Thierry Germain Releases Another Benchmark Loire Cabernet Franc…

Owner and winemaker Thierry Germain is one of the most respected producers in the Loire Valley and is an avowed practitioner of biodynamic viticulture where from his estate near the town of Saumur he makes some of the most highly regared red and white wines in the region. This Saumur Champigny red is his domaine cuvée and represents incredible quality and value for money, retailing in the UK for only circa £20 per bottle.

Harvesting at the domaine is all manual and vinification is done in small batches with optimally ripe grapes which leads to wines with plump and generous Cabernet Franc fruit flavours. Wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. His painstaking attention to detail and quality has earned Thierry an enviable reputation around the world especially with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc obsessives.

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny 2019, 13.5% Abv.

The 2019 Saumur Champigny from Thierry Germain is such an exciting, beguiling wine. While I tasted this new release knowing relatively little about the Loire vintage conditions in that year, the wine has succeeded in bowling me over like a full length yorker pitched on middle stump. A beautifully dark dense purple colour, the 2019 offers up expressive notes of pure crushed black berry fruits, a most elegantly refreshing and fragrant bouquet of black cherries, black tea, charcoal embers, boxwood, blue berries and a subtle leafy sweet Chinese five spice complexity. On the palate the wine is moderately dense, medium bodied but supremely cool and creamy with a fleshy texture, tart black currant fruits, generous mouth watering acids and a long, slightly stony mineral finish that has just the right amount of leafy, brambly, herbal sappy spice to combine with the suave graphite tannins. A wine with a lot of personality that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on the drinker. Drink now and over the next 6-8+ years.

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

Tasting The Magical Sweet Wines of Moulin Touchais Through The Ages…

This property has been in the Touchais family for eight generations since 1787, and the estate, located down a side street in Doué-La-Fontaine, is amazingly characterful and has so many stories to tell. Indeed, the famous labyrinth of cellars were bricked over during the German occupation of France during World War 2 to protect the mountains of vintaged stock buried deep in the estate’s cellars. Moulin Touchais is of course famous for the late releases of their Chenin Blanc sweet wines which demand cellaring for at least ten years before a bottle is made available to the market.

Their wines are as famous for their quality as they are for their incredible value for money and have become the “go to” offering for many connoisseurs looking to buy a birth year wine gift. The tasting notes below will serve as a solid and safe guide for years to come for people looking to check on a specific vintage. All bottles barring the 1947 (auction bottle) were sourced from the estate’s cellars for this incredible tasting.

Moulin Touchais Vertical

Moulin Touchais 2016 (Not Yet Released)

Lemon and lime cordial, melon and grapefruit confit. Hint of cream soda and apple purée. Tight and focused, crystalline and pure. Lovely intensity and balance.

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

Moulin Touchais 2007

Dusty lemon and lanolin nose with dried herbs and mint leaf. Finely textured, creamy palate weight, wonderfully harmonious with a pithy orchard fruit finish.

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

Moulin Touchais 2006

Sweet honied nose with subtle damp cellar notes, wet chalk and waxy lemon peel. Quite light and elegant, fine piquant acids, sleek texture and spicy yellow confit finish.

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

Moulin Touchais 2005

More herby, spicy, sappy resinous stemmy nose with hints of crushed leaves. Quite full and ripe with glycerol weight but with fairly restrained flavours of melon confit and ripe amarula fruits and herbal botanical spices.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 2004

Lemon and lime cordial, yellow grapefruit confit. Plenty of lifted melon fruit aromatics. Fine boned, sleek texture, very elegant with spiced apple purée, lemon marmalade and pithy, chalky finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 2003

Ripe exotic aromatics with yellow orchard fruits, chalk and lemon confit. Plush, broad and fleshy texture, opulent, quite showy, unctuous and mouth coatingly sweet made in a more ‘obvious style’ with softer acids. Retains lovely purity of fruit.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 2002

Earthy, savoury lemon peel notes, wet chalk and dried baking herbs. Finely balanced with delicious bright green apple and yellow orchard fruits and a fine vein of juicy acidity. Less sweetness, quite focused, but showing great potential for aging.

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

Moulin Touchais 2001

Ripe pithy tangerine peel and Seville oranges complexity. Notes of marmalade on white toast and subtle sappy herbal nuances. Sleek, cool, fine harmonious palate, lovely fruit – acid equilibrium.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 2000

Musty? Corky? Rot? All three bottles. Buyer beware.

(Wine Safari Score: N/S Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1999

Sweet lemon and grapefruit confit nose, honied and opulent, very expressive. Palate is linear and taut, steely and fresh, plenty of core tension and purity of citrus fruit with subtle chalky finish.

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

Moulin Touchais 1998

Cheese rag, melon pastille, apple purée and chalky lift. Palate is pure and plush, wonderfully balanced, creamy and polished with an impressive purity and harmony.

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

Moulin Touchais 1997

Sweet rich opulent nose of brûléed lemons, citrus confit and 60/70% botrytis honied complexity. Rich and powerful, dense, sweet and textured with dried peaches drizzled in honey. Delicious and opulent with a long finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1996

Sweet lemon cream biscuits, herbs and sappy, leafy complexity, but fine, pithy, fresh tart core. Nice intensity, finely poised, showing great appeal. Lovely and youthful.

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

Moulin Touchais 1994

More evolved, tertiary notes of lanolin, lemon, waxy apples and a mealy dog biscuits note. Palate show piquant grapefruit marmalade, spice and freshness. Lovely harmony and balance. Palate outshines the nose.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1991

Complex spicy nose of old honey, botanical herbs and wet chalk. Palate is soft and fleshy, more loose knit than many preceding vintages, with an overt resinous sappy spice and sweet, warming finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1987

More tertiary and honied, showing root veg, earthy, bruised orchard fruits and lanolin wet dog notes. Palate is fresh, piquant and quite spicy with a slightly drying barley sugar finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1986

Ripe earthy brûléed yellow bruised fruits, cheese rind, peach tea and a slight iodine note. Palate is sweet but very fresh, with lovely depth, effortless balance and superb honied depth. Exotic but deliciously vibrant and fresh.

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

Moulin Touchais 1985

Sweet honied peach and citrus notes, caramelised orange peel and honey. Palate is vibrant and fresh, quite tart and pure with green apple purée, quince and grapefruit confit. Lovely length and finesse and a slightly tighter finish.

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

Moulin Touchais 1984

Rich, brûléed peachy honied nose with earthy, nutty, mealy dog biscuit nuances, and sweet herbal peach tea with a spoonful of honey. Complex, sleek texture, vibrant acids holding this wine together beautifully.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1983

Rich cognac gold colour, showing alluring teritiary notes of earthy root spice and hard cheese rind. Palate is tart and focused, fresh and taut with a vibrant energy and acid brightness. Lovely crystalline purity, mouth watering and juicy. Impressive.

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

Importer Richard Kelley MW pouring a flight of wines.

Moulin Touchais 1982

Rich, brûléed lemon biscuit notes, custard, puff pastry and peach parfait. Lush, bright, and quite taut, lovely piquant depth, opulence and good botrytis characters. Certain leanness and linearity, but finely balanced and focused.

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

Moulin Touchais 1981

Subtle tertiary notes of earthy bruised orchard fruits, brûléed green figs, citrus confit. Plush and broad, bright fruits, peach tea, grapefruit confit, vibrant youthful palate and a long, sweet – sour apple pastille length. Delicious.

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

Moulin Touchais 1980

Pronounced dusty, crushed slate, chalky, herby nose with vermouth botanical notes. Earthy, exotic, dusty with hints of peanut brittle and caramelised salty toffee.

(Wine Safari Score: 89+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1979

Beautiful rich golden toffee colour, has lovely lifted aromatics reminiscent of a serial Madeira, with nuts, toffee, cheese cloth, brine and brûléed peach and quince. Palate is fresh and ultra lush, dense, with brûléed sweet / sour plum, melon and an elegant, drying, classy long finish. Superb.

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

Moulin Touchais 1976

Earthy wet chalk nose with herbal hints and spicy lift. Quite shy and restrained nose with a slightly more expressive palate. Tight, broody, spicy honied yellow fruit.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1975

Dusty, chalky brûléed nose with burnt sugar, piquant spice, reduced root veg notes, cabbage and sweet bruised orchard fruits and grape jelly. Spicy, tart, slightly lean.

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

Frederik Wilbrenninck from the Moulin Touchais estate pouring a flight.

Moulin Touchais 1971

Waxy green apple, mealy biscuit and earthy lemon peel. Palate is sleek, retrained, quite mineral and taut, showing crushed gravel, chalk spice and a piquant depth. Linear, non-showy but quite finely textured.

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

Moulin Touchais 1968

Brûléed, rich oxidative nose similar to Adrian again but perhaps in a more Bual or Terrantez style. Vibrant salty acids, lovely briney focus and rich, pithy length brimming with cognac spice, sweet orange peel, marmalade and nutty cheese cloth complexity.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1964

Corked.

(Wine Safari Score: N/S Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1959

Pristine and pure nose of lemon and herbs, nutty, brûléed pineapple, molasses and salted caramel. Pure, sleek, cool and regal, this is truly profound. Vibrant salty fresh acids, piercing length and mouth wateringly youthful. Wow!

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1955

Brine, tangerine peel, citrus, naartjie and pithy spicy herbal lift. Rich, sweet / sour tartness, bright, vibrant, deliciously juicy. Great salty opulence. Superb.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais 1953

Sweet herbal, honied root veg, lanolin and wet wool. Sleek, nutty, bright and saline with very fine. Fine texture, crystalline palate. Lovely.

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

Moulin Touchais 1947

Soft subtle nose of caramelised lemons, salted caramel, orange peel and honied white peaches. Suave, sleek and ultra elegant, dancing across the palate with ballerina finesse and profound concentrated depth. So pure, so bright, so much youthful energy. Truly wonderful as you’d expect from the ‘vintage of the century.’

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Moulin Touchais Century Reserve NV

Exotic nose of sweet yellow peaches, quince, kumquat, passionfruit and caramelised fig. Palate is bright and tart, combining the spellbinding opulence of blended vintages from 1847 to 1899. Lovely salty sweetness, purity, clarity and intensity. Profound.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

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)

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)


Michel Redde et Fils Barre à Mine Blanc Fume de Pouilly 2014…

In 2009, Loire boutique producer Michel Redde began a titanic and unique project in an old disused flint quarry called Les Champs des Froids in the Village of Tracy-sur-Loire. 


The site, which has a beautiful south west exposure, was cleared by the domaine, prepared and planted with 4 hectares of vines on the rocky flint soils. The vines were planted with the aid of a crowbar (barre à mine) and 2014, the first harvest, yielded an unexpectedly exceptional level of fruit quality.


Vines are grown on Kimmeridgian Marl and Cretaceous Flint soils, that yield on average 40 to 45 hl/hectare. Vinification takes place in large barrels and demi-muids with 16 to 18 months of aging. Bottling takes place after a light bentonite fining. The wine has an impressively low pH of 3.14 but also a low(ish) total acidity of 4.4 g/l, at a 13 Abv.


Tasting Note: Michel Redde et Fils Barre à Mine Blanc Fume de Pouilly 2014 – This is top drawer Sauvignon Blanc. It has an explosive nose of gooseberries, white pepper, tangerines, orange peel, passion fruit confit and apple purée. Beautifully exotic and seductive. The palate follows the nose exactly with turbo charged flavours of white flint, stone fruits, tangerines, passion fruit and green apples and a subtle saline bite on the finish. Such lovely mid palate fleshy fruit and vibrant, bristling acidity. You don’t get this sort of concentration and flavour complexity from average vineyards… only the best sites. 2014 was an excellent vintage in the Loire and this exotic, impressive expression of Sauvignon Blanc bears testament to the fact. (Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The dirty secrets are out… My Dirty Dozen Top 12 stand out wines.

The 27th September 2016 saw another edition of the Dirty Dozen Trade Tasting at the Vinyl Factory in London. 

This is still one of the most exciting events on the London tasting circuit as all the twelve “members” still endeavour to show some of the top wines in their portfolios.

Inevitably, over the years, the wines on taste have become ever so slightly more pedestrian as there really isn’t any point putting a wine on a tasting when it’s sold out pre-release on allocation… and most unicorn wines are certainly pre-allocated and practically unobtainable for most trade new comers. 

But I suppose these are the fine wine times we live in. Scarcity and rarity rule the roost. We all want what we can’t have. Nevertheless, here is a photographic snapshot of my top 12 wines tasted…in no particular ranking…in case you were not able to attend and want some top tips!




Whites:

Dewaldt Heyns Weathered Hands Viognier 2015 Tulbagh

Blank Bottle Riesling 2015 Elgin

Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc 2015 

Storm Vrede Chardonnay 2015 Hemel-en-Aarde

Pojere & Sandri Faye Bianco 2013 Dolomiti

Domaine Heitz-Lochardet Chassange-Montrachet 1er Cru La Maltroye 2013

Reds:

Niepoort Poeirinho Baga Bairrada Tinto 2013

Niepoort Conciso Dao Tinto 2012

Envinate Albahra Tinto 2014

Mother Rock Mourvèdre 2015 Swartland

De Toren Fusion V 2012 Stellenbosch

Savage Red Blend 2014 Western Cape