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 January 2010

Salon trip: Day 2: Renaissance: photos from a Salon 'off'

Mark Angeli: le vedette de Thouarcé devant les étoiles
Nadège Lelandais

Aymeric Hlaire: very promising new producer from Le Puy Notre-Dame 

 Sylvain Martinez and his Goutte d'O

Another two promising young vignerons: Catherine Roussel (Clos Roche Blanche) and Mark Angeli (La Ferme de la Sansonnière)

Joseph Landron (Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine)

Eddy and Mileine Oosterlinck-Bracke, Domaine de Juchepie: Eddy pouring 2002 Le Quinressence

A new direction for Jo Pithon – Languedoc?

Notes on the tasting to follow.

Salon trip Day 1: 30 January 2010: Dom Ogereau and Ch Pierre-Bise

Vincent and Catherine Ogereau, Domaine Ogereau
With a light dusting of snow when I got up around 5am and flakes still falling  there was a concern that our journey from London to Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay would prove difficult. Fortunately the fears were groundless and we arrived at Domaine Ogereau almost on the stroke of 3.30 as arranged as, apart from the odd flurry of snow, the journey was uneventful. We were soon tasting with Vincent and Catherine Ogereau – a few 2009s with the rest from 2008 and 2007.

The news from Vincent and Catherine is that they are considering slightly simplifying their range dropping their Anjou Blanc Cuvée Prestige. In the future they will have two dry whites: their Savennières and Anjou Blanc sec, which will be pure Chenin with the Chardonnay that used to be part of the Anjou Blanc blend being used for their Crémant de Loire. They are also likely to simplify their sweet wine range. Again dropping the Cuvée Prestige and having the light and versatile 'generic' Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert and the single vineyard Bonnes Blanches. They would hope to make the Bonnes Blanches every year with less of an accent on the sugar and more emphasis on a refreshing citric character.

Stand out wines from the tasting:

2009 Rosé de Loire (60% Grolleau/40% Gamay)
Soft grenadine character with just enough acidity (malo fait) to carry it off.

2008 Savennières Clos du Grand Beaupréau

2007 Anjou Villages Côte de la Houssaye
Pure Cabernet Sauvignon with remarkable concentration in this difficult year for reds.

The still infantile 2009 Houssaye is already showing a lot of promise but there is a long time to go before it is bottled.

Château Pierre-Bise

The next rdv was just across the Layon at Pierre-Bise with Claude and Joëlle Papin. Claude is running an experiment on not using sulphur on a small number of bottles of his 2007 Anjou Blanc Haut de la Garde. We started the tasting by comparing the 2007 without SO2 with one with the normal dose that Claude uses – both wines came from the same vat and were bottled on the same day. The bottles had been open for five days. The one with sulphur was a little more deeper – more golden in colour. It was also had more aromas with no signs of oxidation. When bottling Claude had used CO2 to give the unsulphured wine more protection. He is now carrying bottles around in his car to see how it will react to changes in temperature etc. An experiement to follow!

Stand out wines from the tasting:

2008 Roche aux Moines, Savennières
Honey and floral nose, lovely concentration and balance – one of those seamless wines where everything is in harmony. This was recently bottled because its malo started late – 75% complete. Unanimously our favourite wine.

2008 Schist Anjou Villages

More detailed notes on your visits to follow in the next week or so.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Au Salon des Vins de Loire 2010

Dress code: absolutely essential to be comfortable when tasting wine

We are off to the Salon very early this morning. Unfortunately leaving later than usual in the week preceding the Salon, so that it won't be possible to make anything like our customary round of visits – none in Touraine or Saumur and just a few in Anjou. The plan is to catch an early Eurotunnel shuttle and head straight to Vincent and Catherine Ogereau in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay. Then to Claude and Joëlle Papin before checking in at the Hotel du Mail in Angers and then out to eat, for the first time, at Chez Rémi.

Sunday morning it's the Good, the Bad and the Pretty Ugly show – otherwise known as the Renaissance tasting at the Greniers de Saint-Jean, Angers. Then a couple of afternoon visits – Philippe Germain at Château de la Roulerie and Victor Lebreton at Domaine du Montgilet.

PS I see that light snow showers are forecast for around Angers later today...

Friday, 29 January 2010

A 2008 Sauvignon de Touraine + 1999 VV Saumur-Champigny

Two recent wines that I have enjoyed: a 2008 Touraine Sauvignon from Antoine Simoneau in Saint Georges-sur-Cher and the 1999 Vieilles Vignes Saumur-Champigny from Château de Villeneuve.

2008 Sauvignon Blanc Touraine, Domaine de la Rablais

The Simoneau family has made big efforts to sell a considerable part of their production at the cellar door with a well stocked shop, open days and special weekends. This 2008 shows good ripeness – no cats' pee or vegetal flavours in sight – rather gooseberry, grapefuit and a touch of yellow plum, soft mouthfeel and some refreshing acidity. I still need to write up a visit I made there back last June. Sauvignon Blanc is their most successful variety and overall whites are better than the reds. It would be good to see them move away from the use of weedkillers but with 60 hectares it is easy to suggest such a move; much harder to put into practice.

Having decided on Tuesday evening that we deserved a mid-week treat, it was then a matter of choosing what this should be. In the end it was easy – a 2000 Grand Cru Saint-Emilion was easily discarded in favour of the 1999 Saumur-Champigny Vieilles Vignes from Jean-Pierre Chevallier's Château de Villeneuve. This is drinking really well now – around its best probably as I don't think it will get better but equally it is not about to fall off a cliff. It has lovely Cabernet Franc fragrance as well as a touch of animal, soft rich fruit and still a structure of rounded tannins to hold everything together.

Takes the biscuit!

Right at the end of last year I posted a small piece (taken from Presse Océan) about the restart of production of  the Petit Mouzillon, a dry biscuit that was first made in 1848.  Production will restart in March and the new owners are intending to set up a museum dedicated to Le Petit Mouzillon. They are looking for any objects, such as biscuit tins, and documents connected to Le Petit Mouzillon. Donors will be repaid in biscuits.  

'La production du Petit Mouzillon reprendra en mars. Nouveau propriétaire de la biscuiterie de la zone des Quatre Chemins et de la recette originale, Biofournil prépare une soirée de lancement à Mouzillon. « Tout n'est pas encore totalement finalisé mais nous souhaitons marquer l'événement », confirme-t-on du côté du spécialiste du pain biologique au levain à l'ancienne, basé au Puiset-Doré, dans le Maine-et-Loire.'
Lire la suite

See also an article here from 2008 about the takeover.

I don't recall ever tasting a Petit Mouzillon. I imagine it is rather like a Petit Beurre or a rich tea biscuit. Would be great if someone could clarify this please. Le Petit Beurre (VPB) was also invented in the Pays Nantais – some 38 years after the Mouzillon in 1886. The biscuits are made in a factory in La Haie Fouassier, which like Mouzillon is also in the centre of the Muscadet vineyards. According to Wikipedia some 41 million packets of VPB are produced every year.

Winners of the Wine Blog Trophy Awards 2010


Lancé depuis près d'un mois, le Wine Blog Trophy a fait beaucoup parlé de lui sur la toile (net).
Il est temps de révéler le nom des gagnants!

Voici donc la liste des heureux vainqueurs:

Dans la catégorie "Prix des Internautes" :
Aurelia Filion et son blog "Bu sur le Web" :
(Voted the best blog – total of 1602 votes cast in this section of the Wine Blog Awards)

Dans la catégorie "La plus belle Plume" :
Hervé Lalau et ses " Chroniques Vineuses"

Dans la catégorie "Meilleur Design":
Aurélia Filion et son blog "Bu sur le Web"

Dans la catégorie "Meilleure Intéractivité":
Emmanuel Delmas et son blog "Sommelier Vins"

Dans la catégorie "Mention Spéciale Loire":
Jacques Berthomeau et son blog "Vin&Cie, l'Espace de liberté"

Et enfin, pour le prix du "Meilleur Blog":
Anne-Laurence Chadronnier et son blog "Rouge, Blanc, Bulles"

Anyone wondering how a blog that was shortlisted in one category won the Meilleur Blog Award (the blog that gains the most points from the jury), the answer is that the overall marks were averaged out, so that those in only one category would not be at a disadvantage.

Rendez-vous le 1er févier à 17h au Salon des Vins de Loire pour la remise des trophées...

Congratulations to all the winners. It would be great to see the next edition of the blog being open to blogs in French and, at least, one other language. This way the trophy would have an even bigger impact.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Salon des Vins de Loire: national rail strike threatened for Wednesday

TGV entering Tours station

Four syndicats (unions) representing French rail workers have called for a national rail strike next Wednesday (3rd February). The strike is due to start at 8pm Tuesday evening and finish 8am Thursday morning. It is not clear yet how much disruption there will be but with four syndicats involved there may well be few trains running on Wednesday. The SNCF will announce on Tuesday how much of the service will run. This will may mean some French visitors will leave the Salon earlier than planned on Tuesday but it is more likely to affect foreign visitors planning to travel back on the Wednesday.

There was a time during the 1990s when the French respected the seasons: skiiing in February, asparagus in April, strawberries in May, the vendange in September and strikes in November, so that they could be settled in time for Christmas. Sadly this respect for tradition has disappeared: now, like haricots verts, you can come across strikes all year round!   

Some further details here (Le Monde) and here (La Nouvelle République).

Liberty Wines: 19th January 2010

This is always a large and often crowded tasting – hardly surprising given Liberty Wines' high reputation and fine roster of growers. The 2010 edition at the Oval Cricket Ground had 422 wines plus a few Cognacs and grappas to taste but my primary attention was on their Loire producers.

Philippe Günther with the 2008 Saint-Fiacre

I started with the very clean and crisp 2008 Saint-Fiacre Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine (recommended retail price: £8.49) from Château du Coing. With its iodine smell of it made me wish I had a plate of oysters in front of me. "In 2008 we only made 30 hl/ha because of the frost. Whereas we made 50 hl/ha in 2009 and we are very happy with the quality.

Philippe's wife Veronique Günther-Chéreau is the sister of Bernard Chéreau of Chéreau-Carré (Château de Chasseloir). The two properties used be to be combined but are now split.

Sébastien Vaillant with his 2009 Valençay Blanc 

Then onto two wines (both 2009) involving Sébastien Vaillant – one under Sébastien's name and one under the Vignerons de Valençay. The first – a Valençay (RRP: £9.99) – is a blend of 80% Sauvignon and 20% Chardonnay and spends four months on its lees. Attractive grapefruit flavours allied with a soft, roundness that comes from the Chardonnay. It has a Selvin closure (screwcap). See previous notes on the 2008 vintage here and here. The second wine is a Loire Sauvignon Blanc vin de pays (RRP: £9.99) – also Stelvin closed. Bottled early – in mid-December – this is quite rich with attractive citrus flavours with grapefruit to the fore.

Next a bracing 2009 Sauvignon de Touraine from Domaine des Corbillières, Oisly (RRP: £9.99)  At present the aromas are discreet on this quite lean wine, although it does have fair length. With a little time this may take on more weight and become more expressive. On present showing I'd go for the Valençay vin de pays at the same price. 
Report on the tasting on-going. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Le Lièvre Gourmand is haring off to Orléans!

Le Lièvre Gourmand@Vailly-sur-Sauldre

Sauté du lièvre!

Message from William Page:

'Après presque vingt ans à Vailly le Lièvre va déménager !!!

Nous serons fin mars 2010 au 28 Quai du Chatelet à Orléans dans une belle maison donnant sur La Loire.

Entre temps nous allons fêter comme il se doit notre départ avec un menu "best of" regroupant vos / nos plats préférés pendant tout le mois de février.

Venez dire au revoir à notre maison avant que la nouvelle aventure ne commence.

Amicalement                             William Page

The smoked foie gras – the most spectacular dish I've had at Le Lièvre

After almost twenty years at Vailly le Lièvre is moving!!!

As from the end of March 2010 we'll be in a terrific new place overlooking the river at 28 Quai du Chatelet, Orléans.

Before we move and during all of February we're doing a best of menu regrouping some of yours and our favourite dishes from the last twenty years.

So come and say goodbye to us here at Vailly before the new adventure starts.

All my very best                            William Page'

See reports on meals @Le Lièvre here and here. I hope the move goes well and that the food remains as good if not better in the new premises in Orléans.

2009 Cabernet de Saumur, Domaine de Chaintres

This is another of the bottles 'liberated' from last week's tasting at Lords Cricket ground.  (See photos of tasting here.) Pale salmon coloured this 2009 Cabernet de Saumur (100% Cabernet Franc) has attractive red fruit aromas and mouthfilling flavours along with sufficient acidity to make a refreshing. It was certainly an enjoyable aperitif to celebrate the gradual length of the days here and signs of springtime in preparation.

 Château de Chaintres

Richard Desouche, manager of Ch de Chaintres

49400 Chaintres, Dampierre sur Loire
Email:; website:

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Mike Ratcliffe: South African Cabernet Franc pioneer

A relaxed Mike Ratcliffe with a bottle of the 2007 Cabernet Franc, Warwick Estate

It was off to the Louis Latour annual portfolio tasting this afternoon, primarily attracted by the opportunity to taste the Michel Redde wines (report to follow). While there I took the opportunity to catch up with Mike Ratcliffe (Warwick Estate, Vilafonté) and, in particular, the Warwick 2007 Cabernet Franc.

Mike parents, Norma and Stan, were the first producers to plant Cabernet Franc in South Africa with their first vintage in 1985. Having tasted the Warwick Cabernet Franc I have to wonder why there isn't more Cabernet Franc planted here. The fragrant 2007 (case: £133 + vat) was the latest vintage on show with attractive soft, round fruit and enough structure to allow it to age. I guess that Cabernet Franc continues to be overshadowed by its noisy and robust offspring: Cabernet Sauvignon, whose brashness doubtless came from the genes of Sauvignon Blanc – the other parent.

Mike told me that there are plans to hold a vertical tasting of the Warwick Cabernet Francs in London some time this year. Ought to be a fascinating occasion!

RSJ tasting 18th January

More added to this report – it is now complete.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Salon des Vins de Loire 2010/ Fête Saint-Vincent, Epeigné-les-Bois

With just a week to go before the 2010 Salon des Vins de Loire opens its doors, today's La Nouvelle République carries a report on it here.

'Le 24e Salon des vins de Loire se déroulera à Angers à partir du 1er février : il a pour but de promouvoir le millésime de l'année auprès des professionnels.

Ce n'est pas un Salon ouvert au grand public, mais il accueille en moyenne 9.000 visiteurs en trois jours.'

Lire la suite

For the 2010 edition there are 591 exhibitors. It remains uncertain whether Salon, which hitherto since its inception in 1987 has been annual, will be held in 2011 or whether it will become bi-annual with the next edition in 2012. This I understand is due to budget cuts demanded by the négociants.


Vendange in Epeigné: September 2009

Epeigné-les-Bois: Fête de Saint Vincent: 24th January 2010
A few photos here from yesterday's fête mainly of the last five Saint-Vincent's each planting a vine by a wall. See here. It looked a pretty grey day – still that wouldn't have affected the long lunch! Apparently it was pouring with rain around 10am but it stopped in time for the dancing group – La Gidelle – to perform.

The five vines planted are various table grape varieties, including Chasselas, and each year the Saint-Vincent will plant a new vine. The vines are planted along the wall of the cemetery on the road (D81) from Francueil to Epeigné. Planting the first five vines yesterday were Patrick Guignard (2004), Mark Robertson (2005), Bernard Maugueret (2006), Claude Lesur (2008) and Jean-Michel Prieur (2010). Alain Tranchard (2009) and James Marchais (2007) were unable to attend.

Following the vine planting ceremony and the dancing, there was a tasting of wines from Bruno Curassier (Domaine de la Grange, Bléré), Gilda Garanne (Saint-Georges-sur-Cher), Jean-Claude Legrand (Saint-Georges-sur-Cher) and La Gourmandière (Cave Cooperative de Francueil). Lunch and dancing continued at least till 8pm when Jim's Loire's local reporter made his excuses and left.

I understand that the Comité des Fêtes was pleased with this edition as in recent years this fête has been in slight decline. This year there were another 10 places sold for the lunch.  


Report from Wednesday's La Nouvelle République (27th January 2010)
Dimanche matin, sous la houlette du comité des fêtes, Épeigné-les-Bois fêtait la Saint-Vincent, patron des vignerons né au sein d'une famille noble à la fin du IIIe siècle à Huesca, petite cité espagnole des Pyrénées. Diacre puis archidiacre à Saragosse, il avait en charge l'administration des biens de l'église et prêchait également à la place de l'évêque de Saragosse.

Click on link above to read the rest.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Originel (2004), Julien Courtois

The Courtois family are one of the cult vignerons that I really ought to have visited by now. Something I will have to put right soon. My failure to visit or know more about their wines is partly due to never having had happy experiences with Claude Courtois' wines on the few occasions that I have tasted them. I remember one red (although not its name – though it may well have been Racines – a red) opened in Epeigné a few years ago that was undrinable and was poured down the sink. About three or four years ago Claude was at the Renaissance tasting in Angers but I was no more impressed.

However, a number of years ago Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon) was full of enthusiasm for this wonderful Loire producer he had met at a wine fair in Brussels. It was Claude Courtois and, although Randall has a highly developed sense of humour, I think on this occassion he was serious.

So to Originel (vin de table français) from the 2004 vintage* made with 100% Menu Pineau by Claude's son, Julien. It has to said that Originel is also quite challenging, particular in respect to its colour and nose. The colour is quite a deep gold – certainly pretty deeply hued for a wine of this age, although it is vinified in oak, while the nose has quite marked oxidative notes. I imagine that there is little or no sulphur used here. In contrast the palate is much fresher still with some oxidative notes which here add complexity to the minerality and clean acidity. We drunk this over two nights as an apero and I fancy that the second night the colour was deeper and the oxidative notes a little more marked.

It is good to see producers working with Loire varieties like Menu Pineau (also called Arbois) that used to be more widely grown than they are now. Pascal Potaire in the Cher Valley is another producer making Menu Pineau – on this evidence I prefer Pascal's. Thierry Puzelat is another producer working with Menu Pineau. It remains a permitted variety in Vouvray (almost a slightly guilty secret!), Cheverny and Valançay. Having a range of varieties that have a local history is part of France's patrimony and it would be good to see France's wine authorities wanting to cherish and encourage this diversity even though hectares of just Sauvignon Blanc would be easier to sell.

Pascal Potaire (not Menu Pineau in the glass!)

* Douglas Wregg (Les Caves de Pyrène) told me they would be sending the 2004 vintage. However, there is an L6 marked at the bottom of the label, so it may actually be 2006. As a vin de table français there can be no mention of the vintage on the label. I'll have to check with Douglas.

Wine Blog Trophy: last chance to vote

A reminder that voting on the best of the 20 blogs selected for the Wine Blog Trophy closes on Monday 25th January. Don't miss your chance to vote for the best blog –  see here:. By last Monday (18th) 1200 votes had been cast.

Here are the blogs selected by category:

The results will be announced on Tuesday 26th January. (26.1.2010 – not sure this is right. Winners will be notified by email but results may well not be announced until Monday 1st February.)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Vinderella: a few more panto pics

Poster for Vinderella

Sisterly love: Botrytis and Phylloxera dealing with Vinderella 

The Good Fairy

At the ball (above and below)

Curtain call

Curtain call: Phylloxera, Botrytis (faded) and Bouchon

Earlier panto pics here

2008 Saumur-Champigny, Domaine de Chaintres

This is another of the bottles 'liberated' from the French Independent Wine Growers tasting at Lords on Tuesday. This Domaine cuvée comes from the lighter sandy soils on the higher part of the Château de Chaintres, this is an innovation that Richard Desouche has introduced since he took over from  long time manager Krishna Lester. The photo below shows pickers in the parcel used to make the Domaine Saumur-Champigny.

Easy drinking the Domaine wine is dominated by red fruits and is a wine to enjoy rather than to analyse. Although it will probably keep a couple of years or so, I'd drink it young while giving the more structured Château de Chaintres time in bottle.

 Picking at Chaintres October 2005 – pickers are in the parcel of sandy soil beyond the wall


Staying in Saumur there is a very positive review of the wonderful Pot de Lapin here on the A slice of ex-pat(é) blog.


Friday, 22 January 2010

Azay-le-Rideau: Musique et vin : nouvelle édition

The Indre@Azay-le-Rideau: early January 2009

From today's La Nouvelle République:

Le comité des fêtes d'Azay-le-Rideau organise sa deuxième soirée « Musique et Vin », samedi 6 février, à 20 h 30, dans la salle polyvalente d'Azay.

Lire la suite – read the rest

Le Parfum Fleuri: recommended florist in Bléré

The church@Bléré

I'm very happy to recommend the florist, Le Parfum Fleuri, run by Fabienne Porte, in Bléré. Last weekend I needed to order flowers to go to an old friend, whose husband had sadly died recently. Searching through Les Pages Jaunes I selected Le Parfum Fleuri (5 pl Libération, 37150 Bléré – from the three or four florists in Bléré.

I telephoned ordered and paid for a bouquet – all very professionally done and the friend is absolutely delighted with the flowers.

2008 Vieilles Vignes Anjou Blanc Château Soucherie

At the end of the French Independent Wine Growers tasting at Lords on Tuesday it was hard to refuse the many offers of bottles to take away as the producers no longer wanted them – too many for them to carry plus all the security restrictions. I did agree to take four, so I departed Lords clanking like an habitual pique-assiette. Had I wished and been strong enough I could have left with at least 12!

One of the bottles I took was this nearly full bottle of 2008 Anjou Blanc from Château Soucherie. I had been very impressed by it at the tasting, so was very pleased to get the opportunity to taste this wine, 100% Chenin Blanc from a parcel of 80 year old vines, again. It did not disappoint having a lovely balance of fruit and acidity. The acidity is the crucial element: ripe not at all green and provides a counterbalance for the quite mouth filling fruit. Wonderfully precise wine that carries off its 14% alcohol.

This property was long owned by the Tijou family but a couple of years ago it was bought by Roger François Béquinot. There are 30 hectares of vines – 24 at Beaulieu, four in Chaume and two in Savennières (Clos les Perrières).

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Vinderella: UK drinks trade raising money for charity

Ugly sister – Botrytis: Charles Metcalfe

Wot a stunning pair of pins!

This evening saw the preview of the excellent Vinderella put on by the Benevolent and the Theatre of Wine. Full of wonderfully ridiculous jokes – my favourite was 'Amy Housewine', closely followed by the 'Katie Price Academy' – and great fun.

The other ugly sister – Phylloxera: Alastair Llewellyn-Smith

It's on for the next three nights – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – at the 300 seat John McIntosh Theatre at the London Oratory School, Seagrave Road SW6 – nearest tube is West Brompton. Tickets range from £10 - £35 and are available via the Benevolent - +44 (0)207 089 3888, or online at

Mildew Pearce (TV Anchorwoman): Hannah Tovey

Eutypiose (Stepmother to Vinderella): Sarah Reed

Eutypiose with Lord Stirling (?): Walter Speller

Vinderella (Anna Noble) and Price Charmes Chambertin (Andrew Reed)

Phylloxera's shoe

Debby Collinson – best dressed member of the chorus in the 1st Act with a memorable shirt

Lord Adam Brett-Smith (Corney & Barrow) makes a brief but dashing cameo appearance

Daniel Illsley: writer and director (Theatre of Wine)

Botrytis surrounded by fans