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

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Fake Pinot: a murky affair flares up again

The scandal continues to bubble away

The controversy over the fake Pinot Noir scandal has flared up again with an open letter to the local producers' union by Jean-Louis Denois, one of the pioneers of growing Pinot Noir in Limoux. Denois calls for resignations. The story is reported in today's La Dépeche.

"Faux Pinot" : la polémique enfle
'Le procès en appel du «faux pinot» connaît un nouveau rebondissement avec la lettre ouverte d'un vigneron aux syndicats de cru.

Parce qu'il se définit comme « pionnier du pinot noir » sur le terroir de Limoux depuis 1988 et l'achat d'une première vigne ainsi plantée sur la commune de Roquetaillade, Jean-Louis Denois, créateur du Domaine de l'Aigle, qui appartient aujourd'hui au Narbonnais Gérard Bertrand, signe une lettre ouverte '

Apparently at the recent Vinisud wine fair someone involved in the scandal at Sieur d'Arques claimed that all the publicity generated by the scandal was good for business!

Originally from Champagne, Denois set up his Domaine de l'Aigle in 1988 and soon established a high reputation for his wines. Denois sold part of his domaine in 2001 retaining some of his vines and the winery. He caused a storm by planting small parcels of Riesling and Gewurztraminer in Limoux and was eventually forced by court order to grub them out.

Click here for another explanation of how the Americans came to be sold the fake Pinot as well as why 'Modération' is the most popular name for pets in France.

Atlantic Coast badly hit by storm


See latest reports in Presse Océan here and here of the storm (Xynthia) that hit France's Atlantic coast overnight. There have also been storms in parts of Spain and Portugal. Also reports in Ouest-France including a gust of wind of 121 km/h at Martigné-Briand in the Loire.

At least nine deaths reported across France with a million homes without electricity. Probably the most severe storm since the two that hit France in late December 1999. 

The château and church@Martigné-Briand 

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Salon des Vins de Loire 2011 – will there or won't there be one?

At the end of last year there was much discussion over the future of the annual Salon des Vins de Loire, which was established back in 1987. In these straightened times some, although not all, of the négociants want to cut the budget for the Salon so that it becomes bi-annual rather than every year. We need the Salon every year is the reaction from many producers, who find the fair an indispensable meeting place for the various cavistes, wholesalers and restaurateurs from the home market as well as their importers. It is clear if the Salon became bi-annual, then some producers would be asking why are we paying to fund Interloire?

To an extent I can understand the position of some of the largest négociants. Take Castel, for example, now the largest of the Loire négoce and based in Bordeaux. What benefit does it get from paying for a large stand at the fair? The clients it needs to see are small in number, although undeniably important and influential. Probably only six or seven from the UK: the supermarkets and the remaining national wine merchants, although shrunken in number since the demise of Threshers.

Castel's stand@the Salon 2010

So will there be a Salon next year? I certainly hope so as I've been every year since 1990 and have already reserved my room at the Hotel du Mail in the centre of Angers. The 2010 catalogue rather ambiguously asks people not to forget the 25th edition of the Salon 'Debut Février 2010' and promising a 'nouvelle formule: un salon encore plus adapté aux besoin de la profession'. But, gentlemen, unless I'm seriously mistaken, we are now right at the end of February 2010.

I spoke to Bénoît Roumet, director of the Bureau du Centre Loire, yesterday and he was adamant that there would be a Salon in 2011, although the date hasn't yet been fixed and there will be a meeting to discuss what changes if any will be made. There is no date yet for this meeting.

It will be interesting to see what changes they make. If it is to survive the Loire Salon needs to be held every year. Were it to become bi-annual I'm sure it would soon disappear. The Salon remains a generally well run and friendly event. Although it would look more professional if all the exhibitors arrived on time. Even on the Monday – first morning of the fair – many of the stands are habitually empty with exhibitors drifting in leisurely as the clock moves towards 9.30.

An empty stand@the Salon

I know there is a Gallic charm to everything starting half an hour late but that can be lost on foreign visitors who may have travelled over from America and who have a busy programme and find that they have to kick their heels.

Salon des Vins de Loire Wine Bloggers' Trophy
I'd definitely make changes here. Having been a trophy winner in 2009 I was invited to be one of the judges. We had some 20 shortlisted blogs to judge across the four categories and given around two weeks for the task. Not easy to do when some blogs have hundreds of postings to look at. Unfortunately the organisers were obviously determined to shortlist seven blogs in each category, irrespective of quality but there were a few very poor blogs on the shortlist.

It would make the judging much easier if bloggers had to enter the competition and to pick out five or six postings to be judged on.

When the results came out I was amazed to see that the best overall blog was one that hadn't won any of the four categories and had only been shortlisted in one category – some blogs had been shortlisted in two. When I queried the result with the organisers I was told that the marks had been averaged out so as not to disadvantage blogs that were only shortlisted in one category!

I'm all for equality but this is egalité gone mad! The winner of the best blog, which was a very good one, was shortlisted in the best writer category won by Hervé Lalau, who was shortlisted in two categories. Had Hervé only been shortlisted in one category, it is clear that he would have won both best writer award and the overall prize. How bizarre!

Not just one language
Much more important than tidying up the bizarre rules is the need to make the wine bloggers trophy more international. This year only blogs partly or wholly in French were considered. Although there are some very good French wine blogs, French is not the language of the blogosphere. If the organisers want real credibility for this bloggers trophy it needs to be opened up to at least one other language – probably English. The vote on the internet for the best shortlisted blog attracted a total of just 1604 votes. Had the competition been more international my guess is there would have been more votes cast. It may well be that Aurelia Fillon's promising* Bu sur le web would again have topped a more international poll and would have given her win greater force and resonance.

* Aurelia has a real screen presence in the same way that Gary V does. Having started only in December 2009 she has already built up a considerable presence. To really built her following I think she soon needs to build in greater variety into her videos, which are becoming formulaic – look how Gary V varies his show. I'm sure Aurelia has the personality and drive to succeed.

Friday, 26 February 2010

2010 Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors

2010 Sauvignon Blanc Loire Project Ambassadors selected
Twenty-three wines were selected on 18th and 19th February as this year’s Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Project Ambassadors. The wines, all from the 2009 vintage, were chosen by a panel of four UK wine professionals, led by Sam Harrop MW. The all-female jury comprised journalists Sarah Jane Evans MW and Sarah Ahmed, and buyers Christine Parkinson from Hakkasan and Cat Lomax from Direct Wines.

The panel chose the wines which best represent the quality and terroir of Sauvignon Blanc de Loire in a range of styles from tropical fruit, through to citrus and herbal, which they considered have the best commercial chances of success in the British market. The tasting is part of the Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Project which is run by InterLoire, is managed by a local oenological technical team and has employed Harrop as its international consultant. The main purpose is to create a better profile for Sauvignon Blanc de Loire, and to raise the region’s image in order to increase the perception and value of the wines on the UK market.

Both the AOC and Vins de Pays ambassadors will be shown at this year’s London International Wine Fair in May. The AOC wines have also been entered into the International Wine Challenge and will be available to taste at France Under One Roof.

Sauvignon Blanc de Loire Project Ambassadors – 2009 Vintage
AOC Touraine Ambassadors
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Secrets de Chai 2009, Les Vignerons des Coteaux Romanais
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Tonnerre de Vignes 2009, Les Vignerons des Coteaux Romanais
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Sélection Château Ante Vinum 2009, Château de Quincay AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Domaine de Fontenay
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Domaine de la Renne
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Domaine Malet
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Elysis 2009, SICA des Vignerons de la Vallée du Cher
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc - les Grenettes 2009, Domaine Beauséjour
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Domaine Xavier Frissant
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc Châteauvieux Cuvée 2009, SAS Pierre Chainier
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc – Famille Bougrier 2009, SA Bougrier
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Domaine du Haut Perron
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Domaine Gibault
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc – Domaine Paul Buisse 2009, Domaine Paul Buisse
AOC Touraine Sauvignon Blanc – Cristal Buisse 2009, Domaine Paul Buisse

Vins de Pays Val de Loire Ambassadors
Vins de Pays Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine Saint Roch, Bardon, 2009
Vins de Pays Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine du Salvard, 2009
Vins de Pays Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Rémy Pannier, S.A. Ackerman, 2009
Vins de Pays Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Fauvette, S.A. Ackerman, 2009
Vins de Pays Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine de la Houssais, 2009
Vins de Pays Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Privilège de Drouet, Drouet Frères/ Les Celliers de la Roche, 2009
Vins de Pays Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Désiré François, Drouet Frères/ Les Celliers de la Roche, 2009
Vins de Pays Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvage de la Brie, Auguste Bonhomme/ Les Celliers de la Roche, 2009

(Press release from InterLoire)

In 2009 there were 29 wines chosen as Ambassadors – see here.

Tim Atkin MW moves with The Times

Tim Atkin MW, multiple award-winning wine columnist, is moving to The Times.

He will have a regular weekly page in The Times’ new Thursday food and drink supplement. His first The Times column will appear next week – Thursday 4th March. Tim’s weekly wine recommendations will continue in the Observer until the end of March, when he will leave the Sunday paper.

Tim has written for the Guardian newspaper group since 1989 – first for The Guardian and then, since 1993, The Observer. As part of their ‘relaunch’ The Observer axed Tim Atkin’s column reducing him to just two wine recommendations.

Immediately the news broke freelance drinks journalist, Rebecca Gibb, set up a Facebook group – Save the Wine Column. It immediately attracted a lot of support and now has 1308 members.

Jim’s Loire understands that The Times approached Tim by email on Tuesday 16th February – just eight days after the news broke that Tim’s long standing Observer column was being axed.

Atkin commented: “Partly because of the wonderful Facebook site I have been offered a new job on The Times starting next Thursday – they thought the support was pretty amazing! It’s a bit of a wrench leaving The Observer after 17 years but I’m delighted to be involved in The Times’ new supplement.

Jane MacQuitty’s column will continue in The Times on Saturdays .


I'm delighted for Tim, especially after the shameful way he has been treated by The Observer – what a bunch of incompetents. Not only do they contrive to lose the UK's best wine columnist – especially from the number of awards Tim has won – but they have also 'relaunched' a widely criticised Observer magazine. With The Times Tim will get more exposure and I suspect will be paid more for his writing.

This also shows the power of Facebook – Save the Wine Column now has 1309 members.

See Tim's announcement about the move on his website. 

What Tim probably thinks of the current editor of the Observer Magazine

Tim Atkin 6 The Observer 0

2010 Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors

Vin de pays Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Am hoping to be able to bring you the results of this year's Sauvignon Blanc Ambassadors tasting that was held in London earlier this month. I have already had enquiries from the Loire asking when it will appear. It's just a question of awaiting clearance by Interloire. I just hope the French air-controllers strike isn't holding things up.

Hopefully later today...

Thursday, 25 February 2010

From the fake to the vibrantly real! – Loire producers in London

The Loire@Saint-Satur near Sancerre

It is good to turn away from the tawdry scandal of the fake Pinot Noir in the Midi and look forward to the Thorman Hunt's tasting in central London on Tuesday 16th March. And to look forward to tasting wines from a group of producers who strive to achieve the best quality possible represented by a fine traditional UK wine importer who believes in establishing and maintaining long-term relationships with their growers.

Along with representatives from lesser regions of France, there will be a number of Loire producers to add brilliance to the occasion.

Loire producers present at this tasting will be:

Domaine Couly-Dutheil (Chinon) - Christophe Surget
Domaine Yannick Amirault (Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil) Yannick Amirault
Chateau de Villeneuve (Saumur and Saumur-Champigny) - Jean-Pierre Chevallier
Domaine de la Presle - Frédéric et Anne Sophie Penet
Domaine André Dézat (Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) - Firmin Dézat
Domaine Jean Paul Balland (Sancerre) - Elise Balland
Domaine des Hauts Pemions (Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine) - Christophe Drouard
Domaine de Closel (Savennières and Anjou) - Evelyne de Pontbriand
Domaine de Chevilly (Quincy) - Yves Lestourgie
Domaine Alain Cailbourdin Pouilly-Fumé) - Alain Cailbourdin
Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau (Vouvray) - Stéphane Vigneau

Thorman's dramatic sales force – Alastair Llewellyn-Smith (Phylloxera in Vinderella)

Thorman Hunt & Co Ltd
4 Pratt Walk, London SE11 6AR
Tel: 020-7735 6511

The consequences of fraud

Here is a copy of an extract from a letter (see below) from the US Treasury Department that appeared today in La Dépêche du Midi. Sent to Christian Ligeard at the French Embassy it informs him that the American government will be tightening up its controls on the import of Vin de Pays Pinot Noir from Languedoc-Roussillon.

Although some may object that the Americans have jumped the gun sending the letter before the twelve defendants were found guilty and the sentence handed down on 17th February, the US response appears to be reasonably measured as I understand it. They have asked for guarantees from the French Government with respect to Pinot Noir Vin de Pays from Languedoc-Roussillon imported into the US. Given the extent of the scandal the Americans might have been within their rights to demand guarantees on all vin de pays from Languedoc-Roussillon.

It is worth remembering that much of the American legislation around alcohol and its distribution were informed by the attitudes prevalent in the lead up to, and during, the American experiment with prohibition.

Department of the Treasury
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Washington DC
January 14th 2010

Mr Christian Ligeard
Counselor for Agriculture
Economic Department
Emassy of France
4101 Reservoir Road NW
Washington, DC 20007-2173

Dear Mr. Ligeard

This letter is in regard to our letter dated February 13, 2008, in, which we raised our concerns about reports of erroneous or fraudulent classification and labeling of Pinot Noir from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. You responed by letter dated March 2, 2009 and confirmed that the epported volumes were bigger than the quantities of pinot noir produced in the departments of l"Aude and l'Herault. You also stated that the judical authority opened an inquiry to identify the responsibility of the actors in exporting the wine. To date, we have not received any new or additional information from the government of France in regard to this scandal.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of thr United States Department of the Treasury is delegated with the responsibility, under the provisions of section 105(a) of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act), 27 U.S.C. 205 (e)*, to ensure that alcoholic beverages are accurately labeled in order to protect the public from deception. Because Pinot Noir from the French appellation Vin de pays d'Oc, Vins de pays de l'Aude, Vin de pays de Gard, Vin de pays de l'Herault, or Vin de pays des Pyrenées-Orientales may not meet the requirements stated in TTB's regulations at 27CFR 4.23 and 4,25 to be labeled as such, TTB must take action to ensure that U.S. consumers are not deceived.

We will immediately begin requiring all U.S. Importers of bottled or bulk wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France covered by a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) naming Vin de pays d'Oc, Vins de pays de l'Aude, Vin de pays de Gard, Vin de pays de l'Herault, or Vin de pays des Pyrenées-Orientales as the appellation of origin and Pinot Noir as the single grape variety, to have in their possession at the time of release of any of those wines from United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody a declaration from the Government of France which must:

Extract from letter from US Treasury

There have been several appeals lodged by those found guilty by the court in Carcassonne. These include Sieur d'Arques, Alain Maurel of Vignobles A. Maurel and Claude Courset (Ducasse). Of course the defendants are within their rights to appeal but these appeals extend the media spotlight on this substantial scandal. I assume that the various defendants come up with some more convincing defences than those that were recorded in the judgment of 17th February.

As ever I feel sorry for the genuine hard-working producers of Languedoc-Roussillon and just hope that the fears apparently expressed in the aisles of Vinisud that the Pinot Noir scandal is but 'the tip of the iceberg' prove to be without foundation.

Chinon: Le Marché Médiéval – Saturday 7th August 2010

The Vienne, Chinon and its château

After months of discussions and uncertainty, Chinon's well-known annual medieval market will be happening again this year on Saturday 7th August. More details when I have them.

Read about the decision to go ahead in La Nouvelle République

Please note that when I first posted I thought the Marché was 31st July 2010. It is a week later: 7th August. My apologies.  

Lycée Viticole d'Amboise: open day Saturday 27th February

La Loire, Amboise and its château

The Amboise wine school has an open day this Saturday 27th February. The Lycée d'Amboise is one of the two leading wine schools in the Loire – the other is in Montreuil-Bellay. The Domaine de la Gabillière is its associated vineyard and winery. The open day is likely to be of particular interest for anyone thinking of embarking on studying how to look after vines and how to make wine.  

From today's La Nouvelle République 

'C'est une première au lycée viticole d'Amboise. Samedi, le public est invité à une journée spécifique portes ouvertes.

L'opération était couplée jusqu'à maintenant avec la journée Vinycée, Salon des vins des lycées viticoles de France. Ce sera différent en 2010. Si le week-end des Vinycée est programmé en mars, par contre l'opération portes ouvertes se déroulera samedi prochain.

Les futurs élèves, les curieux, les jeunes en recherche d'une formation et leurs familles, tout le monde pourra venir découvrir le lycée, samedi de 9 h à 17 h, avec possibilité de visiter des salles de cours spécifique, des bâtiments techniques d'exploitation, etc.'

Lycée Viticole d'Amboise
46 Avenue Emile Gounin
37400 Amboise


Also on Saturday the chance to taste La Coulée d'Argent from Domaine Bourillon-Dorléans@Le Comptoir Saint Kerber from 9am-1pm. Address: Place Gaston Pailhou, Les Halles Centrales, 37000 Tours.  

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The arrival of weedkillers in the 1960s

Weedkiller in Touraine vineyard: March 2009

Herbicides Diggings
(Excellent article here from Betrand Celce on the introduction of weedkillers in the late 1960s.)
'Winter. Cold outside. Good time to stay indoors and dig into material for a potential post, listening to Internet radio, say KEXP Seattle, a long-, longtime favorite with great music and DJs like Kid Hops (Positive Vibrations) and Johnny Horn (Preachin' The Blues)...

Why not speak about herbicides for a change? Here are a few pictures and extracts from a French agriculture magazine dating from 1969 that I found somewhere; this is a special issue of Le Producteur Agricole Français (march 1969 issue) devoted to herbicides and weedkillers. What we see here on the fields happened just the same in the vineyards, farmers all over the country implemented the chemical revolution and unknowingly began to take huge risks for themselves by spraying from their open tractor.'

Layon and L'Aubance– some photos from 10.10.2005

 Ripening Chenin  Blanc near Pierre-Bise (above and below)

A few photos taken on 10th October 2005 in Anjou during that wonderfully warm, dry autumn.


Across the Layon: la douceur angevin!

Towards Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay

The Aubance 

Base of La Croix de la Mission, Saint-Jean-de-Mauvets

Domaine des Rochelles: La Croix de la Mission – Cabernet Sauvignon

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Quelle horreur – a screwcapped Portuguese red!

Last night we went to the excellent and traditional restaurant O Painel de Alcântara and had the rich chicken dish – arroz de frango de cabidela – which is chicken cooked in its own blood rather in the same style as a jugged hare. With it we drank a bottle of 2007 Quinta do Côtto, a Douro red. Its generous, sweet ripe fruit was an ideal match with the richness of the chicken dish. I was delighted to see that it is closed with a screwcap, although I'm mildly surprised that their quinta hasn't been torched by supporters of the Portuguese cork industry!!

Quinta do Côtto is the domaine wine and the 2007 is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesca and Sousão. Part of the wine spends nine months in Portuguese oak barrels.

O Painel is open from Monday to Saturday and every day has two or three special traditional dishes. On Monday, for instance, it's our chicken plus pasteis de balalhau with arroz de grélos and a cabrito (goat) stew.

The portions are extremely generous – usually a feature of Portuguese restaurants – and , if you can, it is worth leaving some space for the desserts. We had an wonderfully opulent laite creme (créme brulée) and chocolate mousse with plenty of chocolate flavour and not too sweet, as is so often the case.

Certainly highly recommended if you want good wholesome, traditional Portuguese food with good, thoughtful service. Delicious samosas and ham to start.

O Paniel de Alcantara
Rue do Arco (a Alcantrara), 7-13
1350-019 Lisboa
Tel: 213-965 920, 213-964 706


The Facebook group 'Save The Wine Column' now has 1270 members. If you haven't already joined please click here.

Fake Pinot Noir: time for resignations

In my contribution today on our cooperative blog – Les 5 du Vin – I call for the resignations of Alain Gayda and Pierre Mirc, managing director and president respectively, of Sieur d'Arques. Although Gayda and Mirc both protested their innocence of the fraud, the court judgment identifies them, especially Gayda, as amongst the principals in the fraud.

Although the oenologue who told the truth to the police has lost her job at Sieur d'Arques, Gayda and Mirc both remain in post despite the court's damning verdict. Nowadays it is clear that nobody resigns even when involved in a 7 million € fraud.

See on Les 5 du Vin heads must roll!

For an alternative view see the posting here on the blog of Jacques Berthomeau.

Other posting on the fake Pinot Noir here, here, here and here.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Bourgueil invades Tours: Saturday 27th March

This looks like a great opportunity to taste a lot of Bourgueil and meet many of the producers. The tasting will be in the centre of Tours. For details go to the end of this post. 

The 40 Bourgueil producers showing their wines in Tours: 

 L'Hotel de Ville, Tours

Jean-Marie Amirault, 6 Rue Nozillon 37140 Benais
Maison  Audebert et Fils, (Jean-Claude Audebert,), 20 Avenue Jean Causeret 37140 Bourgueil
Eric Ballif  (Eric Ballif) , 4 Grande Rue, 37140 Restigné
Jacky Blot in his vines at Domaine de la Butte

Domaine de la Butte (Jacky Blot), La Butte, 37140 Bourgueil
Thierry Boucard (Thierry Boucard), La Chanteleuserie 37140 Benais
Lamé Delisle Boucard (Mr et Mme Philippe Boucard and Stéphanie Degaugue), 21 Rue Galotière 37140 Ingrandes de Touraine

Philippe Boucard of Lamé Delisle Boucard: October 2009
Jean Boucher, 1 Allée Du Bois Mayaud 37140 Chouzé-sur-Loire
Domaine du Carroi, (Bruno et  Roselyne Breton) 45 Rue Basse, 37140 Restigné
Jeanine Breton, 19 Rue Les Marais, 37140 Restigné
Caslot Pontonnier, (Franck et Claudia Caslot), 3 Rue du Machet, 37140 Benais
Domaine de la Chevalérie, (Pierre-Emmanuel et Stéphanie Caslot), 7 Rue du Peu Muleau, 37140 Restigné

Stephanie Caslot

 Xavier Courant et Christophe Chasle, 26 Rue Dorothée de Dino,  37130 Saint Patrice
Château de Miniére, (Evelyne de Mascarel), 37140 Ingrandes de Touraine
Delanoue et Fils, (Armel Delanoue),15 Rue Des Pressoirs 37140 Restigné
Delanoue Frères, Domaine de la Noiraie (Jean-Paul, Vincent et Pascale Delanoue), 19 Rue du Fort Hudeau 37140 Benais
Delaunay Père et Fils (François Delaunay), 20 Route du Vignoble 37140 Bourgueil
Domaine Serge Dubois (Mickaël Dubois), 49 Rue De Lossay 37140 Restigné
Duval et Voisin,  (J.P. and Laurent Duval Voisin) 6 Rue de Fontenay, 37140 Ingrandes de Touraine
Cave des Vins de Bourgueil, (Mme Fouchereau)  16 Rue des Chevaliers 37140 Restigné
Domaine les Pressoirs (Philippe et Monique Galbrun), 36 Rue des Pressoirs 37140 Restigné
Domaine des Ouches (Thomas et Denis Gambier) 3 Rue des Ouches, 37140 Ingrandes de Touraine
Jérôme Godefroy, 19 Le Plessis 37140 Chouzé-sur-Loire
Laurent Herlin, 1 Le Plessis 37140 Chouzé-sur-Loire
Alain et Arnaud Houx (Arnaud Houx), 21 Rue des clos Barbins, 37140 Restigné
Jöel Julienne, 21 Rue Port, 37140 La Chapelle-sur-Loire
Damien Lorieux, 2 Rue de la Percherie, 37140 Bourgueil
Joëlle Lorieux, 26 Route du Vignoble 37140 Bourgueil
Jean-François Mabileau, 28 Route de Bourgueil, 37140 Restigné
Marchesseau Fils (Bertrand et Vincent Marchesseau), Les Robinières 37140 Bourgueil

Bertrand de Mascarel, Château de la Minière 

Dominique Meslet (Dominique Meslet), 7 Rue de la Gitonnière, 37140 Bourgueil
Eric Meslet, 12 Rue du Dr Verneau, 37140 La Chapelle-sur-Loire
Meslet Thouet (Germain Meslet), 3 Rue Des Gèleries 37140 Bourgeuil
Régis Mureau (Léonard et Laure Mureau) 16 Rue Anjou 37140 Ingrandes de Touraine
Nau Frères (Patrice et Bertrand Nau et Abel Odorio), 52 Rue de Touraine 37140 Ingrandes de Touraine
Nathalie Omasson, 3 Rue de la Cueille Cadot,  37130 Saint Patrice
Domaine de la Petite Mairie (James Petit), La Petite Mairie 37140 Restigné
Jean-Marc et Thomas Pichet (Jean-Marc Et Thomas Pichet), 30 Route de Tours 37140 Restigné
Pitault Landry et Fils (Christophe et Philippe Pitault Landry), 8 Route du Vignoble, 37140 Bourgueil
Eric Ploquin, 4 Pont du Gué, 37140 Bourgueil
Domaine des Raguenières (Eric Roi), 11 Rue du Machet 37140 Benais
Jean-Marie Rouzier, Les Gèleries, 37140 Bourgueil
Domaine de la Croix Morte (Fabrice Samson) 70  Route de Bourgueil, 37140 Restigné
Taluau Foltzenlogel, (Joël Taluau et Thierry Foltzenlogel), 11 Chevrette, 37140 St Nicolas De Bourgueil
Michel Thibault, L'echelle 37140 Bourgueil

Will be at Boulevard Heurteloup on Saturday 27th March from 10am-7pm. Will also be possible to buy wine from the producers.

Update: 26th March there will be 46 producers showing their wines tomorrow.  

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Fake Pinot Noir (cont)

True Pinot Noir – Sancerrre October 2008

Reading part of the judgment makes depressing reading, particularly the role that Sieur d'Arques played in the fraud. Having visited Sieur d'Arques on a number of occasions during the 1990s including for their innovative Toques et Clochers auction of barrels of Chardonnay, I had always been impressed and felt that they were a model co-operative. Sadly it would appear, despite the continued denials by Pierre Mirc, president of the co-op, and Alain Gayda, the managing director, that they were up to their necks in the scam.

Gayda and Mirc claimed they had no idea how much Pinot Noir is planted in Languedoc-Roussillon nor how much is produced. They claimed that as vin de pays was only a marginal part of their business – less than 10%, especially bulk sales their interest was devoted to Sieur d'Arques more prestigious products.

Neither the French fraud squad nor the court were over-impressed by this line of defence. In addition to being president of one of the leading cave cooperatives in the region Mirc is a representative on the INAO, the Fédération Départmentale des Caves Cooperatives and the Syndicat des Producteurs de Vins de Pays d'Oc.

Reading the court summing up you might conclude that Sieur d'Arques know nothing and care even less about Pinot Noir, which is rather curious as Pinot Noir features as part of the blend in no less than six of their Crémants de Limoux – Blason Rouge, Blason d'Arques, Bulle de Crémant Rosé (10% Pinot Noir – limited amount because PN isn't widely available in the region?), Diaphane Grande Cuvée and Crémant Sieur d'Arques Brut and Extra Brut. Admittedly these are AC wines, so perhaps they take more care over its origins.

Gayda's defence was further undermined by Sieur d'Arques oenologue, Christelle Della'Ava, handing over a copy of an email received by Alain Gayda on 28th October 2005 from ONIVINS detailing how much Pinot was planted in Languedoc-Roussillon. Gayda had asked ONIVINS how much Pinot was planted. Gayda passed on a copy of this email to Christelle Dell’Ava, who was then Sieur d’Arques chief oenologist in charge of the bulk Pinot market). Gayda wrote ‘confidentiel !!’ in the margin. What could possibly be confidential about the plantings of Pinot in Languedoc-Roussillon unless you were already in the process of setting up the fraud?  

The information from ONIVINS would have told Gayda that the maximum amount of Pinot that could be produced in the region was 67,680 hls. The court notes that Sieur d'Arques had already sold, according to Gayda's testimony, 10,000-12,000 bottles of Pinot under their 'Red Bycicle' brand. In 2006 Sieur d'Arques bought 53,989 hls from Ducasse, the Carcassonne négociant at the heart of the fraud. Then in 2007 they bought 75,376 hls from Ducasse. Sieur d'Arques sold to the Americans a total of 124,894 hls (16.6 million bottles).  

Leaving aside the maximum figure for the annual production of Pinot Noir in Languedoc-Roussilon, the fraud enquiry estimated that the region produces between 55,000 to 60,000 hls of Pinot. In 2006 Ducasse bought 53,889 hls of 'Pinot' – 93.34% of the total Pinot available on the market in Languedoc-Roussillon. The following year that percentage rose to 132.87%. Of the growers who supplied Ducasse and who were charged with the fraud, only Vignobles Alain Maurel (Domaine Ventenac and Château Ventenac in Cabardès) has any Pinot planted and then only a minimal amount as there appears to be is no mention of it on their website and certainly isn't listed as a component in any of their wines.

True Pinot Noir awaiting sorting in Sancerre: late September 2009

Sadly the ringing declaration on the home page of Vignobles Alain Maurel now rings a little false: 'La démarche qualité doit être construite du raisin å la satisfaction du client. L'élaboration d'un vin est une chaine où il ne peut y avoir de maillon faible.' (A qualitative approach must be built up from the grape to the customer satisfaction. The elaboration of a wine is a chain where there can be no weak link. Quality cannot be claimed, it proves itself.'

The court estimated that the profit (euros) made by those found guilty from the fraud was as follows:

Cave Cooperative de Barbaira: 430,511
Cave Cooperative de Montblanc: 285,961
Cave Cooperative de Canet d'Aude: 249,517
Pierre Fabre: 46,027
La Clairiege: 40,154
SARL Vailhere Courtage: 36,462
Cave Cooperative Cournonteral: 9905
Vignobles Alain Maurel: 458,390
SAS Ducasse: 3,705,101
Sieur d'Arques: 1,307,024 on a turnover of more than 16 million € from the sales of Pinot.


In all of this it still remains a mystery exactly how much of the fake Pinot Noir was bought by Constellation Wines and Gallo. Constellation say they bought 10% but claim that what they bought really was Pinot Noir, while Gallo say that they purchased less than 20%. If these claims are correct then we don't know who bought more than 70% of the fake Pinot, assuming that all of it went to North America. The answer has to be in Sieur d'Arques records as they bought the vast majority of Ducasse's fake Pinot. It may also be in the court judgment – unfortunately I have only part of this.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

2009 vintage@Château de Chasseloir, Chéreau Carré

Melon de Bourgogne late September 2009 Chéreau-Carré

Digital cameras are wonderful but it can take a long time to sort through what you have taken. This series of pics was taken during a visit to Château de Chasseloir at the end of September in 2009. Conditions were still perfect and this was the end of the vintage. Indeed so good had the conditions been that you can see that some of the grapes are way riper than is customary in the Pays Nantais.

The vines are obviously quite old but they are not the Chasseloir parcel of 100 year old vines 


 Bernard Chéreau – clearly the boss is not expected to pick many grapes!

The famous pigeonnier

Gardens of Château de Chasseloir

Sancerre: new book by Claude Rolland

Le Sancerrois : livre de Claude Rolland  
Au début de l’année 2010, un livre sur la région de Sancerre et ses productions, réalisé par Claude Rolland est paru.

De nombreux chapitres y évoquent les villages vignerons, la Loire, la culture de la vigne, les vinifications, les crottins de Chavignol, les activités professionnelles et culturelles…
Ce livre, de format 270 x 210 mm à l’italienne, de 240 pages est illustré de plus de 200 aquarelles.
Préface d’André Dezat

Il est disponible aux adresses suivantes, contre 33€ l'unité (tarif dégressif).
Claude Rolland, 28 rue des Vignes, 58200 Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire ;
Valérie Chartreux, 20 route de Presle 18300 Vinon ;

(From the site of the Bureau du Centre)

Friday, 19 February 2010

Florence Dagueneau dies

Florence Dagueneau, August 2008

I was very sad and shocked to hear just a short time ago this evening that Florence Dagueneau (Domaine Serge Dagueneau et Filles, Saint Andelain) died of liver cancer on Monday 15th February. I had no idea that she was ill. Florence was only 40. She was buried on Wednesday following a service at the local church – L'Eglise Saint-Leger de Saint Andelain.

My thoughts are with the Dagueneau family – her parents – Serge and Marie-Françoise and her sister, Valérie.

I remember with pleasure a visit to the domaine with Sarah Ahmed in August 2008 when Florence showed us around and we tasted the wines both from Pouilly and from the vineyard in the Coteaux Charitois. See my posting on our visit here.

Florence with Valérie, Serge and Marie-Françoise kept Serge Dagueneau et Filles among the top handful of producers in Pouilly.

There is a Facebook group called Hommage à Florence Dagueneau.

Addition (25th February 2010)

Memories and appreciation by Beatrice:

La Fée Flo
Il était une fois une fée. Ce n’était pas une de ces créatures blondes et filiformes qui hantent les contes pour enfants, elle n’était pas affublée d’un chapeau ridicule ni d’une encombrante baguette magique. C’était une vraie fée de la vraie vie. Elle possédait des pouvoirs incroyables et innombrables. En fait, elle pouvait réaliser n’importe quoi, du moment que c’était pour faire plaisir à quelqu’un.
Sa bonté n’avait pas de limites, son dévouement et sa générosité étaient uniques au monde.
Elle pouvait faire surgir par enchantement une table de fête avec les meilleurs mets qu’on puisse imaginer, sa gourmandise n’ayant d’égal que son génie de cuisinière… et sa convivialité. Mais pour ce dernier point, il faut bien avouer qu’elle n’avait AUCUN mérite, vu que dans sa famille ils étaient tous nés comme ça.

Cette fée, d’ailleurs, n’était pas coincée comme ses collègues, Mélusine ou Morgane, ou toutes ces autres fées pimbêches. Elle aimait la vie, elle aimait la fête, elle aimait les gens et les gens l’adoraient. Les enfants accouraient vers elle, les vieux et les faibles se savaient protégés quand ils l’approchaient.
Même les animaux l’appréciaient, et surtout les grands cerfs, qui s’étouffaient de rire à l’entendre souffler dans son brâmeur, au fond de la nuit des bois.
C’était une fée parfaite et bien terrestre, qui pouvait aussi râler, rouspéter et jurer, conduire le tracteur comme les grands, qui remontait ses manches et ne rechignait jamais à la tâche.

De ses épopées dans les vignes, elle ramenait de la boue sur ses bottes, mais aussi les plus merveilleuses images. Car elle savait voir la brume se lever, les raisins se couvrir de rosée, elle savait attraper l’horizon lorsqu’il se mettait à rosir. Son paysage changeait à chaque instant, et du même lieu elle comprenait chaque nouveau frémissement, elle attrapait au vol chaque frisson de la saison.
Elle créait et recréait, elle aimait le beau.
Elle comprenait aussi toutes ces choses étranges et dérangeantes que les nouvelles technologies ont le génie d’inventer. C’était une fée branchée. Toute seule devant son grimoire lumineux, elle déchiffrait des formules incompréhensibles, elle se jouait des gadgets nippons, surfait sans les vagues et naviguait sans bateau.

Mais quand elle revenait sur terre, c’était pour faire plaisir à nouveau. Elle partait quelquefois s’enfermer dans son laboratoire, dont elle ressortait les bras chargés de brioches chaudes qui embaumaient la bouche et le cœur de tous les vendangeurs.

Et puis bien sûr, elle savait préparer, avec l’aide d’une autre fée que je connais bien mais dont je ne parlerai pas, un breuvage fabuleux, dont le secret leur avait été confié par leurs parents, le roi et la reine de ces terres bénies. Lorsque les gens buvaient de cette potion magique, la joie et le plaisir explosaient en eux, tout emprunts de l’amour qu’il avait fallu pour le confectionner.

Evidemment comme toutes les fées elle fréquentait beaucoup les étoiles. Elle avait d’ailleurs découvert toute seule le chemin qui menait vers elles. De temps en temps, elle partait les visiter, une carte du ciel en main, les yeux pleins de rêve.
Un beau jour une de ces étoiles lui fila un rencart. Une étoile plus sensible que les autres, une étoile qui n’en revenait pas de toute cette beauté d’âme, une étoile qui ne voulu plus que Flo s’en retourne. Elle la garda près d’elle.

A partir de ce jour, des milliers de petits grains de raisins pleureront à jamais sa perte, laissant chaque année des litres de larmes les plus amères… et que la fée Flo, du haut de ses étoiles, changera en nectar magnifique, en souvenir d’elle et de tous ses bienfaits.

Nous avons tous une chance incroyable d’avoir rencontré cette fée. Croiser quelqu’un comme ça dans une vie, vous procure une richesse incroyable. Cette richesse restera toujours en chacun de nous, elle continuera à être une partie de Flo parmi nous, chaque jour et chaque instant.

~ Nous remercions Béatrice pour avoir su mettre en mots ce que, tous, nous ressentons pour Flo ~ (message from the Dagueneau family)

Sylvain Martinez: 2008 Goutte d'O

Sylvain Martinez with his 2008 Goutte d'O 

I was very impressed with Sylvain's 2007 Goutte d'O (100% Chenin) when I tasted it in the UK, where it is imported by Les Caves de Pyrène, so it was good to meet him at the Renaissance tasting in Angers (31st January).

Sylvain is very much a 'boutique' producer with just two hectares of vines and is based in Chemellier in the Aubance between Brissac-Quincé and Saint-Georges-les-Sept-Voies. On tasting the 2008 Goutte d'Or I'm a little less convinced than I was with the 2007. The nose is more oxidative, although the taste is clean and long. I expect I will probably get the chance to taste this again at Les Caves tasting in London next month. 

Traditionally Grolleau Noir has been the major component of Rosé d'Anjou but there are a number of the 'Renaissance style' producers making their Grolleau Noir into a red wine. I tasted Sylvain's 2009 Grolleau Noir, which is not yet in bottle. It has some attractive, ripe fruit – typical of 2009 – but is a bit rustic, which tends to be a characteristic of Grolleau Noir. Will be interesting to taste this once it has been bottled. Nothing wrong with a bit of rough trade – who needs sophistication all the time!

Sylvain Martinez   
13 Rue de la Croix Moron, 49320 Chemellier

Fake Pinot Noir: Constellation the other US buyer

Genuine Pinot Noir, Sancerre, October 2008

It has now emerged that Constellation was the other US company which bought the fake Pinot Noir.

This is reported in the Independant (Perpignan):
'Ce négociant (referring to Ducasse) avait fait passer d'autres cépages pour du pinot et avait revendu ce vin à la société de commercialisation "Sieur d'Arques" qui, en bout de chaîne, le livrait aux Etats-Unis, en particulier au groupe américain E&J Gallo.

'Gallo n'était probablement pas le seul destinataire. Le groupe indiquait mercredi soir qu'il avait "importé moins de 20% du total" de ce faux pinot noir. En outre, un passage du jugement indique que la société Sieur d'Arques était "détentrice d'un marché important avec les clients américains de la cave (les société Gallo et Constellation), portant sur une quantité significative" de cépage Pinot. Constellation, propriétaire de Mondavi, est numéro un mondial du vin.'

Also in the Wall Street Journal:

Constellation Brands Inc. confirmed Thursday that it purchased pinot noir from a French supplier involved in a massive scheme to sell a phony version of the wine variety, but the company said it believes the product it bought was genuine.

Constellation, the world's largest wine producer by sales, said it 'purchased pinot noir from Sieur d'Arques between 2006 and 2008.'

The WSJ also reported that Constellation said that the wine 'was tested internally after the French court case began and found to be pinot noir'.

If Constellation bought the remaining 80% of the fake Pinot Noir or a significant proportion, then it would seem unlikely that it was all genuine Pinot Noir, although some of it may well have been genuine Merlot or Syrah. However, if Constellation's internal testing procedure is correct and what they bought was Pinot Noir (it does rather depend upon what vintage they tested), the mystery still remains – who bought the remaining 80% fake Pinot Noir.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Facebook: Save the wine column – now over 1000

Rebecca Gibb with Oz Clarke in November 2006 when she won the 2006 Young Wine Writer Award

The Facebook group founded on 8th February by freelance wine journalist, Rebecca Gibb, has just topped the 1000 mark. Rebecca set up the group following the news that Tim Atkin, one the UK's most respected and successful wine writers, was having his long standing column in the Observer slashed.

Attracting 1000 members in around 10 days is becoming a solid indication that The Observer has miscalculated – Tim is one of the bright points in the increasingly lacklustre paper, which this weekend is hoping to revive its fortunes with a relaunch. In ditching Tim's weekly column in the Observer magazine, the Observer's editor, John Mulholland and his management team have shown that they have chosen the wrong set of deckchairs to hurl overboard.

I fancy a fair few of the 1000 members may cease to buy The Observer if it does not have a proper weekly wine column. Also I gather that John Mulholland, the editor of the Observer, is aware of the growing row about the axing of Tim's column. At a conference to unveil the new look Observer he admitted that there was "an unholy row about the wine column"!

If you haven't already joined and would like to see wine columns continue in newspapers around the world, please join by following this link.

Fake Pinot Noir: Gallo statement

Sept 2009 true Pinot Noir awaiting sorting@Sancerre late September 2009

E&J Gallo has issued the following statement on the fake Pinot Noir. 

Susan Hensley, Vice President of  Public Relations for E. & J. Gallo Winery:
"We are deeply disappointed to learn today that our supplier Sieur d'Arques has been found guilty of selling falsely labeled French Pinot Noir as recently as March of 2008. Based on the available information of the Pinot Noir that the French courts have investigated, Gallo imported less than 20% of the total and is no longer selling any of this wine to customers.  We believe that the only French Pinot Noir that was potentially misrepresented to us would have been the 2006 vintage and prior.  We want to assure our consumers that this is not a health and safety issue and that we will continue to work with the appropriate U.S. authorities to determine any next steps required for potentially mislabeled Pinot Noir in the marketplace."  

The statement rather raises as many questions as it answers. 20% of the total of the fake Pinot Noir is still 3.6 million bottles. If Gallo only bought 20% of the fake Pinot Noir, who bought the remaining 80%. As far as I can see there is no mention in all the reports of the court proceeding of any other company who might have bought the false Pinot Noir.

'We believe that the only French Pinot Noir that was potentially misrepresented to us would have been the 2006 vintage and prior. 'I love the 'only' and the 'prior' – just brilliant!

The scam started in January 2006 – for bulk wine this would have presumably been for the 2005 vintage. It continued through to March 2008 when it was discovered by the French Suppression des Fraudes. Thus it would have included wine from the 2006 and, possibly 2007 but much less likely as the Fraud Squad were onto the case probably before the 2007 was shipped. It does raise the question of from where in Languedoc was the 2007 Pinot Noir sourced if demand remained at the level of the previous vintages. Was there enough genuine Pinot Noir available in Languedoc to satisfy Gallos requirements?   

According to the Gallo site the 2005 was 100% Pinot Noir, 2006 contained 85% Pinot Noir, 10% Grenache and 5% Syrah, while the 2007 has 88% Pinot Noir, 7% Syrah and 5% Grenache. Under US varietal labelling rules only 75% of a single named varietal needs to be in the blend. For Europe and Australia it is 85%.   

See previous posting on the Red Bicyclette scandal.

Also posting on Constellation as the other buyer.

The Save the wine column on Facebook has now reached 980 just 20 short of 1000. If you haven't already joined here is the link to show your support. 

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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Fake Pinot Noir

True Pinot Noir: Sancerre

I see that the court in Carcassonne today passed sentence on those convicted in the fake Pinot Noir scam. Oceans of Pinot Noir were sold by various organisations including the cooperative Sieur d'Arques in Limoux and Ducasse, a négociant at 4 Avenue Thomas Edison, 11000 Carcassonne to E&J Gallo for their Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir. 

France's fraud department became suspicious during an audit at Ducasse when they discovered that Ducasse were buying Pinot Noir at 58€ per hectolitre when the normal market price for Pinot Noir was 97€, while local grape varieties could be bought for 45€. It also emerged that more Pinot Noir was being sold to Gallo than was produced in the whole of the Languedoc – around 50,000 hl a year. It is only in the cooler areas of Limoux that Pinot Noir can be successfully grown – the majority of Languedoc-Roussilon is far too hot for the Burgundian grape. Patches of Pinot Noir, however, can be found in various parts of the region. On 7th February 2009 Agrisalon reported that every year a company based in Limoux sold over 100,000 hls of Vin de Pays d'Oc Pinot Noir to the North American market.

The 12 defendants were found guilty of selling 18 million bottles (135,334 hectolitres) of fake Pinot Noir to Gallo. The fraud ran from January 2006 to March 2008 and during this time the defendants made a 7€ million profit. The court today handed down suspended jail sentences of between one and six months and levied fines of between 3000€ and 180,000€. Claude Courset of Ducasse received a six month suspended sentence and was fined 45,000€, while the Sieur d'Argues Co-operative was fined 180,000€. Sadly Sieur d'Arques used to have a high reputation and appeared to be a model co-operative.

There have recently been some suggestions that executives at E&J Gallo should have realised that they were being sold fake Pinot Noir. This seems to me to be terribly unfair – why should Gallo executives be expected to tell the difference between Pinot Noir and Carignan and Alicante Bouchet? Actually it was apparently Merlot and Syrah but given the size of the scam there might well have been some Carignan in it.

It is very sad that this scandal will have confirmed some people's view that wine is all about fakery and will hit all French wine, in particular the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. It undermines the efforts of many independent wine producers throughout France. The sort of producers that this blog hopes to play a part in celebrating and promoting.

See also Michel Smith's posting about the glories of Languedoc-Roussillon.   

Patrick Baudouin: a question of yields

Ripening Chenin Blanc in a low yielding vineyard in Anjou:Oct 2009

Interesting article on Patrick's blog on historic grape yields in Anjou citing Le Vigneron Angevin by Dr P. Maisonneuve published in 1928. Yields even on the most fertile of vineyards didn't exceed 35 hl/ha and on the more infertile slopes never more than 12-16 hl/ha and often much less. In 1921, for example the yields were between five and ten hl/ha.

Patrick notes that it was the arrival chemical fertilizers in the 1970s that changed this natural balance and permitted a big increase in yields – the current rules for AC Anjou Blanc permit a base yield of 60 hl/ha. He argues that it was this increase in yields that robbed wines of their authentcity and notes the more recent move by quality minded producers away from the use of artificial fertilizers.

I note that Patrick's copy of Maisonneuve's has a few splashes of wine on its cover – an Anjou Rouge perhaps?


Also a good piece here by Bertrand Celce on Tim Johnston's Juveniles wine bar in Paris. I recently saw Tim at the Salon des Vins de Loire making his annual Monday trip to the fair looking for interesting new things.