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

Monday 30 November 2009

Randall Grahm: Been Doon So Long

Another review copy, this time Randall Grahm's Been Doon So Long (a Randall Grahm Vinthology), which arrived last week. A hardback published by University of California Press £24.95/ $34.95 running to 318 pages. I have just started reading this – have enjoyed the introduction and will report in more detail soon. Confident that this will be an interesting and provocative read. Look beyond the puns and zaniness and like the King's jester or fool of old Randall is an acute critic of the wine scene.

This is another forceful reminder of the dearth of significant and exciting wine titles being published by UK companies at the moment. There was a time when UK publishers led the Anglophone world with innovative wine books. Sadly no longer as most now prefer to restrict to a handful of well established names and largely new editions of well regarded classics.

If you want something new you have to look to the US and often to University of California Press. In addition to Mr Grahm's new opus, recent titles have included Paul Strang's completely revised work on South-West France - the wines and winemakers, Nicolas Belfrage's Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy and Michael Edwards' The Finest Wines of Champagne.

UK wise there is one ray of light – a new book on Burgundy by J'espère Maurice (trans Jasper Morris) is due to be published by Berry Bros & Rudd next autumn. Should be well worth the wait.

A disappointing Pouilly-Fumé

2006 Les Griottes, Pouilly-Fumé, Jean-Pierre Bailly

Sadly this 2006 from Jean-Pierre Bailly (Tracy-sur-Loire) is a textbook Pouilly-Fumé disappointment. It is not that the wine is badly made rather just bland and lacking in character and concentration. Suspect this would be better if the yields were reduced. Jean-Pierre Bailly has 15 hectares in Tracy-sur-Loire.

September 2008 Thierry Delaunay with 2008 Sauvignon Blanc juice

The sample was from Majestic Wine, who now list the Les Griottes' 2008 from Jean-Pierre Bailly for £11.99 (buy 2 bottles save £4 – £9.99 each). The 2008 may be better. However Majestic also list 2007/2008 Sauvignon de Touraine from Thierry Delaunay £6.99 (buy 2 bottles save £2 – £5.99 each). Although I haven't tasted the 2008 from Thierry Delaunay since the Salon des Vins de Loire in early February this year, I'm sure it will still have more character than the 2006 Pouilly-Fumé from Jean-Pierre Bailly for a little over half the price.

Sunday 29 November 2009

A Majestic Jasnières 2008

It was with a mixture of delight and of mild dismay that I tasted this excellent 2008 Jasnières from Francine and Raynald Lelais (Domaine des Gauletteries). It has lovely, crisp citric fruit with a touch of honey and a little bit of sweetness to balance the razor precise acidity. This is a brilliant young Jasnières – great to drink now but should age beautifully with the honeyed notes probably becoming more present. I think this is the Lelais' Cuvée Tradition – in addition they made two superior cuvées in 2008: Cuvée Saint-Vincent and Cuvée d'Exception.

So why the slight despair? Well because I don't know this producer and have never tasted their wines before. With 16.8 ha of vines (14.5 Jasnières, 2.3 Coteuax du Loir) it is not as though they are a small producer in these parts as they have just over 23% of the entire area of Jasnières in production. Although I guess I have some slight excuse as they don't appear to exhibit at the Salon des Vins de Loire. Every time I feel I am beginning to get a handle on the Loire I discover that there a significant producer I know nothing about. The despair is only slight as it would be terrible to get to position where one could declare that one had discovered everything there is to know about Loire wines.

I have to say I admire Jacqueline Friedrich and Richard Kelley for taking on the challenge of trying to cover the whole of the Loire in virtually one stretch – Jacqueline with her new book/ completely revised edition of A Wine & Food Guide to the Loire and Richard's Definite Guide website. Trying to cover the whole of the Loire within a time span that means all the sections are reasonably up to date is like being asked to paint the Forth Rail Bridge with an interdental brush!

This 2008 Jasnières is available from Majestic Wine for £8.99.

Quarts de Chaume and Chaume: peace in our time?

Golden Chenin in the Layon awaiting the development of botrytis in 2005

As previously reported on Jim's Loire in June it appears that the long running conflict between Quarts de Chaume and Chaume may be at an end. The regional INAO committee has approved a demand for Quarts de Chaume to be designated Grand Cru and Chaume as a Premier Cru. The proposal will now go before the Comité National de INAO and it is thought likely that this will now be accepted.

See report below from le journal du vin

'Deux appellations d'Anjou visent le cru
Après des années de conflits (réglés par deux fois par le Conseil d’Etat), Quarts de Chaume et Chaume, deux appellations de vins blancs liquoreux d’Anjou ont décidé de faire cause commune en demandant conjointement à l’Inao la mention “grand cru”, pour la première, et “1er cru”, pour la seconde. Le Comité régional de l’Inao a validé la demande. Le dossier doit désormais être traité par une Commission nationale d’enquête, avant un vote devant le Comité national de l’Inao. 26/11/2009 © JDV - 2009 - PT'

1st September 2009: Claude and Joëlle Papin collect their Decanter regional award (DWWA) for their 2007 Quarts de Chaume

See also video starring Claude Papin, president Quarts de Chaume syndicat, talking about Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru and the hopes that having grand cru status will raise its profile.

All may be sweetness and light until the other two crus of Anjou – Bonnezeaux and Savennières – want to know why Quarts de Chaume is being given special treatment. However, I understand that Savennières is now working on a similar demand to be raised to grand cru status.

Other links to posts from the battlefront on Jim's Loire – here and here.

Saturday 28 November 2009

2006 Terroir Silex, Jacky Preys

Intriguing wine from Jacky Preys. Apart from a very early tank sample of the 2009 Silex I don't remember tasting this cuvée from Jacky before – not really a surprise as my tastings of the Preys wines have been irregular over the years. The 2006 Silex was less mineral than I expected, more aromas and flavours of fennel – quite rich as befits the year. I should taste the 2007 and 2008, which I fancy will be more austere and mineral. Certainly an enjoyable glass of wine but not obviously Touraine Sauvignon.


Alex Mathur, Montlouis
Sadly this promising domaine went bankrupt in May and has ceased production. This is confirmation of a rumour I heard some months ago. Prior to being Alex Mathur this domaine was called Levasseur.

Bruno Curassier: Domaine de la Grange, Bléré: open

Bruno Curassier of Domaine de la Grange in Bléré has a Cave Ouverte this coming weekend – Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th December. Bruno produces a range of good value AC Touraine wines. See report on my visit to Domaine de la Grange in December 2008.

Bruno Curassier, Domaine de la Grange
8 Rue de la Grange, 37150 Bléré

A couple of 2009 Chenins from Kleine Zalze

Having recently received these 2009 Chenins - Zalze and Kleine Zalze from the eponymous winery I decided to try them out last night as our globetrotting neighbour was popping up for a aperitif and something to eat.

2009 Chenin Blanc Zalze

We started on the screwcappped Zalze with its fresh passion fruit and pineapple flavours, pleasantly crisp in spite of its 14% alcohol. After a few sips the acidity becomes rather discordant – the fruit and the acidity don't quite marry. 60% of the grapes come from bush vines and are picked ripe with a little botrytis present with the rest of the fruit picked earlier to give freshness and acidity. Perhaps the wine needs a little more time in bottle for the two fruit styles to blend together. Equally I don't know whether the acidity was adjusted. I'll have to check but it's possible, although the purpose of picking a part of the fruit before it was fully ripe would have been to obviate the need to adjust the acidity. However, the Zalze did work well with a garlicky hummus. All in all reasonable, if not sensational, value at £5.99.

We paired the 2009 Chenin Blanc, Vineyard Selection, Kleine Zlaze with a seafood and wild mushroom risotto – a decidedly successful match. The Chenin comes from bush vines in the Helderberg region with fermentation starting in stainless steel tanks before being put into barrel – 30% new, 70% second-fill. On third goes through malo and the wine stays in barrel for three months. As one would expect and hope the Vineyard Selection has more concentration, complexity than the Zalze and much more harmonious blend of fruit and acidity. There is attractive tropical fruit and a touch of nicely judged oak.

Difficult to compare values as the Kleine Zalze is aimed at the on-trade and its price on a restaurant list is estimated at £35. Given customary restaurant mark-ups this suggests that the Kleine Zalze would probably retail around £9.99-£10.99.

2009 Chenin Blanc, Zalze, Western Cape. £5.99 Waitrose
2009 Chenin Blanc, Vineyard Selection, Kleine Zalze, £35 approx. on a restaurant list

Friday 27 November 2009

A visit to Clos Henri, Marlborough: 27th November 2007

Postbox@the entrance to Clos Henri

In November 2007 there was a Circle of Wine Writers trip to New Zealand. Over two weeks we had a full and very interesting programme visiting producers from Auckland to Otago. Unfortunately it was impossible to include a visit to Clos Henri, the Henri Bourgeois property in Marlborough, into the Circle itinerary. However, I stayed on with CRM for the best part of another two weeks so we were able to visit Clos Henri after the rest of the Circle party had left New Zealand. This is the account of our visit.)
26th November: We took the Trans-Alpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth. This is rightly billed as one of the great train journeys of the world. Christchurch station is well out of the centre and there do not appear to be any signs for it until you are almost there. The first part of the ride is across the flat Canterbury Plains. Then the train starts to climb up through the Alps with magnificent scenery on both sides of the train. The best place to take photos is out on the open viewing platform if you can stand the cold.
After hiring a car in Greymouth we headed north and stayed overnight in Murchison in a fairly basic motel.

27th November: This started out a beautiful sunny day with an intensely blue cloudless sky. Another magnificent drive along almost deserted roads with a brief stop at St Arnaud to see Lake Nelson. Then we headed towards Marlborough to visit Clos Henri. Around 10-15 kilometres west of Wairau Valley we passed a substantial area of vines in the process of being planted.

On the road from Wairau Valley to Renwick, in New Zealand’s Marlborough region, 639 The Highway is Clos Henri. This is the New Zealand outpost of leading Sancerre producer Henri Bourgeois and, for the moment, is one of the most westerly wine estates in the Wairau Valley.
Tasting room@Clos Henri

In 2001 the Bourgeois family bought 90 hectares here – a combination of mixed gravel and clay on the flat and clay and loess hillside. Currently they have planted 34 hectares – mainly equal amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir although there is a little Sauvignon Gris planted. Eventually the plan is to plant 65 hectares probably in the same proportion as in Sancerre – around 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Pinot Noir.

Unusually the viticulturalist is Japanese – Takaki Okada. He has been at Clos Henri since the start but took over responsibility for the vineyards two years ago. Damien Yvon, the winemaker, comes from Chinon and has an impressive CV having worked for Mouiex in Bordeaux plus Dominus in Napa as well as Campo di Sasso in Tuscany. Nelly France, from Lorient in Brittany and the sales and marketing manager, completes the on-site management team.

Every two months someone from the Bourgeois family is out to see how things are going. Lionel Bourgeois comes out to check on the viticulture, Christophe (or Jean-Christophe to give him his full first name) overlooks the winemaking, Arnaud the sales and marketing, with the patriarch – Jean-Marie – oversees everything.

Takaki and Damien explained that the approach here is between New Zealand and France. The planting density is considerably higher than the average in Marlborough – 5050 plants per hectare for the Pinot Noir and 4400 for Sauvignon Blanc, almost double the normal planting density in Marlborough though well short of the 8000 vines per hectare the Bourgeois have in Sancerre. Yields also tend to be lower than Marlborough average – 5 to 6 tonnes per hectare for the Pinot Noir and 8 to 10 for the Sauvignon Blanc. The customary average for Sauvignon Blanc is more like 10 to 12 tonnes per hectare.

As elsewhere, frost in the flat vineyards has become a concern. “Last year we used a helicopter but we have stopped using them as they are too expensive,” explained Takaki. “Because we are new here there were no helicopters at Blenheim available to us so we had to get one from Christchurch with a cost of $NZ4500 (£1,677.08) here and back. Then you have to pay on top for the time it circulates over the vines. We will be putting windmills everywhere. One of these cost $NZ45,000 (£16,770.80), so they soon work out cheaper than using helicopters.”

They also tend to pick later. “We want to avoid the green, vegetal flavours that we don’t like,” explained Damien. “40% of the Sauvignon Blanc is picked by hand and all the Pinot is. For the Sauvignon Blanc we use minimal skin contact and tend to ferment at a higher temperature than most. The average here tends to be low – between 10˚ and 12˚. Instead we ferment at between 15˚ to 19˚ even up to 20˚ if necessary. We leave the wine on the lees and bottle late.” The Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was only bottled recently.

“Some producers here do their first bottling at the end of May,” said Damien, “and a lot of the Sauvignon Blanc here is bottled in June. Generally very little lees ageing is done here.”

The 2007 Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc has attractively round fruit with pineapple and tropical notes, while 2006 Pinot Noir is soft with ripe plummy fruit. The second wine of Clos Henri is called Bel Echo but is not available in the UK.
(Jumping ahead: tasting note on 2008 Pinot Noir, Clos Henri.)

The amazing Craglee Lodge on the Marlborough Sound at 6am
Following our visit to Clos Henri we headed for Picton to take a water taxi out to Craglee Lodge in the Bay of Many Coves on the Queen Charlotte Sound. Just as we pulled out of Picton harbour on our 40 minute ride out to the lodge we were briefly joined by a couple of dolphins.

2008 Pinot Noir, Clos Henri, Henri Bourgeois

Tasting room@Clos Henri

This nicely concentrated, quite opulent Pinot Noir comes from Henri Bourgeois' New Zealand vineyard in Marlborough. Although still relatively young it is drinking well now with plenty of brambly black fruits. It has some structure but the tannins are soft, so it is certainly ready to drink now. It might improve further, although there is a risk its youthful opulence fading a little.

2008 Pinot Noir, Clos Henri

Entrance to Clos Henri, Marlborough

Drinking this wine brings to mind our visit to Clos Henri at the end of November 2007. See report here.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Robert Parker's Great Value Wines – excellent value guide, too!

Subtitled 'seriously good wine at remarkably fair prices' this is undoubtedly a book for our recessionary times with a selection of over 3000 wines from around the world costing no more than £20 retail.

Once again the benefits of L'Equipe Parker are clear with David Schildknecht looking after the Loire. I suspect that a book like this would not have been possible under the old set-up.

Each region/country has an introductory overview that precedes the selected wines. David calls the Loire – the 'bargain garden of France':

'The valley of the Loire River is the bargain garden of France for more than half of its 700 miles*, slopes within 20 miles of the river's shores teem with vines, some indigenous, most introduced down the centuries from all over the rest of France. From few if any other places on earth can one still harvest such affordable but distinctively delicious wines; the stylistic range is so vast that it would bewilder if it did not bewitch us. The Loire's wines generally offer forthright, generous personalities and food compatibility, while frequently harbouring a depth that reflects their historical and geologically layered origins. Even top crus from this region's leaders – including those of global wine-growing champions – remain remarkably modest in price. And there is an abundance of young talent, both homegrown and drawn from afar to this beautiful region with its outstanding, still affordable vine acreage.'

Although David rather underestimates the length of time you can enjoy well-made Muscadet – 'for up to 3 years', he is spot on regarding Loire Sauvignon Blanc: 'even more than Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc takes wicked revenge if overcropped or underripenned, displaying a hard edge and agressive scents of green pepper, asparagus, grassclippings, boxwood, or cat pee'.

I also go along with David's selection of good quality – good value producers. Naturally if I was to draw up a similar list, there might well be a few subtractions and additions but that is always the case with a selection like this.

The tasting notes are not vintage specific but are tailored to give 'a short summary of the style and character of the wine that you are likely to find in a reasonably good vintage for that region'. Consequentially there are no scores for the wines – is this the first Parker book that doesn't score!

Great Value Wines is published in the UK by DK – 497 pages are yours for £12.99 or probably less on Amazon. With over 3000 recommended wines this guide represents excellent value, particularly bearing in mind that Matt Skinner's The Juice 2010 offers only 100 wine recommendations and then he didn't taste them all. See The Listener (New Zealand) and Decanter here.

Very happy to recommend – Robert Parker's Great Value Wines.

Review here on Jim's Loire of Robert Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide 7th edition.

* Slight exaggeration the length of the Loire is normally given as 600 miles.

Bordeaux Châteaux (Flammarion): revised version

I have recently received a review copy of Bordeaux Châteaux – a history of the Grands Crus Classés since 1855 (£22.50; $34.95; 24.95€). This was first published by Flammarion as a hardback in 2004 with editions in both French and English.

This new edition is in paperback. It claims to be a revised edition but I could find no evidence of this when I looked at properties that had changed hands since 2004. May-Eliane de Lenccquesaing is till presented as the owner of Pichon-Longueville and AXA as owning Château Cantenac-Brown. Both properties were sold in 2006 to Champagne Roederer and Simon Halabi respectively. I understand that the economics of publishing wine books don't allow a full rewrite when publishing a paperback edition of a book like this but someone buying the book would expect to find such obvious details have been updated.

Much of the text, especially the profiles, is a paean of praise. A small snippet from an introductory text by Jean-Paul Kauffmann gives a flavour:

'Since 1855, the owners of the châteaux have upheld their sacred duty, devoting their lives to the service of producing great wines whose glory will outlive them. Yet the honour comes with a heavy burden of responsibility. Lower the standards for a moment, and the system will be unforgiving.'

As there have been only two changes of the 1855 Classification since it was published, this is surely a view through rose-tinted spectacles, although doubtless elegant ones.

Photos by Christian Sarramon

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin: 28th November 2009

Tasting at Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin on this Saturday, 28th November, from 10am - 7pm. As well as the Luneau-Papin Muscadets and Gros Plant, there will be Saumur-Champignys from Bruno Dubois (Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg) and Saumurs from Guillaume Keller. In addition there will be some food specialists: chocolate-makers Karen & Vincent Guerlais 'agitateur de papilles' (taste-bud exciter), la fromagerie Lecoq (Nantes) and breads from Franck Dépérier (La Petite Boulangerie).

Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin
La Grange, 44430 Le Landreau. Tel:

A warning: a scam to watch

A warning from Rod Smith MW of Vins Sans Frontières, high end wine merchant on the Côte d'Azur:

This scamster may be only calling abroad, but we received an "order" last week for a mixed case of Pétrus and Romanée-Conti (AC, not just DRC wines). The chap phoned first, and spoke passable French (but accented), although he did seem to know his vintages.

It was all a bit suspect and too good to be true, but I told him what we had and he duly sent through, by e-mail, an order. The presentation of this, coupled with his neither questioning, nor asking for discount from, the prices I sent back (€59k in total) confirmed my suspicions.

But he did then transfer the money to our bank. However he did this by cheque (not sure quite how this is accomplished) and then began phoning to ask when we would be sending the stock. We had taken the trouble to check with the bank whether wire-transfers were able to be recalled, but needless to say the cheque has subsequently bounced. We didn't send the stock and have heard nothing since.

I might send him a carefully worded e-mail, and respond, on his behalf, to some of the offers for viagra and intimate extensions I receive in my spam folder.

After I had asked him where he was from (he said Canada) one of my colleagues answered the phone to him and said he was pretty sure of African origin (without meaning to appear racist, there is something about the ask/aks dichotomy). Would explain the French/English combination he was using.

Given name: Kevin Sanders (referred to by us in the office as 'The Colonel')
Given address: 56 Sterling Gardens, SE14 6DZ, London.
Tel: (0044)7879062807

Well, just so you know...'

The telephone number given is a mobile and 192 cannot find a Kevin Sanders at that address.

Always make sure funds have fully cleared before sending goods ordered by people you don't know.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

2008 vintage: tasting and dinner@RSJ 23rd November

2008: Cabernet Franc, Saumur-Champigny early October
The RSJ's 2009 wine events calendar concluded with our first detailed look at the 2008 vintage – five whites followed by four reds.
Once again 2008 was a year when a fine autumn rescued what looked to be a pretty miserable Loire vintage. Low points during the year included a severe early April frost in the Pays Nantais, drastically reducing the crop, and hail in parts of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire. August was cold and overcast but dry with temperatures rarely over 20˚ and usually too cool to eat outside in the evening. Fortunately the sun came out in September as the wind moved round to the east and there was fine weather until the end of October. Temperatures were never high with only a few days around 25˚. The harvest was late, particularly in relation to recent years when the harvest has been considerably earlier than it was traditionally.

Fortunately 2008 was a small crop, so that despite the temperature deficit during the summer the grapes were able to ripen properly and benefitted from a long hang time to full develop their flavours. Like 2007, 2008 is notable for its clean, precise flavours. The wines are generally fuller than those of 2007 and less austere, although the acidity is more marked than in years such as 2005 and 2006. There are some very good 2008 dry whites as well as demi-secs and good reds with more flesh than 2007. The top red cuvées, although few have yet been bottled, should have the potential to age some time. However, as far as sweet wines are concerned 2007 is certainly superior to 2008. As the weather broke at the end of October 2008, the best of the sweet wines are light and charming, generally to be enjoyed young. And it's not a good idea to match them with desserts.


2008 Sauvignon VDP Val du Loire Domaine de Bablut, Christophe Daviau £8.50
We started with this Sauvignon Blanc from Anjou. Sauvignons from this part of the Loire tend to be richer with flavours of yellow plum and heading towards the exotic fruit end of the scale rather than the more citric, mineral notes from Sancerre and the other Central Vineyards. Appeared to hit the spot for a good number of the assembled company – some 30 strong.


2008 Saumur Blanc, Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers, Dominique Tessier £7.70
We served Dominique's lemony and quite austere Saumur Blanc by itself. I like its clean precise flavours but it is clearly not to everyone's taste as one taster found it green. This may take on some additional weight wit a little more time in bottle.

We served these three Sauvignons with the first course:

2008 Touraine Sauvignon, Domaine Roussely, Vincent Roussely £8.25
I continue to be very impressed with the wines of Vincent. This 2008 is a good combination of citric freshness and generous fruit with gooseberry and grapefruit flavours.

Vincent is involved in a scheme called Mes Vignes ( Through Mes Vignes you can buy 12 vines (or multiples of 12), follow the work in the vineyard, be involved in the harvest and then receive wine from your vines. Currently there is a video on the home page of Mes Vignes, which features Vincent.

2008 Quincy, Domaine des Ballandors, Jean Tatin and Chantal Wilk £11.00
The Tatin's Quincy is often quite citric and lean when young and this is no exception – I expect it will take on more weight with a bit more time in bottle.

2008 Sancerre, Les Pierris, Domaine Roger Champault et Fils £11.25
From vineyards planted on Les Caillottes – limestone with very little soil. About 40% of Sancerre's vineyards are planted on this type of rock. The resulting wines are expressive young and tend to mature quickest of the three types of terroir in Sancerre. They are generally the first to be bottled. The 2008 Les Pierris has those citric and mineral notes typical of Sancerre.

Served with:
Seafood ravioli, cauliflower puree, red pepper coulis

Tasting the three Sauvignons without food the Quincy emerged as the favourite just in front of the Touraine with the Sancerre some way behind. However with food, the Sancerre leapt up to take top spot above the Touraine with the Quincy well down.



Again we served the first red by itself.

2008 Anjou Rouge, Château de la Roulerie, Philippe Germain £9.15
Philippe Germain has 24 hectares in Saint-Aubin-de-Luigné at the western end of the Layon Valley. These 24 hectares are split into 22 parcels, which I would have thought are a nightmare to work, although they do spread the risk of hail and frost damage. The 2008 has attractive coal tar and sooty aromas – one of the characteristics of Loire Cabernet Franc – and is easy drinking.

Followed by three Cabernet Franc reds, all at domaine level as prestige cuvées are not yet available :

2008 Chinon, Domaine de la Perrière, Baudry-Dutour £9.25
Pleasant easy drinking red from vineyards in the commune of Cravant-les-Coteaux planted on flat gravel land.

2008 Saumur-Champigny Domaine de Nerleux, Régis Neau £9.50
Drinking well now, easy drinking not a heavyweight. Régis has 84 hectares of vines mainly Chenin Blanc (38ha) and Cabernet Franc with one hectare of Chardonnay which is used in the Crémant de Loire.

2008 Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Les Rouillières, Frédéric Mabileau £10.30
The most structured of the four reds and the one with the most complexity and concentration. This ideally needs a little more time in bottle to round out, although it already works well with food. Frédéric now has 27 hectares of vines.

Served with:
Roast saddle of lamb, honey roast parsnips, broccoli, mashed potato, red wine jus

The Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil was the clear winner both without and with food. Not surprisingly, given its greater structure, the preference was even more clear cut with the lamb. Of the other two, the Chinon was preferred without food, while the Saumur-Champigny took over second place with the lamb.

Pear and walnut tart with vanilla ice cream

Next tasting dinner will on Monday 18th January 2010

Monday 23 November 2009

Steam trains between Richelieu and Chinon – a last chance?

Steam train on the Swanage line, Dorset UK

Nearly 150 people demonstrated on Saturday morning in Richelieu in support of saving the steam trains of Touraine (TVT) and the line from Richelieu to Chinon. No train has run along this line since 26th December 2004 because of the poor state of the tracks. The demonstrators were demanding a round table to be set up to discuss the line’s future. There is a possibility that the track will be dismantled to make way for a path for walkers and cyclists.

The demonstrators wanted to hand in an open letter to the general secretary at the Mairie but there was no-one around to accept it.

From today’s Nouvelle République here.

Près de 150 personnes ont manifesté, samedi matin, à Richelieu, pour soutenir les Trains à vapeur de Touraine (TVT). Et sauver la voie ferrée de la destruction.

­­­Richelais, Chinonais, Parisiens, etc. Tous les défenseurs du train à vapeur s'étaient donné rendez-vous, samedi matin, à la gare de Richelieu. Là d'où partaient les locomotives jusqu'en 2004. Là, elles sont bloquées depuis.

Tous les manifestants ont à cœur de dénoncer « un gâchis annoncé ». Tous demandent l'organisation d'une table ronde pour évoquer l'avenir de la voie qui pourrait être démantelée au profit de la création d'une voie verte selon la décision estivale de la communauté de communes du Pays de Richelieu.

« Nous ne pouvons attendre plus longtemps. Une décision claire doit être prise à l'issue d'une table ronde réunissant tous les acteurs concernés », souhaite, dans sa lettre ouverte, le président des TVT, Jacques Royan. Une lettre que les représentants de l'association ont remise au secrétaire général de la mairie, aucun élu n'étant présent pour les recevoir à l'issue de la manifestation. Le dialogue n'est pas ouvert.

Anges Vins: 28th, 29th and 30th November

This tasting of organic wines made 'without artifice' will be held at La Salle Jean de Pontoise Saint-Aubin-de-Luigné.

As the poster is a little difficult to read here are the vignerons who will be there:

Toby Bainbridge, Patrick Baudouin, Stéphane Bernadeau, Didier Chaffardon, Jean-François Chéné, Benoit Courault, Christophe Daviau (Domaine de Bablut), Jean-Christophe Garnier, Les Griottes, Nadège et Laurent Herbel, Richard Leroy, Christine et Joël Ménard, Agnès et René Mosse, Milene et Eddy Oosterlinck, Pithon-Paillé, Stéphan PZ, Bruno Rochard, Sophie et Jérôme Saurigny.

Further information:


Last night I received an email from Patrick Baudouin pointing me to his blog and to his posting (L'Oeil du Tri) on the tri of 30th October in the Quarts de Chaume. He disagreed with Philippe Delesvaux's pessimistic assessment that it was best to finish picking around the 20th October to avoid the rains.


Also brief news here of the end of the vintage at Domaine Aloha, Fiefs Vendéens.

Plus more news from La Pipette aux quatre vins on the 2009 harvest: '12 novembre 2009 – Les vendanges 2009, en Fiefs Vendéens'.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Informal concours des Touraine primeurs@Epeigné-les-Bois

2009 Gamay grapes@Le Clos du Porteau, Saint-Georges-sur-Cher

Mark Robertson reports on this annual concours held in Epeigné-les-Bois

The results of last night's degustation of Primeurs. 12 highly motivated judges - nine wines tasted blind. Amongst the "traps" - 2 bottles of the same wine (Domaine de la Girardière) plus a Beaujolais Nouveau and a Gamay from the Ardèche.

Overall the judges thought the standards high, a good year with lots of ripe fruit made for concentrated, mouth-filling wines with a good balance of acidity.

The results as follows with details of the medals awarded to each wine in local competition. Maybe surprising but the Epeigne panel was somewhat at odds with the professional panels. Nobody liked the Paul Buisse, it was slightly pétillant and had an unpleasant "confected" taste.
Winner was Caves Père Auguste from Civray.
The evening was rounded off by a ragout of pork with buttered noodles, cheeses and a mouthwatering selection of home made desserts (canelles, creme caramel, pain d'epices, gâteau chocolat et poire poches au vin rouge).
2009 Gamay grapes@Le Clos du Porteau, Saint-Georges-sur-Cher

2009 Gamay Primeur, Père Auguste – surround of label would make a good shirt!
1st Caves Père Auguste (41 points)
2nd joint Lycee Viticole Amboise & Domaine de la Girardière (Silver medal) (38 points)
3rd joint Domaine de la Girardière (Silver medal) & Beaujolais (36 points)
4th Closerie de Chanteloup (Silver medal) (31 points)
5th Gamay d’Ardeche (30 points)
6th Plou et Fils (Silver medal) (28 points)
7th Paul Buisse (Gold medal) (17 points)

Saturday 21 November 2009

2007 Lucien Crochet, Sancerre and 1982 Cuvée Napoléon, Côtes de Buzet

Tonight took a look at the 2007 Le Chêne, Sancerre from Lucien Crochet. This comes from vines grown on caillottes, which are often pure limestone with very little soil if any. Indeed there are parts of Sancerre that are just pure white rock. This has gooseberry and grapefruit flavours typical of quality Sancerre with minerality, a precision and cleanness of flavour that is typical of 2007. The grapes are picked by hand followed by an alcoholic fermentation of around 35 days in stainless steel vats. Bottled in September following the vintage.

Although this is not the top Crochet Sancerre it shows why Gilles Crochet is one of the appellation's top producers.

Then a wine tried last night – 1982 Cuvée Napoléon from the Cave Cooperative de Buzet. Remarkably silky wine with very attractive sweet evolved fruit. Although it lacks great complexity, it has kept remarkably well despite not having the best storage conditions. I suspect that I could pass this off as a classed growth. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Friday 20 November 2009

What's Oz Clarke got against Muscadet?

I was recently sent a review copy of Oz Clarke's new book: 'Let me tell you about wine' - a beginner's guide to understanding and enjoying wine (Anova Books £14.99).

I was surprised that, in the short section on the Loire, Oz dismisses Muscadet both for flavour and value. 'One more important grape is Muscadet, grown around Nantes at the mouth of the Loire and used for neutral-tasting dry wine of the same name. (P122). 'Muscadet is overpriced for its quality.' (P123).

Of course it is difficult to give any nuanced opinions in a book on the whole of wine in 192 pages with plenty of photos but I do think that Oz has been very harsh on Muscadet and, perhaps, not recognised the improvements in quality that have been made over the last dozen years or so. True Muscadet is not a strident wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Gewurtraminer but it does have flavours including floral, citric notes, mineral. It is a marvellous match with many kinds of fish. Also in many instances it offers remarkable value for money.

To test Oz's assertion that 'Muscadet is overpriced for its quality' I opened a bottle of 2005 Comte Leloup du Château de Chasseloir, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine from Bernard Chereau. It had some considerable weight from the ripe vintage, bready and citric notes with a definite sur lie prickle in the mineral finish. All in all a delicious drink that went very well with my seafood pasta. One of those bottles that seemed to empty itself effortlessly.

2005 Comte Leloup

The Comte Leloup comes from vines over 100 years old at Chasseloir and the 2005 is available from Frank Stainton Wines priced at £9.50. For its quality and to enjoy a top Muscadet this seems to me very reasonably priced.

More evidence of quality and value from Muscadet's can be found here with the 2003 Le Clos du Pont from Pascal Guilbaud enjoyed at the tasting I attended in Paris on 22nd October.

Domaine de la Haute Clémencerie, 2007 Touraine Rosé

With a few exceptions a rosé is normally best drunk within a year of its vintage. However, this recently tasted 2007 Rosé made from Cabernet by Patrick Mahoudeau, Domaine de la Haute Clémencerie is still very fresh and shows no sign of tiring. Pretty mid-pink colour with attractive red fruits, it's a refreshing apéritif with quite an austere finish due to the characteristically high acidity of the 2007 vintage. I enjoy this austerity and cleanness but I know some people find these 2007s just a little too austere.

Sign at the entrance to the Domaine de la Haute Clemencerie, Faverolles-sur-Cher

Thursday 19 November 2009

Les Vins du Coin 2009: 5th and 6th December

Another date for your diaries if you are close to Blois in the first weekend of December – the annual Vins du Coin tasting. This is an association of some of the most interesting vignerons in the Loir et Cher as well as the valley of Le Loir. All are part of the 'natural' wine movement.

Samedi 05 décembre 2009
(de 10 h à 19 h)

et dimanche 06 décembre 2009
(de 10 h à 18 h)

Haras de BLOIS - 62 avenue Maunoury

This year there will be around 25 organic vignerons compared to the 20 last year:

Bruno Allion – Domaine de Pontcher

Michel Augé

Béatrice et Michel Augé – Domaine des Maisons Brûlées
Junko Araï – Domaine des Bois Lucas
Mickaël Bouges

Mikael Bouges

Samuel Boulay
Alain Courtault et Simon Tardieux, Joël Courtault
– Domaine de Bel-Air
Christophe Foucher
– Domaine de la Lunotte
Nathalie Gaubicher et Christian Chaussard
– Domaine Le Briseau
Renaud Guettier
- La Grapperie

Emile Heredia

Emile Heredia – Domaine de Montrieux
Olivier Lemasson
– Les Vins Contés
Noëlla Morantin

Pascal Potaire (chapeau!)

Pascal Potaire – Les Capriades

Thierry Puzelat

Thierry Puzelat et Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme, Jean Marie et Thierry PuzelatClos du Tue Boeuf
Sylviane et Michel Quenioux
– Domaine de Veilloux

Jean-Pierre Robinot and his wife@Salon des Vins de Loire 2009

Jean-Pierre Robinot – Les Vignes de l’Ange Vin

Didier Barouillet

Catherine Roussel et Didier Barrouillet – Clos Roche Blanche

Jérôme and Dominique Sauvete

Jérôme Sauvête
Cyrille Sevin
Pascal Simonutti – Le Pré Noir

Philippe Tessier

Philippe Tessier
– Domaine Philippe Tessier
Isabelle et Hervé Villemade – Domaine du Moulin

More details here

Looks a fascintating tasting opportunity. Unfortunately I'm unable to make it but must make a special effort to be there for one of the editions – perhaps in 2010?