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Loire 2015 Harvest: Charles Sydney Reports

I know you’ve all been waiting for it. The first report from Charles and Philippa Sydney, Loire courtiers extraordinaire. Charles and Philippa work with a wide range of growers, from Muscadet up to Sancerre, and they are always out on the shop floor during harvest. Here is their first take on 2015, as exuberantly informative as ever.


At last a morning off from tasting grapes as the growers pick across the Loire! It’s pretty well all in, and time to let you know how things are going.

After a hot, dry summer, with drought blocking vegetation in some places, we finally got some rain in September, at last softening skins and letting the grapes really ripen.

The only ‘hic’ is that quantities are down pretty well everywhere, in part a result of the drought, part too a result of a few cold days at the end of the flowering, especially for Sauvignons from Touraine through Sancerre and Pouilly.

Some growers grumble about lowish acidities, but everywhere we tasted, the juice had that tang of freshness behind the concentration. Some people are never happy!

Given the great summer, it was not surprising to see picking start early – but it was a first to see some growers in Sancerre finish just as others in Muscadet were starting! Normally we kick off with Muscadet then things head east, with the Touraine a week later and Sancerre a week after that. This year saw growers picking in the Touraine on the 1st September, the Sancerre ‘*ban de vendanges*’ on the 9th – while on the 10th we still had Muscadet producers (Fruitière, Choblet, Sauvion) wondering how much longer they could wait!

Overall, quality looks exceptional.

Muscadet: yields OK-ish, averaging just under 50 hectos/hectare, which for them is good but still about 10% down on what we’d have liked. The harvest was smart, a little rot towards the end as expected, but loads of lovely gold grapes and liquid gold juice reflecting the sunny growing period. Ripeness is good, with a smart balance of freshness. The rain mid-September dropped average degrees a touch, so some growers had to chaptalise a bit. That’s fine by me – 2015 looks to be a lovely vintage.

Loire 2015

Touraine: Quality looks exceptional across the region – lovely healthy grapes, nice degrees, balanced acidity and super concentrated juice. The big bugbear is yields that were zapped by coulure post flowering, leaving an average yield of around 40 hectos/hectare for the Sauvignons. The 2015s are going to be brill, but if you still have reserves of 2014s, don’t let go!

Sancerre & Pouilly: 2015 looks hard to beat for quality – with an interesting comparison with 2006, which we noted the local Sicavac oenologists as rating ‘somewhere between 2005 and 1989 in quality’. Again, the ‘hic’ is quantity. At an average 50-55 hectos per hectare, it’s around 10 – 15% below normal, at a time when stocks are at an all time low.

Reds: There are two theoretical approaches to picking, depending on whether the grower wants to pick ‘fruit frais’ (fresh fruit) or ‘fruit mûr’ (ripe fruit). Some growers seem happy at having an excuse to pick early (we see unripe plots being picked first) while we know the potential that can be achieved with great vineyard management techniques. In our opinion, the real stars have only just started picking – and there the quality should be extraordinary.

Pinots: Looking fab too – maybe even better than last year!! We all know the handful of guys who push the limits in Sancerre, but it’s wonderful to see Sylvain Miniot down at the Cave in St Pourçain pushing his growers to get full ripeness. He’s still the one to watch.

Finally, Chenin Blanc.

Vouvray and Montlouis: The potential is lovely, so it’s still a shame to see over 2/3rds of the crop going to make sparkling. The guys who concentrate on making ‘real’ wines are on a high – look at the photos and see the gold chenin crinkling as it starts to concentrate and then going brown and raisiny. There should be some smart moelleux this year.

Loire 2015

Anjou and the Layon: Here the saga is just starting. Late last week saw the great growers starting to pick the dry whites – and doing a first ‘clean-up’ *tri* to get the rest of the crop ready to concentrate in ideal conditions. We have never seen such beautifully run vineyards as René and Christophe Papin’s Les Rouannières plot…. they’re clearly going even further than the great daddy Claude Papin.

There’s a photo of a mustimètre showing around 22° potential – hard to be sure as it stops marking at 18°. And that’s just a ‘clean-up’ picking. If the weather holds, we could be in for a truly great vintage.

With apologies for the exuberance – and a final report to come once we finish tasting end December.

Charles and Philippa

Initially only one of Charles’ photographs came through, but I have since added a second, one of the juice from a pre-harvest nettoyage registering 22º, a figure that in itself would be rich enough to make a very nice sweet wine. Sorry, it is far from being the best quality picture that Charles sent, but I included it as it speaks clearly of the potential quality of the vintage.

Lagar de Cervera Rias Baixas Albarino 2014

A couple of months ago I spent a couple of weeks in Portugal, and the best drinking I found when there was Vinho Verde. I particularly enjoyed some of the single-variety Alvarinho cuvées, from the likes of Soalheiro and Palácio da Brejoeira among others. I wrote up some tasting notes at the time, here: A New Vinho Verde.

And then a couple of weeks ago, this bottle arrived. Same variety, different country.

Lagar de Cervera Rias Baixas Albariño 2014

Although I’m no expert on Rias Baixas I do know that Lagar de Cervera is the Galician outpost of La Rioja Alta, for a long time one of my favourite Rioja bodegas (I don’t claim any expertise in Rioja either, although I have at least visited the region). The fruit is chilled, pressed, and then tank-fermented, and 50% underwent malolactic fermentation, followed by some time on the lees. The 2014 Lagar de Cervera Rias Baixas Albariño has a pale hue, and a richly expressed nose, full of pithy citrus notes, as well as cool white peach flesh and also a lightly saline suggestion. There are some slightly bitter edges to the palate which I like, with flavours of lime, mint, perfumed white peach and white currant. It feels savoury, tense, bright, textured but cool with a steely core. I wouldn’t have guessed there was 50% malolactic fermentation here for sure. Overall very good, and it would stand up very well to all those Alvarinhos I tasted. Under screwcap. 16.5/20 (October 2015)

Disclosure: This bottle was a received sample.

Bordeaux 2015 Harvest: Report from Smith-Haut-Lafitte

I get quite a lot of harvest news dropping into my inbox. This report from Fabien Teitgen of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte is so detailed, and although it presents a lot of positive information it is refreshingly free of hyperbole (no comparisons to 2010, 2009 or 2005 – I’ve read them all during the past few weeks), that it seemed a crime not to bring it to the blog. It’s a report on the entire growing season as well as the picking, beginning with the 2014/2015 winter rainfall.

“Weather conditions during winter (temperatures and rainfall), within decade average, refilled soil reserves after two rainy years. Then temperatures rose at the end of March and we had a homogeneous and quick budbreak in early April (classical dates).

In March we embarked into a phase of hydric limitation until the end of July with a total of 144 mm against 311 decade average. Moreover temperatures slightly higher than decade average in April and May fastened the vine growing cycle leading to a homogeneous, fast and quite early flowering.

The scorching episode at the end of June beginning of July did not cause any harm to the grapes that were still green at the date and well-protected behind their leaves. We decided it was not year of early leaves-thinning at Vinexpo…

The other consequence of this warmth-drought combination was the early end of vine growing and therefore the early beginning of grape maturation with skins thickening and an important polyphenol accumulation (tannins and color) within them. It also generated a hydric stress on young vines: we even had to irrigate some plants as now allowed. Our old vines, well deeply rooted in our soils of gunzian gravels, were able of find freshness and humidity to safely go through this period. The hydric stress, both early and moderated, is the key of great maturations.

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte

At the end of July beginning of August, we moved to a low-pressure episode. Freshness and moderated rainfall were welcomed. The véraison was then triggered the last week of July for whites, first of August for reds, with good homogeneity according to terroir type of each plot.

Homogeneous characteristics of budbreak, flowering and veraison: signs of quality and characteristics of the 2015 vintage!

The decrease of temperatures in August that went on in September during the grapes maturation phase considerably modified the aroma style of our berries, preserving the acidities and a very “Bordeaux” aromatic freshness.

The maturation phase started early, went on peacefully with moderated temperatures yet sunny beautiful days in September. The vines were balanced with a green leaves canopy as we never saw at Smith Haut Lafitte at this season of the year.

The harvest of white grapes started on the 31st of August with young vines of Sauvignon Blanc (13.2% potential, pH 3.2) with very fresh aromas of grapefruit, lemon… a beautiful start. The plots of first wine starting on the 7th of September, with similar balances, offered more complexity and greatness: dense juices, concentrated with a stronger acidity perception than what forecasted the pH measures and very beautiful aroma complexity of yellow fruits (peach, fresh mango), citrus fruits (lemon, white grapefruit), flowery notes of lime-tree, acacia… The harvest of Sauvignon Blanc ended on the 15th of September: only 8 days of Sauvignon Blanc harvest, which is very short at SHL. Sauvignon Gris were harvested on the 14th of September (full-body and rich in this vintage) and we finished the whites with Semillons on the 18th.

The harvest of white grapes at SHL were early and very short (17 days instead of 23 days in 2014) which is a direct consequence of the homogeneity of the vine cycle, sign of great quality for the vintage.

The first lots of white finished their fermentation. We observe the first balances that are more acidic than what we thought while tasting the juices; which is indeed very positive for our white wines that combine good matter and volume underlined by a great acidity. The aroma profiles are still very blurred by recent fermentations, by indigenous yeasts, so we forecast very pretty things…

The harvest of reds started with young vines of Merlot on the 14th of September, which is quite late for an early vintage, to finish on the 1st of October. We notice the homogeneity of flowering and veraison in the short picking period (one week less than 2014). The weather conditions at the beginning of September were perfect, average daytime temperatures of 24,3°C, average night temperatures lower than 12°C, limited rainfall of 27 mm in September (compared with over 100 mm in the Médoc), for optimum maturation of our older Merlots: their juices are ripe, full, rich with good acidity (13.5%, pH 3.55) and beautiful fresh red fruits… wonderful Merlots. We started our Cabernets with 130 harvesters yesterday on the 5th of October. Skins are perfectly mature, pips are crunchy like dry wood and we think we will finish harvests Monday 12th or Tuesday 13th of October with our traditional Gerbaude on the 16th.”

Great to know that the Cabernet harvest is underway. I’m looking forward getting some first-hand information when I fly out there myself, in a little over a week.


I have reflected for some time on the recent debacle in Vouvray and Montlouis involving Jacky Blot and François Chidaine. If you’re not up to speed with the issue, in a nutshell both have been vinifying their Vouvray in their cellars in Husseau (Montlouis), Jacky for many years, François more recently. Neither are in the zone where vinification is permitted carte blanche, but Jacky held documents which permitted him to vinify in Montlouis, while François seems to have operated under the assumption that he could do the same. Both make excellent wines, and François has control over the Clos Baudoin, one of the most highly regarded terroirs of Vouvray, so these aren’t guys hanging around on the periphery of the appellation. They have been making waves in recent years, Jacky seemingly buying up half of Montlouis, François building a new winery and taking on the old Poniatowski domaine (which is how he came by the Clos Baudoin).

Then, seemingly out of the blue, a few weeks ago word came from the INAO; their domaines in Montlouis were outside the zone where vinification of Vouvray was permitted, therefore they would be denied the appellation, from the 2014 vintage onwards. There is always the (necessarily expensive) legal route, of course, but barring that both Jacky’s and François’ Vouvrays would, from 2014, have to be sold as Vin de France. To see how the story first came to light, see this post on Jim’s Loire, and a subsequent report in La Nouvelle Republique.

Jacky Blot

So why the reflection? Well, as much as I revel in the free spirit and disregard for authority exhibited by many vignerons, I also believe that the appellation system is basically a good thing. This is a thought that will horrify the likes of Richard Leroy and many others, who believe the system favours dull, generic, boring wines made using questionable chemically-dependent methods, while sidelining wines of real interest. In explaining his beliefs, one sufficiently strong for him to personally ditch the appellation system altogether and go down the Vin de France route, Richard makes many good points. But I don’t believe we would be better off if the appellation system were scrapped altogether; it gives a valuable framework for wine, which is a vital slice of Ligérian culture, along with Renaissance châteaux, tarte tatin and the most magnificant moustaches in the world of wine. So I think we need to be careful when it comes to regulations such as this.

There is also a danger when it comes to the INAO and their appellations of picking and choosing which regulations we view as important, and which ones vignerons are ‘right’ to ignore. We’re all guilty of this to some degree. After all, we enjoy the benefits of living in a modern society which functions because of well-established laws, and that’s great until, of course, it is us that comes a cropper with a parking fine, a speeding ticket or some other minor infringement. Then, suddenly, the law is an ass! When it comes to Jacky (pictured above) and François (pictured below) vs. the INAO, the weight of public opinion would perhaps be on their side. But what about the INAO vs. Olivier Cousin, who stuck two fingers up at the authorities with the labelling and naming of his wines? What about the INAO vs. Florent Baumard, and new regulations pushed through despite his protests? I would argue that the first two are minor infringements that would and could be settled through negotiation (if the infringement is really the heart of the matter). The latter I believe was a more serious winemaking issue that failed to respect a hallowed terroir. But that’s just my opinion, and I know others view some of these recent controversies quite differently.

François Chidaine

So what is the issue here? Grapes are loaded onto a truck or trailer in Vouvray and driven cross-river to a winery in Husseau in Montlouis, by road a distance of about 11 km. Montlouis, sadly, isn’t one of the communes where vinification of Vouvray is permitted. So this is the crime in a nutshell; the grapes cross an arbitrary line, drawn by the human hand. In terms of what actually happens to the fruit, however, it is no different to Claude Papin moving grapes from Savennières to his winery in Pierre Bise for vinification (about 8 km). Indeed, should a vigneron as far away as Brissac-Quincé buy some vines in Savennières, he too could do the same, despite being over 20 km from his vines. This is just his good luck; the Savennières line is drawn wide, while that for Vouvray is drawn tight. But none of this will prevent Savennières tasting like Savennières, or Vouvray tasting like Vouvray. The journey does not seem to negatively affect these grapes, even though they are transported by road, and even though they cross the Loire. And isn’t that what the INAO should really be worried about?

The vinificiation of these wines in Montlouis is no great crime. The INAO, with support from within Vouvray (I spoke to two vignerons in the town – I was sorry to hear there was no sympathy for Jacky or François expressed) has chosen to maintain the hard line (not for the first time), sidelining two significant vignerons in the process. The Clos Baudoin, one of the appellation’s most significant terroirs, will now be sold as a Vin de France. It feels rather reminiscent of the Super-Tuscan debacle, when a number of domaines turned out superb wines which, because they flouted regulations on grape variety, started out as Vino da Tavola. Eventually, after two decades, when it became clear that not only were these ‘table wines’ some of the best in the region, but that they also weren’t going to disappear, that they were taken into the fold, the regulations ‘stretched’ to encapsulate them. It is a shame the INAO cannot learn from history and work towards a similar solution. It seems that, sometimes at least, the law really can be an ass.

R.I.P. Claude Lafond, King of Reuilly

There are few appellations that owe their existence to one man, but it could be argued that the appellation of Reuilly, just a stone’s throw from Sancerre, would not be here today if it were not for Claude Lafond. Sadly, I have learnt that Claude (pictured below, during the harvest, October 2013) died at the weekend, on the night of Saturday 3rd October.

Claude Lafond

Claude Lafond joined his father André at a fairly young age, and when André retired in 1977 Claude took on the 6.5 hectares. In a time of great decline for the region, plantings having fallen after phylloxera at the end of the 19th century, Claude’s domaine was a significant chunk of the 48 hectares that survived. His support for the construction of the Chai de Reuilly was instrumental in resurrecting the appellation. His pre-eminent position was secured four years ago when he moved out into swish new facilities, built next door. But the appellation’s future as a whole was also more secure; thanks in part to Claude, today there are 200 hectares planted up in Reuilly.

Claude Lafond

I will always remember my first taste of Claude’s Clos des Messieurs, a 100% Sauvignon cuvée of mind-blowing texture and confidence. Seriously good wine. Reuilly and the Loire Valley will be a slightly dimmer place without the presence of Claude’s brilliant smile and generous character. My condolences to Nathalie Lafond (who has been working alongside her father for the past few years) and family.

Bordeaux 2015 Harvest: Video Report, Jonathan Maltus

Picking is underway in Bordeaux. The whites are all finished and it is the reds that have people’s attention now, starting with Merlot of course. I haven’t heard of anyone picking Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc yet.

There has been some heavy rain during the past couple of weeks, but the weather now seems to be dry and cool again. It is looking very promising, and I have heard some very positive comments coming from the region, not just the Bordelais but from independent visitors too. But you never can tell for real until you get to taste the wines.

Here is a brief video report from Jonathan Maltus, made on Friday October 2nd, from Les Astéries, a parcel on calcaire à astérie (what else?) and which is the source of one of his single-vineyard cuvées.

I will be in Bordeaux in a couple of weeks, by which I expect picking of the Cabernets will be well underway and may even have finished, depending on how soon they start and the size of the vineyard in question. I have plenty of appointments, most with a focus on tasting 2013s (although I have some other visits lined up to châteaux I have never visited before, where I hope to taste more) but I will be sure to get the low down on 2015 as well. Last year when I visited at this time I also managed to taste some 2014 must which was fun (being basically sweet and mildly alcoholic grape juice).

I will be keeping an increasingly attentive eye on harvest news over the next few weeks, and will continue to bring any notable snippets to the blog.

Minna Vineyard Red 2008

It will come as no surprise to learn that I drink a lot of wines from the Loire Valley. Indeed, many other regions simply don’t get a look in. But during the past couple of weeks I have suddenly shifted tack, and have been pulling the corks on all sorts of reds from across France and beyond. Many have had some age on them as well, and it has been a good reminder for me just how exciting mature wine can be. Châteauneuf du Pape from Vieux Télegraphe, Hermitage from Marc Sorrel, Domaine de Trévallon, Cornas from Thierry Allemand, Côtes du Roussillon from Domaine Gauby, La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 and so on, mostly from mid-1990s vintages. The silky texture these wines can achieve when they are in their twenties can be delightful. I really should buy and cellar more widely, instead of focusing so solidly on just two or three regions. Some of these wines are a lot cheaper than my favourite wines from Bordeaux as well (although good Chinon usually wins when it comes to price).

Minna Vineyard Red 2008

Not quite so old is this wine, also from a southern clime, the vineyards being located in the Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône, which places them a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean. The Minna Vineyard Rouge from the 2008 vintage is mostly Syrah at 55%, blended with 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Mourvèdre. Likening it to any of the above wines probably leaves me open to a barrage of criticism, but I guess the unconventional (for France) nature of the blend and of course simple geography puts it closer to Domaine de Trévallon more than any other. The Minna Vineyard wines are ones I have featured before, but to recap the grapes are hand-picked, then cold-macerated before a wild-yeast fermentation in small stainless steel vats. After post-fermentation maceration with pigeage the wine is pressed, both free-run and press wine blended straight away, before going into oak for 24 months, with bâtonnage. Then there is a light filtering before bottling.

The end result is of course richly coloured, slick and approachable. In the glass the 2008 Minna Vineyard Rouge leads with the aromas of blackcurrants first, perhaps reflecting that Cabernet component, before this yields to wilder notes of grilled meats and smoke. There is also a surprisingly fresh and tense edge to the aromatics, with scents of wild perfumed strawberries and blackberries, all with an appealing gravelly undercurrent which adds some real interest. This is matched by a tense and gravelly character on the palate, with a style that seems to major on freshness and coolnesss over heat. Indeed, it shows a crunchy energy and even a little suggestion of minerally bite, such is its restraint, with a lean and sinewy middle filled with hints of smoke and more gravel. A gentle middle in terms of fruit, leading into a long, tannin-infused finish. Good stuff. 15.5/20 (September 2015)

Disclosure: The bottle was a received sample.

Terroir and Yeasts Revisited

Once I learnt of it, and really began to understand what it was telling me, the concept of terroir always made sense; in essence, two different sites will always give, even though the variety and the vinifications are the same, two different wines. So a Bourgueil from Les Malgagnes will taste different to one from Les Quartiers, even though both come from the same cellar and the same vigneron. That is terroir.

Defining what lies behind terroir, however, is fraught with controversy; understanding why one site gives different wines to another seems an impossibility. We have climate, soil, bedrock, aspect, drainage and more. Should we include the winemaker? Should we include the local microbiology, either that in the soil, on the grapes or in the winery? All have been mooted.

The thought that terroir might be a yeast effect is a tempting one. After all, as far as I am aware, few agricultural products show this ‘regionality’. Please correct me if I am wrong, but a peach from one orchard tastes much like a peach from an orchard down the road, provided the variety and agriculture is the same, but two wines from fruit grown just metres apart can be radically different. The key difference between the two products is that wine has undergone a microbiological transformation, a process not relevant to the world of peaches (unless you’re into home brewing I guess).

While there is no doubt different yeasts imbue wines with different characteristics (cultured yeasts are sold on this very basis – some types are ‘neutral’, while others produce more aromatic results) I have stated before I find the idea that terroir differences might be due solely to yeasts rather an unlikely one.

A recently published paper from Matthew Goddard and team from the University of Auckland School of Biological Sciences would appear to support my thoughts, even if the authors argue it in the other direction. The authors fermented many (over one hundred) sterilised samples of Sauvignon Blanc juice with genetically diverse isolates of Saccharomyces cerevisiae from six different regions of New Zealand. They then looked at an array of volatile compounds to see if they differed from one S. cerevisiae ferment to the next, and therefore from one region to the next.

Here’s the science bit, part one. Goddard et al found that when the juice was fermented with single strains, there was some difference between the aromatic profiles of the wine that resulted. But there are three important points here: (1) this isn’t surprising; we know different yeasts produce wines of different aromatic qualities, (2) the differences between the six regions when tested with single-strain ferments was only 10% down to the yeast, so even with a single-strain ferment the aromatic differences were 90% due to other (mostly unknown) factors, and (3) the aromatics differed from batch to batch – variation between batches accounted for 7% of the differences in levels of the volatile aromatic compounds (nearly as much as the yeast-effect, which was just 10%).

With the yeast effect hardly stronger than batch variation, is it really a plausible candidate for the cause of terroir?

And here’s the science bit, part two. Because part one is not applicable in the ‘real world’ (because wild ferments involve many different yeasts all working at the same time – they are not single-strain ferments) the team also did co-ferments, with not one strain from each region, but six single-region strains mixed together. With these fermentations, there was no statistically significant relationship between the region from which the strains came and the aromatic profile of the wines. Now this might just be a problem with sample size – perhaps running the test again with several hundred more samples would solve this (yes I know that is easier said than done – this paper reflects a lot of hard work).

Even so, for the moment it appears to me that any regional ‘yeast effect’ is identifiable but small with a single strain, but this appears to be lost in the mix once you have a body of yeasts working together, as in the ‘real world’.

Perhaps yeasts do contribute something to terroir. I am open-minded on the matter, and await some convincing research to persuade me one way or the other. But even if they do contribute, this research suggests yeasts play a minor role, which would therefore seem to indicate that the traditional view of terroir as being related to the physical properties of the site still holds true. Or at least more true than it does for yeast.

News on the 2016 Salon des Vins de Loire

In recent times I have had concerns for the Salon des Vins de Loire. To recap the fair – which is very expensive for an exhibitor – doesn’t seem to have delivered enough for some domaines to justify their participation. Several influential names – Domaine Huet, Henri Bourgeois and Château de Tracy to name just three – have pulled out, and the Salon has clearly contracted. In February this year there weren’t enough exhibitors to fill the hall, so the edge of the exhibition area was drawn in using false walls. Very ingenious. Not even the inclusion of the Levée de la Loire could change this; the Levée exhibitors were tucked away in a corner room, almost as an afterthought. Indeed, it was only on my third day there that I ventured into this corner; thank heavens I did, it was where I discovered François Pinon, Domaine de la Pépière and Jonathan Pabiot hiding.

2016 Salon des Vins de Loire

A recent release from the Salon des Vins de Loire is, however, as upbeat as ever. In particular, they hope to “build on the momentum from 2015″ which I think is a bad idea as the recent momentum has been downwards, not upwards. I stayed until the end of day three for the Salon last February (I usually leave around lunchtime) and the majority of exhibitors were packing up in the early afternoon.

Nevertheless there is some good news for prospective attendees. First, the next Salon will see the return of the Levée de la Loire, so I will be sure to venture up there earlier in 2016. Second, a new Demeter Exhibition will be joining the Salon. I suspect this is the Salon Vins Biodynamiques Demeter which was held for the first time last year at the same time as the Salon and which was largely unadvertised (I was unaware of it, anyway) and apparently very poorly attended. There are also new features aimed at Parisian restaurateurs and young vignerons (I am avoiding mention of a new Bag-in-Box feature – I have always believed a focus on quality is how a region succeeds, but this is a trade fair I suppose, so fair enough). And there will be a section featuring Loire Valley beers and ciders. It does feel as though there is a lot of sticking plaster being applied here though, because although some of these features might sound tempting, I worry that the Demeter exhibition isn’t really Loire-focused, and many of the other features are similarly peripiheral. Beer? Cider? Biodynamic wines from all over France? Should the Salon des Vins de Loire not focus on (a) the Loire, and (b) vin?

Nevertheless, there are plans for a special tasting to celebrate the Salon’s 30th anniversary, and this does sound tempting. Let’s hope there is also an opportunity for a 31st anniversary tasting in 2017.

New Crus Bourgeois Classification Announced

A couple of years ago, in my 2010 Cru Bourgeois report, I laid out the problems as I saw them with the current annually renewed Cru Bourgeois classification system. To be brief to the point of bluntness, I wrote that:

● Producing a new listing every year was too frequent.
● The system should take a more long-term view of work at each château, rather than being based on individual wines (we have critics to score individual wines).
● The bar for entry was too low – and moving it up and down each year was open to criticism.
● There was no granularity to the system, no internal layers, no information for consumers on which were the best châteaux, and thus no incentive to improve. This could easily be achieved by reintroducing an internal ranking system.

Happily, the members of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc seem to agree with some of my points. A recently received press release reads as follows:

At an Extraordinary General Meeting on 18 September 2015, nearly 75% of the members of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc again expressed a desire to create a classification system for the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc.
A provisional timetable for this new classification was submitted to a vote by secret ballot. It was carried with nearly 75% (74.38%) of the vote.
With a view to obtaining a broad consensus and to enable all those involved to have time to plan ahead as fully as possible, the publication of the classification is not anticipated to take place until 2020.
Members have been invited to participate more actively in the next stages of the project. The working committee will welcome collaboration and assistance in creating the new classification.

Congratulations to the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, and to Frédéric de Luze (President) and Frédérique de Lamothe (Director) for having the vision to push this forward. I am sure, in view of previous events, it will not all be plain sailing.

The annual tasting of the 2013 Cru Bourgeois selection will take place in Paris on Wednesday and in London this Thursday. Sadly, for the first time in several years, I will be unable to attend. I hope it goes well.