Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin

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Thierry Germain – an early PetNat adopter?

1996 Insolite – an early PetNat?

Thierry Germain of the Domaine des Roches Neuves has long been an innovative producer. Hailing from Bordeaux he was the first of his family to invest in the Loire Valley to be followed by his father, Bernard, and his brother, Philippe. In 1991 he bought Roches Neuves in Varrains from Denis Duveau, who went to Chile as a consultant.

It now appears that Thierry may have been one of the first in the Loire to produce a PetNat, although this may not have been entirely intentional….

Many years ago – probably in 1998 or late 1997 – I bought a case of Thierry’s 1996 Insolite, AC Saumur Blanc. A little while after buying the case, which was stored in cool conditions, we opened a bottle. To our surprise the wine was distinctly cloudy with a lively fizz. It was clearly refermenting. It wasn’t very pleasant to taste, so most of the bottle went down the sink.

At that time Thierry tended to pick his Chenin Blanc when it was ripe enough to include some botrytis. I can only assume that there was some residual sugar and some yeast, perhaps, that caused a secondary fermentation in bottle. The secondary fermentation must have been quite gentle otherwise the bottle, which is an ordinary wine bottle and not a stronger one designed to cope with a secondary fermentation, would have broken or exploded.

To be fair to Thierry he did immediately offer to replace the case. However, I decided, in part, to see what would happen, and also I couldn’t be arsed to take it back to Saumur even though we are often over there.

Subsequently Thierry has dramatically changed his approach to white wine making looking to pick early to achieve a very taut, precise, linear style.

Over the years we tried another two or three bottles of the 1996 Insolite but it was still cloudy, decidedly fizzy, rather cidery and not a very pleasant beverage. 

However, very recently looking at a couple of bottles from those that remain they now appeared to be almost clear and limpid, so time, I thought, to try again.

Last evening we duly opened a bottle. Thierry’s 1996 Saumur Blanc remains slightly cloudy but very noticeably less than it was. The wine is now lightly pétillant rather than being markedly fizzy. 23 years on it is now drinkable with a marked yeasty/autolysis aromas, a touch of honey and a remarkable freshness for a ‘PetNat’ of this age. 

Next time I open one of the remaining bottles I think I will decant this Insolite.

Whether Thierry can persuade the INAO to accept a Saumur Blanc PetNat appellation remains to be seen….

Santé !  


Chinese cap

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Clos Rougeard & Château de Sancerre: two headline Loire purchases

NadiFoucaultasNady Foucault tasting in the
Clos Rougeard cellar in 2009



There have been two recent purchases of well-known Loire domaines that have hit the headlines. Firstly Maison Ackerman buying Château de Sancerre from the Campari Group, who have decided to divest themselves of all their still wine portfolio. Then at the end of last week came the long-awaited confirmation that Martin and Olivier Bouygues, owners of Château Montrose in Saint Estèphe, have bought Clos Rougeard from the Foucaults.

One of these deals makes obvious commercial sense whereas for the other the advantage is, I think, more questionable.

Ackerman, the most important Loire owned négociant in the valley and since early 2015 part of the group Terrena, has pursued an expansionist policy. Acquisitions over the past few years include in 2015 the 110-hectare Château de Varière in Brissac-Quincé, which has vineyards in a number of Anjou appellations including the Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux. It also includes the 40-hectare Domaine de la Perruche in Montsoreau for Saumur and Saumur-Champigny.

Previously Ackerman bought the sparkling wine producer Monmousseau based in Montrichard in the Cher Valley in 2011 and the Celliers du Prieuré based in Saint-Georges-sur-Loire in 2014.

The purchase, which is subject to a final administrative approval, of Château de Sancerre gives Ackerman 55-hectares in the Loire’s best known and successful appellation. The deal completes Campari’s sale of its still wine businesses – Sella & Mosca and Teruzzi & Puthod in Italy and Casa Lapostolle in Chile. It is welcome that an important Sancerre domaine returns to a company based in the Loire.

In contrast I have to wonder a little about the Bouygues brothers buying Clos Rougeard, especially over the long term. There is no doubt that through the efforts of the late Charly Foucault and his brother Nady, this small domaine has become the most iconic Loire estate with their wines now fetching higher prices than any other Loire domaine. Equally there is no doubt that together Charly and Nady and previous generations of the Foucaults made lovely wines. I still remember an amazing afternoon in the the magical cellar at Chacé tasting/drinking a 1937 ‘Saumur-Champigny’ followed by a 1921 ‘Coteaux de Saumur’.

Ouest-France yesterday speculated that it cost the Bouygues brothers 14 million euros to clinch the deal. The paper’s credibility is slightly undermined here by captioning their photo of the two brothers in their cellar at ‘Macé’ when it should be Chacé. Jane Anson in Decanter reports that Hervé Berland, CEO of Château Montrose in Saint-Estèphe will now also oversee Clos Rougeard with Nady Foucault remaining as consultant.

It remains to be seen how much Nady, at retirement age, will actually be involved and for how long.  You can promise to continue the traditions and methods of the Foucaults but what of their inimitable personalities? Without their touch and presence will the Clos Rougeard wines still be seen as extraordinary? The Les Poyeux vineyard, for example, is not a monopole. In years to come will the Clos Rougeard Les Poyeux be seen as worth so much more than Les Poyeux from Antoine Sanzay or Bonnelière (Bonneau family)? Furthermore this sector of Saumur is frost prone.

It all remains to be seen. The Loire needs internationally renowned producers….à suivre….

Part of Les Poyeux








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Jim’s off on an adventure: Amélie Neau


Amélie Neau, Domaine de Nerleux,
Saumur-Champigny, Saumur and Coteaux du Saumur

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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Farewell Charly Foucault – such sad news!


Charly Foucault: 1947 – 29th December 2015
(Charly in October 2010)

I am very shocked and sad to learn of the death overnight of Charly Foucault, the elder of the two brothers who run the exceptional Clos Rougeard making Saumur-Champigny, Saumur and Coteaux de Saumur. These are great wines and they have a great capacity to age.

I first met Charly and Nady in 1990 when I visited them in their extraordinary cellar in Chacé – the first of several memorable visits. In those days the Foucaults were seen as marginal figures partly because of their careful use of barrel aging. It has been fascinating and very satisfying to see them and the Clos Rougeard be recognised as one of the greatest Loire estates. 

Charly and Nady shared a passion for making top quality wine using traditional methods.  Charly was very proud and supportive of Françoise, his wife, when she was in charge at Château Yvonne in Parnay, where her Saumur Blanc was excellent. 

Charly was great company with a fine sense of humour. I saw Charly all too briefly in October – never imagining that this would be the last time.  

Our sincere condolences to Françoise, Antoine and Caroline, and Nady and Anne. Our thoughts are with you.  


Charly pendant les vendanges 2011


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Summer shorts: Les Grandes Tablées + Veuve Clicquot – a major producer of Prosecco…..


Just about a third of those at Les Grandes Tablées on Wednesday night (5th August)

Just about a third of those at Les Grandes Tablées on Wednesday night (5th August)

More diners @Les Grandes Tablées 2015

More diners @Les Grandes Tablées 2015

It was good to be invited to the 2015 edition of Les Grandes Tablées de Saumur-Champigny ten years after I was invited to the 2005 edition. Although it has grown enormously since then, the formula remains the same along with the friendly conviviality. Back in 2005 this was a one-day event now it is held over two days with all 6500 tickets sold out well in advance of the event.

As the 2014 edition had nodded towards Belgian cuisine, the Saumur-Champigny producers decided that in 2015 they should look across La Manche for inspiration.

I have to say that their interpretation of ‘classic’ British dishes was rather similar to a free jazz interpretation of a standard, especially the pork pie.

Part of the picnic with the 'interpretation' of a pork pie.

Part of the picnic with the ‘interpretation’ of a pork pie – slice of terrine (very tasty) and a separate piece of pastry.

Red fruits crumble

Red fruits crumble – much more authentic than the ‘pork pie’

François retired master baker now responsible for organising all the baking involved for Les Grands Tablées

François retired master baker now responsible for organising all the baking involved for Les Grands Tablées with a reviving glass of Saumur-Champigny

Not the 2010 as shown but the delicious 2014.

Not the 2010 as shown but the delicious 2014.

The 2014 Cuvée des 100 Saumur Champigny was the principal wine served during the evening and very delicious it was. However despite being very drinkable no-one amongst the throng of picnickers appeared to be drunk or at all disorderly.

Three  UK based wine writers blending into the background.

Three UK based wine writers blending into the background.


Snap!: Veuve Clicquot and  Moneto Prosecco

Snap!: Veuve Clicquot and Moneto Prosecco

I am continually amazed by the amount of Prosecco that appears to be produced by Veuve Clicquot, which I had always understood to be a Champagne house and part of LVMH. UK supermarket shelves are now groaning with Prosecco flaunting yellow/gold/orange labels.

I can only assume that Veuve Clicquot have moved into the Prosecco market because of its current popularity. According to a study by Laithwaite’s, the UK’s largest mail order business, and published in The Drinks Business Prosecco is now the overwhelming choice for a marriage toast:


In the study, Laithwaite’s found that 63% of couples now toast their nuptials with a flute of Prosecco, compared to just 8% who raise a glass of Champagne.

According to Laithwaite’s, sales of the Italian fizz have grown by over 25% in the last 18 months, overtaking Champagne sales at weddings as far back as 2013.

English Sparkling wine is also giving Champagne competition, accounting for 5% of all sparkling wine drunk at UK weddings, with its popularity rising every month.’

UK supermarket shelf with an array of yellow/gold/orange labelled Prosecco

UK supermarket shelf with an array of yellow/gold/orange labelled Prosecco…oops I think there might be a Champagne amongst these but I can’t be sure – I’m so confused!

Ciro (right hand label) is not made by Veuve Clicquot instead by a small producer in Campania. Ciro received legal letters from Veuve Clicquot alleging that their label could be confused with Veuve Clicquot.  Moral of the story: Ciro should have called their sparkling wine Prosecco and presumably VC wouldn't have said anything.

Ciro (right hand label) is not made by Veuve Clicquot instead by a small producer in Campania. Ciro received legal letters from Veuve Clicquot alleging that their label could be confused with Veuve Clicquot.
Moral of the story: Ciro should have called their sparkling wine Prosecco and presumably VC wouldn’t have said anything.

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To visit: Le Pas Saint Martin, Saumur and Anjou!

Laurent Charrier (Le Pas Saint Martin, Saumur and Anjou)

Laurent Charrier (Le Pas Saint Martin, Saumur and Anjou)


I’m afraid I tend to treat Doué-la-Fontaine, on the border between Saumur and Anjou, as a series of roundabouts to negotiate when heading to or heading back from the Layon. Although it is the home of Moulin-Touchais, Doué-la-Fontaine is rather far from being one of the Loire’s well-known wine producing sites as it falls between two stools – the area around Saumur, especially Saumur-Champigny, down to Brézé and across to Le Puy Notre Dame. So I was very pleased to ‘discover’ Domaine du Pas St Martin at January’s MillésimeBio. I use ‘discover’ advisedly as the family (Charrier-Massoteau) records, going back to 1700, show that they have been involved in making wine since at least that time.  Doubtless back then the family were involved in polyculture rather than specialising in wine.

‘Le domaine tire son nom de la Croix du Pas Saint Martin, petite construction de pierre élevée en bordure du bois de la pierre frite. Elle était au moyen âge, la dernière étape pour les pélerins de saint Jacques de Compostelle, avant l’arrivée dans la cité mariale du Puy Notre Dame.’

The domaine converted to organic viticulture in 1996 and today has 16 hectares of vines (a mix of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc) – some in AC Saumur (to the east of Doué) and some in AC Anjou. I was impressed by the wines I tasted and will have to try and fit in a visit to the domaine during 2015, so as to get to know the area around Doué a little better.



2014 Le Pierre Frite, Saumur
My notes (which I trust are accurate!) indicate that this had been bottled a couple of weeks before MillyBio. In a sec-tendre style with good texture and length.

2013 Jurassic, Saumur
Vinified and aged in old wood, very clean and pure.

2013 Le vent dans les saules, Anjou
From vines planted on schist, clean , some tension

2013 les milles rocs, Anjou 
Some honey, weight and more concentration than Le vent dans les saules

2012 Le Pierre Frite, Saumur
Mid weight and texture, attractive easy drinking red, a touch herbal

2009 Les Charbonnières, Saumur
Rich concentration of fruit but a bit soupy

2011 Les Charbonnières, 2011
Attractively textured, better balance of fruit and acidity than in the 2009.

2009 Faucon Noir, Saumur 
Named after Foulques Nera (Count d’Anjou), suitably dark, dense and concentrated, structure with tannic grip in finish – needs more time, although with food this would doubtless be different.

2011 Faucon Noir, Saumur
Again I preferred the 2011 to the 2009 Faucon liking its texture and finding it more expressive for the moment than the 09.


Recently appointed to handle the domaine's commercial side.

Recently appointed to handle the domaine’s commercial side.



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Bulles de Loire (3): Chenin faisant

J’ai deux bonnes raisons de me rappeler – en bien –  de la dégustation des Crémants de Loire et des Saumur organisée pour nous lors du Salon d’Angers. Merci Interloire!


L’ami Jim nous accueille chez Interloire, sur le lieu de la dégustation.

Primo, bon nombre de vins m’ont vraiment plu. Ce qui est assez rare chez moi, en matière de bulles (un bémol pour les rosés, mais ils n’étaient que deux; un trop dosé, l’autre trop soufré).

Secundo, je ne suis pas mécontent de constater qu’il peut y avoir une vraie spécificité des bulles de Loire. Je n’en étais pas forcément convaincu jusque là.

C’est surtout frappant dans les cuvées à fort pourcentage de Chenin, qui présentent une aromatique vraiment différente, riche, presqu’enivrante.

D’autres produits ont préféré le Chardonnay et le Pinot. Pourquoi pas, puisque le décret du Crémant de Loire l’autorise (ainsi que le recours aux deux Cabernets, au Pineau d’Aunis, à l’Arbois et au Grolleau). Mais je leur trouve généralement moins de caractère – ce pourraient être des Crémants de Bourgogne ou de Limoux, voire des Champagne, pour certains. Tant qu’à buller ligérien, je préfère encore que ça se sente…

Tandis que ceux qui misent sur le Chenin ont la plupart du temps ce petit goût de miel et de coing qui m’emmène sur les berges douces du Layon – tout en restant bien secs. Voire une pointe d’amertume – celle de la rhubarbe, notamment.

Voila pour l’impression générale, voici à présent mes favoris.

On notera qu’il s’agit aussi bien de négociants que de propriétaires – dont certains proposent également d’excellents vins tranquilles.

Pour les Saumurs:

De Neuville Cuvée Louis François **

Ackerman Cuvée Jean Baptiste Millésime 2010 ***

Château de Montguéret tête de cuvée 2013 brut ***

Louis de Grenelle Méthode Traditionnelle Brut ***

Bouvet Ladubay Cuvée Saphir Vintage 2012 **

IMG_5472Un de mes coups de coeur en Saumur

Pour les Crémants:

Domaine des Sanzay « Brut 400 » ***

Château de Passavant Cuvée Ancestrale 2011**

Domaine des Varinelles ***

Langlois Château Langlois Brut ***

Paul Buisse Brut

Domaine Cady ***

Château Pierre Bise ***

Château de Bellevue*

Pierre Chauvin

Domaine Dutertre

Domaine de la Bergerie **

Domaine de Bois Mozé Blanc Secret Brut & Nature **


Un de mes coups de coeur en Crémant de Loire


Sur un total de 55 vins dégustés (dont 12 Saumurs), je trouve que c’est plus qu’honorable.

Mes 3 autres collègues de 5 ont à peu près le même avis (même si leurs préférés ne sont pas tous forcément les mêmes). Ce qui m’incite à croire an potentiel de croissance des bulles de Loire, aussi bien en France qu’à l’exportation.

L’enjeu: plus de choix pour plus de visibilité

Je n’ai pas pu ne pas penser à l’image renvoyée, ces dernières années, par les rayons bulles de la grande distribution belge, littéralement envahis par les marques de Prosecco ou de Cavas, tandis que l’offre de ligérienne se réduit le plus souvent à une seule référence – selon les accords de référencement, c’est soit Moncontour, soit de Chanceny (Cave de Saumur), soit Ackerman… Il faut les chercher! Un plus grand choix permettrait pourtant non seulement de donner plus de visibilité à la Loire qui bulle, mais aussi d’établir une gradation qui, actuellement n’existe pas ou plus – tous les produits proposés sont aux alentours de 8 euros, sauf promo. Et on ne trouve guère de grande cuvée. Faut-il parler de présence symbolique?

Sans doute les groupes qui les produisent n’ont pas la force de frappe d’un Martini ou d’un Codorniu, mais au plan du goût, leurs produits, même d’entrée de gamme, sont irréprochables (on ne peut pas en dire autant de tous les Proseccos ni de tous les Cavas, hélas). De plus, le nom de Loire reste valorisant. Il est lié non seulement au vin, mais au tourisme et à la culture. En outre, les bulles de Loire n’ont jamais été soumises à un discount aussi forcené que le Cava.

De là à ce que les acheteurs belges reviennent traîner leurs guêtres à Saumur…

Mais il n’y a pas que la Belgique. Et  il n’y a pas que la Grande Distribution.

Alors bon vent aux bulles de Loire!

Hervé Lalau