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 investdrinks.org

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




Thursday, 20 September 2018

Loire 2018 – round up of harvest news





Since we arrived in the Loire we have seen producers from Muscadet Sèvre et Maine to the Côtes de Forez – just about from one Loire vinous extremity to the other.

In Touraine Vincent Ricard started picking on Monday 3rd September. He is happy as he has avoided any serious attack of mildew but at the cost of treating his vines 14 or 15 times. His Sauvignon is coming in at between 12.5˚ potential with the acidity averaging 5.2. Yields at 50-55 hl/ha. He expects to finish harvesting the middle of next week.

Vincent Roussely (Angé) started picking on Monday 10th September. Due to the heat they are only picking in the morning. I saw some Sauvignon Rosé that they had picked – the grapes very healthy and clean.

Luc Poullain, Domaine des Echardières – also in Angé – like Vincent Roussely also started on Monday but picking Chardonnay. He warned that vines on clay were coping well with the drought – just 10mm of rain in two months – but other on easy draining soils were suffering with maturation blocked especially if they were young vines.

In Montlouis Jacky Blot started on Thursday (6th) – earlier than he had originally thought but with the grapes ripening rapidly he didn't want the alcohol levels to shoot up and the acidity to fall away, especially as he picks by hand – three teams of pickers in action.

In certain parcels he has been badly hit by mildew with very small yields. However, the incidence is very irregular with his best parcels like the Clos Mosny and Clos Michet resisting well.

Jacky and a team started picking his top Vouvray (Vin de France) from the Clos de Venise on Thursday 13th September.


On our way to the Côte Roannaise last Thursday (13th) we dropped in quickly to see the Pinards  – Vincent, Florent and Clément – in Bué and then Domaine Fouassier in Sancerre itself. The Pinards started picking their Pinot Noir on Thursday 6th and have subsequently picked some of their Sauvignon Blanc. They are very happy with the results to date with the Pinot coming in at 12.4˚ to 13.5˚ potential with acidity averaging around 5. Florent and Clément thought that the 2018 reds will be easy to drink and easily digestible.

Sauvignon Blanc
2018 Sauvignon Blanc (Sancerre)

Pinot Noira
2018 Pinot Noir (Sancerre)


Benoît Fouassier was also very happy with their 2018s. They started on 5th and have been picking both Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The Pinot, which they have nearly finished, coming in at up to 14˚, while the Sauvignon Blanc is between 12.5˚ and 13.5˚ and an acidity on 4-4.5.

From Sancerre we headed south to the small town of Renaison in the heart of the Côte Roannaise where we stayed at the Hotel Central, which is in town square. The hotel is very reasonably priced and is run by the very welcoming Arlette, who appears to have boundless energy as she is on the go from the early morning until late at night.

The Côte Roannaise we saw Carine, Stéphane and Robert Sérol (Domaine Robert Sérol). Their chai and some of their vineyards are up above Renaison and is one of the appellations top domaines. They started picking at the end of the previous week –  Gamay for their pétillant rosé naturel – Turbullent. Picking Gamay for their reds had started this morning.

Gamay-a
2018 Gamay, Domaine des Pothiers, Côte Roannaise

Gamays
Early on the Friday we also saw Romain Paire (Domaine des Pothiers) – another top Roannaise estate. Romain had started that morning – kicking off with his Pinot Gris (13˚ potential) before moving onto his Gamay. The juice tasted very clean and promising. Indeed everywhere the fruit in the Roannaise and the Forez looked very clean and healthy with apparently much less mildew than you can find in parts of Touraine. We also saw Simon Hawkins, an English guy who with his French wife bought the Domaine de Fontenay in 1991 and started making wine leaving the textile business behind.
We had left the car in Renaison and instead explored the Roannaise on our e-bikes. Along with the Côtes de Forez and Sancerre I think that the Côte Roannaise is one of the three most picturesque Loire appellations. The vines are planted on the lower slopes of the granite hills that quickly rise to 1000 metres or more – so an electric bike is certainly a good investment, especially if you are of pensionable age. There are plenty of quiet roads both through the charming little villages and up higher in the hills.
Sorting
Gilles and his team sorting Gamay @Domaine de la Madone
– little sorting needed this year
Friday we headed the just over 50 kilometres south to Champdieu and Gilles Bonnefoy Domaine de la Madone. Gilles was generally  happy with the way the harvest was progressing, although he had some parcels of vines that were suffering from the drought. We tasted some Gamay that he had picked the day before which had already taken on good colour even after one day but without much tannin in the skins. Gilles was happy with the potential degrees – between 11.5˚ and 12.5˚ – as his clientele appreciates wines with relatively low alcohol levels.
Max
Max @Verdier Logel, Côtes de Forez
Leaving Domaine de la Madone we stopped off briefly at the Cave Verdier-Logel and saw Odile, Max and Jacky. They were preparing to start picking yesterday  (17th September). Max was hoping that there would be no rain despite the drought because any rain was now too late to be beneficial. Instead rain was all too likely to provoke rot.
Jean with his Portuguese worker
Jean Teissèdre (left) with his Portuguese worker 
On our way back to Touraine we made a first visit to Domaine des Bérioles in Saint-Pourçain in the hamlet of Cesset, to the west of the town of Saint-Pourçain, Bérioles has been rightly building a reputation since Jean Teissèdre took over the domaine in 2011, when it had 7 hectares. He was later joined by his sister Sophie and her husband – Jérôme Roux. The domaine has now more than doubled in size with 15 hectares in production and two more planted.
On the Friday when we visited they were picking Chardonnay, which was very clean and healthy. The nearby Pinot Noir looked equally healthy with no sign of rot. During the visit it was very interesting to see a parcel of ripening Tressalier, the local grape which will be picked last.
Tressalier
Tressalier grape also known as Sacy outside Saint-Pourçain
– note pinkish tinge @Domaine des Bérioles

Due to the artificial constraints imposed by the appellation rules – 100% Tressalier and 100% Pinot Noir are banned - a very significant part of their production is sold as IGP. "This makes no difference to our sales" says Jean "as we now have established a reputation but it is a pity for the appellation."

Monday, 17 September 2018

20 ans de Gorges


20th anniversary of the foundation of the Association des Vignerons du Cru Gorgeois 


Six producers in the vines 
Six celebrating Gorges producers in a vineyard

2013 Fred + Gabbro+ RiverCahier des Charges 
The production criteria for Cru Gorges  



2013 Fred + Gabbro+ River

2013 Gorges La Vigneaux, Fred Laffer with a lump of gabbro
- Sèvre Nantaise in the background

On Thursday 6th September I was privileged to be invited to the celebration for the 20 years of the Association, which was officially formed in 1998. However, its origins date back to the winter of 1996/97 when five Gorges producers – Michel Brégeon, Gilles Luneau, Christophe Boucher, Damien Rineau and Thierry and Christophe Luneau got together to define the criteria for a top quality Muscadet.

After much work the INAO recognised in 2011 Gorges as one of the first three Muscadet Cru Communaux, along with Clisson and Le Pallet. The criteria for Cru Gorges include: vines planted on the type of soil called gabbro, green harvest to aim for a yield of 40 hl/ha, the wine to spend 24 months on its lees and once in bottle a jury of experts have to agree that the wine is up to scratch.
Interestingly compulsory hand picking is not in the criteria. Perhaps this will be the next step as an insistence on hand picking would really mark out this top tier of Muscadet as something qualitatively different from the rest. Furthermore given the tiny quantities of Cru Communaux currently being produced obligatory hand picking ought to be easy enough to arrange.

We tasted some 15-20 different Cru Gorges from a number of different vintages. Overall they underlined that these Cru Communaux are indeed a step up and that, although slightly more expensive they still offer great value for money – these are very fine wines.

2000 Gorges
2000 Gorges, Christophe and Brigitte Boucher
served in magnum for lunchtime apéro
when it was magnificent.
Unfortunately they tried pairing it with

the dessert which in my view didn't work at all. 
Our fine lunch was @ The Restaurant L'Atlantide

Moulin Papier Liveau
Our day started with a visit to the recently restored  
Moulin à Papier at Liveau, a hamlet of Gorges. 

Water wheel
Part of the water wheel in the Moulin

Paper-process
The process of making paper

••••




Wednesday, 12 September 2018

2018 Loire vintage – well underway and accelerating – quality high


Black hod guy
Hod carrier @Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin, 
Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine 
Romanian pickers
A trio of pickers from Romania @ 
Vincent Caillé's Le Domaine le Fay d'Homme,
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine  


The vintage is now well underway with some producers starting as early as the first days of September. Overall quantity is up except for producers badly hit by mildew due to the heavy rains and humid conditions of late May/early June. Quality wise this appears to be the fifth successive good to excellent Loire vintage, which is quite unprecedented.

The very wet and humid weather at the end of May and into June provoked a lot of mildew with organic producers particularly hit. Touraine appears to be have been more seriously affected than the Pays Nantais. Here the producers are very happy after two very difficult years – 2016 and 2017 – due to serious frost damage. It was good to see Vincent Caillé (Domaine de Fay d'Homme) relaxed and smiling in contrast to the obvious worry and concern of last year. Pierre-Marie Luneau (Domaine Luneau-Papin) was delighted with the quality of the fruit and its balance. We tasted some of the juice, which appeared to be very promising indeed. 

With temperatures hitting the 30s early this week the pace of picking is accelerating to avoid alcoholic degrees shooting up and acidity levels declining.  

In Touraine Vincent Ricard started picking on Monday 3rd. He is happy as he has avoided any serious attack of mildew but at the cost of treating his vines 14 or 15 times. His Sauvignon is coming in at between 12.5˚ potential with the acidity averaging 5.2. Yields at 50-55 hl/ha. He expects to finish harvesting the middle of next week. 

Vincent Roussely (Angé) started picking on Monday 10th September. Due to the heat they are only picking in the morning. I saw some Sauvignon Rosé that they had picked – the grapes very healthy and clean. 

Luc Poullain, Domaine des Echardières – also in Angé – like Vincent Roussely also started on Monday but picking Chardonnay. He warned that vines on clay were coping well with the drought – just 10mm of rain in two months – but other on easy draining soils were suffering with maturation blocked especially if they were young vines.

In Montlouis Jacky Blot started last Thursday – earlier than he had originally thought but with the grapes ripening rapidly he didn't want the alcohol levels to shoot up and the acidity to fall away, especially as he picks by hand – three teams of pickers in action.

In certain parcels he has been badly hit by mildew with very small yields. However, the incidence is very irregular with his best parcels like the Clos Mosny and Clos Michet resisting well. 

Today Jacky and a team will start picking his top Vouvray (Vin de France) from the Clos de Venise.