Sylvain Dittiere Saumur – Champigny La Porte Saint Jean – The New Clos Rougeard??

It’s a dialogue I am hearing more and more frequently. Clos Rougeard? No thanks, the prices are ridiculous now. Indeed, other than a few premium restaurants, I don’t know many merchants that actually took their allocations of the 2013 new release wines last year. 

Nowadays, there are certainly a few contenders to the Cabernet Franc throne… like Antoine Sanzay, who shares a link to the Foucault family and cultivates a bigger part of the Poyeaux site. Domaine de Collier of course, Guiberteau as well. But for me, and also for Loire aficionado Jim Budd, the estate most in the spiritual mould of the old Clos Rougeard estate, is La Porte St Jean, run by Sylvain Dittiere, the son in law of Charlie and Francoise Foucault.

To quote Jim Budd… “I fancy that Charly Foucault would feel more at home here at La Porte Saint Jean than at Clos Rougeard now that it has been bought by Martin Bouygues. While I was with Sylvain, Pauline and Francoise Foucault, visiting Sylvain, I felt a strong sense that Charlie’s esprit lives on here”.

The Domaine covers 8.5ha around Montrueil-Bellay where Sylvain cultivates his plots with huge dedication. He makes two whites, Saut-Mignon (Sauvignon Blanc) and La Perlée (usually in Saumur but more frequently in Vin de France designation). These are made from 60 to 90 years old Chenin Blanc. 

His red Saumur cuvées, Les Cormiers and Porte St Jean are matured for 18-24 months in barrel in an ancient limestone cellar from the 16 century. Long elevage is a staple of the style here and the wines are built to last. Sylvain served an extensive apprenticeship before setting up La Porte Saint Jean with stints at Thierry Germain, Gerard Gauby, Marc Tempe, and (of course) the Foucault brothers at Clos Rougeard.

Sylvain Dittiere La Porte Saint Jean 2016 Rouge, Saumur-Champigny AOC, 12.5 Abv.

A vintage that only recently arrived in the UK, it shows a dense, dark, intense purple plum colour. Initially when opened, it was very tight, dark fruited, broody and quite reductive with cassis and struck match spice intermingling with notes of lead pencil, cedar, graphite and sweet leaf. But a few hours in a decanter, and this wine has started to shed its protective layers of armour to reveal a modest glimpse of where this wine will possibly be in 5 to 8 years time. The aromatics are elegant and floral with intriguingly complex notes of grilled herbs, smoked meats, carpaccio, cassis leaf and the most incredibly intense red cherry fruit concentration. The palate too is dense and broody, but incredibly precise and focused, slowly loosening its linear grip to show very elegant fine tannins, delicious vibrant tart red cherry acids, iodine, salty brine, tart cassis and a fantastically cool, smooth elegant persistence. Wow, there is a whole lot of wine in this bottle. Still fantastically youthful, this wine oozes tension, energy, passion and artisanal blood, sweat and tears. A truly remarkable wine that just keeps on opening up revealing more and more nuances the longer it spends in the glass. This is noble Loire Cabernet Franc at its very best.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Reintroducing the Wines of Azay-le-Rideau Near Chinon in the Loire…

In 2013, longtime friends Nicolas Grosbois and Philippe Mesnier purchased 12 hectares of vines in Azay-le-Rideau, an excellent, though relatively unknown terroir a few kilometers east of Chinon. They immediately began farming all the vines organically, and set about on an ambitious project to reintroduce the wines of Azay-le-Rideau. Traditionally, Azay le Rideau is famous for white wines made from Chenin Blanc, and rosé wines made from Grolleau and Gamay.


Most of the vineyards are located in Azay-le-Rideau on the lieu-dit  “Hauts Baigneux”. The domaine also owns a two hectare plot in Saché, close to the former studio of Alexander Calder, the famous American artist. This great flint-heavy terroir produces the two top cuvées of the domaine: Le Clos des Brancs and Blanc Chenin. In addition to resurrecting the tradition of great wines from these vineyards, the domaine produces excellent reds, and a small amount of white and rosé Petillant Naturel.


The wines of Domaine des Hauts Baigneux are all produced with natural yeast, and bottled with minimal intervention. The cuvées Les Chenes and Les Pentes are delicious vins de soif that showcase the best of Loire Valley. The sparkling wines are fantastic bottles of everyday bubbles, and the single vineyard Chenin Blancs are a testament to the towering quality of this terroir.

Nicolas Grosbois & Philippe Mesnier Grolleau 2016, Domaine des Hauts Baigneux, Vin de France, 12.5 Abv.

Rich, dark fruited, lifted and spicy with hints of incense, candle wax, pot pourri spice and exotic lavender and garrigue herbal notes. Palate is direct and crisp, crunchy and fresh with vibrant cranberry, raspberry and dark sour plum. Plenty of spicy, grippy, wet chalk complexity, this really is an energetic, intense expression offering very enjoyable drinkability. Zero added sulphur and only 600 bottles produced in this, the maiden vintage. 

(Wine safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Resurgence of the Loire Valley – Premium Appellations Are Reasserting Themselves with Every New Release…

Much has been written about the brilliance of the Loire Valley whites and reds, but of course the 2015 vintage heralded some very opulent, exotic, atypical whites and indeed some super suave, rich, ripe, elegant reds. I will be the first to admit that I have been so preoccupied tasting 2015s that I have failed to get a good look in on the 2016s that seem will be imminently released into the market due to low trade stock holdings. As a buyer, it gets just harder and harder to keep up with new releases, especially when either demand is high or supply is so meagre due to short European vintages.


Today I took the opportunity to have another look at the Comte Lafond Sancerre 2016 white, drinking a bottle over lunch. Baron Patrick de Ladoucette produces this wine in the Sancerre Controlled Appellation area, which includes the villages of Bué, Chaudoux, Chavignol and Verdigny. Vines are aged from 25 to 35 years and the the soils are typically a combination of clay, limestone and silica.


Comte Lafond Sancerre 2016, 12.5 Abv.

This is a super elegant Sauvignon Blanc with the most delicate, pretty aromatics. So expressive and complex with a nose of white peaches and cream, lemon butter, sweet baking herbs, thyme and fresh crunchy green fennel root notes. So multi-dimensional and multi-layered, with stem ginger and lemon grass nuances dominant. The palate is taught, direct and focused with lashings of crunchy gooseberry, green Granny Smith apples, green tea and yet more crushed fennel root. Lovely balance, vibrant crisp crunchy acids and an alluring chalky, dusty Bon Bon sweet palate that is so tantalising. This Grand Vin possess such lovely depth and texture, but is perhaps more linear and mineral than the exotic 2015, and more piquant and fresh, more in the mould of the superb 2014. A fabulous expression from the Loire with incredible concentration of flavour and detailed length. Drink now to 2026+.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Tasting the Noble de Ladoucette Pouilly Fume 2014, 12.5 Abv, Loire…

Pouilly-Fumé and the other Central Loire Vineyards were very fortunate in 2014. Not only did they have a good vintage but they had a fairly generous vintage unlike other parts of the Loire where many producers had their third successive short vintage. In Pouilly quality producers harvested around 60 hl/ha and the quality was high. Indeed, 2014 appears to be similar to a vintage such as 1990 where both the yields and quality were high. 


The colour of this vibrant wine bristles with a lime green tinge to a brilliant bright pale straw yellow. The super complex nose drifts between hints of cut grass, green pepper corns, capsicum, lemon grass, lime peel and crunchy white citrus fruit. Then more nuances of gun flint, struck flint, dusty limestone and wet chalk. Wow, a lot going on here and I haven’t even tasted the wine yet. Every time you return to the glass the wine has revealed another aromatic layer, the sign of true pedigree. The last tangerine aromas becon the first sip. Crisp and crunchy, this wine is harmonious and beautifully balanced, but simultaneously crunchy and bright with tart green apple acidity, cut grass, gooseberry fruits, and a lemon – lime marmalade concentration. The finish is pithy, spicy, and cool with a grassy, herby verve. A seriously complex, accomplished wine from one of the best white vintages in the Loire valley in over a decade. Buy this beauty while you can!

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Drinking Domaine Huet Perlant Vouvray 1959 Demi Sec, Loire… at The Remedy Wine Bar…

I had a wonderful opportunity last week to drink a few glasses of this beautiful old Chenin Blanc from Domaine Huet at the fabulous Remedy Wine Bar in London. It’s old, it’s Chenin Blanc… What else could you ask for? Seriously!


Rich, caramelized yellow peaches, sweet honey combe, ripe and intense. Palate is expansive with soft sweet yellow fruits, no edges, and a profound peach confit finish. The length and complexity are beguiling, intriguing. The bubble has dissipated but the complexity is impressive. Just love the coffee bean and crisp caramel brittle intensity. A great vintage, superb depth, beautifully aged wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)