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 September 2013

Olivier Cousin: three days before Oliver's picnic and court judgment

Will Olivier Cousin be shipped off to a Penal Colony?!

The offending label

There are now just three days before Olivier Cousin's picnic in the centre of Angers – Place Leclerc. Olivier has invited his supporters to a picnic at midday on Wednesday 2nd October before the French judiciary hands down a judgment against M.Cousin for having put Anjou Pur Breton on a vin de table label. See details of the invitation on Facebook here. You supply the food and Olivier will arrive with a barrel drawn by his horses.

Olivier has waited two years for this judgment for fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of 40,000€. His use of Anjou on a vin de table is a minor misdemeanor, which should have been settled long ago with a small fine. Instead it has been blown up out of all proportion. More details here. See also Jancis Robinson's view of the case.  

Today we are off to the Pays Nantais to see how the Muscadet harvest is coming along before heading to Angers for the picnic. Hope to see you there!    

Sunday, 29 September 2013

2013@Ampelidae in Haut-Poitou

Frédéric Brochet (centre) with part of son equipe
including Kate owner of Château des Roches 
where the wines are made

Part of winery@Château des Roches

On our way back from the Fiefs Vendéens we dropped in on Frédéric Brochet's Ampelidae operation in Marigny-Brizay (Haut-Poitou). I hadn't made an appointment but Jérémie Mourat thought they would have started picking so  I thought it would be worth turning up to find out how things were going.

They started picking here on Friday with Sauvignon Blanc. They also attacked the Chardonnay very early on Saturday - the picking machine getting underway at 5am, some 20 kms away from Château des Roches where the wines are now made. 

François who takes the early shift on the picking machine
starting well before daylight. He supplies Ampelidae with grapes from 25 ha

Philippe supplies grapes from 4 hectares 

Frédéric and his team have 107 hectares to harvest, so in a vintage that is looking delicate because of the rapid spread of rot, at least for the early varieties, the picking machines will be operated almost without a stop.

We had never visited Ampelidae before nor the Haut-Poitou vineyards. Although they are only about an hour and half from Epeigné-les-Bois, they are out of our normal line of travel, which is up and down the Loire mainly along the line of the A85 autoroute. 

Because of the disruption to small local roads, it took a while to find Frédéric's base at the Manoir de Lavauguyot about two kilometres from Marigny-Brizay. Here I was told that Frédéric was out looking at the crop in the vineyards and that we would probably find him at nearby Château des Roches.
Arriving at des Roches we met Kate Meuli, owner of the château with her husband Benji, since 1990. In 2004 they were able to buy the farm – 500 acres including 25 hectares of vines – and the buildings attached to the château. They entered into a partnership with Frédéric Brochet, who transferred his wine-making facilities here. 

Frédéric was supposed to return around 1pm, so Kate kindly invited us to join them for the workers lunch. which was extremely good as it is prepared by a former chef at the Fauchon restaurant in Paris. Frédéric used to be the wine consultant for Fauchon. L'Heure Brochet is rather different from customary time as he returned at 2pm.  

Frédéric reported that rot was spreading rapidly in the early varieties – you could almost see it developing as you watched. He also talked about the developments over the Cave de Haut-Poitou in nearby Neuville, which has long struggled with its debts, which have now reached 3.3 million euros. Having rejected a plan to go into partnership with Ampelidae, the Cave went into administration on 18th September. Out of 40 members of the co-operative, who own 250 hectares of vines, 16 with 93 hectares of vines have just signed this week a three-year contract with Ampelidae. The 16 will deliver their grapes to the coop as usual and Frédéric and his team will make the wine there as there isn't sufficient capacity at the Château des Roches and also Ampelidae is organic, so they need to vinify non-organically produced grapes elsewhere.  Whether Frédéric will have the use of the coop's facilities next year remains to be seen.

 Cave du Haut Poitou (above and below)

 My post for Les 5 du Vin this Tuesday will cover this story in more detail.           

Saturday, 28 September 2013

2013 Loire Vintage: thundery, humid weather threatening rot

The approaching storm seen on A83 autoroute we were heading eastwards

Growers' obvious optimism aroused by last weekend's fine weather which continued into the early part of this week appears to be starting to give way to concern, especially for those picking early varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. In the Fiefs Vendéens this was clearly the concern of Jérémie Mourat and Thierry Michon. The concern about the threat of rot was reinforced when we visited Frédéric Brochet of Ampelidae in Marigny-Brizay, Haut-Poitou. Frédéric report that you could virtually see rot spreading in their Sauvignon Blanc as you watched!

There also appear to be some fragile parcels of Sauvignon Blanc in the Central Vineyards, so picking will soon be getting underway. 

Friday was very hot, humid – tropical. Driving back from the Vendée yesterday we passed through a large area of stormy weather that stretched from Fontenay-le-Comte to north of Poitiers. We drove through some very heavy rain – fortunately we encountered no sign of hail. 

 Heavy rain on the A83
Fortunately the rain was much more gentle by the time 
it got to the Haut-Poitou vineyards

Reaching the Loire we ran into another, separate area of thundery weather with very dark clouds to the north of Bléré in the direction of Amboise. 

Unfortunately there are showers, some of them thundery, forecast of most days this coming week, so I expect growers to be picking their early varieties as quickly as possible while hoping that the later varieties resist better and manage to ripen properly before rot sets in.

Château Bredurière, Moutiers-sur-le-Lay: recommended B&B in Fiefs Vendéens

The château

Ans, who has run the château with her husband Bart since January 2013

We decided that it was too far to drive down from the Cher Valley to the Fiefs Vendéens and back in a day. It would have meant at least six hours driving. Instead we looked for a chambre d'hôte and found Château Bredurière in the commune of Moutiers-sur-Le Lay, adjacent to Mareuil-sur-Lay the base of J. Mourat. 

We had a very good stay there, which included a three course evening meal and a copious breakfast. In all we paid 154€, which included wine. Ans and Bart have been running the château since the beginning of January. Previously they had been in the Aveyron. The château is owned by a Dutchman, who makes commercial videos. Ans is also from Holland, while Bart is Belgian. They are very welcoming and friendly. The château is very peaceful with only the occasional dog barking to break the silence. It is about 35-40 minutes from the nearest point on the Atlantic coast and anyway there is a good sized heated salt water swimming pool at the property.    

We will certainly stay there again when we next explore this part of the Fiefs Vendéens      

(NB. We booked under CRM's name and paid in full. Nor were Ans and Bart aware of Jim's Loire or that I'm a journalist.)    

Our comfortable first floor en suite room

Another view of the château

The pigeonnier (above and below)

The château@night

As it was a warm evening we all sat around 
a brazier after dinner

If you don't fancy a room in the château 
you can stay in one of these three huts

2012 Le Clos des Chaumes, Mareuil, Fiefs Vendéens:
Drunk with dinner – an easy drinking red with the typical edginess of 2012
Not at same level as Mourat or Domaine Saint-Nicolas 

2013 Loire vintage – a day in the Fiefs Vendéens

 The entrance to the impressive Mourat winery

 Pinot Noir@J. Mourat

We spent yesterday in the Fiefs Vendéens to see how the vintage was coming along.  We saw Jérémie Mourat at J. Mourat in Mareuil-sur-Lay and then Thierry Michon (Domaine Saint Nicolas) at L'île d'Olonne. I don't often get down here as it is nearly a three hour drive to Mareuil-sur-Lay and even further to Thierry's. 

Both Jérémie and Thierry are hurrying to get the early varieties picked, especially the Pinot Noir, whose skins are very fragile and the berries are starting to rot. "On Saturday 14th September we had 40 mm of rain," explained Thierry. After the dry August and September, the grapes sucked up the water and swelled up. This is not being helped by the warm, very humid weather. Thunderstorms are forecast for this weekend – hopefully less humid weather will follow on. Thierry, who started on Wednesday, reckons that the harvest will last three weeks instead of the usual five. I sense that Thierry may be regretting that he didn't start on Monday, especially as he has 40 hectares to pick by hand. 

"Petite année!" was Thierry's early but decidedly pessimistic take on 2013.   

 J. Mourat: visitors entrance to the winery shop

Egg fermenters in the very new winery section (2013) 
Above and below

(Photo: CRM)

 Clos du Moulin Blanc (above and below)

Mourat: Negrette – once accounted for 60% of the plantings
Now down to less than 10% but is being revived

Jérémie Mourat in his pre-phylloxera Negrette 

Sorting Pinot Noir@Domaine Saint Nicolas (Thierry Michon)
above and below

 Olivia from Felton Road, Central Otago (New Zealand)
She is spending part of the vintage here

Testing the grapes 

Case of 2013 Pinot Noir

 Thierry Michon hard at work 

Olivia, too

 Thierry with his new amphora

Thierry Michon's winery – different style to Mourat
Thierry has a tasting room and shop in nearby Brem-sur-Mer

Domaine Saint-Nicolas is biodynamic

Friday, 27 September 2013

Lamé Delisle Boucard – cellars and orientating Mont Sigou

Bacchus statue deep down in the cellars

Last Friday before going to eat at Vincent Cuisinier de Campagne we had a quick tour of the cellars of Lamé Delisle Boucard as well as their new table d'orientation at Mont Sigou. It was in the Lamé cellars that Les 5 du Vin were treated to the now famous tasting of Bourgueil back to 1893. 

Old vintages of Bourgueil in the cellars

Quote from Cicero

Quote from Jean Carmet: 'The only weapon I tolerate is a corkscrew

Venue for the famous vertical

Large oak barrels in the LDB chai (above and below)

Photo of the LDB team

The viewpoint


Château d'Ussé in distance 

2013 Cabernet Franc ripening on Mont Sigou