le tasting room

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

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.