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2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 29 September 2008

Glorious harvest weather in Cher Valley

Domaine des Maisons Brulées, Pouillé: horse used to carry cases of grapes

The weather over the past two days has been sensational. Cool overnight, sun and blue skies during the day with just the odd fluffy cloud from time to time. Caught up this morning with the vintage at several domaines.

Happy pickers: Laurent from Brooklyn and Catherine Roussel
(photo: CRM)

Clos Roche Blanche
Busy picking Gamay at La Tesnière by hand with a group of experienced pickers, who include some over 70 years old as well as Laurent, a former restaurateur from Brooklyn, New York. “The Gamay is coming in a 12˚ potential,” said Didier Barouillet, co-owner and winemaker. “Overall the level of acidity is a degree higher than last year. The Cabernet is at 13.2% potential alcohol but the acidity is still too high at 7.5. There is a lot of tartaric acid this year because temperatures during the growing period have been lower than the average for the last 30 years. The Côt is at 12.3% with a similar level of acidity. We’ll pick those next week – possibly the Cabernet before the Côt, which is most unusual – normally we always pick the Côt first."

Clos Roche Blanche: Gamay
Clos Roche Blanche: La Pause vers 11 heures

Clos Roche Blanche: La Pause vers 11 heures
(photo: CRM)
Clos Roche Blanche: La Pause vers 11 heures
(photo: CRM)

Domaine Joël Delaunay: Thierry Delaunay
The Delaunays are also in La Tesnière, a small hamlet of vignerons in the eastern part of the commune of Pouillé. Thierry has now taken over from his father, Joël, who bottled the domaine’s first wines in 1971. Thierry is the fifth generation of the family to look after the vines here. Despite recovering from a painful hernia, Thierry was cheerful about the harvest. “We started on Monday 15th. The Sauvignon Blanc is finished. It has been coming in at around 13% potential. The yields are down from normal at between 40-45 hl/ha. Overall in the region yields are down by 20 hl/ha. We are starting the Gamay this afternoon and I expect that we’ll start picking the Côt later this week. When I checked last Saturday The Côt was 12.1% and 5.6 in acidity but I hope the potential will have reached 13% by the time we pick.”

Cleaning cageots

Thierry will be taking part in the new Interloire Côt project, which involves Sam Harrop MW, who acts as the external consultant. This new project is an extension of the initial Cabernet Franc project, which was designed to make Loire Cabernets more appealing to the UK palate. There is another project getting underway on Loire Sauvignon (both AC and vdp from the Loire -Atlantique to Loir-et-Cher). Sam is also involved in this.

Thierry Delaunay tasting his Touraine Sauvignon 2008
just before the start of its fermentation

Before leaving there was time to taste juice from a couple of vats of Touraine Sauvignon 2008 – one that had had 12 hours of skin contact and the other that had been pressed immediately. The skin contact had more body, while the other was more aromatic. Later they will be blended together.

Michel and Beatrice Augé: Domaine les Maison Brulées
When we arrive Michel is busy in the chai unloading a stack of cageots (picking crates) full of plump, clean Gamay grapes. “We started picking on Thursday 18th. Much of the Sauvignon is now picked. It varies between 14% to over 15% potential with 7 grams acidity.” We tasted the Sauvignon juice, which was deliciously rich with very good balance of fruit and acidity.

Domaine des Maison Brulées: Gamay

The estate is run biodynamically. Michel and Beatrice use a horse in the vineyard to transport the crates of grapes. Michel expects to pick the Cabernet and Côt next week.

“What news?” Michel asks me. I tell him about the tiny harvest in Muscadet. “20 hl/ha! That’s what I make every year,” he smiles.

Vincent Ricard: Domaine Ricard
When I arrived Vincent was busy filling up a cubitainer of Sauvignon Blanc Bernache (local Loire name for partially fermenting grape juice) for a couple of guys from a bar. Bernache is a popular drink at harvest time and is often served with roasted chestnuts. Bernache has to be kept cool otherwise it will continue its fermentation and either blow out the cork or the bottle or container will explode.

Like the other vignerons Vincent is very happy with the way 2008 is turning out. “We started on Thursday 19 September and have picked the Sauvignon for Le Petiot, Les Trois Chênes and some of '?' (point d’interrogation). Le Petiot came in between 12.2%-12.6%, while the richest so far for '?' has been 13.8%. The yield for the Sauvignon has been 45 hl/ha so far. We’ll be picking Gamay this afternoon and Côt at the end of the week.”

Vincent is one of the bright young stars of eastern Touraine. After a number of stages including a year (1996-97) with Philippe Alliet, he started at the family estate on 1 March 1998. The domaine at Thesée has 17 hectares with nearly 13 of Sauvignon Blanc and a small amount of Cabernet Franc, Côt and Gamay. “Two thirds is white and one third red,” explains Vincent. “The soils on the north side of the Cher with their thin limestone soils are very suitable for whites. Whereas on the south side of the Cher there’s a higher proportion of clay, so reds do well there.” 60% of the whites are picked by hand, while for the reds this increases to 70%.

Happily Vincent’s wines are now available again in the UK. Previously the excellent Le Petiot was imported by Berry Bros & Rudd, who foolishly in my opinion dropped him. It can now be enjoyed at St John Restaurant in London.

Vincent Ricard

Clos Roche Blanche, 19 Route de Montrichard, 41110 Mareuil-sur-Cher.

Domaine Joël Delaunay, 48 Rue de la Tesnière, 41110 Pouillé

Domaine des Maisons Brulées, 5 Impasse de la Vallée du Loing
41110 Pouillé

Domaine Ricard, 50 Rue Nationale, Thesée la Romaine


Jan-Tore Egge said...

I may be a bit slow, but did 14 to over 15% concern Sauvignon (not Gamay)? Sounds an awful lot, even with 7 grams of acidity. Do they make dry wine from it?

Thanks for the fascinating reports, by the way. Keep them coming!

Jim's Loire said...

Jan-Tore: Many thanks for your message.

My guess is that Didier Barouillet would have preferred their Sauvignon to have been lower in alcohol. Michel Auge makes very individual wines and I think is not concerned by the level of alcohol.