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

Monday, 8 November 2021

Brief sortie to Anjou in late October

Magnificent autumn colours from the Quarts de Chaume
and way into the distance
Also a reminder of how high parts of Q de C are
before it plunges down to the Layon

Heavily laden Chaume
Also demonstrates Chenin's variable
ripening making it suitable for making sweet wine –
sweetness from some berries freshness from others
usually necessary to pick selectively

On Tuesday 26th October we made a flying visit across to Anjou from our base in the Cher Valley east of Tours. We drove through foggy conditions of varying intensity. It was particularly dense as we headed down to the River Layon from Beaulieu sur Layon heading to Saint-Lambert-du Lattay. 

Emmanuel Ogereau – 'the boss'

Vincent – happy to take a back seat these days

After visiting Catherine, Vincent and Emmanuel Ogereau at their domaine and tasting a few fermenting 2021 wines including the 1er Tri of their Quarts de Chaume, we headed as it was lunchtime to the Quarts de Chaume for a picnic. By this time the fog had lifted and we were treated to some magnificent views with their autumn colours. We picnicked as we often do along the track to Les Martinières – a right turn off the small road that leads to the hamlet of Chaume. This track is the dividing line between Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru and Coteaux du Layon Chaume Premier Cru. See map 

Pink = Quarts de Chaume vines

Green = Chaume vines

Naturally we had a look at some of the vines. Unsurprisingly given the fine weather during October many had already been picked including the vignes larges of Domaine des Baumard. Some others had probably already been partially picked and were waiting for the final sweep through the vines. However, close to where we stopped on the northern side of the track so in Chaume not Quarts de Chaume was a very well laden parcel of vines, which looked like it hadn't been picked at all. 

Parcel of vines near the Martinières track 


A generous crop...

Although the yields shown in the above photos are clearly generous it is more difficult to say whether they meet or exceed the criteria for Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru. Had they been to the south of the track and in the Quarts de Chaume it would have been clear that this crop exceeded the Q de C criteria, which are more strict than those for Chaume. In the Quarts de Chaume each vine may not have more than 1.7 kilos of grapes for a yield of 20 hl/ha (25 hl/ha rendement butoir). The potential alcohol minimum has to be 18%. The photos show more than 1.7 kilos per vine. 

However, Chaume does not have a weight limit per vine and the authorised yield is 25 hl/ha, which can be adjusted up to 30 hl/ha and the minimum potential alcohol is 16.5%. Difficult to say if the Chaume criteria have been exceeded here rather that the producer is pushing the envelope and isn't really in line with the spirit of a village premier cru sweet wine. 

You have to wonder if the Baumards may not after all have had a point when opposing Chaume 1er Cru!!       


Les Treilles and TGV du Layon 

After our picnic we headed back to Saint-Lambert taking the old railway line track along the northern bank of the Layon pased the Clos des Treilles now part of Domaine Belargus. The disused railway line is now a green route between Thouarce and Saint-Aubin-de-Luigné.  


Clos des Treilles

'L'ancienne ligne de chemin de fer Perray-Jouannet a été ouverte le 18 août 1884 et fut déclassée en 1954. D'une longueur de 26 km, elle était aussi appelée Ligne du Layon, car elle suivait ses méandres. Aujourd'hui, la partie située en Saint Aubin de Luigné et Thouarcé est aménagée en voie verte, sur 16 km.'


Beaulieu-Saint-Lambert Station
The steep sides of the northern side of the Layon
can be seen heading into the distance
The Clos des Treilles is part of this massif


We dropped in briefly to Domaine Belargus and saw Adrien Moreau, the wine-maker, and Franck. The 2021 harvest is tiny averaging around 10hl/ha but the quality is good both from the dry Chenin and the Quarts de Chaume with a potential alcohol of just over 23˚.

View eastwards from Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay
towards Rablay-sur-Layon

 Time for a few autumn colour photos before heading back to Eastern Touraine.





Friday, 29 October 2021

Ivan Massonnat buys Domaine de Beauséjour (AOP Chinon) – a second ambitious wine project

Ivan Massonnat

Domaine de Beauséjour, Panzoult
October 2010

On Friday 15th October 2021 Ivan Massonnat realised a vinous dream that predates his Belargus project in Anjou when he signed the contract to purchase Domaine de Beauséjour (Appellation Chinon) in Panzoult. The commune of Panzoult is in the eastern end of the Chinon appellation on the north side of the valley of the Vienne. Beauséjour is a handsome property on the road between Cravant-les-Coteaux and Panzoult. On the other side of Panzoult Baudry-Dutour, Chinon's largest estate, has their winery and offices.  

Ivan, who has had a second home in the Chinon area for 15 years, had tried to buy Beauséjour in 2016 but the negotiations, which lasted nearly a year, were ultimately fruitless. Instead Ivan embarked on his Chenin Blanc adventure – Domaine Belargus in Anjou. 

Beauséjour has been created by the Chauveau family, especially by Gérard Chauveau. His father Dr Jacques Chauveau bought a simple farm in 1951. However, it didn't become a domaine viticole until 1968 when Jacques' son Gérard, an architect and town planner, inherited the property. He planted the first vines the following year and then slowly built the estate up to its current size – 100 hectares in one continuous plot, which is certainly unusual in the Loire and elsewhere in many parts of France, where it is customary for farmers to have lots of different parcels of land. The estate now has 27 hectares of vines facing south across the valley of the Vienne, 50 hectares of forest and the rest as fields.

In 1995 David Chauveau, Gérard's son became responsible for wine-making and three years later in 1998 took over the running of Beauséjour with his mother Marie-Claude. In late February 2021 Gérard Chauveau died at 95. The family sought a buyer to continue the work of Gérard and contact with Ivan was resumed. Although there were apparently a number of interested parties, the Chauveaus chose to reach agreement with Ivan. They will continue to be involved with David Chauveau as co-manager and Marie-Claude has the right to stay in the family home for the rest of her life.

The purchase of Beauséjour will allow Ivan in two years' time to give up his high finance life in Paris where he is a partner in PAI Partners, a venture capital and private equity company, and become of full-time vigneron. 

Ivan sees Beauséjour as a long-term project as he explains:

'Un projet global, un projet de vie.

Ce projet, son « Premier Amour », préfigure la reconversion d’Ivan dans le monde du vin.

Pour Ivan, tout est question d’équilibre ! Quand il aura tourné la page de sa « vie parisienne », il pourra ainsi se concentrer sur 2 projets complémentaires : Belargus et Beauséjour, le Chenin et le Cabernet Franc, les schistes et le calcaire, l’Anjou et la Touraine...

A Beauséjour, le chantier est immense : Ivan souhaite donc s’inscrire dans le temps (très) long. Les premières années seront uniquement consacrées à un travail de fond sur le vignoble et à sa conversion en bio.'

Domaine de Beauséjour, Panzoult
October 2010

In a nice piece of symmetry Ivan and his wife bought their Chinon maison secondaire from Madame Chauveau's niece...! 

In the short time (since 2018) Ivan has been involved in Anjou Ivan has already made a considerable impression, Beauséjour looks to be another exciting project – this time red with Cabernet Franc balanced by Chenin Blanc in Anjou, although perhaps there might some day be space for some Chenin Blanc plantings on a clay-limestone slope at Panzoult...  

Meanwhile in Anjou plans for a new Belargus winery are advancing.


Sunday, 24 October 2021

Sancerre: autumn colours

Les Monts Damnés from Chavignol 

Slopes of Monts Damnés – Sancerre in mist in distance

 Clos de la Poussie, Bué

We were in Sancerre last Wednesday and Thursday checking out the 2021 harvest, which has been finished for some time now. When you have a dry end of season the autumn colours in the Sancerre appellation can be magnificent. They certainly are this year after dry weather for much of September and October to date. Ironically June and July were wet causing problems with mildew. Many parts of Sancerre had already been hit by frost over two nights in early April: 6th/7th and 7th/8th. It is very unusual for Sancerre to be hit by frost. Usually when the neighbouring appellations of Menetou-Salon and Pouilly-Fumé are frosted Sancerre escapes. The last serious frost for many of the Sancerre producers was the infamous one on the night of the 21st/22nd 1991. Some producers have lost 80% of their crop.

For most producers picking started during the week of 20th September and finished early in October. Fortunately although the crop is small quality is good thanks to fine weather in September which meant that 2021 is better than many vigneron feared. The ferments I tasted were clean, precise with attractive fruit, while less concentrated and powerful with higher acidity than in recent vintages. As elsewhere in the region the 2021 wines will have a more typical Loire profile with greater freshness.  

The main street of Bué with the dominant
Clos de la Poussie in the background

Clos de la Poussie – owned by Ladoucette
The Clos used to have serious erosion but a 
change to grassing over the vineyard appears 
to have made a big difference
View of Bué and its vineyards
Base of the Clos de la Poussie with tractors 

Clos de la Poussie – building

Vines with town of Sancerre in background

Chavignol: the main street 
Hotel Restaurant Famille Bourgeois on right
View from Domaine Jonathan and Didier Pabiot 
above Les Loges, Pouilly-sur-Loire  
towards Sancerre

Château de Menetou-Salon

Small town of Menetou-Salon


Monday, 18 October 2021

Clos Rougeard – can its iconic status be maintained?

Extensive construction at Clos Rougeard 14th October 2021
Above and below


Last Thursday (14.10.21) we went across to Saumur to see how the 2021 vintage was coming along – overall the vignerons we saw said that it was better than they feared at the end of August as once again fine weather during September and well into October has made an important difference, especially the recent wind from the east which has concentrated the grapes. Unfortunately the April frosts and mildew have played their part.
Approaching Chacé (now in the commune of Bellevigne-les-Châteaux, which is a merger of former communes – Chacé, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg and Brezé) from the direction of Champigny we could see a large crane. I instantly wondered whether this was a new construction at Clos Rougeard. So it proved. 

Details of the construction work,
which involves partial demolition and renovation
of the old factory building
+ constructing a new building

14 Allée des Tilleuls
(above and below)  


After Charly Foucault's death at the end of 2015, the iconic Clos Rougeard was sold in 2017 to Bouygues brothers, industrialists who run construction and telecommunications businesses. They are also the owners of Château Montrose in Saint-Estèphe. Under the new ownership, Clos Rougeard is now becoming more and more visible with the new winery and daily visiting hours (excluding Sunday), which raises the question over whether the domaine's iconic status will continue.

The old 'winery' Rue de l'Eglise, Chacé


Charly Foucault September 2011
checking the flow of destemmed Cabernet Franc 


 15 Rue de l'Eglise, Chacé: Nadi and Charly close to the
quai de reception for the grapes during the 2011 harvest


2011: sorting table – Anne Vatan, Nady's wife in centre

Nady during 2010 vintage

The old cellar

The old cellar cut out of the tuffeau (limestone)
under 15 Rue de l'Eglise
The Foucaults continued to use barrels
when many Loire producers had moved
to concrete or stainless steel.

Coins stuck on the wall of the cellar 

The tasting area


Questioning Rougeard's iconic status has nothing to do with the expertise of Richard and Jacques-Antoine, who now head up the domaine in the vines and winery, or the quality of the wines made under the new regime. Instead I'm asking how important its former invisibility was to the domaine's iconic status. Back in Charly and Nady's time, there was no sign for Clos Rougeard in their commune of Chacé. The mythical cellar and the chai at 15 Rue de l'Eglise in the centre of Chacé were well hidden. This invisibility along with the old cellar, the small production, the quality of the wines, the expertise and personalities of Charly and Nady all played their part in adding to the mystique of Clos Rougeard and creating its iconic status, with prices to match. 

Clearly the purchase of the domaine by Martin and Olivier Bouygues meant that changes would happen. Indeed changes had already started to happen before Charly's death. I assume that the old cellar and quai de reception had become too cramped so, by the 2015 vintage, they had moved to an old factory building at the northern end of Chacé – 14 Allée des Tilleuls.

The Foucaults' new winery – 2015

Entrance to the winery 

During the 2015 vintage


It will be interesting to see whether and how Clos Rougeard's greater visibility along with the lifting of the shroud of mystery that used to surround the domaine will change perceptions and its iconic status. How many changes can occur before iconic status is imperiled or an amended narrative comes necessary?  

Whatever changes there are at Clos Rougeard there is little doubt that they will give Saumur-Champigny and Saumur greater visibility along with Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc.   


Visiting hours: Monday to Saturday 9am – 12pm. 2pm-7pm 


Address : 14 Allée des Tilleuls, 49400 Bellevigne-les-Châteaux
Phone : +33 (0)2 41 52 92 65