Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin

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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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Le prix des vins: un sujet tabou ?

Je suis souvent surpris, voire choqué, par le fait que certains producteurs ne connaissent même pas le prix de leurs vins dans un marché donné. Or le vin est quand-même une marchandise et les producteurs vivent du fruit de cet échange. En quoi est-il honteux d’être au courant de ce que le consommateur doit débourser pour acheter leur produit ?

Pas si mal pour débuter, hein ?

Mais, au-delà de cette forme de mépris et en creusant un peu cette affaire de prix, je suis aussi souvent étonné par les différents niveaux de prix qui sont demandés pour des vins de qualité et d’origines équivalentes. Le deuxième qualificatif, celui de l’origine, est objectif, ce qui devrait rendre plus simple des comparaisons. Le premier, celui de la qualité perçue, est largement subjectif et peut donc donner lieu à des discussions sans fin. Mais, lors de dégustations à l’aveugle, le champ devient subitement nettement plus nivelé et les écarts de prix constatés, dûs à des facteurs tels que la rareté, le positionnement des producteurs ou la gourmandise des distributeurs, deviennent à la fois plus évidents et, paradoxalement, moins compréhensibles.

A la base du prix d’une bouteille de vin il y a des données économiques en apparence simples qui sont liés aux coûts de production.  Ces coûts ne sont pas constants pour tous les vins, mais peuvent l’être pour tous les vins d’un même type issu d’une même zone géographique ou appellation. Prenons un exemple : un kilo de sauvignon blanc à Sancerre vaut dans les 5 euros, tandis qu’un kilo du même cépage à Rueda, en Espagne, vaut moins de 70 centimes. En Touraine, je crois que ce prix se situe autour de 1,20 euros. Voilà déjà des points de départ qui ne sont pas identiques pour des vins qui peuvent être, sur beaucoup de plans, comparables en profil.

Ces écarts de prix qui sous-tendent le début d’un calcul d’un coût de revient ont déjà été affectés par le marché et en particulier par la renommée de la région en question, avant même le travail de la vinification. Je veux bien que le coût de production d’un kilo de raisins à Sancerre soit légèrement supérieur à celui du même raisin en Touraine, mais pas 5 fois supérieur ! C’est l’image acquise, ou le capital confiance dans le marché qui dicte cet écart de base. Si on va plus loin dans la chaîne des coûts, on sait aussi que le prix du vrac à Sancerre se situe entre 6 et 7 euros la bouteille. Donc, que la partie vinification coûte entre 1 et 2 euros au dessus du prix du raisin. Mon raisonnement est peut-être biaisé, car je n’ai pas tous les éléments en main, mais restez avec moi jusqu’au bout, s’il vous plaît.

Si on regarde maintenant les prix des sancerres dans le marché français, pour éviter de rendre les calculs trop complexes, que voit-on ? En cherchant du sancerre blanc d’un millésime récent sur le site Wine Searcher, je constate qu’en France, les prix pour une bouteille vont de 10 euros à 72 euros chez des revendeurs. Or les coûts de production à Sancerre ne varient pas dans les mêmes proportions, même si on y intègre un rendement en dessous du plafond, la culture biologique et l’élevage en barrique. Les lois du marché, fondées entre autres sur la réputation du producteur, les avis des critiques, et le positionnement du vin chez le producteur (qui sont tous intimement liés), jouent un rôle déterminant dans le prix final au consommateur d’un vin qui devient, du coup, plus ou moins détaché de son coût de production, même en tenant  compte d’une marge bénéficiaire honnête pour le producteur – disons 25%.

Prenons un autre exemple, celui d’un vin rouge produit dans le Médoc. Mon information sur cet exemple date d’il y a trois ans environ et mériterait probablement un petit ajustement, mais je crois que l’approche vaut toujours, d’autant que nous ne sommes guère en période d’inflation. Le producteur d’un cru classé de cette région m’a dit que son coût de revient pour une bouteille, en mettant tous les frais dedans, tournait autour de 10 euros. Et quand je dis tous les frais, cela incluait ses voyages promotionnels et les pages publicitaires achetés dans des revues spécialisées : autrement dit, le budget marketing de la propriété en question plus l’ensemble des coûts de production. Un tel vin est vendu en primeur à un prix qui tourne autour des 30 euros, ce qui laisse une bonne marge pour le producteur comme pour le négociant. Et ce château est plutôt raisonnable dans son positionnement prix par rapport à certains. Je veux bien que les coûts de production d’une propriété de moindre taille dans la même région grimpent un peu au-delà de 10 euros, par le simple fait d’une échelle réduite, mais pas tant que cela.

Evidement, un vin produit dans une région très accidentée, avec des parcelles séparés les unes des autres, des vignes très vieilles et une impossibilité de mécaniser les travaux va engendrer des coûts de production plus élevés. Et je ne parle même pas de la production d’un liquoreux ! Mais là, encore une fois, on constate des écarts de prix considérables entre différents vins issus de conditions et régions comparables. Et ce ne sont pas toujours les vignobles les plus difficiles à travailler qui obtiennent la meilleure valorisation, ni les vins qui ont nécessité le plus de temps de préparation: regardez les prix de la plupart des vieux vins doux naturels, par exemple !

Je ne suis pas en train de proposer ici un prix uniforme par type de vin, ni d’exclure tout écart de prix mérité par une renommée dûment acquise, voire par une certaine rareté. Ce sont des lois du marché qu’on ne peut pas contrôler. Mais je suis choqué par les écarts de prix que nous constatons tous entre les vins les plus chers et les moins chers. Ces écarts n’ont jamais été si importants que de nos jours. Le meilleur exemple de cela est à Bordeaux, vaste région où la fourchette de prix pour un vin rouge peut aller d’un euro à plus de 500 euros, sans qu’on puisse estimer que le plaisir ressenti en dégustant le deuxième vin soit 500 fois supérieur au cas du premier. Ces prix seraient-ils le simple reflet de notre société qui voit des présidents de sociétés ayant abimé leur entreprise partir avec des chèques de millions d’euros tandis que des millions de gens ne gagnent presque rien ? Certains disent qu’il y a assez de milliardaires sur cette planète pour acheter toute la production des crus classés, des grands bourgognes, des champagnes de cuvée spéciales, des vins dits « de garage » à des prix absurdes, etc, et que tout va bien ainsi.  C’est peut être la vérité pour les milliardaires en question. Mais cela me fait mal que des amateurs moins fortunés ne puissent pas se payer de tels vins. D’un autre côté, je me dis que la valeur ne réside pas dans le prix affiché, et qu’on peut trouver autant de plaisir dans un vin à 10 euros que dans une autre à 50 ou à 100. Et je le constate très souvent. Alors cherchons ailleurs que parmi les vins les plus chers, même si ceux-ci peuvent être très bons.



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The 2015 Loire Vintage – so far to 20.10.2015

Chenin Blanc developing nicely at Domaine Cady providing proof that there are a good number of vigneron ready to take the necessary risks to make fine sweet wine.

Chenin Blanc developing nicely at Domaine Cady providing proof that there are a good number of vigneron ready to take the necessary risks to make fine sweet wine.

 Today we are heading back to London after nearly five weeks in the Loire with much of this spent travelling up and down the Loire following the 2015 vintage.

Given the number of different styles of wine made in the Loire and the long duration of the Loire’s harvest, it is always difficult and dangerous to generalise about Loire vintages.

However, it seems apparent that 2015 is generally a good to very good vintage, although probably not as stellar as hoped at the beginning of August.

Certainly the marked fluctuations in the weather tested producers’ nerves. Rain during flowering for some varieties caused loss through coulure. Then the very dry weather of June and July initially provoked delight but as the dry, hot weather continued drought became a concern. By August vignerons were looking for a couple of periods of light rain. Unfortunately nature, as so often, over compensated and there was some heavy rain in late August that caused problems in Muscadet, provoking rot in the Melon de Bourgogne. The Pays Nantais probably had the most difficult conditions in 2015.

Picking of early varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay started in the Cher Valley right at the end of August. Most of Touraine’s Sauvignon was picked in good conditions during the first part of September. Yields were lower than hoped for due to coulure and the heat and drought of June and July.

The fine start to September around 12th with a week of frequently torrential rain – in places like Bourgueil recording over 100mm during this period. Fortunately this was followed by a period of settled fine weather with a drying wind from the north-east. The Cabernet Franc appeared to stand up well to this dowsing

During this time most of the grapes in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Bourgueil were picked.

This fine spell came to and end with further heavy rain between 4th and 6th October. Tours recorded 28.5mm on the 5th. Since then it has been dry with some good sunny days but also some cool, overcast days. This has allowed Chinon and Saumur to pick their Cabernet Franc and remaining parcels of Chenin Blanc in favourable weather. The same has gone for Anjou

Further east Sancerre and Pouilly and the Central Vineyards have had another good vintage with the Pinot Noir deemed to be particularly successful. Volume is a little down but this is hardly catastrophic after last year’s bumper harvest and avoiding the frost of late April 2012 that hit vineyards further west.

The current fine spell is raising hopes of some fine sweet wines in Anjou for those prepared to wait and truly pick selectively.

It may well prove in time to be fascinating to compare 2014 with 2015.



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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

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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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Two dinners and a lunch (part 2)

Cheu L'Zib, Menetou-Salon

Cheu L’Zib, Menetou-Salon

My last Tuesday’s post left us enjoying a copious, traditional Sunday lunch at that Menetou-Salon institution Cheu L’Zib:

‘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 taking a substantial siesta, afterwards. (posted 21.4.2015)’


Un vrai menu fixé!

Un vrai menu fixé!

I find the theory and practice of lunch somewhat at variance and by lunch here a mean a substantial lunch with three courses and wine not a hurried grabbed sandwich. The theory is wonderful – setting aside several hours to enjoy a feast in the middle of the day what could be better? It indicates that you are a person of some leisure – not ruled and traumatised by a series of meetings and appointments. The practice can often live up to expectations. It is post-lunch that I find more problematic as a copious and bien arrosé en modération déjeuner can often bring the day to a premature close. Not you understand that I have anything against a siesta even a substantial one – both are admirable and an integral part of a civilised life. A siesta is normally a refreshing rest of variable duration before further activity. A post substantial lunch siesta is all too often instead a prolonged preparation for an early night.

The happy practice of Sunday lunch at Le Zib

The happy practice of Sunday lunch at Le Zib

Isabelle and Pierre Clément, 2013 La Dame de Chatenoy, Mentou-Salon

Isabelle and Pierre Clément, 2013 La Dame de Chatenoy, Mentou-Salon

Anyway more than enough of this philosophy… the much more important question is what we drank at Cheu L’Zib. Naturally the wines of Menetou-Salon have pride of place on the list. I’m not even sure whether any vins d’étranger, from Sancerre for example, are listed. If they are I didn’t notice them. We selected the excellent 2013 La Dame de Chatenoy from isabelle and Pierre Clément as our white Menetou for our apéro and to carry us just about through to the famous pike dish. Well balanced with ripe grapefruit flavours, weight and length.

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The red Menetou was easy to choose: Philippe Gilbert’s 2010 Les Renardières. I am very impressed with Phlippe Gilbert and have often tasted his wine but never to date drunk the wine at table. The 2010 lived up to expectations – voluptuous and delicately silky as only good Pinot Noir can be. Further confirmation of the progress made by leading producers in the Loire’s Central Vineyards through careful work in the vineyard and rigour during the vendange.

As I suspected lunch at Zib virtually finished off the rest of the day but did mean I was thoroughly rested for Monday. A morning bike ride in the Sancerre vineyards– flat it isn’t! A couple of visits in the afternoon – Vincent Pinard and Henri Bourgeois – leading to dinner at Jean-Marc Bourgeois’ La Côte des Mont Damnés in Chavignol.

As I was fractionally late getting to the table due to a very interesting extended tasting with Arnaud Bourgeois – more on the two tastings next week as well as some thoughts on David Cobbold’s fine piece on the Central Vineyards yesterday – Carole had already selected a white – the 2012 Le Chêne Marchand from Lucien Crochet. What an excellent choice this was! Le Chêne Marchand is one of the oldest recognised vineyard sites of Sancerre. As you drive into Bué from the south it is on the slopes to your left hand side. It is limestone with very little top soil – known locally as caillottes. Generally the wines from caillottes, which makes up about 40% of Sancerre’s vineyard, are the quickest and most expressive when young.They tend to be bottled young. This is not the case for Gilles Crochet, the son of Lucien and who has now for a number of years run the domaine. Gilles prefers to give his wines a lengthy élevage. This showed to advantage with the 2012 – complex, good texture with length and balance.

A 1st course

A 1st course


A 1st course

A 1st course


Delicate entrée featuring langoustine

Tagliatelle Géante de Crottin au Beurre de Muscade.

Tagliatelle Géante de Crottin au Beurre de Muscade. very much Jean-Marc’s speciality 

2011 la Bourgeoisie, Sancerre Rouge Henri Bourgeois

2011 la Bourgeoise Sancerre Rouge Henri Bourgeois

Even since I first tasted the whites of Henri Bourgeois back in the early part of 1989 I have been convinced of their quality. The reds, however, I long felt were not of the level of the whites. However, over the last few years there has been a marked improvement in the reds. They have a lot in the handling of the fruit during the vintage. Again like Philippe Gilbert’s Menetou Red the previous day I had tasted these wines bit not drunk them, so I was determined to try one on this night. Its silky texture and spicy fruit backed up my feeling that the gap between the Bourgeois reds and their whites is closing. A lovely bottle and further proof that Pinot Noir from the Central Vineyards is well worth searching out.

Delicious and delicate pigeon – a great foil for the red.

Delicious and delicate pigeon – a great foil for the red.

Sancerre from the west.

Sancerre from the west.