63 Pall Mall: the exciting new wine shop from Berry Bros & Rudd

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On Friday I went to the press tasting of high-end London retailer Berry Bros & Rudd, and it proved to be a great chance to check out their new retail outlet at 63 Pall Mall.

Previously, Berry Bros had a small retail space at 3 St James’ Street, which has been in operation since 1698. This historic space was a little intimidating. Dudes in sharp suits were waiting to speak with private clients about their reserves – usually Claret with a bit of Burgundy, Champagne and Port. Ask them about new regional France or new world wines and you’d get a panicked look. Rather off piste. Now, No 3 is closed for renovation, and there’s a magnificent new retail space round the corner, which connects with the various cellars of BBR by a labyrinthine mix of stairs and corridors.

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The suits have gone to be replaced by aprons. I was really impressed by the new space, which gives this superb, well chosen range of wines the sort of retail presence they deserve.

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The range is strong. I particularly like the Champagne selection. Classics, plus lots of growers.

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Then there’s a good selection of wine on tasting on the enomatic machines, which I love.

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And there’s really good point-of-sale information on shelf, giving you plenty of detail about prospective purchases.

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Negatives? Can’t think of many. Maybe the lack of some of the more quirky natural wines. Slightly high margins, but I totally forgive this because I’d rather pay more for a well chosen selection, from a nice retail space with good customer service, than save a few pounds here and there for a warehouse environment where it’s quite possible to blow cash on bad bottles. Ultimately, the reason people come to a place like this is because of the fundamental integrity of the operation: this is a high quality selection, chosen on merit. It’s the art of shopkeeping: a relationship of trust between retailer and customer. This is a great addition to the London wine scene.

It’s also over the road from 67 Pall Mall. Another London wine hub. Stroke of genius.

Château Gruaud Larose 2000

Gruaud Larose 2000

Drinking this tonight. Whatever your preferences in wine, whether it’s for natural stuff, or new wave South Africans, or Kiwi Pinot, it’s always great to drink proper Bordeaux, picked at the right time (12.5% alcohol), from a good vintage, and given some bottle age. I’m enjoying this a lot. It’s not perfect: wine doesn’t have to be. But it’s true. We as people often aspire to perfection but all we need to really be is true.

Château Gruaud Larose 2000 Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France
12.5% alcohol. This is a beautiful wine, drinking really well. There’s lovely definition to the blackcurrant and black cherry fruit with some nice acidity and freshness. It’s showing the first signs of some maturity, but still has plenty of primary fruit. There’s a hint of chalk and gravel, but these more savoury, stony notes integrate nicely into the whole. What I really love about this wine is its balance. It’s not trying too hard to impress: it just is what it is, classic Claret, beginning to enter its drinking window. It has fruit but it also has a savoury side, and it has a bit of generosity but it’s not sweet. It makes you work a little. It’s also a lot more harmonious and even more intense an hour after opening. This is why people get excited about top Bordeaux. 95/100

 

 

Kiwi gins and tonics: a comparative tasting

kiwigin

When I was in New Zealand in January, Hannah Burns of Craggy Range and I did an impromptu tasting of Kiwi gins. We tried the gins neat, and then in G&Ts with Quina Fina tonic. We also tried a range of tonics on their own. These are my notes.

Broken Heart Navy Strength Gin
57% alcohol. From Queenstown in the South Island. Very aromatic with nice juniper and citrus aromas. Complex and really intense with an attractive spiciness. Boldly spicy and delicious. 9/10

Reid & Reid New Zealand Dry Gin
42% alcohol. From Martinborough, North Island, uses native botanicals. Batch distilled in a 200 litre copper pot still. Not too aromatic. Mellow with some juniper notes and warm spiciness. Very textural and spicy with a nice rounded character and some exotic spicy notes. Makes a smooth G&T. 8.5/10

new zealand gin

Rogue Society Premium Dry Gin
From Auckland, with 12 botanicals. Slightly medicinal nose. Smooth, broad palate has some warmth. It’s very easy going in a G&T and doesn’t assert itself. 7/10 

Chatham Islands Black Robin Gin
43% alcohol. From Auckland, with 11 botanicals. Juniper on the nose with some medicinal hints. Attractive, warm and spicy palate. A good solid performer in a G&T. 7.5/10

Ariki Ultra Premium Gin
45% alcohol. From Auckland. Interesting aromatically with some juniper, spice, camphor and citrus. There’s a spicy, smoky edge to the palate. Very distinctive: almost peaty. The Islay of gins. Makes a G&T full of character. 8.5/10

newzealandtonic

Tonics:

Quina Fina
Lively and fresh and not too strongly flavoured. Pure, nicely bitter, and not too sweet. 

East Imperial Tonic Water
Lively, complex, savoury and grapefruity.

East Imperial Yuzu Tonic
Really aromatic and exotic. Spicy and distinctive. Lovely.

East Imperial Old World Tonic
Dry and delicate with subtle flavours: not overpowering

Loire adventure: Clau de Nell, Anjou

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Sylvain Potin and Christian Jacques

There’s an interesting story behind Anjou-based biodynamic winery Clau de Nell, which was the next stop on our Loire tour.

Christian Jacques was married to the late Anne Claude Leflaive, and in 2008 the pair purchased the struggling Clau de Nell domaine, initially with a view to running it with the existing owner who was experiencing financial difficulties. Soon, though, they realized they’d have to run it themselves if it was going to work.

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Jacques and Leflaive already knew Clau de Nell because it was part of their portfolio of 13 biodynamic domaines that they helped get to market. Such were the problems here that no wine had been made for three years.

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In 2009 Jacques was joined by winemaker Sylvain Potin, and they set about restoring the vineyards, doing some replanting.

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The domaine is based on a single, rather isolated plot of 10 hectares on a gentle slope, and as well as the Cabernet Franc and Grolleau vines, they’ve planted some Chenin Blanc. There’s also a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, too.

Some frost damage, fortunately just a little area of the vineyard was affected

Some frost damage, fortunately just a little area of the vineyard was affected

The property is named after the previous owners, who hailed from Burgundy, called Claude and Nelly Pichard. Clau de Nell has now been farmed biodynamically since 2000.

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Clau de Nell Chenin Blanc 2015 IGP Val de Loire
13% alcohol. First vintage for this wine from new plantings. Grés et Silex rouges over Tuffeau. Lively and intense with lovely pear and spice, as well as a citrus core. This has good concentration with really fine acidity and some baked apple generosity on the mid palate. Great balance here with some richness but also freshness. Serious effort. 93/100

Clau de Nell Grolleau 2015 IGP Val de Loire
Lovely detailed, spicy nose with red cherries and pepper. So fresh, detailed and peppery on the palate, too, with lively raspberries and cherries. Floral and expressive. This has good density and concentration, but also lovely freshness. Grippy finish. Just lovely. 93/100 

Clau de Nell Grolleau 2014 IGP Val de Loire
This is fresh but quite dense, with grippy raspberry fruit and some peppery detail. It has good weight and a fine-grained savoury tannic finish. Great concentration for Grolleau, Serious stuff with the potential to develop: you taste the old vine intensity here. Less floral than the 2015 but with more substance. 93/100

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Clau de Nell Cabernet Franc 2015 Anjou
Fresh and floral with bright cherry and raspberry fruit. Expressive with some grippy tannins, but they are fine-grained and work well on the background of the bright raspberry and cherry fruit. Lovely focus here. 92/100 

Clos de Nell Cabernet Franc 2014 Anjou
Dense and vivid with lovely weight to the crunchy blackcurrant and raspberry fruit. Some richness here as well as grippy freshness. A serious, dense yet luscious expression of Cabernet Franc with seriousness and prettiness. 94/100

Clau de Nell Violette 2015 Anjou
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc. Beautiful stuff with vivid blackcurrant fruit. Intense, pure, lively and structured with some floral notes, good acidity and some grippy tannins. Has some flesh but also lovely bones. Structured and bright with a chalky edge to the fruit. 94/100

Clau de Nell Violette 2014 Anjou
33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 67% Cabernet Franc. This is fleshy and delicious with some grip, but also some sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Good acidity and firm tannins, but these structural features mesh well with the vivid fruit. 93/100

 

 

On the need for recognition and approval

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I remember that as a child I loved creating things. I spent hours drawing: pencils, felt-tip pens, and even drawing ink. I also loved sculpting things out of plasticine (famously used by Nick Park in his animated features) and clay. But each time I did something new, I needed it to be endorsed by someone else. This was usually my mum, and I’ll forever be grateful for her unfailing enthusiasm and heartfelt praise for my work. I credit this lavish approval for the confidence (or is it over-confidence?) I have in anything I create now. I’m always willing to try new things and stretch myself, and this has served me well. There’s no room for self-doubt if you’re in the media.

I don’t know if this need for approval ever leaves us. Whenever we do something, whether it is writing an article or making a wine, third-party feedback is so helpful. We may think we’ve done a good job, but until others give their verdicts, we’re never quite sure.

I guess that’s one of the reasons that we still need good wine critics. Not only is good wine criticism helpful for consumers who want to spend their hard-earned money wisely, but also it acts as a validation for winemakers. If a critic is competent and honest (some critics taste poorly and others just say nice things about every wine in a bid to be quoted) then their verdict is valuable feedback for winegrowers.

Of course, winegrowers know their wines and vineyards better than any critic. But we all find it easier to assess other people and their work than we do ourselves and our work. I’m quite good at giving my friends life advice when I see what they are up to, but I’m particularly bad in assessing myself. For this reason, I value the feedback of others, because they can see things that I miss. We don’t know what we look like until we have a mirror, and in this life the mirror is constructive feedback from friends who care.

Loire adventure: Vincent Carême, Vouvray

Vincent Carême

Vincent Carême

The drive from Montlouis to Vouvray took us past the famous troglodyte residences built into the tufa (soft limestone) cliffs that follow the Cher and Loire rivers. Here, homes and wine cellars have been built into caves that were created when limestone for building was extracted. They are quirky and wonderful.

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For winegrowers who own one of these caves, they make ideal cellars. They are naturally cool, which means nice slow fermentations, reduced risk of brett (for reds), and good storage conditions. They are also quite damp, which results in mould growth but also very little evaporation, and much reduced need for topping up of barrels.

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Our visit in Vouvray was with Vincent and Tania Carême. Vincent is local, but not from a wine-growing family, while Tania is from South Africa. Vincent’s first vintage was 1999, but in 2004 he bought the property that currently doubles as family home and winery, with nice underground caves as barrel cellars. At the same time, he also bought a superb vineyard that he’s partially replanted: Le Clos de La Roche Vouvray. They farm 17 hectares of vines, and also buy in some grapes for the ‘Spring’ cuvée. Farming is organic.

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We took a walk around the vineyards, and then went back to the cellar for some tasting. Afterwards, Vincent and Tania prepared some rillettes and terrine for us, and we sat, drank and chatted, while their two energetic boys and wire-hired daschund ran around us.

Limestone soils

Limestone soils

Vincent and Tania also make wine in South Africa, and it’s pretty good. Apart from his South African red, this is a 100% Chenin Blanc domain.

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Vincent Carême Brut NV Vouvray, Loire, France
2014 and some 2013 too. A vineyard with heavier clay soils. Fermentation in tank, stop the fermentation with 18 g rs, filter and then add yeast. It’s somewhere between a methode ancestral and traditional method. 24-36 months on the lees and 5 g/l dosage. Very fruity and rounded with apples and pears, and a hint of sweetness. This is a generous fruity style with real appeal. 89/100

Vincent Carême L’Ancestrale 2014 Vouvray, Loire, France
Use only old vineyards, start fermentation in tank with natural yeast. Long, slow fermentation with one racking to get rid of the heavy sediments. After we bottle with 18-20 g sugar, but we don’t add any yeast. Store bottles at 14 C to make sure the fermentation carries on. Keep the wine in bottle for 24 months and disgorge with no dosage. This is bright and lemony with lovely fresh, pure fruit. Nicely intense with good acidity. Very stylish and linear. 91/100 

Vincent Carême Spring Vouvray 2015 Loire, France
Negociant wine with grapes bought from friends, not all organic. Vinified here. Made 80% in tank, 20% in barrel. Lovely mellow, fruity wine with pretty lemon, pear and apple fruit. Pure and juicy with good acidity. Stony and juicy with nice precision. 90/100

Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec 2016 Loire, France
Dry with a hint of fruit sweetness. Lively tangerine and lemon fruit, and a delicate spiciness. Fruity and delicious with a hint of marmalade and tingling acidity, as well as a bit of apricot. Such purity and detail. Stony and fine. 93/100

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Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec 2015 Loire, France
Lovely stuff. Stony and spicy with tingling, mineral acid, and lemons, pears and nectarines. Great balance here: I love the tension between the freshness and richness, with appealing fruit and a spicy depth. 93/100

Vincent Carême Le Peu Morier Vouvray 2015 Loire, France
Single vineyard on the top of a small valley, with flinty topsoils over limestone. So vital and stony with real finesse to the citrus, pear and apple fruit. Tangy and detailed with a hint of sweetness, toying with the high acidity. Made in 400 litre barrels, 5-10% new oak. Such amazing acid structure. 94/100 

Vincent Carême Vouvray Le Clos 2015 Loire, France
Part of this was fermented in an amphora made of ceramic material, fired at a higher temperature, while the rest was fermented in 400 litre barrels. Detailed with explosive mineral character: great acidity, some spiciness, a lemony core and some grapefruit and nectarine exotic notes. Lovely freshness and purity. Such a lovely lemony core to this wine with well integrated acidity, as well as a hint of sweetness. 94/100

Vincent Carême Vouvray Tendre 2015 Loire, France
20 g/litre sugar. From old vines, looking for surmaturite such as noble rot. Very rich, appley and stony with some sweetness balanced by high acidity. Nicely dense with a juicy, fruity personality. Pure and delicious. Mouthwatering acidity here. 92/100

Vincent Carême Vouvray Moelleux 2015 Loire, France
45 g/l residual sugar. Off dry with some nice savoury notes as well as sweet yellow plum, pear and nectarine fruit notes. So balanced with the sweetness and acidity meshing well. Pure. Has a lovely spicy edge and hints of straw and rocks. Will age beautifully. 93/100

Vincent Carême Vouvray Première Trie 2015 Loire, France
100 g/l residual sugar. Powerful and intense with lemons, apricot, spice and minerals. There’s some marmalade and melon richness, with sweetness and acidity. Lovely spicy acidity. Rich but balanced with thrilling complexity. 94/100

Vincent Carême Terre Brûlé Le Blanc 2016 Swartland, South Africa
Chenin Blanc. There’s some freshness here with nice pear and citrus fruit with some tangerine detail. Fresh with nice acidity and lovely fruit. Fine and expressive with some baked apple on the finish. Considering the drought vintage, this is really fresh and balanced. 92/100 

Vincent Carême Terre Brûlé Le Rouge 2016 Swartland, South Africa
Syrah and Cinsault. Juicy and lively with bright, slightly meaty berry fruits. Cherries and plums with some nice acidity. Spicy and a bit rustic, this is robust and delicious. 90/100

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Loire adventure: the film

This is a film of our Loire Valley wine adventure. We started with a day in Paris, then we head to Sancerre, before working our way up the Loire to Muscadet. It’s such an interesting wine region, and we met some great people, and tasted and drank many memorable wines.

In this film we meet the following domains (with time on the film indicated):

  • Joseph Mellot, Sancerre 02:25
  • Clos de Tue Boeuf, Puzelat brothers, Cheverny 05:46
  • Taille Aux Loups, Jacky Blot, Montlouis 07:24
  • Vincent Carême, Vouvray 10:53
  • Clau De Nell, Anjou 15:21
  • Bernard Baudry, Chinon 21:13
  • Mélaric, Saumur 22:47
  • François Saint-Lô, Saumur 24:48
  • Coulée de Serrant, Nicolas and Virginie Joly, Savennières 27:48
  • Vincent Caillé, Muscadet 27:48

 

Loire adventure: Taille aux Loups, Montois, with Jacky Blot

Amboise

Amboise

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The view from my bedroom window!

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We finished our appointment at Puzelat and headed to Amboise. It was a beautiful sunny evening, and we were quite excited, because we were staying in a castle right in the middle of town. Nicole, who booked accommodation for the trip, is officially the queen of Airbnb, and we had plenty of room for the four of us plus kidnapped Mees. We dumped our stuff and headed off to get some provisions: cheeses, meats, salads, crisps, fruit and several baguettes. On the way back, we found a bar and had a round of beers. Because it was so nice sitting outside in the evening sun we followed this with a bottle of Vouvray Pet Nat. It was blissful. We then drank all the Puzelat wines we had bought that day from the domaine, while sitting in the garden eating and chatting.

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Jacky Blot, star of Montlouis

Jacky Blot, star of Montlouis

The next morning, our first visit was with Jacky Blot at Domeina de la Taille Aux Loups in Montlouis. Bordered by two rivers, the Lot and Cher, and the forest of Amboise, this is a compact appellation of 350 hectares. Its neighbour, Vouvray, is bigger at 2000 hectares, but both specialise in a single variety, the fabulous Chenin Blanc.

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Blot was previously a wine broker, and began his own domaine when he acquired 8 hectares of old vines in 1989. He’s since added to these holdings, and now has 25 hectares in Montlouis and 5 in Vouvray. (He also has 14 hectares in Bourgueil: in 2002 he purchased Domaine de la Butte.)

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc

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Viticulture is organic in all his parcels. In 2010 he bought the Clos du Mosny, which is the Loire Valley’s largest clos. With 12.5 hectares of well situated wines, this impressive property is where we had a look at the vineyards. It has a chalk subsoil with a clay topsoil, and quite a bit of silex in the upper layers.

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All the wines here are dry, and fermented in oak, and Blot has 1000 barrels. He buys around 100 new barrels each year, so there’s a 10 year cycle. For Blot it is very important to him to get the wines properly dry, and fermentations are sometimes very long in the cold cellars: he says he is looking for sucrosity without sucre. He avoids malolactic fermentation. Three coopers are used, all Burgundian: Cadus, Demy and Chassin. The wines are bottled with low levels of sulphites.

We ended up staying for lunch, and had to cancel a planned trip to see the Château of Chenonceux, but for wines like these it was worth it.

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La Taille aux Loups Triple Zero NV Touraine, France
Base 2014. No dosage or liquer de tirage or chaptalization. Tight and complex with a savoury quality to the pear and citrus fruit. There’s some straw-like quality here as well as nice compact, focused fruit. Lovely balance and lots of interest to this wine. It tastes like Chenin. 91/100

La Taille Aux Loups Brut Tradition NV
Complex and savoury with some toastiness as well as straw and spice, alongside bold pear and white peach fruit. Nice depth and complexity here: a rich, focused sparkling wine. Nice density with some savoury notes. 90/100

Taille Aux Loups Remus 2015 Montlouis, Loire, France
This is so tight and savoury with linear citrus fruits, some fine herbs, and a hint of nice cheesiness. So fresh and direct with good concentration and focus. Has nice complexity and a delicious acid core. 92/100

Taille Aux Loups Clos Michet 2015 Montlouis, Loire, France
Incredible nose of tangerines and herbs. Floral and enticing. Dry palate with textured yet taut citrus fruit, and lovely acidity. There’s an energy to this wine, and it’s balanced, with the fruit adding some depth to counter the keen acidity. 93/100

Taille Aux Loups Clos de Mosny Monopole 2015 Montlouis, Loire, France
Very fine expressive citrus nose with a hint of straw. There’s keen acidity here with some appealing, concentrated sweet fruit – lemons and pears. Great acidity here. So fine and detailed. 93/100

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Taille Aux Loups Les Hauts de Husseau 2015 Montlouis, Loire, France
Old vines from a specific plot: grown directly on the calcaire in this plot. This is tight, linear and quite waxy with precise citrus fruit. There’s a pithy grapefruit character here, and the acidity is fabulous. Very compact and tightwound, and clean citrus notes to the fore. 94/100

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Taille Aux Loups Clos de la Brettonière 2015 Vin de France
This is in Vouvray but to have the appellation it would need to have been made in Vouvray, hence it is Vin de France. It’s from a southwest-facing monopole on the Première Côte. Highly aromatic with sweet apples, pears and lemons. The palate is fresh and lemony with keen acidity and lovely purity. Lovely acidity on the finish. 93/100

Taille Aux Loups Clos de Venise 2015 Vin de France
This is a single hectare south-facing vineyard on the Première Côte in Vouvray. Limestone with a bit of clay and flint on the top. Lovely freshness and texture here with fine citrus fruit and a bit of generosity to the apple and lemon core. Lovely acidity. So fine and expressive. 94/100

Taille Aux Loups Rémus 2013 Montlouis, Loire, France
Not much sun and lots of rain in this difficult vintage. Most of the clos wines were declassified into this. Very tight and a bit austere with high acidity, but lovely nuttiness and a strong waxy edge that’s very Chenin. Lemony and detailed. Despite the high acid, there’s lovely complexity here. 92/100

Taille Aux Loups Rémus 2014 Montlouis, Loire, France
This is generous and slightly honeyed, with ripe apple and nuts as well as a hint of cream, over a pear and citrus base. Lovely weight here. Nicely complex with a friendly side, even though it is dry. 91/100

Taille Aux Loups Les Hauts de Husseau 2013 Montlouis, Loire, France
Lovely complexity on the nose. Such lively acidity with a lemony core and delicious waxy, nutty undertones. It’s bone dry but really complex. Such an interesting wine. 93/100

Taille Aux Loups Clos de Venise 2013 Vouvray, Loire, France
Beautiful detail here with lemons, grapefruits, a bit of green apple and lovely acidity. Dry and intense with hints of wax and straw. Acidic, but the acidity has a nice quality to it and integrates well. 92/100

Taille Aux Loups Clos de Mosny 2012 Montlouis, Loire, France
This is beautiful: textured and broad with very fine citrus and white peach fruit. It’s almost a bit Burgundian in texture and weight with a refined citrus core and well integrated acidity. Developing beautifully with lively mandarin notes on the finish. 94/100

Taille Aux Loups Rémus 2005
A warm vintage. Complex and intense with some sweet pear and melon notes. Honeyed. Ripe apple and a fine, dense, rounded spicy personality. Lots of weight here with a sweetness to the fruit. So generous but not over the top. 92/100

Taille Aux Loups Rémus 2004
A terrible vintage, that was very cold. But this wine has developed beautifully, with a stony edge and delicious lemon and tangerine fruit. This has real detail and complexity with nice intensity and notes of wax and herbs. Everything has integrated nicely. 93/100

Bourgeuil

All the vines areplanted on slopes, with no vines on the sand or gravel terroirs. 14 hectares of vines. Bought this domaine in 2002.

Domaine de la Butte Pied de la Butte 2015
This has a lovely freshness to the smooth, linear black cherry and raspberry fruit. It’s floral and quite elegant with nice acidity and some refined, integrated chalky, gravelly tannins. Very appealing. 92/100

Domaine de la Butte Le Haut de la Butte 2015
6 hectare plot with Complex black fruits nose with some gravel and tar hints. Very perfumed. There’s lovely integrated acidity on the palate with very fine black cherries and blackberries, with nice spiciness. It’s chalky and fine-grained with lots of freshness but no rough edges. 94/100

Domaine de la Butte Perrières 2015
A one hectare vineyard, facing south, with yellow limestone covered with heavy clay. Juicy, bright and lively with keen acidity and vibrant red berry fruit. Compact and bright with lots of acid. This is fresh and intense. 92/100

Mi Pente 2015
Virtually no topsoil in this 6 hectare plot, with limestone and broken bits of other sedimentary rocks. Complex, dense, structured and gravelly, with some tar and spice, as well as a core of blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. Brooding and dense with nice weight. Potential for development. 93/100

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Loire adventure: Clos du Tue Boeuf with Jean-Marie Puzelat

Jean-Marie Puzelat

Jean-Marie Puzelat

This was quite a visit at Clos du Tue Boeuf. I’ve met Thierry Puzelat before, and I’ve tasted these wines a bit. They are brought into the UK by Les Caves de Pyrene, and I’ve always loved them. Here was a chance to visit. Thierry was travelling, so we met with Jean-Marie, older brother of Thierry, who initially took over the domaine in 1990, before being joined by Thierry in 1994.

They farm 13 hectares of vines. Normally, they do 13 cuvées in any particular vintage, but in 2017 they will sadly be making only two. Frost has so decimated the vines that they will consolidate production into a red and a white wine. This is quite tragic for a small family domain. Despite their fame, these wines are still pretty affordable.

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The estate is fairly isolated from other vineyards, which means there’s plenty of biodiversity. Most of it counts as AOP Cheverny, but some is AOP Touraine. Soils are clay, flint and Blois chalk. In addition to their own vineyard holdings, they also buy grapes from the Cher valley, which they use for their P’tit Blanc du Tue-Boeuf, Vin Rouge and Vin Rosé.

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We turned up a bit late from our visit in Sancerre – the Loire is quite spread out. Jean-Marie initially didn’t seem very impressed. Running a family business like this is hard work if you do it the right way, and receiving people when you can easily sell all your wine is a hassle. He didn’t know us. But as we began tasting and talking, stretching our French a little, he warmed up, and kept pulling bottles.

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These wines are amazing. They have a vitality to them, freshness, and a mineral dimension.

Clos de Tue Boeuf P’tit Blanc 2016 Vin de France
This is a Sauvignon Blanc. Expressive and fresh with nice weight, with hints of apple and citrus. Textured with lovely weight in the mouth, and a mineral edge. 91/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Le Petit Buisson 2016 Touraine, Loire, France
Sauvignon. Complex and lively with pretty mineral-tinged citrus fruit. Lovely ripe apple notes and fine herbs, with good acidity. 92/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Cheverny ‘Frileuse’ 2016 Loire, France
Very fine and expressive with lovely stony mineral notes, and appealing pear and citrus fruit. This has depth and complexity with amazing mineral precision. It’s a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon, which is normal for this appellation. 93/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Romarantin ‘Frileuse’ 2016 Vin de France
Complex, mineral and fine with great acidity. Spicy with astonishing detail to the citrus and pear fruit. Powerful, savoury and saline with high acidity. 95/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Le Buisson Pouilleux 2015 Touraine, Loire, France
Apple, pears and spice. Rounded and a bit nutty with nice texture. Good acidity. So fine on the finish, and just keeps giving, with a stony, mineral edge. 94/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Brin de Chèvre 2015 Touraine, Loire, France
Menu Pineau is the variety here. Very mineral indeed, with keen acidity and apple and citrus fruit. So linear with good acid structure. Fine and expressive, this is an amazing linear wine with great acidity. 95/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Vin Rouge 2016 Vin de France
This is Gamay. Made from bought-in grapes, this is fresh and vital with sweet cherries and plums. Nice grip and a floral cherry fruit edge, as well as a hint of meatiness. Pretty and drinkable with lovely purity. Smashable but also has a hint of seriousness. 90/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Cheverny Rouge 2016 Loire, France
This is Gamay and Pinot Noir. Very fresh, direct style with red cherries, spit and raspberry grip. Has a stony directness. 92/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Pineau d’Aunis 2016 Vin de France
So fresh and peppery on the nose with lifted bright raspberries. Very distinctive. Peppery, light, juicy and vivid on the palate. Delicious and drinkable. 93/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf La Guerrerie 2015 Touraine, Loire, France
Cot and Gamay. Supple and quite full with sweet raspberry and cherry fruit. There’s red apple, and a bit of lift. Good structure. 92/100

Clos de Tue Boeuf Cheverny La Callière 2015 Loire, France
Slightly cloudy. Spicy and peppery with bright acidity. Nice weight, with red cherries and raspberries, and some grip. Spicy and peppery with a juicy finish. 92/100

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Loire adventure: in Sancerre with Joseph Mellot

sancerre

Sancerre

We drove from Paris for just over two hours to the beautiful town of Sancerre, looking gorgeous in the May sunshine. Our visit here was with Joseph Mellot, a relatively large producer making wine in each of the Central Loire appellations. Mellot has over 100 hectares of vines, with significant holdings in Sancerre (57 hectares) and Pouilly-Fumé, quite a bit in Quincy and Reuilly, and then little bits in the Coteaux du Giennois, Menetou-Salon and Châteaumeillant. They also buy in some grapes.

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Why Mellot? Nicole’s company, Lifford, imports them into Canada. In the UK, they are represented by Hatch Mansfield.

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Silex (flint)

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Caillottes (pebbles of hard Portlandian limestone)

We met with winemaker Norbert Buchonnet, who’s been here for just over a year, after moving from the south of France. He took us on a tour of some of the Sancerre vineyard holdings. This is a region where soils are taken seriously, and they have some very impressive-looking vineyards.

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This family-run estate dates back more than 500 years, but the current company’s structure is based on the work of Alexandre Mellot, who took over in 1984. A firm believer in the potential of the Centre Loire vineyards, he purchased new holdings across all the appellations, built a new winery, and got serious about exporting. Since his death in 2005, his wife, Catherine Corbeau-Mellot, has been in charge.

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These are solid wines that are true to their terroirs.

Joseph Mellot Reuilly Rosé Les Milets 2016 Loire, France
More clay in Reuilly and this is Pinot Gris. Bright, fresh and a bit grippy, with lovely cherry hints. Fresh and expressive with a spicy, peppery twist. V pale colour from direct pressing and no skin contact. Nice dry finish. 89/100

Joseph Mellot Reuilly Blanc Les Milets 2016 Loire, France
Very fresh with a subtle vegetative green twist as well as nicely textured fruit. Some stoniness and minerality. Quite compact with good concentration and nice density of fruit. A pretty wine. 88/100

Joseph Mellot Quincy Le Rimonet 2016 Loire, France
Very sandy soils over clay. Bright, fruity and quite delicate with some tangerine and a hint of apricot. Fruity and pretty. Finishes with some grapefruit. Lovely expressive wine. 90/100

Joseph Mellot Coteaux du Giennois La Gaupière 2015 Loire, France
Heavier soils. Nice and dense with some weight to the pear and citrus fruit. Nice weight to the fruit with textured fruit and some generosity. Lovely fruit expression. 89/100

Joseph Mellot Menetou-Salon Le Clos du Pressoir 2015 Loire, France
Distinctive herb-tinged, reductive nose with lovely spicy, mineral complexity. Grapefruit and apple notes with a tingling acidity. Such a lively, edgy wine. Some cherry notes. 90/100

Joseph Mellot Sancerre Blanc La Chatelleine 2016 Loire, France
First block we saw with silex. Very linear with lovely bright acidity. Tight, mineral and precise with pure citrus fruit. Delicate and chiselled. 91/100

Joseph Mellot Sancerre Blanc L’Original 2015 Loire, France
100% flint. Complex and intense with lovely fig and pear notes, and a saline, mineral core. Some cabbage hints and nice richness. Complex and broad but with a lively edge. 92/100

Joseph Mellot Sancerre Blanc La Grande Chatelaine 2013 Loire, France
Caillotes soil. All barrel fermented in small oak, one third new. Really seductive and broad with nuts, honey and toaste as well as lovely textured pear and citrus fruit. Some orange peel and good acidity. Very complex. 92/100

Joseph Mellot Pouilly-Fume La Grande Cuvée des Edvins 2014 Loire, France
Barrel fermented. Fresh and lively with lovely acidity to the pure citrus fruit. Has a lively spiciness and some mid-palate richness. Nice balance and intensity here with precision and purity. 93/100

Joseph Mellot Menetou Salon Rouge Le Clos du Pressoir 2015 Loire, France
Fresh and clean with a slight spicy cedary edge to the fresh red cherry fruit. Linear and delicious. Harmonious with good balance and freshness in a lighter style. 90/100

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