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 October 2017

Organico ergo je fume* – I'm bio therefore I smoke

France2011bDeath-Smokingkills jpg (JPEG Image, 628 × 415 pixels) 

AC Touraine vineyard blitzed with weedkiller 
– Loire UNESCO World Heritage site...

smokingimage6_203 jpg

I have a great deal of sympathy and respect for producers who chose to farm their vineyards organically or biodynamically. In the Loire an increasing number of producers are now choosing to convert to organic viticulture joining a significant number of their colleagues who have already made this decision.

Equally I deplore the use of weedkillers, especially when vineyards are totally blitzed, although I do understand the economic imperative in appellations, such as parts of Touraine, where wine fetches a low price. Here it isn't just the producer who bears a responsibility but also the commercial wine buyer and us wine consumers looking to buy very cheap wine.

So in no way is this a post knocking organic viticulture or its adherents. I am genuinely puzzled and astonished that so many organic wine producers smoke. Producers who wouldn't dream of poisoning their vineyards appear to think nothing of lighting up and poisoning themselves. 

It is not as though the health risks of smoking are not widely known. My guess is that at least as much research has been done into the effects of smoking as they have into the use of weedkillers. Smokers in the 1940s and 1950s could argue that they didn't know the seriously increased health risks that smoking brings. Today this is no longer possible.

My question 'why do fervent organic wine producers smoke?' was brought into sharp focus when I recently visited friends and family of the late Charly Foucault, who died of lung cancer at the end of December 2015 aged 68.  I am pretty confident that if Charly hadn't smoked he would still be alive today.

I was shocked that despite Charly's death from smoking a number of his friends and family still smoke. You would imagine that Charly's fate would be more than enough to shock them into giving up smoking before it is too late. Apparently not!

Back in January 2016 I posted a similar reflection on Jim's Loire here.

Do the strains and stresses associated with organic viticulture drive its producers to seek relief in smoking? Is smoking more prevalent amongst organic wine producers than amongst those who practise conventional viticulture?

Your thoughts are most welcome.

* Abject apologies to René Descartes for trashing his famous dictum.

Chinese cap

Monday 30 October 2017

Top Alain Brumont wines from 1989 divides diners

 1989 Château Bouscassé, Vieilles Vignes, 
Madiran, Alain Brumont 
1989 Château Montus, Cuvée Prestige, 
Madiran, Alain Brumont

Recently we partnered a pair of Alain Brumont's top 1989 wines with a poached chicken. Both of these wines have a very high percentage of Tannat – at least 100% although not allowed under the rules of the appellation even though Tannat has a long tradition as a local grape variety.

The four of us were agreed that both 1989s were lovely wines but we were equally split over which of the two we preferred. Two of us went for the soft complexity of the Montus with its attractively textured structure and tannins, while the other two preferred the more tannic and 'rustic' Bouscassé as a more authentic representation of Madiran. They felt the more 'sophisticated and smoother' Montus could have come from elsewhere, whereas the Bouscassé was more representative of the local terroir and a more representative example of Madiran.       

Sunday 29 October 2017

Anjou Blanc Crus – returning value and prestige to Anjou Blanc

 Patrick Baudouin

Interesting article on about moves to introduce a system of crus for Anjou Blanc for the top end wines made from 100% Chenin Blanc, harvested by hand and with no sugar added.  

The article explains that this process is already underway. On our brief visit to Anjou on Tuesday 9th October we tasted the putative 2017 Anjou Blanc Cru from Chaume made at Domaine de Bergerie, Champ-sur-Layon. 

It now appears that the INAO has moved from opposition to the notion of crus for Anjou Blanc to being prepared to consider the possibilities.

Start of the article on terredevins:

'Anjou Blanc : bientôt des crus 100% Chenin

L'Anjou blanc devrait bientôt avoir ses crus. Le syndicat, présidé par Patrick Baudouin, présentera en novembre à l’Inao son projet de cahier des charges pour une hiérarchisation de l’appellation et de ses blancs secs.

La hiérarchisation de l’Anjou blanc devrait bientôt déboucher sur la création de crus correspondant à des lieux-dits, en lien avec la carte des terroirs de l’Inra. Le cahier des charges sera basé également sur des critères de qualité et de contrôle tels que l’élaboration à 100% chenin, des vendanges manuelles, une revendication parcellaire, une chaptalisation interdite, un élevage plus long…. « Nous voulons regagner en notoriété et en qualité, explique Patrick Baudouin. Il s’agit de redonner ses lettres de noblesse à l’expression mixte du chenin sur nos terroirs qui sont capables de produire à la fois des secs, des demi-secs et des liquoreux bien que nous soyons plus connus aujourd’hui pour les liquoreux »'

Read the rest here

Saturday 28 October 2017

Henri Bourgeois (Chavignol) – one aspect of their success

Jean-Christophe and Arnaud Bourgeois 
19th September 2017 – during the harvest

One of the big characteristics of wine production in the Loire is the continuing importance of the family. Many of the domaines are family owned and run. For me this is one of the charms and attractions of the wines from the Loire Valley.

Obviously when families work well together they can find great success. Equally when things go wrong, as almost inevitably they do within some families from time to time, the splits and consequences can be particularly bitter and rancorous. 

Cousins Jean-Christophe and Arnaud Bourgeois feature in the photo above. I have the strong sense of a team of team working well together. In September I saw Jean-Christophe at the highest level of their winery in Chavignol where grapes are unloaded, sorted and pressed. He rapidly arranged for Arnaud, when he was free, to come and let me taste the 2017 juices. 

Arnaud, the youngest son of patriarch – Jean-Marie Bourgeois – is increasingly the public face of Henri Bourgeois, while Jean-Christophe is in charge of wine-making. Lionel, Arnaud's elder brother, is in charge of the vineyards and has a much less of a public profile than Arnaud. 

Henri Bourgeois based in Chavignol, part of the commune of   

If there are any tensions with the Bourgeois family operation I have never been aware of them over the many years I have been visiting – I first met Jean-Marie Bourgeois in late October 1989. 

I am sure that the ability of the Bourgeois family to work together on complementary roles and tasks has been a major contributory factor in their enormous success. 

In contrast one only has to look at the very sad and acrimonious split within the Couly family at Couly Dutheil (Chinon) between the late Jacques Couly and his son Arnaud and Pierre Couly, Jacques elder brother, and his son Bertrand – now Pierre and Bertrand Couly.  

Jean-Marie Bourgeois 
in a vineyard above Chavignol late October 2014




Friday 27 October 2017

Last of the 1980 Beaucastel....

1980 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Château de Beaucastel 

Last evening we enjoyed our last bottle of the 1980 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the final bottle of a case, which we must have bought in the earlyish 1980s direct from Beaucastel. This was before we bought in the Loire and used to spend our summer holidays in campsite in a pine forest a few kilometres north of Vaison-la-Romain. 

It was perfect with our plainly roasted pheasant from Billings in Sydenham – a bargain at £5.99 a bird. The 1980 had a rich, opulent nose and very soft, caressing palate. Our bottle would doubtless still have been drinkable for a number of years. However, I doubt whether it would have developed further. 

Thursday 26 October 2017

Muscadet Sèvre et Maine – launch of Cru Vallet on 12th November 2017

After a long wait since the first three Muscadet Cru Communaux – Clisson, Gorges and Le Pallet – were launched in 2011, the next in line are now being officially launched. Cru Vallet will be officially launched on Sunday 12th November. Prior to that there will be a press conference on 8th November.  

12th November at 10:0012:30
Place Charles de Gaulle, 44330 Vallet, France


Une histoire d'hommes et de femmes Depuis 2011, les vignerons de Vallet et des communes limitrophes se sont réunis autour du projet du "Cru Vallet". Cette démarche est née d'une volonté de valoriser les meilleurs terroirs et d’aboutir à terme à une véritable appellation communale « Vallet » caractéristique des meilleurs crus du Muscadet.

6 années de travail et d’échanges
Exigeant mais très valorisant, le premier travail a été d’identifier les points communs d’un point de vue des sols, du vin mais aussi humain en prenant en considération les typicités de chacun pour définir l’esprit du Cru Vallet.
Des études terrain ont été réalisées durant l’hiver 2012 et ont permis d’établir une cartographie des meilleurs terroirs. Chaque vigneron a ainsi pu récolter, vinifier et élever ses cuvées parcellaires : on parle de savoir-faire, de clos, de spécificités, d’élevage prolongé… tout ce qui fait du vigneron un véritable artisan d’art et de son vin un cru d’exception.

Novembre 2017 : lancement officiel du Cru Vallet
25 vignerons font partie de cette démarche unique. Le mois de novembre sera le lancement officiel du cru. Notez dès aujourd'hui le rendez-vous du dimanche 12 novembre avec notamment une présentation à tous les Valletais avec dégustation lors du marché au sein de l’atrium de la mairie de Vallet. 

Tout au long de la saison du Champilambart, vous retrouverez également les "concerts du Cru", suivis d’une dégustation de 3 crus avec le vigneron pour vous servir et vous rencontrer. 


Wednesday 25 October 2017

Parkinson UK charity ride inspired by Fergus Henderson – last few days to donate

 Group shot with Fergus @St Johns

Inspired by Fergus Henderson (chef and co-owner of St John restaurant, London) we cycled from Pauillac to La Livinière, Minervois in June (12th-16th) to raise money for Parkinson's UK. Famous for Nose to Tail Eating Fergus has had Parkinson's since 1998. As well as the St John's business he and Trevor Gulliver have a vineyard in the Minervois. 

To date we have raised £6423.44 including Gift Aid. We are absolutely delighted. However, you can still donate! Thank you – every bit helps!

We will be closing the Virgin Giving page very shortly, so this is a last call for donations. Perhaps you intended to make a contribution and, for some reason, it didn't get done.   

Jim and CRM at Carcassonne 
@start of last stage
Journey's end @Homps, Minervois

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Several bottles in search of a 70th birthday celebration

Elegant, Touraine Brut, Château de l'Aulée 
Mainly Chenin Blanc with a little Chardonnay

Back to Tuesday 3rd October and a 70th birthday celebration. We warmed up with a bottle of Elegance, Touraine Brut from Château de l'Aulée before moving onto Jacky Blot's Triple Zéro, a firm favourite from Montlouis.   

Apéros over it was time for the first course a largely seasonal salad with goats' cheese, lardons and a selection of different mushrooms including cèpes and girolles. This was accompanied by a magnum of the 2009 Clos Saint André, Fiefs Vendéens from Jérémie Mourat. 100% Chenin Blanc this had the richness and soft acidity that worked very well with the salad 

With the main course a couple of plain roasted Poulet de Racan a couple of bottles of the classic 1996 Vieilles Vignes, Saumur-Champigny from Château de Villeneuve. With aged this wine has developed lovely complexity while still remaining youthful. This 1996 must surely be good for at least another 10-15 years and probably more.    

Back in time for the cheese with the 1961 Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demi-Sec from Domaine Huet. Still amazingly youthful it opened out in the carafe and then in glass. I probably should have opened and decanted this several more hours in advance. Even so it was stunning – wonderfully precise with some honeyed tones.  

We finished with a rich chocolate birthday cake. The 1988 Banyuls Cuvée Francis Cantié from Domaine la Tour Vieille with its rich nutty, raisined and coffee flavours. 

Monday 23 October 2017

Thierry Germain, Domaine des Roches Neuves – PetNat innovator?

1996 Insolite – an early PetNat?

Thierry Germain of the Domaine des Roches Neuves has long been an innovative producer. Hailing from Bordeaux he was the first of his family to invest in the Loire Valley to be followed by his father, Bernard, and his brother, Philippe. In 1991 he bought Roches Neuves in Varrains from Denis Duveau, who went to Chile as a consultant.

It now appears that Thierry may have been one of the first in the Loire to produce a PetNat, although this may not have been entirely intentional....

Many years ago – probably in 1998 or late 1997 – I bought a case of Thierry's 1996 Insolite, AC Saumur Blanc. A little while after buying the case, which was stored in cool conditions, we opened a bottle. To our surprise the wine was distinctly cloudy with a lively fizz. It was clearly refermenting. It wasn't very pleasant to taste, so most of the bottle went down the sink. 

At that time Thierry tended to pick his Chenin Blanc when it was ripe enough to include some botrytis. I can only assume that there was some residual sugar and some yeast, perhaps, that caused a secondary fermentation in bottle. The secondary fermentation must have been quite gentle otherwise the bottle, which is an ordinary wine bottle and not a stronger one designed to cope with a secondary fermentation, would have broken or exploded.

To be fair to Thierry he did immediately offer to replace the case. However, I decided, in part, to see what would happen, and also I couldn't be arsed to take it back to Saumur even though we are often over there. 

Subsequently Thierry has dramatically changed his approach to white wine making looking to pick early to achieve a very taut, precise, linear style. 

Over the years we tried another two or three bottles of the 1996 Insolite but it was still cloudy, decidedly fizzy, rather cidery and not a very pleasant beverage. 

However, very recently looking at a couple of bottles from those that remain they now appeared to be almost clear and limpid, so time, I thought, to try again.

Last evening we duly opened a bottle. Thierry's 1996 Saumur Blanc remains slightly cloudy but very noticeably less than it was. The wine is now lightly pétillant rather than being markedly fizzy. 23 years on it is now drinkable with a marked yeasty/autolysis aromas, a touch of honey and a remarkable freshness for a 'PetNat' of this age. 

Whether Thierry can persuade the INAO to accept a Saumur Blanc PetNat appellation remains to be seen....

Santé !  

Sunday 22 October 2017

Anecdotal evidence in Montreuil-sur-Mer....

 Hotel Hermitage @Montreuil-sur-Mer


Yesterday needing to drop off a friend at Tours airport for an early afternoon flight before heading north and back to the lunatic asylum (UK), we decided that instead of doing the whole trip in one as we normal do we would stay overnight @the Hotel Hermitage in Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Our comfortable room cost 80€  – not expensive for the comfort. We chose to dine in Anecdote, the restaurant attached to the hotel. This restaurant is run by Alexandre Gauthier of La Grenouillère at la Madelaine-sous-Montreuil. Gauthier fils took over from his father-Roland, who had run the restaurant La Grenouillère since 1979, at 2003. In 2014 he bought the premises that now houses Anecdote, which then opened in early 2015. 

Gauthier sees Anecdote featuring 'la cuisine de mémoire', which it does with dishes like Tarte Tatin, Crèpes Suzette and other traditional dishes. There is, however, a very creative side to the cooking as we discovered and enjoyed last evening.   

We started with a glass each of white both from the Midi – I took the 2016 IGT Saint Guilhem le Désert, Dame Jeanne Blanc from Bergerie & Capucin. This is a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier. Carole went for the 2013 IGT Cuvée Finesse from Cazal Viel in Saint-Chinian. This is a blnd of 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier and 5% Muscat Petits Grains and in the past has been criticised for being a little sweet. This was not the case with the 2013 vintage, which was crisp and remarkably fresh for a white wine from the Midi.

After our glass of white we chose the 2015 arbouriou, Côtes du Marmandais from Elian da Ros. This is a wine made from a grape variety that is local to South West France. It's a wine to enjoy now with all its exuberant, youthful black fruits.

 2016 IGT Saint Guilhem le Désert, 
Dame Jeanne Blanc from Bergerie & Capucin

 2013 IGT Cuvée Finesse, Cazal Viel in Saint-Chinian

 Cheese sticks with our apéro white

 Very inventive cauliflower and smoked haddock first course 

 Fantastic oysters with cucumber jelly 


Perfectly cooked Angus beef steak with a pepper sauce

2015 abouriou, Côtes du Marmandais, Elian da Ros

 Crèpes Suzette

Saturday 21 October 2017

Fishy tales @La Chope, Tours

We now seem to be establishing a tradition of going to La Chope in Tours in early October to tackle and enjoy their famous plateau fruits de mer 'Royal' for two people. In order not to break this fine tradition we went for lunch on Wednesday 4th October. As we were five we went for two plateaus plus and extra crab. 

Royal: 1 tourteau, 10 langoustines, crevettes grises, 14 crevettes roses, 6 huîtres, Fines de claires n° 4, 6 huîtres spéciales Gillardeau n° 5, 6 huîtres
Normandes n° 3, bigorneaux, bulots.

For our apéro we chose Rémi Cosson's delicious 2016 Noble Joué – a blend of three Pinots: Gris, Meunier and Noir. Then the plateau started to arrive:    

The first tier of the plateau arrives 

 Now the second.....
(above and below)

To accompany the plateau: 2013 VV Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie, 
Gadais Père et Fils  

Wickedly rich chocolate mousse to finish you off....

If you like seafood La Chope is definitely recommended.

Friday 20 October 2017

Le Mercy, Saint-Georges-sur-Cher – an excellent lunch

 A good motto that Le Mercy certainly follows

Today we had an excellent celebratory lunch at Le Mercy in the square at the centre of Saint-Georges-sur-Cher. This was our first visit to this restaurant, which recently changed hands reopening on the 19th May 2017. Previously it was called Le Delice des Mets, which didn't have very encouraging reports so I never ate there.

However, having had very good reports from friends who have eaten at the new restaurant we decided to try it out. Not only has the restaurant now got a new name – Le Mercy – but also a new, ambitious and refined style of cooking. It is run by Christine, who manages the front of house, while Erwan very effectively rattles the pots and pans.

The three of us were very impressed with the welcome and service, the high quality of the food along with an interesting and well chosen selection of Loire wines.  The only negative point about the wine list is that it does not include vintages.

We started with a glass of sparkling Vouvray from Bernard Fouquet, one of Vouvray's best producers. We chose from the 23.50€ menu that offers three course with four choices for each course. During the week there is a two course lunch at 15.90€.

 Part of the dining room 

First courses:

 Gâteau de truite

Pumpkin soup

2016 Pyros, AC Touraine, Les Pierres d'Aurèle, 

After the Vouvray we chose the 2016 Pyros from Les Pierres d'Aurèle. This is the domaine where Vincent Roussley used to be based before he moved back to Angé once he got back the family vineyards and cellars that had been rented out. Pyros is 100% Gamay and it was deep coloured with an attractive concentration of black fruits. 

Main courses 

Perfectly cooked, succulent salmon 

Beef marinated in saké with salsify 


Crème brulé

Seasonal fruit salad in Vouvray

We will certainly be going back to Le Mercy and wish the new owners every success. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from Wednesday through to Sunday – closed Monday and Tuesday. The restaurant is very accessible for anyone in a wheelchair and has disabled toilet facilities. 

Le Mercy, 15 Place Pierre Fidèle Bretonneau, 41400 Saint-Georges-sur-Cher
Tel: /