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2017 Loire – « très compliqué ! » « plus rien »

Frost destruction: April 2016
For the second successive year the Loire, along with many other vineyards both in France and elsewhere in Europe, has been hit by a series of April frosts. Just as in 2016 it has been a whole series of early morning frosts running over 10 days from 19th April through to 29th April. In some places it was up to five nights of frost in others it was even six.
This pattern of April frosts is strikingly different from before when it tended to be one night of frost as it was with the severe 1991 and the early April frost of 2003. Instead in both 2016 and 2017 Loire producers have faced a succession of frosts often striking different parts of the vineyard on different nights.
Naturally successive frosts are very tiring and dispiriting to fight and the morale of many Loire producers is now low after the last fortnight of April, especially as mild weather in March had brought the vines on early.

This year many Loire producers have fought back against the frost using helicopters, more wind machines than in previous years as well as burning bales of straw. Anything to raise the temperature.

It is still too early to have a full picture of the damage. Nor is the damage evenly spread along the valley. In some places, like Muscadet, the damage is worse than it was last year as it is in Savennières, while overall in Touraine the damage is less than last year. Naturally this is of little comfort to producers who have suffered severe losses with some producers in Muscadet, for example, have lost their entire 2017 crop – ‘plus que rien’ remains.

There are rumours of producers deciding to quit because the succession of difficult years, especially if they have been severely hit by frost two years running. Others able to hang on will have a very complicated year managing how to allocate their greatly reduced stocks and to keep their bankers happy. This is likely to be especially delicate for those producers who have recently made significant investments – in a new winery for example.
François Robin, La fédération des vins de Nantes 
‘The 2017 frosts are more serious than last year with around 40%-50% of our vineyards affected, although we will not have a full picture until the end of this week. Damage is variable depending upon site and how far temperatures fell in particular areas.Unfortunately the heart of the Sèvre-et-Maine – Vallet, Mouzillon, Clisson and La Chapelle-Heulin – are the worst affected. The south of the Sèvre-et-Maine, around Saint-Fiacre, for example, is not as affected nor overall the Coteaux de la Loire and Côtes de Grandlieu.’

Emmanuel Ogereau

Emmanuel Ogereau (Domaine Ogereau, Saint-Lambert-duLattay, Anjou)
Emmanuel Ogereau (Domaine Ogereau): “Savennières was wiped out on 27th – only 10% of the crop remains and there is also severe damage in other parts of Anjou, especially around Rochefort-sur-Loire and Chaudefonds-sur-Layon. There was another frost in Savennières the following night but that had little effect as the damage had already been done the night before.

In Saint-Lambert we have lost between 30%-40% with our Chenin being particularly badly hit. Parts of the Coteaux d’Aubance have been seriously affected especially vineyards close to the river.”

Tessa Laroche, Domaine aux Moines, Savennières
Tessa Laroche confirmed Emmanuel’s report on Savennières: « We have lost 80% of our crop. »

Marie-Anne Simonneau, Syndicat de Saumur-Champigny
We had five mornings of frost – April: 20th, 21st, 27th, 28th and 29th. Each time different parts of the appellation were hit including parcels usually are not frosted. Happily not all of the appellation has been hit but equally some domaines have suffered serious losses.
Patrick Vadé: Domaine Saint Vincent Saumur-Champigny (commune of Saumur)
« The damage is worse than last year. There were two episodes of frost. The first particularly on the morning of Thursday 20th April and then the following week for three successive early mornings: 27th, 28th and 29th.The frost on the 20th hit the higher parts of the Saumur-Champigny appellation, which usually escapes the frost. For instance I’ve lost around 15% from my lower slopes. The frosts in the second week – 27th, 28th and 29th – hit the lower parts of the appellation that are prone to frost – St Cyr, Chacé etc. Some producers have lost virtually 100%.

Talking to the Cave Robert et Marcel (the Cave Co-operative of St Cyr) they have lost 20% of their 1800 hectares.

The frost of Saturday 29th was a surprise as the forecast was for + 2 but then for a brief period early in the morning the temperature dropped to minus 2 with a white frost. It all happened very quickly. »

Because of the favourable forecast most producers were tucked up in bed so not in a position to attempt to alleviate this final April frost.

Guillaume Lapaque, Vins de Bourgueil and directeur at Fédération des Associations Viticoles d’Indre-et-Loire et de la Sarthe 
Overall the 2017 frost has been much less devastating in Indre et Loire than in 2016. We calculate that the loss in the département is in the order of 15%, whereas last year it was 50%.

There are, however, areas that have been very badly hit. These include Azay-le-Rideau (over 60% loss) with the exception of Château de l’Aulée which used a helicopter. Touraine Noble Joué has also been hit again – 45% in 2017 and even more last year – 85%. Savigny-en-Véron and Beaumont in Chinon are badly hit with producers losing virtually all their crop. In Touraine Amboise the area around the town was hit – in particular the Domaine la Grange Tiphaine – while Limeray, on the north bank of the Loire, wasn’t affected. Unfortunately losses in Montlouis are around 40%.

This year producers fought back against the frost, while last year they were taken by surprise. We had seventeen helicopters – 7 in Montlouis, 5 in Bourgueil and 5 elsewhere.

The forecast on Saturday 29th was wrong as above freezing temperatures were forecast when instead they fell below zero. Unfortunately we had stood the helicopters down.


Stéphanie Degaugue with Patricia Boucard (right)

Patricia Boucard, Lamé Delisle Boucard
« Fortunately our losses through the frost this year are much less than last year – around 20%. The effects are very variable and seems to depend upon the air currents. We used a helicopter as well as burning bales of straw.

Jacky Blot, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups 
« Morale is low. Taking 2016 and 2017 together we have one harvest in two years. Fortunately Domaine de la Butte in Bourgueil wasn’t touched. Also our wind machine saved most of the Clos Mosny – 80% of the Clos is OK with just between a hectare and 1.5 hectares affected. Also Clos Michet wasn’t hit but the parcels we use for Rémus are very badly hit. Across in Vouvray we have a 50% loss in Bretonnière with the lower part badly hit.

Inevitably our prices will have to rise with our bankers urging that prices have to go up. This wouldn’t be the case if we regularly had a vintages like 2015 when we made around 37 hl/ha, which is what we aim for.’

Benoît Roumet, director of Bureau du Centre Vignobles du Centre Loire
Benoît reports that it is a mixed picture in the Central Vineyards.
« Pouilly and the Coteaux du Giennois have been hit by the frost but Giennois less than in 2016. The northern part of Sancerre around Sainte-Gemme-en-Sancerrois has been hit. Also Châteaumeillant has been seriously affected. Elsewhere those parts of Quincy not protected by wind machines have losses – but 80% of the appellation has wind machine protection and there are no significant losses in Reuilly.

Menetou-Salon, which was very badly hit last year, has not been hit this year.’       




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News shorts: Muscadet astounds, April frosts strike again, DWWA 17


June 2017 issue of Decanter: Muscadet is back



Back in February 2017 Decanter magazine held a panel tasting of Muscadet with extended lees aging. I was one of the trio of tasters. The other two were Chris Kissack (The Wine Doctor) and Ben Llewelyn (Carte Blanche). It was easily the most impressive Decanter panel tasting that I have ever been to as the depth of quality was remarkable. There were 11 wines judged to be Outstanding with three of these scored as Exceptional and a further 63 wine Highly Recommended. Few of these wines cost more than £20 and many £15 or under, so offering remarkable quality.

2007 Excelsior, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Domaine Pierre Luneau Papin was the top wine with an aggregate score of 99 points.

Although all three of us on the panel are fans of good Muscadet, we were, however, taken aback by the number of excellent wines that we tasted from the around 110 samples submitted. These extended lees aging Muscadets provide a different expression of Muscadet – more complex and with a great depth of flavour and are great value.

Their quality will not be a surprise to my fellow Les 5 colleagues as a few years ago David brought a superb 1989 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine to one of our dinners at Le Relais (Angers)

Muscadet-lees aging  07Excelsior


2017 Decanter World Wine Awards and April frost
Last week was the latest edition of the Decanter World Wine Awards tasting. This competition was launched in 2004 and I have been the Regional Chair for the Loire since its inception. This year DWWA attracted some 17,200 entries and it was both good and humbling to see that the Loire entries had kept up despite the succession of small vintages since 2012 and in particular with all the difficulties producers experienced during the 2016 growing season.

Very sadly, just as last year, DWWA took place while producers in the Loire and other parts of France and Europe were being threatened again by a succession of April frosts. Just like last year some of the most serious damage occurred early in the morning of 27th April. Unlike the devastating frost of April 1991, which happened over a single night, 2016 and 2017 have seen a series of frosts over several nights spread over two weeks causing huge stress for producers and often areas that escaped the initial frosts were subsequently hit.

My post next Tuesday will be a round-up of how badly the Loire has been hit by frost in 2017.




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Jim’s off on an adventure: The Luneau-Papins

Pierre-Marie, Marie, Monique et Pierre Luneau 

(Domaine Pierre Luneau–Papin) with the 2014 Muscadet juice


Pierre-Marie listening to the 2014…. 

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.



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Est-ce ainsi que les ceps vivent?

Depuis deux ans, des viticulteurs de Cognac achètent des vignes dans le Muscadet; non pour les exploiter, juste pour les arracher, afin de pouvoir replanter des surfaces équivalentes à Cognac.


Un cep, c’est pour faire du vin, pas pour ouvrir un droit de replantation! (Photo (c) H. Lalau)


La chose est légale – il faut seulement avoir fait une récolte avant d’arracher. Et potentiellement rentable, puisque le prix des vignes est très bas en Muscadet, comme dans tous les vignobles en crise.

Mais n’y a-t-il pas là comme un détournement de la réglementation? Sans compter que les Cognaçais ne font pas dans la dentelle: certains brûlent les ceps arrachés à l’huile de vidange.

A quoi riment toutes ces règles biscornues – qu’elles soient françaises ou européennes; qui servent-elles, qui protègent-elles?  Et quid de la fameuse libéralisation des plantations?

Heureux les consommateurs qui consomment sans savoir tout ce qui se trame derrière le noble breuvage de Bacchus!

Hervé Lalau


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Grappillons quelques bons vins de saison – et abordables!

En cette période ou on ne parle que de « grands vins », de choses chères et parfois rares pour appâter le client, je vais prendre un peu le contre-pied et vous parler de quelques vins plus modestes que j’ai croisé récemment et qui m’ont semblé exemplaires, chacun selon son type et pour des prix abordables. Ce ne sont pas de premiers prix, mais aucun ne dépasse 20 euros la bouteille et le niveau moyen se situe autour de 12 euros. Cela vous fera un repas de fête réussi et peu onéreux, ou si c’est trop tard, une sélection pour les mois à venir, quand vous ne voulez plus vous ruiner. J’ai opté pour une gamme qui peut remplir toutes les cases ou presque d’un repas de fêtes (ou autre): une bulle et un liquoreux, trois blancs et trois rouges. De quoi faire quelques beaux accords avec les mets de saison.

La bulle


Crémant de Bourgogne, cuvée Vive la Joie 2008, Cave Bailly Lapierre

J’ai dégusté cette cuvée, dans différents millésimes, à plusieurs reprises et j’ai toujours été impressionné par sa plénitude et le plaisir immédiat qui est fournie par ce caractère délicatement fruité qui remplit la bouche et la laisse impatiente pour la prochaine gorgée. C’est presque le prix de certains Champagnes bas de gamme mais sa qualité leur est nettement supérieure.

Prix public environ 13 euros


Le liquoreux



Ninon, Muscat à Petit Grains 2015, Vin de France, Cave d’Alba

Il y a de plus en plus de vins intéressants qui sortent du carcan parfois trop rigide des appellations, et ce vin d’Ardèche en fait partie. Le vignoble a failli disparâitre mais il revit grâce à ce vin très aromatique (on s’en douterait vu le cépage) somptueux par sa texture, presque luxuriant mais parfaitement en équilibre par une belle pointe de fraîcheur.

Prix public 12,50 euros

Les vins blancs


Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, Froggy Wine 2015, Pierre Luneau-Papin

C’est parce que la parcelle s’appelle « Les Grenouilles » que Pierre Luneau-Papin, régulièrement l’un des meilleurs vignerons du Muscadet, a ainsi nommé sa cuvée et j’aime bien la touche d’humour dans le nom et l’étiquette. Je suis fan de ses vins, comme de bien d’autres des meilleurs producteurs de cette appellation si injustement décriée, depuis un moment. Celui-ci peut parfaitement remplir son rôle de rafraichir et d’ouvrir le palais en accompagnant huitres ou autres fruits de mer, mais il est bien plus qu’un somple accompagnateur. Son fruité fin et sa belle rondeur se laissent boire tout seul. Vaut bien des vins blancs plus chers.

Prix public environ 10 euros


Sauvignon Blanc Spielfeld 2014, E & W Polz, Sud-Steiermark, Autriche

Je trouve que les meilleurs Sauvignon Blancs d’Autriche, qui viennent tous de la Styrie, font partie de plus accomplis des vins de ce cépage au monde. Un verre de ce vin-ci, dégusté au prix de 5 euros dans un bar à vin à l’aéroport de Vienne (et qu’est-ce qu’on attend pour présenter un choix de vins au verre de ce niveau et à ces prix dans les aéroports en France ?), m’a semblé parfaitement illustrer ce propos. Il arrive a combiner l’intensité fruité d’un Sauvignon de Marlborough (NZ) sans l’accent parfois caricaturalement expressif avec la texture légèrement râpeuse mais finement ciselé d’un Sancerre. Le vin est long sans aucune lourdeur. Cela doit être le climat semi-montagneux, combiné à une vinification très précise et un long élevage dans des contenants en bois assez volumineux et pas neufs. Cette dimension tactile qui colle à la langue est une des choses que j’apprécie dans ce vin, outre son équilibre entre fruit et acidité.

prix public en Autriche environ 17 euros : ce n’est pas un premier prix, mais d’autres sauvignons dans la gamme de cet excellent producteur sont disponibles à partir de 9 euros.


Montagny 1er Cru, Les Bassets 2014, Laurent Cognard & Co

Je ne connaissais pas ce producteur et j’ai reçu cette bouteille en tant qu’échantillon envoyé par une agence de presse. D’après ce que j’ai pu glaner comme information, il s’agit d’un jeune vigneron qui a pu acheter un peu de vignes tout en travaillant comme salarié avant 2006, puis il en a repris d’autres parcelles à la retraite de ses parents qui étaient en cave coopérative. Vendanges manuelles, pressurage douce, levures « indigènes », malos faites et une association de vinification/élevage en cuves et vaisseaux en bois de différentes tailles. En tout cas le résultat m’a semblé très probant, avec un mariage intéressant entre rondeur et vivacité, de la pureté dans les saveurs fruites et une bonne longueur. Heureusement pas de « minéralité » à l’horizon (private joke) !

Prix public : autour de 20 euros : ce n’est pas exactement donné mais cela vaut d’autres blancs de Bourgogne à 30/35 euros

Les vins rouges


Beaujolais Nouveau, cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2016, Pierre-Marie Chermette

Ce producteur (ci dessus, montrant qu’il ne mouille pas que sa chemise pour faire ses vins), qui fait aussi d’excellents vins dans les crus Brouilly, Fleurie et Moulin-à-Vent, produit chaque année ce qui sont pour moi des vins exemplaires du type primeur issu de l’appellation Beaujolais. Là aussi on a le choix entre différentes cuvées : Les Griottes et Vieilles Vignes. Cette année j’ai acheté et bu une bouteille de la deuxième cuvée, peu de temps après la sortie de ces vins. Ce vin m’a enchanté par son fruité très croquant, son allégresse sur la langue et l’impression de joie de vivre (et de boire) qu’il m’a transmis instantanément. Et il a tout ce qu’il faut pour tenir encore un an si jamais cela vous inquiétait.

Prix en boutique à Paris: environ 8 euros.


Côtes du Roussillon Mas Baux, Grand Red, 2015

Pas la première fois que j’apprécie les vins de ce très bon producteur non plus. Sur le plan stylistique, c’est bien évidemment très différent du précédent, plus riche mais également très fruité et gourmand à souhait mais avec la dimension chaleureuse qui parle de ses origines sudistes en plus. Beaucoup de vin pour ce prix.

Prix public : 8,50 euros

 linsoumiseDes jeunes couples qui font d’excellents vins très abordables à Bordeaux, cela existe et ce n’est pas rare du tout. Que les « non-pensants » arrêtent avec leur stupide « Bordeaux bashing » ! 

Bordeaux Supérieur, Château l’Insoumise cuvée Prestige 2014

Voulez-vous du classique et du pas cher ? Voici un parfait exemple que j’ai choisi récemment à l’aveugle parmi 25 vins de cette appellation et dans ce millésime. C’était un de mes trois vins préférés de cette série et le moins cher des trois. Il vient de la région de Saint-André de Cubzac (rive droite) et son assemblage donne une part moins important au Merlot que la plupart de ses concurrents: 60% pour 35% de Cabernet Sauvignon et 5% de Cabernet Franc. Le résultat est un vin droit, net et très classique au nez avec un boisé encore présent dans un ensemble relativement puissant et structuré mais sans aucun excès. C’est clairement du Bordeaux et c’est très bien fait.

Prix public 8 euros

Bonnes fêtes, ou ce qu’il en reste

David Cobbold

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Some echoes from 30th Salon des Vins de Loire


The First Salon des Vins de Loire was in 1987 and to date it hasn’t missed a year not even after the terrible frost of April 1991. Despite some voices saying that it should be called off the 1992 edition went ahead. My first Salon was in January 1990 and I have been to every edition since.

The biggest threat the Salon now faces is Prowein, which has grown enormously over the last decade and a number of significant producers have decided to opt for the Dusseldorf and miss the Loire Salon. Late in the day the organisers of the Salon found a place and a formula for organic La Levée de la Loire last year. This year they have added a Demeter (biodynamic) fair as well. My impression from the first day (Monday) is that this edition is busier than last year but we need to see what Tuesday will bring.

Muscadet in danger:
Can I taste your Melon-Colombard Muscadet blend please?
If you want to upset a top quality Muscadet producer, this or a variant of the same, is the question to ask.

There is now a serious likelihood that in the next couple of years that producers will be allowed to add Colombard, Chardonnay and possibly other varieties to Melon de Bourgogne in the making straight Muscadet. For the moment this will not be allowed for the zonal Muscadets – Sèvre-et-Maine, Côtes de Grandlieu and Coteaux de la Loire or the cru communaux – but we all know about ‘mission creep’.

Many of the top Muscadet producers, like Vincent Caillé, the Luneau-Papins, Joseph Landron, Eric Chavalier, Gilbert Bossard and others, are vehemently opposed to allowing other grape varieties to be used for Muscadet.

However, I talked yesterday to Bernard Jakob,the directeur général of Ackerman. He is in favour of the change as providing a way of saving those producers who are struggling in the Pays Nantais. Bernard quoted the vote by a substantial majority of the vignerons in favour of the change.

When I pointed out that if producers wanted to blend other varieties to Melon it was already perfectly possible to do so and sell this as an IGP or a Vin de France. Bernard replied that producers wanted to be able to keep using the Muscadet name.

I have to say that I have little sympathy with this move to add new varieties to the Melon de Bourgogne for Muscadet. Even, if the change, is strictly limited to straight Muscadet it is all too likely to undermine the image of all Muscadet just at the moment that the qualities of good Muscadet – and there are now some very good Muscadets – are being rediscovered. Currently top Muscadet is easily among the best bargains to be found in the wine world, so why threaten to potentially destroy all the good work that has been done by conscientious producers to produce excellent wines and raise the appellations image.

The idea that producers want to be able to add new varieties while keeping the Muscadet name is deeply dubious. Just suppose that I have vines in the Clos de Vougeot or Chambertin and I wanted to include some Gamay or Syrah along with my Pinot Noir while keeping the appellation, I doubt if I would get a very sympathetic hearing.

It would be very interesting to know more about the background to the vote by producers to allow other varieties like Colombard in Muscadet.

Furthermore is the addition of Colombard or other varieties really going to save struggling producers? Muscadet-sur-Colombard will surely be sold to supermarkets at a basement price in competition with the Côtes de Gascogne, cheap wines from the Midi as well as places like Australia, Chile and Argentina. Dealing with aggressive supermarkets is unlikely to provide salvation for struggling growers as the recent report into Tesco’s habitual policy of screwing its producers to improve its bottom line only too clearly demonstrates – see here and here.

It is all too likely that if the change goes through there will soon be pressure to increase the permitted yields for Muscadet very substantially because producers in the Pays Nantais cannot compete with IGP Côtes de Gascogne and cheap whites from other countries. May be producers will again be asked to vote on keeping yields as they are at 65hl/ha or increase them to 80 hl/ha, 100 hl/ha or 150 hl/ha…

I fear if this change goes through it is all too likely to be catastrophic for the Muscadet appellations. While I have sympathy for struggling producers they should be looking to IGP or vin de France rather than bastardising Muscadet.

Other brief echoes
Ludo and Sophie Ragot
have sold their fine Café de la Promenade in Bourgueil with the new owners taking over in March.

Having handed over the Château de Tracy (Pouilly-Fumé) vineyards to his sisters, Comte Henry d’Assay has set up a négociant business – SAS Comte Henry d’Assay.

After some 20 years this is expected to be the last Salon des Vins de Loire that Gérard Pelletier will be welcoming vignerons, importers and press to his excellent restaurant – Le Relais. At the age of 62 Gérard has decided to embark on a second life. Thank you Gérard and we wish you a long and enjoyable retirement.




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2015 – it’s all starting to kick off in the Loire!

Picking in Sancerre September 2009

Picking in Sancerre late September 2009

The 2015 Loire vintage is now underway and is likely to continue at least until the middle or end of October. It is certainly quite an early start – not as early as 2011 when some Touraine producers, such as the Clos Roche Blanche, started in late August. Nor as early as 2003 when Reuilly was picking by around 20th August. But it is certainly the earliest since 2011 and unusually everything seems to be starting around the same time.

The Ban des Vendanges for Pinot Gris in Reuilly was last Friday, while for Quincy it was yesterday, Sancerre/Pouilly will be this Wednesday. Often there can be a week to 10 days between the start in Reuilly/Quincy and Sancerre beginning. Not so in 2015 – everything seems to be more telescoped!

Here is a report received yesterday from Charles Sydney, a courtier en vin based in Chinon:

‘Phil and I were out in the Touraine on Thursday – growers were picking some of the earlier ripening parcels in Noyers, Oisly and Cheverny, so I guess elsewhere too.

Philippe Trotignon’s cahier shows 4 trailers coming in between 12 and 12.7° potential with acidity around 5 grams – definitely time to pick 🙂

Only problem is the lack of grapes in the vineyards, at least for Sauvignons in the Touraine – Muscadet and Anjou look better fortunately. It’s some time since we’ve seen such small grapes on such small bunches. That’s down to those few chilly days pre-Vinexpo, just at the end of harvest.

Some growers are starting in Muscadet this week but most are waiting – while others in Sancerre and Pouilly are starting! Le monde à l’envers !’

Fingers crossed for a month or more of sunshine!’

Further west picking of the Chardonnay for Crémant de Loire and Saumur Mousseux started yesterday around Le Puy Notre Dame. See here.

In Muscadet Domaine de l’Ecu and Luneau-Papin will be starting this week. Normally they would be considerably in advance of Sancerre.

Emmanuel Ogereau (October 2014)

Emmanuel Ogereau (October 2014)

From Anjou – Emmanuel Ogereau (Domaine Ogereau, Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay):

‘Les vendanges se préparent très bien en Anjou.

Les vignes ont très bien résisté à la sécheresse au mois de Juillet. Les pluies du mois d’Août leur ont fait le plus grand bien.

Les Chenins sont très jolis pour le moment. Ils sont très goutés et les peaux sont déjà assez fines.

On pourrait donc vendanger assez rapidement. Les vendanges pourraient débuter autour du lundi 21 septembre. A voir comment ça évolue…

On espère que le temps sec et frais de ces derniers jours va se maintenir le plus longtemps possible. On croise les doigts.

Pour les Cabernet, on a le temps. Pas de vendanges avant le mois d’octobre.

On est impatients de vendanger notre vignoble de la Martinière à Quarts de Chaume pour la première fois.’

Due to various commitments we are unable to get out to the Loire until 16th September. It goes without saying we are impatient to get out and see what is happening first hand!

Reflecting on Chenonceau

Reflecting on Chenonceau