Home > Winedr Blog

Winedoctor 2018 Disclosures

Well, a new year is upon us and it is time to look back upon the heaps of illicit benefits I have received as a result of completing yet another year as owner, author, editor, technical director, secretary, accounts manager and tea boy at Winedoctor Towers.

Before going any further, an important point I must first address. Those readers who were paying attention about twelve months ago will have noticed that I did not publish a disclosures statement for 2017. My excuse is that I was extraordinarily busy, my year having been complicated by the purchase of a house (completion date, December 31st 2016) just to the south of Chinon. Twelve months later I think I was still in a state of shock, and it was only midway through 2018 that I realised I had made this grave omission. Well, that’s my story and I am sticking to it. Any rumours you might have heard suggesting I could not bring myself to write about all the bungs I received during 2017, including pay-offs from the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, InterLoire, the Saudi government and Alice Feiring are categorically untrue.

Moulin Touchais, tasted at Vinovision, February 2018

At this point I don’t think it would be useful to revisit 2017, so I will focus on 2018. I will of course respond to any questions regarding 2017 you send my way, provided I am permitted time to check my responses with Prince Mohammed and Alice first.

So here goes then with my support report (I can’t believe I haven’t paired those two words together in a sentence before) for 2018:

Salon des Vins de Loire: As in previous years, no formal funding was offered or accepted, InterLoire having decided long ago that as the wines of Savennières and Chinon are now more popular and selling for higher prices than Burgundy and Bordeaux, and with this annual salon regularly swamped with visiting wine hacks, they no longer need to offer any support. <wakes up from dream> I do recall accepting a dinner invitation from Latitude Loire though, this being a collaborative group including Luneau-Papin, Clos des Quarterons, Nicolas Grosbois, Domaine Pellé and Le Rocher des Violettes. The group get together and hold a competition to see who can open the greatest number of magnums, and obviously I go purely for journalistic reasons. All other expenses on this trip I met myself (see below).

Vinovision: I headed to Paris for Vinovision (where I tasted the Moulin Touchais pictured above), accepting no financial support. Putting my trust in Chris Hardy, Loire courtier extraordinaire, to locate a bar for some evening R&R, I found myself buying beer at €20 per pint. I soon regretted not being able to submit an expenses invoice to Antonio Galloni or Jancis Robinson.

Bordeaux primeurs: I headed out to Bordeaux for eight days, or nearly three weeks if adhering to the definition of the ‘working week’ used by most Bordeaux journalists. My trip started with a hectic run through Stansted airport as I left myself 75 minutes to make a connection, only for my first flight to be delayed by 45 minutes. In the half hour remaining I needed to exit the airport, and go through security clearance once again. Wisely I bought a pass for the express lane, but the queue there was longer than in standard security, somewhat defeating the aim. Thankfully my second flight was with Ryanair, so naturally it was delayed, so I made it on time. The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful (which makes a change). I accepted accomodation with Hubert de Boüard de Laforest (three nights, including one dinner with disclosure statement), Château La Lagune (two nights, uncatered) and Château La Dauphine (three nights, uncatered). The last of these tested my fitness as on the final night I was locked out and had to clamber over a wall to gain entry. Other expenses I met myself (see below).

Loire Valley & Bordeaux, May: Keen to catch up on my Bordeaux vintage reports I headed back to Bordeaux in May to retaste the 2015 vintage (some of the wines which came under my gaze are pictured below). I accepted accommodation in Château La Dauphine (two nights, self-catered) mainly to see if they would lock me out again. They didn’t. I was almost disappointed. At the end of an afternoon at Château Lafleur to learn about their approach to Cabernet Franc I acccepted an invitation to have a tasting and dinner with the Guinaudeau family (disclosure statement included) at Château Grand Village. Other expenses, including all those relating to the two following weeks which I spent in the Loire Valley, I covered myself (see below).

Loire Valley, October: A rather gentle harvest trip with just a handful of visits. I accepted no support (although to be frank nobody was offering any, and I do have a house there). I thus covered all expenses myself (see below).

Loire Valley and Bordeaux, December: I arranged a complicated trip starting in Vouvray and Chinon, with four days in Bordeaux retasting the 2016 vintage the meat in the sandwich, finishing up with a day in Muscadet. Frankly I am still amazed that it all went to plan, and not even the gilets jaunes and their blockade of petrol stations could sway me from my schedule; it’s great to know that when the tank is nearly empty, you can always top up with Sauvignon Blanc. I accepted accommodation in Château Clément-Pichon, (one night, uncatered) and Château La Dauphine (one night, uncatered). I also had lunch with Vincent and Tania Carême. All other expenses I met myself (see below).

Gifts received: I received a magnum of a recent vintage from Château Montrose. I don’t believe I am alone in receiving such a fine gift, the difference is that I have actually told you I received it. In addition, Tania Carême gave me a bottling of 2015 Ancestrale at the end of the Salon des Vins de Loire, which turned out to be a lifesaver (see below). I don’t recall receiving any other gifts.

Samples received: A small number of wine samples were received, where the wines have been written up this has been declared. Most wines written up on Winedoctor are encountered at open tastings, or purchased.

This concludes the ‘support received’ section of my 2018 disclosures report. I try to keep support received to a minimum, but more important is to be transparent about exactly what support has been received, and the details presented above meet that requirement. In addition, where new articles have been published after support was received, this has been disclosed.

Bordeaux 2015, revisited May 2018

If you are still reading, while it is possible you have merely run out of more interesting free content to browse, perhaps you are also interested in the second part of my disclosures statement, looking at the Winedoctor expenses which were footed, through their monthly/annual payments, by Winedoctor subscribers.

Salon des Vins de Loire: All travel and accommodation expenses for the Salon des Vins de Loire were met by me; this included travel in the UK, flights, return rail fare in France, a hotel room for four nights in Angers, one night in Paris CDG airport, and all subsistence save for dinner with Latitude Loire. Of note, France ground to a halt under snow in February 2018, so I was glad I had booked a hotel room at the airport, and that I had a bottle of Vouvray from Tania Carême, both of which made my overnight stay there more bearable. I did consider subletting my room to some of the stranded passengers sleeping on the floor in the terminal, but was fearful they would also want a share of the Vouvray. No way, Jose.

Vinovision: I met all my own costs, including flights to Paris, local connections, hotel accommodation and subsistence. Through the purchase of beer I subsidised two years of private school fees for the children of one Parisian bar owner.

Bordeaux primeurs: I met my travel costs myself; this includes travel in the UK, flights to Bordeaux via Stansted, and a hire car for eight days. While I accepted accommodation, I covered all my own subsistence expenses except for the one dinner described above. I must also make clear that any rips in my trousers suffered when clambering over walls I have repaired myself.

Loire Valley & Bordeaux, May: I spent a week in Bordeaux, followed by two weeks in the Loire. Feeling masochistic I drove from Scotland, which gave me an excuse to borrow my wife’s brand new car for three weeks, rather than take my 18-year-old banger. Aside from the two nights accommodation and one dinner described above I covered all costs, including driving to the Loire Valley via Hull, ferry tickets, driving from Chinon to Bordeaux, three nights in a Bordeaux hotel, the drive back to Chinon, and all subsequent expenses in the Loire Valley. This was a really tough trip, tasting wine with Bernard Baudry, Jérôme Billard and the like by day, relaxing in the jacuzzi by night. Nose to the grindstone stuff.

Loire Valley, October: After a summer break it was back to Chinon for a harvest visit. I flew there via Nantes. As suggested above, I met all my own costs, including travel in the UK, flights, hire car and subsistence.

Loire Valley and Bordeaux, December: For this trip I flew via Nantes again, meeting all costs associated with my Loire Valley visits myself, save for lunch at the Carême’s kitchen table. In Bordeaux I paid for four nights in four different hotels (I like to move around a bit). Other costs, including flights, car hire for a week, and subsistence aside from that mentioned above I paid for myself.

London tastings: These were fewer than in some previous years, but included a Clos L’Église vertical tasting at 69 Pall Mall, the Bordeaux Index 2008 tasting, the Loire Benchmark tasting, the Union des Grands Crus tasting of the 2016 vintage, the annual Cru Bourgeois tasting and the IMW Bordeaux tasting of the 2014 vintage. I paid for my entry fee where applicable (this only applies to the IMW tasting), and for all tastings I covered my own costs, including flights, airport transfers and subsistence.

This concludes my disclosures statement for 2018. The year ahead will be a fascinating one, with excellent murmuings on 2018 from Bordeaux and the Loire Valley suggesting there are going to be some amazing wines coming our way. I just hope that neither region suffers the kind of frost in 2019 that we saw in 2016 (in the Loire) and 2017 (in both regions). Fingers crossed everybody.

Vouvray / Chinon / Bordeaux / Muscadet

I’m living the high life this week; I’m posting this little update from a seedy hotel just metres from the Rocade, the ring road around Bordeaux. I’m here for four days of tasting, an opportunity to revisit the 2016 vintage.

This is an unusual trip, because I have also shoehorned some Loire Valley tastings around my time in Bordeaux. I flew out to Nantes on Friday afternoon, and then dashed up to my house south of Chinon. The heating isn’t really up to the wintry weather (note to self; must get log burner installed next year) so I spent Friday night shivering beneath the covers. It was worth it though, as on Saturday I sped up to Vouvray to visit Vincent Carême. As I headed along the top of the première côte and then through the vines heading down to Vernou-sur-Brenne I was treated to the sight of a wild boar trotting across the road a hundred metres in front of me. This was 10:30 am, in broad daylight, so it was a real surprise; I once saw a family of boar in Tuscany, but I’ve never seen one in the Loire Valley before (whereas I have seen hundreds of chevreuil and other fauna when out on my morning runs). As I drew level with the creature I was treated to the sight of a dwindling boar bottom, spotted between two distant rows of vines. As it disappeared deep into the vineyard I regretted having left my camera in the boot of my hire car, although who wants to look at a boar bottom anyway?

Chez Carême I tasted the current releases, from the excellent 2017, 2016 and 2015 vintages, before I got stuck into a multi-vintage vertical of Vincent’s work. We started back in 1999 (not a great vintage to start in Vouvray – in fact it was a shocker) with a blended Vouvray Sec, and then we had one wine from every vintage that followed. The lieux-dits of Le Peu Morier and Le Clos appeared in later vintages, and of course some years were represented by demi-sec or moelleux cuvées. I will publish a full report soon, maybe January. Then after lunch I headed down to Domaine de la Noblaie, where Jérôme Billard was also pouring his recent releases, as well as a horizontal of the 2008 vintage.

After another night listening to the wind and rain battering against the windows, on Sunday I drove down to Bordeaux. What a miserable drive – over three hours behind the wheel in wet weather, the rain varying from moderately heavy to very heavy, and nothing else, for 275 kilometres.

Over the next four days I will be tasting the 2016s at almost all the top names of the region, and as I know it gets some readers salivating (partly at the names listed, but I think some just enjoy my use of pencil and paper) I have included a snapshot (above) of my tastings for the end of the week. Some of my timings are a bit tight, especially on Monday and Thursday, so I am hoping things go smoothly. My apologies in advance to anyone who I keep waiting this week. Again, I hope to have this report out very soon, maybe January.

Then on Friday, as I am flying back from Nantes in the afternoon, I thought I would visit a couple of domaines in Muscadet. The first on my list is Fred Lailler, of Domaine André-Michel Brégeon. I fell in love with André-Michel’s wines, especially his long-lees-aged Gorges cuvée, years ago, especially the 2004 Gorges (a cuvée which had spent 81 months on the lees). It was simply stunning. This is my first opportunity to visit, and the domaine has since changed hands, so it will be interesting to see if the wines of today live up to my memories of older vintages. After that I am off to see Manuel Landron at Complemen’Terre. Manuel, who has a famous father, seems to make his wines with minimal intervention (I confess I have limited experience of them though) and they might be a touch atypical as a result, but I am looking forward to seeing if my singular encounter with his wines can be extrapolated correctly to the entire portfolio. We shall see.

Normal updates shall resume next week.

Loire 2018 Harvest

October is upon us and up and down the Loire Valley (and lots of other wine regions too I guess) harvest is well underway. In the Loire Valley I have been watching from afar the harvest of the early-picked varieties, principally Melon de Bourgogne and Sauvignon Blanc, but picking of the later-ripening Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and so on has also begun.

With that in mind I won’t be watching it from afar any longer; today (Friday 28th September) I leave for the Loire, for a little more than two weeks. As usual I will be staying in my house near Chinon, so this is part harvest trip, part business and part holiday. I am hoping the first and the last of those three dominate.

Bernard Baudry

Preliminary reports on the harvest suggest quality is very good. Unlike certain other regions I could mention the vignerons of the Loire Valley aren’t particularly known for their hyperbole, so when I see the vintage likened to either 1947 or 1990, two of the greatest vintages of the 20th century, I take notice. I am really looking forward to seeing what the fruit looks like, and of course to tasting the wines next year. After four fine red vintages in a row (2014 – 2017), could this be a fifth? And after two frosted vintages (2016 and 2017 – the picture above is the 2017 harvest with Matthieu Baudry), will the volumes be better for all this year? I hope so.

I won’t be making any behind paywall updates over the next two weeks. I may post a few pictures on the free-to-read blog, although these days I much prefer to put these things on social media, so watch out for Twitter, Instagram or even Facebook updates if you are interested.

Notes from a Wine Dinner

Some notes from a recent wine dinner, the bottles all pulled from my cellar.

Before dinner….

Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Brut 2011: I normally restrict myself to Philippe’s réserve cuvée, so it was fun to check in on this, his straight brut cuvée. It has a rich golden hue in the glass, looking ripe, with a delicate bead. The nose is all crushed apples, confit pears, tarte tatin, praline, toasted nuts and smoke. There follows a fresh and bright palate, but also a rich flavour profile, sweetly ripe confit fruits, candied apple and dried pear, showing a pithy depth, a very fine-boned mousse and correct acidity. It is a wine which seems to me to convey the very sweet and rich nature of the vintage, 2011 being the first year in which Philippe made a sweet Goutte d’Or cuvée since 1990. 92/100

With dinner, from the Loire Valley….

Régis Minet Pouilly-Fumé 2006: This is one of those bottles with the power to upset popular beliefs such as (a) Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t age well, or (b) if Sauvignon Blanc ages well, it is only the Dagueneau family who can achieve it. This has a polished, lemon-gold hue. The nose is beautifully poised, filled with the scents of dehydrated fruit, dried peaches, lemon zest and blanched almond. It has a fresh (yes, fresh) and textural character on the palate, carrying notes of peach stone, apricot and citrus fruits, all pithy and slightly bitter. A charming wine, a little pithy, showing some grip, with a lightly bitter length. I came back to the bottle the next day and it was even better. 94/100

Philippe Alliet Chinon Vieilles Vignes 2004: At nearly fifteen years of age this has a surprisingly fresh hue, showing a dark core, with a tinge of oxblood to the rim. The nose is quite curious, starting off with the scents of desiccated coconut, although this yields to toasted cherry fruit with time. It presents a chalky, full and fresh palate, supple, but also grippy and tense, with a firm, chalky backbone and a peppery base. There are some classic notes of dried cherry stone and tobacco in what is a rather grippy finish. It is long and still substantial, with good potential here yet. 92/100

Philippe Alliet

An interloper….

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf du Pape 1988: Now thirty years old, this not-quite-final bottle from my cellar has a rather pallid appearance, and is clearly aged, with a dusty orange-red hue. There follows a classically evolved nose, showing leather, orange peel, rolled tobacco and cigar ash. The palate feels supple though, fresh and correct, showing the same tobacco and ash notes, along with a peppery spice, all wrapped up in a supple and taut frame, the finish spicy and acid driven. An intriguing wine, characterised by notes of orange peel and leather, with a faded but still present frame of chalky tannins. For its age, this is delightful, showing great structure, the wine having barely moved in style or evolution since its last outing from the depths of my cellar. Delightful. 94/100

With dinner, from Bordeaux….

Château Pontet-Canet (Pauillac) 1994: Now not-quite 25 years old, this wine is holding up well. I took one to a wine dinner with friends in London back in February, and it seemed to go down well, as did this bottle. It still has a very dark core, with just a thin mahogany rim. The aromatics are initially marred by a little warm and gamey note, but happily this seems to be just a little bottle stink, as it blows off with another half hour in the decanter. From then on it is all perfumed smoke, blackcurrants, green peppercorn and bay leaf, with a touch of currant. The palate is cool and energetic, with piles of dry and fading tannin and acidity, with a taut, acid-framed and gently succulent texture, laced with little veins of blackcurrant and black olive fruit. Fresh, sappy and long in the finish. 94/100

Château Haut-Bailly (Pessac-Léognan) 1996: Great colour, dark, central black tulip core, with a thin raspberry and mahogany-tinged rim. The nose is one of classically evolved Graves, with none of the curious tomato leaf notes seen previously (admittedly, that was three bottle ago, so maybe I should just let go), just the very typical aromas of tobacco, gravel, rose petal, currant, dried blackcurrant and juniper berry, and a lightly meaty-peppery spice. It has a fabulously correct palate, cool and relaxed, elegant, very reserved and with a rather tense, vinous texture, not generous, more of a middleweight, but with a fine definition, bolstered by a backbone of dry and peppery tannin, fading very slowly over the years, but still undeniable. Beautiful typicity, and a long, dry, tense and rather serious length. 95/100

After dinner….

Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume 2001: From a half bottle, one of a dozen purchased after I tasted this wine in its youth, when I was taken by its sweet caramel tones. It has an appropriately rich burnished golden hue in the glass. Aromatically, this is a wine of caramel (it’s still got it), macaroon, vanilla, orange and peach cream, with toasted almond praline and macadamia nut. The palate feels beautifully fresh, pure, cool and sweet, a very complete picture, plush and yet harmonious. It as a fine and pithy substance, textural, with some nicely evolved botrytis character too, it should be said. Lovely balance, with undeniable energy, a great acid freshness, and a great long pithy finish. Well done. 95/100

Château Climens (Barsac) 2005: Expect to see more tasting notes for this vintage in future, as I seem to have ended up with a bin-full of half bottles. Happily, drinking Climens is no hardship. It has a golden-orange hue in the glass. The aromatic profile is tense but easy to get into, with marmalade, barley sugar, apricot and bitter orange notes, with a rich and somewhat lactic note to it. There is a beautifully creamed concentration on the palate, bitter and wonderfully sweet at the same time, precise, quite fresh with super botrytised character and fresh acidity. Fabulous. 96/100

Even later….

Warre’s Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port 2003: A perennial over-achiever, this doesn’t disappoint. It has a dark and glossy hue. The nose is similarly dark, rich too, with dried fruits, figs and dates, a rather roasted character, veering a little into raisin, with a hint of toasted cashew nut too. The palate is rich and voluminous, with a baked blackcurrant and fig character, loaded with sweet and peppery tannin. It is bold, grippy, peppery, with plenty of sweetly rich energy, the only contrary note that holds it back a little being those slightly raisined, baked, figgy notes. Overall, rich, charming but a rather sweet, nutty and figgy style. 94/100

Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 1991: A maturing hue here, with a lightly caramelised touch to the pigment. The nose is full of roasted fig, toast and baked black cherry, with a little raisined note and dried black olive too, although it remains very fresh, a sensation previous helped by the notes of rosemary and peppery sandalwood spices. It has a solid, impressive, upright structure on the palate, with piles of peppery bite, a swirling core of tannins and rapacious acid energy. Overall a sumptuous, and yet fiery wine, with plenty of charming character, although again it has a little raisined edge which I have seen in other bottles. All the same, a very good wine. 94/100

From Bordeaux and the Loire

I’m at the very beginning of a combined Loire-Bordeaux trip. Well, when it is barely more than a three-hour drive from my house south of Chinon to the vineyards of Bordeaux, it would be silly not to visit both regions, wouldn’t it?

I drove down from Scotland on Saturday (this explains my web-silence for the day – although I expect most people just assumed I had been invited to Harry and Meghan’s wedding), and arrived to find the Loire Valley basking beneath a blue and cloudless sky. It was warm and bright, the temperature 24ºC, certainly very different to what I left behind in Scotland. My neighbour’s fields are planted with wheat, lush and green, but just starting to fade to a golden hue in parts, and the air above swarmed with little puffs of windborne seed. It was simply glorious.

I can’t comment on any vineyards as I spent Sunday carving out a new running route through the woods, undertaking an emergency fence repair (one which looks like it will last until the next vaguely energetic breeze arrives) and making some last-minute adjustments to my plans for the week ahead. Happily, however, with the region having escaped any significant frost this year (phew!) I would expect them to be in good shape.

Bordeaux Timetable

Today (Monday) I am off to Bordeaux, for five days of visits. It has all been a bit last-minute, as I couldn’t get my head around arranging visits until I had come back from my primeurs trip. Nevertheless, I think I have a pretty decent timetable ahead (as my snap above should suggest), one  which runs at a slightly more relaxed pace than the primeurs. The main aim is to taste some 2015s, as for various reasons I forewent my usual in-bottle tasting trip last year, so expect an in-bottle report on the 2015 vintage soon. Secondly, I have a handful of longer visits and more extensive tastings lined up, in Margaux and in Pomerol, Château Lafleur in the case of the latter, so expect some tasting reports and verticals before too long. And thirdly, I have some research for another project I am working on lined up; I’m keeping this one under my hat for the moment.

Then it is back to the Loire Valley, for some more visits in Chinon and nearby environs, and although I haven’t made any appointments yet I expect I will be calling in on Matthieu Baudry and Jérôme Billard, as well as a mix of other domaines, in Chinon, Bourgueil and maybe Savennières too. I also have a trip across to La Promenade, a well-known restaurant in Le Petit-Pressigny, lined up, so I am looking forward to that. And no doubt I will also find some (many?) more jobs to do around the house before this year’s rental season kicks off.

Well, time to go. My first appointment is at Château Haut-Brion. The next three hours in the car will pass quickly, I think. Because of my plans for the next three weeks I won’t be making any behind-paywall updates, but will post on social media and maybe this blog if time permits.

The Results Are In

The Vinovision results are in, released with a surprising lack of fanfare considering this salon has enjoyed a significant increase in visitor numbers in 2018.

From a starting point of 3,300 visitors for the first ever edition in 2017, the 2018 edition saw visitor numbers hit 5,000 (some reports I have seen claim 5,500). Even taking the lower of these two figures, that is a 52% increase on the 3,300 who attended in 2017, a remarkable success and surprising as having visited both the 2017 and 2018 editions I wouldn’t have said the 2018 edition was 50% busier (although the Sunday in 2017 was, I suppose, extraordinarily quiet). But the figures don’t lie, and I can only assume the organisers are delighted with this dramatic increase in support. The visitors included 20% from foreign markets (up from 17% in 2017), essential for those looking to improve international sales, with the United Kingdom, Belgium and the USA in the lead.

Loire Salons 2018

By contrast, attendance at the Salon de Vins de Loire declined in 2018, as I have already described in my earlier post. There the figures declined from about 8,500 to 7,500; both figures are obviously approximate, so acknowledging that, the figures here add up to an 11% decline in attendance, although absolute numbers are still well ahead of Vinovision. Indeed, I spoke to a few exhibitors at Vinovision who felt they had done more useful business at the Salon de Vins de Loire, which I suspect reflects the fact the Salon de Vins de Loire was a more active fair, with higher attendance figures over just two days.

I hope the Salon de Vins de Loire continues as it remains a fabulous showcase for what the region has to offer, but I wish the organisers of Vinovision well for the 2019 edition, in association with Vinisud.

Vinovision 2018 Review

I have just returned home after three days of tasting in Vinovision, the second edition of this cool climate wine salon held in the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, in Paris. It has been an interesting event, and I suspect how successful it was depends on your point of view.

From the point of view of a visiting journalist with a strong interest in the Loire Valley and its wines, I have found the last three days remarkably useful. The Salon de Vins de Loire is never long enough to get around and taste with all the vignerons you would like to see, even when it was three days long. This year (and next year too) it has been pruned to just two days, so having three more days to taste at Vinovision is a real bonus. Secondly, there are some vignerons who exhibit at Vinovision who have never been to the Salon des Vins de Loire, so it is a great opportunity to meet and taste with these people.

The organisation of Vinovision is pretty standard for a salon, in other words the associated website is clunky, I found it impossible to register online and had to email for help, I continued to receive emails reminding me to register when I (eventually) already had, and the website listed some domaines as exhibitors who were in fact never coming (and the names were only removed from the website after the start of the salon). I was also confounded by a couple of vignerons I expected to be there (because they were last year) but who didn’t sign up this year, so I missed tasting with them. That last mistake is clearly my own fault though, and I will just have to chalk it up to experience.

Vinovision 2018

Putting that to one side, I still managed very easily to fill three days of tasting. Well, two and three-quarters, anyway; as usual my tasting progress started to slow midway through the afternoon of day three, as many exhibitors started packing up, and one or two stands were left permanently unmanned, which meant some exhibitors I had hoped to taste with missed out (or maybe they were avoiding me). During my final tasting of day three the vigneron put on his coat halfway though, which I did take as a message. But I tasted a lot, catching up with some significant Loire Valley names such as Henri Bourgeois and Couly-Dutheil, some old favourites such as Domaine du Haut Bourg and Château Gaudrelle, some domaines that have long been on the very periphery of my Loire radar, such as Tinel-Blondelet and Domaines Vinet, and also a handful of domaines I have never tasted with before, such as Jean Tatin in Quincy (although I know his wines quite well), and Domaine de Noiré in Chinon.

So from my point of view, I had three successful days at Vinovision. But let’s not forget this is a trade fair, and the reason the vignerons are there is to meet clients and sell wine. So how much of a success was it from the point of view of a (possibly frosted-out and cash-strapped) Loire Valley vigneron?

Rather like the Salon des Vins de Loire, where most exhibitors reported being busy on day one, but quiet on day two, activity at Vinovision also faded away during the course of the salon. Every vigneron I spoke to had been happy with the number of visitors on the first day, but days two and three were reported as being too quiet. The Salon des Vins de Loire cost €1200 for two days this year, a reduction from the fee in 2017 which was, for the same vigneron, “about €3000” (although it all depends on the size of the stand taken, of course). Vinovision, meanwhile, in 2018 was the same price as last year, also €3000 (again depending on the size of the stand, this is the price for a micro-booth), although as it is an international trade fair exhibitors quality for financial support. All the same, this is an expensive activity. “It’s a lot of money for not many sales”, said one vigneron.

Next year Vinovision will again be three days, and it will have a friend, as Vinisud is moving to Paris on the same dates, the two salons presumably in adjacent halls of the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre (I have no idea how big Vinisud is, by the way). Read the press release on the Vinisud website for more details (in French). Some hope this will enhance visitor numbers, while others are keen to support Vinovision regardless. “We wanted this salon, you can’t expect great success at the start, it is getting better, going up, up, up”, one vigneron told me. “Now that we have it, we just need to build on it”. Some may, however, vote with their feet, marching in the opposite direction. “I don’t know if I will come back next year”, said one of his neighbours.

Presumably we will get some idea of visitor numbers to Vinovision in the next day or two. Last year the organisers claimed 3,300 visitors over three days. Visitors to the Salon des Vins de Loire trended downwards from 2017 to 2018, so it will be interesting to see in which direction visitor numbers to Vinovision is heading.

Vinovision Time

It’s time for my second big Loire tasting trip of the month. After four days in Angers last week for the Salon des Vins de Loire and associated tastings, I landed in Paris yesterday and later today I will be heading to Vinovision, France’s cool climate wine fair.

Last year’s Vinovision (the first ever year for this fair) was, to my mind, a real success. I spent three days working my way around the Loire Valley, and tasted a huge amount of wine. There were some big-name domaines in attendance, many of which I knew pretty well already so it was great to catch up with the latest vintages, but I also met a large number of vignerons I hadn’t met or tasted with before (some of last year’s exhibitors are pictured below). Having looked at the list of exhibitors for this year, although some of the names have changed, it otherwise looks like the same set up. Today I expect to be tasting the latest from Henri Bourgeois, Couly-Dutheil, Château de Villeneuve and others. But of course I also have a selection of less familiar names on my list for the day.

Vinovision 2018

One aspect of this tasting I really like is that it is open to any of the region’s vignerons, so it gives Loire-interested people (like me!) a chance to taste across the spectrum, from huge operations such as Bouvet-Ladubay down to lone winemakers working just a hectare or two of vines, such as Adèle Rouzé, for example. How someone works in the vines isn’t a bar to entry, so the domaines here are conventional, raisonnée, organic and biodynamic. Anything goes! And so the wines can be judged on the basis of what is in the glass, rather than some notion of how the vines were farmed.

As a commentator on the region, this open-minded approach is really valuable to me. The problem with many of the UK tasting opportunities which feature Loire Valley wines (among others), such as RAW and the Real Wine Fair, is that they focus on winemaking dogma. As a consequence you get a view of just a narrow subsection of the region, and despite what the organisers of those tastings might tell us this narrow view of the region isn’t a guarantee to finding the best wines; the spread of quality is no different to at a tasting of conventionally made wines. And for me, these tastings also provided little more than duplication; many vignerons I would meet there I had already tasted with during the Salon des Vins de Loire and Renaissance tastings.

If I could just pop along to tastings such as RAW and the Real Wine Fair I would continue to attend, but as attendance usually involves flying down from Edinburgh and is certainly not a zero-cost exercise I decided to look around for other tasting opportunities. Vinovision came along at just the right time. I am looking forward to my first day of the 2018 edition immensely. First job of the day, though, is café and a pain au raisin.

Harvest 2017 in Vouvray

After publishing some harvest pictures from Château de Minière a couple of weeks ago I thought I should continue with some pictures from Vouvray, taken when I called in on Vincent Carême on 22nd September 2017.

I found Vincent and team in the larger section of Le Clos, just as they were finishing their picking in this section. Vincent was leading from the front.

Vincent Carême

I had only been there five minutes and the picking in this section was completed, so we moved round to the much smaller front section of Le Clos, in front of the house. The slope here has a southwesterly aspect, and looks down onto the outskirts of Vernou-sur-Brenne. I have bought a lot of groceries in that Super-U over the years.

Vincent Carême

The team moved swiftly through the vines; having chatted with Vincent for a few minutes, I saw the pickers were already halfway through this small section of vines.

Vincent Carême

There’s a lot of ribbing about the weight of hods; the idea is to ensure the more slender-framed members of the team carry the hod, and then poke fun at how much weight they can carry. It’s very good-natured, with smiles all round. This hod wasn’t the most heavily laden on the day, and it certainly produced a few chuckles, which were bore with good grace. I have to confess I was full of admiration for the whole team; I got the notion everybody was enjoying being part of the harvest, even though it was obviously hard work.

Vincent Carême

Just to prove the first hod wasn’t just for the camera, here’s Vincent at work again, in the front section of Le Clos. That’s a well-filled hod, Vincent leading by example.

Vincent Carême

A few steps up the ladder and Vincent’s hod of grapes was tipped into the waiting trailer, which was filling up nicely.

Vincent Carême

And after adding this latest hodful to the trailer, he was off like a bullet, ready to refill. The whole team worked at remarkable speed, and five minutes later they were finished.

Vincent Carême

The 2017 vintage will largely be dominated by dry and sparkling wines chez Carême, Vincent having continued to pick everything as the weather conditions threatened rot. I tasted the 2017 Vouvray Sec at the Salon des Vins de Loire (largely from vines up on the plateau, not from Le Clos) and it is clearly a vintage with nice potential. I will publish a tasting report on releases from 2017, 2016 and 2015 for subscribers later in the year.

Salon des Vins de Loire 2018: Early Figures

The theme of this year’s Salon des Vins de Loire was frugality. Last year’s three-day Sunday-Monday-Tuesday salon was cut to just two days this year, Sunday having been pruned (on reflection, not that surprising, it was a very quiet day), presumably slashing costs for all. The press dining room, which usually lays on a lavish lunch with hot food, was reduced to a corner table of sandwiches and a thermos flask. Shocking! Seriously, however, I am not complaining, as I always thought the lunch service was a little over the top, and tended to dive in and out as quickly as possible, to maximise tasting time. And frankly, after the devastating frosts of 2016 and 2017, which hurt many in the region, I am all for reducing overheads.

Salon des Vins de Loire in 2018

So how did attendance at the new, streamlined 2018 Salon compare with last year? It’s a bit of a mixed picture, and difficult to interpret, as three days have been reduced to two. Monday felt busy, but most exhibitors I spoke to on Tuesday felt it was too quiet on that day. Significantly, I think, overall visitor numbers are down; last year the organisers claimed “close to 8,500 visitors”, whereas this year there were “more than 7,500 visitors”. So although the place was buzzing on Monday, I suspect this was just the effect of condensing the Salon into two days. That’s a poor result. Having said that, the number of exhibitors at the Salon was up this year, from a low point of 230 last year (down from 400 the year before, and down from the heady days when there were 700+ exhibitors) up to 300 this year, a 30% increase.

So in short there were more exhibitors, and it felt busier (on Monday, anyway), but in fact this year’s Salon saw even fewer visitors than last year. That’s a shame, as there were plenty of great tasting opportunities here, and the region continues to offer both value and quality to discerning wine buyers. With La Levée de la Loire just next-door, providing access to 280 organic and biodynamic domaines, there was still more great wine here than you could taste in a month.

The 33rd Salon is set for February 4th and 5th 2019, so just two days again. First though, we have Vinovision, in Paris next week. It will be interesting to see what trends are established there.