Tag Archives: Loire Valley

The Vincast Episode 133 – Loic Avril from Dinner by Heston Melbourne

Loic Avril was destined to work with wine, considering he grew up in one of France’s most historic wine regions, and sharing of great wine and food was always important to his family.  His love of hospitality and restaurants came very early, from the age of ten in fact, and he was determined to follow a path in fine dining. After gaining experience in restaurants in the Loire Valley and northern England, he joined the team at The Fat Duck – at one point considered the best restaurant in the world – and soon received significant attention when he was named the global best young sommelier. When the restaurant relocated to Melbourne for six months he relocated, and decided to stay and run the wine program when it transitioned to Dinner by Heston.

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Loic Avril from Dinner by Heston Melbourne

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Domaine Catherine & Pierre Breton – an Intrepid Wine Tasting

Catherine & Pierre Breton farm 11 hectares of vines organically and biodynamically, just outside of Bourgeuil in the middle-Loire Valley. They produce Chinon & Bourgeuil wines from cabernet franc, and some Vouvray from chenin blanc as well. All the estate was founded in 1982, they introduced organic viticulture in 1991 and biodynamics in 1994. The wines are being imported by George McCullough Imports, who I bought these bottles from and am happy to share my notes.

La Dilettante Vouvray 2014
Creamy pithy melons leesy pear, quince tart, oxidative vanilla. Warm apple pie, some savoury custard notes, fresh but not crunchy, quite creamy in texture.

La Ritournelle Bourgueil Rosé 2014
Sharp stalky savoury celery tomato leaf herbs, raspberries. Brisk and tight, nice crunchy tannins, fresh and focused, compelling and delicious savoury rosé.

Avis de Vin Fort Bourgueil 2014 Clairet
On the funky side, raw wild stinky, very vibrant aromatically, sour plums, blackberries and middle eastern spices. Crunchy again, darker but lighter in style, some earthy black fruit expressions, a fresh but wild finish.

Nuits d’Ivresse Bourgueil 2013
Black olive tapenade, syrupy balsamic, black cherries, wild herbal notes, brambles. Crunchy fresh, dancing tannins, wild acids, oxidative savoury bitter almonds.

Les Perrieres Bourgueil 2011
Dark pomegranate blackberry sour blood plums, earthy undergrowth, sweet carob notes. Soft but tight, lithe light crunchy, broad and mellow on the back, very long, dense but lively.

Domaine Breton wines

Domaine Breton wines

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Domaine Brendan Tracey – an Intrepid Wine Tasting

Brendan Tracey originally hails from New Jersey in the U.S.A. but went to high school in France, and moved to Paris in 1981 to work as a DJ on a new radio station. After a career in radio spanning 27 years, he decided to throw it all in and study winemaking. In 2009 he apprenticed with Loire Valley legend Thierry Puzelat who no doubt influenced his wines, as they are of minimal-intervention style. Based in Saint-Anne he makes a range of Vin de France wines in his garage from organically-farmed grapes. The wines are imported in Australia by George McCullough Imports.

Rue de la Soif 2013
Sour lime warheads, sherbet, salted almonds, quince and nashi pear. Very fresh light bright, intense fruit acids, citrus and peach, nice energy, crisp and good bite, excellent and vibrant.

Rouge 2013
A bit stinky, funky raspberries, sour cherries, earthy dried meats, dried florals. Juicy crunchy fresh, nice bite of pomegranate cherry raspberry tomato, lithe focused all through the mid palate, crisp clean finish. Surprising!

Gorge Seiche 2014
More intense darker fruits still vibrant, bitter dark chocolate, some dried mushrooms, sweat breads. Bold darker fruits, all in the mid palate, some hints of barrel, sweetness of salted caramel. Juicy but still very fresh and delicious!

Brendan Tracey wines

Brendan Tracey wines

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The Vincast Episode 029 – Sparkling Wine with Phil Smith

With the Christmas and New Year period rapidly approaching our tastebuds turn to sparkling wine, and on this episode I have returning guest Phil Smith from The Wine Depository join me to discuss the many styles of sparkling wine and ways to enjoy them.

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Phil Smith

Phil Smith

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It is and it isn’t (Pouilly, France – Day Two)

I’ve never really understood the phrase “the exception that proves the rule”, and I’m wondering if someone can explain it to me. Doesn’t an exception by definition DISprove a rule? Isn’t that the whole point of a rule? I understand the concept of “rules were meant to be broken”, never more appropriate than when talking about the rules and regulations around appellation des origine controlee (AOC) in France, and similar denominations in other European countries. The idea that the best wines are produced from certain varieties in certain terroirs perfected over the centuries isn’t the question for me. The question is the determination of yields and practices in the vineyards in cellars that are determined by this quite rigid system. In terms of planting other varieties, not only can you not label any wine made from the varieties, but the mere existence of them is forbidden. Around Europe there are mavericks looking to shake things up a bit, breaking away from the norm and attempting to disprove the rules, or prove the exception. One of these is Domaine Didier Dagueneau.

Domaine Didier Dagueneau

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Everybody needs good neighbours (Pouilly, France – Day One)

In the world of wine there are a few appellations that neighbour each other and are almost identical in terms of the climate, variety and style. Yet for some reason they aren’t as large or well known as these neighbours. One that comes to mind is Barbaresco and Barolo, the former being a third of the size and yet both are made from nebbiolo and are planted on the same soil type. Another more recent one I visited was in Touraine where the king of whites is Vouvray, but just across the river is Montlouis-sur-Loire where they also produce crisp fresh white wine from chenin blanc. Adding to this is the Pouilly-Fume appellation, which sits on the eastern/left bank of the Loire River, is about 40% the size of Sancerre and is also made with sauvignon blanc. There are some similarities in terms of soil with variations of clay, flint and chalk (much like in Chablis in fact). An interesting difference is that there is an additional AOC within Pouilly called Pouilly-sur-Loire, surrounding the town of the same name, which is exclusively planted to the more traditional chasselas variety and totals only 50 hectares. There is enough similarity in the style to be able to buy Pouilly-Fume instead of Sancerre and not be disappointed, particularly as the prices are a little friendlier. Head into your local independent boutique wine store and get them to recommend some alternatives to the better known wines you may drink, and you may discover something even better for the price.
Chateau de Nozet, the unofficial heart of Pouilly-Fume

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Domaine Didier Dagueneau – 30/11/2012

Pouilly-Fume Blanc 2010
Totally different aromatics for a sauvignon blanc, amazingly complex, very mineralic but a maturity to the green herbaceous characters I’ve never seen before. Bright intense and fresh, yet full of fruit, very vibrant, mouth-filling, insanely complex, refined yet offering so much. Such assuredness in a Pouilly-Fume, it’s hard to believe. I need to know how…

Pur Sang 2010
A lot more subdued, quiet and complex, showing a lot more flint minerality but very subtle, deep floral elements, haunting. Wonderfully rich but not heavy, waves of complexity across the palate, fine and elegant but with precision, interesting grapefruit and some green pineapple as well, but not fat at all.

Buisson Renard 2010
Deeply complex and rich on the nose, wonderful concentration of fruit and minerality, not heavy but expressive. Somehow more masculine and serious. Very broad in an amazing way, not at all heavy, rich, creamy or cloying. Wonderful acidity and freshness, but shifting wonderfully. Exceptionally long. So much ageing potential I want to cry. A little bit of a savoury edge.

Le Mont Damne Sancerre 2010
Brighter and more floral, quite crisp and chalky, some tropical notes that are very restrained. Great ripeness good fruit, balanced acids, great finish. It’s just lacking a little depth and concentration. I think it is to do with the age of the vines (7 years). Perhaps the wine is too young, perhaps I am expecting too much. Improving with each taste.

Silex 2010
Brooding intense, very stoic and serious, slightly closed and very young, but wonderfully delicate and complex. Great clean and pure fruit, definitely in the greener spectrum. The flint seems to bring out the greener notes of the variety. Persistent racing and razor sharp, bitingly young, needs quite a few years to open and flesh out. Crisp to the nines.

Silex 2009
Riper and deeper, less concentration and density, more fruit and richness. More floral and even a little candied compared to the next vintage. Already showing much better than the 2010, more open and expressive, fruit is more apparent, quite ripe but not heavy or full, certainly not in the fat tropical area. The green is not showing in this wine, perhaps vintage specific. Still very young and brisk, nice bite to the back palate needs more time to soften.

Clos de Calvaire 2008
Lovely complex salted capers but very subtle, steamed asparagus, but also lovely fresh and ripe citron and kiwi fruit. I’ve never seen such complexity in green characters. Dense and concentrated but not too intense, bright fresh, integrated acids and exceptional balance of alcohol. So uniquely savoury, not overt fruit.

Cuvee Pirate 2008
Quite clearly riesling on the nose, but a very good example. Planted on flint it has the characters of the soil, quite dense and concentrated but different structure to German or Alsatian rieslings. A really good example, certainly a wine of interest worth ageing.

Les Jardins des Babylone 2010 (100% petit manseng)
Rich creamy tropical pineapple papaya, a little smoky and leesy. Quite concentrated and sweet on the palate, deep and fruity, very rich and full but not cloying. Good length, excellent balance, still enough acid to carry everything. Not a simple sweet wine, but approachable nonetheless.

Les Jardins 2007
Slightly smokier and more closed, more minerality and petrol aromas. Much denser and heavier, a lot of sweetness and density, I think it is a little heavy and the alcohol stands out a little bit. Too aggressive, the balance was better in the 2010.

Domaine Didier Dagueneau

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Finishing big (Sancerre, France – Day Three)

It is important to remember that everything is relative, and also that there are numerous implications depending on the person and the word. Language is complicated as much as communication itself, and over the past 14 months (to the day in fact) I have had so many situations where things can have different meanings depending on audience and context. My understanding of things, not only about wine, has changed significantly and I have discovered that it is important to always clarify and speak relatively. For example, there is a word in French that will be familiar to most wine-lovers that actually has different meanings in English which are related but have different connotations. The word is ‘grand’, and in the context of vineyard classification for such regions as Burgundy and Alsace, it means ‘great’ or essentially ‘the best’. The word can also mean ‘big’ or ‘large’, which implies size rather than importance and in terms of wine, could refer to the size of vineyards or a winery for example. When a winery produces 3.5 million bottles per year in Sancerre, this is both great and large, but in the Australian context it is merely a medium-sized winery. Everything is relative. What is interesting is that in my humble opinion I began my week with the most important producer in Sancerre and finished with the largest, and the quality of the wines to decline with each estate I visited.

Cellars in Sancerre

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All things bright and beautiful (Sancerre, France – Day Two)

Sancerre is another one of those wine words that is almost a synonym for white wine. The white wines have been well known along time not only in France but also in the UK, where as has been suggested by Chris Kissack, Sancerre is an easy name to say and thus ask for. Sancerre is on the Loire River and is thus part of the valley, but it is a long way even from Touraine let alone the western parts of the Loire. It is actually closer to Burgundy which it has more in common in terms of terroir, climate and even varieties. The AOC for Sancerre white wines was created in 1936 around the same time that most of the AOCs in the Loire Valley were established. The cultivation of grapes in this part of France is believed to date back to the Roman era, so it has a much longer history. The name is taken from the village where a castle once stood with nine towers, only one of which remains. This hill and surrounding slopes make it ideal for viticulture in a pretty cool climate, as the exposure to the sun improves ripeness. This is in contrast to Touraine which is a little more flat but also a little warmer. The key grape variety here is sauvignon blanc and is without question the best known place for the variety. 20% of the vineyards however are planted to pinot noir which produce both red and rose wines for which an additional AOC was created in 1959. With the market changing away from sancerre red wines they are beginning to produce more rose wine which is in a very light dry and food-friendly style. The white wines differ depending mostly on the specific terroir on which the vineyards are planted, and also a little on how the wines are vinified.
Always work to be done in the vineyards

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Serge Dagueneau – 29/11/2012

Chasellas 2011 (Pouilly-sur-Loire)
Less of the play-doh, seeing more minerality, slightly on the talcy side, very mineralic but nice fruit too. Full and ripe, offers more on the palate and in the fruit, minerality disappears a little, but actually offers something. Perhaps vine age? Later harvesting? Still quite dry and a little green.

Tradition 2011
Lovely and vibrant fruit, excellent concentration, excellent balance of the green elements, lovely and enticing but also approachable on the nose. Juicy bright clean balanced, excellent fruit harmony but also plenty of citrus and orchard fruit. Good length and extension, clean herbaceous finish.

Clos des Chadoux 2010
Much smokier and crushed floral concentration, on the talcy side of mineralisation, very intense but bvery subdued fruit, will take a little longer to express. Riper richer but also lighter, very complex, some late salty savoury elements to it, will get more interesting as it ages. An exceptional wine, very high quality.

La Leontine 2009
Slightly darker in colour, more intensity but still very bright. A little more density but showing much more oak characters compared to the other wines. Oak very prominent in youth but very well balanced, adding complexity that will age well. Round and dense, good on the mid-palate, fruit yet to express.

Les Filles 2010 (vin non filtre)
Really intense and dark, more in the masculine side. Deeper more earthy and rich, less brightness of fruit, quite closed for the time-being, needs a little more to express. Looking warm and too textured for now, needs to develop.

Serge Dagueneau

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