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From Moueix to Cheval Blanc

Friday was Pomerol day, and almost the day I had my first no-show. Almost.

When I rose, before dawn, I could see fog outside lingering heavily around the streetlamps. The weather this week has been really unusual, freezing cold in the morning, but warming up each afternoon. On Thursday, the first day of December, I had to scrape ice off the heavily chipped windscreen of my hire car (taking car not to press too hard, in case the whole thing caved in), and yet by early afternoon, standing at the front of Château Pavie, south-facing, with the pale stone facade just behind me, it was unbearably warm. In December!

The fog eventually cleared, but a frost remained. Yesterday was another ice-scraping day. “We are glad to see the frost”, Omri Ram of Château Lafleur later told me. A cold winter is good for the vines, although they could perhaps benefit from some rain as well, to top up the water table left low after the 2015 drought. My windscreen duly cleared, I headed down to the Moueix offices in Libourne, where I was greeted by both Christian and Edouard Moueix, two stalwarts. After a tasting here I headed out to Château L’Église-Clinet, where to my disappointment I found the cellars and maison all locked up, the shutters closed. My pressing of the doorbell went unanswered, so there was nothing to do but wait and see if Denis turned up. I passed the time wandering around the cemetery next-door. Am I the only one who finds cemeteries vaguely fascinating?

From Moueix to Cheval Blanc

As I wandered among the gravestones and mausoleums, I was coming to the conclusion that Denis was a ‘no show’ when I heard a door slam nearby, and immediately went to investigate. Denis had arrived (hurrah!), and after discussing the rights and wrongs of tasting young wines for twenty minutes I sat down to taste the Durantou portfolio in 2014. Thereafter I headed out to Vieux Château Certan for a meeting with Guillaume Thienpont, and Alexandre popped in to say hello as well. After tasting here, I headed out to Château Le Gay. It is always a pleasure to come to this pretty château, my eyes often as pleased here as my palate is by its wines.

Afterwards I had a quick lunch break, followed by a visit to Château Nenin, an estate on the up, with some serious changes underway, in the vineyard, in the château and cellars, and most importantly in the wine too. Afterwards, I headed out to Château Lafleur, something of a contrast. With a fairly relaxed schedule, I really enjoyed this tasting, delving into 2014 here and at Château Grand Village, looking at both red and white wines. Afterwards I headed out to Château Figeac, for their two 2014s, tasted with Frédéric Faye (pictured above), and then it was on to Château Cheval Blanc, to look at their 2014s. Meeting up as agreed with Nicolas Corporandy, the chef de culture, I tasted the grand vin, the second wine and the new addition to the portfolio in 2014, Le Petit Cheval Blanc. This latter wine is the first commercialised result of a long project, on which I will write more at a later date.

Once finished, the sun had long set, and it was very dark. Despite this I decided to make an impromptu inspection of the new Cheval Blanc white vines. Before long I had my hire car bumping up and down a rough track through the middle of a vineyard. This is, I should point out, nothing new. It was too dark for photographs though, so although I gained some understanding of exactly where the new white vines sit, I don’t have the evidence to support it. Oh well – I shall just have to come back next year.

That’s it for this short trip to Bordeaux. Right now I an en route for Edinburgh, via Mérignac. Normal Winedoctor service will be resumed as soon as possible.

From La Dauphine to Laroque

Thursday was a great day, for various reasons. First, I started the day with a pain au chocolat, although I think when in Bordeaux I am supposed to refer to it as a chocolatine. In the world of pastry-based breakfasts, the pain au chocolat is a strong contender for the crown, with only the pain au raisin able to give it a run for its money. Secondly, in a rare moment of calm I had half an hour to myself between visits during the afternoon. Rather than running around taking photographs or doing some other Winedoctor-related activity, I kicked back with a coffee, made by Jonathan Maltus. As Jancis Robinson has never invited me round for a drink, I can honestly say this was the first time anyone with an OBE ever made me a drink.

Thirdly there were, of course, some wines to be tasted. The 2014 vintage is definitely more homogenous on the right bank than the left, with good quality, and so there were plenty of interesting wines to taste, but before I got to that vintage I kicked off with a tasting of the 2016 vintage from vat at Château La Dauphine, yet another promising encounter with this most recent vintage. Then it was on to Château Angélus, where I tasted a range of wines made by Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, and Hubert himself popped in to say hello as I was tasting. From Angélus it was on to Château Pavie-Macquin where I tasted with Cyril Thienpont (pictured below) and David Suire. This tasting was a little more lengthy than I was expecting (note to self – schedule longer here in future!) because the Thienponts and David make a handsome range of wines, and so I was a little late arriving for my tasting at Château La Dominique.

From La Dauphine to Laroque

I had scheduled a longer visit at Château La Dominique, knowing a taste of the 2016 vintage would also be on offer, so after tasting the Fayat family’s wines from 2014 we headed into the chai for some 2016 Merlots and a lone 2016 Cabernet Franc. These were yet more samples which suggest this is a vintage we should pay attention to when it comes to the primeurs. The usual refrain with 2014, and again sometimes with 2015, was “it’s the best since 2010″. I think it quite likely 2016 will take that crown, but let us see what they are like at the primeurs. I suspect there will be some really interesting wines being poured next April, wines which might be worth you opening your wallets (I would open mine, but all I ever seem to find inside it are till receipts and moths).

After La Dominique I hot-footed it over to Château Pavie, and I arrived only ten(-ish) minutes late. I then spent another ten(-ish) minutes trying to figure out how to get in, as all the doors were locked and the château seemed deserted. As I tried every door possible my mobile rang – “This is Château Pavie, where are you?” ….. “I’m outside, let me in” I replied. One minute later a door swung open and I was in. Fifteen minutes later I was en route for Château Teyssier, and a tasting (and a very welcome coffee) with Jonathan Maltus.

The day was originally set to finish at Château Tertre-Roteboeuf, not by accident, but by design, as I learnt a long time ago to always schedule a visit with François Mitjavile at the end of the day. François is often inundated with visitors, and he can thus spend a long time attending to everybody’s needs. Today, however, I agreed to meet David Suire at Château Laroque. So after Tertre-Roteboeuf I headed up to Laroque, and I was only five minutes late, and I was quite pleased with this. And it was a good tasting on which to end the day; Laroque isn’t a famous name, but David Suire is already doing good things here.

Today (Friday) it is Pomerol, so some Moueix wines first, Vieux Château Certan (this feels like a privilege – I don’t think I have visited outside the primeurs before), Château Le Gay, Château L’Église-Clinet, Château Figeac and Château Cheval Blanc (what’s that? – you don’t think those two belong in Pomerol?). Hopefully the thick fog outside my bedroom window this morning will clear soon.

From Calon to Fronsac

Wednesday started off well, and just seemed to get better as the day went on, at least as far as the wines were concerned. I started at Château Calon-Ségur, tasting the 2014s, followed by a quick tour of the cellars. When I visited in October last year these were under construction. And now, more than a year on……they are still under construction. A lot of progress has been made though, and I had a look at the 2015s and 2016s in the expansive new barrel cellar. Leaving too soon, I then headed down to Château Montrose for a tasting of their 2014s, followed by another hop, skip and jump south again to Château Lafite-Rothschild for theirs. That doesn’t sound like much, but those three visits easily took up most of the morning.

I arrived at Château Cos d’Estournel at 11am, for a longer and more detailed visit. After meeting up with Aymeric de Gironde and Dominique Arangoïts we piled into Aymeric’s chariot for a whirlwind tour of the Cos d’Estournel vines, from the east-facing parcel of mostly gravel and clay, to the southwest-facing parcel which runs down towards the drainage channel before you get into Pauillac, and then onto the plateau, altogether the three major sections of the vineyard. It was fascinating to learn how Aymeric and Dominique have added a new layer of complexity to their work following a recent study of soil resistivity. If you are passing by Cos d’Estournel in the future and you wonder why there are vines and posts daubed with fluorescent orange paint dotted throughout the vineyard, these are the indicators of where the soil changes from one type to another. I guess after building one of the Médoc’s most well-equipped cuveries back in 2008, which still makes many proprietors green with envy when they see it, the only way to go is to seek out more precision in the vineyard.

From Calon to Fronsac
 
I tasted some 2016s from vat at Château Cos d’Estournel, and it seems to me this is going to be a very interesting vintage to taste next year. I think it is too early to throw out hyperbolic statements on the quality (is it ever the right time for hyperbole?), but the handful of wines (and it is just a handful) I have tasted on the left bank are filled with promise. It seems like a much more homogenous vintage so far, much more so than 2015, 2014 and 2012, all of which had hot spots and cold spots when it came to quality. After the tasting, I accepted an invitation to have a quick lunch at Cos d’Estournel, and enjoyed four older vintages with Aymeric and Dominique. That is perhaps a story for another time.

The afternoon was something of a dash. First up, five wines from the 2014 vintage at Château Mouton-Rothschild, followed by just one wine at Château Pontet-Canet. Then I headed down to Château Léoville-Las-Cases for a tasting with the charming Bruno Rolland, and I was impressed by the wines. I can’t help but comment on the building works going on here, which seem extensive; the team have been relegated to a temporary office in a little house overlooking one of the vineyards, so I saw parts of the estate I don’t think I have ever set foot in before. Finally, I finished with a quick dash down to Château Palmer, to taste this estate’s 2014, their first 100% biodynamic wine.

My tastings were over, but my day wasn’t. For a special treat I finished up crawling along in heavy traffic for something close to eternity, half of Bordeaux seemingly gridlocked thanks to the Vinitech fair (a chance to check out all the latest harvesting machines, tractors and so on) at the Parc des Expositions. I ended up heading west to get onto the Rocade, before heading east towards Libourne, and managed to lose only an hour of my life sitting in le bouchon. Once in Fronsac I spent the entire evening trying to get my wifi working (and failing). Eventually I gave up and went to bed instead (hence this late post).

Thursday’s timetable focuses on St Emilion. First stop, Château Angélus.

From Merignac to Yquem

I landed in Bordeaux right on time yesterday morning. It was quite a surreal flight; I flew with Ryanair, the most budget of all budget airlines. There is no in-flight service unless you pay, and the quality of the offerings might just be open to culinary criticism (although I admit to not splashing out to explore this first hand), so it is de rigueur to take something on board yourself. It is only two hours from Edinburgh to Bordeaux though, so after a 6am coffee and pain au raisin at the airport I took a bottle of water with me. The old (by which I guess I mean older than me) couple sitting next to me, however, each brought a full lunchbox, with ham and coleslaw sandwiches, crusts removed, and two roasted chicken legs each, the knuckle ends wrapped in foil so they could eat them without getting greasy fingers. All it needed was Hugh Johnson to pop up, wearing striped blazer and boater, clutching a chilled bottle of Clairette de Die, and the picnic would have been complete.

I don’t mean to make it sound as though I was on a mission yesterday but I was off the plane, through border security and through baggage collection (without stopping – I almost always do carry-on only) and en route to the location des voitures and I coulld see there were still passengers ambling down the steps from the aircraft. I picked up my hire car, a pristine VW Polo no doubt pumping out twice the legal emissions limt, without any problem. Less than fifteen minutes later I was at Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion which, to put it bluntly, has been turned on its head in recent years. There has been huge investment by the new owner, Patrice Pichet, including new cellars, built in a river. Yes, you read that correctly. The approach to viticulture and winemaking has also changed dramatically, with micro-vats, foudres and terracotta amphorae (pictured below) being just some of the innovations.

From Mérignac to Yquem

I spent a couple of hours at Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, before a very short drive to Château La Mission Haut-Brion, just eight minutes away. I gained entry through a gate I didn’t even know existed, although it obviously knew me, as it magically swung open as I approached. After a few minutes of hanging around (I was early – it’s a new bad habit I seem to have fallen into) I was in and checking out the 2014 vintage. From here on the afternoon was all about getting to grips with the 2014s, the most recently bottled vintage, and I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather kick off than here.

It was a much briefer visit to Château Haut-Brion, a mere hour in fact, after which I headed south to Château Brown, where I met Jean-Christophe Mau, to taste the 2014 Château Brown and the 2014 Château Preuillac, the Médoc estate Jean-Christophe owned until selling up after the 2014 vintage. This was also a good opportunity to hear a little more about the 2016 vintage, because if there is one person in Bordeaux you can trust to give you an honest and trustworthy opinion, rather than following the hyperbole of the crowd, then it is Jean-Christophe. I really think he is one of the great guys of Bordeaux. It was another short visit though, as after 30 minutes I had to head further south to Château d’Yquem, to meet up with technical director Sandrine Garbay for a taste of her two 2014s, the dry ‘Y’ and of course the grand vin.

After four visits I headed north to bed down for the night in the northern Médoc, ready for today’s visits, which start in St Estèphe and which will end in Margaux. On the A62 the windscreen of my hire car took a hit from a flying stone which I never saw (I only heard it – what a fright that gave me) but it must have been the size of a brick, judging by the three-pointed stellate chip in the glass. So my Polo is no longer pristine. This might be a more expensive tasting trip than I had hoped for.

Five Days of Fourteens

There will be a change of pace on Winedoctor during the next few days, as I am off to Bordeaux to taste more of the 2014 vintage. I tasted quite a few in London with the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux a few weeks ago (although it already feels like it was several months in the past – it has been a busy month). The UGC tasting included many great names, as always, but of course there are any number of interesting châteaux that do not participate, from left-bank first growths (and their neighbours who see themselves in the same light) as well as any number of worthwhile estates on the right bank, especially in Pomerol. So now it is time to top up my tasting experience of this vintage at these châteaux before I publish my in-bottle report, hopefully early in 2017.

Five Days of Fourteens

I have five days of visits lined up; that isn’t as much time as it sounds, and so they will be five busy days of mainly quick in-and-out visits purely to taste the 2014 vintage, and of course I will be sure to ask how the 2016s are looking at the moment (although I think I can predict the answers already). I do have a few longer visits lined up though, with the option to taste a broader range of vintages, so these should be interesting. I also have a free hour (and I do mean just an hour, no more) on Friday afternoon, so if anyone in or near Pomerol would like me to pop in and won’t be offended that I have only 60 minutes to spare do get in touch!

The upshot of all this is that I won’t be making behind-paywall updates for the remainder of the week, as I have learnt through experience during the primeurs that with long days of driving, tasting and scribbling (this isn’t a press trip in which I get chauffered around, wined and dined) that writing multi-page profiles and tasting reports before I start out each day just isn’t feasible. I will hopefully update the Winedr blog each day though. Provided my flight departs on time (glancing at the departure board in Edinburgh airport as I write this, no worries so far) I should be calling in later on Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Château La Mission Haut-Brion (pictured above), Château Brown and Château d’Yquem. It’s not a bad line-up for day one.

The Return of The New

There are few activities more exciting than making new discoveries, whether it be in wine or in countless other fields. It is something I get a particular kick out of, and in previous years I have highlighted some of these new additions to the site with my New in the Loire posts.

This year is to be no different, and I have a bunch of new Loire valley profiles coming up, of new domaines, of young up-and-coming vignerons, or sometimes even domaines which, despite being long-established, I simply haven’t visited before. Here’s what has just been published, and what I have in the pipeline…..

Just published:

Domaine des Haut Baigneux: an old domaine expanded and revitalised by two friends who are turning out great-value wines from under-the-radar appellations.

La Source du Ruault: another old domaine, here reanimated by the next generation, Jean-Noël Millon (pictured below), who is turning out interesting Saumur-Champigny.

Jean-Noël Millon

And some others in the pipeline:

Laurent Herlin: A young guy who left behind the world of SIM card manufacturing to take up winemaking in Bourgueil.

Domaine Jaulin Plaisantin: A domaine in Chinon to watch, born from an association between Yves Plaisantin, recently returned from the USA, and Sébastien Jaulin, old-school viticulteur.

Domaine Grosbois: Another name to watch in Chinon, where Nicolas Grosbois is turning around the family domaine.

Clos des Quarterons: Yet another name to watch in Bourgueil – I check out the wines of Thierry Amirault.

Verdier-Logel: A superb source of Gamay from the upper reaches of the Loire.

And there’s more to come. Stay tuned

Robert Parker Had It Right

Robert Parker’s reputation relied almost exclusively on three regions. There was Bordeaux, there was the Rhône Valley there was the Napa Valley. His ability to call wines as he saw them, to consistently remain true to his palate, and to enthuse about those wines he liked, from these three regions at least, resulted in a loyal band of readers and subscribers who knew they could follow his recommendations.

I know Robert Parker wrote extensively on other regions, but I am not sure how much weight these reviews carried (although I would wager it was probably more than you might think). And I know things didn’t go well in Burgundy. But that is all pretty much irrelevant. You didn’t take out a subscription for the Wine Advocate to read about the latest releases from Georgia, from the upper reaches of the Mosel, or from Burgundy or the Loire. It was when he wrote on his trio of ‘expert regions’ that you placed your trust in him. He had decades of expertise. He had a track record. And if you didn’t agree with his opinion on certain styles, he was consistent enough to still be of use as a critic. You knew where he was coming from. You knew what to buy or, alternatively, what to avoid.

I think paying consistent attention to a small number of regions, for many years, is valuable experience for a critic. You get to know which winemakers to watch, who is making waves, who has suddenly improved, whose wines are going downhill, and you get to review your assessments – and learn from your mistakes – by returning to the wines as they age. I wonder how newcomer critics parachuted into unfamiliar regions – by the journal or magazine they write for, perhaps – cope with this. When you encounter unfamilar wines, from unfamiliar styles, how do you rate them? Where is the context?

The risk is that you might rate wines too high, entranced by unfamilar flavours and different textures and structures. Or perhaps too low, being unwittingly mean as you just didn’t get the style. And there is a risk that, not tasting blind, you subconsciously award high scores to famous labels. After all, they’re wines from domaines you’ve heard of, so these must be the benchmarks, right? How easy it is, I think, to get that wrong.

Robert Parker definitely had it right. To be credible, critics should write about what they know (and love).

Loire Valley 2016: Frost Solutions

The 2016 vintage has been a very difficult one in many regions of France, and although I suppose it is inevitable that stories about the decimation of Chablis, or six famous growers combining their few bunches of grapes to make one cuvée of Montrachet (link in French), my first thought on encountering such stories is to think of all the Loire vignerons, huge numbers of whom are also facing devastated yields this year.

As I have already described in Loire Valley 2016: The Frost, many domaines are predicting a loss between 50% and 70%. During my most recent trip to the Loire I was able to add a few more data points (no good numbers I am afraid). I also learnt a little about how a couple of vignerons are planning to balance the books after more than half their crop disappeared.

Most of my visits were in Chinon, but I did call in on Philippe Boucard, of Lamé Delisle Boucard in Bourgueil. He didn’t give any predicted figures, but it was clear on the lower vineyards below the domaine they have lost almost everything. The higher vines, up the limestone slope behind the domaine were better protected. In Chinon, Olga Raffault told me she has lost 50%, although this is just an estimate and most of her peers provide higher figures.

Loire 2016

Yves Plaisantin (pictured above), of Domaine Jaulin-Plaisantin, lost between 60% and 70%, sadly this is a more typical figure. As usual it was the lower-lying vineyards they have around Briançon which were hardest hit, those up on the slopes around the domaine were protected by their position. Yves and his business partner Sébastien Jaulin have come up with one interesting solution; they have managed to source Cabernet Franc from Bordeaux (if I recall correctly, I think he said 3 hectares) which he was readying the cellars for when I visited last week. The vats, hoses and other equipment were all being subjected to a deep clean. The fruit was picked this week, driven up to the cellars in Chinon in a refrigerated truck and the fruit will now be safely fermenting in vat. Yves is a talented vigneron with a lot of experience under his belt, and I am sure the results will be worth the effort.

I also called in at Domaine Grosbois, purportedly to see Nicolas Grosbois, although I knew – having spoken to Nicolas just a couple of days beforehand – that he wouldn’t be there to meet me. I checked things out here, both vineyard and cellars, with his talented and charming oenologist and assistant Delphine. Nicolas experienced true devastation in the vines this year, as he is predicting a 90% loss. Indeed, I struggled to find many bunches on his vines (this is true of many parcels though, especially when I hunted around on the sandier sections of the Chinon vineyard later in the day between appointments). In order to keep things ticking over Nicolas has been busy in the south of France, where he has negotiated the purchase of some grapes. He was there overseeing the vinifications, hence his absence when I called.

I am looking forward to tasting both these cuvées next year. More than that, I am already hoping that 2017 brings better luck for all. The 2016 really has been a frosty, mildewy, rainy, rotty endurance test for so many of the Loire’s good people.

Domaine de la Noblaie 2016, Before the Harvest

Earier this week I spent a few days in the Loire Valley, making a few visits in Chinon and Bourgueil, and checking out the state of the vineyards prior to harvest. Most will start picking the Cabernet Franc soon, probably the second week of October.

It is going to be a very short vintage after the disastrous frost in April. But it is far from non-existent.

Domaine de la Noblaie 2016, Before the Harvest

I took a walk around the vines of Jerôme Billard at Domaine de la Noblaie. Jérôme is predicting a 20% loss, and some of his vines (like the one pictured above) are carrying a good crop. The fruit looks healthy and although I found one or two berries with really convincing flavour (usually in exposed bunches on the ends of rows) Jérôme says they need more time to ripen fully. The main problem I see in the bunches are numerous small, unripe berries which will need to be selected out. Jérôme picks by hand, so this will be time consuming but achievable.

Domaine de la Noblaie 2016, Before the Harvest

Pictured above, more healthy Cabernet Franc in the lower sections of the vineyard (still well above the alluvial plain though, where the frost hit hardest).

Domaine de la Noblaie 2016, Before the Harvest

Pictured above, some more healthy Cabernet Franc, this time on an even higher section of the vineyard, looking at vines that provide fruit for the Chiens Chiens cuvée.

Domaine de la Noblaie 2016, Before the Harvest

The main task ongoing in the vineyard during my visit was removing the grapillons, like the one pictured above. These small secondary bunches sit high in the canopy, maybe a metre above the ripening bunches pictured above, and are derived from the vine’s second flowering. In terms of ripening they are clearly lagging behind, the berries still bright green, but in a couple of weeks when harvest comes they may well have changed colour. The best course of action – before all the saisonniers arrive to pick the fruit – is to pluck them off now.

Domaine de la Noblaie 2016, Before the Harvest

The weather throughout July and August has been very dry, and yet despite that the vines still looked verdant and green. Jérôme, who manages the entire vineyard using organic methods and is fully certified, sprayed the canopy several times with an infusion of comfrey during the drought, which he thinks helped protect the vines.

Domaine de la Noblaie 2016, Before the Harvest

This final image shows an unhappy vine, but it was nothing to do with the frost, or the drought; damage to the trunk when cutting the grass did this.

There is no denying this is a difficult vintage, but despite the very short vintage there is still the potential for some verygood quality here.

Loire Valley 2016: The Frost

Earlier this year the vignerons of the Loire Valley experienced one of the worst frosts for decades, probably the most destructive since the catastrophic frost of 1991 in fact. In this terrible experience they are not alone of course, as many other regions have had a trying time this year; Chablis and other parts of Burgundy were also particularly hard-hit.

Over the coming month or two, as vignerons complete their harvest work, we will finally see the true and exact extent of the damage. Up until now the damage assessments have been nothing more than estimates, but once the vats are full (half-full is more likely I am afraid) the vignerons will know their final yields for the vintage, and we can see how these stand compared with the norm.

I will be out in the Loire Valley next week, only for a couple of days sadly, but I may be able to see a little harvesting, and perhaps pick up a few vibes. In the meantime though, here are a few data points from Bourgueil, Chinon, Vouvray and Montlouis, gleaned from some visits I made a couple of months ago.

Loire Frost 2016

In all parts it seemed as though there was considerable variation, with some losing a vast proportion of their crop, others losing a ‘mere’ 20%. Jérôme Billard (pictured above) of Domaine de la Noblaie was one of the lucky ones (if you can call any of this ‘lucky’).

“I knew 2016 was going to be difficult, as we had such a mild winter. It was so mild that our almond tree, which sits in the courtyard of the house, flowered on December 26th. The frost came at a tricky time as we have had a string of short vintages, the four preceding vintages being variable in quality but all were 30-40% smaller in terms of volume than what we were hoping for”.

The frost only affected the lower sections of Jérôme’s vineyards; above the tree line which separates the upper slopes from the vines on the plain there was no damage. Total loss across the entire domaine was estimated at between 10% and 20%. The problem in Jérôme’s eyes was not solely the frost though, as subsequently he had mildew on leaves and berries, and also a touch of black rot. He deleafed (and planned to green harvest too – this will have been done long ago now), and when I visited in July the vines were looking in rude health.

Loire Frost 2016

Elsewhere in the region his peers were not always so fortunate. On the other side of the Vienne, Matthieu Baudry lost 50% in total. Mirroring Jérôme’s experience the worst-hit vineyards were those on the terraces, and any lower flatter land (so Les Granges and Les Grézeaux then), where the loss was estimated at 70%. The damage was less significant on the slopes. Anne-Charlotte Genet of Charles Joguet gave a similar report, estimating loss of 60% of the crop. Up the road just past Bourgueil Benoit Amirault (pictured above), the son of Yannick Amirault, was singing from the same hymn sheet.

“We had no frost on Le Grand Clos, which is positioned well up the slope. But we had lots of damage secondary to the frost elsewhere. The vines worst hit by the frost were those on the terrace, below the road. Overall we lost about two-thirds of the crop to the frost”.

Moving upstream to Vouvray and Montlouis, François Chidaine (the focus of my tasting report today) lost 70% of the crop in Montlouis, 50% in Vouvray and 80% on his Touraine vineyards. Whichever way you look at it, that’s another massive blow for François. Similarly, Jacky Blot reported losing about 70%. Vincent Carême, meanwhile, considers himself fortunate to have lost perhaps 20%, no more than that. His estimate may perhaps be a little more accurate than others because he has frost insurance (I am not sure about the others – I confess I didn’t think to ask) which means he has undergone a vineyard inspection by an assessor. Vincent also told me that François Pinon’s vineyards were very badly hit, which would be disastrous. If I see François anytime soon, I will check this out for myself.

Now, as spectators, all we can do is wait to see how the harvest goes. If I learn anything new during my visit I will post it here.