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, 31 March 2009

Oddbins tasting

Back in the UK for a couple of days, so over to the White Horse in Parsons Green, West London for the Oddbins Spring tasting. It would be good to be able to say that the tasting was full of exciting new finds and that Oddbins on is its way back. Sadly this was not the case. I found that the whites and rosés were better than the reds, which overall lacked fruit and charm. Many of the wines shown were from France and I appreciate, as Richard Verney explained to me, that a new management trying to source a new range in France, particularly in the Loire after its small harvest, is far from easy. I suspect that Richard is right that as we go further into 2009 then growers will find that they have more stock available as sales tumble because of the economic crisis and the sharp fall in the value of sterling against the euro.

However, Oddbins really need to do better than have a range of OK to disappointing wines, otherwise you might as well buy your wines along with groceries in the supermarket.

The Loire range is still in the process of being sourced. Most of the Loire wines I tasted came from Henri Bourgeois but under their Etienne de Loury label. The first the pungent and steely 2008 Petit Duc Sauvignon Blanc (£9.99) VDP du Val de Loire followed by 2008 austere and mineral Sancerre. The first is the same as the Petit Bourgeois and the 2008 Sancerre is Les Vignes Blanches (£14.99) from the caillottes. I also tasted the austere and lemony 2008 Pouilly-Fumé (£14.99) from Domaine Jonathan Pabiot.

Next a couple of Bourgeois rosés – the quite lean 2008 Petit Duc Rosé VDP du Val de Loire (£9.99) made from Pinot Noir. Then the impressive 2008 Sancerre Rosé Etienne de Loury (£17.99) – quite austere but with very attractive and long. Unfortunately at £17.99 it is hors de prix – small independent merchant Paul Adams has this for £12.24 a bottle.

Before the reds I tried the well-made, attractive and strawberry influenced Langlois-Chateau Rosé (£12.99) made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Also 100% Cabernet Franc was the 2007 Petit Duc Cabernet Franc VDP Etienne de Loury (£9.99). This had 11 days maceration and I think two or three days or so longer than it should have been as the finish is vegetal and green. 2007 Les Ramières VDP from Eric Chauvin, Domaine de la Souverain, Vendée (£7.99) was the last Loire red I tasted. Tannic, lacking fruit and with a dry, bitter finish the grapes were subjected to 18 days of maceration. Surely given the light style of the fruit in 2007 this length of maceration is insane – borne out by this charmless wine – or unless one happened to have particularly well structured fruit and ripe tannins, which was certainly rare in 2007.

Eric Thorman: changes employer

The ever industrious Eric Thorman appears to have changed his employer. Only last week Eric was working with Thorman Hunt, now he is claiming in this email (see below) forwarded to me by a Loire producer to work for Richards Walford. This is, of course, nonsense. Loire expert Richard Kelley MW looks after the region for Richards Walford, who work through personal contact often over many years. Eric Thorman has nothing to do Richards Walford. Equally he has nothing to do with Thorman Hunt.

From: eric thorman []
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2008 6:30 PM

(NB email not sent to individual addresses but a general email sent to possibily hundreds of producers.)

Je suis à la recherche d'un fournisseur afin d'approvisionner mon stock. nous voulions savoir si vous faites de la vente a l'export ,si possible veuillez nous repondre afin que nous passions a une eventuelle commande nous livrons au complexe hotetlier ,et restaurant, casino, bar nous avons un numeros d'acisse et tva l'enlevement par notre transporteur

Merci de m\'indiquer votre mode de reglement car nos reglement sont a 30 jours fin par virement bancaire, nous somme dans l'attente des tarifs depard cave

Dans l'espoir d'une réponse favorable nous vous remercions et à très bientot.

Best Regards
Eric Thorman

TEL 0044 7770696523
(As usual both are mobile numbers)

Richards Walford & Company Ltd
Registered Office (SIEGE SOCIAL):
41 Cornmarket Street, Oxford OX1 3HA
Incorporated in England No. 1631757

Any producers contacted by Eric Thorman or similar scamsters are advised to forward the emails to Paul Cheadle of the Met Police on

More information on these scams here and here.

Rosé blends: playing politics!

The discussions and political posturing over whether the EU will allow the blending of red and white wine make rosé continues and get more tedious and silly by the day.

Here is a piece written by follow journalist Hervé Lalau expressing similar exasperation over the French position on this issue:

'It is so very strange to hear French Minister of Agriculture Barnier phasing such negative comments about rosé blends (red + white) - the 'infamous' proposal made by the European Commission, in the framework of its new viticultural practices project. Nothing in this proposal seems to suit the French Minister, who sees it as an attack on authentic wines. So he wants to ban blended rosés in France, at least.

Apparently, though, Mr Barnier does not know the subtleties of this case - or so he pretends. The Brussels proposal only concerns non-appellation wines, so nothing prevents Côtes de Provence, Anjou, Tavel or other AOCs from banning coupage, or blending red and white wine, if that is what they wish (the main problem for them being to ensure that their winegrowers abide by the official rules - which is not even always the case today, as I am told).

And as concerns non appellation wines, a ban is ridiculous: blending would just mean that European vin de table (mostly brands) could at last compete with SA or Chilean rosés at the lowest price segment on export markets. One is not speaking here about heritage wines, or even terroir wines, so authenticity is not relevant. Price is.

And please, Mr Barnier, let us taste and judge by ourselves if all Côtes de Provence are really better that blended rosés.

Another surprising mistake by the Minister: doesn't he know that Champagne rosés have been using white-red blending for years? So are they artificial? Not authentic? Does he intend to ban them also?

Bah, this is only a political stand. Mr. Barnier is about to resign so that he can lead the UMP list for the European elections and he may wish to leave the impression that he has done something for the winegrowers - curiously enough, he was nowhere to be heard in the recent debate about wine & cancer. What a pity!

By the way, the French representative at Brussels did vote in favour of the Brussels proposal, which means that there was an agreement amongst French winegrowers at the time - negotiations did take place at the French national level, and the ministry surely knew it. A communiqué by the AGEV (French wine producers' association) confirms it.

This is a-only a smokescreen. But it won't improve France's credibilty in Europe.'

Hervé's original version in French can be found here.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Encore du gel/ another frosty night

Frosted ground around 8am this morning: Epeigné-les-Bois

Another night of frost with the ground again white in places this morning. Will have to wait and see what the damage is. I'd hoped we might avoid a frosty night as it was cloudy at 5.30pm. Unfortunately the skies cleared during the evening, so another starry night with a slither of new moon and falling temperatures ...........

Meteo France is showing above freezing temperatures for the rest of the week.


More added to report on visit to Baudry-Dutour here, although there is more to come.


La Cave des Terroirs, Amboise
Today's NR reports that a new caviste has opened in the centre of Amboise – La cave des Terroirs. Owned by Christophe Galland and with Mathilde, a sommelier giving advice. The new shop stocks wines (especially La Loire and particulalry Touraine-Amboise), spirits and lemonade.

La Cave des Terroirs, 54, rue Nationale 37400 Amboise, tel.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Carnaval à Bléré

Carnival in full swing in the centre of Bléré

Ready to fire the cannon

Today was the biannual carnival for the Canton of Bléré and for this edition the circus was the theme. Starting at around 3pm the parade made its nosiy and spectacular way from la gare at La Croix en Touraine across the River Cher, through Bléré and to the Gatiné just to the east of the centre of the town.

A giraffe on a Bléré road

Photo call before the start

Having a ball before the start

Getting ready

Quartet of giraffes heading towards the start

Smoke signalling the start of the parade

Oi you! Get out of the way!
East bound train passes

Confetti for sale

Buying confetti

Heading over the Cher

Crowd waiting for parade to enter Bléré's main street

Brownies for sale

White rabbit salutes Michel Mergot, maire of Epeigné-les-Bois

Civray's float
On the ball.....

On fire........

@la Gâtine

Epeigné stand@La Gatine

Michel Mergot inspects the Epeigné stand

Filming the spectacle

Round up of local news mainly in eastern Touraine

New cycle taxi service (le cylotaxi) is to be launched in Tours on 31st March. The cycles, which will take two adults and a child of less than 6, have an electric motor and the fare will be 1.50€ a kilometre. Details in the NR.


New shops and restaurant@Saint-Georges-sur-Cher
The constructions of the new parade of shops in the square behind the church is now finished. The bakers has already moved in and today Le Delice des Mets, a new restaurant, will open. Menus at 11.50€ (weekday lunch), 21€, 27€, 32€ and a kids menu@8€. I understand it is run by someone who used to be a caterer with Super U. Lunch today is already fully booked.

Bookings on

Saint Georges' long established butcher, Philippe Goulet, is moving into new premises on the square and will open on Wednesday 1st April – special offer on Les Poissons d'Avril perhaps? The old shop is now closed.


Francueil: new roundabout on D976
Very good to see that there is now a new roundabout on the D976 (old N176) at the junction with the road (D80) from Francueil to Chisseaux. This used to be a very dangerous junction because of poor visibility and the speed of traffic on the D976.


Le Château de la Celle-Guenard changes hands
Two English guys have bought this château in Touraine Sud. La Renaissance Lochoise (25.3-31.3) reports that it changed hands on 12th December 2008. The new proprietors, Steve Palluel and Mickael Carrington, plan to open gités and chambres d'hôtes here as well as holding music festivals etc. They plan to open in May.

Le Gel! Frost! Squeaky bum time!

29th March: frost@8.30am

Overnight frost! At 8.30 am the ground was still white in places. Not sure how severe the frost was but we have bright sunshine this morning always the lethal combination as ice around the delicate buds acts as a magnifying glass and burns them. At midnight last night the temperature had dropped to 3˚ and the sky was clear with a stunning array of stars. Apparently overnight the temperature went as low as minus 3˚.

29th March: frost@8.30am

Hopefully the vines in this part of Touraine will be OK as the buds haven't started but other fruit trees are now in blossom so they may be affected. Further west the vines are more advanced, so if they had frost too there could be some damage. Muscadet, in particular cannot afford another frost this year following last year's devastating one.

Unfortunately frost is forecast again for tonight. As Sir Alex Ferguson has famously said: "It's squeaky bum time!"

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Baudry–Dutour: Chinon’s largest producer

My Cabernet Franc gently weeps.....

26th March 2009
We stopped briefly at the entrance of Baudry-Dutour in Panzoult to have a look at the vines. It is always interesting to see what a difference going 70 kilometres west in the Loire Valley makes at this time of year. Here in eastern Touraine there seems virtually no sign of life in the vines, while in Chinon the buds are beginning to swell and some of the vines are ‘crying’ – the sap rising. An absolutely clear demonstration of why eastern Touraine is at the eastern limit of being able to successfully grow Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc.

Baudry-Dutour winery@Panzoult

Some of my wine writing friends claim that the Loire is complicated – so many appellations! Actually there are around 70 about the same number as in the Côte d’Or, although there you only have two main grape varieties. If you start the Loire appellations the region may seem complicated. However, the key to understanding the Loire is through the change in climate from west to east and how that affects what varieties you can successfully plant. So climate and grape varieties are the key to the Loire. But that will have to be the subject of a future posting, as I must get back to my visit with Christophe Baudry to Baudry-Dutour’s recent acquisitions.

First a little history. The Baudry family has owned the Domaine de la Perrière in Cravant-les-Coteaux since 1398. Christophe is latest generation of the Baudrys to run the estate. His father Jean, the elder brother of Bernard Baudry, has now retired and with his wife looks after their chambres d’hôtes business. In 2003 Christophe Baudry joined with Domaine de la Roncée in Panzoult run by Jean-Martin Dutour. – hence Baudry-Dutour. The industrialist Bernard Tardi bought Domaine de la Roncée in 1992 from the Donnabella family. Tardi had made his fortune with a petrol distribution business, which he sold in 1979.

Not being in the wine producing business Tardi looked around for someone to run Domaine de la Roncée. Initially he chose Paul Filliatreau (Saumur-Champigny) to oversee operations. However this was not a success and the arrangement only lasted a few months. For a brief period after that one of the Donnabellas helped out until in September 1993 Tardi hired the young Jean-Martin Dutour, who had only recently completed his studies into agronomy and oenology at Montpellier. Jean-Martin is originally from around Bar-le-Duc. Appointing the young and then inexperienced Jean-Martin must have been a considerable gamble on Tardi’s part. However it is clearly a gamble that has paid off.

Although Christophe is a good winemaker he is stronger at the commercial side than Jean-Martin, whose strength is in winemaking rather than the commercial aspects. Thus it made sense to combine forces. Since then Baudry-Dutour has made several new acquisitions: the vineyard of Château Saint-Louans, the Clos des Capucins and most recently Château de la Grille. This brings them up to 120 hectares.

Château de la Grille

Close up of Château de la Grille

Our first visit was to Château de la Grille, which is just to the north of Chinon. On the way from Panzoult to la Grille, Christophe explained that since last year’s elections he was now Maire of Cravant-les-Coteaux. Apparently the Maire of Cravant is always a vigneron and it was Christophe’s turn. Initially he was reluctant but a delegation persuaded him to stand, so I was spending the morning with un grand fromage (big cheese)!

Topiary in the grounds of Château de la Grille – may explain why La Grille has always had a rather poncy bottle

I have never been impressed with Château de la Grille’s Chinon finding lacking fruit and with dry tannins in the finish, so this was my first visit to the property. There are 26 hectares of vines. 13 hectares around the château on quite flat ground (argile-calcaire) and another 13 hectares nearby on a small dome by the main road that skirts `Chinon. The estate is entirely planted with Cabernet Franc. I fancy that the domed part is the better terroir.

The flatter vineyard close to the château

Several reasons for La Grille’s poor showing soon became apparent. Only one cuvée is made and some of the barriques used to age the wine are 10-12 years old. Christophe explained that the old barrels will go and that in future La Grill will be aged in barriques of 1-3 wines. Only the better wine will go into La Grille. That considered not to be good enough will be sold under another label or sold to the négoce. The vineyard will be grassed over with the height of the vines raised to produce more leaves and so more photosynthesis.

La Grille’s wines are made by Jean-Max Manceau, who has worked here for 28 years and who also has his own Chinon domaine – Domaine de Noire. He is also president of the Chinon producers' syndicat. Jean-Max will continue to look after the winemaking here.

Obama often seeks the Maire's advice!

We had a short vertical of La Grille starting with the 2006 bottled in September 2008w and which had soft, ripe fruit but with slightly dry tannins in the finish. The 2004 had some attractive fruit with some weight but again with the characteristic drying finish. The 2005 showed well with a good concentration of black fruits sufficient to round out the tannins. We finished with a 2003 that had matured in new barrels for 30 months and, although quite toasty, it had rich concentrated fruit without the drying tannins. This rather confirms that the use of old barriques has done the La Grille wines little favours.

With Christophe and Jean-Max I briefly discussed the on-going Couly-Dutheil conflict and we agreed that leaving aside the distress this battle was causing the Couly family it was also bad for the Chinon appellation as they needed to have several strong, large producers.

Christophe Baudry in the vines@Château Saint-Louans

Domed vineyard of Château Saint-Louans looking towards outskirts of Chinon

Then Christophe and I headed off to the vineyard of Château Saint-Louans. Saint-Louans is now a suburb of Chinon – just to the west of the town, overlooking the Vienne. Christophe described this 6-hectare plot as Chinon’s best terroir. Jean-Martin Dutour later qualified this – saying that in average to difficult years this was the best. However in very good to great years, there are other sites in Chinon that perform better. It is clay and limestone here and Cabernet Franc vines are between 25 and 35 years old. 2007 was the first vintage here for Baudry-Dutour. Apparently there was considerable competition to buy this vineyard with other candidates including Bernard Baudry and Domaine Charles Joguet.

The small clos of Chenin Blanc

The lower part of the Clos overlooks La Vienne

Just overlooking the Vienne is a small parcel – Haut-Bois is the lieu-dit, although it is not used on the label – of Chenin Blanc, which is also part of Château Saint-Louans. I checked with Christophe how many hectares of Chenin are now planted in the appellation. “There are 36/37 hectares planted and a stop has been put on further planting. Chenin on works on the coteaux (argile-calcaire) and people were wanting to be able to plant it on the gravels of the valley, which would not have been suitable.”

Clos des Capucins – looking east towards Chinon old town and château

Clos des Capucins + house

Replacing the wiring etc.

From there Christophe and I moved onto the Clos des Capucins – a little west of the Château de Chinon and overlooking the Clos des Hospices, which was replanted last year by Rodolphe Raffault. The three hectare Clos des Capucins, which has a magnificent position close to the Vienne and the Château, has 1.70 ha of vines that are now being renewed by Baudry-Dutour. Christophe told me that the vineyard used to looked after by Jean-Maurice Raffault, a well known producer of Chinon in Savigny-en-Véron. However, when the previous owner came to sell Raffault did not want to buy the Clos. Instead Rodolphe Raffault is now looking after the recently replanted Clos de l’Hospice, which is adjacent to and overlooked by the Clos des Capucins.

Old vine@Le Clos des Capucins

Recently replanted Clos de l'Hospice

View across Vienne towards Clos des Capucins and the Clos de l'Hospices

The work on the vines of the Clos des Capucins is almost entirely done by hand and the Clos vineyard will be farmed organically. “We will also be renovating the house and offering chambres d’hôtes as well as a place to taste and eat – like a wine bar – and be able to buy wine."

Le Moulin Girault

From the Clos des Capucins we headed back to Domaine de la Roncée to taste the recent vintages but made a quick diversion to visit Le Moulin Girault, a property owned by Christophe, which he rents out as a couple of gités. The Moulin is by a small two-hectare lake hidden away in a small valley just to the north of Panzoult – clearly a quiet, fishing paradise.

Le Moulin Girault with caves in the hillside behind

Back at La Roncée we started with the promising range of 2008 reds – notable for their purity of black fruits but none yet in bottle. I particularly liked the Domaine de la Roncée and the Clos des Maronniers. The first vintage of the Clos des Capucins is very deep coloured with exuberant black fruits. It spent two months on its skins in an open topped vat, while Château Saint-Louans has long flavours of black cherries and violets.

The pear and floral Cuvée Marie-Justine Chinon Rosé is a contrast to the more structured rosé from Château de la Grille. Drink the Marie-Justine as an aperitif and La Grille with food.

We finished the tasting with three Chinon Blancs. First the citric 2008 Cuvée Chenin, their classic white Chinon that will be bottled in April. Then the concentrated 2008 Saint-Louans, fermented in barrique and due to spend a year in barrel. Currently showing some showing toasty oak but also minerality and good length – can’t be properly judged until it’s in bottle. The 2007 Saint-Louans is less concentrated, has a hint of toast but has the finesse and purity that is typical of Loire 2007 whites.

The tasting brought us to lunchtime. Christophe headed off to the Mayor's office at Cravant for a hastily grabbed sandwich amidst dealing with the affairs of state, while we headed off with Jean-Martin to the excellent Val de Vienne in Sazilly.