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, 31 March 2015

France 2 in Epeigné-les-Bois

 The broadcasters 
(above and below) 

Yesterday France 2 were in Epeigné-les-Bois to follow up progress on the restoration of the village's church, which is badly in need of repairs with leaks in the roof. 

Left to right: Serge Morisset, Philippe Gallet 
and Jacky Marchaux

Setting the scene

Pierre Tourlier arrives 
(above and below)

Filming with Pierre with Serge, Philippe and Jacky 

Pierre Tourlier is well known as the chauffeur of former President François Mitterand. With Philippe Gallet he is on Epeigné's Conseil Municipal. During the filming Pierre explained how he had contacted Président François Hollande and Fleur Pelleri, the Minister of Culture, is an effort to move the file on reclassifiying Epeigné's église up the pile. Apparently there was an attempt to get the village's church reclassified way back in 1948. Although this was unsuccessful the file remained in the state archives and I understand was recently reactivated. Apparently the reclassification dossier has now been discussed but to waht avail is yet to be known.

Then Philippe explained how he had become a friend of Pierre's and that now they had a ritual of meeting every day of the week (except Monday when our bar/restaurant is closed) round 8.30am at Le Lézard Vert for breakfast.  

Sign on the dotted line please!
The participants signing over 
their worldly goods to France 2....
Philippe hopes that he hasn't signed away 
his fishing rod which would rule out 
trout fishing visits to Lozère.
Equally trout might cease to be an 
endangered species there! 

Nacer Maghissene (Le Lézard Vert) with the TV crew 
(above and below)

Le Lézard Vert (2009)

 More to follow in further posts.

Monday, 30 March 2015

More photos from 2015 Vinaviva – Saturday 28th March

The Sales des Fêtes @ Saint-Etienne de Chigny
Claude Aupetitgendre, Domaine de Montoray
Montlouis and Touraine

I was impressed by Claude's Bulles de Chenin non dosé, Montlouis (9.30€)  – very clean and well made – and also the 2013 Libreval sec Montlouis (8€) with its attractive texture. This was the only still cuvée they made in 2013.

Guillaume Reynouard, Manoir de la Tête Rouge, Saumur
(above and below) 

Best wines 2010 Chapitre Saumur Blanc + 
2010 L'Enchentoir, Saumur Notre-Dame (12€)

Vincent Chauvelot, Châteaumeillant
My best wine from Vincent was 2012 La Vignonnerie
90% Pinot Noir, 10% Gamay (8€)

Quentin Bourse, Azay le Rideau
(above and below)

I first met Quentin Bourse, albeit very briefly, at La Levée de la Loire at the Salon des Vins de Loire. He is based in Azay-le-Rideau, and taking over the vines of Pascal Pibleau. Pascal has decided that he want to concentrate on his sparkling wine business – carrying out the secondary fermentation process and aging on behalf of growers. Similar to Berger, for example, at Saint-Martin-le-Beau. 

I tasted the 2013s from Pascal and then the 2014s from Quentin. This is an interesting development, worth following to see how it develops. I do, however, wonder about the price increase from Pascal to Quentin. The 2013 L'héritage d'Aziaum (Pascal), a blend of 55% Côt, 25% Cabernet Franc and 20% Gamay is 8.30€ for a single bottle. The youthful 2014 Aziaum (Quentin) – 70% Côt and 30% Cabernet Franc is 25€ a bottle. I can think of many of bottles from excellent Loire producers which are substantially cheaper than this.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Some photos from 2015 Vinaviva – Saturday 28th March

 The stars who help to make the event happen

i/c car parking

Yesterday was my third visit to Vinaviva – a small consumer Salon now in its sixth year. It is a simple two-day affair in the Salle des Fêtes of Saint-Etienne-de-Chigny – a village to the west of Tours on the north bank of the Loire.

I try to get there soon after the Salon starts, so that I can get in about two and a half hours of tasting before moving on to have lunch at the Café de la Promenade in Bourgueil with Ludo and Sophie Ragot.

 Tanguy Perrault

Anne-Cécile Jadaud

I was delighted to discover a new to me and very exciting producer in Vouvray: Tanguy Perrault  and Anne-Cécile Jadaud of Domaine Perrault-Jadaud. I was very impressed with their range of Vouvrays – sparkling, dry through to a lovely sweet 2011. They started in 2008 and had just 2.5 hectares of vines in various different parcels until 2013 when they expanded to four hectares. Some of their vines are on the première côte above Vouvray. 

Also from La Roche Bleue

I was also impressed by Sébastien Cornille of La Roche Bleue, Jasnières, especially his very fine 2013 Clos des Molières, Jasnières which has concentration as well as being beautifully clean and precise.  

Alain Couillaud

Alain Couillaud of Le Haut Planty in Le Landreau in Muscadet was another interesting discovery as I don't recall tasting his wines before. I liked his 2013 Haut Planty (Vin de France) and the 2013 Vieilles Vignes Yonnières, Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine. The domaine is in its final year of conversion to organic viticulture. 

More photos from Vinaviva tomorrow.      

Saturday, 28 March 2015

In Vino Valréas

There was a time when I was still teaching, without a thought that I might one day write about wine, that we would spend most of our six week summer holiday in a campsite in a pine forest at Faucon just to the north of Vaison la Romaine.

We fell in love with the area - the villages, the smell of lavender and thyme, the countryside around the Ventoux and Les Dentelles de Montmiral and, of course, the wines. Our stay in the campsite was bien arrosée mais avec modération bien entendu ! Our everyday wine, red Côtes du Rhône came in a cubi from the nearby Cave Co-opérative de Puymeras. In addition we visited and bought from producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône.

Indeed before we bought our shared house in Touraine we considered buying a place in the Vaucluse. However, houses in the area was already expensive to buy and in those days there were no low cost airlines or TGV to Avignon, so the Vaucluse was neither affordable nor practical being too far from London.

Sadly since 1987 my visits to the area have been rare - just a few press trips including a memorable Rasteau and truffle weekend. Kindly invited by Valréas to participate in their In Vino Valréas, my recent three-night stay in Valréas has brought back memories. It would be good to return to the area and spend more time.
In Vino Valréas is part of the Valréas 2021 programme.

Valréas 2021 is an operation to both persuade the vignerons of this Côtes du Rhône Villages to work more closely together as well as promoting the wines so that they become better known. Initially it was intended that Valréas 2021 would see the wines of Valréas promoted to a Rhône cru like Gigondas or Vacqueyras but as only 10% of the production here is sold under the appellation Côtes du Rhône Villages Valréas there wasn't huge enthusiasm for trying to become a cru. Instead the vignerons have commissioned a report on the village's terroir and one on looking at the words professional tasters use to describe the wines of Valréas. 

Emmanuel Bouchard

The tasting sheet with a series of scales 

Friday (13th) saw the third activity trying a find ways of describing these wines avoiding the traditional terms used in tasting. It was also the opportunity to report on the studies on the terroir and tasting words.   

During the morning we tasted blind some twenty or so wines. The novel idea was to try to find a new vocabulary to describe the wines using a number of scales.

For example: ‘Echelle d’élégance: de la bure de moine à la Christian Dior’, ‘Echelle de persistence du culcul printanier à une symphonie de Beethoven’ or ‘de la cabane en bois au Château de Chambord’.   

This was an interesting and challenging idea and took longer than the organisers estimated as it took a while for us tasters to get our heads around the idea. As this was not a competition or an attempt to select the best wines it was good to be able to discuss the wines in some depth as we struggled to find an appropriate building, animal, piece of music, etc. that fitted each wine.

There may have been too many scales. It will be interesting to see the results but whether consumers will find it useful to liken wines to Dior's little black dress, a sheep or a rhino, structured like an Hotel de Ville or with the persistence of a Jimi Hendrix solo is quite another matter. I fancy this exercise may have more resonance in France than outside its borders.

We tasted seven whites and around ten reds. Although both the whites and the reds varied considerably in style, they all had a consistent freshness even if sometimes the alcohol levels were high. The wines had a persistent fresh nature that stopped the wines from being heavy and encouraged you to take another sip.

The afternoon was devoted to a presentation of the two reports commissioned as part of Valréas 2021 – the first into the terroir (five different terroirs were identified) and the second on trying to identify the traditional tasting terms that best describe the wines of this Rhône-Village.

Unfortunately the organisers of the event hadn’t realised the importance these days of providing good internet access, so that those attending can quickly share news and impressions of the event.  I spent a frustrating and wasteful time attempting to connect.

Patrick Adrien, Maire de Valréas 

The ornate first floor salon of Château de Simiane 

In the early evening we were received by the Maire of Valréas – Patrick Adrien   – in their fine Château de Simiane in the centre of the old part of the town. Part of the château dates from the mid-15th century and some of the wood-paneled rooms are similar to those in the Château de Blois in the Loire Valley. 

Saturday morning we went to the last truffle market of the 2014-2015 season at Richerenches. I have been to this market once before back in mid-January 2006 when I was on a memorably indulgent Rasteau et truffes press trip. 

Adrienne the young truffle farmer

It was fascinating to learn from a young truffle farmer the amount of work involved in their cultivation as well as an explanation of the different types of truffle. This completely dispelled the idea that all you need to do is plant or inherit some truffle oaks, sit around local cafés drinking wine and coffee until it is time to take your dog out to sniff out your truffles, which you will then sell for a large profit in markets like this one in Richerenches.

No – there is a lot of work involved and, like wine, the quality and volume of the truffles produced depends much on the weather in any particular year. Our guide told us that the older generation was very secretive and reluctant to pass on the secrets of truffle farming so there was a danger that some of their expertise would be lost if they don't divulge their secrets.

The afternoon was spent visiting three domaines in the commune of Valréas – Grand Devers, Mas de Sainte Croix and Domaine Mireille et Vincent, which was founded by Bernard Bizard in 1985. I was particularly impressed by the range of wines, both white and red, from Sainte-Croix along with the 2005 from the Bizard family.

Paul-Henri Bouchard

Since 1999 Domaine des Grands Devers has been in the hands of Burgundians Paul-Henri Bouchard and his three brothers. They have 24 hectares in production. I was impressed by their 2012 white from the neighbouring village of Visan. A blend of Viognier (majority), Marsanne and Roussanne, it is attractively mid-weight with floral and apricot flavours and with a good fresh finish despite going through malo.  Good value at 9.50€. Paul-Henri explained that the malo allows the wine to age better. He is looking for a fourth grape variety to add further complexity and increased freshness.

We tried three Valréas reds – mainly Grenache with around 20% Syrah. The 2012 had good fresh, red fruit character with some spice in the finish. The 2007 was more concentrated, more herbal with a silky texture. The 2004, however, was on its last legs. 

  Mas de Sainte Croix is high up on a 
ridge above Valréas

Jacques Coipel
(above and below)

Jacques Coipel runs the 25 hectare Mas de Sainte Croix. Their 2014 Friandise Rosé, a blend of Grenache and Cinsault, is delicate. We tasted four reds and I was impressed by the 2012 and 2011 Tendresse d’un climat – Syrah and Grenache. The 2011 was remarkably well balanced despite being 15.49%. Jacques likened this more to a Rasteau than the generally more delicate wines from Valréas. 2012 Passion d’une terre, Grenache and Mourvèdre, is concentrated with notes of torréfaction but needs a little more time in bottle.   

Unfortunately I missed most of the tasting at Domaine Mireille et Vincent run by Bernard Bizard and his son as I went to the Tourist Office where I could finally connect to the net. 

Bernard Bizard

Sharing red Rhône 

I spent three very enjoyable nights at the Maison d'Anvers (Antwerpen) run by Sigi and Vanessa, who have made a very similar journey as Vincent 'Le Cuisinier de Campagne' and Olivia Simon in Bourgueil. Both Sigi and Vincent had successful restaurants in Belgium before deciding that it was time for a change of scene. Both chefs place a real accent on fresh food and both are passionate about wine. Vincent has vines on his property, while Sigi has vines right to the entrance to La Maison d'Anvers. 

 Sigi with that côte de boeuf

I had two excellent meals cooked by Sigi and Vanessa. Sigi is mainly responsible for the first and main course, while Vanessa takes charge of the desserts. On Thursday night I started with a lovely dish of Coquilles Saint Jacques very tasty and perfectly cooked. An equally delicious supreme of pintade with mushrooms followed. The meal finished with a delicate lemon cream.

The highlight of Saturday night was the magnificent Côte de Boeuf grilled to perfection over sarments de vignes by Sigi. He has ordered a Josper grill/oven, the Rolls Royce of its kind, and is waiting impatiently for it to be installed in May.

The weekend whetted my appetite to return and rediscover Vaucluse.