Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin

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2016 Vignes, Vins Randos + 53 YO Viña Sol

It is that time of year again – Vignes, Vins, Randos 2016 is on this coming weekend Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th September. Full details here

Unfortunately I have never been in the Loire recently in time for Vignes, Vins, Randos, which is a pity as I have friends who speak highly of these events. Instead I tend to come to the Loire a week or so later for the harvest.  


This year’s Randos from West to East:
Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine La Haye-Fouassière
Coteaux d’Ancenis
Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru/Coteaux du Layon 1er Cru Chaume
Anjou Villages Brissac
Coteaux de l’Aubance
Saumur Brut Fines Bulles
Saumur Champigny
Touraine Azay-le-Rideaux
Jasnières/Coteaux du Loir 


53 Year Old – Viña Sol

IMG_2105Loch Garry, Scotland

When it is not raining the Scottish Highlands are magnificent. We have spent all of August in Newtonmore, apart from a Noah’s ark expedition to saturated Islay. There is, however, one drawback here – a limited selection of wine available in the local villages with the Co-op supermarket being the nearest source.


This isn’t entirely a drawback as it is an opportunity to try wines that we don’t often drink. The 2015 Viña Sol from Torres is a prime example. We have enjoyed several bottles of this Torres classic that was launched in 1962, so the 2015 is the 53rd vintage. Made from a blend of Parallada and Granacha Blanca, the 15 is an attractive combination of ripe fruit with clean fresh finish at 11.5% Very well made the Viña Sol is particularly good value at its current co-op price of £4.99 – £2 off the listed price.


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Petition to cancel 2nd half of 2016


Devastation in a Loire vineyard after frost of 27th April 2016


Source: BBC

Thursday 23rd Sterling @ 1.30 to Euro – 27.6 Sterling @ 1.97€
B. Johnson MP – « The pound has stablised. » 

We are now nearly half way through 2016, which is proving to date truly a year to forget.

During the first six months we have been showered with frost, hail, floods in Paris and the Loire, rampant mildew and now that small island just off Calais last Thursday decided to declare UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) from the rather larger continent.

The negatives so far: frost in the Loire, Chablis and other parts of Burgundy in late April. Hail too then and further hail in late May hitting Chablis and Cognac and again last weekend hitting Beaujolais, especially Moulin à Vent, and parts of the Côte Roannaise.

Mildew is now a big problem in the Loire and a big threat in the vineyards of Jerez – probably in other European vineyards. Furthermore flowering in the Loire and elsewhere may well have been hit by the recent cold wet weather. Frost had already wiped out about a third of the Loire’s 2016 grape harvest, I fear that the vintage will be further reduced by poor fruit set.

Away from wine and the vineyards the news certainly no better. Starting with threatened Exit from the EU – will the next Prime Minister actually push the divorce button if sterling and the UK stock market continues their falls and financial jobs move from London to Frankfurt and elsewhere in the EU?  The passions raised by this entirely unnecessary referendum probably prompted the assassination of MP Jo Cox.

Even more worrying Trump is the presumed Republican candidate to be the next President of the United States. The gun slaughter continues in the US with the appalling Orlando slaughter only the worst shooting.

I could go on but this is depressing enough, so on a very positive note I will shortly be launching a petition to cancel the second half of 2016 and move immediately to 2017 so we can make a fresh start.






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A week in Touraine

The D81 at Epeigné-les-Bois mid-morning on Tuesday 30th May 2016
After nearly 200mm of rain in 48 hours le plan d’eau burst
and flowed over the road.

Weatherwise 2016 has been far from kind to the Loire. The winter was very mild and this was followed by a cold March and April. In the latter part of April there were a series of frosts – especially in the early morning of 27th April. Although overall the 2016 frosts have not been as devastating as those of 1991, many vignerons have been very badly hit. Those, who have only lost 10%-20% of their crop, are counting themselves as lucky.

Sunday 29th May saw the start of the deluge here in the Cher Valley. The amount of rain increased as you went further east into Touraine. In Tours, for instance, it was dry on the Sunday for the annual VitiLoire, which finished at 6pm before the rain started to fall.By which time Loches had already been flooded with landslips and walls falling due to the intensity of the rain.

Incidentally the two-day VitiLoire attracted a record 40,000 visitors making it a marvellous shop window for Loire wines. This makes it even more inexplicable and short-sighted that a few producers choose not to attend in person instead sending someone in their place. On the Saturday (28th) I visited one stand where the person standing in only had a sheet of technical details as a guide and was unable to answer questions. What a missed opportunity!

Here in Epeigné-les-Bois it rained heavily and pretty continuous from Sunday early afternoon through to mid-afternoon on Tuesday. By Monday our neighbour’s low lying garden had started to flood and by Tuesday 10am the water meadows by our stream – the Chezelles – had been engulfed by water.

Vegetable garden washed away for the force of the water

The Chezelles is only a small stream and drains just a small area, so although the floods were spectacular on Tuesday by Wednesday the waters had very considerably abated. However, the drama in Cher and other main Loire rivers was only just starting as draining a much larger area the river levels didn’t peak until several days later. Around Villandry , west of Tours, the peak for the Cher was Sunday afternoon (5th June). Ironically, of course, some of the towns downstream on the Cher have been seriously flooded by rain that fell upstream, while they had less of a deluge.

As far as I know few vineyards have been flooded, although there are reports of flooded vineyards in Chinon close to the Vienne. However, the heavy rain means it is difficult or impossible to get into the vineyards to spray against mildew. Fortunately until now it has remained cold but this week sees temperatures rising, so the threat of mildew will increase as everything is still very humid.       

Lock house on the Cher just west of Château de Chenonceau

IMG_1507Flooding across the Cher Valley at Montrichard, where the
Cher burst its banks and flooded part of the town

The D81 becomes a stream between Francueil and Chisseaux (Friday 3rd June 2016)
Between Montrichard and Bléré – all the crossings of the Cher were flooded 


Frost damage
It is now well over a month since the big frost and from a distance many of the vines look OK with green shoots pushing upwards. However, close inspection shows that in the frost affected vineyards this growth is coming from the trunk with very little in the way of potential bunches, while most of the buds on the cane are shrivelled and dead.

On a superficial glance from a distance all looks OK….



On closer inspection the frost damage is clear with
only the occasional bud surviving on a cane
(Vines in Ingrandes-de-Touraine)





Café de la Promenade – Nora and Samuel in charge
Les 5 du Vin spent an excellent weekend in early June 2012 staying at Café de la Promenade in Bourgueil, which was then run by Ludo and Sophie Ragot. It rapidly became one of David’s country homes.

During Saturday’s Bourgueillothérapie we dropped into Café de la Promenade now run since the beginning of April by its new owners – Nora and Samuel. The Café now has cleaner lines and is brighter following a new coat of paint.
The Café is open from Tuesday to Sunday lunchtime, except for July and August when it is open seven days a week. There are five rooms for those wanting bed and breakfast. Samuel is the chef, while Nora is front of house.
We haven’t yet had a chance to eat there but hope to soon put this right.  Reports are very positive as are recent comments on Trip Advisor.
JimVitLoire-Benoît Gautier






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The frost report – Loire May 2016


 Vineyard by Chenonceaux railway station 

many of the vines have no growth on them looks like mid-winter 


Speaking to producers at Vitiloire on Saturday it was possible to get a little clearer picture of the effects of this year’s frosts at the end of April. Although the night of 26th/27th April saw the worst frost there were a succession of frosts from the 17th/18th April through to the end of the month

Jean-Pierre Gouvazé of InterLoire told me that 70% of this year’s crop remained. This reinforces that the April 2016 frosts are not at the same destructive overall level as 1991, when the Loire made only a third of normal. However, some appellations and their producers have been very seriously hit to the extent they have virtually lost their crop. This year the picture is much more variable than it was in 1991. 

Overall it would seem that Anjou was not badly hit. Victor Lebreton (Domaine de Montgilet (Juigné-sur-Loire) said that his loss was around 10% and that the northern part of Anjou around Brisssac-Quince had not been badly affected. However, parts of the Layon, for example Champs-sur-Layon and Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay, had been more affected.  

In Saumur Philippe Elliau, Domaine de la Fuye in Le Puy Notre Dame, told me that this part of Saumur had not been affected. In Saumur-Champigny the damage is more significant around Varrains, Chacé and Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg than in the communes, like Parnay, along the Loire.   

There was further confirmation that a substantial part of Bourgueil, Chinon and Saint Nicolas-de-Bourgueil were very badly affected, especially the flatter parts like the gravel vineyards of Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas as well as Cravant-les-Coteaux and Panzoult in AC Chinon. Whereas Bertrand Couly (Pierre et Bertrand Couly) told me that with their vines around Chinon they had escaped. 

On the south side of the Vienne Ligré Eric Santier (Domaine Dozon, AC Chinon) told me that there was little damage – 10% or less. 

Vineyards around ParcayMeslay in Vouvray were also serious affected, although overall Vouvray seems to have been less affected than Montlouis, where the damage is worst in the southern part of the appellation around Saint-Martin-le-Beau.  

In the Cher damage is again irregular with some severe damage on the north side of the valley around Chenonceaux and Civray-en-Touraine – see photo of vineyard close to Chenonceaux at the beginning of this post. 

Variable damage in the vineyards of Saint-Georges-sur-Cher:   


St Georges-sur-Cher: Vineyard, in a lower part of Saint Georges
that looks to have suffered some damage 



St Georges-sur-Cher: vineyard up the plateau well above the village

unaffected by the frosts 

Further east in the Cher Valley Jérôme Sauvète in Monthou was hit, while Joël Delaunay at La Tesnière, Pouillé wasn’t affected at all.

Benoît Roumet, director of Les Vins du Centre Loire, confirmed that Coteaux du Giennois, Menetou-Salon and parts of Pouilly-Fumé had been badly hit. Quincy was less so, especially where they had wind machines installed, while Châteaumeillant had not been affected because budbreak is later here. 

Philippe Boucard (Lamé Delisle Boucard) said for those hit badly it will be complicated to buy in grapes unless they have a ‘carte de négoce‘ as a recent decision by the Conseil d’Etat upheld the demand by the négoce that grapes can only be bought by holders of a carte de négoce.

Unfortunately the bad weather news isn’t over as there is now the threat of hail with very unstable conditions around as May bows out. Romain Paire, Domaine des Pothiers in the Côte Roannaise, was hit by hail on Saturday morning (28th May) as were parts of Chablis and Saint-Bris.          

JimVitLoire-Benoît Gautier
Photo by Benoît Gautier

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27/4/2016 – une journée noire


La nature est parfois difficile avec ceux qui pour autant l’aiment encore.
Exemple confirmé à La Charpenterie.
Photo Sabrina Cyprien Caslot-Bourdin
près de La Chapelle-sur-Loire 

(Photo taken from a post by Sabrina Cyprien Caslot-Bourdin.
I hope my use of her very sad photo will be acceptable.) 


A severe Spring frost is a vigneron’s worst nightmare. Sadly frost struck in the Loire, Chablis and elsewhere in Burgundy as well as Champagne in the early hours of Wednesday 27th April. For those severely hit it must be truly horrible to know that there will there will be no harvest this year!

The signs for 2016 were not good – 13 moons and two horrible anniversaries: the February frost of 1956 – 60 years ago and the April frost of 1991 – 25 years ago.

Parts of the Loire were very severely hit by frost during the night of Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th.  Temperatures in a few places fell as low as – 6˚C.

As in April 1991 a lethal combination of damp ground from recent rain, clear overnight skies, very low temperatures in the latter part of the night followed by bright early morning sunshine has virtually destroyed the 2016 vintage in some sectors of the Loire.

Although it is too early to know the full extent of the damage some parts of the Loire have been very badly hit. The worst hit areas appear to be Bourgueil, Montlouis, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Azay le Rideau and Touraine Noble. The important communes of Cravant-les-Coteaux and Panzoult in AOP Chinon are reported also badly affected.

Couly Dutheil, whose vines are mostly in the more western part of the Chinon appellation, reports that 20 hectares of their 90 are affected. In Ligré Jérôme Billard (Domaine de la Noblaie) finds that 20% of his vines have been affected by the frost. Mainly those less good parcels parcels that Jérôme reserves for his rosé. Here the damage is as high as 60%, while in his best parcels of Cabernet Franc for his reds only 10% of the vines appear to have been hit.

Guillaume Lapaque, director of FAV37*, told Decanter: “Noble Joué has lost 94% of this harvest, 70% in Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and 50% in Chinon. Overall Appellation Touraine has been much less affected.”

Sabine Corsin, Syndicat de Montlouis reported a 90% loss in Saint-Martin-le-Beau with 50% loss in the appellation’s other two communes. Losses in Vouvray are reported to be less overall and more variable.

Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups – Montlouis, Vouvray) expects to make 25% of normal if all goes well from here. In contrast the outlook is more optimistic for his Domaine de la Butte (Bourgueil). Here the loss is 20% essentially Pied de la Butte on the flatter ground. The rest of the vines on the steep slope are intact.

In Saumur-Champigny the communes of Chacé, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg and Varrains have been badly hit. Closer to the Loire damage is much less. “We have lost 10%,” said Florence Chevallier (Château de Villeneuve).

“We have been very badly hit in our vineyards which are close to the River Layon,” said Emmanuel Ogereau (Domaine Ogereau, Anjou). However, we have no damage in Savennières where our vines are on high ground.”

The picture in the Pays Nantais appears to be very variable. Domaine Luneau-Papin (Muscadet) has suffered damage in some parcels, while others haven’t been touched.

“A third of my vines have been badly hit with up to 100% loss in some parcels, one third slightly affected and one third not touched at all,” said Vincent Caillé, Domaine Faye d’Homme (Muscadet). However, fans of Vincent and Christelle Guibert’s Terre d’Gneiss will be relieved that this boutique parcel was spared.

In the Central Loire Vineyards Benoît Roumet, the director of Les Vins du Centre, reports that Menetou-Salon, Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy and Reuilly have all been hit to a greater of lesser degree. Sancerre, in contrast, has largely escaped. However, Roumet cautions that things will be clearer next week.

Although this April frost may not be as extensive as that of 1991, wine stocks would have been much higher after the very good and generous 1990 vintage. Now stocks are low after four small to below average vintages. On top of that you have to factor in the current annual loss from esca, which was not a factor back in 1991. Esca is not only one of the reasons why yields are lower than expected but there is also the constant cost of replacing dead vines.

Negotiations with government and banks to help to see badly hit producers through this crisis will start next week.


Photo from Pierre & Bertrand Couly


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Jacques Couly – au revoir Jacques !

Very shocked and sorry to hear last evening of the death of Jacques Couly, the PDG of Couly-Dutheil – one of Chinon’s largest producers – during the night of Friday/Saturday morning. Jacques was not only major figure both in Chinon but also in Loire wine.
It was very sad that his later years saw a bitter split with his elder brother Pierre Couly.
I will long remember Jacques for his enthusiasm, his kindness and his engaging smile.
Our thoughts and condolences to Arnaud, Jacques’ son, and the rest of the family.

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2016 Bourgueil à Tours

Fête Bourgueils

Saturday was Bourgueil’s annual Fête des Vins right in the centre of Tours. They camp in wooden huts along the central alley of the Boulevard Heurteloup, just a stone’s throw from Tours main railway station, associated bus terminal and the tramway – also close to the Hotel de Ville.

This edition was the 14th. It was the late Jean Germain, mayor of Tours and from Bourgueil, who was the impetus behind establishing this very successful fête. His successor as mayor – Serge Babary – was present for the official opening on Saturday showing his continued support for Bourgueil’s fête.

Serge Babary well wrapped up against the chill of Saturday morning 

Although rather courageously held in mid-March the weather is generally reasonably clement, although it was decidedly chilly early on Saturday before the sun came out. It was notable that most producers served their wines at room temperature i.e. freezing, while a few savvy ones, like Jacky Blot, brought hairdryers to warm their wines and so soften the tannins.

Like VitiLoire, held here in the centre of Tours at the end of May, the Fête des Vins de Bourgueil is a real success, an excellent shop window for the wines – attracting crowds of winelovers, particularly during the afternoon. It attracts a significant number of people in their 20s. With prices for Bourgueil starting at around 5€ and with two promising vintages – 2014 and 2015 – it is not surprising that many of the 41 producers present were doing a brisk trade in selling their wines.

I fancy that, like 1989 and 1990/1995 and 1996/2009 and 2010, there may well be a long running debate over the relative merits of 2014 and 2015. Certainly many 2014 Cabernet Francs from Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Saumur and Saumur-Champigny are currently showing very well with fine concentration of ripe Loire fruit and lovely balance, although without the richness of very sunny years like 2005 and 2009. This recalls that it was the excellent September 2014 that saved the vintage after a poor July and August.

With few of the 2015s in bottle it is still too early to be sure of the character of this vintage and impressions vary from vigneron to vigneron. To date it has plenty of charm but a little less concentration than found in the 2014s. Although much of the summer was very dry, there was rain towards the end of August and then in mid-September a period of very heavy, torrential rain. The weather station at Tours recorded 87.6mm for September – well above the average of 53.2mm. Almost all of this rain fell between 12th and 16th, only 7.2mm fell outside this five day period. There were places that recorded considerably more rain – over 100mm during the five days.

2015 Cabernet Franc 

Although the Cabernet Franc withstood this onslaught remarkably well with no rot developing – greatly assisted by the sun and wind that followed the downpour – there must have been some dilution. Not necessarily a bad thing given the very dry summer. Whatever the relative merits of 2014 and 2015 the Loire has two good vintages to sell.

Aurélien Revillot

Sophie Raimbault

Among the producers, who impressed me on Saturday were: Domaine Ansodelles (especially 2014 Conversation), Domaine de la Chevalerie (especially 2014 Dyptique and 2011 Bretêche), Nau Frères (2014 Vieilles Vignes), Yannick Amirault (especially 2013 Le Grand Clos – impressive for such a difficult vintage), Domaine Menard (especially 2014 Les Jardins des Raisin),  Jacky Blot (especially 2014 Pied de la Butte, 2014 Haut de la Butte – both sold out), Domaine Dubois (especially 2014 Vieilles Vignes), Aurélien Revillot (especially 2013 Les Aubuis – success in a difficult vintage, 2014 Sur les Hauts), Nathalie Omasson (especially 2014 Vieilles Vignes – great value at 5€), Laurent Herlin (2014 Terre d’Adoption), Lamé Delisle Boucard (especially 2015 Cuvée des Chesnaies, 2014 Vieilles Vignes, 2011 Prestige), Audebert (especially 2011 Les Marquises), Domaine des Ouches (especially 2012 Les Clos Boireaux) and Domaine de Petit Bondieu (especially 2014 Petit Mont – showed much better than in a tasting September 2014, 2014 Les Couplets).

Santé !


Armand de Tilly – les pattes du vigneron …..