In July I headed out to the Loire Valley for the fourth time in 2017; I spent one night at Les Lavandes before meeting up in Angers with Master of Wine Richard Hemming. From there we struck out together leading a team of Russian sommeliers to some of the region’s top domaines. At first I was very excited for the trip as it seemed like an opportunity to show a group of enthusiastic professionals some of the up-and-coming and unsung names in the region (perfect for sommelier hand-selling, surely?), but the Russians weren’t interested, and instead requested a programme of famous names. So we went to Clos de la Coulée de Serrant, Alphonse Mellot, Didier Dagueneau and the like.
Happily I had some free time each morning (while Richard entertained with an MW-style tasting and probably a tinkle on the ivories too) so I visited some of those up-and-coming names; I called in for the first time on Brendan Stater-West in Saumur, Matthieu Delaporte in Chavignol, as well as visiting some more familiar names such as Gérard Boulay where I enjoyed tasting back to the 1990s and Henri Bourgeois where I had a first taste of their new single-vineyard wines. All in all it was a fun-packed trip that also included visits to Domaine Guiberteau, Domaine Vacheron and Jonathan Pabiot, the latter a fascinating visit during which we checked out some of his vines with Esca, and Jonathan’s radical (although, it has to be said, hardly novel) approach to treating this disease.
Once done I headed back to Les Lavandes for one night, for some emergency gardening and other repairs before our first tenants arrived for their holidays. We got some good feedback so things seem to have gone well. During August I seemed to mostly be occupied with hunting down the latest releases from Richard Leroy, seemingly ever more difficult to get hold of, for my own cellar. I think I managed two bottles each of the latest vintage.
In September it was back out to Les Lavandes again, partly for a holiday, but I wasn’t going to let the ongoing harvest, early for the Loire Valley, pass me by. I called in on Jérôme Billard again, a brief flying visit, before checking out the harvest with Matthieu Baudry, Benoit Amirault and at Château de Minière again. The team working with Benoit were happy to pose for a nearly-the-end-of-harvest photograph – as you can probably tell this was requested by the three lads on the left.
In October and November my focus was on Bordeaux (about time, you might say), first with the Union des Grands Crus tasting in London, for the 2015 vintage, and then the Institute of Masters of Wine annual Bordeaux tasting, which featured the 2013 vintage. The first was a hurried affair; a recent (temporary) change in venue means that the time for tasting is shorter than it used to be, so it is impossible to get a complete look at the vintage. It was always impossible anyway, as there are no first growths, super-seconds, supreme St Emilions or prime Pomerols in the tasting. Usually I head out to Bordeaux afterwards to taste these, but some winemakers are unhappy to open their wines so soon after bottling and thus the trip has never been as complete as I would like. So this year I have deferred my visit until June 2018, so I will publish my Bordeaux 2015 in-bottle report then. As for the Bordeaux 2013 tasting, this was a sparsely attended affair, the vintage’s reputation clearly dissuading many from attending. I’m glad I made the effort though, as the only way to judge wine is to taste it, and if the opportunity arises, retaste it. I will publish my report on these wines in January 2018.
All in all 2017 has been a great year for Winedoctor. I have published 22 brand new Loire profiles and a similar number for Bordeaux, as well as updating others, alongside a huge number of tasting reports and tasting updates (I really can’t face counting these up), as well as my Loire 2016 and Bordeaux 2016 reports of course, and retrospectives on Bordeaux 2007, Loire 2007, Loire 2002 and Loire 1997, with Bordeaux 2013 and Bordeaux 2015 reports yet to come. I also completed my guide to the wines of the Nantais this year. In 2017 I also introduced a new monthly subscription, to sit alongside the pre-existing annual subscription, which seems to have had the effect of pushing subscriber numbers further north once again.
So what of 2018? Hopefully I can continue next year in the same vein. I plan to complete the full round of tastings pretty much as described above, and to add a guide to the Central Vineyards to match that for the Nantais, as well as adding and updating as many Loire and Bordeaux profiles as possible, so that the site remains up-to-date and relevant. I have always viewed it as a permanently evolving ‘online book’ rather than a simple blog where only the most recent article really matters, so in my eyes updating old profiles as well as adding new ones is an essential part of how the site runs. Hopefully, this approach suits my subscribers – I am sure you would let me know if that were not the case!
My thanks go, as always, to all my subscribers. Here’s hoping that all reading this had a similarly joyful 2017, and best wishes to everybody for good fortune in 2018.