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

Monday, 18 September 2017

2017 Loire – good news for a change in Menetou-Salon

 The view eastwards from Menetou-Salon
 towards Parassy and Morogues 

Following the Loire vintage is always fascinating. No two years are the same – each one has their different challenges. Overall, from what we have seen in the Pays Nantais, Touraine, Menetou-Salon and Sancerre, there should be some very good wine made this year. All the juices I have tasted this year to date have been round with variable degrees of potential alcohol. Generally rich, ripe fruit – often around 13% with the acidity between 5 and 5.4, so well balanced. 

On our way over from Touraine we first dropped in on Philippe Gilbert, just on the eastern edge of the small town of Menetou-Salon. In contrast to last year when he made virtually nothing, 2017 has given him a good harvest. Philippe started slowly on 11th September on his Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes are coming in around 12.0 to 12.8˚ with acidities around 4.7. 

After last year's  shockingly small vintage in in Menetou-Salon it is good to see that producers like Philippe Gilbert have been blessed with a generous harvest. Last Tuesday (12th September) they harvested as much, if not more, of what they picked last year in total.

Philippe is bringing in 50 hl/ha for his Pinot Noir for rosé, while his whites are fine at around 55/60 hl/ha. 2017 is a generous harvest. This often happens after a severe frost, which gives the vines a rest, so the following year they tend to produce big harvest. This happened in in 1992 following the severe frost of 1991. 

After a week of harvesting they have about another ten days left. The contrast between Philippe's demeanour of last year and this is very marked. He is now a 'happy boy'!  

Wednesday will be 'Les Vendanges pour les Copains'. Under this laudable initiative Philippe and his team will be picking for friends like Fred Niger in Muscadet, who have been very severely affected by the April frosts. It provides them with some wine that hopefully will keep them afloat in these difficult times.     
Domaine Henri Pellé
The news here was also very positive: they started on Thursday 7th September – a day before the actual Ban des Vendanges. Again 2017 is a generous harvest with 60 hl/ha for their Sauvignon Blanc, while they are getting 50 hl/ha at 13% potential for the Pinot Noir. We tasted some of the juices for the Sauvignon Blanc, which were impressive – good fruit, very clean and well balanced with attractive freshness in the finish.  

Most of the picking so far has been in their vineyards in the commune of Menetou-Salon. Only now are they picking in Morogues, which is a little higher in altitude, so ripens a little later. 

In the Pellé vines Les Blanchais:
We visited Les Blanchais near Morogues where there was a big team of more than 50 pickers.    

 One of the Pellé pickers

 One of the pickers

Drowning in vines......?

 Capped picker

 Carrying a hod up and down 
the slope is tough work

Trailer @the bottom of the slope

Les Blanchais is a steeply sloping vineyard  

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Vincent Lacour (AC Touraine) on 2017 vintage

 Vincent Lacour's modern winery in Saint Georges sur Cher

"Last year was a short vintage due to the frost and mildew and I made 700 hls," Vincent Lacour explained on Friday afternoon when I dropped in to see him during my mountain bike ride through the local vineyards. "However, I doubt if I will even make that this year because of the April frosts. Also there is little juice in the grapes this year." 

It is not clear whether this is due to the dry weather in the early summer or whether bunches that appeared to survive the frost were actually affected and this damage reduced the amount of juice in the berries.

Fortunately the quality of the fermenting juice appears good – we tasted from a couple of vats – with good weight and very clean. Vincent has still to pick his Cabernet and Côt. 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

2017 Muscadet – report on the vintage

Picking @Domaines Joseph Landron

We spent Monday and Tuesday of this week in the Pays Nantais looking at the 2017 vintage. It is well known that the Pays Nantais was badly frosted in late April. The effects of the frost are, however, very variable. Some lucky producers like Jéremie Huchet in Château-Thebaud only lost some 10%-15% of his crop. He did, however, lose 40% from frost last year. At the other end Fred Niger has lost 98% of his 2017 crop – making only three hl/ha. 

Much of the crop has now been picked – Jéremie Huchet finished on Friday 8th September having started on 28th August. Jo Landon was finishing either on Tuesday or Wednesday. By Monday (11th) Lieubeau were three quarters through their harvest – down 40% due to frost – having started on 31st August.   

There should be some very good Muscadet made this year, especially from vineyards not seriously frosted and from fruit picked early on as there was heavy rain on Sunday 3rd September. Following that downpour there is some rot appearing.

In vineyards heavily frosted the quality is more difficult as there is considerable variation in ripeness between the first generation grapes that resisted the frost and the second generation that came through after the frost.