le tasting room

Loire wine tours, tastings, day trips from Paris & short breaks organised by experienced English wine trade professionals.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A few Statistics from the Central Vineyards

Thanks to Jim Budd for posting the press release from Benoît Roumet of the Bureau de Centre. If you would like to read the full post in French you can find it on Jim's blog here but here are a few points that I took from it and translated into English.

'With a progression of 12% on the export market and an increase of 5% on the French market, the wines of the Central Vineyards have had a very successful campaign despite the environment of economic crisis.

At the end of July 2011 sales of wines from the Centre Loire had increased by 11% with more than 38 million bottles spread across the export and domestic markets.

Appellations with the highest profile are Sancerre and Coteaux de Giennois with an increase of 16% in the export of Sancerre white and 10% for the Coteaux du Giennois whites. Quincy's drop in exports has been compensated for by the French market. Other appellations have equally developed their sales with the exception of Reuilly which has seen a slight reduction of 2%.

A few figures

8 appellations make up the Central Vineyards: Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly, Coteaux du Giennois, Chateaumeillant, Pouilly-sur-Loire.

There are:
360 vignerons
35 négociants
5 Co-operatives

Production 2010 amounts to 42 million bottles of which 82% is white (up 10% when compared to the average of the past 5 years).

Sales over 12 months at the end of July 2011 were 38,1 million bottles of which 45% was exported to 110 countries around the world. Whites represent more than 92% of exports from this region.'

Friday, 2 December 2011

Domaine Cady Portes Ouvertes December 10/11


les 10 et 11 décembre 2011

de 10 heures à 19 heures

C’est le moment de mettre en cave le fabuleux millésime 2010 :

un cru remarquable grâce à un terroir prodigue

ou de faire plaisir à votre entourage avec nos coffrets cadeaux.

Pour faire pétiller vos fêtes, n’oubliez pas les fines bulles de nos CRÉMANT DE LOIRE

Une bouteille ouverte est toujours un grand moment de convivialité !

Promotion : 12 bouteilles achetées la 13ème offerte

Pour affiner votre choix (descriptif et tarif des vins),

consulter notre site internet : http://www.domainecady.fr

Nos partenaires vous attendent pour vous faire

déguster leurs produits artisanaux en accord avec nos vins de terroir.

LA RUCHE VERNANTAISE : Miel et pain d'épice : 06-23-24-30-31

LA FERME DES ALPINES : Fromages de chèvre : 06-83-58-98-48

LES GOURMANDS DISENT : Chocolats : 02-41-54-09-56

M. AUDOUIN Laurent : Foie gras : 02-41-78-87-01

Espace enfants, Jeu, Buffet permanent

Un panier garni à gagner par jour

Monday, 28 November 2011

Pithon-Paillé Portes Ouvertes

Lots of good wine tasting opportunities this past weekend. We opted to pop in and see Pithon-Paillé with clients yesterday. Jo and Isabelle Pithon were manning the ship while Wendy and Joseph Paillé were down the road at the Anges Vins tasting.

Jo Pithon pouring samples and chatting to customers

Most producers hold open days at this time of year so it's a good opportunity to call in and taste the wines and maybe purchase a few bottles for the up and coming Christmas festivities.

Jo Pithon was on good form pouring samples and chatting to customers and the wines were tasting excellent, especially the Chenins. I loved the Belargus Coteaux du Layon - floral and honeyed with hints of citrus marmalade and with a fabulous stream of mouth watering acidity that hides the 200g of residual sugar. It has real class and is a tip top example of getting the sugar/acid balance just right.

The Quart de Chaume is excellent too but softer on the palate, a little more gentle with lower perceived acidity so although it also has 200g of residual, it seems sweeter. One of our clients asked Jo why it was not priced at a higher point than the Belargus bearing in mind its recent promotion to Grand Cru status. 'Because it's not better than the Belargus - they are of the same quality' he replied. What a great answer and an honest one - let the wines speak for themselves.

I also liked their Crémant de Loire which was on show for the first time. The 2009 base wine underwent a slow fermentation and was aged for a year before being mixed with unfermented grape juice from 2010 promoting the second fermentation. Jo explained that he was keen to make a sparkler but one that had the Pithon-Paillé identity and this certainly has it. Aromas of stewed apple and great minerality give it real complexity on the nose. If you like the slightly evolved style of Chenin then this is one for you.

Finally, anyone who has the guts to market a wine like this Grololo deserves to have success. A jeu de mots (play on words) - it refers to the grape variety from which it's made. Groslot (or Grolleau) is a work horse variety that is widely planted in Anjou, mostly for the production of rosé wines. A wine for friends and family this is not to be taken too seriously as indeed it is not. Full of juicy fruit, slightly peppery on the nose and with light tannins it's what we call a 'vin de soif' and was formerly their wine served at family meals during harvest time.

The term Grololo is a used to describe 'big breasts' hence the label. Jo Pithon laughs out loud as he explains its meaning to us and while there may be the odd one amongst you who may feel this is a little inappropriate I'm afraid everyone around him laughed along too.

Monday, 21 November 2011


Hard to believe with all this warm weather in November but yes, growers are already starting to prune their vines. In an ideal world they would wait for a decent cold snap to make sure the vines have had a dormant phase and viruses and diseases have been knocked on the head.

Practically speaking however, in many cases it's a question of the number of vines to prune, the manpower available and the deadline for finishing. So, pruning has commenced.

These pictures show the process known as pre-pruning. These blades sweep through the vineyard and make the 'first cut'. This allows the hand pruners to follow on with their secateurs (either electric or conventional). This second manual pass is the important one, where the pruner chooses the cane or canes (according to local tradition, appellation etc) that will bear the vine's fruit the following year.

There are two sets of circular blades that straddle the row of vines at the level of the top wire. The tractor passes slowly through the rows and the blades move out and around the posts. It's clever and saves a lot of time pulling and tugging canes that are stubbornly clinging on to the wires.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Reflections on the 2011 Vintage from Christophe Daviau of Domaine de Bablut

I received a few thoughts from Christophe Daviau of Domaine de Bablut on the 2011 vintage this morning so have taken the opportunity to translate them into English.

It's already a month since the harvest finished.

We brought in the last grapes on Tuesday 11th October - it was those from the hillsides of the Grouas and those destined for Petra Alba that closed the season for us. It's quite rare to finish so early. It was in part what we all expected but also partly due to the fact that the passes through the Coteaux de L'Aubance normally push us right in to mid-November and this year, with the hot and humid weather in September, noble rot spread quickly through the rows and the yields from the Grandpierre parcel were down due to a localised hailstorm in April.

The Sauvignon blanc 'Petit-Princé' and the Rosé de Loire are ageing gently on their lees, Ordovicien has just about finished 'devouring' its last sugars and the rich sweet wines are in full swing.

As for the reds, we can expect another great year. I have to admit being a little concerned about the Cabernet Franc but the results are very surprising. We took the decision to hold off harvesting until the grapes had achieved full phenolic maturity (always a risk) as they were lagging behind at the beginning of September. The Petra Alba and Rocca Nigra are still macerating (or should I say infusing!) and are tasting very good indeed. I am pleasantly surprised by the fruit and the roundness of the tannins. The heterogeneity of the Cabernets (particularly the Cabernet Franc) worried me before harvest and I feared we would see vegetal notes in the wines due to these grapes having a delayed maturation, however, I am delighted with what we have. It seems that we made the right decision delaying harvest and have avoided the problem. I can't say that the level will be up there with 2009 and 2010 but it will be very good.

Watch this space...

Bien cordialement
Christophe Daviau

Friday, 11 November 2011

Photos from the Coteaux du Layon 11 November

We were in the Layon today paying a visit to Pithon-Paillé. What a splendid day it was - glorious sunshine highlighting the colours of the falling leaves on the vines.

Monday, 7 November 2011

La Récolte Nouvelle est Arrivée - Olive Oil from Provence

There are hundreds of different grape varieties in the world, each one having its own flavour profile and characteristics. Did you know that it's the same with olives? In Provence alone there are more than 100 varieties of olive tree. Some are very old and each one has a specific 'terroir' that comes partly from the soil in which the tree grows but also from other factors such as micro-climate, water and production know-how.

Mass produced olive oil is fine for every day use and for cooking but if you want to really step it up a notch then it's worth seeking out a good supplier. Like cheese, you can find pretty decent cheese in the local supermarket (in France) but if you buy from a top quality fromagerie then the quality jumps to an entirely different level.

Leïs Öoulivades is an olive oil sold by the specialist shop Première Pression Provence which specialises in high quality oils made by a selection of artisanal producers. La Nouvelle Récolte is what is says 'the new harvest'. It's an olive oil that was pressed in October 2011 - the Beaujolais Nouveau of oils you might say.

And what a treat it is. Made from olives harvested early it has a wonderful grassy aroma and flavour with a real pepperiness on the finish. The Arboussane olives are grown in the Bouche du Rhone at Mas Thibert owned by André Meiffre. Whereas many producers are used to blending different varieties, André prefers milling the Catalan olive as a mono varietal. Prone to suffering from the cold, he always harvests early even if yields are low.

Don't waste it in cooking, just savour the creamy unique flavour drizzled over fresh tomatoes or a few salad leaves, grind a little black pepper, add a few flakes of sea salt and dip your pain de campagne in it. This takes olive oil to a new level.

It's strange how we justify spending quite a lot of money on a delicious bottle of wine that is consumed in a single evening and yet we hesitate about spending the same kind of money on a bottle of olive oil that will last for several weeks at the very least.

I think we've found a new passion.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Our cellar is a great place for a party. We had about 20 family and friends for a bit of a celebration last weekend but also hold our larger tastings for groups here too.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Un oeuf is enough!

Great to see this ovoid fermentation vessel being used at Domaine des Rochelles. The wine gently fermenting inside is the Roches des Rochelles 2011, a 100% Chenin Blanc that normally has a wonderful minerality and real class that comes from extended ageing upon the yeasty deposit (the lees).

A supposed benefit of using this type of vessel (a modern take on the old amphora used by the Romans centuries ago) is that the lees remain in suspension, adding depth and complexity without the need for stirring. Can't wait to taste the end result.

So, why is Domaine des Rochelles only using one egg shaped vessel this year? Because un oeuf is enough!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Vintage 2011 Update - Pierre-Jacques Druet in Bourgueil

Yesterday we were in Bourgueil with Pierre-Jacques Druet, a maverick winemaker in Benais who makes one rosé and a range of red wines from the Cabernet Franc grape variety.

The rosé is unusual. Pierre-Jaques uses an old method of production called Guillage. When we arrived he was just preparing a batch of grape juice for fermentation. After adding a little bentonite (an absorbant clay that helps clarify the juice) he chills it down to about 1° and then transfers it directly to old wooden barrels.

Having a look at the machine harvester that brings in the grapes

This is one of the barrels that will contain the fermenting juice for the rosé

Cleaning the barrel with water before filling up with the clarified juice

Having a look from above - this wine has finished fermenting and the skins are being pressed to form the press wine

After the juice has been transferred to the barrels they are transferred to his ancient cellars about half a kilometer away. These cellars, like many in the region are made of tuffeau limestone that was quarried from the 10th century onwards leaving a labyrinth of tunnels all around the region. With a constant temperature of 12° (52F) all year and around 85% humidity, they are perfect for barrel maturation.

Guillage is an ancient method of winemaking that is little used in the region. Once the wine has been chilled and put into barrels, they are brought to the cellar and here the fermentation commences. Slowly, slowly, the yeast starts to do its work. As the cellar is cool, fermentation takes much longer than normal – 3-4 months or sometimes even longer. The barrels are kept full to the brim and each day they must be topped up and cleaned as solids rise to the top and are pushed out by the fermentation.

The result is a wine that has character, body, fruit and balance. A rosé that can be drunk with friends or accompany a meal.

Guillage - the barrels are wiped and topped up every day for 3-4 months

Solids rise to the top and around 10% of volume is lost as the fermenting wine spills over

Tasting a range of wines at the end of the morning

Pierre-Jacques is only half way through harvest. The grapes from vines planted on the sandy gravel flats have been brought in but his best parcels are taking advantage of the extra ripeness that will come over the next few days. He has a smile on his face.

You probably wouldn't even think to call in on Pierre-Jacques Druet if you drove past the winery. It's the ugliest red brick building and is quite difficult to find if you don't know where you are going. However, you are missing a real treat. Of all the producers we work with, he gives us the closest insight into his world. His passion for what he does shines through, he takes time to show and explain and what's more, his wines are excellent. Here he is talking us through the mechanics of machine harvesting, winemaking and technique of guillage.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Domaine des Rochelles Vintage update

We popped in to Domaine de Rochelles for a tasting yesterday with clients and had an excellent tasting. We like the wines and Jean-Yves Lebreton was on particularly good form.

Talking about this year's vintage, he said that they have brought in the Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Grolleau for sparkling so far. Before calling at the winery, we drove down to the Croix de Mission vineyard which is a specific parcel in the Anjou-Villages-Brissac appellation. This vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and is looking fantastic. We have seen a lot of rot around this year, particularly with the Chenins but these grapes are looking in tip-top condition with not a sign of rot anywhere.

A little bit of terroir - part of what makes this plot so special.

Super healthy Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with no rot.

The bloom on the outside of the grapes, unblemished and downy.

Bunches are nicely aerated.

Jean-Yves is very happy with the condition of the grapes. He says that they are reaching full maturity and that the pips are starting to turn brown, a sign that physiological maturity is on its way, accompanied by a marked reduction in unwanted herbaceous flavours. Many locally have already started picking but the weather forecast for the next couple of weeks is good so he is confident that he can bring the grapes in fully ripe with a decent potential alcohol. As yields from the Croix de Mission are small (around 35hl/ha), this is feasible.

We discussed the situation in Bourgueil briefly. He was there a couple of days ago and says that the situation there is not so bright. Grapes on the sand and gravel flats have all been harvested because recent weather conditions have left a lot of standing water on the vineyards and that in turn has produced a huge problem with rot. We spoke to Pierre-Jacques Druet 2 days ago and he confirmed that it has been a big problem this year although he had only just harvested his grapes from the sand and gravel whereas many did so more that a week earlier in the rain. We are seeing him on Tuesday so will give a fuller report after our meeting with him.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Chateau de Parnay & Chateau Princé Vintage 2011 Update

Popped in to Chateau Princé in Anjou for a quick vintage update when passing today. This year's harvest started 10 days ago starting with the Chardonnay for the Crémant. The Grolleau (again for Crémant) was next to come in followed by a first 'tri' through the Chenin vineyards for the Aubance. Last week finished with bringing in the Cabernet Franc in Anjou destined for la mousse - it had a potential of 11.5.

In Anjou the berries are looking in pretty good condition - the Cab Franc currently has a potential of 12, bunches are in good shape and there is little or no rot. The Chenin in also in good condition with a little rot in certain parcels and nearly none in others.

All wines from both Parnay and Chateau Princé will now be vinified at their brand new winemaking facility in Parnay. Work on the proposed 5* hotel is due to start over the winter months.