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Montlouis Syndicat to Leave InterLoire?

Although there is no confirmation from the Montlouis syndicat yet, my suspicions are sufficiently raised to post on this latest piece of trouble for InterLoire. I understand that, following the lead of the Bourgueil syndicat which ditched the regional body and went it alone in 2011, the growers’ syndicat in Montlouis are about to do the same.

For those not entirely familiar with the way InterLoire works, it is a regional body which promotes the wines of the Loire, by a variety of means. It’s most significant act is surely the annual Salon des Vins de Loire, held in a gigantic exhibition centre just outside Angers every February. InterLoire’s funding comes from its members, and so naturally they expect something in return for their money. The problem is that some feel they get very little for their (costly) annual subscription, and some want out.

François ChidaineThis latest rumour comes from a variety of sources, including one who confirmed that a meeting of the syndicat had been held this week, on Wednesday. Not being a member themselves they were unable to tell me what the conclusion of the meeting had been, but it seems that a divorce from InterLoire was on the agenda.

The Montlouis syndicat’s current president is none other that François Chidaine (pictured right – and no, I can’t wait to hit the Salon with my Canon 5D next year and take a better photograph), who will be familiar to any fan of the wines of the Loire. Until January this year he sat on the InterLoire executive committee, but he resigned following irreconcilable differences with the body. He disclosed that the InterLoire budget was €8.5m, money which he said was “misused“, with a focus on Touraine primeur which cost €900 000 a particular bugbear. The organisation of the annual Salon des Vins de Loire also came in for criticism, which doesn’t surprise me. The decision to shift the dates of the 2012 Salon by one week, thus distancing it from the ‘off’ events such as Renaissance des Appellations, might have pleased the more petty-minded bean-counters but looking at the bigger picture it did nothing for the promotion of the wines of its members or those who travel to the Loire to ‘do the promoting’ (by which I mean tasting and reporting). Overall, said Chidaine, the organisation is “a big bureaucratic machine and doesn’t deliver value for money“.

Little surprise then that, less than one year later, rumours have surfaced about Montlouis’ impending departure. I contacted Lise Jousset in Montlouis (well actually, I contacted a number of vignerons, but Lise actually responded!) with a simple question; is Montlouis about to leave InterLoire? Her reply was short – the sort you give when you know you shouldn’t say too much – and yet hugely informative. “For information on this subject“, she wrote, “you must contact our president François Chidaine“. Which of course I already had, without any response, but slowly the wheels and cogs turned, and eventually – perhaps having been prodded somewhere – the reply came from François; “The syndicat will make no comment on this matter at this time“. Neither response, tellingly, was “I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about“, and François Chidaine’s answer clearly indicates there will be news to come concerning Montlouis and InterLoire.

As I see it, it’s only a matter of time. The decree nisi is in the post.

Planned and Completed Updates

I thought I should just make a brief post to inform readers as to forthcoming updates, with particular relevance to St Emilion.

Over the last year I have spent a lot of time in Bordeaux, not just for the primeurs but also on subsequent visits during the summer and in October as harvest kicked off. On several of the visits I focused on Sauternes, and built up a database of images for the region. On the back of that, I updated and expanded all my Sauternes profiles, from my eight-page examination of Yquem down to lesser-known châteaux such as the recently profiled Liot.

For the moment that’s it; although I have some notes on Partarrieu and Romer du Hayot to add, I will get around to adding these château profiles as and when I can. Now it is time to move on, and I’ve started with Pessac-Léognan this week, with an update and expansion of my Smith-Haut-Lafitte profile. This is in fact part of a programme of updates and new profiles that will eventually cover as much of Bordeaux in as much detail as is possible, and not just the pricy grand cru classé estates, but also better value châteaux; that’s why I’ve been adding profiles like Bauduc, L’A, La Croix Lartigue, d’Aiguilhe and the like (with more to come).

La Mondotte, upgraded in the 2012 St Emilion classification

And eventually I will get around to St Emilion. At present I’m aware that many of profiles tended towards obsolescence with the St Emilion reclassification having finally been ratified this week, (and some châteaux such as La Mondotte (above) and Valandraud (below) still need to be profiled in the first place). I have been keeping more up to date in recent months, making weekend updates to ensure profiles remain relevant – today’s
Pichon-Lalande update is one such example. Nevertheless, rather than hurriedly insert a reference to the latest reclassification into each pre-existing St Emilion profile, I have decided I will leave them as they are for now, and subject each one to a more thorough update/expansion/rewrite as required once I have done updating Pessac-Léognan. The fact that my database of images includes a huge number of St Emilion personalities and estates is another reason for taking this route; I want to add these to my many profiles. I have, however, extensively updated my guide to the St Emilion classification, and I have also updated the left-hand manu that accompanies every St Emilion profile to reflect the new listing.

Valandraud, upgraded in the 2012 St Emilion classification

As for the Loire, I will continue to add some updates based on my tastings earlier this year, and will probably begin some more significant overhauls of the more detailed profiles early next year, when I have had a chance to visit the region once again.

Sylvie Cazes: End of a Very Short Era

During this year’s en primeur tastings I visited Pichon-Lalande, and there met Sylvie Cazes. As we tasted the latest vintage (or at least a barrel-sample approximation of it) I listened to Sylvie’s view of the recent history of Pichon, which she divided into three eras.

According to Sylvie, the first of the three Pichon-Lalande eras was under the direction of May-Eliane Lencquesaing, who took control of the estate in a very firm manner in 1978. Her first act was to buy out four of the other associates, thus acquiring 84% of the stock in the property, and so it was clear who was in charge. She then employed her nephew Gildas d’Ollone to manage the estate, as well as Thomas Dô Chi Nam to make the wine. The quality was tip-top, and when you hear people recount their experiences of great bottles of Pichon-Lalande that they have drunk, it is generally this era that they are referring to.

Pichon-Lalande

Then, she says, came the second era, a decline, as May-Eliane Lencquesaing lost interest in the estate and it was put up sale; as she courted with potential buyers the property appeared to languish, and in such circumstances quality can often slip, perhaps unnoticed. This was certainly Sylvie’s implication; the wines of this era were not so good.

Era three, of course, is the time of Roederer, who acquired the property in 2007. And it was all-change at Pichon-Lalande; Thomas Dô Chi Nam had already left for Margaux, and Gildas d’Ollone, who essentially ran the property under May-Eliane’s watchful gaze was soon put out to pasture, and in early 2011 Sylvie Cazes was drafted in to do the job, even though she already had significant responsibilities elsewhere, including on the Lynch-Bages board of directors, as president of the Union des Grands Crus, as well as being active in local politics. And then there was the new Bordeaux Centre of Wine Culture as well, no small task.

Which may explain why, yesterday, while I was engrossed in the Bordeaux 2008 vintage (more on that at a later date) at the Institute of Masters of Wine, it was announced that Sylvie was stepping down from her role at Pichon-Lalande. And that means she will be stepping down from the presidency of the UGC as well. The official line is that she has other projects to concentrate on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a reference to the Cultural Centre, on which I posted back in February.

It does make for a rather short ‘era’ though, doesn’t it? Having joined the Pichon team in February 2011, and with her departure scheduled for December 2012, that’s a little less than two years. The post at present remains unfilled from January 2013; prospective applicants might want to have a word with Sylvie first, to get the low-down on what working for the Rouzaud family in Bordeaux may entail.