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

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Important announcement: Moët Hennessy going herbicide free

March time in Touraine – widespread and distressingly
indiscriminate use of weedkiller

Today is apparently International Wine Day*, so I am delighted to post some very good news about sustainable viticulture that Moët-Hennessy will cease to use weedkillers in their wine division vineyards from the end of this year. Furthermore this ban will be extended to their Cognac vineyards by the end of 2021.
This is a major statement from a prestigious and important wine company. Although it is good to see the many smaller producers who have  ceased to use herbicides with many going organic as witnessed by the number exhibitors at this year's Millésime Bio and its associated events, Moët-Hennessy's decision should have an important boost to changing the acceptability of the use of herbicides. In addition they are investing €20 million into researching sustainable viticulture, although they are not going organic.
Here are two news articles on Moët-Hennessy's announcement, which came at Wine Paris.

From The Drinks Business:

'Luxury drinks company Moët Hennessy has announced that its entire wine division will be herbicide-free by the end of the year and it intends to invest €20 million in research into sustainable viticulture.

Its vineyards in Cognac will likewise be herbicide-free in 2021, the group said in a statement adding that it had invested in numerous electric and robotic machines which would be used to mow grass, including the tricky patches directly below the canopy.

Read the rest of the article here.

Union France Monde
Moët Hennessy arrêtera « fin 2020 » l’utilisation des herbicides dans tous ses vignobles de Champagne, et en 2021 dans ceux de la région de Cognac, a annoncé mercredi 12 février son PDG Philippe Schaus lors du salon Wine Paris-Vinexpo.

« Fin 2020 en Champagne, nous allons complètement arrêter les herbicides, et nous allons construire un nouveau centre de recherche et développement en Champagne d’une valeur de 20 millions d’euros  », a déclaré M. Schaus.

« Pour le cognac, nous arrêterons un an plus tard », a précisé le dirigeant, qui a succédé en 2017 à Christophe Navarre à la tête de la filiale vins et spiritueux du groupe de luxe LVMH.

Robots et tracteurs électriques

« Nous remplaçons les herbicides par le désherbage mécanique grâce notamment à des tracteurs électriques et des robots »a-t-il dit.
Lire ici


International Wine Days

* Quite why someone has dreamed up a specific International Wine Day is all rather beyond me. Nor do I have any idea who decided this or how the decision was made. I suspect that it was dreamt up by a PR company during a long liquid lunch or in an idle moment on a quiet Friday afternoon. 

I humbly suggest that every day in the year, including all of January should be an International Wine Day. In a normal year this makes 365 International Wine Days, while in 2020, being a leap year, we are particularly spoilt as we will have 366 International Wine Days!

My wine for the 48th International Wine Day of 2020:  

2017 Sant' Ana Riesling
2017 Riesling, Quinta de Sant'Ana

Following a very interesting visit yesterday morning to the most attractive Quinta de Sant'Ana in Mafra we repaired to Ericeira on the Potruguese Atlantic Coast where we had a really excellent seafood lunch at Ribas. The 2017 Riesling was a delicious partner to our food and is a reminder as to how good the wines from the Lisbon district can be.

Ericeira is popular with surfers. Yesterday it was clear why with huge waves rolling in from the Atlantic.


Monday, 3 February 2020

Renaissance tasting – Sunday 2nd February: a few pics

Tasting in the Musée Jean Lurcat

Anouk Lavoie-Lamoureux
Les jardin de Theseiss (5 ha)
(in Thésée in the Cher Valley)
First vintage 2018 

 Céline Blet, Les Terres Blanches in Oiron

Benoît Blet, Les Terres Blanches in Oiron

David Guitton, owner and chef of Michelin starred 
La Table de la Bergerie attached
 to the Domaine de la Bergerie (Champs sur Layon) 

Les trois vedettes: Florence Sylvos,
Louis-Jean Sylvos et Pascale Plouzeau

Jo Pithon
(Domaine Belargus)

Apprentice Mark 
(above and below)

It was good to meet Mark, a promising young wine apprentice, now spending a useful apprenticeship (stage) with to excellent teachers: Martial Angeli and Bruno Ciofi. 

 Martial Angeli

 Bruno Ciofi


Sunday, 2 February 2020

As Didier retires Damien Richou creates Terra Vita Vinum

Terra Vita Vinum @Millésime Bio 2020 
L-R: Luc Briand, Bénédicte Petit, Damien Richou
Three of the four partners 

When Didier Richou (Domaine Richou, Mozé-sur-Louet, Anjou) took relatively earlier retirement at the age of 62 his younger brother Damien decided that he need to bring in some new associates to help him run the domaine. This has been successfully done and now he has three new partners – Luc Briand, who was born in Saint-Lamber-du-Lattay and is a director of Plus Value Conseil based in Nantes which advises on the running of wine domaines, Bénédicte Petit, a caviste (wine merchant), and Christophe Aubineau, who is a company auditor based in Nantes but who has a background in apple growing. The new project is called Terra Vita Vinum.

The new 'équipe' has already jazzed up the labels and launched a new cuvée – Rock & Schist. In this year they will qualify for the biodynamic Demeter status – completing their conversion to biodynamics.

I tasted with the new equipé (team) on the last morning of Bio Millésime 2020. Anjou Blanc Chauvigné, the entry level dry white Anjou, is now labelled Large Soif Blanc starting with the ripe and richly textured Large Soif Blanc 2019. Next 2018 Terre de 3, a new wine for me from three different parcels and first made in 2017. The 2018 is attractively vibrant, with good balance between the fruit and acidity with salinity in the finish. Next up the complex Les Rogeries (Anjou Blanc) and the vibrant and long 2018 Savennières – 30% vinified in barriques and 70% in stainless steel. I also had an early taste of the 2019 rock & schiste white from 38 year-old Chardonnay vines that is vinified and aged partly in Burgundy barrels and part in amphores.

For the reds I enjoyed the easy drinking, juicy 2018 Large Soif, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Then to finish off there was the unfinished 2019 rock & schist rouge – bien élève, which is a blend of the two Cabernets – aged for one years in barrels and Italian amphores.

Clearly this is another interesting new development in Anjou. 

Mathieu Fleuriet and Paul Aublet-Cuvelier's joint project in the Côtes d'Auvergne

Mathieu Fleuriet and Paul Aublet-Cuvelier

Mathieu Fleuriet of Domaine Bernard Fleuriet, a very good Sancerre producer based in Menetou-Ratel, has a joint project with Paul Aublet-Cuvelier, another Sancerre vigneron, in the Côtes d'Auvergne. They intend to plant 13 hectares of vines on abandoned terraces in the southern part of Auvergne in the Allier Valley at Belmont, a lieu-dit, in the commune of Saint-Privat-du-Dragon, which is about 10-12 kilometres to the south of Brioude which entertained Le Tour de France in 2019

Paul is the instigator of this project as his grandparents had bought a house in nearby Chilhac many years ago. He still loves the area and is convinced of its potential – always dreaming of finding an abandoned site and replanting vines there.    

In November 2019 Mathieu and Paul cleared scrub and bushes etc. from the terraces, which are at 700 metres and face either due south or south east, that have been abandoned for more than 50 years. In March they will plant the first parcel of vines – four hectares in total using five different grape varieties: Syrah (1.6 ha) along with 0.6 ha each of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chenin Blanc and Roussanne.  

This is an exciting project in an area where there was a considerable area of vines in the 19th century before the arrival of phylloxera and two World Wars. I look forward to following its progress. 

Report in the local paper on their project

Commune of Boudes in the Côte d'Auvergne 
with the steep fields some of them abandoned 
(Boudes is some way north of Belmont 
these are for illustrative purposes)

Commune of Saint-Privat-le-Dragon
Enclave within red line on map

Belmont - lieu-dit in south-western part of
 the commune of Saint-Privat-le-Dragon close to the Allier


Saturday, 1 February 2020

Exciting new developments in the Upper loire

Two new projects in the Upper Loire:

Loire Volcanique


Mathieu Fleuriet's joint project in the Côtes d'Auvergne

Mathieu Fleuriet and Paul Aublet-Cuvelier

Mathieu Fleuriet of Domaine Bernard Fleuriet, a very good Sancerre producer based in Menetou-Ratel, has a joint project with Paul Aublet-Cuvelier, another Sancerre vigneron, in the Côtes d'Auvergne. They intend to plant 13 hectares of vines on abandoned terraces in the southern part of Auvergne in the Allier Valley. 

(Full details will appear in a separate post.)  


Boudes in the Côtes d'Auvergne

Côte Roannaise

I have been convinced for a number of years that there are exciting producers and wines in the Upper Loire, so I am delighted to see the creation of Loire Volcanique to give more power to promote their wines.

Naissance d'un Collectif

Loire Volcanique


4  A.O.C.

1  Collectif

Soudés autour de valeurs communes,

36 vigneronnes et vignerons oeuvrant sur les terroirs 



ont décidé de s’unir pour porter plus haut et plus loin leurs voix.

Le 14 novembre 2019, Loire Volcanique est née.

(Association Loi 1901)

Soudés autour de valeurs communes,

36 vigneronnes et vignerons oeuvrant sur les terroirs 



ont décidé de s’unir pour porter plus haut et plus loin leurs voix.

Le 14 novembre 2019, Loire Volcanique est née.

(Association Loi 1901)


Le premier vignoble ligérien ?

C’est chez eux que ce fleuve si intimement lié à la vigne prend sa source. 

C’est chez eux que ce fleuve si intimement lié à la vigne prend sa source. Leur histoire épouse les méandres de la Loire, leurs vins aussi.  C’est elle qu’ils veulent mettre en avant, en parlant davantage de leurs terroirs, et de ce lien si fort qu'ils entretiennent avec le fleuve des rois.

De la fraîcheur SVP 

À l’heure du réchauffement climatique, ces vignes situées sur les contreforts Est du Massif Central sont un atout de taille. Des nuits fraîches, des expositions exceptionnelles, une biodiversité préservée… Bordés de bois et de forêts, à quelques encablures de Lyon et au Sud de Sancerre, ces vignobles aux sols volcaniques (granites + basalte) n'ont jamais connu d'agriculture extensive ou de monoculture, et ont en commun d'être en altitude, bénéficiant ainsi d’un véritable climat continental.
Vin des papes et des rois, région viticole parmi les premières productrices de France il y a un siècle, ce coin de France a subit de plein fouet l’industrialisation et le développement du chemin de fer et des voies rapides.
Tombée dans l'oubli pendant des décennies, absente de certaines cartes viticoles (!), la région renaît peu à peu de ses cendres... Aujourd'hui, forts de leur histoire, fiers de leurs cépages autochtones (Gamay St-Romain, Gamay d'Auvergne, Tressalier) et conscients de cette identité originale qui forge leurs vins, ces 36 vigneronnes et vignerons ont à coeur de défendre ces terroirs et d'en montrer le haut potentiel.
AUVERGNE / Yvan Bernard, Domaine Charmensat, Benoît Montel, Gilles Persilier, Domaine Catherine & Roland Royet, Domaine Sauvat, Domaine des Trouillères
FOREZ / Agamy - Cave des vignerons Foreziens, Le Clos de Chozieux, Domaine de Fontvial, Stéphanie Guillot, Les Vins de la Madone, Domaine du Poyet, Cave Verdier Logel, Vin et Pic
ROANNAIS / Domaine des Ardaillons, Alain Baillon, Domaine de la Bénisson Dieu, Le Vignoble des Blondins, Thierry Bonneton, Maison JB Clair, Le Clos St Jean, Domaine Désormière, Vincent Giraudon, Domaine des Palais, Domaine de la Paroisse, Domaine des Pothiers, Le Retour aux Sources, Domaine de la Rochette, Domaine Sérol, Domaine Vial
St POURÇAIN / Domaine des Bérioles, Domaine Gardien, Domaine Grosbot Barbara, Domaine de la Sourde, Les Terres d'Ocre

Côtes de Forez vines above Boën-sur-Lignon

Saint-Pourçain: vines and landscape


Château de Plaisance (Chaume et Quarts de Chaume) under new ownership

Vanessa Cherruau, Vigneronne coproprietaire

It was good to meet Vanessa Cherruau again. I had met her a number of years ago when she was employed at the ill-fated Château de la Genaiserie (Saint-Aubin-de-Luigné). She left Genaiserie when they ceased to pay her before the domaine collapsed first into administration (2010) and then into liquidation in 2013. 

Last year Vanessa put together a group of investors along with herself to buy the 25-hectare Château de Plaisance from Guy Rochais, whose father Henri had acquired the domaine in 1960. Since 1995 it has been farmed organically and is now biodynamic. 

Plaisance has 25 hectares of vines spread across 44 parcels in the following appellations Anjou Blanc, Savennières, Chaume and Quart de Chaume. The bulk of the vines are in Chaume with 1.5 ha in Quarts de Chaume and three hectares in Savennières around the Moulin de Gué. There are 21 hectares of Chenin, 2.5 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon and the same area of Cabernet Franc planted as well as a small amount of Chardonnay. The average of the vines is 40 years old with some vines more than 120 years old. Picking is all by hand. 

Guy Rochais was one of the leaders of the move to make high quality dry white wine in both Chaume and Quarts de Chaume and to campaign for cru status for this dry wine. This move is partly driven by how difficult it is now to sell substantial volumes of sweet wine even from a potentially top quality appellation like Quarts de Chaume. Guy also considered that the terroir of both Chaume and Quarts de Chaume had the potential to make great dry Chenin. For several years Guy has been looking to sell up and retire. 

A duo of Savennières – 2018 and 2019

Vanessa is understandably excited by this new project, which was concluded literally hours before the 2019 harvest started. The documents were finally signed at the notaire (lawyer) at 10pm on 12th September and picking Chardonnay started the following morning at 9am! Furthermore, Vanessa was expecting a baby at any moment.

There will be a continued emphasis on dry Anjou Blanc from the Chaume vineyards. I tasted the 2019 from the Butte de Chaume, which was harvested on 18th September. "Our aim is to make a very precise and clean dry wine using no botytised grapes, so picking earlier than was Guy's practice," Vanessa explained. 

In 2019 Plaisance's vines in Savennières were frosted both in April and early May and recorded an 80% loss of crop. I tasted the 2019 Savennières, which while unfinished is attractively vibrant and with potential. It is clearly a step up from the 2018 Savennières, which is pleasant enough but not special. Clearly by 2018 Guy wanted out and Vanessa explained that most of the domaine's 2018 was sold off to négociants.  

It is good to see another new project in Chaume and Quarts de Chaume joining the recently established Domaine Belargus.       


Vanessa pouring Plaisance's Quarts de Chaume