29th April frost
For the second successive year parts of the Loire have been hit by an April frost. With March and April being so cold the hope had been that by the time the vines budded the danger of frost would be over. Unfortunately the continuing cold conditions only meant that when this year’s buds did eventually venture out they were hit by a frost on 29th April. Fortunately this year’s frost is less widespread than last year’s but it will be devastating for anyone seriously hit this year, who was also badly hit in 2012.
Montlouis appears to be one of the worse hit appellations, although here again the effects are very variable with some areas spared altogether while other sectors have suffered severely. Also hit with apparently significant losses are Touraine Azay-le-Rideau and Cheverny. Both Montlouis and Cheverny were badly hit by the 2012 frost.
The 11th edition of this annual consumer fair was held last weekend. There were some 130 Loire producers present from the Pays Nantais to Saint-Pourcain. They take over the space in front of the Gare de Tours, along the adjacent Boulevard Heurteloup as well as the Jardin du Prefecture.
In contrast to last year when the Saturday of Vitiloire was very hot with temperatures close to 30, in typical 2012 fashion it was barely 10C at 11.30am. We were lucky that the sunshine came out briefly at lunchtime only to be replaced by sharp showers during the afternoon. Even though it was cold tasting was easier this year. I
Stand outs included 2009 Clos la Lanterne, Vouvray Benoît Gautier, Domaine de la Châtaigneraie; 2011 Fie Gris, Xavier Frissant; 2012 Jasnières and 2012 Cuvée des Silex, Jasnières both from Pascal Janvier; Pinot Gris Rosé, Pascal et Catherine Desroches, Reuilly; 2011 Les Arpents, Saumur Le Puy Notre Dame, Domaine de la Fuye, Philippe Elliau; and the 2011 Longues Vignes Jasnières from Philippe Sevault.
If you plan to be in the area at the end of May 2014, VitiLoire is certainly a date for your diary as this is a friendly, well organised event where it is possible to taste a wide range of Loire wines.
Olivier Cousin: 2nd October date@the Tribunal
Olivier Cousin will be before the Tribunal d’Angers on Wednesday 2nd October for putting Anjou Pur Breton on his Vin de Table red. The wine is indeed 100% Cabernet Franc and from Cousin’s vineyards in but under Vin de Table rules there could be no indication of where the wine came from, so no place names were allowed. (Vin de Table has now been replaced by Vin de France.) for this apparently minor transgression Cousin is threatened with the possibility of a substantial fine. I have no doubt that Cousin’s maverick spirit gets up the authorities’ noses. It is, however instructive to compare the authorities’ zeal in pursuing Cousin compared to the blind eye shown to Domaine des Baumard’s miraculous 79 hectolitres of 2012 ‘Quarts de Chaume’.
Château Soucherie and Château de Breuil
With Chateau Soucherie winning the trophy for Loire sweet wines at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards for their 2010 Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume I had to shoot over to the Layon to visit Soucherie to research the winner’s profile. While over there it seemed to make sense to book a second visit, so I arranged to see David Vignon at the neighbouring property of Château du Breuil.
Both properties are part of what I like to call as the Layon’s ‘Petit Médoc’ that runs along the north side of the valley. Not in the sense of topography as these properties are mostly sited along the top of the ridge overlooking the Layon, so quite unlike the flat Médoc. Rather similarity comes from grandeur of the properties in this short section of the Layon. With the exception of a number of properties in Savennières there isn’t a similar grouping of imposing domaine building in Anjou where vignerons’ properties tend to be more modest.
Both properties share a similar recent history: Roger Beguinot bought Soucherie in 2007 when Pierre-Yves Tijou retired, while Michel Petitbois bought Breuil in May 2006 from Marc Morgat. In both instances Beguinot and Petitbois had made their money from outside the world of wine, although both are keen amateurs. Beguinot’s business is baby food and the food-processing sector, while Petitbois was in the car industry. Both men have brought fresh investment to the area. Tijou and Morgat were well-established producers and ran their properties. All in all a number of similarities here.
It was good to taste again the excellent 2010 Chaume, Soucherie and worth noting that this is second successive year that a 2010 Chaume has won the DWWA Regional Trophy for Loire sweet wines. Last year was the turn of the 2010 Château de la Guimonière At Château du Breuil I was very impressed with the 2007 Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu from Château du Breuil – rich and concentrated but with the wonderful purity and balance that the 2007s have.
Both estates told me of the difficulties they had experienced in the 2012 vintage when over 200mm of rainfall here during the month of October. Soucherie made just 5000 bottles of their basic Coteaux du Layon and none of their prestige cuvees. Equally they didn’t make their Anjou Villages Champ aux Loups because of the conditions and instead made Cabernet d’Anjou with their Cabernet Franc, which has been destined for this cuvee. Château du Breuil managed to make 6500 bottles of generic Coteaux du Layon with 65 gms of residual sugar. In a more normal year they would expected to make 13,000 bottles.
Just goes to show that there are some truly remarkable microclimates in this part of the Layon as the Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume vines are probably no more than a kilometer away yet Florent Baumard was able to make 79 hectolitres of Quarts de Chaume requiring a minimum average of 18% potential on the vine. Mon oeil!