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

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

#2015Loire picking in Alphonse Mellot's Les Pénitents

In the mid-2000s (checking the date) Alphonse Mellot acquired the 18 hectares of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the collapsed Cave des Hauts de Seyr in the Côtes de la Charité. The Pinot Noir vineyards are close to the little village of Saint Lay, while the Chardonnay is planted on a pretty spectacular slope above the small village of Chasnay.

The Pinot Noir was being picked first before gathering in the Chardonnay – both varieties looked very healthy.

Some of Alphonse's team of pickers who were very welcoming with most happy to have their photos taken, while picking Pinot Noir at Saint-Lay.

 Someone not at all sure about the photographer...
 Here quite the reverse... 

#2015Loire – Sancerre further photos – Matthieu Delaporte and Pascal Joulin

 The only Pinot Noir on the Cul de Beaujeu
Domaine Vincent Delaporte
(above and below)

My last visit last Thursday was to Domaine Vincent Delaporte with Matthieu Delaporte. I had been impressed when I met Matthieu in London in early September at the Lea & Sandeman tasting

First we visited the cave of Alain Delaporte, Matthieu's uncle now retired, which Matthieu promised to restore. Here we tasted from barrel the Delaporte 2014 Monts Damnés, Sancerre Blanc and the 2014 Cul de Beaujeu – both brilliant! The Monts Damnés wonderfully tense and mineral, while the Cul de Beaujeu has tremendous silky fruit. 

Then we headed to the top of the Cul de Beaujeu above La Croix de Jacko, which commemorates the death of Jacques Delaporte on the Cul tragically hit by lightning in 1957. The Delaporte Pinot Noir, the only to be planted on the Cul, which is otherwise exclusively Sauvignon Blanc, are at the top of this fearsome slope just above the Croix. Here the soil is slightly more red unlike the white clay limestone of the rest of the slope. 

This is obviously a magic place for Matthieu for new girlfriends are expected to like this place high above Chavignol. The Pinot was due to be picked next day by Delaporte's team of Bulgarian pickers

 Matthieu Delaporte in the Cul de Beaujeu 
Pinot Noir high above Chavignol
(above and below)
 Renovated chai of Alain Delaporte created by Alain's father in the 
1950s shortly before his death since when it has remained virtually unused

The cellar's fine ceiling
Part of the cellar that is in 
the process of being renovated


Next morning (Friday 25th September) started with a visit to Pascal Joulin (Domaine Michel Vattan) in Maimbray. Unlike all the other producers I saw during my two day visit, who were either finished harvesting or would be shortly, Pascal was only a third of the way through his picking as he wanted to make sure the fruit was ripe. 

 Pascal Joulin, Domaine Michel Vattan, Maimbray


#2015Loire – Chinon's biggest players prefer to wait

 Bunches of Cabernet Franc near Panzoult (AC Chinon)

Chinon's two biggest players – Baudry-Dutour and Couly-Dutheil – are in no rush to harvest their reds. At Baudry-Dutour their IGT Sauvignon from 11 hectares at Ligré is picked as is some of the Chenin Blanc for the Chinon Blanc and sparkling while Cabernet Franc for the rosé was picked on 21st September. 

"We are not yet ready for the reds," said Jean-Martin Dutour. "We will start on the classic reds from next Monday (4th October) but our top reds from Saint Louans and La Grille won't be started until around 12th October."  

"Yields are a bit higher than last year," Christophe Baudry explained, "probably around 45hl/ha compared to 40hl/ha last year but certainly not the maximum allowed.  

The situation at Couly-Dutheil is very similar. "We have picked some of the Chenin," said Jacques Couly but are waiting until next week to start on the reds and rosés. We expect full maturity around 10th-12th October with yields a little up on last year. 

Across the Vienne at Ligré Jérôme Billard (Domaine de la Noblaie) is waiting for the reds to ripen. "We picked some of the Chenin – those grapes that were fragile and starting to rot – on 21st September and started on the rosé yesterday. 

In contrast Matthieu Baudry (Domaine Bernard Baudry, Cravant-les-Coteaux) is in full harvest mode and expects to finish this week. "We started picking Cabernet Franc on 23rd September, having picked the Chenin on 21st and 22nd. When we started the potential alcohol in the Cabernet Franc was 11.5 to 12 now it is between 12-13. We don't want the grape sugars to get too concentrated. It is important to keep the freshness of the Loire and this North East wind threatens to shrivel (flétri) the grapes.  

Interesting to see the contrast in picking dates both within Chinon and in comparison to vineyards – Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil north of the Loire.   

Jean-Martin Dutour (Baudry-Dutour) 
and President of the Chinon producers

Jacques Couly (Couly-Dutheil)
Arnaud Couly (Couly-Dutheil) 

Jérôme Billard (Domaine de la Noblaie)

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

#2015Loire: harvest looking promising again in Kingdom of Cab Franc!

 Cabernet Franc grapes in l'Enclos des Poules 
Ingrandes-de-Touraine, AC Bourgueil

Last Saturday the wind swung round to the north east and this has made a big difference in drying out and re-concentrating the grapes after the week of very heavy rain – 13th-18th September.

 Gérard Vallée checking grapes going up the conveyor belt

 Freddy Mabileau's 2015 look – he is busy harvesting 

Monday, 28 September 2015

#2015Loire: more photos from Sancerre during the harvest

Pickers on a steep slope near Amigny

 François Crochet at work

Ready to hose down journalists who get in the way

 Orange Sancerre at Domaine Fousassier 
with Paul Fouassier plunging

Sauvignon at Domaine Vacheron

 At Alphonse Mellot (above and below)

Processing the Pinot

 Florent Pinard 

 Clement Pinard 
Decorated car @Domaine Vincent Pinard 
celebrating the end of the harvest