Loire

Harvest Report: Loire 2013, preliminary
Julian Campbell - 23 October 2013

Loire specialist Charles Sydney recently sent us the following 2013 vintage report.  Charles and Philippa are not only stationed permanently in Chinon but also very close to many Loire growers. Their intel is therefore excellent….

The note of cautious optimism is a welcome relief. It seems 2013 in the Loire will go down as another tricky, but ultimately successful vintage (for those that put the work in)… 

Apologies in advance for the long message - there's too much panic out there and we wanted to put some perspective on things.


Looking out the window at the moment, Phil and I are wondering whether to wander down to the Anjou to watch the picking today, or to leave it till tomorrow. It's misty, there was some rain yesterday (sunshine too) but the forecast is fine. Which sort of sums up the 4 weeks since harvest started here. That's obviously not perfect - but it's also nothing new.

2013 looks to be a perfectly normal (if slightly stressed-out) vintage.

Muscadet : started end September, the guys got hit by some rain beforehand, but in some sectors they needed it. Combined with warm weather, that meant a risk of rot, so it was time to pick.

Where the vines had been properly looked after, that was fine, even if we'd have liked slightly higher degrees. Better still in vineyards that had been grassed through, as the moisture went to the grass and the grapes were clearly riper and healthier.

By the end, the guys were happy to finish, fining some vats to eliminate any potential off flavours. In general, after a good cold settling the juice was tasting fine and the wines should be pretty good!


Sauvignon : started right at the beginning of October, with the same sort of conditions as in Muscadet - basically, if the grower looked after his vines, the harvest is fine, with reasonable degrees and balanced acidity. Again, there's more ripeness with growers prepared to grass through their vines or to cut out (as chez Jacky Marteau) any unripe or rotten bunches.

Also as in Muscadet, there was some rot so producers had to be particularly careful with the juice (inerting vats, fining the juice), but we've tasted enough grapes and enough vats of juice to be happy that the wines will be classically fresh and grassy.

Up in Sancerre and Pouilly, picking generally started a week later - around the 7th - and we're not
convinced they would gain anything by waiting.

Here you'll really see the difference between growers, with special benefits coming with growers who grassed through their vines and who were prepared to 'tri' the grapes either in the vineyards or in the cellar. 

Chinon and the reds : Some people have started picking, harvesting machines were out yesterday. They run the vineyards to get the best possible ripeness in a late vintage - grassed through vines, de-budding to keep bunches apart, high foliage for maximum photosynthesis, de-leafing around the bunches.... we've been there before!

These growers have no need to panic - the grapes are healthy and ripening gently. This won't be a hyper-ripe 2009, but, well, more anon!!!

Chenin blanc : No idea yet - apart from seeing some first pickings to bring in some 'baby' moelleux with a potential of 18° and others to clean up the harvest to let the grapes ripen more.

With a bit of luck, we should see some pretty good dry chenins and maybe some moelleux, but that's guess work. we're off to see the grapes now (the mist has lifted) and we're off to Vouvray and Montlouis tomorrow.

More anon!!!

Best!
Charles and Phil

PS cliché time.... looks like this is (yet another) année de vigneron...
A Justerinis Rhône and Loire tasting review by The Wine Gang
Justerini & Brooks - 04 January 2013

The Wine Gang, which is made up of five of the most respected wine critics have been covering events in the wine industry for many years. Herewith a selection of their reviews from our recent Rhone and Loire tasting.

The Wine Gang: January 2013 Newsletter, Justerini & Brooks Loire and Rhône

Decidedly posh and traditional St James' Street wine merchant Justerini & Brooks has some very fine classic producers on its books, a number of which were on display at its showcase tasting of Loire and Rhône wines from the 2011 vintage. This is not generally held to be a great vintage in either region – certainly not as good as the preceding pair 2009 and 2010 – but the quality of J&B's producers ensured there are some excellent wines all the same. The wines are part of an en primeur offer, so the prices quoted are for a case of 6 or 12 bottles without duty or VAT, which will be added when you receive the wines over the next few months. To order, contact 020 7484 6400, email justorders@justerinis.com or visit the website, www.justerinis.com.

DRY WHITES

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2011
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône), France, Dry White (Cork),13.5% abv
Roussanne, Picardin, Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc are the grape varieties here, but it's not really about the ingredients, more the the gently honeyed, peach and greengage fruit, subtle blossom notes and lingering richness of flavour. A complex but charming full-flavoured dry white. (The price is for a 6-bottle case.)

Rating: 92/100 - £255.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Chicken.

Lucien Crochet Sancerre Culs de Beaujeu 2010
Sancerre (Loire), France, Dry White (Cork),12.5% abv
Managed by Gilles Crochet, son of Lucien, this is classic Sancerre as you expect, or rather hope, it will be: linear, mineral but not austere in style, it has mouth-teasing acidity balanced with bright lemon and pithy grapefruit – a strikingly pure and vivid Sauvignon Blanc. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 92/100 - £210.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Fish & Seafood.

Vincent Pinard Sancerre Chêne Marchand 2011
Sancerre (Loire), France, Dry White (Cork),12.0% abv
Two-thirds of this fine, multi-layered Sauvignon Blanc is aged in new oak barrels, lending the wine a richness of texture, but the abiding character is one of immaculate citrus (lemon) fruit and classic Sancerre herbal, nettle-like flavours, lingering long in the very pure, clean finish. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 92/100 - £130.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Salads & Vegetable dishes, Fish & Seafood.

Vincent Pinard Sancerre Nuance 2011
Sancerre (Loire), France, Dry White (Cork),12.5% abv
A whisper of Badoit-like salty minerals and a generous squeeze of ripe lemon give this Sauvignon Blanc its dangerously refreshing drinkability. The elderflower and passionfruit add an extra dimension. Another excellent wine from the consistently good Vincent Pinard. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 91/100 - £150.00 at Justerini & Brooks
François Cotat Sancerre Caillotes 2011

François Cotat Sancerre Caillotes 2011
Sancerre (Loire), France, Dry White (Cork),13.0% abv
A surprising and striking feeling of ripe fruit – both in the sense of fruit character (peachy, slightly floral) and texture (ample, rounded) – is the first impression on this characterful Sancerre. There's a nervy quality to the acidity too, however, leaving the finish clean and brisk. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 90/100 - £200.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Fish & Seafood.

Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Montlouis Sec Les Dix Arpents 2011
Montlouis (Loire), France, Dry White (Cork),12.5% abv
Jacky Blot is one of the Loire's best growers, dividing his focus between Chenin Blanc at Domaine de la Taille aux Loups in Montlouis and Vouvray and red wines from Cabernet Franc at Domaine de la Butte in Bourgueil. This is typically energetic and vibrant Chenin from 50-year-old vines, with a mouthwatering tension between baked-apple-and-nuts richness and punchy, tangy acidity. (The price is for a 6-bottle case.)

Rating: 90/100 - £50.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Chicken.

André Perret Saint Joseph Blanc 2011
Saint Joseph (Rhône), France, Dry White (Cork),13.5% abv
Deftly oaked (20% new oak, the balance 1-3 years old), this quietly charming white Rhône blend of Roussanne and Marsanne has that wanderin-an-orchard quality of apples, plums and their blossom on the nose, while the palate has the not-quite-tart bite of just-ripe apples to keep it perky. Very good value for the quality. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 89/100 - £150.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Chicken.


DRY REDS

René Rostaing Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 2011
Côte Rôtie (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),13.5% abv
One of our favourite producers in the Rhône (or indeed anywhere), René Rostaing makes long-lived, ethereal Syrah that combines concentration with finesse, elegance and silk-like texture. From the top La Landonne vineyard in Côte-Rôtie, this is still a baby in that it will no doubt improve for years to come, but we found it surprisingly accessible now: the tannins athlete-sinewy and fine, the flavours all pure hedgerow fruit with the suggestion of a ferrous mineral meatiness. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 94/100 - £695.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Clusel-Roch Côte-Rôtie Les Grandes Places 2011
Côte Rôtie (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),13.5% abv
From a single-vineyard in the Verenay commune of Côte-Rôtie, we loved the finesse, the contained, coiled-spring power and the purity of this 100% Syrah. There's perfumed, limpid red and black fruit and a hint of meaty-savouriness, too, in a very attractive, beautifully made Northern Rhône red. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 94/100 - £560.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Marc Sorrel Hermitage Le Greal 2011
Hermitage (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),14.0% abv
Henri, son of Marc, Sorrel, has 4 hectares in Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage, and this wine, a blend of two vineyards, Meal (90%) and Greffieux in Hermitage, is an evocative expression of the region. Quite plush and silky in feel, its red and blackberry fruit is vividly drawn with an outline of black pepper and fresh cherry-like acidity in a long, harmonious finish. (The price is for a 6-bottle case.)

Rating: 93/100 - £385.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Charles Joguet Chinon Clos de Dioterie 2010
Chinon (Loire), France, Dry Red (Cork),13.0% abv
Young winemaker Kevin Fontaine makes several cuvées in Chinon at Charles Joguet, and this is arguably the finest, a red of no little concentration and depth but which is distinguished by its wonderful fluency and silkiness of texture, subtly floral red and black fruit and, for want of a better (or less French-poetical) word, energy. Very fine Cabernet Franc. (The price is for a 6-bottle case.)

Rating: 93/100 - £110.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Domaine de la Butte Bourgueil Mi-Pente 2010
Bourgueil (Loire), France, Dry Red (Cork),13.0% abv
Having made his name with Chenin in Montlouis, Jacky Blot has repeated the trick with Cabernet Franc since acquiring the 14-hectare Domaine de la Butte in 2002. From unusually low-yielding 50- and 60-year-old vines (20 hectolitres per hectare for the fact-spotters among you), this is a Loire red to challenge Bordeaux, featuring chalky but fine tannins and deep, dark hedgerow fruit, but presented with a certain sinuous elegance of texture. Will certainly repay a few years in a cool, dark place if you have one. (The price is for a 6-bottle case.)

Rating: 93/100 - £80.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),14.5% abv
From one of the great names of the southern Rhône, this is very open and attractively sweet-fruited on the nose, with spicy blackberry and raspberry, and a slight toffee-ed edge. The palate is denser, but it's not the behemoth you sometimes find in these parts, the tannins being suave rather than chewy or thick, and the finish quite sprightly and fresh. You could broach this now, or wait a few years: a good, if not great, Beaucastel. (The price is for a 6-bottle case.)

Rating: 92/100 - £235.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Domaine du Cayron Gigondas 2011
Gigondas (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),14.0% abv
A small domaine that produces just this single cuvée each year, and it's a delightful one in this vintage, with soft summer-pudding fruit sprinkled with black pepper and cooling green herbs and a succulent, supple feel. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 91/100 - £115.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Duck & Mild game.

Domaine du Coulet Cornas Brise Cailloux 2011
Cornas (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),13.5% abv
Using fruit from the lower slopes in his four-hectare property, this is one of up-and-coming Northern Rhône producer Mathieu Barret's more accessible (in price and style) wines, a fragrant, sapid Syrah from Cornas of great drinkability, with a slight medicinal edge to the red fruit and cracked pepper. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 90/100 - £240.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Télégramme 2011
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),14.0% abv
Ripe and sweet-fruited, with an almost toffee-ed cast to the red berries, plum and blackberries, this offers a blast of southern French sun for the depths of winter, a happy-go-lucky Grenache-dominated blend (there's a little Mourvèdre, too) from top-flight Châteauneuf producer Le Vieux Télégraphe. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 89/100 - £195.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Duck & Mild game.

Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Gaby 2011
Côtes du Rhône (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),13.0% abv
Best known for their work in Hermitage, Domaine du Colombier's more affordable Crozes is no slouch either, a powerful, earthy and savoury red, with a streak of cracked pepper and herbs, a meaty core and, in this vintage, an attractively perfumed red-fruited quality. Good length, good value. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 89/100 - £150.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Domaine Etienne Pochon Crozes-Hermitage 2011
Crozes-Hermitage (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),13.5% abv
"Playful" is the word J&B uses to describe this Syrah from the unpretentious but talented Etienne Pochon, and that gets it exactly right: it's the sort of juicy, sinewy, vibrant and just plain drinkable red that this appellation does so well when it gets the yields right. Pepper, blackberry, raspberry and a subtle savoury streak – bring on the steak-frites. (The price is for a 12-bottle case.)

Rating: 89/100 - £85.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Château du Hureau Saumur-Champigny Tuffe 2010
Saumur-Champigny (Loire), France, Dry Red (Cork),13.0% abv
Under the stewardship of Philippe Vatan, Château de Hureau is an oak-free zone, and this great value red (the price quoted here is for a 12-bottle case) shows the virtues of his approach. It's delightfully pretty on the nose with violet edges to the red fruit, and succulent and juicy on thepalate, with a subtle cooling green edge. Classic Cabernet Franc for drinking over the summer months.

Rating: 89/100 - £75.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Duck & Mild game.


SPARKLING WINE

Domaine Taille aux Loups Montlouis Sur Loire Triple Zero
Montlouis (Loire), France, Sparkling White (Cork),12.0% abv
A properly dry sparkling Chenin Blanc – the title refers to the fact that the wine has had no dosage, no chapitalization and no residual sugar – this is an exceptional alternative to Champagne, although it has more than enough personality of its own to make the comparisons redundant. Apple – baked, fresh off the tree, and blossom – is the dominant theme, but it's the driving acidity and clarity that makes it truly refreshing and special. (The price is for a 6-bottle case.)

Rating: 93/100 - £55.00 at Justerini & Brooks
Goes with: Aperitif wine.

You can visit The Wine Gang on www.thewinegang.com.
Harvest Report: Loire 2012
Julian Campbell - 31 October 2012

A few notes from the Loire on the just harvested 2012 vintage from Charles Sydney, Loire resident and specialist....

"The 2012 harvest is pretty well over, with just a few parcelles of chenin hanging out in the Layon, waiting for the weather to go cold, sunny and windy (the forecast is good), in which case we may get some stickies this year after all. Keep praying! Otherwise :

Dry whites - sauvignon & Muscadet : as per, quality is good to fantastic in Muscadet, Touraine, Sancerre & Pouilly Fumé, with the Muscadets promising to be among the best ever. Quantities are way down in Muscadet and Touraine but look fine in Sancerre & Pouilly.

Muscadet's yields are a problem and compounded by the appellation going from 13000 hectares to under 8000 as growers have ripped up or abandoned 40% of the vineyards since the 2008 frosts as bulk prices have been way below production costs. Luckily the serious single estates have survived so far. Hopefully you'll be able to use the quality of the vintage to really put across to the consumer just how attractive this appellation can be.

Reds - cabernet franc : starting 2 weeks later than average (and a month later than last year) was always going to be a gamble, so the rain end September that helped ripen the sauvignons were less of a blessing here, especially as the last couple of weeks have seen about 5 inches of rain. That said, there's been hardly any rot until this week (picking is now effectively over) so although there's obviously been some concentration lost as growers waited for ripeness, this should be a pretty and easy-drinking vintage for the cab francs.

Reds - pinots : Our guys in Sancerre and over in St Pourçain are pretty ecstatic about quality, with lovely ripeness - and the concentration that comes with low yields. 

Chenin Blanc - Vouvray, Montlouis & the Anjou: First things first : there won't be any great moelleux this year - but growers have stocks of the truly great 2010 and 2011 vintages, so that's not a problem.

For dry and off-dry chenins, things are looking surprisingly good, though again, yields are down. In Vouvray and Montlouis the juice is tasting fresh, clean and nicely aromatic. Less concentration than 2009 and 2010 especially, but this should make for a pretty, consumer-friendly vintage - and growers like Jacky Blot, who really did a serious 'tri' at harvest should make some super 'secs'..

Meanwhile, the hand-picked chenins of the Anjou are promising to be really lovely, with some real ripeness and concentration.

The proof of the pudding is of course in the eating, and we're about to start tasting with our growers all along the Loire. We expect to send you a 'real' vintage report early in the New Year.

I've attached some photos taken over the last 2 weeks of the harvest....

Enjoy!

Charles

Loire 2011 - So much quality, so much value...
Julian Campbell - 06 July 2012

Sunday June 24th 2012. 11.30pm. Giles’ flight is delayed so I'm alone in slightly dog eared French 'Pub' watching England predictably lose to Italy on penalties. And I don't even particularly enjoy football. 

This is not, it would seem, the most auspicious start to a buying trip to the Loire. But fortunately, for me and our Loire offer, my lot improved straight off the bat at our very first tasting the next morning.

The mighty Loire, France's longest river, rises in the Cévennes and travels over 1000km heading first north and then west before reaching the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic at St Nazaire. It would make a very fine bike ride. As it turns north-west and then west it plays host to one of the most diverse and perhaps underappreciated of France's great "wine regions". From the Marl and Kimmeridgean clay soils of Sancerre and the flinty, Silex strewn slopes of Pouilly Fumé via the Cabernet Franc friendly regions of Chinon, Bourgeuil and Saumur Champigny through dry, sweet and sparkling Chenin Blanc in Vouvray, Montlouis Anjou and Savennieres, right the way back to Sauvignon in Touraine and finally the Oyster partnering Muscadet towards its mouth. There is much to get excited about and many stellar domaines making world class wines at eminently affordable prices.

The 2011 vintage was, across the Loire, a vintage where careful vineyard management was vital. Growers up and down the region reported early flowering, prodigious fruit set and the danger of allowing yields to creep up to levels that would have prevented ripening. As elsewhere in France, the growing season was back to front; Summer came in Spring and Spring in Summer, with rainy spells through July and August and plenty of warmth. Perfect conditions for vigorous vegetal growth and the danger of potential rot. As a result, crop thinning, leaf plucking, yield management and patience at harvest were all vital to ensure healthy and most importantly ripe grapes were picked. It really is testament to the quality and commitment of our growers that the wines they have produced are of such high quality.

In Sancerre and Pouilly the 2011 Sauvignons may not be as racy as those in 2010, but they are no less intense and just as concentrated. And they have tremendous textural elegance. Giles Crochet and Serge Dagueneau provide the benchmarks in Sancerre and Pouilly respectively with beautifully balanced and rewarding wines of great purity and finesse. Also in Sancerre, Clement and Florent Pinard continue to push the envelope at their father's domaine producing a range of red and white Sancerre that surely must be some of the regions very best. The intensity and laser like precision of their 2011s is just staggering. As we left we found ourselves comparing their top cuvees to those of Domaine Didier Dagueneau. Say. no. more....

Further west more hard work was evident with a superb range of Cabernet Franc at Jacky Blot's tirelessly run Domaine de la Butte. Amongst other things, Jacky uses a primary up lit sorting table in the actual vineyard (and a second in the winery) to help sift out any less than perfect grapes at source. Given the prices these wines command this a serious demonstration of commitment to quality. And it shows. The wines at Charles Joguet, with a new winemaker as of 2010, have become a more supple, approachable and engaging. They are silkier now, more gourmande, and in my eyes at least, all the better for it. Over in Saumur Champigny, Phillipe Vatan at Ch. de Hureau, whose 11th Century caves are cut deep into the limestone "Tuffe", has once again produced a set of eminently pure and honest wines that keep you coming back for more.

Jacky Blot's world class Chenin's from Montlouis and Vouvray have once again produced the goods in 2011, though Jacky himself was the first to admit it was a “complicated” vintage. No fewer than 100 pickers were employed to allow precise and timely picking. The resulting wines are ripe, succulent and concentrated with crystal clear flavours. I am still drinking Remus Plus 2007 at home and it is absolutely breathtaking. These really are stand out value and deserve to be shouted about.

Last and by no means least, as of this year we have a new Chenin Blanc producer to rave about alongside Jacky Blot. Young up and coming star Thibaud Boudignon seems to be friends with all the right people. With just a few hectares in Anjou and Savennieres and a zealous belief in the importance of vine health, Thibaud is producing powerful yet silky wines that we are hugely excited to be adding to our list. His philosophy is hands on in the extreme and his attention to detail extends to ordering a particular barrel from Ramonet in Chassagne year on year. The only downside; he makes such tiny quantities. We’ll be offering the 2010’s shortly so watch this space. Word will be out soon...
Press: Triple Zero, Jacky Blot - Jancis Robinson's Wine of the Week
Julian Campbell - 21 October 2011

We love Jacky Blot's wines. From his superb reds at Domaine de la Butte, to his stunningly good value whites at Domaine de le Taille aux Loups, his wines always seem to hit the spot. 

A  bottle of Remus Plus 2007 drunk just this Tuesday was stunningly good for a wine of that price and seemed, to all those that drank it, to have plenty of gas in the tank for future ageing.

Jancis' wine of the week this week is Jacky's Fizz, Triple Zero. It's a top drop and offers typically great value from this pillar of the Loire. We have stock in the warehouse ready for immediate delivery.

To read the full article on Jancis's site click here
Loire 2010 - Unmissable Value
Giles Burke-Gaffney - 21 June 2011

Arriving at Angers train station on Monday 13th to find that even rental car companies in France take off the obligatory "jour ferrier", despite having accepted my reservation, was an inauspicious start to the trip. 

Well, thankfully it was as bad as my week got, it was smooth roads and 5th gear from then on.

2010 in the Loire, like many of France's wine regions, was not always easy. Poor flowering, a gloomy summer and even some late summer rains tested the mettle of the region's best growers. And this is exactly the point. The days of turning but a glancing eye to all non Sauvignon Loire wines in only the hottest and "easiest" of vintages must be consigned to history. The quality of many 2010 Chenins, Pinots and Cab Francs is excellent. This was obviously helped by the late season drying wind and bright sunshine, together with a very small potential crop owing to coulure, but I feel it is just as much testament to the effort the growers are making in their vines - be it de-budding, de-leafing or overall excellent management of soils and vine canopy.

Chinon and Bourgueil were particular successful appellations, the 2010s from Joguet, Amirault and Domaine de la Butte were outstanding and for their poise and balance I prefer them to 2009. Pinot Noirs from Sancerre chez Pinard look remarkable, it could be their best red vintage yet, great ripeness and intensity without surrendering Pinot delicacy and Loire freshness. They really would not look out of place in a blind tasting of the Cote d'Or's finest.

In Coteaux de Layon it is an exceptional vintage, very concentrated and distinctly zesty. Sweet wines of that quality and price are virtually impossible to find anywhere else. In Vouvray and Montlouis vintage conditions were more challenging, but, again, the startling quality of Jacky Blot's Domaine de la Taille aux Loups wines really show how far the Loire has come in the last 10-15 years. Difficult conditions no longer means difficult wine.

Sancerres and Pouilly Fumes are much more classic than in 2009, no doubt some of the more commercial entities have made lean and aggressive wines but for top growers beautiful, ripe, intense and classically vibrant wines are very much the norm.

Overall its a very impressive but small vintage, with losses being up to 40% on the average. There may be quality in 2010 and a shortage of it, but so far there is no indication of heinous price increases, it should prove the value region of 2010.

Photo: Valerie Dagueneau of Domaine Serge Dagueneau gets stuck into to some ploughing.
Vincent Pinard upgraded to two stars in the Revue de Vin de France
Giles Burke-Gaffney - 14 September 2010

France's historic Revue du Vin de France has been published monthly since 1929 and is cited by Jancis Robinson as "France's only serious wine magazine". 

It carries no little weight amongst the wine making and wine drinking fraternity of France. So it is with delight that we announce the entirely deserved upgrading of the Vincent Pinard domaine to a two star estate. The revue goes on to say amongst other glowing praise, that “progress has been more impressive than in any other cellar in Loire’s central vineyards (Sancerre & Pouilly.)”

Sancerre praise indeed...
Loving the Loire!
Giles Burke-Gaffney - 08 June 2010

A trip to the immensely diverse Loire valley provides a welcome respite to the rife speculation surrounding Bordeaux 2009 prices and England's chances in the World Cup. 

I am here to taste the new red white and rose 2009s and take another look at some of the red 2008s in bottle. My (already very great) admiration for some of the Loire's top growers has just got greater. Not only does their fervent passion see them produce excellent wine in even the most challenging of climactic conditions but they also have a distinct awareness of market realities and the standard of competition that exists in the form of Bordeaux Burgundy and the new world. I can't think of any other region that has so many growers who know so much about the top wines from the Cote d'Or or the Cru Classe of Bordeaux!

Much ground has been covered already: Coteaux de Layon, Saumur Chanmpigny, Bourgueil, Chinon, Montlouis, Vouvray and some Touraine wines in Noyers sur Loire, so it makes picking out highlights difficult. One of them has to be the first day with the large and charismatic Jo Pithon (pictured.) After a rogue bat briefly interrupts our tasting in Jo's cellars I taste one of the Loire's great but unknown whites, 2008 Anjou Coteaux des Treilles, a vineyard with volcanic soils that has a strata of coal several metres below the surface. Seek it out. For me it is one of the Loire's top dry whites along side Taille aux Loups Remus and the Pouilly Fumes from Didier Dagueneau.

Another high point has been the reds, namely the 2009s,(surprise surprise!) but also the 2008s. The 09s are intense ripe and suave, dense but with finesse and what's more there is no talk of raising (already very reasonable) prices by 50 or even 15%! Yannick Amirault, Domaine de la Butte and Joguet have all performed extraordinarily well. Even all of their 2008s were showing quite brilliantly - all ripe fruit and silk - not as massive as the 09s but they are certainly no weaklings and are beautifully refreshing to boot. So 2009 is one of the "greats" for Loire reds like 2005 or 2003. It also looks very promising for the sweeties, too, the best since 1989 according to Huet's Noel Pinguet.

So much pleasure its almost exhausting, and I haven't even got to Vincent Pinard, Lucien Crochet, Francois Cotat and Didier Dagueneau yet, thats for tomorrow.

I'm putting my head on the block here, but what I have seen over the last few days underlines the huge strides the Loire has made in the last 5-10 years. The valley is the source of some of the world's great red and white wines whether from perceived "great" vintages or not, its now becoming foolish to ignore them.
Loire unveils 2009
Giles Burke-Gaffney - 04 February 2010

The Angers wine fair drew to a close yesterday. 

An annual event to showcase the Loire's newly-released vintages, Angers comprises over 500 growers from the length and breadth of this huge river valley and as such provides an excellent stage to show off the region's great progress in quality and its thrilling diversity. The event reinforced how much more there is to the region than Sauvignon Blanc. At a table of over 100 of the Loire's top wines, including prestigious producers of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, it was two Chenin Blancs that absolutely blew away the rest of the field, Remus from Domaine de la Taille aux Loups and the even more intense Anjou Les Treilles from Pithon-Paille. Those looking for the next big thing in the world of fine white wine, look no further than here.

The show's main event, however, was of course 2009, and yes they think its great. In Sancerre and Pouilly Fume they generally consider it to have the ripeness of 2003 with the freshness of 2006 and 2007. Also further west in the Touraine there are some glorious dry and off dry Chenins. The reds are perhaps even more impressive, summer heat and drought conditions were similiar to 1989. Growers talk of an "Outstanding" Cabernet Franc vintage, Jacky Blot of Domaine de la Butte in Bourgueil rates it more highly than 2005. I will be heading to the Loire again towards the end of April to taste more extensively and assess in more depth just how good these really are.