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 January 2014

2014 Millésime Bio: photos from Day 2 (28th January 2014)

fred Niger Van Herck calculating how many more amphores 
he can buy... 'probably squeeze one into Guy's bathroom...

Photos of some Loire producers from Day 2 of Millésime Bio (28th January):

Breton-born fred Niger Van Herck (just call him fred it's easier) is rapidly turning into a super-vedette bringing colour and dynamism to the Pays Nantais. It was  impressive the number of vistors who were almost constantly clustered around the stand he shared with Laura Semeria (Cheverny/Cour-Cheverny). Increasingly heavily into amphores of various sizes for both fermentation and maturation.      

fred doing his Aristide Bruant impression

 Grégoire du Bouexic and Thomas Carsin: 

 Jean-Pierre Guedon, Domaine les Hautes Noëlles, 
Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 

From the Pays Nantais and a successful businessman Jean-Pierre Guedon bought the 25-hectare Domaine les Hautes Noëlles in Saint-Léger-les-Vignes from Serge Batard in 2010. He had sold his transport business in 2008 and as he had always been a keen wine lover, he decided to buy the domaine when it became available, especially as it is the closest vineyard to his house in Pornic some 30 kilometres away.   

Matthieu Vallée, Château Yvonne in Parnay, Saumur/Saumur-Champigny 
2011 Le Gory, Saumur Blanc showing particularly well

Cutting edge lift

While in Montpellier I stayed in the Hotel Oceania, right in the centre of Montpellier. As you can see they have recently installed a new lift. The hotel is slightly faded but comfortable. I had a good big room with plenty of space to work.

Quarts de Chaume: an update on the Baumards' attempt to annul new Grand Cru

Quarts de Chaume: terraces close to the River Layon 
The peaceful battlefield!

Florent Baumard

On Wednesday afternoon (29th January) Jean and Florent Baumard's legal challenge to the Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru was heard before France's Conseil d'Etat (the country's Supreme Court) with the rapporteur giving their conclusions. I understand that the court is due to hand down its decision in two or four weeks time. I assume that the Conseil will also have heard during this hearing the Baumards' challenge to AOC Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume.

I understand that the commission set up to look into this legal challenge gave their report and conclusions to the judges on the Baumards' challenge. This commission spent several months looking at the issues involved, which included the hierarchisation – Grand Cru Quarts de Chaume and Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume, the names and the eventual ban on cryoextraction/cryoselection.

Jean and Florent Baumard successfully challenged two previous newly created appellations involving Chaume with the Conseil annulling the previous versions in 2005 and 2009 respectively. See here and here. 

It is ironic that the Baumards' challenge has been heard just before the Salon des Vins de Loire and probably a very good thing that the Conseil's decision will not be handed down until after the Salon keeping all the parties concerned in suspense.

Although the court's decision will directly affect this small part of Anjou – Quarts de Chaume is around 50 hectares, it has wider implications. If the Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru décret is annulled this is likely to put back any proposals from other Loire appellations seeking grand cru status for their best sites. 

There are broader issues than Grand Cru status, assuming the Baumard's challenge to Q de C was based at least in part on the banning of cryoextraction/cryoselection (permitted to 2019 vintage). Allowing cryoextraction, especially for a very special site like the Quarts de Chaume, will signal that France allows its producers to use freezing or other forms of technological intervention to change the hand that nature dealt. It will diminish the risk involved in making very special sweet wines (at their best) like the Quarts de Chaume. It is likely to permit growers to produce larger quantities of these sweet wines. Would the Baumards have challenged the new Grand Cru if it had permitted cryoextraction/cryoselection?

I hope that the Conseil d'Etat rejects the Baumard's challenge and that the Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru décret of November 2011 remains in place as it bought welcome rigour to one of France's greatest sweet wines made in a special, magical site. 

Today I am even more convinced that cryoextraction/cryoselection should have no place in the Quarts de Chaume. If conditions during the harvest are so difficult – over 200mm of rain in October 2012, for example, then there should be no Quarts de Chaume made/declared that year. Instead it can de declared as Coteaux du Layon, assuming that the wine meets this appellation's less rigorous criteria. If you want to use cryoextraction – fine but sell it as Vin de France just as an increasing number of producers do for other wines that do not fit into appellation rules. 

Although there is no definition for 'natural' wine its success as shown by enthusiasm of wine lovers who attend fairs like RAW and the Real Wine Fair is that there is a demand for authenticity, for wines made without large scale technological intervention. These wine lovers would expect Quarts de Chaume to be made as naturally as possible and not to be a product of freezing.   

Sign for Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru – to stay or be removed?

Western end of Quarts de Chaume AC with Saint Aubin in the background

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Millésime Bio: photos from First Day (27th January 2014)

Entrance to Millésime Bio@Montpellier 

 Inside Hall B2 - one of the three halls now used

His 2013 Gamays are impressively good.
Unfortunately hit by hail in early August but autumn very dry

Thierry Amirault, Domaine des Quarterons – demonstrating
his green credentials by sporting an exotic headware!
+ a range of impressive 2012s

 Pascal Lambert, Chinon – above and below


 Loïc Mahé (Savennières) and his son (also below)

 Hilkka Chartier with Château de la Minière, Bourgueil

 Michel Bedouet and his wife, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine

Frédéric Sigonneau, producer of fine Chinon 
(above and below)

 Adnams stalwarts: Alastair Marshall (above) and Robert Chase 
(looking very quizzically at a bottle)
Long-time fans of this fair, they were amongst the few UK merchants Present

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Epeigné-Les-Bois: Saint Vincent 2014

Fabrice Sommeria

Dateline: Epeigné-les-Bois Saint Vincent 26th January 2014
Report from Mark Robertson, Jim's Loire's special correspondent sur place:

'A few photos from Sunday’s very successful Saint Vincent at Epeigné. 

The Saint Vincent – Fabrice Sommeria, a packed hall, the use of a smartphone to find lyrics for a song, the Saint Vincent in full voice and the menu (very good it was too*). 

Wines served were from the Francueil co-opérative – Blanc Touraine Amboise Moelleux 2009, Blanc Sauvignon 'Tête du Cuvée' 2012, Rouge Bertrand de Grateloup Cot 2012, Rouge Cabernet 2010 , Blanc Methode ½ Sec.

 Prompt for the Saint Vincent song

A full Salle des Fêtes à Epeigné-les-Bois 

*Le Menu


Salade périgourdine au foie gras
Touraine Blanc

Lotte à l'Armoricaine 


Filet de biche
Touraine Côt

Poirier et son coulis de chocolat
Méthode traditionnelle  

Young Beaujolais producers' event@Chez Boris: 28.

Chez Boris, 17 Boulevard Sarrail, Montpellier   

Last night I went to a relaxed and enjoyable event organised by a group of young Beaujolais producers: 

Château de Lavernette
Domaine Chasselay
Domaine des Grandes Bruyères
Domaine Dominique Cornin
Domaine de la Soufrandière
Domaine Les Bertrand

Domaine Saint-Cyr

Domaine Thillardon   

A range of Beaujolais was shown including some old bottles going to a 1989 Domaine Saint-Cyr, which was showing well. There was also a selection of magnums from the 2009 vintage and a selection of Beaujolais Blanc. 

Here are a few photos from the event: 

Louise Hurren (Languedoc Outsiders)

Mélina Condy, Inter Beaujolais

...and I thought Michel Smith (Les 5 du Vin) was enjoying the wines, 
especially the magnum of Morgon 2009

The event in the round 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

New Barker Points launched@Millésime Bio

The highly trained pooch is carried lovingly through 
Hall B2@Millésime Bio
ready to start his work

Close up of the wine-dog expert

Launched this morning with considerable fanfare at Millésime Bio the new Barker Points System (in French: Vin-Canine) could revolutionise wine assessment.

The dog has been trained to taste (lap up) the wine from a saucer, which has been specially designed to maximise the aromas. The dog uses a series of barks to show his appreciation and these have been carefully analysed during the dog's lengthy training and compared to the scores of leading human wine critics, who use the 100-point system. It has now been established that:  

Three barks equates to a 100-96 point wine.
Two barks equates to a 95-90 point wine 
One bark equates to a 89-84 point wine 
No bark equates to a 83-70 point wine 
If the pooch pees on the carpet – 69 points or less  

Update: 29.1.2014: 

The labrador arriving@Millésime Bio this morning (29.1.2014)

Barker Points, the new system of wine assessment, is developing fast. So popular has it proved that a reinforcement was called in. This time a labrador, who we understand concentrates on wines with high alcohols,  typically wines from Languedoc-Roussillon, the Southern Rhône, Priorat, California and Argentina, while the pooch assesses those with lower alcohol such as Rieslings and other varieties from the Mosel as well as Italian Pinot Grigio.