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

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

2014 Loire vintage: two Vincents in the Cher Valley

 Vincent Ricard, Thésée (AC Touraine)

After leaving the Clos Roche Blanche we dropped in on two Vincents – Vincent Ricard @Thesée and Vincent Roussely, Clos Roussely@Angé. Although both were very happy with the quality of 2014 – "the most beautiful grapes I can remember" Vincent Ricard, both men are disappointed with the low yields again this year – the third year in succession. 

Vincent Roussely is at 28 hl/ha for his Sauvignon Blanc, which represents 70% of his production. Vincent Ricard, in his second year of conversion to organic viticulture has 38-40 hl/ha but really needed 45-50 hl/ha in order to supply his clients. Instead 2014 is another short year. Vincent Ricard has finished his whites and just has 3.5 ha of reds to pick.

"I had to spray 14 times this year – we didn't stop until 21st August." says Ricard. When I decided to change to organic viticulture I was determined to show that it was possible to have both reasonable yields – 45-50 hl/ha – and to be properly organic. Over the past two years I have invested €200,000 in machinery to help make this possible.      

 Vincent drawing a sample of 2014 Les 3 Chênes

 Vincent Roussely in his winery in Angé – having moved 
his press out of his cellar and across the road now has more space to work

 2014 machine picked Sauvignon Blanc

 Cubes of frozen carbon dioxide to protect the grapes 
as a susbtitute for sulphur dioxide

 Some CO2 tablets on the trailer of fruit waiting to be processed

CO2 protection

 La Petite Reine 

 Grapes left for future 2014 Libertine 
– the sweet Roussely Sauvignon Blanc cuvée

Vines, Angé church and other side of misty Cher Valley

Clos Roche Blanche, AC Touraine – historic last vintage for Catherine & Didier

  Catherine Roussel rallying the pickers for nearly the last time

Didier Barouillet down in the cellar

2014 is the last vintage for Catherine Roussel and Didier Barouillet at the Clos Roche Blanche (AC Touraine@Mareuil-sur-Cher). Retirement beckons for them. Over the past few years some of their vineyards have been sold off, in particular to Noëlla Morantin. The remaining vineyards, including a small parcel of Côt (Malbec is a synomym) where the vines are celebrating their 120th birthday this year, will be split between Laurent Saillard and Julien. Laurent and Julien will each be making their own wines.  

Picking Sauvignon Blanc on a misty late September morning

Catherine picking
 Another small crop of Sauvignon Blanc in 2014: 15-20 hl/ha 

There were a large number of spiders' webs this morning

 Picker amongst the vines

Laurent Saillard@Clos Roche Blanche 2011 harvest


Mid-morning break

Didier in the cellar pouring a sample of 
2014 Sauvignon Blanc coming in at an average 13.3%, 
5.4 acidity and 3.28 acidity 
Quality is good but quantity is again low  

Monday, 29 September 2014

Fred Niger@Domaine des Amphores, Pays Nantais

Fred and his growing family of amphores
including the two newest acquisitions just to his right

On Thursday afternoon, after we left the Luneau family, we dropped in on neighbouring Frédéric Niger Van Herck @Domaine des Amphores (autrefois Domaine de l'Ecu). Like the Luneaus, Fred was very happy with the 2014 vintage. After two weeks of harvesting he had finished the whites yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 23rd September). The yield has averaged 40 hl/ha with potential alcohols in the Melon of up to 12.5% at the end – with an average of 12% and 5.5 acidity. The Chardonnay (13.5% – 5.5 acidity) and the Pinot Noir has also been picked. Now Fred is waiting for the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen.

As elsewhere in the Loire a warm dry September has transformed prospects after a wet and cool August. Around Friday 19th Fred was worried by a very dark sky but the storm fortunately passed them by. Elsewhere in the Loire hail storms at this time caused heart-breaking late damage to some very unfortunate producers like Corinne Laurent in Saint-Pourçain.

As well as tasting some of the fermenting 2014s, I also tasted the interestingly rustic 2013 Egiodola. This variety was originally developed in France's South West but Fred has a parcel close to the winery.        

Reaching for 2014 Chardonnay – seven days of maceration
(above and below)

2014 Chardonnay  – Fred amphoric!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Restaurant Agnès Sorel@Genillé closes its doors

 Restaurant Agnès Sorel@Genillé
One of our favourite local restaurants, the Agnès Sorel in Genillé, closed its doors about a fortnight ago. The food was extremely good and very good value for the quality, while the wine list, although short, was carefully chosen with a good selection of Loire wines. We will certainly miss it and Nicolas and Estelle Petit, who ran it. 

I guess the closure of the Agnès Sorel underlines the difficulty of running a quality restaurant in a backwater like Genillé. Whether anyone will ever take over remains to be seen or is this the end of a restaurant that has been in Genillé as long as we have been in Epeigné – now more than 27 years?

The menu holder now empty

Through the reflection you just see the empty restaurant 
with the tables and fittings gone

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Biodynamics dépassés par Eco-Luneau....!

Marie Chartier (Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin) demonstrating 
a return to an age-old tradition to analyse 
the newly born 2014 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine  

It is an immutable law of nature that there comes a time when even the most cutting edge, starry movement slows and is overtaken by something new. Last Thursday we had the good fortune to discover that this may well now be underway in Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine. There is now a palpable sense that biodynamics is beginning to appear jolly fatigué!

Pierre-Marie Luneau – listening to his nascent 2014 Muscadet

Eco-Luneau is a return to hallowed traditions and values, including one long forgotten aspect of wine – its sound.

Trail-blazer Pierre-Marie Luneau (Domaine Pierre Luneau-Papin) explains: "We have forgotten how to listen to wine. Of course, the sight, aroma and taste are very important but we must never forget the sound of wine – the fourth sense. Unfortunately all the current wine notation systems, including of course the 100-point scale, concentrate exclusively on the three senses ignoring sound so only assess a part of a wine's qualities."  
Pierre Clavel, Domaine Clavel in the Languedoc  
(Millésime Bio, Montpellier January 2012)

Pierre-Marie acknowledges the pioneering and inspirational work carried out by Pierre Clavel into the audiology of wine over the past few years. 

The Luneau family with their promising 2014 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine:
Pierre-Marie, Marie, Monique et Pierre 
(above and below)

Marie with the finely calibrated divining stick

 Monique Luneau with a stereo of 2014 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine

 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Ligeoise:
there will be some exciting new flavours 
emerging from the Pays Nantais this year

Friday, 26 September 2014

Loire cycle ride for cancer: good and bad moments

Attractive château just to the north of Le Puy en Vélay

Much of the Loire Valley is beautiful, although there are times when its flatness becomes a little monotonous. I didn't have much time to stop to take photos, although I did take a few.   

 The Loire just to the north of Le Puy en Vélay

 The bridge – Pont des Droits de l'Homme (Human Rights Bridge) -

 The Loire@Retournac

 Retournac: a business that has seen better days

 Close to the Bec-Allier, where the Allier joins the Loire@Cuffy
(above and below)

 The Loire@Ancenis

 Not the best moment!: at the top of the climb over the 
Saint-Nazaire Bridge over the Loire.
Narrow, unguarded cycle lane some heavy traffic
Good when you get sucked along but not so good 
if you get sucked under the wheels! 
(photo: Charles Éric Pasquiers)

Having a Baule@journey's end