Domaine de la Noblaie, The 2015 Vintage

“I have a few things to do first thing in the morning”, said Jérôme Billard, “so meet me at 11am. If you are up any earlier, please feel free to have a look around the vineyard”.

I suppose I could have risen early, gone for a run with the other larks around the vineyards, and then posted a suitably grey-faced, post-exercise selfie while wearing my most grave expression. But lacking the running shoes and required sense of narcissism I opted instead to take advantage of this late start by topping up my all-important Vitamin Z levels. I snored well past sunrise (there is no ‘I’m having a lie-in’ selfie to show you I am afraid, sorry for any disappointment).

Rising late, I sauntered downstairs, snaffled a couple of eggs from Jérôme Billard’s hen-house (with his prior permission of course) and with a few slices of jambon I had picked up the day before I had soon rustled up a handsome breakfast. Now this was a good way to start the day. Having polished that little lot off I found, to my disbelief, that there was still some time to pass before Jérôme was due to appear. The problem is, I realised, when it comes to having a lie in, I have clearly become deskilled. This is partly down to having had children, and partly due to Winedoctor; both as a rule necessitate early starts. I obviously need to practice in order to regain the skill I once had as a teenager and as a student.

Domaine de la Noblaie

There was one obvious solution; outside the morning mist was clearing, and remembering Jérôme’s words I decided to take a walk around the vines. His Chenin Blanc looked to be very ripe, the berries now a soft, yellow-gold and flecked with spots, and they would surely be picked soon. The Cabernet Franc, meanwhile, seemed less convincing; the occasional berry on the end of a row had good flavour, with brown and crunchy pips, but deeper into the rows they seemed less ripe. These were still a week or two from being ready for harvest, Jérôme later told me.

At the prescribed time I sauntered down to Jérôme’s recently constructed and functional but admirable winery, at the foot of the slope on which the vines rested. Jerome’s father François Billard was here, as well as at least half a dozen of his team who had been going through the vines, cutting out the grapillons and cleaning up the bunches in anticipation of harvest. It was time for elevenses (of course) which appeared to consist of a bottle of the domaine’s 2012 Chinon Blanc (a good vintage for washing down ham and eggs, as it turns out), and I gladly accepted a glass (well, it would have been rude to refuse, wouldn’t it?). Jérôme, his workers and I chewed the cud on the impending harvest for a while.

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