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 28 February 2018

Delicious 2017 Nathalie, Reuilly

2017 Nathalie, Reuilly, Domaine Claude Lafond 

The 2017 Nathalie Reuilly (100% Sauvignon Blanc) from Domaine Claude Lafond is just simply delicious – clean citric flavours with strong notes of grapefruit. Nathalie Lafond is the daughter of the late Claude Lafond, who built both the reputation of this domaine but also played a major role in rescuing Appellation Reuilly, which had been in apparent terminal decline.   

Tuesday 27 February 2018

2017 Saumur-Champigny Tradition, Domaine de la Bonnelière

Not one of the most fashionable of Saumur-Champigny domaines, Domaine la Bonnelière is a lesser known gem making very good wine at decidedly reasonable prices. The 2017 Tradition is no exception to this: soft, fragrant Cabernet Franc, slightly herbal making this 2017 a very attractive young Saumur-Champigny.  

Monday 26 February 2018

2015 Clos de l'Olive, Chinon, Couly-Dutheil

The Clos de l'Olive is one of Couly-Dutheil's top single vineyard sites. The 2015, although still young, is impressive with good concentration of fragrant Cabernet Franc, an attractively opulent texture and well integrated tannins. As I have already remarked the tannins in the Couly Dutheil range are much better handled than they were around a decade or more ago when many had a dry tannic finish. 

The 2015 Clos de l'Olive certainly can be enjoyed now but also has the potential to age for a couple of decades or more, though I suspect many corks will have been pulled before then ...  

Sunday 25 February 2018

Newtonmore – some views

 Looking towards Creag Dubh

After several weeks of snow and ice in Newtonmore we have been blessed with several gloriously sunny days this week. A quartet of photos taken in the sunshine. 

 The River Spey

 A maple leaf 

Sunset over Creag Dubh

Saturday 24 February 2018

16th marche aux Vins Bio de Montreuil-sous-Bois, Paris: 17th March 2018

Le 16ème Marché aux vins bios de Montreuil se tiendra le samedi 17 mars 2018, de 10 h à 19 h au Palais des Congrès Paris-Est – Marcel Duffriche (Ligne 9, métro Robespierre).

Après s'être acquitté de 3 euros à l'entrée du Marché, chaque visiteur se verra offrir un verre à dégustation « millésimé » lui ouvrant la découverte des vins d'une soixantaine de vignerons venus de toutes les grandes régions viticoles de France, mais aussi d'Italie et de Grèce. 

En 2017, le Marché aux vins bio avait accueilli 60 vignerons et vigneronnes et un millier de visiteurs.

Le 16ème Marché des Vins Bio de Montreuil aura lieu :
au palais des congrès Marcel Dufriche, 117 rue Étienne Marcel
93100 Montreuil
Métro : Robespierre

le 17 mars 2018 de 10h00 à 19h00 

Vignerons present:

 More details here:

Friday 23 February 2018

The retiring Jo Pithon to sell his famous Coteau des Treilles

Views of Les Treilles from the
south side of the Layon 

According to a report in La Revue du Vin de France Jo and Isabelle Pithon have put their business Pithon-Paillé up for sale as they are now retiring. This includes the famous Les Treilles (7ha) the steep south facing slopes overlooking the Layon that the Pithon rescued after it had been abandoned in the 1960s. Naturally the revived Coteau is planted with Chenin Blanc.

 'Le domaine Pithon-Paillé, joyau du Layon, est à vendre. À l’heure de prendre sa retraite, Jo Pithon présente sereinement ce qu’il appelle "l’œuvre de sa vie" : le coteau des Treilles.

"Un mec qui calcule, il ne fait pas ça." Racheter 7 hectares de coteaux en friches depuis 40 ans. Prendre cinq ans pour venir à bout des ronces et replanter 3 hectares de chenin. "On a pris un peu de risques", résume Jo Pithon, de sa voix rocailleuse.

"Quand je travaillais sur les Bonnes Blanches, je voyais ces coteaux qui me paraissaient fabuleux", se souvient le vigneron.

Read the rest of the article published by La Revue du Vin de France.  

Earlier posts on Jim's Loire about Les Treilles:

Some views from the Layon inc Les Treilles: early April 2007

Les Treilles Vertical 2013-2005: Pithon-Paille@Salon des Vins de Loire 2014

Thursday 22 February 2018

2015 Clos Saint André, Fiefs Vendéens Mareuil, Jérémie Mourat

2015 Clos Saint André, 
Fiefs Vendéens Mareuil, Jérémie Mourat

This fine Chenin Blanc comes from Jérémie Mourat who now runs Vignobles Mourat, which was set up in 1974 by Jean Mourat. The domaine now has around 127 hectares – 67 hectares owned by the family and 60 hectares rented. 

Renewing and replanting the Clos Saint-André, who was previously owned by the Taittinger family and since 1968 has covered in nettles and broom, was a childhood dream of Jérémie's.  

From the Mourat website:

Le Clos Saint-André, c’est avant tout le rêve de gosse de Jérémie Mourat : partir de la page blanche, sur un terroir viticole historique, autrefois propriété de la famille Taittinger, et complètement endormi sous un épais manteau de ronces et de genêts depuis 1968.

De par la composition de son sous-sol en
méta-rhyolites, le Clos Saint-André est dédié quasi uniquement à la production d’un vin blanc de grande expression.
Depuis 2007, nous avons entrepris un travail de recensement de vieilles sélections de négrette, cépage emblématique de notre région, à travers la cuvée Grenouillère, porte-drapeau de nos grandes cuvées de garde. Domaine engagé en culture biologique depuis 2006.

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Newtonmore – convalescence amid the mountains

View from Newtonmore's golf course 
looking towards snow capped Creag Dhubh

Sheep happy now they can munch the grass 
now the snow has finally gone 

There are compensations to convalescing in Newtonmore in the Cairngorm Mountains and today's magical weather is one of them. A day of almost continuous blue sky and some warmth in the sun even though the temperature probably never rose above 6˚C. Good to see the end of the snow and ice at low level, at least for a while, but still having the snow capped mountains. 

In comparison to London I'm much more aware of nature up here along with a real sense of the lengthening days – today light until nearly 6pm.. All the more welcoming since in mid-winter the hours of daylight are so limited – dark until nearly 9am with dusk around 3.30 pm.   

I am now around seven weeks into my recovery with about another five weeks before the brace comes off. Good progress with my left leg means that I can get out and enjoy walking along the quiet roads of Newtonmore. 

During today's walk I headed down to the Grill, at the southern end of the village, to have a look at Scotland's mobile cinema – The Screen Machine (twitter: @screen_machine). This large lorry opens out into a cinema with screen and seats.        

Tuesday 20 February 2018

2016 Côté – Chardonnay & Sauvignon, Côtés de Gascogne, Tariquet

2016 Côte – Chardonnay & Sauvignon, IGT Côtés de Gascogne, 
Domaine du Tariquet, Famille Grassa

This is another white from The Wine Society's South-West France Whites case (£75 for a case of 12 bottles). 2016 Côté is an attractively clean blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Chardonnay giving softness and some weight, while the Sauvignon Blanc gives crisp citric notes. A good aperitif. Made by the Grassa family at the long established Domaine du Tariquet.  


Monday 19 February 2018

2011 Finca Antigua Crianza, La Mancha

 2011 Finca Antigua Crianza,  La Mancha  

Although 2011 this Crianza from La Mancha is still youthful. A blend of 50% Tempranillo, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah, this is quite typical of a certain style of Spanish red with good concentration and some sweet American oak notes, although it is aged in old barrels – a mix of French and American. A good red for the winter. 

Another good value red from The Wine Society. 

Sunday 18 February 2018

2017 Coteaux du Giennois, Clément and Florian Berthier

2017 Coteaux du Giennois, Florian and Clément Berthier

This 2017 Coteaux du Giennois from Clément and Florian Berthier is simply delicious – not complex but lovely, very clean citric aromas and flavours including grapefruit notes. Vignobles Berthier is based in Sainte Gemme en Sancerrois. The domaine was founded by Jean-Marie Berthier in 1983 and now has nearly 25 hectares making Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Pouilly-Fumé and Coteaux du Giennois.

This wine is represented by
Chris Hardy & Charles Sydney
Charles Sydney Wines Ltd
Petite Maison
Tél :  (France) 02 47 81 44 03

They arrange sales to the UK wine trade. 

Saturday 17 February 2018

Encore Couly-Dutheil – 2015 Baronnie Madeleine

2015 Baronnie Madeleine, Chinon from Couly-Dutheil 

Couly-Dutheil only release the Baronnie Madeleine cuvée in good vintages. 2015 is certainly on of them. Baronnie Madeleine comes from selected parcels on the clay limestone slopes or the plateau above these slopes. The 2015 has attractive concentration and plenty of soft black fruit. Very enjoyable to drink now it lacks, for the moment (?), an extra dimension. On the other hand it is noticeable that the tannin management is greatly improved over the last decade. Gone are the dry, harsh tannins that marred their wines in the first decade following the millennium.  

Friday 16 February 2018

2015 Château de l'Aulnaye, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Château Thébaud

2015 Château de l'Aulnaye, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, 
Château Thébaud, Famille Lieubeau 

This very fine rich and concentrated Muscadet spends three years on its lees. It is the style of cru communaux, although Château Thébaud has yet to be formally recognised the French government rather to the understandable frustration of those eligible to benefit from the new appellation.

This style of Muscadet is far removed from the fresh citric version that goes so well with shellfish. We drank the 2015 Château de l'Aulnaye with salmon with butter and lemon in a parcel – a fine match. This Muscadet also worked well with some mature Montgomery cheddar. 

The Lieubeaus are important growers in Château Thébaud.  


Thursday 15 February 2018

Selection of Loires to taste

A number of Loire wines arrived today at my bolthole in Scotland's Cairngorms. I look forward to tasting and commenting on them here on Jim's Loire. Good that the generosity of Loire producers is helping to keep my tasting fitness!

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Château de Tracy: Les 101 Rangs 2014, Pouilly-Fumé

2014 Les 101 Rangs du Château du Tracy, 
Pouilly-Fumé, Château de Tracy 
(101 rows)

The 2014 Les 101 Rangs du Château du Tracy, Pouilly-Fumé, Château de Tracy is the most evolved of the three Tracys – 2016 Pouilly-Fumé and 2014 HD – sent to me to taste. The 101 Rangs (rows) comes for a parcel of vines planted on silex (flint) between 1954 and 1955 close to the château itself. Thais has delicate concentration with great balance. Lovely with the potential to age well.   

Tuesday 13 February 2018

André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards 2017

Press release announcing the results:  

'Drink books SCoOP three out of four prestigious prizeS at AndrÉ Simon Awards

LONDON, 13 FEBRUARY 2018US wine expert and critic, Peter Liem and self-taught chef, Stephen Harris, were among the winners at the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards 2017 last night, Monday 12 February, at the Goring Hotel in London. The prestigious awards showcase the best of contemporary food and drink writing.

Stephen Harris’ book The Sportsman (Phaidon Press) was awarded the 2017 prize for food writing. Stephen Harris had several lives before he decided to turn what was once called a “grotty rundown pub by the sea” in Kent into an internationally acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurant. First a musician – he launched a punk band with his brother Christopher during his teen years – and then a history teacher and a financial advisor in the City of London, Harris’ engaging essays introduce the reader to the rich culinary history of the area; the Kentish landscape; how he found The Sportsman and his philosophy that intertwines punk music and food. The book shares extracts from Harris’ diary and personal ephemera including photos from his punk years.

British journalist and food writer, Rachel Cooke, this year’s assessor for food books, said: “The kind of book you want to win a prize like this must capture a moment, say something about where we are, as well as being inspirational, well-written, useful and expert. The Sportsman does that. Its interest in, and passion for, provenance is going to seem ever more relevant in the years to come, post Brexit. It's a singularly British book, and yet it looks outward, with hope. Stephen Harris, who has worked with such dedication and commitment to make his restaurant one of our truly great places, couldn’t deserve this award more.’’

In the Drink category, wine expert and critic Peter Liem won the Award for his book Champagne: The Essential Guide to Wines, Producers and Terroirs of The Iconic Region (Mitchell Beazley). As well as being elegant and beautifully-illustrated, with a pull-out tray containing seven Louis Larmat vinicultural maps, the judges felt it was an authoritative account of one of the world’s most iconic but also misunderstood wines. Often obscured by a multi-billion marketing industry, the French region actually counts hundreds of smaller producers and terroirs, which produce some of the best Champagne consumers are not aware of. Peter Liem’s book aims to tell their story. 

Joe Fattorini, this year’s assessor for drink books, said: “This is a book that we'll return to for many years, not only as an authoritative catalogue or even a book that also explores perhaps the world’s most celebrated wine region, but as a book that asks questions about the nature of terroir and place. Peter Liem tackles uncomfortable truths hidden beneath decades of exquisite branding and positioning and tells personal stories among clearly-argued technical debates.’’
The Way of Whisky (Mitchell Beazley) by Dave Broom was recognised with the John Avery Award for its in-depth research of Japanese whisky and culture. Beautifully produced, the book shares Dave Broom’s personal journey around Japan’s whisky distilleries. Interspersed with this are profiles of craftspeople, chefs, bartenders and others, as Broom investigates what makes Japanese whisky Japanese.

Meanwhile, British wine journalist Victoria Moore was recognised with a Special Commendation for her new book The Wine Dine Dictionary (Granta Books).  The judges praised Moore for her well-conceived and intuitive handbook, which helps readers pick the right bottle of wine based on the food they eat and for cooking the right food based on the wine they want to drink.

In an unusual year, three out of the four winning books were drink books. This year’s shortlisted authors – selected from nearly 150 entries – also included Bursting Bubbles by Robert Walters, By The Smoke and The Smell by Thad Vogler and Miracle Brew by Pete Brown, who was also shortlisted in the André Simon Awards 2016 for his book The Apple Orchard.

In the food category, the diverse publications range from Gather Cook Feast by Toast co-founder Jessica Seaton and Anna Colquhoun to Gary Taubes The Case Against Sugar and The Meaning of Rice by Michael Booth. Cuisines from all around the world were celebrated by Reem Kassis’ The Palestinian Table and Nino Mendes’ Lisboeta.

Winners in the food and drink categories are each awarded £2000; recipients of the John Avery Award and the Special Commendation receive £1500 each.'

Monday 12 February 2018

2016 Monasterio de las Viñas, DO Cariñena

 2016 Monasterio de las Viñas

This youthful wine is a blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo and is another of the selection of Spanish reds. It comes from the DO Cariñena, which is one of the oldest 'appellations' as it was established in 1932. The first French appellation contrôlée dates from 1936. The 2016 is quite herbal with considerable structure. It would benefit from another couple of years in bottle.  

Sunday 11 February 2018

Central Loire Vineyards: expansion and renaissance

Producer's sign in Quincy 

Shared picking machine @Reuilly 2009

La Loire @Pouilly-sur-Loire 

The last 27 years has seen very considerably changes in the Central Loire Vineyards. With one sole exception it has been a tale of success and expansion. It is fascinating to compare the area planted in each of the Central Loire appellation in 1990 with the area planted in 2017. 

An overall increase of 2451 hectares in production – a 77% increase – are the headline figures. However, the dramatic revival of appellations like Quincy and Reuilly that in the 1970s and for much of the 1980s are perhaps the interesting. The revival of Reuilly owes much to the late Claude Lafond, who had the vision to persuade the few producers to work together and to establish a common wine-making facility above the small town of Reuilly. It was similar in neighbouring Quincy where a common winery was built at the village of Brinay. These wineries are different from a cave co-operative. Here the producers make with guidance, keep and sell their own wine themselves. The facilities are shared but not the wine.     

Equally the expansion of Menetou-Salon up by nearly 200% from 196 hectares in 1990 to 576 ha last year is impressive. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé have seen the largest increase in terms of hectares – 1032 ha and 580ha respectively. 

Pouilly-sur-Loire – 100% Chasselas – is the only appellation in decline: slipping from 56 hectares planted in 1990 to just 27 last year. Doubtless those lost hectares of Chasselas have been replanted with Sauvignon Blanc – Pouilly-Fumé is so much easier to sell.  

The changes in the Central Loire are in marked contrast with the contraction in the area planted with Melon de Bourgogne for Muscadet in the Pays Nantais. In 1990 all the Muscadet appellations covered 11,280 hectares – this doesn't include Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu which was promoted to appellation status in 1994. At its highest point Muscadet reached some 13300 hectares. By 2016 this area had dropped to a total of 8200 ha. Of these Muscadet Sèvre et Maine accounted for 6300 ha, Côtes de Grandlieu – 230 ha, Coteaux de la Loire – 150 ha.

Even with this sharp contraction Muscadet (820 ha) is still substantially larger than the whole of the Central Vineyard combined – 5750 hectares.      


Saturday 10 February 2018

2016 Colombard Sauvignon, Famille Laplace

This is another of our purchases from The Wine Society – the selection fo whites from South West France. Aramis is made by the Laplace family, Château d'Aydie – one of the leading domaines in Madiran. Aramis, a blend of Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc, is attractively crisp and lemony – making it a good apéro.

Friday 9 February 2018

2015 Domaine René Couly, Chinon, Couly-Dutheil

Domaine René Couly is another fine 2015 red from Couly-Dutheil. These vines are planted on clay and flint and from parcels selected by René Couly, the grandfather of the company's current MD – Arnaud Couly.

The deep coloured 2015 Domaine René Couly is considerably more concentrated than Wednesday's featured wine – 2015 Les Gravières. Although drinking well now, the René Couly has considerably potential to improve and age over several decades.     

Thursday 8 February 2018

Coteaux du Giennois celebrates 20 years of appellation status

Appellation Coteaux du Giennois is celebrating its first 20 years this year. In 1998 it was promoted from VDQS to full appellation contrôlée status. The VDQS category was created in 1949 and was intended as an in-between status between vin de pays and full appellation. Giennois became a VDQS in 1954. VDQS came to end on 31st December 2011. Most VDQSs were promoted to full appellation status. In the Loire this was eventually the case: all the previous VDQSs were promoted to full appellation status.  

Coteaux du Giennois produces wine in all three colours – Sauvignon Blanc for the whites and Gamay and Pinot Noir for the reds and rosés. Prior to promotion to AC status it was possible to make 100% Pinot Noir and from my tastings these were the most successful reds. Unfortunately the INAO insisted that all the Loire VDQSs, who had Gamay and Pinot Noir, had to agree not to make 100% Pinot Noir. Instead if a producer used Pinot Noir it had to be blended with Gamay. This demand has always appeared to be political rather then following any tradition. In contrast 100% Gamay is permitted. 

Currently there are 194 hectares producing Coteaux du Giennois, this is slightly down on on 2016 when there were 204 hectares. Annual production averages at 7721 hectolitres from 37 producers. In 2016 83% of Giennois' sales were in France with just 17% exported. 

The majority of the reds are easy drinking with most to be drunk in their first few years. The best are those with a very high proportion of Pinot Noir..... The whites are attractively fresh and lemony. Unfortunately the appellation has been considerably hit by frost in both 2016 and 2017.

Wednesday 7 February 2018

2015 Les Gravières, Chinon, Couly-Dutheil

2015 Les Gravières, Chinon, Couly-Dutheil

This cuvée (100% Cabernet Franc) comes from vineyards planted on sand and gravel close to the River Vienne. Full of soft, black fruit it underlines what an attractive vintage 2015 is. Les Gravières sees no wood and is bottled at Easter time with the accent on its youthful fruit.  

Tuesday 6 February 2018

2016 Les Chanteaux, Chinon Blanc, Couly Dutheil

2016 Les Chanteaux, Chinon Blanc from Couly-Dutheil is the the first of six of their wines to try. Although with the integration the eight new communes to the west of the Chinon appellation has seen a significant increase up to 83 hectares in the amount of Chenin Blanc planted in the Chinon appellation, Chinon Blanc remains dwarfed by red Chinon. 

The 2016 has attractive concentration – both floral and quince notes – with well balanced acidity in the finish. Les Chanteaux is good to drink now but will surely keep for at least a decade. 

Monday 5 February 2018

A dispatch from the lunatic asylum.....I'd rather be @Le Salon des Vin de Loire

But for a slip on black ice on 2nd January I would be at the Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers. Unfortunately when I fell my left leg went underneath me and ruptured my quads from my knee cap. This necessitated having on operation on 4th January to reattach the tendons. (See ambulance and knee photos below). 

Fortunately my recovery seems to be going well. I can now go out for long walks relying on just one crutch rather than the two I started out with after the operation. Despite this progress it is still impossible for me to travel, so very sadly no Millésime Bio and no Salon des Vins de Loire this year. 

However, I gather from Chris Kissack, the estimable Wine Doctor, that the catering in Press Office has gone down very sharply in my absence. In the past the Press were offered a very considerable spread for lunch. Clearly austerity has arrived in Angers! Chris reports that the Salon, which for the first time runs for only two days, was busy on Monday and that La Levée de la Loire has expanded considerably. Doubtless this is a reflection of the continued growth of organic viticulture in the Loire. 

But to return to the lunatic asylum – the lamentable state to which the madness of Brexit has reduced in the UK. The latest piece of lunacy is Teresa May ruling out staying in the Customs Union after we leave (if we leave) the EU at the end of March 2019. How May and her government are going to square this with the agreement at the end of Phase One that there would be no hard borders between Northern and Southern Ireland? 

May parrots the aim of achieving 'frictionless' trade ignoring the fact that the Customs Union provides frictionless trade. So why attempt to create a new system, which the EU may well not accept anyway? It is amazing that 18 months after the referendum vote on 23rd June 2016 the UK government has still not agreed on what they are seeking as a trading arrangement following Brexit. 

At least being in Scotland I'm in the antechamber of the lunatic asylum and there have been some compensations being in Scotland. As already posted we ordered a selection of wines from The Wine Society – a selection of whites from South West France, a selection of reds from Spain and some Sherries. 

In addition Château de Tracy and Couly-Dutheil have kindly sent me a selection of samples, so that I can continue to work during my convalescence.        


5.2.18: the scar healing up