Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin

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Central Loire Vineyards – 1990 – 2017


1990 - 2017a

The last 27 years has seen very considerably changes in the Central Loire Vineyards. With one sole exception it has been a tale of success and expansion. It is fascinating to compare the area planted in each of the Central Loire appellation in 1990 with the area planted in 2017.

An overall increase of 2451 hectares in production – a 77% increase – are the headline figures. However, the dramatic revival of appellations such as Quincy and Reuilly that in the 1970s and for much of the 1980s are perhaps the most interesting. The revival of Reuilly owes much to the late Claude Lafond, who had the vision to persuade the few producers to work together and to establish a common wine-making facility above the small town of Reuilly. It was similar in neighbouring Quincy where a common winery was built at the village of Brinay. These wineries are different from a cave co-operative. Here the producers make with guidance, keep and sell their own wine themselves. The facilities are shared but not the wine.

Equally the expansion of Menetou-Salon up by nearly 200% from 196 hectares in 1990 to 576 ha last year is impressive. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé have seen the largest increase in terms of hectares – 1032 ha and 580ha respectively.

Pouilly-sur-Loire – 100% Chasselas – is the only appellation in decline: slipping from 56 hectares planted in 1990 to just 27 last year. Doubtless those lost hectares of Chasselas have been replanted with Sauvignon Blanc – Pouilly-Fumé is so much easier to sell.

The changes in the Central Loire are in marked contrast with the contraction in the area planted with Melon de Bourgogne for Muscadet in the Pays Nantais. In 1990 all the Muscadet appellations covered 11,280 hectares – this doesn’t include Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu which was promoted to appellation status in 1994. At its highest point Muscadet reached some 13300 hectares. By 2016 this area had dropped to a total of 8200 ha. Of these Muscadet Sèvre et Maine accounted for 6300 ha, Côtes de Grandlieu – 230 ha, Coteaux de la Loire – 150 ha.

Even with this sharp contraction Muscadet (820 ha) is still substantially larger than the whole of the Central Vineyard combined – 5750 hectares.


Visit to FilipaP



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Jim’s off on an adventure: Bertrand Minchin

While I am away my Tuesday posts will be brief and prepared in advance using photos for some Loire producers. If my fellow Les 5 wish to add any other posts on my Tuesday slot they are very welcome to do so.

Bertrand Minchin: Menetou-Salon and Valençay


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2016 Loire – to have and have not


Sancerre town rises above the mist – viewed from the Côte des Monts Damnés


Layers of mist highlighting the main road from Sancerre to Bourges – the line of trees

Today I am am following on from last week’s post The Agony & the Ecstasy covering the nearly two days we spent in Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and briefly Menetou-Salon early last week.

If there is any Loire appellation that could stand a difficult and virtually non-existent vintage, it is Sancerre. Instead, if there is any substantial Ligerian appellation that has come through this ‘very complicated year’ relatively unscathed it is Sancerre. Indeed there appear to be a good number of Sancerre producers who have enjoyed a normal to bumper crop in 2016.

« It’s almost scandalous! » admitted Philippe Prieur of Domaine Paul Prieur in Verdigny.

Sancerre – the haves:


Paul and Benoît Fouassier
We started on Monday 3rd October and finished on the 14th. Our Sauvignon Blanc was hit by frost, coulure and then the drought with a significant amount of these grapes burnt by the heat of July and August. We haven’t fully calculated the yields yet but it is between 30hl-40hl per ha for Sauvignon Blanc with the fruit between 12-13 potential alcohol with acidity varying from 4.5- 4.8. The acidity levels are higher than 2015 but lower than 2014.

The Pinot Noir fared better both at flowering and from the heat of the summer, so yields of 42 hl/ha and 13.5% potential alc.

Henry Natter (Montigny)
Unlike many other Sancerre producers who had finished or were just finishing, Henry Natter was in the middle of picking but well satisfied with the quantity and quality of the 2016 vintage. Often one of the last in the appellation to picky Natter still had another five days of harvest to do.

Vincent and Adélaïde Grall (Sancerre)
The Gralls were decidedly happy with 2016. Vincent: « We finished last Wednesday (12th October) having started on the 3rd October. Our Sauvignon is between 11.5-12.5. Following the rain towards the end of September the grapes have plenty of juice, so we have made 65 hl/ha.

Alphonse Mellot (Sancerre)
Alphonse Mellot jnr: « We finished last Friday (14th). The Sancerre reds are exceptional – 14% potential alcohol and between 4.5-5 acidity with a yield of 28 hl/ha. » This is not low for the Mellot reds as low Pinot Nor yields are customary here.  « The whites are between 12%-14% alc with yields between 50-55 hl/ha. However, it is a very different story for the Mellot vineyards in the Côte de la Charité, which were hit by the April frosts. « For the Chardonnay it is 6 hl/ha, while for the Pinot Noir we picked just 4 hl/ha. »

Matthieu and Jean-Yves Delaporte, Domaine Vincent Delaporte (Chavignol)
I caught up with Matthieu and his father Jean-Yves early on Monday evening when they were finshing sorting over their last cases of Pinot Noir. Both were well pleased with the 2016 – 60hl/ha for the whites and 50 hl/ha for the reds.

Pierre Martin (Chavignol) 
« It’s a good vintage. We started on Wednesday 5th October and finished yesterday (17th October). The rain in mid to end of September was crucial after the long dry spell in July, August and early September. Our Sauvignon Blanc is between 12-13% potential alc and 4-4.3 acidity, while the Pinot Noir is at 13% potential. Yields are between 55-60 hl/ha.

Gérard Boulay (Chavignol)
Gérard was also happy  with 2016. « We started on Monday 3rd October and finished on Sunday 16th. Our white Sancerre is between 12%-13.5%, while the Pinot is at 13.5%. There is a lot of tartaric acid this year – the recent fresh nights have been good for maintaining acidity. Yields are between 45/50 hl/ha. The Cul de Beaujeu is particularly good. »

Domaine Paul Prieur (Verdigny)
Luc Prieur: « We started on Monday 3rd October and finished on Friday 14th. » Luc is very happy with the quality of 2016. « Our Sauvignon came in at between 12%-12.5% potential and 4.7 to 5 acidity with a yield between 55-60 hl/ha, while the Pinot is at 13.6%-14% and 50 hl/ha. Some of our Pinot suffered from mildew and sunburn during the heat of July and August.

François Crochet (Bué)
François and Karine Crochet are also very happy with their 2016. François: « We started on Friday 30th September having got special permission to start early. Yields for the Sauvignon are between 45-50 hl with a potential around 12% and 5 gms acidity. We had to pick our Pinot twice as grapes facing south got burnt by the sun. We picked these first to make rosé. These grapes came in at 13.3%. The rest we picked a little later for our Sancerre Rouge and were up to 14% potential. The Pinot yield is around 35-40 hl/ha. »

François likens 2016 to the 2014s, while a number of other Sancerre producers put 2016 between 2014 and 2015 in style, so having some of the richness of 2015 but more acidity than 15 and less than 14. Certainly the juices that I tasted appeared promising – clean, mouth-filling with a freshness in the finish.



The have nots


Above Les Loges, Pouilly-Fumé 


Jonathan Pabiot (Les Loges, Pouilly-sur-Loire)
« Overall we lost 65% of the crop including all of our Chasselas. We started on Monday 3rd October and finished on 13th. The communes of Saint Martin, Saint-Laurent and to the south of Pouilly-sur-Loire – the southern part of the appellation – was particularly badly hit by the frost. In some of our parcels where we normally harvest 50 hl/ha we only managed 5 hl/ha, while in the commune of Tracy we picked 35hl/ha. Fortunately our best parcels escaped the frost. »

Michel Redde et Fils (Pouilly-sur-Loire)
Sébastien Redde: « It has been a very complicated year. Of our 42 hectares, 10ha have recorded a total loss – no more than 2 ha/ha, 5 hectares were hit between 20%-50% by the frost here we averaged 15 hl/ha.  After the April frosts the mildew ravaged two hectares with a 90% loss. Overall we have made 30 hl/ha but the quality is good.

Masson-Blondelet (Pouilly-sur-Loire)
Pierre-François Masson: « Some of our Pouilly-Fumé parcels were badly hit. In those in the commune of St Martin we only picked 7.5 hl/ha and the same for those in Pouilly. However, our vines in Saint-Andelain were not hit by the frost. We are happy with what we picked in Sancerre – 45 hl/ha, while for the Pinot it was down – 25 hl/ha compared to around 40 hl/ha in a normal year. Unfortunately we will have to restrict allocations. »


Domaine Philippe Gilbert
Menetou-Salon is among the worst hit by the April frost of the Loire appellations and Philippe Gilbert is no exception. « In a normal vintage we make 500hl of both red and white, so 1000 hls. This year we have 17 hls of rosé, between 60-70 hls of red and between 60 – 68 hls of white. » This adds up to around 150-160 hls in 2016. – 15% of a normal year. » The fact that the quality in 2016 is high must, of course, be particularly galling.

Philippe will not be going to Millésime Bio in January 2017. « There is no point in me going just to explain that I have no wine to sell! » he says.


Today we cross La Manche and return to to Madame May’s lunatic asylum – no further comment required!


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Loire 2016 –the agony and the ecstasy



The last of the 2016 Pinot Noir arriving at
Domaine Vincent Delaporte, Chavignol (AC Sancerre)

Carefully tipping the Pinot Noir onto the sorting table
@Domaine Vincent Delaporte 

Cabernet Franc on Mi-Pente,
Domaine de la Butte, Bourgueil 

The universal refrain throughout the Loire is that 2016 is ‘a very complicated year’ – late April frost, poor flowering for some varieties, lot of mildew and then drought and heat in July and August. 2016 has been a natural lottery with clear winners and losers. There are those who have had the good luck to have escaped nature’s ravages and those who have lost and been left with nothing.

I do not recall another Loire vintage where there has been such a stark contrast between those who have ended up with an excellent harvest both in quality and quantity and those who have nothing at all or virtually nothing. It is not a question of one part of the Loire that has suffered more than others. Instead it is really a mixture.

Bourgueil and Chinon were badly hit by the frost and then by the other plagues that nature inflicted this year. Many on the gravel vineyards are harvesting perhaps 4 hl/ha sometimes less. Whereas walking up through the vines of Domaine de la Butte on Friday the Cab Franc looked good and if not plentiful and decent crop by volume. I gather there is an abundance of grapes in the vineyards of Pierre-Jacques Druet – now controlled by Ampelidae. This has been down to good fortune as Ampelidae didn’t take control until the 1st April, so the vines were pruned late and budding was delayed so missed the destructive frost at the end of April.

The difference in the Central Vineyards, where we are making a brief visit, is extraordinarily stark. In Sancerre many of the vignerons are ecstatic over the quality of the 2016 vintage. « The Sancerre reds are exceptional » said Alphonse Mellot Jr. « 28 hl/ha (normal for the Mellot reds) and around 14% potential and 4.5 acidity. I’m not sure at the moment about the exact yield for the whites but around 50-55 hl/ha with potential degrees varying between 12%-14%. However, at Les Pénitents (Côtes de la Charité) that was hit by frost we have only made 6 hl/ha for the whites (100% Chardonnay) and just 4 hl/ha for the Pinot Noir. »

We saw several Sancerre producers yesterday – Henry Natter, Benoît and Paul Fouassier, Adélaïde and Vincent Grall and Jean-Yves Delaporte, Natalie (his wife) and Matthieu – they were all very pleased with 2016. In contrast the Fouassier cousins reported that Philippe Gilbert, an excellent producer in  Menetou-Salon, which was hit badly by the April frost has only harvested between 4/5 hl/ha.

Truly the agony and the ecstasy!

2016 Sauvignon Blanc at Henry Natter, Montigny (AC Sancerre)


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The success of Sancerre

Sancerre from the west.

Sancerre from the west.

A week yesterday my co-Cinq colleague David Cobbold reported on a tasting of wines from the Loire’s Central Vineyards. He suggested that Sancerre producers were perhaps resting on their laurels and that the size of the Central Vineyard appellations corresponded to their success.

No doubt there are producers in Sancerre who sit on the appellation’s current reputation but this is far from true for the leading lights, who are constantly looking to improve their wines both through work in the vineyards and investment in equipment in the wineries. Anyone who wants to see the latest winery equipment used in the Loire heads to Sancerre. Unlike some wineries in Italy, parts of Spain, Napa or Chile you won’t find here modern day wine cathedrals designed at great expense to highlight the owners’ deep pockets. In Sancerre and elsewhere in the Central Vineyards there is happily a marked absence of bling. Here wineries are functional. Producers, like Alphonse Mellot and the Vacheron family, in the town of Sancerre itself are naturally constrained by the narrow streets, tightly packed houses and steep slopes. This also used to be the case in Chavignol but recently there has been a trend for some producers, for instance Gérard Boulay and Thomas-Labaille to build new wineries outside the Sancerre’s capital city, especially on the road between Chavignol and Saint-Satur. Even with greater space available these are functional buildings as is the new dairy built by Rians after they acquired the historic Crottin cheese maker – Dubois-Boulay.

Part of the Henri Bourgeois winery above Chavignol.

Part of the Henri Bourgeois winery above Chavignol.

The ever-expanding Henri Bourgeois winery must the most spectacular development in the region. When I first visited the domaine in October 1989 they had a relatively small winery next to Chavignol’s church. The original winery is still there but its has expanded very considerably up the hill. Again the buildings are functional and designed for easy working. Of course there is expensive kit inside but there for a purpose. The new arrangements for receiving and selecting their Pinot Noir grapes are coming through in the wines.

The Joulin celebrating the 2014 vintage.

The Joulin celebrating the 2014 vintage.

During my brief stay in Sancerre in April I visited three producers – Pascal Joulin (Domaine Michel Vattan) in Maimbray, Clément Pinard (Domaine Vincent Pinard) in Bué and Arnaud Bourgeois (Henri Bourgeois) in Chavignol. I largely concentrated on tasting the 2014s, which is a very good vintage here and was confirmed by my visits. What was impressive was the determination of all three to continue to improve the quality of their wines. At Domaine Vincent Pinard, for instance, the top cuvée of their Pinot Noir is destemmed by hand using a team of around 20. Naturally this attention to detail doesn’t come cheap – the 2012 Vendanges Entières sells for 33€ a bottle at the domaine. Would you find the same quality, however, in Burgundy for this price?

Clément Pinard

Clément Pinard

Arnaud Bourgeois

Arnaud Bourgeois

Given Sancerre’s current success and wealth it is easy to forget how poor and backward the area was still at the end of the 1940s and early 1950s. I always remember many years ago André Dézat recounting the lack of electricity in the early 1950s, that water had to be fetched from the well and that for most families in the area they made a living of sorts on a few hectares of polyculture. It was the arrival of the first tractors in the 1950s that allowed the dynamic to start to expand their holdings. This was also the epoch when the leading lights of the appellation started to take their wine up to Paris and so established a reputation. La Maison des Sancerres in the town of Sancerre does an excellent job covering the history of this period along with separate explanations of the geology of the area. This is the starting point for understanding Sancerre.

It should not be surprising that Sancerre is the easily the largest appellation in the Central Vineyards. Simply it has the biggest area of land suited to grape production. The suitable area in Pouilly is much more limited, while for Menetou-Salon it is largely the ridge that runs from Morogues to the town of Menetou-Salon – to the south there is too much clay and there are extensive forests to the north. Now there are 465 hectares planted but back in 1991 Gilbert & Gaillard in their Guides des Vins: Pays de La Loire listed Menetou at 100 hectares.

To the south west in the Cher Valley the land appropriate for vines for the ACs of Quincy and Reuilly is very much limited. For Quincy the focus is on the gravel banks laid down by the Cher and Reuilly relies on the the slopes facing the River Arnon, otherwise this is an area of cereal production. Both ACs virtually disappeared during the 1980s – G&G record 60 ha for Quincy and just 40ha for Reuilly. Following a welcome renaissance Quincy today has some 224 hectares planted with Reuilly on 186 hectares.



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Réflexions sur les vins de Centre Loire


Un trop bref séjour récent à Sancerre pour animer une table ronde organisée par le CNAOC et portant sur des sujets de fond (le réchauffement climatique, les maladies de la vigne et la réduction des intrants, avec leurs conséquences sur l’encépagement et d’autres règles des appellations) m’a donné l’occasion de demander aux responsables de cette région de m’organiser une dégustation de quelques vins du Centre Loire. Le préavis que j’ai pu donner étant court, je les remercie d’avoir su bien organiser cette dégustation qui a réuni 68 échantillons de l’ensemble des appellations de la région. Je rajoute que cette inter-profession, bien conduite par Benoit Roumet, a l’intelligence de produire un dossier de presse factuel et riche, entièrement libre du bla-bla polluant qui sévit trop souvent dans ce genre de document.

300px-008_Sancerre_sur_sa_butteSancerre  vers cette époque : en tout cas cela ressemblait à ça vendredi dernier (photo Henri Moreau)

Voici les appellations de la région Centre Loire, par ordre alphabétique : Châteaumeillant (90 hectares : vins rouges et rosés de gamay ou pinot noir), Coteaux du Giennois (200 hectares : blancs de sauvignon ; rouges et rosés de pinot noir et gamay), Menetou Salon (550 hectares : blancs de sauvignon; rouges et rosés de pinot noir), Pouilly Fumé (1.320 hectares: blancs de sauvignon), Quincy (280 hectares: blancs de sauvignon), Reuilly (235 hectares: blancs de sauvignon, rouges et rosés de pinot noir, ainsi que «gris» de pinot gris), et enfin la plus grande et la plus connue, Sancerre (près de 3.000 hectares: blancs de sauvignon; rouges et rosés de pinot noir). Je sais bien que techniquement, les 30 hectares de Pouilly-sur-Loire en font partie aussi, mais il semble que le marché et les producteurs ont décidé d’un commun accord de laisser le chasselas aux Suisses ou aux Savoyards et il n’y avait aucun échantillon de cette appellation en voie (probable) de disparition.

carte Loire

La partie orientale du Val de Loire, là où le fleuve amorce son virage vers l’ouest, touche presque à la Bourgogne, ce qu’on voit à peu près sur la plus petite carte

Premier constat: cette région représente sur le plan géographique un point de rencontre entre vallée de la Loire et Bourgogne. Cela se confirme à la fois par son climat, plus nettement continental que les parties en aval sur la Loire, mais aussi par l’encépagement qui emprunte le gamay et pinot noir (et aussi, un tout petit peu, le pinot gris) à la Bourgogne, et le sauvignon blanc à la Loire. Rappelons que ce même sauvignon blanc existe aussi en Bourgogne, pas si loin de là, dans l’appellation Saint Bris, près de Chablis. Le cépage ne reconnaît pas les frontières que quelques imbéciles tentent de lui imposer par pur esprit de protectionnisme !

SANCERRE photo Bookinejpg autre image, plus estivale, du vignoble sancerrois où pentes et orientations varient pas mal (photo Bookine)

Deuxième constat: ces sept appellations connaissent des fortunes assez diverses, comme le reflètent leur tailles relatives. Sancerre mène clairement la danse régionale, avec plus du double de la surface de sa suivante, Pouilly Fumé. Si, historiquement, la proximité avec le fleuve a pu expliquer certains écarts de fortune, je pense qu’aujourd’hui, c’est surtout la facilité avec laquelle on prononce les mots qui joue un rôle prépondérant, sans parler de la qualité perçue des vins (vrai ou faux: j’ai bien dit «perçue»). Si on regarde les pourcentages des ventes réalisées à l’exportation, appellation par appellation il est clair que la taille et l’antériorité de l’appellation jouent un rôle, comme l’indique ce tableau :


appellation date création Superficie/ha % export
Sancerre 1936 3000 57%
Pouilly Fumé 1937 1320 53%
Menetou Salon 1959 550 13%
Quincy 1936 300 14%
Reuilly 1937 235 15%
Giennois 1998 200 17%
Châteaumeillant 2010 90 2%


Les deux plus grosses appellations sont, et de loin, celles qui exportent le plus. Menetou-Salon, qui les suit de loin, a un nom plus difficile à prononcer et une date de création plus récente. Je ne m’explique pas bien pourquoi Quincy est resté si petite et peu connue, mais il y a sûrement d’autres facteurs qui entrent en compte.

logo centre Loire

Maintenant, parlons de cette dégustation, qui donnera lieu à d’autres commentaires plus ou moins généraux. Je remercie les vignerons ayant accepté d’envoyer des échantillons avec si peu de préavis. Même si ce type de dégustation ne permet pas de donner une vision complète, et encore moins d’établir une quelconque hiérarchie dans la qualité, vu le nombre de vins représentant chaque appellation et chaque couleur (j’en donne les chiffres ci-dessous), avec 68 vins dégustés, je m’autoriserai quand même à faire quelques observations et à souligner mes vins préférés.

Les vins étaient jeunes, et parfois trop jeunes. Je m’explique: ils devaient tous être en vente actuellement: la majorité provenait des millésimes 2012 et 2013, mais avec pas mal de 2014 aussi, dont une forte proportion de Sancerre et de Quincy. La plupart de ces blancs de 2014 méritaient au moins 6 mois de plus d’élevage. La pression des marchés explique probablement une telle précipitation à mettre en vente des vins trop jeunes, car encore fermés et manquant d’affinage dans leurs textures comme dans leurs saveurs. Les millésimes 2012 et 2014 (avec un jugement de potentiel pour ce dernier à cause de sa jeunesse) m’ont parus au-dessus du 2013, dont la météo à rendu l’exercice difficile, je crois.


Les vins dégustés

Vins rouges : 1 Châteaumeillant, 1 Coteaux du Giennois, 3 Menetou-Salon, 5 Sancerre

Vins rosés : 2 Reuilly, 1 Menetou-Salon, 2 Sancerre (et un vin de table dont je parlerai)

Vins blancs : 4 Coteaux du Giennois, 4 Reuilly, 14 Quincy, 4 Menetou-Salon, 8 Pouilly-Fumé, 17 Sancerre


Mes vins préférés

Vins rouges

Menetou-Salon, Domaine Ermitage, Première Cuvée 2014

Menetou-Salon, Domaine Pellé, Les Cris 2012

Sancerre, M et E Roblin, Origine 2013

Sancerre, Domaine Henri Bourgeois, La Bourgeoise 2012

Vins rosés

Reuilly, Jean Tatin, Demoiselle Tatin 2014

Menetou-Salon, Domaine Ermitage, 2014

Vins blancs

Quincy, Jean Tatin, Succellus 2013

Quincy, Domaine Portier, Quincyte 2013

Quincy, Domaine de la Commanderie, Siam 2013

Quincy, Domaine Villalain, Grandes Vignes 2014

Menetou-Salon, Domaine Pellé, Le Carroir 2013

Menetou-Salon, Domaine Jean Teiller, Mademoiselle T 2013

Pouilly-Fumé, Château de Tracy, HD 2012

Pouilly-Fumé, Domaine Landrat Guyollot, Gemme de Feu 2012

Pouilly-Fumé, Serge Dagueneau et Fille, Tradition 2014

Sancerre, Domaine Laporte, Le Grand Rochoy 2012

Sancerre, Vincent Grall, 2014

Sancerre, Jean Reverdy et fils, La Reine Blanche 2014


Remarques sur ces résultats

D’abord le caveat habituel sur une dégustation, même à l’aveugle comme ici: ce n’est jamais qu’une photo instantanée, et qui ne montre qu’un fragment du paysage, vu la représentativité relative de cet échantillonnage. Seule une minorité des producteurs avaient proposé des échantillons. Mais on peut aussi constater que des producteurs dont j’ai déjà très bien dégusté des vins sont au rendez-vous. Je pense à Jean Tatin et au Domaine Portier à Reuilly et Quincy ; aux Domaines Pellé et Jean Teillier à Menetou-Salon ; au Château de Tracy à Pouilly et à Henri Bourgeois, au Domaine Laporte et à Vincent Grall à Sancerre.

Deux vins à part

J’ai mentionné un vin (rosé) produit sous la désignation « vin de table ». Il s’agit d’un cépage récemment sauvé de disparition et qui a été autorisé en plantation à titre expérimental, je crois (ou bien au titre de la sauvegarde de la bio-diversité, je ne sais plus !). Ce cultivar s’appelle le genouillet et le Domaine Villalain, de Quincy et de Reilly, a envoyé un échantillon de son millésime 2014. Je ne fus pas surpris d’apprendre qu’un des ses ancêtres est le gouais blanc, cette variété à la multiple descendance mais dont les vins peuvent aisément ressembler à de l’acide de batterie. Ce n’était pas franchement le cas pour ce vin, aux odeurs inhabituelles de paille et de sciure, avec une belle vivacité mais peu de fruit. Une curiosité, du moins pour l’instant.

Le pinot gris peut produire , sous l’appellation Reuilly, des vins qualifiés de rosés, mais dits « gris de gris » et en réalité blancs à peine tachés. J’ai beaucoup aimé celui de Jean Tatin, même si je le considère plutôt comme un blanc. Le nez est très aromatique et la texture suave. Equilibre et longueur sont excellents, avec juste une pointe de tannicité à la fin qui trahit un travail de macération, peut-être.

Les défauts de certains vins

Un vin bouchonné, quelques vins trop soufrés et un bon nombre de blancs mis en bouteille trop jeunes. En mettant ces vins blancs sur le marché si rapidement, on a tendance à les simplifier. Et, du moins dans le cas des Sancerre, il n’y a pas d’excuse du côté de la rentabilité. Après, il y a des questions de style. En ce qui concerne les vins de sauvignon blanc, je n’aime pas les odeurs agressives de buis ou, pire, de pipi de chat. Je crois que les deux proviennent d’une forte présence de molécules de la famille des thiols. On rencontre cela plus facilement lorsque les raisins ne sont pas assez mûrs. Peut-être aussi quand l’élevage n’a pas encore calmé ce type d’odeur primaire (un avis d’expert serait le bienvenue sur ce sujet technique).

J’ai aussi l’impression que Sancerre vit un peu sur sa renommée. Cela semble être les cas si on regarde la proportion de vins que j’ai appréciés par rapport au nombre d’échantillons dégustés (même si ça n’est pas très fiable statistiquement)…

Je n’ai pas les prix de ces vins, mais le rapport qualité/prix d’un Menetou-Salon, par exemple, est sans doute plus favorable en moyenne, que celui d’un Sancerre.

David Cobbold

3 Commentaires

Two dinners and a lunch (part one)

2014 Sancerre Gérard Boulay

2014 Sancerre Gérard Boulay.

After spending three weeks in the Cher Valley, some 40 kilometres east of Tours, we headed for a three-night stay in Chavignol – an opportunity to eat well and enjoy some Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir not forgetting to fit in a few tastings and a bike ride to mitigate some of the acquired calories.

We arrived early on Saturday evening and checked into our favoured hotel in the area – La Côte des Monts Damnés – run by Karine and Jean-Marc Bourgeois. That evening we ate just down the road at the Restaurant Au P’tit Goûter run by Gilles Dubois formerly of the famous Chavignol cheese company Dubois-Boulay until it was bought by the large diary company – Rians. There are some who maintain that the Crottins from Dubois-Boulay are not as good since the takeover. Happily I think this is wrong as the cheeses remain as good as they always were.

But back to Au P’tit Goûter, which is becoming more sophisticated with choice of couple of menus. A strong point remains the choice of local wines, sourced by Gilles from his many years of contact with local producers. We started with the 2014 Tradition from Gérard Boulay, who for me is one of the top producers in Sancerre. His 2014 Tradition was simply delicious to drink. The 2014s are being lauded in Sancerre and with some reason. They have great balance – balance that was evident from the very beginning not just here but throughout the Loire. There is a vibrant tension without the richness of a vintage like 2009, which I assume reflects the cool 2014 Summer. The Indian summer in September ripened the grapes but left the acidities present. Although there are crucial months, for example September here in the Loire, the whole of the growing season plays its part so the 2014 wines will still, in part, reflect the cool summer. The few 2014s in bottle that aI tasted are already showing well and should be wines to keep.

Not surprisingly Crottin plays an important role in the cooking here.

Not surprisingly Crottin plays an important role in the cooking here – a cocotte of melted Crottin.

2013 Sancerre Rouge Domaine Pierre Martin

2013 Sancerre Rouge Domaine Pierre Martin

Pierre Martin is one of the younger Sancerre growers, who has impressed me over the past seven or eight years. Although 2013 is not the greatest vintage for Sancerre Rouge, I was interested to see how Pierre had fared in 2013. Although lighter than vintages like 2009, 2010 and 2014, this still had a some fruit concentration and Pinot silky texture – enough to cope with our duck leg. This was the first of three reds that we drank over our stay – all three impressed underlining the progress that has been made with Pinot Noir in the Central Loire vineyards over the past two decades.

Heads up! Pascal, Nathalie and Rémy Joulin celebrate the 2014 vintage.

Heads up! Pascal, Nathalie and Rémy Joulin celebrate the 2014 vintage.

Sunday morning there was was time to spend just over an hour with Pascal Joulin (Domaine Michel Vattan) to taste the unbottled 2014s and a few previous vintages in bottle. Again the vibrant, clean and finely balanced 2014s impressed. From the bottled wines I enjoyed the texture and length of the 2013 Argile, Sancerre Blanc and the more concentrated and beginning to evolve 2012 Les L.O., which has an intriguing touch of bitterness in the long finish. Pascal releases L.O. only in good vintages – 2002, 2006, 2010, 2012 and most probably 2014.

Following our tasting we had a quick look at some of his vineyards high up on the steep slopes above the little village of Maimbray. We discussed the problem of erosion on these steep slopes and the role grassing over the vineyards and careful cultivation plays in reducing water runoff. Pascal explained that he leaves the prunings amongst the vines which further helps to slow down rainwater. Sancerre can be prone to severe storms. I remember a good 15 years or more ago a an early August storm with torrential rain that washed down lots of soil from the vineyards flooding out cellars and with a landslide cutting the road between Saint-Satur and Chavignol. This was in the days when the use of weedkiller was more widespread than it is now.

The practice of blitzing these steeply sloped vineyards with weedkiller is, however still unfortunately too common. Pascal showed me one of his neighbour’s vineyard which is entirely weed killered and every time it rains heavily the soil is washed down. This seems such a short-term approach and, given the price that Sancerre commands, not one that can be defended through economic necessity as can be argued in AC Touraine, especially those producers who are members of a coop or who supply négociants.

We left the Joulins in time to drive to Menetou-Salon for a traditional blow-out Sunday lunch at C’Heu l’Zib. If you have been there once then you will know what will be on the menu as it is virtually unchanging largely because the clientele goes for their terrines, the famous pike in beurre blanc and the slab of wickedly rich charlotte aux chocolate as a coup de grâce!. It is fun to do once every so often – always a good atmosphere of people, often in large family group, enjoying themselves. Just don’t arrange to do anything much, apart from take a substantial siesta, afterwards.

Details of what we drank – Menetou-Salon, of course – and the rest of our visit will be posted next week.