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 July 2011

Is it OK to alter photos? Or is natural best?

Following the Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) decision to ban an advert from L'Oreal featuring Julia Roberts Scotland on Sunday ran an interesting article by Claire Prentice.

'Claire Prentice: Face facts on altered images
Published Date: 31 July 2011
By Claire Prentice
BE HONEST. Which of these pictures is more attractive? The real, wrinkled, natural me on the left? Or the "perfect" me on the right, as tweaked, enhanced and digitally polished by this newspaper's finest technical wizards?

'Part of the ruling from the ASA

The ASA acknowledged that Julia Roberts was an actress well known for her beauty, and that professional styling and make-up were used to create the image. We understood that high quality studio photography, and the inherent covering and smoothing nature of the product also contributed to the image of flawless skin.

We noted that in addition to the factors above, the image was produced with the assistance of post production techniques. While Lancôme provided detail on the techniques they used, we noted that we had not been provided with information that allowed us to see what effect those enhancements had on the final image. We acknowledged the pictures supplied from laboratory testing were evidence that the product was capable of improving skin’s appearance, but on the basis of the evidence we had received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques. We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.11 (Exaggeration).

The ad must not appear in its current form again.'

Details of the ruling here.


The ASA's ruling will doubtless set the rat amongst the pigeons in the beauty trade. In addition it raises issues of how far should photos be manipulated. Should one ignore the temptation of using Photoshop to improve a photo even to the extent of not changing the contrast or light/dark? Should a photo be like natural wine with all use of artfice banned or adjured?

And if Photoshop shouldn't be used what of the various aids available at the point of taking a photo – various coloured filters and polarisers; changing the light balance etc. If a photo comes out over-exposed and doesn't correspond to what I saw with my eye, is it right to tweak it so that it is a faithful representation of what I saw?

Where does the legitimate skill of using available technology end and unacceptable manipulation begin?

More views from the A9 and at Kingussie

Train approaching Kingussie with the hills in the background

A few more photos taken while travelling on the A9 plus some taken during a short visit to Kingussie yesterday. 

 A9 heading towards the hills (above and below)



Kingussie: the railway, trunks and hills
+ an additional utility post
Kingussie: view towards a corrie

Exhibition of local art@the iona gallery Kingussie

Newtonmore: light on leaves and a pond

Monarch Country Apartments in the centre of Newtonmore

Formerly the Craig Mhor Hotel
The Monarch Country Apartments used to be the Craig Mhor Hotel. The hotel closed in 2001 and was then converted into apartments – some of them are rented as holiday accommodation. It was built in 1875 and was one of the first railway hotels in the Highlands. Newtonmore is on the Perth to Inverness line, which opened in 1863.

Wetherby service station reflections

On our way up to Edinburgh we made one stop – the modern service area at Wetherby, which is all very different from the classic Watford Gap as it was in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I have no idea what Watford Gap is like now as I haven't stopped there in years. 

Anyway there were some interesting reflections at Wetherby, which is on the A1 in Yorkshire.

Epeigné-les-Bois: brief news round up

(Some news from Mark Robertson, Jim's Loire's occasional Epeigné-les-Bois's distinguished correspondent.)

Mark in traditional attire

Moules Frites (13th July) went very well, promised showers didn’t materialise and the Comité des Fêtes served close to 1400 meals (and 1000 crèpes).

Veraison started at the Clos Chossay for the Cot and Sauvignon a week ago and we’re looking at a very early vendange. We did have some rain (15mm) Saturday the 16th July and a few showers since.

The Moulin de Bourg is not formally for sale, but has had some viewings. (Potential as a small hotel/chambres d'hôtes?)

Sadly the Detour (Civray-en-Touraine) seems to have shut for good.

More positively the restaurant at Le Lézard Vert in Epeigné is busy and its reputation is spreading.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

2010 Loire Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors: Domaine Joël Delaunay

Last night we tried another of the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors – the screwcapped 2010 from Thierry Delaunay of Domaine Joël Delaunay. The Delaunays are based at La Tesnière just on the western edge of the village of Pouillé in the Cher Valley, which should not be confused with Pouilly-sur-Loire home of Pouilly-Fumé. Joël Delaunay has long made good wines but when his son, Thierry, took over he brought a touch of modernity to the domaine. This 2010 is a good example of the modernity, starting with the screwcap closure. It has very clean, crisp gooseberry and lime fruit. Although not complex it is a delicious aperitif and last night followed on well with our starter of soused herring. 

Wines fom Thierry Delaunay and Domaine Joël Delaunay are imported into the UK by Stevens Garnier


Edinburgh: no ogs and probably no oiks either!

Notice spotted at entrance to private garden off Claremont Crescent, Edinburgh

Friday, 29 July 2011

Scotland: a trio or so of spirited photos + other views on the A9

Dalwhinnie Distillery, one of Diego's classic malts and one of Scotland's highest

Dalwhinnie Distillery behind bars

After a foul arrival in Edinburgh yesterday – 13.5˚C, miserable and wet, we drove up to Inverness today. Dull in Edinburgh this morning, the weather improved dramatically after Perth. It has been a lovely afternoon in Inverness.  

Bulk Chivas Regal: between Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore

Just north of Perth – typical Perthshire countryside: verdant green, rolling forested hills 

As you start climbing up towards the Pass of Drumochter, which is the highest point on the A9, the verdant Perthside countryside gradullay gives way to a more stark, wilder landscape with few trees and even fewer signs of habitation, espcially close to the top of the Pass.   

Looking across to Loch Garry near the top of Drumochter
Empty landscape and tracks at the top of Drumochter

Between Drumochter and Dalwhinnie with Cairngorms in distance

Baile's verdict on Oddbins – 'calling himself an arse'?

On Friday The Drinks Business carried an exclusive interview (Baile: Back end "killed' Oddbins) with Simon Baile, formerly managing director of x-bins. Baile explains that Oddbins failed not because of the shops but because of the "back end of the business". They had a lot of fixed contracts and couldn't cover the costs.   

Baile's interview prompted a classic response from a member of the wine forum on Tom Cannavan's wine pages: 'Simon Baile's calling himself an arse? Sounds remarkably honest.'

Baile's comments rather confirm that Baile and his partners hadn't done their due diligence properly when they took over Oddbins in 2008. If fixed contracts were the problem why did Baile's Oddbins rack up debts well in excess of £20 million, while assuring suppliers that they would be paid? Remembering that £8.4 million of that is owed to the UK Government – ie you and me. 

Baile goes on to talk about his newly expanded ExCellar business. 'As would be expected, it hasn’t been straightforward securing suppliers. “Some have been supportive, others less so – they know who they are,” Baile said.'

Arrogant? Moi?

Fortunately some companies take care over who they supply, otherwise Oddbins' debts might have been even higher. There were a number of companies, such as Bibendum, Patriarche UK and I believe Moët Hennessy, who declined to supply Oddbins well before they went pop. Talking with one of Bibendum's most treasured senior executives it was clear to me that they wouldn't touch Baile's Oddbins with a bargepole. I somehow doubt if they are supplying ExCellars.   

Thursday, 28 July 2011

2010 Loire Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors: 2010 Ante Vinum, Château de Quinçay

A few weeks ago 11 bottles of 2010 Loire Sauvignon Blanc arrived. Sent by SOPEXA UK these are some of the 28 Loire Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors chosen from the latest vintage. This project is funded and organised by Interloire, the promotional body for the appellations from the Pays Nantais through to Touraine, and by the Syndicat des Vins de Pays du Val de Loire. They employ Sam Harrop MW as their consultant.

Up to now I haven't had a chance to taste any of the wines. However, I have now made a start with the 2010 Ante Vinum, AC Touraine from Château de Quinçay in Meunes – the same small town on the south side of the Cher as Jacky Preys.

Ante Vinum comes from vines of over 40 years old and has mellow gooseberry aromas allied with some fruit weight offset by the crisp acidity associated with the 2010 vintage. Attractive to drink now it may take on further weight and complex with another year or two's bottle age.

The domaine, which has been passed down through the generations, is now run by Frédéric and Philippe Cadart.
New Zealander Sam Harrop MW

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 a snippet of news from France's favourite Ponzi scheme

Château Pichon-Longueville – RP is waiting for a case of 2008

I received a message today from RP (not their real name) that having got through to 1855 on the phone – many try but few succeed – he was told:

"Sorry your wine will be delivered at the beginning of September we do not deliver in summer time ...."

As 1855 regularly fail to deliver wine to their customers, despite endless promises, it is hardly surprising that they don't deliver during the summer. 

However, RP who is awaiting a case of 2008 Pichon-Longueville, had paid the TVA and transport cost due on the wine in early July and been assured that two weeks after payment he would receive his wine. Flying pigs are much more likely and so it proved. I presume Messieurs Fabien Hyon, Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Thierry Maincent needed their customers' TVA in early to finance their summer beach holidays. 

This fraudulent trader is a provisional member of La FEVAD (Fédération e-commerce et vente à distance).

Praia da Adraga: beach patrol with the Portuguese Maritime Police

The confrontation: animated mobile phone conversation

Close up of two of the protagonists

Our regular readers (or reader!) will probably recall our fondness for Praia da Adraga and its excellent restaurant on the Portuguese Altantic coast close to Sintra. See here and here.

Last Sunday we headed across from Lisbon to Adraga, having taken the precaution to book a table for 2pm. Unlike France, Portugal understands the pleasure of having extended eating hours. Lunch, for example, can often be taken at noon or at 3pm.

Unfortunately 2pm on a sunny and very busy Sunday proved to be a mistake as the restaurant was still jammed packed with those who had arrived at 1pm. This meant that we didn't actually sit down to eat until after 3pm. Fortunately we weren't in a rush and shortly after we arrived a confrontation between the Portuguese Maritime Police and a couple of very obstinate women provided a great show for the best part of 55 minutes, which kept us thoroughly entertained.

Our view of the show started when two Portuguese Maritime police officers walked purposefully on to the beach and stopped in front of two women lying on the beach sunbathing. As we were a good 100 metres away, we couldn't hear what was being said, so had to piece together what was going on from movements and gestures etc.

It was soon clear that the confrontation was over the women having chosen to pitch their towels and folding chair in the area where there are shelters for hire. They were close to one that hadn't been hired, so its cover and awning hadn't been erected. The policeman was clearly pointing out the parts of the beach where they could sunbathe. I assume that the women had already refused to pay for a shelter, so the Maritime Police had been called.

The beach and the shelters

The arguments raged on and on with the blonde woman having an animated conversation with someone her mobile phone. At one point the policewoman left the beach returning with a large folder. Perhaps the women were about to be arrested for towel trespass and hauled from the beach in manacles.

The solution – pay for a beach shelter!

Eventually the women, obviously with great reluctance, paid for a beach shelter and the police departed. Why the women thought it was worth losing nearly an hour of sunbathing time on the beach and all the hassle just because they weren't prepared to move their towels or, alternatively, pay for a beach shelter is beyond me.

Anyway once we were finally seated in the restaurant with its great views out to sea, a bottle of deliciously refreshing 2010 Vinho Verde Alvarinho was swiftly ordered and nearly as quickly consumed.

2010 Alvarinho Vinho Verde, Soalheiro

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Pascal Joulin and Domaine Michel Vattan

Autumn colours@Maimbray

I was very pleased yesterday to get an email from Pascal Joulin, who I first met around 1995 when he was working for the La Cave des Hauts de Seyr in the Coteaux Charitois. He was making Chardonnay from vines planted in the Montaillant vineyard and Pinot Noir from vines at Saint-Lay. I think I first met Pascal in London at a tasting, impressed by the wines I later went to visit him at Hauts de Seyr. Much later La Cave des Hauts de Seyr ran into financial problems and in 2005 it was bought by Alphonse Mellot who renamed it Les Pénitents.

In 1998 Pascal moved on to Domaine des Granges in Suilly la Tour. Here he made vin de pays de la Nièvre as the property is just outside the Pouilly-Fumé appellation. In 2002 he moved to AC Sancerre to Domaine Michel Vattan in Mainbray. When Michel Vattan retired in 2008 Pascal bought the domaine, which has 7.80 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and 1.30 ha of Pinot Noir. This year at the Decanter World Wine Awards we gave the 2010 Cuvée Argile from Domaine Michel Vattan a bronze medal. In the UK his wines are imported by The Sampler.

I think the last time I saw Pascal was when he was at Domaine des Granges, so I'm delighted he has made contact and brought me up to date and I look forward to meeting him again when I'm in Sancerre.

Monday, 25 July 2011

2011 Tour de France: wot a great race this was!

So it all finished in Paris yesterday with many deserved winners!

First Cadel Evans, the Australian to win the race as well as the first person from the southern hemisphere to do so. He proved to be the strongest and most complete rider in the Tour – able to climb, to descend, limit his losses and to put in a great time trial at the end.

It was great to see Mark Cavenish win both the stage and the Green Jersey. Mark is the first person to have won in the final stage on the Champs d'Élysée in three successive years. In the end he beat Rojas comprehensively in the Green Jersey competition – 334 points to 272 points with Philippe Gilbert third on 236 points. On the final stage Mark picked up 54 points out of a possible 65 – nine from the intermediate sprint and 45 with the stage win. In contrast Rojas picked up seven from the intermediate and Gilbert six. Neither Rojas or Gilbert picked up any points in the final sprint.

This win is the fifth stage Cav has won this year and moves him to 20 stage wins. This takes him to 6th= in the list of all time stage winners – equal with Nicolas Frantz. Cav is now only 14 victories behind Eddy Merckx the overall leader with 34. Given that he has amassed 20 wins in just four editions of the Tour, it is a fair probability that he will even overtake the great Eddy. Much credit has to go to Cav's HTC team

Also well deserved was Pierre Rolland's White Jersey (the best young rider) and his prestigious victory on the Alpe d'Huez. Pierre is a good prospect for the future as long as the French don't pile too much pressure on him.

Although Thomas Voeckler didn't hold Yellow to Paris he fought with great style and courage to hold the Yellow for 12 days – many more than I and lots of others thought he would.

Others worthy of mention include Philippe Gilbert, Thors Hushovd, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Jérémy Roy, who made a number of brave escapes but just failed to get a stage win.

Finally the Tour organisers should be congratulated for putting together such a good and testing course.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Vinocamp and its cork sponsors: debate

 Bottle of Chinon Blanc from Baudry-Dutour sealed with a screwcap

Interesting comments from Hervé Lalau on Vinocamp and its cork sponsors here on his Chroniques Vineuses.

2011 Tour de France: Cadel takes Yellow. 21st stage: Cav confirms Green?

Bike shop in Pauillac in 2010 suitably decorated for the Tour

The winner of this very exciting Tour de France was crowned yesterday at Gap. Cadel Evans rode a superb time trial, especially after all the effort and energy he had expended in the last two Alpine stages. He needed to take 57 seconds out of Andy Schleck over the 42.5km course. That proved to be easy – by the end he had taken 2 min 31 sec. Cadel narrowly missed winning the stage – Tony Martin's brilliant ride was just 7 seconds faster. But it was good to see the honours shared. Good to see Cadel win as he was clearly the strongest rider over the three weeks.

Once again the Schlecks showed that time trialling, along with perhaps descending in the wet, is their weakness. Andy Schleck is credited with riding a good time trial last year as he finished close to Contador. In reality it was Contador who rode well below his best in lat year's Bordeaux to Pauillac stage. This year Contador came in third at 1 min 06 sec down on Tony Martin, while Andy Schleck was 2 min 38 sec down and Frank at 2 min 41 sec.

Despite Andy Schleck's brave attack on Thursday's mountainous stage 60km from the finish, the Schlecks needed to have more time on their rivals going into the time trial. I think they paid for their timidity in the Pyrénées.

Stage 21: Créteil to Paris Champs-Élysées
Today's stage into Paris will be largely ceremonial. As is now traditional the leaders will not attack each other. For them the racing finished yesterday with Cadel Evans as the winner of the 2011 Tour with an advantage of 1 min 34 sec over Andy Schleck and brother Frank at 2 min 30 sec.

The racing will start as the riders approach the Champs-Élysées as there still remains the stage finish and very importantly the winner of the Green Jersey is yet to be decided. Mark Cavendish still leads with 280 points from Jose Joaquin Rojas on 265 and Philippe Gilbert on 230. Mark Cavendish has easily won the sprints on the Champs-Élysées in the last two previous editions and should do so again but there are always things that can go wrong!

Rojas, who is the only other realistic contender, has yet to beat Mark in a full out sprint this Tour. There is an intermediate sprint on the Champs-Élysées with 20 points going to the winner and then for the final sprint there are 45 points for the first over the line. Cav will be super determined to win both the stage taking his stage victories to an amazing 20 in four editions of the Tour and confirm his hold on the Green Jersey. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

2011 Vignes, vins et randos: Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th September

'Rendez-vous les 3 et 4 septembre pour découvrir le vignoble de Loire, en famille ou entre amis, en parcourant les 13 randonnées savoureuses de vignes, vins et randos !

Pour cette 8ème édition, InterLoire, interprofession des vins des Loire, et les professionnels de la viticulture vous feront partager leur passion, découvrir leur terroir et leur savoir-faire sur fond de paysages inscrits, pour leur majorité, au patrimoine mondial de l’humanité par l’Unesco.

Rythmées par différentes animations, ces balades sont jalonnées de pauses gourmandes à base de produits locaux. Les savoir-faire et les traditions seront valorisés, tout comme le petit patrimoine rural.

Point fort de la randonnée : un concert acoustique au coeur des vignes par des musiciens professionnels, sélectionnés par le programmateur du festival Avoine Zone Blues. Jazz, swing manouche, musique française ou classique… il y en aura pour tous les goûts !

Nouveautés 2011 :
- un accompagnement pour les sourds et malentendants sur les randonnées muscadet-sèvre-et-maine et saumur-champigny ;
- un décollage de montgolfière sur la randonnée chinon ;
- des balades en calèche sur les randonnées, quarts-de-chaume et touraine-azay-le-rideau ;
- une lecture de paysages viticoles par des experts sera proposée par le Mission val de Loire sur les randonnées quarts-de-chaume, saumur-champigny, touraine-azay-le-rideau et vouvray.'  

Enfin Luc Charlier launches Coume Majou blog!

I listen therefore I am

My young, erudite but irreverent friend, Luc Charlier, has just launched a website and blog about his Roussillon wine estate – Domaine de la Coume Majou. Luc posts frequent comments of varying relevance on this blog and also on Les 5 du Vin.

2011 Tour de France: great 19th stage and all set up for grande finale

Yesterday's race to and up the Alpe d'Huez is likely to be remembered as a legendary stage, especially as in Pierre Rolland it featured a French win for the first time this Tour and on top of the famous Alpe. The racing by the favourites started on the lower slopes of the Col du Télégraphe when Contador attacked. Cadel Evans was unlucky to have had a mechanical problem soon after and lost time when he had to change bikes. However, despite the best efforts of Alberto everything came back together at Bourg d'Oisans at the foot of the Alpe d'Huez. Contador attacked again got away and looked to be heading for the stage victory having passed Pierre Rolland, team mate of Thomas Voeckler, who had been allowed to attack just before the start of the climb. However, as Contador started to fade, Samuel Sánchez and Rolland caught Contador. Soon the Frenchman proved to be stronger than the two Spaniards and Pierre rode away for a famous first Tour stage victory.

Cadel Evans and the two Schlecks finished together with Andy taking the Yellow as Thomas Voeckler had been unable to follow the pace of the leaders up the Alpe. Even so he has done an amazing job defending Yellow since he won the jersey in Saint-Flour.

Mark Cavendish and most of the rest of the field just failed to make the cut but were reinstated. However, the riders all lost 20 points off their Green Jersey totals. Mark Cavendish now has 280, Rojas 265 and Gilbert 230 points. Mark should still win the Green but it is not quite as comfortable for him as it was before these two brutal Alpine stages.

So it is has come down to time trial to decide the outcome of the 2011 Tour. Andy Schleck has 53 seconds on brother Frank and 57 on Cadel Evans, who starts as favourite to overhaul Andy. However, in the Bordeaux time trial last year Andy did much better than expected, so it could well be very tight. I'd like to see Cadel win but Andy Schleck might just hang on.

'Sculpture' from the finishing line of last year's time trial at Pauillac

Friday, 22 July 2011

2011 Tour de France: 18th stage Schlecks finally dare, 19th stage short but very tough

The 18th stage from Pinerolo to the Col du Galibier was certainly brutally tough. Andy Schleck finally went for it and produced a great ride to win the stage from an attack 60km from the finish to move him to just 15 seconds away from taking the Yellow Jersey. Again Thomas Voeckler rode well surprising me once more as I predicted yesterday that he would lose it. I'll stop making predictions!

Cadel Evans also did a great ride up the Galibier to limit the lose of time to Andy Schleck and incidentally ensured that Voeckler remained in Yellow. Evans is now at 1.12 behind with Frank Schleck at 1.08. These four are now well over two minutes clear of Damiano Cunego and Ivan Basso both on 3.46. The big losers of the day were the two Spaniards – Alberto Contador and Samuel Sánchez. Both blew up at the top of the Galibier and lost a lot of time. Alberto is now 4.44 down and Sanchez at 5.20.

The pity for Evans was that the chasing bunch wasn't able to rise consistently to reduce the gap between them and Andy Schleck. Indeed the gap went out on the climb up the Col du Lautaret as no one was really prepared to take up the chase. It wasn't until right at the top that Cadel opted to really go for it that the gap started to come down but without assistance it was impossible to bring it right down. Evans reduced the gap by about two and half minutes but still finished 2.15 behind Andy.

More than half the field finished outside the time limit including Mark Cavendish. The Tour organisers decided to keep all the riders in the race but docked Mark 20 points from his Green Jersey total, so he is now only 15 points ahead of Rojas who just managed to cross the finishing line in time.

Stage 19: Mondane to L'Alpe d'Huez 109.5km
This is a very short but again brutally tough stage. Back over the Galibier but this time going up the harder northern side and heading down to Bourg d'Oisans and the famous L'Alpe d'Huez with its 21 steep corners. The Schlecks will want to take further time out of Cadel Evans. I'm sure Thomas Voeckler would love to hold on to Yellow at the end of this stage. Can Contador find the legs to attack on the Alpe and regain time?

If the favourites race hard all the way it is going to be very difficult for many riders to make the cut as the stage is so short. Mark Cavendish has to beat the time limit otherwise he will be in real trouble.

The Alpe is an amazing place to watch the Tour. We went there once in 1986 and saw Bernard Hainault and Greg Lemond ride up together. We had hoped to see Robert Millar doing well but he had an off day and was well down.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

2011 Tour de France: 17th stage Norway win again 18th: Pinerolo to Col du Galibier

Yesterday's excursion into Italy saw another Norwegian victory. This time for Edvald Boassen Hagen, who was second yesterday to his countryman Thor Hushovd. Boassen Hagen attacked his breakaway companions on the last climb of the day and handled the difficult descent well to give himself a comfortable victory in Pinerolo. The narrow climb featured further attacks by Alberto Contador but he was unable to gain time on his principal rivals – Evans and the Schlecks. Again Contador linked up with fellow Spaniard Samuel Sánchez.

Thomas Voeckler's lead was again nibbled away by Evans, Sanchez and Contador when he made an unexpected diversion into someone's driveway on one of the final descent's tight corners losing a few precious seconds. Evans and the others gained another 27 seconds, so Cadel is now 1.18 sec behind with Frank Schleck four seconds behind Evans. Andy Schleck is at 2.36, Samuel Sanchez at 2.59 and Alberto Contador at 3.15. Ivan Basso came in at the same time as Voeckler, so he slipped a place in overall ranking as Daniello Cunego moved above him.

In the Green Points competition Mark Cavendish took the sole point left at the intermediate sprint after the 14-man breakaway had picked up the rest.

Stage 18
Today's stage from Pinerolo to the top of the Col du Galibier (200.5k) is brutishly tough featuring three hors categorie climbs – Col Agnel (2744m), Col d'Izoard (2360m) and the Col du Galibier (2645m). The stage celebrates 100 years of the Tour passing through the Alps, although I'm not sure the riders will see this stage as a celebration!

This ought to be one of the decisive stages of the Tour. I'll be surprised if Thomas Voeckler manages to hold on to Yellow but he has surprised me and many others on previous stages. However this 18th stage is extraordinarily tough with a significant time spent at over 2000 metres. The leading contenders will have to attack Cadel Evans, who is best placed and generally is a good time triallist. I'm sure we can count on further attacks from Alberto, although I don't expect the action to come on the Agnel – the first col. The leaders won't want to put many of their teammates in danger of finishing outside the time limit.

The day's intermediate sprint is at 45.5k before the climbs so the points will either be taken by a breakaway or, if the bunch is all together, Mark Cavendish will have an opportunity to gain further points.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

First three Muscadet ‘crus communaux’ approved

Vintage in Muscadet

The INAO has approved the first three Muscadet ‘cru communal’ – Clisson, Le Pallet and Gorges. Others – Mouzillon- Tillières, Château Thébaud, Monnières Saint-Fiacre and Goulaine – are expected to follow soon.

The crus communals have stricter rules than the other Muscadet appellations: permitted yields are only 45 hl/ha, the grapes have to be riper – at least 11%, and the time the wines spend on their lees is much longer. Unfortunately because of this long time spend on the lees the wines are not entitled to use sur lie on the label. The current laws stipulate that to put sur lie on the label the wine must not be bottled before the 1st March following the vintage and not after 30th November.

At their best these Muscadets, often kept on their lees for 36 months are more, can be very fine with depth and complexity. After bottling they will often benefit from further aging.

Edited press release announcing the decision of the INAO:

'L’inao reconnaît les mentions Communales du Muscadet

Clisson, Le Pallet, Gorges
Retenez bien ces noms, ce sont les trois premiers crus communaux du Muscadet. S’appuyant sur des analyses géologiques, pédologiques et organoleptiques très précises, le cahier des charges des trois crus prévoit des rendements limités (45 hectolitres par hectare au lieu de 55 en appellation sous-régionale et 65 en muscadet générique), une entrée en production des vignes au bout de six ans minimum, une maturité des raisins très importante (11 à 12° naturels au moins), un élevage plus long... Bref : les nouveaux venus dans la famille du Muscadet poussent l’excellence à son paroxysme. Ils commencent modestement : à peine une centaine d’hectares, sur les 10 000 que compte l’appellation, et environ 65 producteurs sur 650. Mais ce sont des précurseurs : ces trois crus pourraient être rapidement suivis par Mouzillon- Tillières, Château Thébaud, Monnières Saint-Fiacre, Goulaine... entre autres.
Amorcée dans les années 1990, engagée depuis 2001, la démarche officialise une réalité du terrain. « J’ai toujours vu mes parents vinifier et embouteiller séparément la parcelle qui vient d’être classée en cru : elle faisait l’objet d’une cuvée particulière », témoigne ainsi Laurent Bouchaud, vigneron au Pallet. Cette réalité, tout d’abord géologique, se traduit en effet tout naturellement dans les caractéristiques des vins qui en sont issus.

Construits pour la garde, les crus communaux du Muscadet se savourent dès leur plus jeune âge, mais connaissent aussi la valeur des années. « Bons à marier » dès leur mise en marché, grâce à un élevage sur lie prolongé, ils peuvent également patienter dix, quinze ou vingt ans en cave, pour encore plus de complexité.

Et avec des prix allant de 7,50 à 10 euros, ils constituent pour les amateurs friands de nouveauté, d’originalité et d’excellence, l’offre de grands vins blancs la plus excitante et la plus accessible qui soit.

La confirmation d’une légitimité
par Joël Forgeau, président de l’appellation
« Pour les consommateurs, les crus communaux du Muscadet sont l’assurance d’offrir ou de s’offrir de grands vins de garde, originaux car très rares et encore peu connus, au terroir très précis et clairement identifié. Les crus confirment qu’il y a une vraie légitimité, pour un amateur de grands vins blancs partout dans le monde, à choisir un muscadet.

Pour les vignerons, la création officielle des crus est une reconnaissance de la qualité de nos terroirs. C’est aussi une reconnaissance du travail accompli depuis des années pour mieux les connaître, les analyser et les mettre en valeur. Mais c’est surtout un encouragement, une locomotive pour motiver tous les acteurs du vignoble à poursuivre ce chemin vers l’excellence. Les crus communaux du Muscadet ouvrent la voie à toute l’appellation. »

« La petite Venise » repose sur une faille granitique du vieux massif armoricain. Les sols mêlent graviers et galets roulés, favorisant un drainage naturel et une plongée des racines au cœur du terroir. Les vins qui en sont issus nécessitent de longs élevages (24 mois au minimum) pour développer toute la richesse de leurs arômes de fruits confits, de fruits secs et de coing.

Situé de part et d’autre de la Sèvre, sur des sols issus de gabbros altérés et d’argiles à quartz, ce cru généralement plus tardif nécessite souvent d’être vendangé après les autres, appréciant particulièrement les belles arrières-saisons. Après plus de deux ans d’élevage sur lie, les vins expriment pleinement leur complexité : finesse, minéralité intense, ainsi qu’une note fumée caractéristique.

Le Pallet
Prenant place sur la rive droite de la Sèvre, ce cru se distingue par un terroir chaud et précoce. Peu profonds et très pierreux, ses sols reposent sur des gneiss (roche métamorphique) et des gabbros peu altérés : un sous-sol suffisamment fracturé pour permettre l’enracinement de la vigne. Les vins exigent un minimum de 17 mois d’élevage afin de révéler une trame aromatique élégante aux nuances fruitées et florales.

Une mosaïque géologique
La faille granitique du massif armoricain est une zone de fracture correspondant au plissement hercynien, datant de l’ère primaire et qui marque ici la séparation de deux entités géologiques : le secteur correspondant au granit de Clisson au sud, et l’entité des gabbros au nord.

Gabbro : appelée localement « roche verte », c’est une roche volcanique formée en profondeur, pauvre en silice et riche en magnésium et en fer. Formant souvent la croûte océanique, les gabbros sont rares en zone continentale.

Les gabbros altérés désignent la décomposition partielle de la roche mère, le gabbro, en une fraction plus fine, notamment sous forme de sable et d’argile. Cela donne des terroirs plus tardifs avec des maturations plus longues et des vins sur la fraîcheur et la minéralité.
Les gabbros peu altérés sont des sols peu profonds reposant sur la roche peu désagrégée, mais suffisamment fracturée pour permettre l’enracinement de la vigne. Ces sont des terroirs plus chauds et précoces, donnant des vins riches et floraux.

L’argile à quartz : ce sol riche en argile présente également une importante quantité de quartz de taille variable (graviers et cailloux) et de nature siliceuse.

Gneiss : roche métamorphique issue ici de la recristallisation des roches volcaniques (granit) au cours des temps géologiques.'

Marie Chartier with Pueri Solis – a potential cru communale from Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin