In The Vineyards With: Isabelle & Jean-Yves Vantey (Les Rouges Queues, Maranges, Burgundy)


It was on one distinctly grey and damp afternoon in late January that our car wound its way through the vineyards of Burgundy, up towards the small area of Maranges, just south of Beaune.

I was with two of the Maule brothers (producers of natural wine in the Veneto) accompanying them as a translator and willing drinking companion on a short road trip through France.

Maranges is one of the lesser known appellations in Burgundy. Strictly speaking, it’s a Village Appellation in the southernmost point of the Côte de Beaune, and within it are 7 Premier Crus. (These 7 climats are: Clos de la Boutière, Clos de la Fussière, La Fussière, Le Clos des Loyères, Le Clos des Rois, Le Croix Moines, Les Clos Roussots.) Continue reading


Backstage at the Soavino Wine Tasting


Earlier this week, Soavino held their annual tasting at the Villa Gritti, near Soave. Not having a restaurant, wine bar or off-licence, I shouldn’t really have been allowed in but I am a regular client of their enoteca (also near Soave) and I also happen to be friends with several of the exhibiting winemakers who put me on the guest list.

In the wine world, we sometimes get so caught up in tasting notes and comparing vintages that we forget about what is happening backstage, on a human level….

mel_danielaChampagne’s most recent power couple!

You may remember that I spent the afternoon with Melanie Tarlant at their winery near Épernay last year. Well, there’s news, hot off the press:

She met Daniel Romano quite by chance, while she was presenting her family’s Champagnes at the Villa Favorita tasting in Italy in April 2016. Daniel, an accomplished sommelier specialised in natural wines, stopped by the stand to taste… and Cupid shot them both with his arrow! Daniel moved to France at the end of 2016 in order to be closer to Melanie. Best of luck to both of them!

Going back to basics with Olivier Varichon


The quality of the cork closure is fundamentally important for a winemaker. A bad cork can ruin a year’s worth of work in an instant.

We commonly talk about TCA (cork taint) affecting a wine, by making it “corked”, but a bad cork can actually spoil a wine in other ways… turning it bitter, flat or dusty.

When winemakers get together, one of the questions that I hear the most is: where do you get your corks? Amongst old world winemakers, the most highly respected regions are Portugual and Sardinia.

At the Soavino tasting, I got chatting to Olivier from Domaine Vinci, in the Roussillon (south-west France.) He explains that his corks are from the French part of the Basque country and are completely untreated. A cork manufacturer may add wax to fill in the holes and give a more appetising tan colour to the final product. Olivier’s, on the other hand, are distinctly knobbly and have a bleached white colour.


The talented Axelle Machard de Gramont whose 2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges are showing beautifully.

In case you were wondering what the featured photo was in the header of this blog post…. it was taken during a brief pause on the André Beaufort stand. The Italians love Champagne and André Beaufort’s are one of the biggest sellers at the Soavino shop. Unsurprisingly, they got through a ton of bottles at this tasting.

Many of the Beaufort Brut Champagnes have a fairly high level of added sugar (dosage, in French.) The exact level ranges between 5 and 10 grams/litre.

Having a little extra sugar helps in markets like the USA, Canada and other “newbie” consumers for whom completely bone-dry Champagnes tend to be too sharp.

Réol (pictured below) is the 6th of the eight Beaufort children. He explains that this style of Champagne is very much to his father’s liking, especially because he has found that dosage helps with the ageing process of the wines.

He comes over to talk with us later and reveals that his personal style is rather more towards having a lower dosage, maybe around 2g/l. Obviously, having such a large family – most of whom are in some way involved in the family business – you can’t always get what you want… but, once again, the passing from one generation to the next is not easy.

Réol Beaufort

Vintage 2016: Disaster strikes again in Burgundy


It ain’t over until the fat lady sings, as they say. However, for many vignerons in northern parts of Burgundy, the actress has finished her warm-up in the wings and is about to bring the curtain down on the 2016 vintage.

AWFUL NEWS FOR WINEMAKERS IN BURGUNDY AND THE LOIRE – extract from blog entry 28th April 2016.

Tuesday night [26 April] saw the worst damages for 25 years and even the most conservative reports suggest that 50% has been wiped out.

The worst-hit vineyards are in the Loire Valley (especially Bourgueil, Chinon and Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil) and Burgundy (Chablis and all the way through the prestigious Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune) but it is in no way limited to just those particular appellations.

We saw a fair share of hail in 2015 (in parts of Burgundy and Alsace, as well in areas of northern Italy) but the devastation was nowhere to this extent. 2016 is sure to go down in history as one of the worst years on record.

Friday 27th May saw a heavy hail storm pass through the areas of Chablis, Chitry and Saint Bris (northern Burgundy), ravaging the recovering vines.

Patrick Chalmeau (Chitry) speaking to a local journalist said: “as it stands right now, we won’t be making even a litre of wine this year.” Continue reading

Vintage 2016: Awful news for winemakers in Burgundy and the Loire


Frost, snow and ice are eagerly anticipated during the winter months. The extreme cold helps kill off any bugs that may be lurking around the vineyard and ensures that the vine is truly in its brief hibernation stage.

Winter 2015-6 has been exceptionally mild in France and, as a result, this year’s bud break was relatively early.

(N.B. This is supposedly due to long-term climate change and winemakers are expecting to see this occur more and more frequently.)

However, on the night of 26-27 April, temperatures got bitingly cold. Google gave me the temperature in Paris… but out in the French countryside, France profonde, it was even worse. The lowest temperature recorded was -6°C (21 Fahrenheit) in some parts, but -2 and -3 was widespread.

The problem is that once bud-break has occurred, the vines are exceptionally vulnerable and a hard frost at this stage is devastating. Unfortunately, the reason for this blog post is that Tuesday night saw the worst damages for 25 years and even the most conservative reports suggest that 50% has been wiped out.

The worst-hit vineyards are in the Loire Valley (especially Bourgueil, Chinon and Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil) and Burgundy (Chablis and all the way through the prestigious Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune) but it is in no way limited to just those particular appellations.

Winemaker-friends-of-mine such as René Mosse (in Saint Lambert du Lattay, Anjou) announced that at least 80% of their 2016 production will have been lost as a result of this frost.

Thierry Puzelat (in Les Montils, between Touraine and Cheverny) added that his vineyards have been similarly affected.

Going west, 70% of Pascal Lambert’s vineyards (Chinon) have been hit.

Further afield, Frédéric Niger from Domaine de l’Écu (Muscadet) reports that some of his plots have been completely wiped out.

And so I could go on…

But, so as not to end this blog post with even more doom and gloom, the one bit of good news is that the Champagne region and the Loir-et-Cher seems to have very narrowly missed Tuesday’s wrath.

It’s not over though, because temperatures are due to stay worryingly low for the rest of the week. For winemakers in the northern half of France, it’s a nervous waiting game.