

Vincent Ricard

Label designs in Vincent's new tasting room

Thierry Puzelat

Saturday, 30 May 2009

What about the rest of the Loire VDQSs?

Château d'Ancenis

Now that Saint-Pourçain has been promoted from VDQS, there's the question of what will happen to the rest of the Loire's VDQSs who have applied for appellation status. Those waiting the INAOs decision are Châteaumeillant, Côtes de Forez, Coteaux d'Ancenis, Côtes d'Auvergne and Fiefs Vendéens.

Maison des Vins@Ancenis

The other two VDQSs – Gros Plant and Vins du Thouarais – have opted for vin de pays status.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Saint-Pourçain to become an AC

Julien Nebout: a Saint-Pourçain producer at the London International Wine Trade Fair May 2009

Yesterday the INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité) approved Saint-Pourcain’s application to become an appellation contrôlée. The application will now go forward to the French Minister of Agriculture for final approval and signature.

Saint-Pourçain has been a VDQS since 1951 and today has around 600 hectares of vines spread across 19 communes producing white, rosé and red. The local variety is the Tressallier – called Sacy in the Yonne. The other main varieties are Chardonnay, Gamay and Pinot Noir. There are 18 independent wine producers and a cave co-operative.

The VDQS designation is being phased out and remaining VDQS must either win promotion to AC or be relegated to vin de pays.

Once the minister has found his pen there will be 69 appellations in the Loire.

INAO announcement here.

Crochets overwhelm the Ballands

Bué from Le Clos de la Poussie

In the previous post I wondered, somewhat idly, whether there were more Ballands than Crochets in the picturesque village of Bué close to Sancerre. Having a spare moment I checked France Telecom's Pages Blanches (telephone directory). The result?

Ballands: 14
Crochets: 28

So no contest!

Tasting a few Loires@Thorman Hunt

The twice-yearly Thorman Hunt tasting is one London event I’ll always try to get to if possible. Unfortunately their spring tasting now coincides with the Decanter World Wine Awards Judging so I have been unable to make the last couple of editions and it may be longer than that. Fortunately the tasting is likely to be moved to March in 2010.

Gamay, two Muscadets and the Touraine Sauvignon

Importers Thorman Hunt was founded in 1978, concentrating mainly on individual French growers. The company is run by Jeremy Hunt. Their list of producers outside Bordeaux and Burgundy is particularly strong, especially from the Rhône, South West France and the Loire. Thorman Hunt doesn’t have the wacky element that is an integral part of Les Caves de Pyrene but it is solid and impressive producer portfolio.

As I was unable to make the spring tasting they kindly arranged to taste a few Loire’s that I picked out from those shown at the April tasting. I chose wines from producers that I either didn’t know or whose wines I hadn’t tasted recently, so, for instance, no Château Villeneuve who have long been part of the portfolio.

I started with the easy drinking 2008 Gamay Touraine from Château la Presle (Jean-Pierre Penet), Oisly. Youthful purple, warm red fruits – perhaps a little lean in the finish but a wine to enjoy chilled over a outdoors summer lunch or picnic. Sensibly closed with a screwcap, which Penet does specially for the UK market. So much more sensible than cork – real or synthetic.

Next a couple of 2008 Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maines sur lie. The first Domaine de la Roche Renard (Isabelle and Philip Denis, Vallet) was OK but was easily put in the shade by 2008 Selections du Haut Pemions from Christophe and Joseph Drouard in Monnières, not far from Le Pallet. Also in screwcap – if there was a French wine designed for a screwcap it’s Muscadet – this has attractive lemony weight and good length. Delicious – bring on the plateau de fruits de mer!

Then the screwcapped 2008 Touraine Sauvignon from Château de Presle – initially quite rich and weighty and with good length, this needs two or three months in bottle to really knit together. “A few people have commented that it is not Sauvignon enough" but Jean-Pierre said that he picked a little bit later and this is how he wanted the wine to taste. I suspect the comments have come from people who still think that cat’s pee is classic Touraine Sauvignon. So it is if you want to drink unripe Sauvignon but if the grapes are picked when they are ripe the vegetal cat’s pee flavours will have given way to gooseberry, grapefruit and then more tropical fruit flavours.

Quincy, Sancerre and two Vouvrays

The ripe and full 2008 Quincy Domaine de Chevilly (Yves and Antoine Lestourge in Méreau in the west of the appellation) is New Zealand in style with asparagus notes. The last Sauvignon was the 2008 Sancerre from Jean-Paul Balland in Bué. One of these days I ought to find out whether there are more Ballands than Crochets in the small village of Bué – but I digress. The 2008 is a vat sample but suggests that it will be quite a weighty Sancerre.

Finally a couple of Vouvrays from the 28 hectare Vigneau-Chevreau biodynamic estate in Chançay: 2007 Cuvée Silex and 2007 Clos de Rougemount, Abbaye de Marmoutier. The estate is now run by Stéphane and Christophe Vigneau-Chevreau, the sons of Michel who died of cancer last summer. I haven’t met the sons but saw Michel on a number of occasions, especially at the Salon des Vins de Loire. He was a very charming and courteous man – I often wished that I liked his wines better.

However, the sons look to have moved the wines up to another level and I particularly liked the rich, concentrated and long Abbaye de Marmoutier – probably best described as a sec tendre. It retails for around £18 a bottle. The Abbaye was founded as far back as AD 372 and was destroyed during the French Revolution. Then phylloxera at the end of the 19th century finished off wine production at the Abbaye. In 1995 Michel Vigneau-Chevreau obtained a 50-year lease on the Clos de Rougemount and started to replant. Most of the vines are grafted but there is a plot (1600 vines) here of ungrafted Chenin Blanc.

After finishing the Loires I tasted a few other bits and pieces including the austere and precise 2007 Cuvée Marie Jurançon from Charles Hours and the rich and brooding 2005 Montus Madiran from Alain Brumont.

Thorman Hunt 4 Pratt Walk, London SE11 6AR Tel: 020 77356511

Quarts-de-Chaume to become Demi-de-Chaume?

Quarts-de-Chaume – grounds for complaint?

October 2005 – The Layon

Following the successful challenge by the Quarts-de-Chaume to the new Chaume appellation, the Chaume producers may well have grounds for their own legal challenge to the Quarts-de-Chaume. In 2005 there were 54 hectares planted in the Quarts de Chaume compared to around 70 hectares in Chaume – giving a total of 124 hectares. By my calculation this means that Q de C is not 25% the size of the total Chaume vineyards as it claims but 43% – nearly half! Also Q de C is over 77% the size of ex-AC Chaume.

This is surely extraordinarily misleading. Here are wine-lovers paying high prices for Quarts-de-Chaume thinking that they are buying a small production, exclusive and rare wine. This is clearly no longer the case – there is nearly as much Quarts-de-Chaume as there is Chaume.

The public are being horribly gulled! The producers of Chaume have a clear public duty to demand that the Décret of the 18th February 1950 that established Quarts-de-Chaume be annulled forthwith. They may also wish to refer the Quarts-de-Chaume producers, who sell their wines in the UK, to the Advertising Standards Authority (

In place of the existing Quarts-de-Chaume appellation, there will have to be a new appellation – Demi-de-Chaume. There will need to be full liaison between the two sides to prevent appellation creep and to ensure that Demi-de-Chaume remains around 50% of the total planted.

The alternative is that the Quarts-de-Chaume producers will have to uproot some of their vineyard to bring them back to 25%, so 22 hectares will have to be pulled out.

Producteurs de Chaume – aux notaires!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Château du Rivau – 6th-7th June

The weekend of 6th and 7th June the Château du Rivau at Lémeré on the road between Chinon and Richelieu features organic gardening. This is part of the 'Rendez-vous aux jardins' 2009 programme. Market gardeners, wine producers and plant sellers will have stands at the event.

From the site:

'Dans le cadre des 'Rendez-vous aux jardins' 2009, le château du Rivau met en place deux journées placées sous le signe du bio : des rencontres et des ateliers vous permettront de mieux appréhender la filière, d'échanger avec des producteurs et des artisans.'

Au programme

Des conseils pratiques et éco-responsable avec les jardiniers du Rivau.
Conférences et déambulations sur le domaine et échanges avec des spécialistes des jardins.
Le dimanche : animations pour les parents et les enfants.
Faites votre marché : pendant tout le week-end des artisans et des producteurs "bio" vous présenteront leurs produits (maraichers, viticulteurs, artisans d'art, pépiniéristes…)

"Journées bio du Rivau"

Les 6 et 7 juin 2009
De 10h00 à 19h00
Tarif : 8 € (PT), 6 € 50 (5 à 16 ans) gratuit pour les moins de 5 ans

Jardins du Rivau, à Lémeré

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Menetou-Salon celebrates 50 years as an appellation

Saturday 6th June

To mark the 50th anniversary of Menetou-Salon's accession to appellation contrôlée a sculpture by Mario d'Souza called la bouteille vivante will be unveiled on the edge of Menetou-Salon on the road to Bourges. Among those present will be the mayor of Menetou, Pierre Fouchet, and his councillors and Philippe Gilbert, president of the Union Viticole.

Elisabeth Poulain: 'Le Vin aussi est affaire de femmes'

Pithon-Paillé: Wendy Wilson, Joseph Paillé, Isabelle and Jo Pithon

Micaela Frow (La Grande Maison) has kindly brought to my attention a link to Jim's Loire that Elisabeth Poulain makes in an article about Joseph Paillé of Pithon-Paillé. Elizabeth wrote Le Vin aussi est affaire de femmes. I haven't met Elisabeth but Micaela tells me that 'she has been writing about the Loire and it's wines for many years'. Here is Elisabeth's blog. I will have to look out for Le Vin aussi est affaire de femmes as well as the women that make wine in the Loire, there are many women at wine estates throughout the Loire, who play an unsung role keeping the show on the road, while the spotlight and the plaudits falls on the man.

Charles Joguet expose à l'Hôtel de Ville de Tours (20.05 au 20.06)
Elisabeth's posting of the 8th May covers the Charles Joguet exhibition in Tours:

‘Sa prochaine exposition à l’Hôtel de Ville de Tours en témoigne. Elle va durer un mois (20 mai au 20 juin) chaque après-midi du lundi au samedi de 14 h à 18h.’

Charles was always a painter. When he retired from running his Chinon domaine in 1997 he was able to devote more time to his painting.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Couple of forthcoming events

Festival Montmartre à Clisson: 6th-7th June

Montmartre Festival in Clisson
Two day artists festival at Clisson in the Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine.

Details here and here

American Loire Valley Festival, Luynes 29th-31st May
This coming weekend bikers and music festival at Luynes, which is just to the west of Tours. Details here.

Biodiversity in Anjou

Recent pictures – taken about 10 days ago – from Les Vignes Herbel from their vineyard in Rochefort. Photos by Nadège Lelandais.

Photo prise dans le cabernet – flowering Cabernet

Photo prise dans le cabernet – flowering Cabernet

Sarments de vigne que nous allons broyer pour pailler nos plants

Un pommier planté en 2005 (année d'achat de la parcelle) Apple tree planted in 2005 when they bought the vineyard

Les semis de Moutarde, qui commencent à lever, dans le chenin. Les semis faits cette année ne sont pas une grande réussite. La moutarde a bien levé, ainsi que le Sorgho mais la Phacélie très mal et la Jachére fleurie pas du tout !! Espérons que ce sera mieux l'année prochaine !! Cette photos date d'il y a 10 jours, depuis ça a bien poussé et les premiers plants sont en fleur.

Les Ruches!! Nous en avons 2 traditionnelles, en production, installées chez les parents de Laurent, à 10 Km de notre parcelle. Normalement, on devrait faire notre premiere récolte de miel cette année. Et nous avons plusieurs ruchettes, fabriquées par Laurent (cf photos ci-desous), qui nous permettent de récupérer des essains que nous installerons dans des ruches l'année prochaine. Ces ruchettes sont installée dans notre jardin. Par contre, nous n'en avons pas sur "la pointe" car la zone n'est pas assez mellifére.

Un essain d'abeilles après essaimage de l'une de nos ruches

Un deuxième essain

Une ruchette, fabriquée par Laurent, avec des Sarments de vignes, terre et paille et cire d'abeille pour étanchéifier

Autre ruchette faite avec un tronc d'arbre

Laurent Herbel and Nadège Lelandais, 14 Rue des Roches, Vaudelnay

Monday, 25 May 2009

Loire videos on The Wine Digger

Have just discovered The Wine Digger blog that has been up since March and is run by Guilhaume of San Francisco. The Loire features quite frequently and recent postings included videos of Mark Angeli and Thierry Puzelat.

Counterattack by French anti-alcohol lobby

Just when we thought the French parliament had voted for good sense and agreed to allow wine on the internet, along comes a French senator, Anne-Marie Poyet, with an amendment to the new law – Hôpitaux, patients, santé et territories – now being discussed by the Senate. Her amendment would prohibit advertising of alcohol on the net, with the possibility if it was passed that it would prohibit any mention of wine etc. on the net.

Hopefully this new threat will be voted out by the French Senate.

French text below from Vitisphere:

Publicité pour les boissons alcoolisées sur Internet: les Anti contre-attaquent
La sénatrice centriste Anne-Marie Payet a annoncé qu'elle allait proposer un amendement à la loi "Hôpitaux, patients, santé et territoires", adoptée en mars dernier par l'Assemblée nationale et actuellement en discussion au Sénat."le Sénat n'a pas dit son dernier mot", a déclaré Mme Payet. Ceci afin d'interdire la publicité pour les boissons alcoolisées sur Internet contrairement au dispositif prévu par le texte adopté par l'Assemblée Nationale.

Dans le même temps, un groupe de personnalités et d'associations vient d'adresser au Président de la République une Lettre ouverte demandant l'interdiction de la publicité aussi sur ce média qui n'avait pas été prévu par la loi Evin. Parmi les signataires on pourra s'étonner de trouver l'ancien ministre socialiste Claude Evin qui avait pourtant indiqué le 27 octobre dernier sur France Info qu'il approuvait la position de la ministre de la Santé, Roselyne Bachelot, cette dernière ayant déclaré la veille dans un entretien accordé au «ne pas [s'opposer] à un amendement parlementaire qui actualise la loi Evin en autorisant la publicité sur Internet». Les signataires sont au nombre de 14 pour les associations et 8 pour les individus ; les chiffres peuvent paraître modestes, ils n'ont cependant pas empêché le spécialiste en santé publique Claude Got, signataire, de déclarer avec un certain aplomb que la démarche "témoigne d'un mouvement général désapprobateur face à un texte de loi contradictoire".

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Wines from the Collegiale des Domaines de Loire@LIWTF

Apologies that there was no posting yesterday but I was away for much of the day at a celebratory lunch@The Auld Alliance in Kingussie, Scotland. The food was extremely good and the situation is lovely – above the village of Kingussie in the Scottish Highlands with great views across to the hills and mountains. Normally only open in the evening it is run by a French woman Lydie Bocquillon. It is certainly worth le detour.

Back to catching up on wine tasted at the London International Wine Trade Fair.

The Collegiale is like an association of Loire producers, who bottle their production at their own properties, but then sell some or all of their wines through the Collegiale. This is allow a buyer to purchase a range of wines from just one pick up point. Guillaume Mordacq their director had bought a small selection of their wines to London.

I started with a rich and toasty 2005 Vin de Table Sauvignon from Château de Suronde, part owned by Mordacq. This powerful wine has 15% alcohol and was bottled in June 2007. Initially it rather overwhelmed the next wine – a 2008 Le Cep Touraine Sauvignon from André Fouassier of Lye in eastern Touraine. Fouassier has around 15 hectares – some in AC Valençay and some in Touraine. Then onto two minerally citric 2008 Sancerres both from the village of Bué: one from Pascal Balland and the other from Dominique and Janine Crochet. Both are perfectly good Sancerres with out being standouts.

Lastly I tasted the 2008 Bourgueils from Château de Minière in Ingrandes-de-Touraine. This seven hectare property was bought in 1995 by Bertrand and Evelyne de Mascarel de la Corbière. It remained in family hands, however, as he bought it from a cousin, whose ancestors had owned it since the 18th century. Bertrand also bought the vineyards belonging to Jean-Billet, so he now has 23 hectares in Bourgueil. The winemaker is Daniel Esteve, who used to be the winemaker at Château Clinet in Pomerol. Of the three tasted – Chevalier de Minière (to be bottled in May/June), Château de Minière and the Vieilles Vignes – it was the Vieilles Vignes that was the most impressive. From yields of 30 hl/ha this has rich, soft damson and plum fruit, some structure – a Bourgueil in quite a feminine style.

Friday, 22 May 2009

The battle of the Layon: Quarts de Chaume 2 – Chaume 0

Appellation Chaume annulled again

Turning the beautiful Layon into a battlefield!

For the second time the French courts have upheld complaints by the producers of the Quarts de Chaume over the attempt to establish a separate Chaume appellation. AC Chaume was approved in February 2007 to replace the earlier Chaume Premier Cru du Coteaux du Layon, which was annulled in September 2005. The new décret was annulled in early May.

There are around 70 hectares in Chaume and 50 in the Quarts de Chaume. Sad to see that the Loire appears to be as litigious as the Bordelais – re court actions over the Saint-Emilion and Cru Bourgeois classifications. Will Chambertin soon be taking Gevrey-Chambertin to court?

I’m sure that the producers in this part of the Layon could be better occupied than fight each other through the courts.

Morre detail here:

AOC Chaume annulé par le Conseil d'Etat

L'appellation « Chaume » est annulé par le Conseil d'Etat qui lui reproche d'affaiblir la notorité de l'AOC « Quarts de Chaume ».

C'est l'argument du Conseil d'Etat, qui vient d'annuler le décret de l'appellation « Chaume » déposé en février 2007.

Pour l'appellation « Quarts de Chaume », c'est une nouvelle vitoire. En septembre 2005, il avait fait annuler le premier décret déposé par les viticulteurs de l'ancienne appellation communale « Coteaux du Layon - Chaume » sous le nom « Chaume - Premier cru du Coteaux du Layon ».

La confusion est plus grande quand elles se trouvent sur la même commune : Rochefort-sur-Loire.

Les vignerons de l'appellation annulé « Chaume » retourne donc sous l'AOC « Coteaux du Layon - Chaume ».

Source, pour en savoir plus :

Also Hervé Lalau:

More Loire producers@LIWTF: 12th May 2009

Francis Jourdain – Touraine and Valençay
This is a 20 hectare estate based in Lye, which is a few kilometres east of Saint-Aignan and right at the eastern end of the Touraine appellation. There are eight hectares in AC Touraine and 12 in Valençay. The vineyards are grassed over except for some 15-30cms under the vines. They use native yeasts.

Of the three whites I tried I preferred the 2007 Les Terrajots Valençay – 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Chardonnay and 5% Sauvignon Rose. The vines are planted on soil called cherts, which is limestone and flint. The wine spends 6-8 months on its lees and has some attractive grapefruit weight and length with the Chardonnay giving some additional roundness. Their 2008 Touraine Sauvignon lacked a bit of zip and punch in the finish.

I liked the spicy and peppery 2008 Valençay Rosé with its crisp finish. It’s a blend of Cabernet Franc, Côt Gamay, Pinot Noir and Pineau d’Aunis. 50% is from pressurage direct (immediately pressed) and 50% saignée (juice run off from red wine vats).

The Jourdain reds tend to be rather rustic. I suspect that the fruit is good and that a little fine-tuning in the winery would make of them better. For me the spicy and weighty 2006 Touraine Côt was the best.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Photos from a visit to Le Clos Cristal (Saumur-Champigny) in June 2006

Sign@Le Clos Cristal

10-hectare Le Clos Cristal is one of two vineyards designed and built by Le Père Cristal at the turn of the 20th century. Antoine Cristal built walls in his vineyards, which had holes in them. This allowed him to plant the vines in the shade and then to trained the vine through the hole, so that the rest of the plant and its grapes were in the sunshine and also benefited from the radiator effect of the sun’s heat stored and given out by the wall.

Above and below: vine roots in the shade

Rest of the vines facing the sun

Geese and a hen@Le Clos Cristal

Le Clos Cristal was planted with Cabernet Franc and only some of the vines are trained through walls, the rest of the vineyard is planted normally. However, in the Clos des Murs at Parnay (part of the Château de Parnay) all the vines are trained through the walls. This is a much small vineyard and is planted with Chenin Blanc.

Old bottles in the cellar@Le Clos Cristal

Sign@the Clos des Murs, Parnay

As far as I know nobody else took Cristal's example and planted walls in a vineyard for although it works – I have tasted several impressive vintages of the cuvée Clos des Murs from Le Clos Cristal – it must be a very expensive way of growing vines. There are some three kilometres of wall in the Clos Cristal.

More details on Antoine Cristal:

Also Le Clos Cristal

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

La Villa Marguerite, Montrichard

The fortress of Montrichard

Noted wine writer – Ned Halley reports:

I must put in a word for the Jim Budd travel service. Being off in May by car to Bergerac, my wife and I wished to overnight halfway between Boulogne and our destination. The Loire Valley made sense. Knowing Jim’s local expertise, I rang him up. He recommended the lovely old fortress town of Montrichard, on the Cher, suggesting a chambre d’hôte at La Villa Marguerite. This town-centre, riverside grande maison, he advised, is run by a couple of young gentlemen late of the Paris couture business. Bernard Bardiot and Jean-Marie Bataille fitted the model. We have never seen hair-dos like it. But they were the soul of hospitality, and their house chic but comfortable. Our smart de luxe ensuite room (no 4, price 85 euros), with an unforgettable view over the Cher, made Mrs Halley très contente.

The Cher@Montrichard with bridge designed to fool the devil as each arch is different. I'd never realised that the devil was that stupid!

Bernard recommended the restaurant Les Truffaux 30 seconds walk away in the square but we took Jim’s tip to try La Villa, 35 seconds away, also in the square. Very good menu at 18 euros and a surprisingly rewarding Loire Gamay half litre at 5. We ate al fresco and service from la patronne was swift and good-humored.

Breakfast at La Marguerite was an experience. It was a full house of four impeccably groomed French couples plus us, with Bernard and Jean-Marie masters of ceremony at opposing heads of the magnificent table. The conversation naturally turned to events in England, and we defended our fine institutions of state as best we could. When we were asked which corner of Albion we came from and confessed to Somerset, one wit cried, “Ah, le Cote d’Azur d’Angleterre,” to which I modestly responded “Oui mais sans le soleil.” This sparked an immediate chain of consequences from around the table: “Et sans le chaleur!” and “Et sans la mer!” and so on, causing a great deal of joyful laughter.

If all chambres d’hôtes were like this, we would stay nowhere else. Idiotically, for our return stop we did book elsewhere, a recommendation from an Alistair Sawday guide. It was awful.

La Villa Marguerite 8 quai de la république - 20 rue Sully, 41400 Montrichard 33 (0) 2 54 32 76 67. Online at

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Sauvignon Blanc tasting@RSJ 11th May 2009

The main focus of this tasting held at the RSJ Restaurant, London SE1 (tel: 020-7928 4554) was on Sauvignon Blanc away from the classics of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc, VDP du Val de Loire, Domaine de Bablut

Aperitif: 2007 Sauvignon Blanc VDP Val du Loire, Domaine de Bablut, Christophe Daviau

There was a welcome glass of Christophe Daviau’s Sauvignon Blanc. Coming from the western part of the Loire in Anjou this tends to be richer, rounder with an accent on tropical fruit – certainly less citric and mineral than the examples from Touraine and the Central Vineyards.

As we were a small group this evening we all sat around one large table in the basement of the RSJ. This was certainly a format that worked well on the evening with people feeling that they were able to contribute more easily to the discussion than when we have larger numbers. It may well be that this is an alternative format that we can offer from time to time, although the price may have to be a little higher to cover costs.

We started with three wines served blind. Not with the intention to challenge people to identify the wines but to answer one question – which of the three wines do you prefer.

2007 Les Pierris, Sancerre, Roger Champault et Fils

The three wines served blind:

2007 Les Pierris, Sancerre, Roger Champault et fils
The Sancerre had attractive weight and richness with the wine benefiting from a year in bottle.

2008 Sauvignon Blanc, AC Touraine, Domaine Sauvète
This was quite aggressively catty aromatically – some tasters also smelt elderflower – with a lean and lemony palate.

2008 Le Petiot, AC Touraine Sauvignon, Vincent Ricard
A little more concentration and weight than the previous wine with grapefruit flavours.

Of the three wines there was a preference by one vote for Le Petiot followed by the Sancerre and only one supporter of the Sauvète. All of the 2008s in the tasting are likely to take on more weight over the next three to six months. Most of them have only been in bottle for a short time.


Then we served the next three with the first course.

2008 Clos Roussely, AC Touraine Sauvignon, Vincent Roussely
This turned out to be the favourite Sauvignon Blanc of the evening with good richness balanced by a clean, grapefruit finish. This further confirms that Vincent is making some very good wines.

2008 Touraine Sauvignon No2, Clos Roche Blanche
Although well-balanced this has softer acidity than the other Sauvignons having gone through a malolactic fermentation.

2007 Quincy, Domaine des Ballandors
Once again we could see the benefit of a year in bottle giving the wine additional weight and texture with a refreshing citric finish.

First course: Goats cheese, asparagus and red onion tartlet

The voting showed the Clos Roussely as the clear favourite, followed at a distance by the Quincy and then the Clos Roche Blanche. However, there was a general feeling that these three wines found it difficult against the sweetness of the red onion.


We paired two Sauvignon with the main course.

2007 Oneiros Domaine Sauvète and 2008 Trois Chênes, Vinccent Ricard

2007 Oneiros, Touraine Sauvignon, Domaine Sauvète
Oneiros is a step up in the Sauvète range from the straight Touraine Sauvignon. It has attractive gooseberry flavours and some richness.

2008 Les Trois Chênes, AC Touraine Sauvignon, Vincent Ricard
Recently bottled this needs time to open up, although concentration is apparent along with a mineral finish.

Main course: roast organic salmon, samphire, pink fir potato, roast courgettes and beurre blanc.

In the voting Les Trois Chênes was the clear favourite with several fence sitters in this round.

2008 Canaille, Gamay, AC Touraine, Vincent Roussely

Also tried with dinner 2008 Canaille, Touraine Gamay, Vincent Roussely. One of our frequent tasters remarked that a light red would be good with the salmon. By luck we had a bottle of Vincent’s Gamay that we had opened earlier to taste, so we were able to put this suggestion to the test. Indeed Vincent’s juicy, brightly red fruited and spicy Gamay went well with the salmon.

Dessert; iced ginger parfait, poached pear, chocolate sauce and almonds

Conclusions?: That you don't have to stick with the established classics from the Central Loire and that there are some very good producers in Cher Valley with Vincent Roussely and Vincent Ricard being particulalry commended. Like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, these wines often benefit from some time in bottle to gain more weight. The VDP Sauvignon from Domaine de Bablut was also popular.

Monday, 18 May 2009

More from the 2009 London International Wine Trade Fair

The Excel Exhibition Centre already struggles to cope with getting people in and out by public transport. How it will cope once the extension – adding 60% more capacity – shown here has been built I have no idea.

More added to the report on Loire producers here.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Fête Country: Epeigné-les-Bois – just a week to go:

Epeigné-les-Bois: the lake (plan d'eau) at night

Epeigné-les-Bois' first Fête Country on Sunday 24th May is now just less than a week away. Details here. Curiously the counter appear to be a day ahead – unless I have misread it.

L'eglise of Epeigné-les-Bois at night


Nothing to do with the Loire but I'm enjoying reading Victoria Moore's new book called How to Drink (£15.99), which offers lots of good advice on getting the most out of a while range of drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. It is published by Granta.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Loire producers in London

Tuesday 12th May 2009 London International Wine Trade Fair, Excel

The day started with an excellent presentation of the Great Wine Estates of Western Australia by Andrew Caillard MW to a masterclass run by the Circle of Wine Writers. Andrew is head of the wine department of Langton’s, Australia’s leading auctioneers.

Bulles de Roc

The rest of my day was devoted to visiting the various Loire producers at the fair and tasting their wines.

First up I saw the always ebullient Philippe Germain. The 2008 Chenin, Anjou Blanc is has attractively crisp, grapefruit flavours, some weight and length. The 2008 Solitaire, Saumur Blanc from Philippe’s elder brother, Thierry, has a similar accent on grapefruit and minerality.

Then something entirely new from Thierry and Michel Chevré – a sparkling Saumur called Bulles de Roc. 100% Chenin Blanc with no dosage. It has attractive weight and fine lemony finish. A delicious fizz – unfortunately only 3600 bottles have been produced.

Domaine Nebout has 45 hectares in Saint-Pourçain with 60% planted with red varieties – Pinot Noir and Gamay. Julian Nebout took over the family estate three years ago from his father Serge.

I started with the melon fruited Blanc Tradition 2007 – 75% Chardonnay and 25% Tressalier. Then I moved onto the more interesting 2007 Le Tressallière des Gravières. Here Tressallier, the local variety, makes up 90% of the blend with Chardonnay 10%. 10% is vinified and matured in oak. Tressallier is thought to be a local variant of the Sacy, a grape variety found in the Yonne. It is also believed to be a relation of Chenin Blanc. There are now only 40 hectares of Tressallier left – all in Saint-Pourçain. Tressallier is usually picked in early October. Le Gravières comes from vineyards close to the Allier, the major tributary to the Loire and it has attractive rich, concentrated fruit balanced with a mineral and citric finish.

Julien Nebout with the 2007 Le Tressallière des Gravières

On this evidence the vignerons of Saint-Pourçain ought to be planting more Tressallier. Hopefully this will happen as there is now a much greater appreciation of good indigenous varieties, the importance of preserving them and thus keeping wine’s individuality.

The two reds I found less convincing. Firstly 2006 La Malgarnie – a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Gamay. It has sweet brambly fruit, some weight but lacks zip and lift in the finish. I’m not convinced that Gamay and Pinot Noir is a successful blend and cannot recall ever having tasted a good one. Then the 100% Pinot Noir 2007 Elevé-en-barrique – some sweet fruit but lacking definition.

Bernard Chereau and 2003 Le Clos

Next to see a relieved Bernard Chereau of Chereau-Carre (Muscadet-de-Sèvre-et-Maine). Now clear of the threat of frost, Bernard said that this year there had been a good and regular sortie (good number of potential bunches of grapes). I tasted a couple of 2008s – L’Oiselinière de la Ramée and Château de Chasseloir, which have yet to be bottled. I preferred the Chasseloir – more concentration and length with lemon and hazelnut flavours. The 2007 Chasseloir is more austere than the 2008, reflecting the vintage difference. The 2005 Comte Leloup de Chasseloir is very different from the 2007 and 2008s tasted. Made from 100 year old vines it has considerable richness and concentration, although its lemony finish gives it balance. The last wine was Le Clos 2003 one of the Haute Expression Muscadets that are aged for more than a year on their lees. It has the typical weight and concentration of 2003 but retains a freshness that makes Le Clos elegant and attractive.

Staying with Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine I tasted wines from Jean Aubron at L'Audigère, Vallet. Jean Aubron has 84 hectares of vines. Of these 71 are planted with Melon de Bourgogne including the 11-hectare. Clos de l’Audigère. The balance is rest made up of Gros Plant, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Unfortunately the first bottle of 2008 Grand Fief de l’Audigère Tradition had some cork taint – once again emphasising that a delicate white like Muscadet really should not long be closed with cork. All Muscadet ought now to be in screwcap. Of the two 2008s I tasted I preferred the weightier Grand Fief de l’Audigère Vieilles Vignes with its attractive mineral finish.

I finished with the 2003 Grand Fief de l’Audigère Vieilles Vignes, which like the Chereau -Carre 2003 Le Clos is also showing well, despite the belief in some quarters that the heatwave vintage of 2003 produced ungainly wines. Certainly it is rich and weighty for a Muscadet but it has a touch of bitterness along with minerality in the finish that stops it being cloying.

(To be continued.....)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Slow route to Sancerre


In early November 2007 we took the slow route from Epeigné-les-Bois across to Sancerre passing through Romorantin-Lanthenay, La Ferté-Imbault and Aubigny-sur-Nère. Here is a series of photos that traces our route:

Entrance to the Lion d'Or, Romorantin-Lanthenay

Lion d'Or, Romorantin-Lanthenay

In the middle of the Sologne

La Ferté-Imbault

Château de la La Ferté-Imbault

Château de la La Ferté-Imbault

Auld-Alliance – Aubigny-sur-Nère



Château des Stuarts, Aubigny-sur-Nère

Château des Stuarts, Aubigny-sur-Nère

Château des Stuarts, Aubigny-sur-Nère

Château des Stuarts, Aubigny-sur-Nère






Atomic Cinema, Aubigny-sur-Nère