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

Thursday, 17 October 2019

2019 Loire: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Vouvray

Sancerre - evening
Sancerre in the evening light – taken from above Chavignol

Quick summary of reports: good to excellent vintage in Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Vouvray
In the middle of last week we spent a day and half making a number of quick visits in Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire to see how the 2019 vintage had gone. Unfortunately it hadn't been possible for us to get there during the harvest. Although we did spot one small team still picking, everyone else had finished.


François Crochet, Bué
"We have to keep our feet on the ground. Yes we do have some very good vignerons and exceptional terroir but we have had a lot of luck to have another exceptional vintage!"

This is certainly true as Sancerre has largely avoided the various frosts that have hit other parts of the Loire hard over the past few years, including neighbouring Pouilly-Fumé that has suffered.

"We started on 18th September and finished on 28th. Pinot Noir ranges from 13%-14.8% and the Sauvignon from 12.8% and 14.2% with the ph around 3.25."

Tasting a number of fermenting vats with François it was easy to see why he is pleased with 2019 as was in the case with those that I tasted with Matthieu Delaporte, Clément Pinard.

Tasting the nu- Matthieu D
Tasting the fermenting 2019 Sancerre Blanc in Matthieu Delaporte's
grandfather's cellar in Chavignol

Matthieu Delaporte, Domaine Vincent Delaporte, Chavignol
"We started on the 16th September and finished on Tuesday 1st October. I am particularly happy with the grapes that we picked in the first week before there was any rain. The grapes were very well balanced. After we had some rain from around 22nd September the acidity levels dropped a little. We picked for the Rosé on 21st and then the reds on 23rd and 24th. Potential alcohol for the whiles is around 13.5%, while for the reds it is between 13.3% and 13.5%. Compared to last year quantity is down by between 10%-15%"

Jean-Laurent Vacheron, Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre
"Despite two years of drought we have a normal vintage in white, although the quantity of red is down. We had no rain from early June to September. We started on 12th September and finished on 4th October. We started the Pinot Noir on 24th September. The harvest took a little longer than we anticipated as we lacked pickers. 140 pickers signed up to harvest for us but on 80 turned up – 43% less than expected. The peaks of sunshine did burn some of the grapes and there was some oidium near the Loire."

Benoît Fouassier, Domaine Fouassier, Sancerre
Like the other vignerons Benoît is very happy with his 2019.

"Vineyards where the soil is harrowed suffered less from the drought than those where the soil isn't turned over. We started on 16th September and finished on 30th. The Pinot Noir grapes were perfect (Benoît showed me a video on his phone of perfect bunches moving along the sorting table.) Our Sauvignon Blanc ranges from 13%-14% potential with acidity between 4 and 4.5 and a yield of between 50-55 hl/ha. 2019 is fresher than 2018 as it was less hot for most of the vendange. The reds have a little less concentration than last year but more fruit flavours."

Clément and Vincent Pinard, Domaine Vincent Pinard, Bué
Vincent: "Despite the incidence of coulure caused by wet and cold weather during the flowering we are reasonably content. We started on 16th September and finished last week on 2nd October."

Clément: "2019 has a great potential. The drought and the heat spikes concentrated both the sugars and acidity in the grapes. Our Sauvignon Blanc came in between 12.5% - 13.7% potential with the acidity varying between 4.20 and 5.10 and Pinot Noir between 13.5% and 13.7% with 4.3 acidity. Overall quantity is down on last year".


Loic Cailbourdin, Domaine Alain Cailbourdin, Maltaverne
"Quality is good and are average yield is 42 hl/ha due to the drought and grapes being frazzled by the sun. Our Sauvignon came in around 13% or more with acidity between 4.4 and 4.5 and a ph of 3.26-3.30, which is a good balance. The acidities are similar to last year. The Ban des Vendanges was on 16th September but we started on the 20th September and finished on Thursday 3rd October."

Sébastien Redde, Domaine Michel Redde, Saint-Andelain
"It's a good harvest with a yield of around 45 hl/ha. The berries were small and we had a frost at the end of April. Regarding other vintages 2019 reminds me of 1997 and 2015. Our Sauvignon was at 14% potential, acidity at 4.5 and ph between 3.25 and 3.30".

Cul de Beujeu
Looking towards the steep slopes of the Cul de Beaujeu, Chavignol

Towards the little village of Amigny
– part of the Commune of Sancerre

Looking down on the little village of Chavignol
home of many leading Sancerre producers


On Friday afternoon (11th October) I rode over to Vouvray crossing the Loire at Amboise and returning by the Charles de Gaulle Bridge between Vouvray and Montlouis – an excursion of 90 kms on an e-bike. There were a good number of other cyclists about trying out the end of route of the Paris-Tours race, which was run on Sunday.

Julien Pinon, Domaine François Pinon, Vernou-sur-Brenne
I arrived the day after they had finished picking, so they were in the middle of their Berlot – the traditional party for the pickers to celebrate the end of the harvest. I managed to prise Julien away from the festivities for a few minutes to chat about the 2019 harvest.

"We started on 16th September picking our base wines for our sparkling and finished yesterday (10th October). We have a very high quality in 2019. Potential alcohols vary between 11.5% for our pétillants and 13.7% for the demi-sec. We have made any moelleux this year as the degrees didn't go high enough, the rains have started and we made a lot last year. Unfortunately it is very difficult to sell sweet wine at the moment. We had five nights of frost from 4th April to 6th May leading to 30% loss. Then the drought and between 10%-20% loss due to grapes being burnt by the sun not forgetting coulure and millerandage. Thankfully with the early frost on 4th April the second generation grapes came through and ripened. Also to our surprise there was a lot of juice in the berries".

Bernard Fouquet, Domaine des Aubuisières, Vouvray 
"We started on 23rd September and finished on 8th October. Compared to last year the sugar levels are the same but there is more acidity but as there is a lot of tartaric a lot may drop out during maturation. Potential for our grapes was between 13%-14% with the majority around 13.5% with phs from 3.15 to 3.20. Still wines we have made sec and demi-sec but no moelleux this year as we made a lot last year. Overall our yields are correct – 44 hl/ha with the still wines at 35 hl/ha. We lost 10% to frost as well as some to the drought and the heat spikes. Where we have rows running north- south we had losses due to the strength of the afternoon sun. I have a friend who told me that with the ozone level shrinking the sun's rays are now more aggressive."

Bernard was not to be drawn whether he preferred 2019 to 2018. "It's too early to say...."

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Some senior moments @Epeigné-les-Bois

 All ready for their lunch

Epeigné-les-Bois' annual Répas des Aînes was held on Saturday 5th October starting at noon and finishing a little after 4pm. It was the last time Christian Percevault, the current Maire, will address les invitées as he will be stepping down when his term finishes next year. The Conseil Municipal always serve the invitées.  

 The first course all plated up and ready to go

L'equipe – above and below


Christian announcing that he will not be seeking another term in 2020

Loire 2019 – Saumur, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Bourgueil

Picking La Butte
Picking @Domaine de la Butte, Bourgueil

Some photos and reports from harvest in Saumur, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Bourgueil on 3rd October.

CF-Montée de l'Angle Cher
2019 Cabernet Franc in vineyard along Montée de l'Angle Cher, Saumur 
Above and below

CF - Montée de l'A 
Picture perfect Cabernet Franc

We made a number of visits on Thursday 3rd October to vignerons to see how the 2019 harvest was progressing. The overall message is that 2019 is another quality vintage, that it is a very good vintage for whites with a better balance and freshness than 2018. However, unlike the generous 2018 vintage, 2019 is a small vintage due to a combination of factors – spring frosts, coulure and millerandage during flowering due to wet conditions in early June, drought and grapes being grilled by the sun.

In last week's post I raised the frequency of grapes being frazzled by the heat spikes at the end of June and during July. It would appear that the spike at the end of July caused the most damage. It also seems that Chenin Blanc was more affected by the heat of the sun than Cabernet Franc.  Raising the height of the canopy is one way of providing more protection through increasing the amount of shade compared to vines with a low canopy.

As is often the case there were some who were only just starting – Anthony and Cedric Bonneau (Domaine de la Bonnelière – Saumur and Saumur-Champigny.  They had started that day on picking Cabernet for their rosé and would also be picking their Chenin Blanc for their Saumur Blanc. They had picked grapes destined for their Crémant de Loire between the 22nd and 24th September. However, they would only start picking their Cabernet Franc for Saumur Rouge and Saumur Champigny at the beginning of this week beginning 7th October. In contrast Antoine Sanzay, Jean-Pierre Chevallier (Ch de Villeneuve), Frédéric Mabileau, Yannick Amirault and Philippe Boucard (Lamé Delisle Boucard) were all close to finishing.

Higher foliage

Higher trained vines not only provide more foliage
but also increased shade give further protection against sunburnt grapes

Esca + hi foliage 
Example of higher foliage providing more shade
+ vine suffering from Esca

Chenin grillé 
Chenin Blanc grapes grilled by the sun, Saumur

Picking @Domaine de la Butte, Bourgueil

FredM - CF
Frédéric Mabileau– 2019 Cabernet Franc
again picture perfect fruit

Jean-Paul bunch
Jean-Paul Mabileau (doesn't want to wait for the 2019 wine to be made
– he wants to enjoy the grapes now!

Yannick - maceration 
2019 Cabernet Franc macerating, Domaine Yannick Amirault
Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil

Yannick - barrels + eggs 
Barrels and amphores @Domaine Yannick Amirault

Fred's egg
Frédéric Mabileau and his small egg
containing Chenin Blanc with pips and skins

CB maceration Fred



Antoine Sanzay's renovated cave 

Entrance AS
The entrance to the complex of caves

Antoine S - cave

During our visit to see how 2019 was progressing at Antoine Sanzay (Varrains), he quickly showed his renovated cave. The complex of cellars, part of which was once a dwelling, has for many years existed but now they have been renovated to provide wine storage space. The major work was concreting the floor to make an easy and convenient surface.

AS-Lift shaft
Antoine has installed a lift for easy access for his wine

As Lift housing 
The lift housing 

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Soirée des Grands Vins de Bourgueil: le jeudi le 3 octobre (demain)

Message from Alexis Caraux, director Vins de Bourgueil
'Chers amis,

Voici LA soirée à ne pas rater cet automne !
Notez bien dans vos agendas la date du jeudi 3 octobre à la Maison des vins de Langeais.

Nous vous convions à une soirée privilège où nous allons vous faire déguster et vous proposer à la vente les plus belles bouteilles de l'appellation Bourgueil sur des millésimes exceptionnels prêts à boire (2001, 2005, 2009, 2010 et autres).

Nous vous proposerons également quelques formats magnum sortis directement de la cave des vignerons...sur ces millésimes d'anthologie !


Nouveauté : Vente éphémère le 2 octobre sur notre boutique en ligne

Pour permettre aux amateurs de grands vins habitants d’autres régions d’accéder à ces cuvées rares, nous mettons en ligne quelques bouteilles à la vente 24h avant l’événement le 2 octobre.

De quoi bien préparer vos fêtes de fin d'année !
Mais attention, les quantités sont limitées... Premiers arrivés, premiers servis !
A vos marques...

Alexis Caraux
Directeur ODG Bourgueil'

2019 Loire – has heat damage become a new challenge?

Chenin + heat 
2019 Chenin Blanc from the Clos Mosny,
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Montlouis

Frazzled bunch of Chenin Blanc: Clos Mosny

Unfortunately due to a number of family and work commitments, I haven't been able to make as many visits during the Loire harvest as I would like and normally do. However, it is clear that 2019 is once again a good to very good vintage in terms of quality with very like rot and very healthy grapes. In respect to the whites and rosés 2019 may well better than 2018, where some of the these wines are for me just too ripe and rich to be refreshing. For example, we quite often buy rosé from Domaine de la Grange (Bruno Curassier) in Bléré. I much prefer his fresher, leaner 2017 to the opulent 2018.
Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups) is adamant that for whites 2018 is not a good vintage, although it is a good vintage for reds. Jacky is very pleased with the potential quality and balance of the 2019, although he was hit by both April frosts and grapes shrivelled by summer heat spikes of up to 40˚C. 

However, he has been pleasantly surprised to find that his Chenin has yielded more juice than he imagined. He thought yields would be around 25 hl/ha instead they are in the region of 35 hl/ha.

But quantity is down due to April frosts, poor weather due some of the flowering period, drought and as well as grapes frazzled by successive heat spikes.

A grey 'lawn' in Cher Valley
after four months of no rain – above and below


In Eastern Touraine it was very dry from early June until 22nd September. Tours Weather Station recorded 1.2 inches of rain from 13th June to 21st September. The drought started to break on 22nd September. Everything looked very parched and when there were high winds in mid-September the emergency services were on high alert in case of fires spreading through the dry vegetation.

2019 is the sixth good quality vintage in a row starting from 2014. The Loire has never seen such a series. Previously it was exceedingly rare to have more than three successive good vintages. Looking back over this millennium only 2013 has been poor along with 2012 for sweet wines in Anjou. The days of rotten, unripe vintages in the 1960s, 70s and 80s now seems far away. Evidence, surely, of climate change.

At the International Chenin Blanc Congress at the beginning of July the South Africans said that the Loire, with its relatively small increase in temperature, would be feeling the benefits of climate change in contrast to their problems stemming from severe differences in climate. This may be so but changes are already having their effect in the Loire through increased incidences of frost plus sun frazzled grapes.

Xavier Frissant, vigneron at Mosnes and a leading actor in the push to promote Amboise to full cru status, has also been hit considerably by grapes being grilled by the sun. Incidentally 'grillé' is an expression used by the late Gaston Huet (Domaine Huet) to describe the heat of the 1947 vintage. Xavier's Chenin has been particularly hit by the sun. Grapes that face the intense afternoon sun are always the most likely to be frazzled. It was noticeable looking at some of Xavier's Côt that bunches that faced the morning sun had largely been spared, while those facing the afternoon sun had been badly hit.

"This year during the heat spikes there was a three hour danger period – from 2pm to 5pm. We may have to look again at our viticultural practices to see how we can better protect the grapes from intense sunshine."

When I first started reporting about the Loire from 1989 it was fairly common for vineyards to look like dense hedges and to have to search about for  bunches. Over the past 20 years or so opening up the canopy has become common along with spreading out bunches to facilitate ripening and avoiding rot by encouraging currents of air to help dry the grapes. Deleafing has also been popular. Periods of extremely high temperatures as seen this year, even if some of the heat spikes have only lasted a few days, raises a question as to whether this is still the right approach.