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




Monday, 14 September 2020

Great day for a bike ride and other reflections......

 

London: view towards Canary Wharf
 
Today has been a lovely mid-September's late summer's day with temperatures around 27˚C perfect for a bike ride, especially as this is the second rest day in the Tour de France so no need to rush back to catch the live action.
 
The slopes of the North Downs are the closest open countryside to London's Forest Hill. Here there are plenty of lanes to explore – some quite narrow and requiring care as this close to London there are a good number of cars on them as well. It is noticeable that with Covid-19 there has been a big increase in the number of cyclists of all abilities and sizes out of their bikes. 



Photo by Malc McDonald
     

A memorial to a local cyclist, Paul Skelly,
who died suddenly in 2016 aged 53.  

 

The Downs are chalk hills that typically have a scarp slope and a more gentle dip slope. In the case of the North Downs the dip slope faces London providing a steady and fairly gentle climb up to the ridge that overlooks the Kent and Surrey countryside. After a narrow and steep descent down Hesiers Lane, the Col du Skelly (Beddlestead Lane) is a fairly steady climb of 3.16 kms at an average of 4% with a height gain of 120 metres that takes you to the ridge at the top of the North Downs dip slope. Carrying on into Kent and Surrey will take you down the steep inclines of the scarp slope. Here are found plenty of steep challenging climbs – some with up to 20% gradients and more, which will test even fit young cyclists. 

It was back in the late 1970s and 1980s that I rode and managed these hills on a conventional bike now I enjoy riding up them on my electric bike, which still allows you to work hard but without expiring at the roadside.

 

  

These are short, sharp hills more akin to the famous climbs in Belgium that are a feature of the Spring Classics, such as the Tour of Flanders. Certainly nothing like the long Alpine climbs that face the remaining riders in the 2020 Tour de France this week – assuming that the race continues after all the riders and staff are tested for Covid-19 over the rest day. 

Leaving aside the racing, which has been exciting this year, the Tour de France is a great advert for the beauty of the very varied French countryside – all the more so now with high definition TV pictures compared to the grainy but atmospheric black and white of the early days of television and the time of news reels. The length of stage races also allows commentators to talk about the food and wine of the regions the race passes through. Wine wise journalist and author François Thomazeau is to date the most impressive and knowledgeable without being precious or pompous. A few nameless others broadcast their ignorance and prejudices with gusto.

Along with travel guides and crime novels often set in Marseille, Thomazeau also compiles the official guide to the sights along the route of the Tour that briefs commentators allowing them to talk knowledgeably about places of interest – châteaux, churches etc. Thomazeau can be heard on the excellent daily Cycling Podcast along with Richard Moore and Lionel Birnie.

It won't be long before we know whether Slovenia will have its first Tour de France winner and whether Irishman Sam Bennett will dethrone Peter Sagan as King of the Green Points Jersey. 

Here complete list of the Tour de France stage winners from the first edition in 1903 to the present day.   

 

 

   

 

            

Monday, 7 September 2020

Remembering Frédéric Mabileau

 

 Fred @ RSJ Restaurant 2010
 

A week after Fred died in a ULM crash at Saumur Airport on 31st August I still haven't come to terms with his sudden and shocking death. An article (Décès de Frédéric Mabileau : la défaillance technique écartée) in La Nouvelle République (4.9.2020) says that a mechanical fault in the ULM, which Fred was apparently in the process of buying has been ruled out. This after an autopsy in Angers the NR says leaves two possibilities either that Fred was suddenly taken ill or he lost control of the ULM. Although the ULM caught fire once it had crashed he was apparently already dead before the fire broken out – a small consolation that he did not burn to death. 

Fred's funeral will be held on Wednesday 9th September in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil at 10 am. Due to Covid-19 there are currently restrictions on the number of people who can attend a funeral. 

Here are some photos of Fred taken over a number of years, which recall much happier times.


Fred (centre) @ the RSJ Restaurant
celebrating it 25th anniversary in 2005
Also present left to right: Noël Pinguet (Huet),
Thomas Meunier (i/c commerce for Fred),
Nigel Wilkinson (proprietor RSJ), Christine and Eric Nicolas

(Domaine de Bellivière, Jasnières) 
 

 


2008: Fred and Thomas with first vintage of the
still fermenting Saumur Blanc from Le Puy Notre Dame


Below: Fred with the 2008 Saumur

 

 
2008: Fred and Thomas with Sarah Ahmed
(The Wine Detective)
 

Tasting with Fred @ Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil

Fred as hod carrier 3.10.2009
1er tri du Chenin Le Puy Notre Dame

Below Fred emptying his hod

Fred, a glass of Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Bacchus

 

2013 vintage Fred in his winery with
Chris Kissack (The Wine Doctor)
 


Frédéric Mabileau with his new foudre
taken during the 2018 harvest 






 

 

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Frédéric Mabileau: killed in a micro-lite plane crash – terrible news!

 


 Frédéric Mabileau during the 2018 vintage
with his prized new foudre

 

Frédéric Mabileau, one of the most talented Loire producers and a star of Saint-Nicolas-de Bourgueil and Bourgueil not forgetting his Saumur Blanc, was killed in a micro-lite (ULM) crash yesterday. The crash apparently occurred at take-off from Saumur Airport. Fred was 53 years old. 

This is horrible and shocking news. I have known Fred for 30 years and watched and admired his progress and talent.  

Our thoughts and condolences are with Nathalie, his wife, and all the family.    

•••

Saumur. Le pilote tué dans l’accident d’ULM est un viticulteur renommé dans la région

Frédéric Mabileau était vigneron à Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. Les circonstances du crash de son autogire, lundi 31 août, demeurent inconnues. L’enquête a été confiée au parquet de Saumur.

Report from Ouest-France.

 

Indre-et-Loire : un viticulteur du Bourgueillois se tue dans un accident d'ULM

La Nouvelle République

 

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

2020 Muscadet harvest officially starts tomorrow

 

 From the 2018 vintage @Domaine Luneau-Papin
They start tomorrow 

 

The 2020 Muscadet harvest officially starts tomorrow. The start is very early but not, however, the earliest in recent times as the official start in 2003 was 19th August, the 24th in 2011 and 25th in 1989. 

Unfortunately for a number of reasons I am going to miss the start of the Loire harvest this year but hope to get out to the Loire in mid-September, although we may have to quarantine for 14 days if France imposes restrictions. The 2020 harvest looks promising both in quality and quantity, which should help producers hit by frost in 2017 and 2019. 

  

Bonnes Vendanges à tous

 

Communiqué from Fédération Vins de Nantes (25.8.2020)

MUSCADET : le ban des vendanges, historiquement précoce, prononcé le mercredi 26 août 2020

La Fédération des Vins de Nantes (1), propose à l’Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, le ban des Vendanges du Muscadet qui devrait être prononcé par arrêté préfectoral le mercredi 26 août 2020. La récolte sannonce de bonne qualité avec des volumes satisfaisants et une précocité exceptionnelle.

Suite aux contrôles de maturité, coordonnés par la Fédération, qui servent d’indicateurs sur l’équilibre entre le sucre et l’acidité du raisin et évaluent l’état sanitaire du vignoble, la récolte des premières grappes de melon de Bourgogne sera autorisée, par arrêté préfectoral, pour les vins d’AOC Muscadet à partir du mercredi 26 août 2020.

Le millésime se caractérise par son exceptionnelle précocité (une des années record depuis 40 ans avec 1989, 2003 et 2011) liée à un printemps chaud et sec. Le début de lété marqué par des épisodes très chauds, suivi par des précipitations orageuses daoût, a optimisé la maturité avec des bons équilibres sucre/acidité et des volumes qui vont permettre dapprocher les rendements des cahiers des charges dappellation, minimisés par quelques pertes liées aux journées caniculaires.

Selon Christian Gauthier, Président de la Fédération des Vins de Nantes, « Cette récolte marquera les esprits des vignerons. Nous avons évité de peu un gel de printemps, vécu comme tous, une période dépidémie traumatisante puis retrouvé espoir avec une saison estivale très encourageante pour la vigne et le commerce. Les précipitations orageuses ont été les bienvenues mais demandent une extrême vigilance des vignerons pour vendanger sereinement au bon moment afin doptimiser le potentiel qualitatif. » En effet, la météo variable des derniers jours rend instable les évolutions de maturité entre acidité et degré et nécessite une attention particulière sur létat sanitaire des grappes bien contenu jusque-là. 

Le Président se veut rassurant : « Les maturités peuvent être un peu hétérogènes selon les secteurs jusque dans les parcelles mais il faut faire confiance au talent des vignerons pour gérer ces aléas à la vigne et en cave. » Dun point de vue économique : « Cette récolte va permettre d’alimenter notre marché (environ 300 000 HL) qui repart bien suite à la saison touristique. Elle va aussi favoriser la reconstitution de nos stocks, impactés par les gels de 2017 et 2019, avec du Volume Complémentaire Individuel (2). Souhaitons que 2020 marque les esprits comme un millésime exceptionnel - à linstar des grandes années précoces (1989 ou 2003) - que comme celui de lannée du COVID-19 qui a affecté économiquement toute notre filière. »

Les vendanges en Muscadet, qui sonnent le départ dans tout le bassin du Val Loire, devraient sétirer sur 3 semaines en fonction des terroirs.


FEDERATION DES VINS DE NANTES
13 château de la Frémoire
44 120 VERTOU Tél. 02 40 80 14 90 Fax. 02 40 80 30 04

 

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Auvergne (cont): Domaine Miolanne

 

Domaine Miolanne 

Vineyards and the wooden winery @Domaine Miolanne

We made a morning visit to Domaine Miolanne on our second and last full day in the Côtes d'Auvergne. The evening before in a bistro/wine bar in nearby Champeix we had drunk their sparkling – Bulles de Miolanne Brut – for our apéro and found the dosage too high for our taste, so I had a slight reservation before our visit. Happily this was put to rest during our visit.

 

Bulles

 

Domaine Miolanne was established in 2012 by Laure Cartier and Jean-Baptiste Deroche. Laure comes from a family of vignerons –  Mas de Gourgonnier in Les Baux de Provence, while Jean-Baptiste is an oenologue. Since 1990 there had been a five-hectare domaine here. Miolanne now extends over 17 hectares with 10 hectares of vines and five of cereals. Laure and Jean-Baptiste immediately started converting their domaine to organic viticulture achieving certification in 2016. In 2014 built their wooden chai, which includes a tasting area and a wine bar, which is open during the summer.

Laure Cartier
Laure Cartier

The domaine, which is at around 450 metres, which means that there is a considerable range of summer temperature between the day and night, which helps to keep acidity in the grapes. There is a range of volcanic soils: lava, basalt and pumice as well as clay-limestone. Their oldest vines date from 1940. Unfortunately they were hit by frost in 2017 – their vineyards are relatively flat. Then by drought last year leading to a loss of 65% of a normal crop. In the generous 2018 vintage they produced 50,000 bottles, while in 2019 just 20,000.

Lying in the rain shadow of Le Mont Dore and Le Puy de Sancy the average rainfall is here is 450 mm. Overall this part of the Auvergne has less rain than other areas of the Loire. For example the weather station at Clermont Ferrand recorded an average rainfall of 578 mm between 1981 and 2010 this compares with an average of 695.6 mm at Tours.

Miolanne has a range of of grape varieties: 3.5 hectares each of Gamay and Pinot Noir, a hectare of Chardonnay, 0.5 ha each of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Syrah. With Laure we had a quick tour of the vines as well as a disused quarry close to one of their vineyards.

Laure + volcanic rock

The disused quarry
(above and below)
 
Close up of carrière

Unfortunately hail storms are a regular threat here and part of Miolanne has hail netting protection covering a plot of young vines. The netting, which is approved by the INAO, can be lifted for the harvest, it does slow grape maturity slightly by two or three days says Laure. It is no surprise that it is expensive: 15,000 € per hectare.

Hail netting  

Netting providing protection against hail 

 

Tasting 

2019 D–Miolanne VDF
This is an unusual blend of Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer plus a little Pinot Gris, which is fermented and aged in barrel. From vines ob pumice it has citric aromas, attractive texture and floral notes.

2019 Volcane Rosé, Côtes d'Auvergne
An equal blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir and a pale pink, this is another successful rosé from the Auvergne – well balanced attractive red fruits and a fresh finish with some saline notes.

2019 Volcane Rouge, Côtes d'Auvergne
Also an equal blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, this is very much a juicy, easy drinking vin des  copains with some smoky notes.

2019 Basalt éphmère
100% Gamay and vinified by carbonic maceration resulting in sweet ripe quite concentrated black fruits with a slight bitterness in the finish that adds interest.

Hors Piste, PetNat, VDF
Made from 100% Gamay and vinified this crisp, lemony, extra brut PetNat was to my taste much more exciting and enjoyable than the Bulles de Miloanne that we had drunk the previous evening.

••

Domaine Miolanne is another domaine which underlines that the Côtes d'Auvergne and the other appellations of Upper Loire are well worth exploring.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Côtes d’Auvergne: Discovering Desprat Saint-Verny with Léa (Part 2 – pm)

Pinot Gris 4.4

Léa Desprata
Léa Desprat

At the end of June I wrote about our morning getting to know Desprat Saint-Verny with Léa Desprat, now it is time to cover the afternoon activities. However, before I do a mention of an enjoyable lunch at Hostellerie Le Petit Bonneval at 63170 Pérignat lès Sarliève a little to the south of Clermont Ferrand.  The dining room is comfortable and spacious with the possibility of eating outside in good weather. Our lunchtime menu was 27€ for three courses.

Petit Bonneval
Lunch @ Hostellerie Le Petit Bonneval
a little to the south of Clermont Ferrand

Entrée Petit B



First course: cured salmon
Our best course

Gilles Vidal and basalt

Gilles Vidal
Gilles Vidal, vigneron and president of the Syndicat AOC des Côtes d'Auvergne

Gilles - basalt
Gilles with a lump of basalt

After lunch we met Gilles Vidal, an associate with Desprat Saint-Verny, in his steeply sloping vineyard at St Georges sur Allier to see a vineyard planted on basalt. Gilles has a layer of clay-limestone above basalt. He explained that Pinot Noir from vines planted on basalt tends to be less peppery than when planted on other volcanic soils. St Georges sur Allier is around 15 kilometres to the south east of Clermont Ferrand, so there is significant pressure on vineyards continuing because of the lucrative demand for land for housing.

Gilles talked about the renaissance of the Côtes d'Auvergne that had started in the 1970s when production was transformed from vin de soif when water would be added to marc (grape residue after fermentation) to make more thin wine to quality wine. Noble grape varieties were planted, yields cut and new equipment purchased. Under AOC Côtes d'Auvergne is maximum is 55 hl/ha and 52 hl/ha for the crus.

Cave de Saint-Verny, Veyre-Monton

After our visit with Gilles Vidal we headed to Veyre-Monton and the Cave de Saint– Verny's winery and shop. The winery has an impressive array of stainless steel, some refurbished old concrete tanks and a new barrel cellar with volcanic overtones. To date there are no fashionable concrete eggs or amphores – something for the future?
St V winery

Barrel cellar

Following visiting the winery we had a pretty comprehensive tasting of the extensive range of the Desprat Saint-Verny wines. Overall the range was impressive, which is crucial as Saint-Verny accounts for around 50% of the production of Côte d'Auvergne. If the Saint-Verny range was poor it would really be an uphill task to improve the region's image. There were no poor wines here.

Here are some  highlights:

Tracteur Bleu
 2018 Le Tracteur Bleu, AOC

Le Tracteur Bleu (100% Gamay) is the entry level red and it does exactly what it is supposed to do – a juicy, soft easy drinking red in short a vin des copains.



2017 Les Coutayres (Pinot Gris),
IGP Puy de Dôme

Les Coutayres is a well made, lightly perfumed, quite rich Pinot Gris coming from various parcels.

809 Chard Muscaté
2019 809 Chardonnay Muscaté, AOC

One of three good Chardonnays we tasted. The 809 has rich concentration and texture with a saline finish.

Corent
2019 Corent – La Chambre de Léa AC
(80% Gamay 20% Pinot Noir)

This was yet another good example from Corent – Auvergne cru exclusive for rosé. We were very impressed with the Corents we tasted during our trip and this has been confirmed by subsequently drinking those we bought while in the Auvergne. Direct press giving onion skin this Corent has interest and complexity making it more than just a pleasant rosé for an apéro, so a wine for grilled fish for instance.

348 Gamay
2017 348 Gamay, AOC

The 348 Gamay has more concentration and length than Tracteur Bleu but so it should as it is about twice the price. To drink now or keep for another year or so.

17 Le Legendaire
2017 La Légendaire, Côtes d'Auvergne

La Légendaire is Saint-Verny's icon wine range. These wines spend six months aging in a buron in Cantal at 1200 metres. The red Légendaire is an equal blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, which spends 12 moths in barrique before its six month sojourn high up in Cantal. This is an impressive red that can be enjoyed now but may well yet improve further – sweet ripe fruit, slightly smoky aromas and a long finish.


Pierre & Léas
Pierre Desprat and his daughter Léa

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Jean Candiago is Epeigné-les-Bois' new Maire



Jean Candiago with his wife Véronique



Following last Sunday's 2nd Round of the Municipal Elections the first meeting of Epeigné-les-Bois new Conseil Municipal was held last evening. Jean Candiago was elected Maire, Michèle Prieur as 1st Deputy Maire, Claire Dupré as 2nd Deputy Maire and Michel Caraty as 3rd Deputy Maire. 

Conseillers: Frédéric Chevalier, Stéphanie Maghissene, Fabienne Somméria, Francis Benoît, Amélie Boguet, Viviane Fève and Ludovic Guillon.


Announcement following meeting (3.7.2020)


Jean Candiago replaces Christian Percevault, who has been Maire since 2014.  

I hope the new Conseil can heal the divisions that have sadly divided Epeigné for too many years. 


 Christian Percevault @VE ceremony
8th May 2020


 

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Epeigné-les-Bois: result of 2nd Round of election for new Conseil – Sunday 28th June 2020





Result of the 2nd Round of the municipal elections @Epeigné-les-Bois:

Ludovic Guillon: 102 votes (56.04%) elected

Dominique Hisbergue 80 votes (43.96%)

58.65% of the electorate voted. 0.55% of votes were declared invalid. This compares to 62.18% voted on 1st Round with 2.06% invalid votes. Although the number voting in the second round is a little lower than in the 1st Round, it is far above the national participation that was just 34.67%, so an encouraging level of participation in Epeigné-les-Bois.



Result of election@Sale des Fêtes


Composition of new Conseil:



Frédéric Chevalier



Claire Dupré



Jean Candiago



Stéphane Maghissene



Fabienne Somméria



Michel Caraty



Francis Benoît



Amélie Boguet



Viviane Fève



Michèle Prieur



Ludovic Guillon




Update 2nd July 2020
The first meeting of the new Conseil will be tomorrow (3rd July 2020) at 19.30. The agenda will include the election of the new Maire and deputies along with various other roles and posts. 

Fabrice Gasnier est le nouveau Président du Syndicat des Vins de Chinon




Press release on the appointment of Fabrice Gasnier as the new president of the Syndicat des Vins de Chinon following the end of Francis Jourdan's three year term.   
'Elu par les 27 personnes siégeant au Conseil d'Administration du Syndicat des Vins de Chinon, Fabrice Gasnier remplace désormais Francis Jourdan qui a dirigé l'AOC de 2017 à juin 2020. Fabrice Gasnier se met donc au service du collectif pour un mandat de 3 ans. Il peut s’appuyer sur un bureau renouvelé pour partie, composé de Sébastien du Petit Thouars (Château du Petit Thouars) et Jean-Martin Dutour (Domaine Baudry-Dutour) comme vice-présidents, Rodolphe Raffault (Domaine Jean-Maurice Raffault) trésorier et Béatrice Lambert (Domaine Béatrice et Pascal Lambert) secrétaire, ainsi que sur les 5 présidents de secteurs de l’appellation.


Vigneron, Fabrice Gasnier -50 ans- pratique la viticulture biodynamique certifiée depuis 2008, sur les 30 hectares du domaine familial situé sur la commune de Cravant les Coteaux. Fondateur de la Cuma de Cravant, il a une bonne expérience du collectif avec la mise en place de systèmes de protection commun des vignes contre le gel. 
 
Elu pour représenter les 170 vignerons de Chinon, il aura pour mission la promotion de l’appellation et la garantie de l’authenticité des vins de Chinon. Les enjeux de demain sont nombreux, particulièrement tournés vers la transition écologique de la production et les actions à mener dans le cadre du changement climatique ; le commerce, le développement de l’export et la gestion des stocks vont aussi être l’objet de son attention. Il défend déjà avec ardeur « l’esprit de Chinon », c'est-à-dire l’image culturelle de nos vins, attachée à l’humanisme de Rabelais et au patrimoine qui font la singularité du positionnement de l’AOC Chinon. Fabrice Gasnier confie : « La marque « Chinon » nous donne à tous beaucoup, c’est un juste retour que je lui consacre aussi de mon temps ». Une mission cependant conséquente lorsqu’on sait que Chinon est la plus importante appellation de vins rouge de Loire – environ 13 millions de bouteilles produites chaque année- qui s’étend sur 26 communes.'


Francis Jourdan, the previous president

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Sunday 28th June 2020: Epeigné-les-Bois – 2nd Round elections.....

Mairie @Epeigné-les-Bois


Covid-19 voting precautions:
Instructions include: all voters must wear masks, clean hands entering and exiting the Salle des Fêtes and no more than three voters inside at any one time. 







More than three months after the 1st Round of the municipal elections (Sunday 15th March), the 2nd Round will be held this Sunday. The 2nd Round had originally been scheduled for Sunday 22nd March but was postponed due to Covid-19. 

Following the 1st Round 10 new councilors for the 11 seats on Epeigné's Conseil were elected. Two candidates – Ludovic Guillon (49.47%) and Dominique Hisbergue (49.47%) narrowly missed getting the magic 50%. Both tied on 49.47% with 94 votes each. They are the two candidates this Sunday. Votes can be cast between 8am and 6pm.



Election billboards @Mairie


Ludovic Guillon


Dominique Hisbergue


Whatever the result of Sunday's vote it will be good to have a conseil with a new mandate. The old conseil held its final meeting last evening. 

Details of the 1st Round vote:
62,18 % des citoyens d'Épeigné-les-Bois sont allés voter à l'occasion de ce 1er tour des municipales. Ce chiffre était de 73,31 % en 2014 (soit une baisse de -11,13 points). D'autre part, 2,06 % des suffrages n'ont pas été admis car estimés invalides.