Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin

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Not only a stunning bride but good @choosing wine

Here comes the bride

We were at a family wedding near Dundee (Scotland) last weekend. Despite bitterly cold weather it was a very happy occasion with Shona Mackie marrying Liam Macintyre . Many factors contributed to this success but one important factor was the good and sensible choices of wine that the bride made.



The happy couple.jpg

The happy couple – Shona Mackie-Macintyre & Liam Macintyre-Mackie 

Unless you are desperate to impress it is never worth buying expensive wine for a wedding reception. At these events people are milling around, chatting, taking photos. Yes they want a glass in their hands but all it needs to be enjoyable and drinkable. Better to choose affordable wines that can be generously poured rather than expensive ones that may have to be carefully rationed.

Shona made some good wine choices. She selected Bouvet Brut, sparkling Saumur from Bouvet-Ladubay, as both the wine for drinking straight after the ceremony and for the toasts before the meal. The Bouvet, which is a blend of mainly Chenin Blanc with some Chardonnay, was attractively citric with some weight – easy to drink several glasses and perhaps more….


With the meal Shona had chosen a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and, more unusually, opting for a Portuguese red – Porta 6.

Devil's Creek2016 Devil’s Creek, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

Devil's Creek Bl



2016 Porta 6, Vinho Regional Lisboa

Porta6 Bl


I realise you might be expecting a tasting note for the Devil’s Creek Sauvignon Blanc. Unfortunately I forgot to taste it – illustrates what I was saying about weddings and wine – I was too busy chatting, eating and taking photos. I did, however, have a couple of glasses of the nicely soft and concentrated 2016 Porta 6 –  a blend of 50% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo in Spain), 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional – a very drinkable.

It was interesting to see that the Porta 6 was much more popular than the NZ Sauvignon Blanc. This may only reflect that guests having been drinking the sparkling Bouvet decided they wanted to move onto a red.

Clear that Liam has not only a beautiful bride but also a shrewd wine buyer…..!


12 Commentaires

What wines do most people drink?

I am often struck by the apparently huge gap there is between what we, as wine writers/critics of various descriptions, consider to be « interesting » wines, and those wines which are actually consumed by the vast majority of wine drinkers. How many of us (wine writers) taste the wines that the majority of our contemporaries actually drink? I think that this is a question that we should consider more regularly, and then deal with in some form or another. I will not take this as an opportunity to put in a plug for any of my recent books, but the subject was in fact provoked by what I found to be a very interesting article on Jancis Robinson’s excellent web site, penned by Richard Hemmings MW and which relates his recent tasting of the UK’s top ten wine brands. I am quite sure that most of them are totally unknown and indeed untasted by the majority of my colleagues, so here they are, in the order of their UK sales last year:

1). Isla Negra, Seashore Merlot 2013, Central Valley, Chili (belongs to Concha y Toro)

2). Echo Falls, Merlot nv, California, USA

3). Blossom Hill Merlot 2016, California, USA

4). Gallo Family Vineyards Merlot 2015, California, USA

5). Casillero del Diablo, Merlot 2016, Valley Central, Chili

6). Barefoot Shiraz nv, California, USA

7). Yellow Tail Shiraz 2016, South-Eastern Australia

8). Hardy’s Varietal Shiraz 2015, South-Eastern Australia

9). Jacob’s Creek Classic Shiraz 2016, South-Eastern Australia

10). McGuigan Estate Shiraz 2016, South-Eastern Australia

My first comment is that one may say that this list is simply a translation of the current British supermarket offering. True, but think about the top wine brands in any other major wine market, and then read on into the second part of this article to have a wider perspective.

My second comment is that none of these wines is European, despite the fact that the United Kingdom is, apparently at least, still attached to this continent. It is a fact that the fragmentation of European wine production makes it almost impossible to build strong wine brands that would have a chance of imposing themselves on international markets. This point can be underlined by taking a look , below, at those wine brands that sell the most bottles world-wide (the figures come from 2016).

A final point is that three of them are non-vintages wines, which of course provides a wider palette for blending for the producers concerned, given that all of these wines are surely multi-regional blends made to fit a certain taste profile. And why not? Not every wine drinker is looking for a so-called « taste of place » in their wines, just a decent glass of wine at an affordable price.

Now for the top selling wine brands in the world

1). Barefoot (belongs to Gallo), California, USA

2). Concha y Toro, Chile

3). Gallo Family, California, USA

4). Changyu, China

5). Yellow Tail, South-Eastern Australia

6). Sutter Home, California, USA

7). Robert Mondavi, California, USA

8). Hardy’s, Australia

9). Beringer, California, USA

10). Great Wall, China

I agree that the definition of these brands are slightly different from that of those of the previous series as they are mostly, in a sense, « umbrella » brands that incorporate a range of different individual wines, whereas the selection taken by Richard Hemmings is one of individual wines. But the message is exactly the same: there is not a single European wine in the list, and a clear domination of wines from three New World countries, which are the USA, Australia and Chile, to which one must add China for the world brands, given the individual weight of the Chinese market.

What other deductions can be made from these hit-parade charts based entirely on volume? Firstly that there is no pretension about any so-called « best wines in the world » such as some wine magazines love to produce annually and which mean strictly nothing. These lists are based entirely on a single fact: volume sales. One can of course criticize this as a single criteria, and indeed it is true that such volumes also have a lot to do with agreements in the fields of distribution in supermarket chains, not to mention promotional and advertising budgets that are developed by large volume sales.

Just to provide a single figure in the volume of sales department, Concha y Toro, the second world brand, sold in 2016 some 185 million bottles, and just one of their sub-brands, Castillero del Diablo, about 65 million bottles. This is about double the annual sales of the number one Champagne brand. Now Concha y Toro owns some 9,500 hectares of vines in Chile, which accounts for around 8,5% of the viticultural surface of that country. Such a degree of concentration would perhaps be unthinkable in France, for example. But in other liquid fields, such as beer or spirits, this would not be the case. I am not saying that one is « right » and another is « wrong ». I feel, on the contrary, that this question should be regarded on both sides and with as much objectivity as possible. I would suggest, however, that the main argument against such a degree of concentration is that of financial monopoly amongst a small number of owners, and an ensuing impoverishment of the rest of the working wine population. On the other hand, I would not pretend that the quality of the wines are any lower that those produced by the very fragmented wine producers of Europe, and perhaps even the contrary.

To follow up this article at a later date, I intend to locate and taste and comment the top ten selling wine brands in France and measure them against some of the above-mentioned wines, just for fun. Rest assured that none of them will be so-called « natural » wines, which probably account for 0.001% of the world’s wine production and, quite unreasonably, about 10% of the world’s wine communication. I tasted a couple of these last week and they have since helped clear the pipework under my kitchen sink! Such a pair of scandalously dangerous (to one’s palate for sure, and probably even possibly to one’s heath) beverages I have never yet encountered. There is no control over the sanitary level of wines, contrary to what is in place for foodstuffs. I intend to name the culprits one of these days in case any of you are ever offered a bottle.






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Vin du XVIIe, rosé vermeil du Domaine Henry

Mon humeur est au rosé, n’en déplaise à ceux qui dénigrent cette tendre couleur. Du coup, après en avoir dégusté un bel et bon exemplaire lors du dernier Millésime Bio, j’ai envie de vous en parler aujourd’hui.  D’autant que ce Vin Vermeil est un condensé de saveurs et d’histoire…

Il plaisait aux princes comme aux peintres


Au Domaine Henry, à Saint-Georges d’Orques, on rend hommage à ces vins qui ont séduits et désaltérés aristocratie et bourgeoisie durant de nombreuses décennies. Leur rosé, bien en dehors des modes et tendances actuelles, nous fait vivre l’impossible. Il nous fait déguster un breuvage déjà abondamment représenté dans les natures mortes du 17siècle.

Vin Vermeil 2016 St-Georges d’Orques Coteaux du Languedoc Domaine Henry


Une robe d’un rose intense aux reflets carmin pourpre, parfumé comme une dentelle ancienne de violette et de rose, mais aussi de framboise et de cerise pour en annoncer la délicate gourmandise. La bouche nous fait un baiser raffiné, à peine effleuré, mais suffisant pour en apprécier la saveur recherchée. Légèrement poivrée, elle a le goût de la burlat qui éclate au premier coup de dent, celui du grain de grenade que l’on écrase du bout de la langue, de la fraise des bois qui inonde délicate le voile safrané. Sa texture est veloutée au toucher, comme enrobé de douceur et de fraîcheur, boutis piqué d’arabesque floraux, exquise envolée sensuelle.

Rien à dire, ce style à l’ancienne nous prend les sens, quand on veut bien y céder…

Ce rosé assemble 55% de Grenache de 100 ans complété de saignée de Syrah, de Mourvèdre, de Cinsault et de Carignan qui poussent sur des côteaux faits de calcaires jurassiques, de calcaires à chailles (rognons de silex) et de cailloutis du Villafranchien. Ajoutons-y quelques autres cépages anciens pour compléter le tableau de ce rosé de terroir, ce dernier étant intemporel ou presque.


Le vin vermeil

Extrait de La Comédie de Chansons de Jean de Rotrou

Acte deuxième Scène IV

Bannissons la bizarre humeur

Et le soin de nostre cœur,

Et qu’un bon vin vermeil

Soit nostre soleil.

Beuvons compagnons toute la nuiet

Au bruit

Des pots, des plats,

Sans estre las.

Jean de Rotrou, né Jean Rotrou, est un dramaturge et poète français, né le 21 août 1609 à Dreux et mort de la peste le 28 juin 1650 à Dreux

« Les Vins Vermeils sont à l’origine de la réputation du vignoble du Royaume de France jusqu’au 18esiècle, époque à laquelle ils faisaient les délices de la grande bourgeoisie et de l’aristocratie. Bus dans l’année qui suivait la récolte, ils ont été détrônés par ceux qu’on appelait alors « les vins noirs », équivalent de nos rouges actuels. Le développement du commerce vers l’Europe du nord, et l’évolution de la marine marchande ont permis des échanges beaucoup plus lointains, plus longs. Les vins noirs, considérés auparavant comme vulgaires, ont beaucoup mieux résisté à la durée de ces voyages. Leur prix inférieur à ceux des raffinés mais fragiles Vins Vermeils a favorisé leur essor. L’avènement de la bouteille* de conservation en verre, capable de recevoir un bouchage efficace, et donc de conserver les vins, a accéléré le phénomène. Comme on pouvait enfin conserver les vins sur plusieurs années, on a produit alors des vins capables d’être conservé. Ainsi sont nés les vins de garde français dans le courant du 18ème siècle. Notre Vin Vermeil, en dehors de toute mode, est une sorte d’hommage aux vins à qui la France doit l’origine de son rayonnement œnologique. »

François Henry www.domainehenry.fr

Déguster du vin vermeil, c’est un peu plonger dans le passé. Et si on le fait en regardant une nature morte de l’époque, on a l’impression de s’y retrouver, d’entendre les bruits de la rue, les conversations dans les pièces voisines. Puis, en fermant les yeux, sentir les odeurs, ressentir la chaleur de l’âtre ou au contraire le froid de la nuit qui tombe.

*Vers le milieu du 17es, les Gallois optent pour les fours à charbon pour le travail du verre et créent dans la foulée des bouteilles bien plus résistantes que celles produites grâce à des fours à bois nettement moins puissants. De plus, ils ajoutent une bague au goulot qui permet de résister au bouchage de liège et donc à la conservation et au transport. Jusque-là, les bouteilles étaient réservées au transvasement du vin et à son service à table.


Dégustons ce nectar du passé qui aujourd’hui séduit autant nos papilles que celles des siècles passés…

Un verre de vin, une bonne image, un rien de concentration, un moment vécu ailleurs…





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Out to play @Rocpool, Inverness

View from the Rocpool restaurant, which is just by the River Ness,
so if Nessie ever ventured downtown diners would get a good view


On Friday I got out to play for the first time since I injured myself through slipping on black ice on 2nd January. We took the train from Kingussie to Inverness to meet up with Diane and John, who we met in an international hotel in Beijing last year, for an indulgent Friday lunch at the Rocpool restaurant

2016 Grüner Veltliner, Domane Wachau, Austria

The great advantage of having the restaurant’s wine list on-line is that you can choose at least the first bottle in advance, so we were able to order a bottle of the Domane Wachau 2016 Grüner Veltliner even before we sat down. The GV (sensibly closed with a screwcap) was very crisp, clean and citric making it a good apéritif.

This was my first visit to Rocpool for a number of years and I was definitely impressed with the food, wine list and the quality of service. Both the food and wine list are typically Modern British eclectic with influences from many different cuisines. We opted for the set lunch – two courses for £16.95. It was little surprise, however, that after our two courses we went for either a dessert or cheese. 

Our starters:

 Fritto Misto of king prawn and baby calamari with
marinated plum tomatoes, fresh lemon, chilli &

crispy capers


Carpaccio of beetroot with Highland blue cheese & 

roasted hazelnuts with fresh mint and aged balsamic  

      Salad of parma ham & shaved Williams pear with 

pecorino cheese, broad beans, lemon & mint 

Once we had finished the Grüner Veltliner we moved onto some red with an impressive – soft and spicy – 2015 Primitivo Salento, Critèra from Schola Sarmenti – as our initial choice.

Main courses: 

Pan fried breast of chicken with wild mushroom risotto,
black pudding, rocket & shaved parmesan

Pan fried fillet of sea bream with oriental stir fry
of baby pak choi, steamed jasmine rice & crispy fried
shallots with cashew nuts, sesame & basil

2nd red: 

2011 Colline Teramane, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo,
Fantini Farnese


The 2011 Colline Teramane, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Fantini Farnese is obviously from further north with greater acidity and also more structured than the Primitivo. 

Affogato – vanilla ice cream with a shot of 
expresso & liqueur of your choice

Triple chocolate praline tart with salted caramel ice cream

Instead of a dessert I opted for a selection of cheese from Rory Stone (Highland Fine Cheeses). All were made from ewe’s milk. 

The wine list
The wine list is well chosen and fairly typical of the wine selection in the UK today and very different from a list in much of France, Spain or Italy, where local wines play a very dominant role. Instead at Rocpool the selection comes from all round the world. For instance, the whites on the main list come from seven countries – Italy, South Africa, Chile, France, Spain, Austria and New Zealand. For the reds it is nine countries: Italy, France, Chile, Spain, Australia, Portugal, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa.  Prices on the main list range from £17.95-£59.95 for the whites and £17.95-£79. As you can see an eclectic mix with no one country really dominant. 








11 Commentaires

The beauty of Sauvignon in Styria (2/2)

This is the second part of an article that started last Monday from the fine Austrian town of Graz (admire the shopfront above in the old town). I should also refer those interested to a series of 3 articles that I wrote (in French) on this same region and its wines from Sauvignon Blanc on this site back in 2015.

First I owe an apology for not checking a fact in my article last Monday. I wrote that Sauvignon Blanc « probably originated in France’s Loire valley and appears to be the result of a spontaneous crossing of Traminer with Chenin Blanc. » This is what the official  documents of  Austrian Wines say, but it is clearly disputed by José Vouillamoz in the admirable collective book Wine Grapes, co-authored by Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding. Vouillamoz is an ampelographer and specialist in DNA analysis, and I would tend to trust his autority on this matter. He says that Traminer is effectively one of the parents of Sauvignon Blanc, but that the other is currently unknown. The relationship between Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc is that of a sibling, with Traminer being the shared parent.

I think we all can agree that describing a wine by simply naming its variety is just as inadequate as using a region or appellation to provide some form of « identikit » portrait of a wine. Bringing the two together may get us a bit nearer to the truth, although I still shun the term « typicality », which is  one of the three « t » words that I try to avoid whenever possible in connection with wine as their significations are, at best, variable, and, at worst, meaningless (tradition and terroir anyone?)

photo BK Wine

Sauvignon Blanc is a very popular grape variety with consumers in major wine markets, even if it hardly casts a shadow on Chardonnay. Yet it suffers from a somewhat ambiguous reputation with some wine professionals (are you reading this Marco?) who say that they dislike it on the whole. Naturally personal preferences play an essential role in all our esthetic choices, but I do think that one should be careful about making sweeping statements of this kind. I must admit to having fallen into a similar trap on occasion, such as in the case of the variety from Savoie called Jacquère, which I have been known to call « quite un-interesting ». I am sure that there are some good wines of Jacquère and I hope to taste them someday soon! But Sauvignon Blanc is far more widely planted on different sites and in different climates that Jacquère, not to mention the greater number of techniques used in the production of these wines. Hence its diversity is much greater, and saying that one dislikes Sauvignon Blanc is rather like saying that one dislikes the total population of any one country: an unacceptable and simplistic generalization based on limited experience.

Part of the Lackner Tinnacher vineyard near Gamlitz under snow last week

Now, to get back to the particular case of Sauvignon Blanc in Austrian Styria (Steiermark to give it its real name), the style of the good examples of these wines strikes me as being somewhere in between the often highly aromatic one of wines from Marlborough in New Zealand and the very lean and restrained style of the Central Loire wines, of which Sancerre is the best known appellation. Once again, this remark falls fully into the generalization trap, but it is an attempt to provide the reader with some idea as a start and an encouragement to explore these wines. Styrian Sauvignons have plenty of freshness from their altitude-affected cool climate, and yet manage to attain decent to excellent ripeness levels from the combination between good site choice and careful vineyard management. This means that they totally avoid any herbal or grassy character, as much in terms of aromas as textures, and are less severe and sharp in their perceived acidity as many a young Sancerre, as well as being more expressively aromatic. The textural factor is a key element in my personal judgment of a wine and the best Sauvignons from Steiermark excel in this respect since they manage to feel suave without any loss of freshness. Pleasant and stimulating aromas, good mouth-watering freshness and fine, lingering textures are to me three characteristic « signatures » of these wines.

I wrote some comments last week on some of the Styrian Sauvignon Blanc wines that I tasted when I was in Graz and, if you read them, you will see that there were good and less good wines in that set, so I am definitely NOT saying that all Styrian Sauvignon Blancs are good. That would be a form of « fake news ».  In this preceding article, I commented the wines without giving each of them a note as I usually do, and so, following a discussion last week about an article by my colleague Hervé Lalau, I will do so now. To get a fuller picture, you will have to put the two parts together.

Harkamp Sauvignon Blanc extra brut (sparking, méthode traditionnelle): 13,5/20

Maitz, Steirische Klassik Sauvignon Blanc 2017: 15,5/20

Strauss Classic Sauvignon Blanc 2017: 11/20

Riegelnegg Olwitschhof, Sauvignon Blanc Sernauberg Roland 8° 2016: 9/20

Erwin Sabathi Sauvignon Blanc Ried Pössnitzberger Kapelle 2015: 17/20

Gross Sauvignon Blanc Ried Nussberg 2015: the bottle was corked !

Polz, Sauvignon Blanc Therese 2015: 16/20

Frauwaller Sauvignon Blanc Ried Buch 2013: 13/20

Potzinger Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Sulz Joseph 2013: 14,5/20

Muster Sauvignon Blanc Grubthal 2013: 16,5/20

Neumeister, Sauvignon Blanc Stradener Alte Reben 2011: 17/20

Tement, Sauvignon Blanc Zieregg 2011: 15/20

Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc Kranachberg Trockenbeerenauslese 2013: 19/20

This last part of this article will concern a single estate that we, as judges at the Concours Mondial de Sauvignon Blanc, were taken to visit. Lackner Tinnacher is a family estate currently managed by Katherina Tinnacher (above) and her father. Situated in hills near the village of Gamlitz, in the Südsteiermark sub-region, its history goes back to 1770 and all the wines produced come from the family-owned vineyards on six different sites. Katherina converted the vineyard to organic farming in 2013. Suavignon Blanc is not the sole variety planted here as Morrillon (Chardonnay) is also important and there are some other varieties.

Just one of the many tasting areas at this beautifully designed and hospitable winery whose wines are as good as the looks

I had visited this estate previously on my last trip to Styria back in 2015, so this was also an opportunity to measure the progress made in many aspects here. And at least one aspect of this progress this was very clear from the outset, with work now finished on the (mainly) internal modernization of the buildings, with the traditional dwelling house now totally and intelligently renovated and dedicated to reception of customers, with ample tasting rooms and a perfect connection to the winery via a cellar to ensure a smooth transition for visitors at any time of the year. Katherina’s sister is an architect and she is responsible for this remarkable work of conversion that shows, as so often in Austria, that all-too-rare combination of respect for traditional architectural forms and materials and successful use of modern design. All of this integrates superbly and the use of wood in furniture and decor, some of which apparently comes from the estate’s own forestry, is particularly remarkable.

My tasting of the Lackner Tinnacher wines (prices given are consumer retail in Austria)

This tasting, that followed a brief visit, was so impeccably organized that I would cite this as an excellent example of how to handle a tasting for a fairly large group (we were around 40 tasters from several countries). Katherina was clear in her discourse, without any undue emphasis but passing the messages about her approach to wine on this estate. We were all seated, the rooms and tables were well appointed and perfectly adapted. The glassware was impeccable and there was a list of the wines printed for every taster with some factual information on each. Plus the wines were served at the right temperature and at the right speed. This combination is sufficiently rare to be underlined.

If you cannot be bothered to read all the tasting notes below, just consider that this producer is highly recommended.

Südsteiermark Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (price around 15 euros)

A blend from younger vines made in stainless steel. Quite firm and fresh. Very good definition with a nice balance between fruit and acidity (15/20).

All the remaining wines, apart from the last one, are from single vineyard plots, which is the approach favoured by Katherina. It is not necessarily the one that I would personally adopt, but it is their wine after all! I did make an improvised blend of two of their 2015 single vineyard wines and found it better than each part. So, it is fashionable to subdivide and speak a lot about « terroir » and « authenticity ». But this does not necessarily make the wines any better.

Ried Steinbach Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (price around 25 euros)

Various soils types and meso-climates cohabit in this vineyard. Intense, almost exotic aromas from this warm vintage. Firmly structured and quite tactile, with excellent balance, it will need a year or two to give its maximum. Very subtle use of oak in the process (16,5/20)

Ried Steinbach Sauvignon Blanc 2001

Interesting to see the ageing capacity of these wines. The nose is rich and tropical in style. Perhaps a bit too much oak, but a good wine with a softer profile than its younger version. Pleasant now and has lasted well but I think that the younger wine will go further (15/20).

Ried Flamberg Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (price around 25 euros)

Limestone soils for this vineyard. This seemed sharper and crisper on the palate that the Steinbach vineyards from the same vintage. Good length and precision. I found that blending the two 2015s in roughly equal proportions was a good compromise and produced a better balance. (16/20 for the original, 17/20 for my blend).

Ried Flamberg Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Apparently a more difficult year on account of rain. Thinner, with edgy acidity and less length. (14,5/20)

Ried Welles Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (price around 40 euros)

Stony subsoil with sand and gravel on top. The highest vineyard of the estate, at 510 meters. Still quite closed on the nose and tight on the palate. It has had 18 months in barrels but will need more time in the bottle. A biggish wine with firm structure. Not sure that it is worth the extra money though (16,5/20)

Ried Welles Sauvignon Blanc 2013

The vintage was also a good one here. Far more expressive and juicy, at least on the nose, thanks to the extra time in the bottle. But on the palate this is still tight and almost tannic. Power wins over finesse here (15/20)

Ried Welles Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Lots of rich tropical fruit aromas here for a wine now fully evolved with lovely satin-like texture and just a hint of bitterness on the finish to give it grip and lift. Lovely wine (17/20)

Ried Welles Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Still very dynamic and has also rounded out with time but it is less expressive and smooth than the 2009

Sabotage (no idea of the price, but the label is the centre one on the photo)

This is a wine made in tiny quantities using skin maceration for 50% of the wine. It is also an association between Katherina and her boyfriend, Christoph Neumeister (another excellent producer from a bit further east), in which each contributes a barrel or so of their wine to produce this cuvée. No sulphur is added. I found the nose rather flat and inexpressive, more vegetal (onions and garlic) than fruity. It has plenty of power and character but I found it rather weird and verging on the unpleasant with a tad too much alcohol as well. Not recommended but there is so little made that you will probabbly not find it anyway.

David Cobbold



6 Commentaires

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger et moi

Le titre, c’est pour faire mon intéressant, car il n’y a pas grand chose qui nous lie, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger et moi.

N’y voyez aucune fausse modestie de ma part, mais ce Monsieur est un acteur de la filière vins, quand je ne suis qu’un commentateur.

Et s’il peut m’arriver de parler de lui, je suis presque sûr qu’il ne parle jamais de moi.

Malgré tout, et pour ce que cela vaut, je dois dire que je suis en phase avec lui sur pas mal de ses déclarations récentes (c’était à la Cité du Vin de Bordeaux, il y a quelques semaines).

Trois exemples:

« Ma devise personnelle, c’est d’être sérieux, sans se prendre au sérieux. Or, nous sommes tous devenus, nous les producteurs de vin, à Bordeaux, en Bourgogne, en Champagne, des gens beaucoup trop sérieux. Je trouve regrettable que les producteurs de vins aient des statuts aussi importants ».

« En deuxième lieu, nous sommes tous devenus des produits trop financiers. Que ce soit en Champagne, à Bordeaux, en Bourgogne, en Alsace… Les prix des vignobles sont devenus ridicules ».

« Je trouve idiot une bouteille vendue 2 000 à 3 000 euros sur une carte. Quand une bouteille est vendue plus cher que le salaire d’une infirmière en cancérologie, je trouve ça grotesque. Pour moi, le champagne, c’est avant tout un produit amusant, frivole, sensuel et rien de plus… »

J’approuve, bien sûr. Comme professionnel, comme consommateur et comme citoyen.

Il y a quand même un point d’achoppement entre lui et moi: la notation des vins.

Voici ce qu’il en dit: « Les notes dans le vin, je hurle. Les Américains nous ont apporté ça… Je trouve que les notes, c’est idiot, on a une très belle langue, il faut juste décrire les vins. Je suis contre les notes et contre les étoiles, il faut que tout ça reste bon enfant… »

Moi, qui suis plutôt bon enfant, j’ai  quand même envie de lui répondre qu’il ne faut pas jeter bébé avec l’eau du bain. Qu’il ne faut pas confondre  la course aux étoiles à la Parker ou à la Wine Spectator, l’enculage de mouches sur quelques points… et le système qui nous permet, dans un panel de dégustation, de sélectionner pour le consommateur final ce que nous pensons, à plusieurs, avec nos différences, digne de figurer sur sa table. Et je n’ai pas attendu les Américains pour l’utiliser. D’ailleurs, moi, je note sur 20. Comme mes profs, au lycée. A quoi bon noter sur 100 points si les 80 premiers points ne servent à rien? Et si tout ce qui compte, en définitive, c’est ce qui se passe entre 92 et 95, pour justifier un prix, une réputation, un marché?

Le problème, ce n’est pas la note, c’est comment on la donne et pourquoi on la donne. Ce qu’on en fait après.

Comme dégustateur professionnel, je pense que les notes sont la meilleure solution que nous ayons pour mettre toutes nos impressions sur un même plan, pour trouver entre nous un dénominateur commun. Ce qui ne nous empêche en rien d’utiliser notre belle langue pour justifier ces notes, ensuite.

Et puis, rejeter toute forme de notation, cela reviendrait à dire que tout se vaut. Ce qui n’est pas le cas. Ce serait renoncer à choisir. Ce serait ne pas prendre ses responsabilités de critique.

Mais j’ai déjà développé ces idées par le passé, je ne vais pas me répéter, ceux que cela intéresse peuvent toujours aller voir ICI. Ils peuvent aussi consulter l’excellent article que consacre ces jours-ci mon ami Marc-André Gagnon à cette même thématique, sur Vin Québec.

Vous n’êtes pas forcés d’être d’accord avec moi, bien sûr. Toute argumentation peut être réfutée. Vous n’avez qu’à me donner une note!

Hervé Lalau

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Loire: increased frost protection – inc report from Chinon

Anti-frost wind turbine at Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil 

Paulée Nantaise: October 2017

This April will be a particularly stressful month for many Loire producers: a third consecutive frost would be catastrophic for many growers who were hit by frost in both 2016 and 2017. Fortunately, the weather to date in 2018 has been cold, so bud break should be considerably later than it was in 2016 and 2017, so hopefully less worry. However, bud break was late in 2013, which didn’t prevent some areas being hit by frost late in April.

 Increasingly the Loire is investing in frost protection. This has long been in the case in low lying Quincy, which is very frost prone, with a number of wind turbines as well as other places like Noble Joué and the Clos Roche Blanche in the Cher Valley. Now, however, there is a more of a concerted effort to combat the frost menace. Below there is a press release from Chinon announcing that nearly 50% of areas at risk are now frost protected. Hopefully it will not be too long before all risk areas in the Chinon appellation have some protection. 

 Nearby Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil are also investing in wind turbines in the flatter gravel vineyards – vines on the limestone coteaux are rarely hit by frost. 

 In Muscadet, which was hit by frost in both 2016 and 2017, they are using imaginative ways of raising the necessary funds to invest in frost protection, especially wind turbines. A number of growers paired up with local chefs to hold special wine and food events in their restaurants – Paulée Nantaise – with proceeds going to help combating frost.

Frosty press release from AC Chinon:

‘Quatre à cinq jours de lutte contre le gel par an pour sauver une récolte : en 2018, 50% des zones à risque de l’AOC Chinon seront protégées 

La protection contre le gel du vignoble de Chinon s’accélère : en 2018, ce sont près de 50% des zones dites gélives de l’AOC Chinon qui seront protégées, soit 538 hectares sur les 1200 les plus exposés (l’appellation compte au total 2400 hectares en production). Le mode de protection le plus utilisé sur l’appellation reste celui des tours antigel amovibles ou fixes. Si cette lutte ne dure que 4 à 5 jours par an, elle est une épreuve pour tous, dont l’issue heureuse est la préservation des emplois et de l’économie de tout un territoire. 

Les gels de printemps de 2016 et 2017 ont été un coup dur pour l’appellation Chinon, réduisant de moitié le rendement moyen par hectare en 2016 et d’un quart en 2017. Une perte estimée à 25 millions d’euros au total sur les deux années pour les 181 vignerons que compte l’appellation, à laquelle ils ont pu faire face grâce au stock de bouteilles qu’ils avaient conservé. 

Les vignerons connaissent régulièrement des aléas climatiques mais il est rare d’enchainer deux années consécutives de gel intensif. Aussi, ils se sont organisés pour expérimenter plusieurs procédés de lutte, à l’image de la CUMA de Cravant Les Côteaux laquelle, après le gel de 1991 et 1994, avait mis des moyens en commun pour investir dans les tours antigel ou tours à brassage d’air. Fabrice Gasnier, Président de la CUMA de Cravant Les Coteaux met à présent son expérience à profit au Syndicat des vins de Chinon, où il est administrateur en charge du lourd dossier « aléas climatiques ». Le Syndicat a d’ailleurs commandé une étude sur l’aspersion dont les premiers résultats seront connus au premier semestre 2018.

Les moyens de protection

Aujourd’hui, quatre moyens de lutte contre le gel existent sur le vignoble : l’aspersion, les tours antigel, les bougies et les frostguard (sorte de chauffage que l’on peut déplacer). Le mode de protection le plus utilisé sur l’appellation reste celui des tours antigel. Des moyens de lutte coûteux – pour exemple, une tour avec son installation complète coûte en moyenne 42 000 euros – pour seulement quelques jours d’utilisation dans l’année… mais qui peuvent sauver une récolte et faire toute la différence !

Le brassage de l’air avec les tours

Mélanger l’air froid situé au niveau des bourgeons avec l’air plus chaud présent en altitude permet de protéger une surface de vignes d’environ 5 à 6 hectares si la température ne descend pas au dessous de – 4°C. Les tours fixes ou amovibles fonctionnent comme un ventilateur géant avec des pales en action et sont particulièrement efficaces en cas de gelées blanches. 

Le gel … contre le gel, la protection par l’aspersion

Cela peut paraître contradictoire mais l’aspersion c’est à dire le principe qui consiste à envoyer de l’eau sur les vignes avec un système de brumisateur, crée un phénomène de protection contre le gel : quand l’eau gèle, le changement de phase liquide en phase solide est une transition exothermique. L’eau qui se transforme en glace libère donc des calories qui vont protéger ce qui est en dessous, à savoir les bourgeons. Il faut ensuite maintenir l’arrosage en continu, jusqu’à ce que la température remonte au dessus de +3°C. 

Chauffer les vignes avec des bougies ou des frostguard

L’une des plus vieilles traditions de lutte contre le gel est l’installation de bougies au pied des ceps postées à intervalles réguliers, ou bien une sorte de chauffage que l’on fait circuler entre les rangs de vignes en période de gelées pour gagner 2 ou 3°C 

A noter : Pour informer les riverains sur les moyens de lutte contre le gel, des réunions publiques d’information vont être organisées sur plusieurs secteurs de l’appellation : Cravant le 27 mars à 18h30 et Panzoult le 29 mars à 18h30 et Chinon le 3 avril.’ 

 Fingers crossed for a frost-free 2018.