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

Friday 31 December 2010

2011 Tour de France will pass through Céré-la-Ronde

Café du Nord in the centre of Menetou-Salon decked out for the 2009 Tour

On Friday 8th July the 7th stage of the next year's Tour de France will pass through Céré-la-Ronde. The stage (215km) starts in Le Mans and finishes in Châteauroux and will be a relatively flat one, which will probably feature a long escape by a small group of riders although it is likely that it will end in a bunch sprint. Mark Cavendish will have fond memories of Châteauroux as it was here in 2008 that he won his first Tour stage. It was, however, very close as the lone escapee, Nicolas Vogondy, was caught only 50 metres from the finishing line.

Not all of the details of the route have been announced yet but the race will enter Céré from the north on the D281 and then head towards Orbigny on the D81 and I assume on to Nouans-les-Fontaines. Before reaching Céré I guess the race will probably cross the Cher either at Chissay - St Georges-sur-Cher or at Montrichard. The latter would avoid the level crossing over the railway line from Tours to Bourges.

Information about Céré here and here.

Couly-Dutheil: the 2009s

Jacques and Arnaud Couly

The Vienne@Chinon even François Rabelais (statue by bridge) is huddled up against the damp cold

Following my tasting at Baudry-Dutour we headed to Chinon with time for a quick picnic sitting inside the car enjoying some excellent paté en croute bought at the truffle market in Marigny-Marmande from the Charcuterie Girardeau (Saumur: tel: stall. Then onto Couly-Dutheil to taste 2009s.

Before starting tasting their range of 2009, Arnaud Couly talked briefly about the 2010 vintage and the difference between the vines on the plain of the Vienne and those on the Coteaux. "We had 40ml of rain at the end of September," said Arnaud, "and we had to pick the vineyards on the plain quickly because of the spread of rot. For those on the coteaux, however, we could wait for the best moment to pick them. With grassed over vineyards we had problems in the summer because it was so dry and the grass was in competition with the vines. Later with the rain they were very useful as they absorbed the water."

I started with the crisp and lemony 2009 Les Chanteaux, Chinon Blanc, which comes from Saint-Louans, where they used two tris for this cuvée. Then on to the first red Les Gravières d'Amadour Abbé de Turpenay. This is the Couly's cuvée printemps and is
juicy easy drinking with red fruit flavours to the fore. They also bottle the same wine later in the year but it is called La Coulée Automnale – principally destined for the restaurant trade – and it is very interesting to note the difference another few months in vat makes to the wine. The Automnale is considerably rounder and softer than the Graviers making it an attractively easy drinking bottle.

2009 La Coulée Automnale

Previously I have criticised Couly-Dutheil for the dry tannins in their wines. It was noticeable in this tasting of the 2009s that in this vintage the tannins are soft, round and well integrated with the fruit.

La Diligence, which comes from vineyards in Beaumont-en-Véron, is a case in point. and was one of my favourites. The top of the vineyard is on clay-limestone, while the lower is more sandy. Mid-weight with ripe black fruits and some structure and well integrated tannins. This has sufficient power to drink with quite robust stews as well as various chicken dishes.

2009 La Diligence

Diligence was followed by two bottlings of Domaine Réné Couly – the first bottled in June and the latter in September. The domaine is on the plateau to the north and west of Chinon close to Saint-Louans. Very interesting to see the difference an additional three months in vat makes as the structure of the September bottling is softer with the tannins better intregrated with a touch of gaminess and ripe, soft fruit. Ideally both bottlings need another six months or more to intregrate and soften further. If you buy the black fruited 2009 Baronnie Madelaine I'd drink this before the Réné Couly.

Clos de l'Olive

We ended with the two famous single vineyard cuvées: 2009 Clos de l'Olive (4.5 ha) and the Clos de l'Echo. On current form the l'Echo is certainly the more attractive with the Olive showing rather grainy, granular tannins. In contrast the complex L'Echo has good texture, structure with black fruits and a touch of liquorice. 

2009 Clos de l'Echo

The final 2009 was Clos de l'Echo Crescendo, which is the only Couly-Dutheil red that sees any wood. There are some wood notes on this supple and well textured red, which obviously needs more time to show its obvious potential. In 2009 only 2000 bottles of Crescendo were made. I remain convinced that Crescendo is an error – that Clos de l'Echo should be the grand vin with fruit from any lesser parcels in the Clos going into a second wine or a more generic cuvée. I think I would blend the small proportion aged in wood into the grand vin.        

We finished with the soft and round 2006 Crescendo, whose wood is understandably now fuller integrated but with
more grainy tannins than the 2009.  

2006 Crescendo de Clos de l'Echo

After the tasting Arnaud and Jacques explained that they have reduced their use of pigeage, which is difficult to manage making it easy to extract too much tannin. Instead they prefer to pump over, which they allows them to regulate extraction more easily. It has certainly worked in 2009 with better tannin management. How far this has been helped by flattering nature of the 2009 vintage should become clearer when the 2010s are ready to taste.

See post on tasting at Couly Dutheil in January 2009.


Clos du Porteau (AC Touraine): a couple of new photos

Aynard de Clermont Tonnerre: a global vision from his new office!

Posts to come include a tasting of 2009s at Couly-Dutheil on Tuesday afternoon, tasting more 2009s at La Maison des Vins de Tours with Marie Colombe Haudebert and a round up of recently tasted wines.

Thursday 30 December 2010

Baudry-Dutour: Jean-Martin Dutour and Sylvine Teston (export director)

After the truffle market it was off to Panzoult and Baudry-Dutour to taste 2010s with Jean-Martin Dutour and Sylvine Teston, their export-director. Pity it was such a miserable wet day as the drive would have been very interesting through attractive countryside and passing by Luzé, the site of the Abbaye Royale de Bois-Aubry. Clearly we will have to return on a better day and when we don't have a tight schedule.

Sylvine Teston and Christophe Baudry

At Baudry-Dutour we started by tasting some of their range of 2010s from tank. Mid-weight Domaine de la Roncée has soft, blackberry fruit and will be bottled early – a wine to enjoy the young fruit rather than analyse. Naturally Roncée's Clos des Marronniers has more concentration and depth. The 2010 Château de Saint Louans, just to the west of the town of Chinon, is very concentrated and looks promising, although it will not be released until 2012 after an élévage in barrel. I didn't taste the 2010 Les Perrières and the Château de la Grille as these wines are made at the respective properties.

Jean-Martin thinks that at the top end the 2010 reds may well be better than the 2009s because yields were down by 20% in 2010 – 40 hl/ha compared to 50 hl/ha the previous year.

I also tasted the opulent and powerful 2010 Chinon Blanc from Saint-Louans in new barriques. Although 15.7% alcohol and completely dry, the wine is well balanced. Will be interesting to taste the finished wine. The well balanced 2009 Saint-Louans (15€), which is now in bottle, has a touch of spicy wood with rich fruit. Bottled on 10th December this really needs another six months to a year for the barrel spice and the wine to harmonise.

We then tasted some 2009s bottled reds starting with the easy drinking Domaine de la Perrières (5.50€) with its juicy, red fruit flavours. The delicious 2009 Domaine de la Roncée (6-7€) has some more concentration, structure and is attractively round. We tried it last night with a turkey and ham pie (the season of left-overs!), which worked well, and then the remmants with a little foie gras – surprisingly good – and some paté en croute. Certainly as they are showing at the moment the additional euro or so for the Roncée is well worth it.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Loire wines of the year: Sarah Ahmed and Cathy Shore

Sarah in Sancerre in August 2008

It's that time of December when people devise lists of the best of the year. Wine is no different and here are two lists of best Loire wines tasted and enjoyed in 2010. First from Sarah Ahmed (the wine detective) who selects her top 5. Secondly this from Cathy Shore of the Tasting Room who has chosen their six best of the year.      

I fear Jim's Loire will cop out claiming that I can't make such a short selection, having tasted too many good Loire wines over the course of 2010!

More wines from the marché aux truffes: Bourgueil and Savennières

Bruno Breton (Domaine du Carroi) with his 2009 Bourgueil Tradition

Bruno Breton's Bourgueils from his Domaine du Carroi was next up after the Jasnières of de Mianville. There was a small group of men clustered around the stand enthusiastically sampling the wines. Although he shares the same surname, Bruno Breton is no relation to the more media conscious Pierre Breton also of Bourgueil. Domaine du Carroi has 20 hectares of vines – 17.5 in Bourgueil and 2.5 in the neighbouring Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil.

I started with the juicy, soft, easy drinking 2009 Saint-Nicolas (7.00€). Just the sort of wine that would disappear rapidly when shared with friends. Next the more angular 2009 Bourgueil Prestige (6.50€),  which needs a bit more time to soften, although food would soften the tannins. Then on to the deep coloured, dense and concentrated 2009 Tradition (8.50€) with plenty of black fruits and structure. I'd buy the Saint-Nicolas to drink now and the reasonably priced Tradition (my preferred wine) to put away for a couple of years or more. I do, however, find it a little strange that 'Tradition' is used for the top wine whereas the lesser Bourgueil is called Prestige.     

Bruno explained that he picks by hand. When I asked about a sorting table he said he didn't have one as he was in the vineyard with the pickers making sure of the quality. 

Roselyne and Bruno Breton
Domaine du Carroi
45 Rue Basse, 37140 Restigne
Phone :   


Luc Bizard

finished with a range of 2009 Savennières from Château d'Epiré with owner, Luc Bizard. Firstly the minerally, quite tight 2009 Epiré (11.50€), which is a blend of a number of parcels. Le Hu Boyau  (13.50€) from 50 year-old vines using an old clone that produces small bunches is definitely a step up and worth the additional two euros with more concentration, texture, minerality and length.

Then on to the concentrated, quite rich but well balanced Cuvée Speciale (14.50€) from vines on roches bleues (phtanites). There is no malo on this cuvée, whereas there is a partial malo on the first two wines. Equally there is no malo on La Reserve du Maître, whose grapes come from the same type of soil as the Cuvée Spéciale but are aged in acacia barrels. I found La Reserve du Maître was a little more drying on the finish than the Spéciale, although I think both should age well.      

To be concluded.

Tours 30th December – second marché aux truffes

For the second year running the city of Tours and the retired chef, Jean Bardet, are organising a truffle market in the centre of Tours at the Péristyle de l'hotel de ville de Tours (the city hall). There will also be a restaurant there where it will be possible to eat truffle dishes at an apparently affordable price. More details here.

Christine de Mianville@the marché aux truffles

Yesterday I took the opportunity at the marché aux truffes@Marigny-Marmande to taste from most of the four or five Loire wine producers present. I started with the Jasnières from Christine de Mianville, a completely new producer to me.

She has just a hectare of vines in the Jasnières appellation at L'Homme and set up in 2005. I did wonder afterwards why it was worth her while driving the 113 kilometres from L'Homme to Marigny-Marmande. However, I see from Richard Kelley's profile that her home is in Varrains close to Saumur and only just over 60 km from Marigny.

Christine de Mianville has two parcels of vines and makes two cuvées of Jasnières, which has to be made from pure Chenin Blanc. Everything is picked by hand into small boxes. I started with the 2008 Chante de Vigne (13€) that comes from very flinty ground on the middle of the slope. The 2008 has bright fruit with touches of apricot and a quite lean, mineral finish. The 2007 (14€) has all the precision and minerality that is typical of this vintage. Both wines should age well. The last two wines came from their clay and limestone parcel – Les Cotières. The 2008 Les Cotières (17€) is richer and fuller than the Chante de Vigne and was my favourite of the three dry wines. I also tasted the  concentrated and mineral 2007 Les Cotières Passerillées (25€ for 50cl) made from grapes that have concentrated on the vine rather than been affected by noble rot giving it vivid and vibrant flavours of fruits confits leading to a long mineral finish.   

Production may be small but Christine's wines are clearly worth following. She and her husband have restored an old loge des vignes and they intend to offer visitors special weekend breaks in the Loir Valley. 
Christine de Mianville
72340 Lhomme 

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Marché aux Truffes@Marigny-Marmande

Today we spent part of the morning at the second of this year's truffle market at Marigny-Marmande. We had intended to go last week but as it was raining we decided against because we thought the market was outdoors. We only discovered later that it is held in the village's salles des fêtes. Just as well as it was again raining hard today and thoroughly miserable. 

A top quality truffle

We arrived about 9.45am when it was still relatively quiet but it soon got very busy. There were a number of truffle sellers present but also a number of other stalls selling 'les produits du terroir'. 1000€ appeared to be the going rate for top quality truffles. This, if I remember rightly, was the same price as it was in Vaucluse about five years ago when I went on a truffle and Rasteau press trip.

Over the past few years Touraine has seen the revivial of the 'production and harvesting' of truffles. Apparently in the Middle Ages there was a very large truffle market held at Richelieu. I bought a copy of a pamphlet called La fouace chere a Rabelais/ la Truffe en Touraine (3€) produced by the Association Géohistorique d'Information sur le Patrimoine. 

Truffle seller nosing one of his truffles (above and below)

More truffle sellers

As well as food there were several wine producers showing their wines. These included Luc Bizard (Château d'Epiré, Savennières), Christine de Mianville (Jasnières) and Bruno Breton (Domaine du Carroi, Bourgueil and Saint Nicolas-de-Bourgueil).
Christine de Mianville with her 2008 Les Cotières, Jasnières

1855 = 100,000€ of en primeurs not delivered

Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry: some en primeurs not delivered by 1855

Details of the current value of the wines not delivered by 1855 to their customers here on Les 5 du Vin.

Monday 27 December 2010

Vindic d'Or: best French wine blogs

Ryan O'Connell considers an Austrian wine during the 3rd European Wine Bloggers' Conference

The 2010 Vindic d'Or for the best French wine blogs have just been awarded. See the details here. Congratulations to all the prize winners especially to Ryan O'Connell (joint winner meilleur blog du vigneron) for Love That Languedoc), Eva Robineau (meilleur blog communautaire for Oenos), Philippe Rapiteau (meilleur blog voyageur for La Pipette aux quatre vins) and Olivier Grosjean (grand prix spécial du blog "increvable" for Blog d'Olif). Winner of the best blog of the year was Bourgognelive.

This is the first edition of these awards.

Two new ebooks: Georges Meekers and Ryan O'Connell

Two ebooks on lesser known wine areas have just been published: Georges Meekers' revised edition of his Wines of Malta and Ryan O'Connell's first venture into publishing with Wines of Carcassonne – The Cabardès AOC.

Georges Meekers@Medina, Malta

I have yet to see a copy of Georges' new book but details can be found here and it can be downloaded from Amazon here on a Kindle for £4.45.

Ryan O'Connell 

The Cabardès is a lesser known appellation just to the north of Carcassonne. Along with the Côtes de Malepère, it is on the border between the vineyards of the Mediterrean and those of the Atlantic. Naturally featuring grape varieties typical of both climatic regions.

Ryan's book can also be downloaded from Amazon onto a Kindle here for £2.21. It strikes me that this is still work in progress, although it is already a useful guide for someone visiting the region. He makes good use of the interactive map to Carbardès on page 9. However I would like more detailed profiles of the vignerons as some are rather perfunctory. Also more background detail would be good. Ryan mentions that Cabardès is cooler than the adjoining Minervois to the east. By how much? A few weather stats here would be illuminating. These details can easily be added in a later edition.

Also I'm not sure whether it is my screen setting but some of the text is squashed down – needing a few tweaks on the publishing programme to sort it out.

However, it is exciting to see the possibilities of self-publishing through organisations like Amazon.  

Epeigné-les-Bois: two January 2010 dates

Michel Mergot and his predecessor as Maire – Jacky Marchau@2009 Cérémonie des Voeux 

Saturday 8th January 2011: Cérémonie des Voeux, 18.00, Salles des Fêtes

The 2009 Saint-Vincent: Alain Tranchard (photo Mark Robertson)

Sunday 30th January 2011
: Fête de la Saint-Vincent
Fête des vignerons
Danses de la Gidelle
Dégustation des vins

Epeigné-les-Bois: birds are cold and the ground is frozen

We regularly feed the birds, especially at the moment when the ground is frozen making it difficult for them to feed. Some shots of a blackbird feeding on some scraps of bread this morning.

... and a tit, too.

Epeigné-les-Bois: cold but bright

Frozen ball on a bramble

Overnight from Christmas to Boxing Day the temperature fell to -7C producing plenty of givré (hoar frost) but there was brilliant bright sunshine during the day with little wind. Another good cold spell to help kill off bugs etc. in the vineyard. The cold is due to continue through part of today before getting milder with rain forecast for tomorrow.

Hoar frost
Interesting tree against the blue sky

Sunday 26 December 2010

2010 Born Digital Awards: submissions now open

Submissions are now open for the first edition of the Born Digital Awards. Details here. There are five categories and the final date for submissions in 28th February 2011. The winer of each category will receive 1000€ and I understand that the winners will be announced the London International Wine Trade fair in mid-May. Submissions must have been published first on the net and published during 2010. 

The five categories are: best investigative wine story, best editorial wine writing, best wine tourism feature, best wine themed video and best winery themed video. The intention is to expand the categories in future editions. I would like to see an award for the best single issue, non commercial wine related campaign and one for ebooks, probably limited to those self published. Suggestions for other categories welcome. 

Although the judging is in English, submissions can be in any language. This is a most welcome and brave innovation which opens these awards up right across the net, while it clearly makes life complicated for the organisers. It makes these new awards truly international in a way that the Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Awards are currently not despite their name.   

On the 2010 panel of judges are Jancis Robinson MW, Evan Schnttman, Elin McCoy, Patrick Schmitt and Robert Joseph. Undoubtedly an eniment panel but it is a pity and a little surprising that the panel doesn't include someone whose mother tongue isn't English. 

Saturday 25 December 2010

Epeigné-les-Bois: some Christmas photos

Epeigné-les-Bois in the bright sunlight

The café, épicerie and restaurant

Epeigné's former hotel: des Voyageurs

Plenty of mistletoe but rather high up

Silvery sunlight on the trees

Joyeux Noël à tous

Tree and L'Eglise@Epeigné-les-Bois

Friday 24 December 2010

Restaurant Agnès Sorel@Genillé

2005 Les Cent Boisselées, Pierre-Jacques Druet

It is probably a good five or six years since I have eaten at the Agnès Sorel in Genillé. Long established it has changed hands a number of times. The most recent change was about a year ago when Nicolas and Estelle Petit, who had worked for the Hotel du Vin chain in the UK, took over. Having heard good reports CRM and I decided that we should go and try it last night and were very favourably impressed.

We started with a refreshing glass of delicately red fruited Pétillant Rosé from Rémi Cosson (4.50€ a glass), while considering the menu. CRM went for the 36€ menu with a choice from the carte of entrée, fish or meat and dessert. I chose the 22€ menu attracted by the oeufs pochés sauce vin rouge

Our mise en bouche was a delicious crème de celeri with a smoked scallop and a crispy stick of bacon. Then, while I enjoyed my oeufs pochés, CRM had the duo of home cured smoked salmon and smoked eel with the salmon being particularly flavoursome.

 2005 Les Cent Boisselées from Pierre Jacques Druet

The wine list has a good selection of Loire featuring producers like François Chidaine, Château de Coulaine, Frédéric Mabileau, Yannick Amirault and Olga Raffault. We chose the 2005 Les Cent Boisseles (28€) from Pierre Jacques Druet, which is drinking well now with its soft black fruits with hints of smokiness with good freshness in the finish. This 2005 is not at all cloying a few rather overblown 2005s can be. The label is memorable as the vintage has just been roughly stamped onto it as though Pierre Jacques had bought a large batch of labels and date stamps them as required!

Main course for CRM was a generous portion of very good guinea fowl, while I had parmentier de canard (shepherds pie of duck). Again a generous portion with plenty of soft, rich duck meat.

For dessert CRM chose the clementine soufflé, which looked spectacular and all puffed up when it arrived. It tasted as good as it looked, while my tarte tatin was OK but was the least impressive of my three dishes.

Some very good coffee and it was time for the bill – almost exactly 100€.   

This was easily the best and most enjoyable meal we have had at the Agnès Sorel, which also has three rooms at 50€, 59€ and 62€ a night. I'm sure we will go back fairly soon.

Agnès Sorel
6 Place Agnès Sorel
37460 Genillé