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




Saturday, 16 March 2019

Value the theme @ Aldi


Aldi store
Aldi store @Penge, South London 

On Wednesday 6th March I attended my first Aldi tasting. Due to either other commitments or by being out of the UK at the time I had had to turn down previous invitations. Equally, apart from buying a French tricolour wig in the Aldi store in Bléré (Indre et Loire) for a friend's retirement party. This hasn't really been down to personal preference but instead due to geographically dominance of Sainsbury's in the Forest Hill/ East Dulwich/ Crystal Palace area of South London. Apart from a couple of small Tesco convenience stores, there is only one neighbourhood supermarket from which to choose.

My closest Sainsbury's is less than a kilometre away – an easy walk away taking no more than 10 minutes. In contrast my nearest Aldi is over three kilometres away. No contest!

Anyway back to that Wednesday's tasting, which underlined Aldi's great attraction – value. I have never attended a supermarket tasting where my most used comment was 'value'!



Crémant de Loire
The tasting started on a high with the crisp and clean Crémant de Loire Blanc de Loire NV (£7.99) from Grands Chais de France made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Offering very good value at £7.99 given that the UK has a high excise regime – £2.86 per 75 cl for sparkling wine plus VAT @20% making £3.14 total tax before you start. Duty on still wine is slightly lower £2.23 per 75 cl – totalling £2.67 inc VAT.

Organic Prosecco
Planeta Organico Prosecco NV

Crisp but soft organic Prosecco thankfully less sweet than many other examples of this popular fizz. 100% Glera grapes and well priced at £7.99.

Prum Riesling 

 Prum Mosel Riesling 2018

This Mosel Riesling won't be available until June 3rd. In anticipation it has attractive crisp texture with a streak of lime, well balanced and at £5.99 is a good value apéro.

Picpoul de PinetJPG.JPG
Exquisite Collection Picpoul de Pinet 2018

Picpoul de Pinet is enjoying considerable popularity over here. This lightly floral example with some complexity and length is fair value at £6.49 and will be available from 18th March.

Exquisite Collection is Aldi's name for their superior products aping Tesco Finest and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference.

Lyme Block
Exquisite Collection Lyme Block English Wine 2018

Lyme Block BL.JPG

It would be nice to be positive about English still white wine. Sadly this raw and tart example shows all too clearly why it is UK sparkling wines that are winning the plaudits. Awful value at £9.99 a bottle – easily the worst value from the wines I tasted here and 2018 was a hot vintage!

BeaujolaisV18
Beaujolais Villages 2018

Lovely juicy, ripe red fruits – surely delicious drinking and excellent value at £5.99 from the very good 2018 vintage. Will be available from 18th March. Tempted to buy a few bottles myself – might just alleviate the agony of Brexit.....!!

Gym Dao
'Gym' Dâo Red 2017

Good to see some Portuguese wines making an appearance here. This one is attractively soft and juicy. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro it is easy on the pocket at £5.69.


Primanero
Primanero Organic Primitivo 2016

Bricky coloured, sweet ripe fruit from Puglia – 100% Primitivo. At £7.99 underlining the interest and value that can be found in Puglia.


Citran
Moulins de Citran, Haut-Médoc 2009


A Bordeaux with some age and showing evolution a little two-dimensional but with good length and offering good value for a Bordeaux with 10 years of age.

•••

Guardian article

Lengthy Guardian article on Aldi – its history and its progress in the UK.

Given the increasing importance of the discount sector in the UK I was surprised that there was such a thin attendance at this Press tasting – perhaps more journalists turned up later in the day.

Jim 




Sunday, 3 March 2019

RAW London 2019: 10th and 11th March



From the website:

'Meet the growers & makers.
Join us for a two-day celebration of some of the best wine talent in the world. Featuring over 150 growers, RAW WINE is one of the most exciting collections of fine, natural, organic and biodynamic wine artisans to come together in this fine capital. Their wines are pure, kind to the planet, very possibly better for your health and best of all they’re absolutely delicious.

RAW WINE is leading the charge for transparency. We believe that in an ideal wine world, any processing and additives will be clearly communicated to the drinker so that you know exactly what is in your glass. RAW WINE is a first step in this direction – we will clearly list all additives and processing on both the website and fair catalogue. We are proud to be leading the way.

RAW WINE is committed to empowering all wine drinkers through real, informed choice. RAW WINE is unprocessed. It is about truth, authenticity and frank wine talking, but most of all it’s about showcasing really good wine.

Showcasing mastery.
All the artisans who attend the fair produce fine, natural, biodynamic or organic wine with low intervention in the cellar. Their wines are authentic and a true representation of where they are from, and they are delicious.

Visiting the fair.
RAW WINE London welcomes the wine and food trade, the press and the general public. The fair is held at The Store X, 180 The Strand (London WC2R 1EA), a 3-minute walk from Temple (tube stop) and 9-minute walk from both Covent Garden and Holborn tubes.

Ticket prices: 

Public: £45 for single day – either Sunday or Monday. £75 for the two days
Trade: £15 for single day – either Sunday or Monday. £30 for the two days
Press: Free pass on application if approved.



More details here



Saturday, 23 February 2019

Pierre Couly: RIP

PierreCouly
Pierre Couly at the Salon des Vins de Loire 2014

Very sad news Pierre Couly, a leading figure in Chinon and its wine has died at the age of 83. Pierre died suddenly overnight. Details here  https://www.lanouvellerepublique.fr/c…/pierre-couly-est-mort and an obituary here. With his younger brother Jacques, who died in March 2016, Pierre ran Couly-Dutheil for many years until the bitter family schism, which led Pierre and his son Bertrand to set up their own domaine – Pierre et Bertrand Couly

Although both Couly-Dutheil and Domaine Pierre et Bertrand Couly made good wine, it was very sad to see such a bitter family fall-out. 

Pierre was a gentleman, was always friendly and welcoming. He will be greatly missed through the Loire as the reaction to posts on Facebook have already showm 

Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends. #Loire.

BMPCoulyas
Pierre Couly flanked by son Bertrand and Bertand's wife  

Jim

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Is Quarts de Chaume about to become very rare?

Cartographie Chaume et Quarts-de-Chaume sans géols

Green is Chaume 1er Cru and pink is Quarts de Chaume

Two new and wonderfully detailed maps of the Quarts de Chaume
and Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume
Source: Fédération Viticole Anjou-Saumur 

Cartographie Chaume et Quarts-de-Chaume avec géols
Geological map of Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume
Clearly indicating how complex the soils are in this small area

2019 is a significant year for Quarts de Chaume – one of the world's greatest expressions of Chenin Blanc. It will be the last vintage that cryoextraction, or cryoselection as some prefer to call it, will be allowed under the décret of November 2011. This transitional arrangement comes to an end in 2019. From 2020 it will hopefully be impossible to make Quarts de Chaume from unripe, green grapes and foist it onto the consumer as the real thing.

However, despite a series of good to excellent vintages there is every prospect that Quarts de Chaume, already a small appellation of 40 hectares, will become increasingly rare. The problem is simple we are not buying and drinking enough sweet wine. Now there is a marked move to making dry Anjou Blanc from the vines of the Quarts de Chaume.

QuartsdeC+hamlets
Hamlet of Chaume and the surrounding Q de C vines 

The arrival of two important new players – Kathleen Van den Berghe and Sigurd Mareels (Château Suronde) and Ivan Massonnat (Domaine Belargus) – has highlighted the problem and the direction that a significant proportion of the production from vines in the Quarts de Chaume will take. Belargus has 10 hectares of vines in Quarts de Chaume and Suronde 5.5 hectares making a total of 15.5 ha or 38.75% of the appellation's total area.   

Surondes
View towards Suronde

Suronde's website clearly sets out their wine producing policy.

'Château de Suronde is the perfect complement to Château de Minière (Bourgueil), with white wines from Chenin Blanc that can be sweet, semi-sweet and dry, both still and sparkling. Château de Suronde will produce mainly dry white wine, and will produce the iconic sweet Quarts de Chaume wines in the best vintages only.'

Only sweet wines that meet the appellation's criteria can be Quarts de Chaume – dry, semi-sweet will be Anjou Blanc, while the sparkling can be either Anjou Mousseux or Crémant de Loire depending on the production methods used.

Ivan Massonnat (Belargus) intends to make 80% dry wines from his 10 hectares. This percentage is likely to be even higher in average to poor vintages. It was Jo Pithon who fortunately persuaded Massonnat to make some Quarts de Chaume in 2018. Pithon pointed out that even though sweet wines are difficult to sell they can remain in a grower's cellar for many years without losing value.

E part of IM QdeC
Part of Belargus's holding in lieux-dit Les Quarts

Suronde and Belargus are not alone. Guy Rochais (Château de Plaisance) is also making  dry wines in the Quarts de Chaume and is amongst those pushing for a superior appellation for the best of Anjou Blanc sec – in this case, perhaps, Anjou Blanc Chaume.

What of Domaine des Baumard's six hectares of Quarts de Chaume? From the 2020 vintage when cryo-extraction is banned making it impossible for the domaine to make some 80 hectolitres of ersatz 'Quarts de Chaume' as they did in the awful 2012 vintage when over 200 mls of rain fell during the crucial month of October.  

Actually it was legally impossible in the 2012 vintage but the INAO chose to turn a blind eye – forget any notion that this organisation stands up for the consumer. In less than ideal vintages will Domaine des Baumard now choose make a proportion of dry white from their six hectares?

My guess is that producers, like Domaines de la Bergerie, Ogereau and others with just a small parcel in the Quarts de Chaume will continue to try to make 100% sweet wine from their parcels unless weather conditions make this impossible.

Stats from InterLoire show that between 2012 and 2016 the maximum area declared as Quarts de Chaume was 35 hectares (2014), while the lowest was 6 hectares in 2012......  Will the area declared reach 35 hectares in the near future?

It is difficult to blame the producers for choosing to reduce their production of sweet wine in favour of dry ones. How can you expect them to go on making wines that in order to be great require tiny yields, with the attendant big risks of late harvest and the additional expense of successive pickings, if they cannot sell them no matter how good these sweet wines are?

This development sets lovers of a sweet wine a challenge. If you want these wines to continue to be made in reasonable quantities you must be prepared to drink more of them. Here I am as guilty as anyone. I love sweet wines, especially those from the Loire with their magical balance of sweetness and acidity. However, when I reflect at the end of the year on the number of bottles of sweet wines that I have drunk – I may only need the fingers of one hand and only rarely more than two!

This lack of consumption is not peculiar to Quarts de Chaume or other Loire sweet wines, Sauternes and other great sweet wines face similar problems in a dry white market. Some would say let market forces rule. If a type of wine is difficult to sell them what's the problem if it disappears.... Although, of course, market forces are necessarily a major influence, if it wasn't for some stubborn and courageous producers some of wine's diversity would have been lost. The wine world would be a a sea of international wine varieties. The marvels of good sherry might well have disappeared. etc. etc. 

It is still possible to enjoy and marvel at sweet Vourvays or those from the Layon from 1947 because a reasonable quantity was made. Will that still be the case for potential great vintages like 2018 and those to come in the future in 70 years time? For the sake of future generations of wine lovers I hope so! 

As wine communicators we need to highlight the qualities of great sweet wine and the different occasions to drink them. It doesn't help that too many in the British wine and hospitality trade and in other countries foolishly and inaccurately describe these magical wines as 'dessert' wines.


JB-QuartsdeChaume_0001

Un Grand Vin du Monde – Quarts de Chaume by Jean Baumard

I don't often agree with Jean Baumard but I do agree with his book's title Quarts de Chaume – Un Grand Vin du Monde (published 2007) – assuming that the wine complies with the décret in force from the 2020 vintage. Unfortunately Quarts de Chaume is facing some testing times and is under a possible threat, which I hope will receive some airtime during the International Chenin Blanc Seminar at the start of July in Angers.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Hotel Restaurant le Bon Laboureur à Chenonceaux – bizarre Michelin decision

BonLaboureurcloseup
Le Bon Laboureur, Chenonceaux

Founded back in 1786 as a coaching inn Le Bon Laboureur has long been indisputably the best hotel and restaurant in Chenonceaux, whose famous château (Chenonceau) draws visitors from all over the world. Henry James stayed there and mentioned the hotel in his A Little Tour of France published in 1884. When we are in Touraine this is our nearest fine restaurant.

Recently we have been taken to lunching there during the week when their 32€ lunch menu is available. What a bargain it is! Nominally three courses, you get fine nibbles with your apéro followed by a mise en bouche and then your first course – choice of two dishes. Next up main course – choice of fish or 72-hour cooked shoulder of lamb. A pre-dessert precedes dessert. The bargain lunch menu concludes with a choice of mignardises. My choice is invariably the cherries steeped in kirsch. With the exception of the vegetarian option, the other menus are considerably more expensive.

We have never had a bad experience at the Bon Laboureur the food  – prepared by owner chef Antoine Jeudi – is excellent , the wine list has plenty of interesting bottles  – in early this January we enjoyed a bottle of François Pinon's 1997 Vouvray Sec – reasonably priced and delicious. Fabrice Dagaut and his team offer impeccable service in the restaurant.

Given this quality it came as a great surprise to learn that Le Bon Laboureur lost its Michelin star early this year. Certainly there was nothing from our visits – around three a year – to suggest that its étoile was threatened. From our experiences Guide Michelin's decision to strip Le Bon Laboureur of its star appears bizarre.

In any case we will continue to eat at Le Bon Laboureur. 


Friday, 1 February 2019

Millésime Bio 2019 – some photos from the fair



Marie et Anne Guegniard, Domaine de la Bergerie,
Champs-sur-Layon 

 
 Anne

Marie

 António Ribeiro, Casa da Mouraz, Dão




Oscar and his sister Claúdia: Quevedo, Douro Valley

Claúdia

Oscar

An Englishman in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Béatriz et Neil Joyce, 

Neil 

Bottles from a very good tasting of the wines from 
Château de Parnay (Saumur and Saumur Champigny) 

Some standout bottles from the tasting 

Antoine Gerbelle – quel media vedette !!


Monday, 28 January 2019

Charles Sydney Loire Benchmark Tasting, London + Loire's @2019Millésime Bio

 2018 Gamay in the Côte Roannaise


Last Thursday (24th January) was the annual Charles Sydney Wines Loire Benchmark tasting in London. Charles Sydney Wines, offering a courtier service, was set up by Charles and Philippa Sydney in 1989. They have now retired and Chris Hardy, previously of Majestic Wines has taken over. Chris has now been joined by Alex Meunier.

Although I did taste the 2018 wines at Domaine Belargus and some at the sparsely attended French Wine Discoveries (15th January) where the ripe and concentrated 2018 Muscadets from Alexandre Déramé stood out, the Sydney tasting was my first chance to taste more than 100 of these wines following their fermentation. 

My overall impression – bearing in mind these white wines (Muscadet and Sauvignon Blanc forming a substantial majority) are still very young and many of them were quite cold – is that they are very clean and precise wines. I suspect that they will tend to take on considerably more weight over the next few months. Chris Hardy emphasised that growers should take their time before bottling this vintage to give it a chance to reveal its potential. Of course if you are short of stock following frost in 2016 and 2017 this may well not be easy. Tasting at Millésime Bio (Montpellier) today it is clear that a number producers, who are very short of stock following the successive frosts of 2016 and 2017, have already started bottling some of their 2019, especially some whites and rosés. Fortunately 2018 is a generous vintage and it may only be necessary to bottle a small amount of stock now. 

Tasting whites today at Millésime Bio they seemed more generous than in London probably due to being mainly tasted at slightly warmer temperature. It also be that the wines when in London were adversely affected by the misery of Brexit.... Amongst the 2018 whites I tasted today I was impressed by Bonnet-Huteau – their Muscadet but also a Gros Plant in very limited quantity – only 1500 bottles.

Vincent Pineau, who has joined his 
Domaine de la Roche with Bonnet-Huteau

For the first time I met and tasted with Michel Delhommeau, Les Vignes Saint Vincent and was impressed by his 2018 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, especially the Clos Amand from old vines. It was good to taste with Denis Jamain (Reuilly) – fine 2018s in all three colours including a richly textured Reuilly Rouge (Pinot Noir).  

There are some lovely ripe, rich Loire reds in 2018 – most, of course are not in bottle yet. I have yet to taste many 2018 Cabernet Francs. One of the few I tasted today was the 2018 Clos de Bienboire, Saumur-Champigny, Château de Villeneuve – ripe concentration of delicious black fruits – very recently bottled. In London I was impressed by the Saumur Champigny from Domaine des Sanzay and and the Chinon from Noblaie. I have now tasted rather more 2018 Gamay than Francs including some wonderfully seductive  Gamays from Touraine – Domaines Sauvété and Domaine L'Aumonier – and the Côte Roannaise – Domaines Sérol and des Pothiers. 

Back in London I tasted a few sweet wines from 2018 – from this limited evidence there could well be some great sweet wines to enjoy. 

Note to myself – I must drink more sweet Loire Chenins in 2019! 


One half of Hall B2 


Millésime Bio continues to expand:
This year there are some 1100 organic/biodynamic producers exhibiting at the 2019 edition with four large halls now in use to cope with this expansion. It shows the marked increase in the number of domaines, who are now either organic or biodynamic. As all regions and countries are mixed up it is now a considerable feat of organisation to get to see producers in the most efficient way possible. I guess that from one end of Millésime Bio to the other is not far off the distance from Rablay-sur-Layon to Champs-sur-Layon. 

Doubtless one of the shows' sponsors is Fitbit......   
 


      


   

Couple of dates for your Loire diary – VinoTours + ViNAViVA


'Bienvenue au salon VinoTours

Organisé depuis 2008 par le club de dégustation VIN sur VIN, notre salon donne à découvrir aux visiteurs une sélection de vins produits par des vignerons en BIO et NATURELS de la France entière.
VINOTOURS, UNE RENCONTRE POUR AMATEURS DE VINS
Les Tourangeaux le savent : le salon des vins VINOTOURS n’est pas une foire au vin comme il y en a beaucoup. La vingtaine de vignerons qui y sont présents ont tous fait leurs preuves dans les verres et dans leurs vignes. Témoins de la diversité des terroirs français, ils disposent pour la plupart de petites exploitations, produisent des vins naturels, travaillent en bio ou en bio-dynamie. Les visiteurs de plus en plus nombreux ont fait de ce salon un rendez-vous incontournable. Les vignerons fidèles, reviennent d’année en année pour renouveler le plaisir de partager leur savoir-faire avec des amateurs de vin exigeants.
Bon salon et à bientôt !
Le club œnologie VIN/VIN'


•••



ViNAViVA: 6th-7th April @ Saint Étienne de Chigny

debouche@oreille
n°30
janvier 2019
Le Goût des cépages !
La lettre de liaison gratuite VINAVIVA, Salon des Vins de Libre Expression, par l’association Amaviva (Amateurs de vins vivants et authentiques)
Salon 2019
Retenez la date, portez-la sur vos tablettes : 6 et 7 avril prochains. 25-26 vignerons de presque toute la France. Nouveau vigneron : Fred Lailler qui a repris le domaine Michel Brégeon en Muscadet et le convertit à l’agriculture biologique. Invité 2019, Philippe Tessier de Cheverny ; et finalement le domaine de Quissat dont les vins nous ont été réclamés. Un seul absent, Château Bas de Provence.
A suivre sur vinaviva.fr


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Some Christmas treats moderated..... (Part 1)

modération
Introducing 'Modération' – our vinous pet dog......
Nous buvons toujours avec Modération.....Santé Modération !

We spent Christmas and the start of 2019 in Touraine before returning last week to the lunatic asylum located, for the moment, a few miles off the coast of Northern France. Over our Touraine spell we broached a number of bottles some with considerable bottle age. With one exception – a badly corked bottle – none were out of condition illustrating once again that many well made wines have the capacity to live on one, two decades or more and still give pleasure as well as retaining freshness. Obviously it depends on what stage of development you like your wine ....... however, over a nearly three week period the only complaints I received was when their glass was rather depleted......

Some highlights:


beaucastel 78 nl 

beaucastel

Two bottles of this legendary Southern Rhône vintage formed the centrepiece of our Christmas Day meal. We must have bought them early in the 1980s – perhaps 1982 or 1983 from Château de Beaucastel. Still in wonderful condition – ripe, savoury fruit, complex, long finish and still very much alive. Having checked both bottles there seemed little difference between them so I poured both into a magnum decanter. Often with wines of this age there is considerable bottle variation but not this time.

bouscassé 90 blanco

Another example of wine bought a number of years ago – 1990 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Sec from Alain Brumont's Château Bouscassé. Unfortunately the first bottle I opened was foully corked but fortunately I had a second which was fine. The more recent versions of this wine are a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng and Arrufiac. I can't remember now what the blend for the 1990 was but I don't think it included Sauvignon Blanc. Instead I fancy it had Arrufiac, Petit Courbu and Gros Manseng ..... but I certainly cannot be sure. Anyway whatever the blend was this 1990 was impressive with a lovely golden colour, rich fruit and still a good fresh finish.

yvonne 1997

Lastly in this initial survey of moderate wine consumption at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 a wonderful bottle of 1997 Le Gory, Saumur Blanc made by Françoise Foucault. 100% dry honeyed Chenin Blanc, richly complex from a warm year and like the other two wines here still fully alive. Great memories of how Françoise loved making these wines and how proud the late Charly Foucault was of her stunning wines. Something to treasure!

 

In brief:

Launched recently in London:

essential guide italian wine
Daniele Cernilli: The Essential Guide to Italian Wine 2019
Published by Doctor Wine.
Available in Italian and English €18, 647pages
5th edition of this guide


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Gérard Basset dies – terrible news after a long fight against cancer



Gérard tasting @the Decanter World Wine Awards

Terribly sad news that Gérard Basset MW, MS (born 1957) died this morning. He had been fighting oesophagus cancer since the autumn of 2017. A year later it was revealed that Gérard was terminally ill

Despite his numerous achievements both as a sommelier – Meilleur Sommelier du Monde 2010, hotelier – a founder of Hotel du Vin,  – there was no side to Gérard. He was a great guy, modest and always friendly.

My sincere condolences to Nina and family.  

See also post on Les 5 du Vin and in The Drinks Business. Another tribute – Anthocyanes – Yohan Castaing.
 


Monday, 7 January 2019

Bel avenir pour Belargus ?

 
Ivan Massonnat, owner of the new Domaine Belargus*
Was initially called Bel Argus (2 words) now Belargus (one word) 


Last Thursday (3rd January) we had a very useful and interesting journey and visit to meet Ivan Massonnat at the winery of Pithon-Paillé in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay. During last year Ivan bought Jo Pithon's vineyards, Pascal Laffourcade's ten hectares of Quarts de Chaume and nearly three hectares in Savennières – creating his new Domaine Bel Argus, which I think is an exciting project for both Anjou and for Loire Chenin Blanc, the new domaine's sole focus.

We met Ivan and his new winemaker 24-year-old Adrien Moreau. Ivan explained how the new venture had come about.

"It had been intended that Jules, Jo Pithon's son and his partner Tania, would take over Pithon-Paillé. However, Jules and Tania separated and Jules decided against taking over. Jo and Isabelle, Jo's wife, decided to sell as they were ready to retire. Because of the frosts 2016 and 2017 had been difficult for Jo."

For a number of years Ivan has had a house in Champigny-sur-Veude to the south of Chinon. "For a long time I have been looking to buy a domaine in Anjou. I am particularly interested in single varietal wines and am a lover of those from Burgundy and have a passion for Chenin Blanc. I have often spoken with Patrick Baudouin. Last February I was with Patrick at the Salon des Vins de Loire. He told me that Jo Pithon's  estate was up for sale. I had never heard of Jo."

Patrick took Ivan to meet Jo at the Salon and early next day he was with Jo visiting the steeply sloping Clos des Treilles. There were a few others interested in acquiring Jo's domaine but Ivan soon emerged as the front-runner and the deal was completed on 6th June. Ivan explained that the Clos is not in the best state with some vines missing. The financial restraints imposed by the two successive years of frost would have made it difficult to do all the necessary replacements. 

excess bunches 
Generous 2018 crop @l’Echarderie

At the same time Ivan bought Pascal Laffourcade's ten hectares in the Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru. These ten hectares are in one sole block around Pascal's Château de l’Echarderie. This represents a quarter of the appellation. I mentioned that I had been been walking in the Quarts de Chaume in October last year and had noted that the vines around l'Echarderie were carrying a considerable crop. "We made mostly dry wines from these grapes," said Ivan.  

More recently Ivan has bought nearly three hectares in Savennières adjacent to the Roche aux Moines. This brings his new domaine up to 26 hectares. 

adrien moreau
 Adrien Moreau

Ivan encouraged Adrien, the young wine-maker, to introduce himself. 

"I joined in October for the end of the harvest." Adrien said. "I come from the Beauce and my parents are cereal farmers.  I studied wine-making at Paris and Montpellier along with spells at Cheval Blanc, Haut-Brion and Harlan Estate in the Napa Valley. In April 2018 I joined Roederer in Champagne and was there for the harvest, which was exceptional. I was very interested by the Roederer's vine collection and especially the work on Pinot Noir sélection massale,"

adrien moreaua

"What I like about Adrien," added Ivan, "is that he is more than a technician. Adrien is passionate about wine, a good taster and very keen to learn."

"2019 will be a year of reflection," explained Ivan. "This is a collective adventure – it is not about my ego. Anjou is not well known. Wine amateurs are becoming aware that Anjou has some grand terroirs." Ivan is keen that the general wine drinking public discover Anjou's potential. The current winery in Saint-Lambert will be considerably improved. It hasn't been decided whether to demolish the old building and start again. Possibly they may decide to build a new winery elsewhere.

Other details of Domaine Belargus were covered in an earlier post here.   

After introducing the project we went down into the cellar to taste the 2018 Chenins from barrel. Covering dry wines from Savennières, Les Bonnes Blanches (Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay), dry Chenin made in the Quarts de Chaume and Les Treilles. We finished with the sweet wines – delicacy and finesse from Belargus, Les Treilles (tiny production), 1er Cru Chaume Coteaux du Layon, and two parcels in the Quarts de Chaume – Les Rovers et Les Quarts with the latter currently more expressive. Ambroisie (35.5˚ potential) from Quarts de Chaume set us up for our return to the Cher Valley.  These wines are all still babies but 2018 looks very promising, very precise and well balanced. 

jo pithon
 Jo Pithon

Jo Pithon joined us part of the way through the tasting. He looked very relaxed – retirement is clearly suiting him!  It was also apparent that he and Ivan have a mutual respect. 

ivan and jo
Ivan and Jo

Suffice to say that I was very impressed by Ivan and his Chenin Blanc project. Ivan stressed that this is very much a nine-strong team of mixed ages from Adrien in his early twenties to Jo at retirement and Guy Bossard, as the consultant for helping the entire domaine to become biodynamic. Interesting and encouraging that Ivan has persuaded Guy to take Belargus on as his only consultancy, choosing someone who knows the Loire intimately and not plumping for a 'stellar' consultant from Bordeaux or elsewhere and who already advises a large clutch of domaines.

After the harvest all of the team piled into mini-bus and headed to Côte Rotie where they visited a number of vignerons that Jo knows well. In addition to this team building Ivan stressed that they all meet regularly and that everyone is kept informed about what is happening in all aspects of the domaine. 

Jo's last business partner – Philip Fournier (Now Domaine FL) turned out to be a distressing disaster. I hope and think it very likely that that this new project will work much better and Jo will see his work, particularly on the Clos des Treilles, carried on and taken to the next level.

I asked Jo how this new partnership compared to his previous business arrangement. Diametrically different was the response...... 
  
trio 
Ivan, Jo and Adrien