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 investdrinks.org

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




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
at

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

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 Jean-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 

 

Monday, 11 October 2021

2021 Loire Vintage – Montlouis, Touraine, Bourgueil, St Nic and Chinon

2021 Cabernet Franc 

 

Last week I made a number of visits to producers to see how the 2021 Loire vintage was coming along. The start of the 2021 Loire harvest was a good couple of weeks later than the 2020 vintage, although not as late as 2013. 

Tuesday 5th October  – Xavier Weisskop (Montlouis and Touraine) 
I cycled over to Dierre to see Xavier, who was quite upbeat: 

"We started picking on Tuesday 21st September and finished with the Côt a week later on Tuesday 28th. Our frost protection worked well as did our treatments against mildew. There was a big pressure of mildew this year especially during June and July and we had to spray the vines 14 times, including four Sundays. Our average yield is about 40 hl/ha." 

Wednesday 6th October – various Touraine producers in the Cher

 



 

Jean-François Mérieau (AOP Touraine)
For a number of years now Jean-François Mérieau has been based at Paul Buisse's old premises – Cave de la Boule Blanche – at the eastern end of Montrichard, while continuing to use the old winery across on the south side of the River Cher in Saint-Julien-de-Chedon. Paul Buisse retired in 2010 selling his business to Pierre Chainier. A few years later Chainier sold the premises to Jean-François. When I dropped in Jean-François was across at Saint-Julien but his wife Emilie was in the office.

Emilie Mérieau: "We started picking on Monday 27th September and have now finished the Côt, Gamay and Sauvignon Blanc. We will finish with the Cabernet Franc next week. Quality is good but we don't have a lot of grapes as we were hit by the April frosts and mildew. Yields vary depending on the grape variety – Côt is around 40hl/ha, while we have less Gamay – between 25/30 hl/ha. I can't give you a figure for our Sauvignon Blanc but it was affected by the frost and mildew."

Domaine Sauvète (AOP Touraine) 

 



After Merieau I headed upstream along the north bank of the Cher to Monthou to Domaine Sauvète. I haven't been to see them for a few years – in part due to the Covid interruption – so I haven't seen their new functional winery and office. The old chai used to be opposite their house lower down the road. The domaine has long been organic and is now run Jérôme, Dominique and their daughter Mathilde.

Dominique and Mathilde Sauvète: "We started picking on Tuesday 21st September beginning with Sauvignon Blanc then Gamay and the Friday. We have now finished. Unfortunately we were hit to an extent by the frost in the first week of April but we do have 18 hectares protected by wind machines and other 1.5 hectares by frost pots, which limited our losses. Yields vary from variety to variety: Sauvignon Blanc is 25 hl/ha, Gamay 20-25 hl/ha, Pineau d'Aunis 10-15 hl/ha, while Côt, which resists frost better is between 30-40 hl/ha. The Sauvignon Blanc is only 15/20 hl/ha as second buds didn't develop after the frost. 2021 is a more typical Loire – plus ligérien ... plus typé Touraine – with fresh fruit and not too much colour for the reds with alcohol degrees ranging from 10.5-12.5%. We had to spray our vines 13 times to combat mildew – there was one week when we had to spray twice! We had some mildew on the leaves but not on the grapes."

Noella Morantin
From Monthou I rode through the vineyards before descending down the steep hill into the village of Thesée and back into the Cher Valley. I haven't visited Noella for a number of years and this was my first visit to her new premises in Thesée. Previously she was based in La Tesnière in the commune of Pouillé. Noella had just finished the harvest, so she and her team of pickers were celebrating, so I kept my visit short. Unfortunately she had been hit hard by the frost with those parcels affecting ranging from a loss of 60% to 80%, although some parcels were not frosted. Potential alcohols for the Sauvignon Blanc ranges from 11.5% to 13%. Noella has 8 hectares of vines all across on the south side of the Cher in Pouillé. She has recently bought the last of Junko's parcels – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  

Further harvest reports to follow including Bourgueil, St Nicolas de Bourgueil and Chinon.    

     

 

    

     

 

Monday, 4 October 2021

2021 in Muscadet Sèvre et Maine

Melon de Bourgogne @Domaine Luneau-Papin

 

Hod carrier@ Domaine Luneau-Papin  

Last Thursday (29th September) we headed to the Pays Nantais to visit a few vigneron in Muscaxdet Sèvre-et-Maine to see how the 2021 vintage is coming along. There is no doubt that overall that 2021 is a small harvest. However, there are considerable variations between producers and vineyard sites. Some unfortunate producers like Fred Niger (Domaine de l'Ecu) have made virtually nothing. Others in privileged sites have harvested up to 45 hl/ha. It depends on which sites escaped the succession of April frosts, the various hail storms and what grapes producers had left weren’t devoured by mildew. 

Domaine Luneau-Papin

Pierre-Marie Luneau: "We are on the last lap – we'll finish on Monday. We started on 16th September. Overall the yield is small – around 15 hl/ha but it is very variable. La Butte de la Roche wasn't frosted so we got between 20-35 hl/ha. In contrast in other sites you have to really search to find any grapes. In our most affected parcel we got only 6 hl/ha. This year we have a much smaller team of pickers – just 17 whereas other years we have had a team of 60-70, so 2021 has been much more relaxed. Due to the recent fine weather the quality of the grapes that we do have is good with potential alcohols varying from 11.7 - 12.5. "  e e            


2021 Melon de Bourgogne (above and below)
 
 

 
Pierre-Marie Luneau in the vineyard

Grapes arriving @the winery


New eggs

 

Domaine de l'Ecu

The cathedral of l'Ecu viewed from the south

The cathedral of l'Ecu viewed from the east
 
I made a quick visit to the Cathedral of Ecu (aka Domaine de l'Ecu). Early Setember 2019 was the last time I was in the commune of Le Landreau. The cathedral was then in construction. It is a magnificent winery but unfortunately Fred Niger has been very badly hit this year by a vicious combination of 11successive nights of April frosts, hail in June and mildew. The sad result is that he is only getting 5 hl/ha. 
 
Fred Niger: "This has been an annus horribilis plus!!
 
Hopefully nature will be kinder next year.  
 

Le Patron taking his ease 
 

 
The crypt of l'Ecu (above and below)
 


Fred Niger in his crypt –
la messe 7/7 jours...




Bonnet-Huteau

Jean-Jacques Bonnet: "My brother Rémi has retired, so I am now in partnership with Vincent Pineau. With the exception of our Cabernet and Côt, which is not yet ripe, we will finish the harvest tomorrow (Friday). It has lasted 14 days. Our yields have been very variable: on the Butte de la Roche, which wasn't frosted, the yield is 50 hl/ha. Our lowest yield is 10 hl/ha, while overall it is averaging out between 25/30 hl/ha. The frost in 2017 was worse for us because we now have some parcels with frost protection. Through the partnership with Vincent, we are fortunate in having vines in a number of different communes so the risks are spread. We are happy with the quality. The potential alcohols are between 11.5 and 12.5 with acidity between 4.5 and 5.5. 

Lieubeau 

Vincent and François Lieubeau: "2021 is better than we feared. We started picking on 16th September beginning with the young vines that were protected against the frost. Potential range between 11.5 to 12.2/12.3. 

We have nearly finished – all the parcels that we pick by hand were finished on Tuesday night. For those parcels where we have frost protection we have a yield of 45 hl/ha. Our lowest yield for Melon de Bourgogne is 10 hl/ha with between 25/30 hl/ha for other grape varieties. We will be installing more anti-frost measures – it is the way forward." 

 

 

Processing Grolleau