Friday, 31 January 2020
Sunday, 26 January 2020
Romain Paire in some of his vineyards
Last Thursday at this benchmark tasting held at Browns Courtrooms in Central London was my first chance since the 2019 vintage when I was able to try some newly pressed grape juice or partially fermented wine. As usual there were plenty of wines to try with the majority, especially the whites and rosés, coming from the 2019 vintage with very few finished and bottled.
Overall is that 2019, although climatically a difficult vintage – frost, wet and cold during part of the flowering, heat spikes and drought, is yet another quality Loire vintage. Quantity for some, especially to the west of Tours, is another story. Although there are a few wines with high alcohol levels, this tasting appears to confirm my impression formed during the harvest that 2019 is a well balanced vintage less rich than 2018 but with more freshness.
It was good to see the excellent wines of Romain Paire's Domaine de Pothiers in the Roannaise getting the attention they deserve. Incredibly these wines are not yet imported into the UK. Following this tasting I expect this to change pretty rapidly. Although the vineyards of the Upper Loire are widely scattered and small, I am convinced that they are well worth exploring.
It was also interesting to taste the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (IGP Côtes de la Charité) from Grebet Père et Fils (Domaine des Rabichattes).
Thursday, 23 January 2020
On Saturday I'm off to Montpellier for Millésime Bio and its associated events. I shall look forward to meeting up with Marco and Marie Louise (Les 5 du Vin) and probably Michel Smith, our distinguished retired founder member. This will be the start of a busy ten days for me as once the three days (27th-29th) of MillyBio are over I'm off up to the Loire for the Salon des Vins de Loire/La Levée and and the Renaissance tasting.
It is a testament to the growth in the number of organic and biodynamic producers that Millésime Bio has become a monster. The 2020 is the 27th edition of the fair that started with I believe some 40 producers from the south of France in 1993. There will be well over 1300 exhibitors from 20 different countries at this edition, which is an increase of 15% on last year. It will be nearly double the 700 exhibitors that were at the 2017 edition.
This edition will be spread across five enormous halls at Montpellier's Parc des Expositions. The photos above give a flavour of the size of MillyBio. Egalité continues with all the simple tables being the same size. No possibility of bling stands here aka Vinexpo etc. However, unfortunately the organisers are continuing with their policy of mixing all the exhibitors up. The policy has always been to mix up the exhibitors, so encourage visitors to make fresh discoveries. This doubtless made perfect sense when Millésime Bio was still small but now with 1300 exhibitors it is surely boneheaded.
This means, for example, that the 85 Loire producers are scattered across the five halls. It must be best part of a kilometre from one end of the fair to the other. Great for easily getting in your 10,000 daily fitbit steps but otherwise a complete waste of time. Little wonder that the smaller Salons-Off like Biotop, Les Affranchis and Le Vin de Mes Amis are popular.
A few recent bottles
2018 Froggy Wine, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie,
This is a fun, easy drinking Muscadet from the renowned Domaine Luneau-Papin, which is intended to be drunk young with friends and some shellfish. This 2018 has the print of 2018 with weight and rich ripe fruit. The style of the wine is captured by the label.
2018 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie, Domaine de la Combe,
This is an ambitious and fine Muscadet from Pierre-Henri Gadais, who has taken over the wine making for the family domaine in Saint-Fiacre but is also making wine from his own vines. It also has the ripeness of 2018 with attractive texture along with good balancing acidity. It can certainly be enjoyed now but has the potential to last and develop over a number of years. I am not convinced, however, that the label really does the quality of this wine justice.
2001 Château Petit Village, PomerolPomerol has been somewhat controversial on Les 5 du Vin recently so I thought it was time I tasted and drank a bottle from this appellation. This 2001 has been sitting under our bed in an AXA six-bottle presentation box for a number years. This 2001 was delicious - fully ready to drink with luxuriously evolved soft fruit with an inviting spicy aroma, well balanced with a long finish. It was a good partner for poached ham.
A few days prior to pulling the cork on the Petit Village we had also tried the 2001 Margaux Cantenac Brown that unlike the Petit Village was not at all memorable merely dull – perhaps it was the bottle? It wasn't obviously corked but .....
Brought by some friends to us to try this is an intriguing white Pinot Noir from Baden. Although it has a little residual sugar (6 gms per litre) it has good balancing acidity so it has attractive citric mouthfeel without being in any way cloying. Good as an apéro it would probably partner grilled fish or scallops well.
Sunday, 5 January 2020
I posted this on Les 5 du Vin on New Year's Eve. Since then the bush fires in Australia have not let up. More than the land surface of Belgium has been on fire.
The start of the 2020 Australian wine harvest is not that far off and it seems also frivolous to wonder what the effects of all the bush fires, the heat and the smoke, which is reaching New Zealand – it is 2223 kilometres from Sydney to NZ, when people of losing their lives and their homes to the fires.
The fire that destroyed the Lismore Estate
Sam O'Keefe in the Lismore vineyards, South Africa
It is never a good time to suddenly lose both your life's work and livelihood but it must be particularly bitter for it to happen at Christmas time. On 17th December 2019 a bush fire, believed to have been started by two children, destroyed Sam O'Keefe's cool climate Lismore Estate in the Greyton region to the east of Stellenbosch, South Africa. A crowdfunding page has been set up to help her rebuild here.
'Devastating Greyton Wildfire destroyed Lismore Winefarm - the home and livelihood of Samantha O'Keefe and her children.
Sam O'Keefe, well-known pioneering farmer and winemaker lost homestead, cellar and everything she built since 2003 in a blazing fire on 17 December 2019. After years of ruinous setbacks, her wines received international recognition and accolades - with it now all being burnt to the ground. Sam, a single mother of two has persevered through multiple challenges throughout her journey at Lismore. This one she can only face with the help and generosity of good people.'
To date 515,679 Rand (nearly £28,000) has been raised.
Unfortunately O'Keefe is not the only wine producer to have been affected recently by bush/forest fires caused by drought and extreme temperatures.
Back in late October the Sonoma Valley, California was hit by fire near Geyserville with the nearby Soda Rock Winery destroyed by the inferno. Fortunately no lives were lost and it is thought that the long term damage is likely to come from visitors put off by the threat of fire as this is the second fire in the last three years.
From around 20th December the Adelaide Hills were hit by devastating bush fires whipped up by high winds that continued for a number of days with estimates that a third of the vineyards may have been wiped out as well as numerous homes lost and livestock killed. The Australian bush fires are continuing in New South Wales and Victoria.
Creating a successful vineyard is a long-term project – it cannot be done overnight. Unfortunately this will be exactly the same for any vineyards seriously affected by fire. In the past vineyards have often been firebreaks but in these circumstances this has not been the case.
The effects of climate change are becoming ever more clear. Even in the Loire this September parts of the region was on high alert when high winds were forecast after months of drought and high temperatures transforming scrub and woodland into tinderboxes.
As 2020 approaches – the start of the third decade of the third millennium AD – I hope we will see fewer of these natural disasters, though I suspect that it is a forlorn hope. It would be great for the Loire to be frost-free......
Anyway a belated: