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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, 19 February 2012

Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru: what does the latest décret (no 2011-1614) actually say? (Part two)

Bunch of Chenin Blanc in the Quarts de Chaume: 28.9.2011 
Temperatures in the area hit 32C that day

(This post forms Part Two of a look at the cahier des charges attached to the new Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru. Part One is here covering the document through to the middle of page 5 – Lien avec la zone géographique: natural factors.)   

The new Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru along with Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume passed into law on 24th November 2011 folowing the approval of France's prime minister, François Fillion, and various other ministers including the minister of agriculture. The new décret (no2011-1614) and its cahier des charges replaced the previous décret of 2009. 

So what's in the Q de C 11-page cahier des charges?
Next follows a brief history of Quarts de Chaume and the high regard that these wines have long been held. In 1028 Foulques Nerra bequeathed to the Abbey of Ronceray in Angers a site in the commune of Rochefort-sur-Loire. A tithe was payable on this site. During the 15th century les seigneurs de la Guerche, who rented in the hamlet of Chaume, paid their tithe with 'les meilleurs quarts de la récolte pendante sur le revers du côte exposé au midi'.

The wines from the Quarts de Chaume were highly valued in the 17th and 18th centuries by Dutch merchants, who made the navigable Coteaux du Layon their preferred wine source.

The Abbey of Ronceray lost its land in Chaume during the French Revolution. This lead to a restructuring of the vineyard and a number of proprietors bought land here. At the beginning of the 20th century a M. Mignot of Château Bellerive repeatedly complained about the practice of not pruning Chenin severely.

Producers quickly realised the benefits of letting the grapes become overripe and not picking until around All Saints Day and that they should be harvested in successive sweeps through the vineyard. 

The Quarts de Chaume AC was established on 10th August 1954. These are sweet wines from Chenin Blanc only. They are both powerful and delicate, aromatically very complex with great balance on the palate between their sweetness and their 'nervosité' often with a touch of bitterness in the finish. They have a remarkable capacity to age. 

The combination of its warm oceanic climate, a particularly favourable site and thin and stony soils from eroded schist provides all the necessary elements to make great wines. Quarts de Chaume is one of the best sites for Chenin Blanc, native to the Loire Valley. Here Chenin is able to develop its full potential showing power and elegance. Trained to give small yields, the vines benefit from the growers full care and attention. 

The special character of the Quarts de Chaume site comes from being at the heart of a meander of the River Layon. The frequent early morning autumn mists are particularly favourable for noble rot. In dry years wind and heat leads to concentration through passerillage – the grapes raisining.           

The grapes are harvested by hand and by tries successives and should have a minimum of 298 g/l of sugar from within the same parcel of vines.    

A number of historical examples are given to show that Quarts de Chaume has long been highly reputed and considered a cru of Anjou. (Jim: Quarts de Chaume along with Bonnezeaux and Savennières have long been the three crus of Anjou.)

'La mention 'grand cru' qui leur est maintenant associée, témoigne d'usages, de savoir-faire maitrisés et d'une notoriété historique construite au fil des générations et solidement affirmée.'         

Transitional arrangements
Vine density:
a) Parcels of vines planted before 31st July 2009 with a density of less than 5000 vines per hectare but more than 4000 will continue to qualify for the Quarts de Chaume appellation until they are grubbed up. 

b) Parcels of vines planted before 31st July 2009 with a density of less than 4000 vines per hectare but equal to or more than 3300 vines per hectare with a space between rows equal to or less than three metres and with a spacing with in row of a metre or more between vines will also will continue to qualify for the Quarts de Chaume appellation until they are grubbed up providing they meet a number of conditions. These cover the minimum height of stakes to used, the number of wires, number of buds allowed in pruning etc. Perhaps the most important condition is that each vines should not have more than 2.50 kilos of grapes. 
(Jim: b refers to the controversial vignes larges. In parcels with a density of more than 4000 vines per ha 1.7 kilos is the maximum allowed per vine as cited in the part one post.) 
The use of any heat treatment on the harvest that lowers the temperature below -5C will be banned from the 2020 vintage. 
(Jim: the décret permits the use of cryoextraction/cryoselection for another eight vintages from 2012-2019.)

Wines can be labelled Quarts de Chaume grand cru from the 2010 vintage. 

The rest of the décret covers labelling, official documentation and how the rules are to be enforced – through filling in forms and inspections in the vineyard with the quality of the wines to be controlled by analysis and tasting.     

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