RSJ's 30th anniversary: 1980-2010

2010 was a very special year for us as the RSJ Restaurant celebrated its 30th year. We held a number of special events through the year to mark our 30th birthday.

36th Year: 1980-2016

Another milestone with events happening during our 36th anniversary year.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ursula Ferrigno: 2009 lunches

We now have details of the dishes that Ursula will be cooking for her first two lunches of 2009. First off is Glorious Sicily. This is followed by Italian springtime favourites. Font size

25th January - Glorious Sicily £30
Hugely important, both historically and gastronomically, this sunshine island's most famous dish is swordfish.

Involtini di Spada
Swordfish with chilli, pinenuts,olives,capers & cherry tomatoes

Dama di Bianca
'Woman in White' fennel, celery & mozzarella salad

Pasta al Norma
Luxurious freshly made pasta using Italian eggs famous for their colour and flavour. The hand made pasta is accompanied with a rich aubergine sauce flavoured with wine and Oregano.

Insalata Mista
A great combination of richly coloured & textured leaves designed to cleanse the palate.

Dolce Casata Sicilia
The classical dessert - layers of homemade ice cream encased in a liqeuer soaked light sponge.

Special selection of Cheese from our artisan supplier to compliment the menu.

15th March - Italian springtime favourites £30
Three generations of family favourites - light fragrant dishes using seasonal produce and the finest ingredients.

Cannelloni with broad beans and ricotta
A wonderful flavour of broad beans and mint combines magically with the freshly made pasta.

Foccacia farcita
Freshly made bread using six year old starter dough - a real joy!

Pappa con pomodoro e porri
Leek & tomato soup with a hint of chilli oil make this a light and fragrant soup with a slice of bread at the bottom of each bowl to thicken the soup

Insalata Mezzogiorno
Prawn & artichoke salad - In Italy 'mezzogiorno' has two meanings: noon and the Southern regions. This salad celebrates the South using capers, prawns and of course, new season artichokes.

Dolci – Zuppa Inglese
Cream & marsala trifle - there are many variations of this popular dessert which loosely translate means 'English soup' but is a creamy trifle flavoured with Marsala.

Special selection of cheese to complement the menu.

We are still awaiting details of the April event from Ursula but I will post them as soon as I have them.

If you would like to assist Ursula during the morning – making bread, pasta soup and the sauces associated with these lunches- there are a limited number of places available. The cookery tuition will cost an extra £30 per person. You are advised to book early.

For bookings please contact: tel: 020-7928 4554, fax: 020-7928 9768, email:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas

Part of the Château of Chinon, the old town and the Vienne

Our best wishes for a very

Happy Christmas

and for 2009

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2009 tasting programme and dates to 30th March

We delighted that we are now able to give you the dates and subjects for the first three tastings of 2009.

The church of Souzay-Champigny and Château de Villeneuve

19th January red and white Saumur with dinner 7.30pm start £45 per person
Around Saumur is a real treasure-trove for both reds and whites – some many good produces and fine wines. It will be a tough choice for us deciding what to leave out. However to kick off the 2009 season, there will a glass of Régis Neau’s very popular Crémant de Loire (Domaine de Nerleux) and definitely at least one wine from Jean-Pierre Chevallier (Château de Villeneuve) and certainly one from Antoine Foucault, the very talented son of Charly and Françoise Foucault. Charly is the elder of the wonderful and celebrated Foucault brothers.

The vineyards above Chavignol with Sancerre town in distance

2nd March 2009 Sancerre red and white with dinner 7.30pm start £45 per person
Sancerre is not just white – a quarter of the production is red and there has been a real upsurge in interest and quality of the reds over the past 15 years. We’ll be tasting a range of some of the best of both colours to include wines from Henri Bourgeois, Roger Champault, Cotat and Alphonse Mellot.

Frédéric Mabileau

30th March Frédéric Mabileau, Saint-Nicolas-de- Bourgueil and Bourgueil, tasting with dinner, 7.30pm start £45 per person
We are delighted that Frédéric Mabileau, one of the best of the younger generation of wine producers in the region, will be presenting his wines, which in addition to his very popular reds the new Saumur Blanc will be shown. This will surely be a popular evening, so early booking is advised.

Bookings and any queries to Tom King on or telephone 020-7928 4554.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tim Atkin MW: Grape variety of the year: Chenin Blanc

Just to show that we are not alone in thinking that Chenin Blanc is a fantastic grape variety, Tim Atkin MW has just selected it as his grape variety of the year in today's Observer magazine.

'Still ludicrously undervalued, Chenin Blanc is responsible for some of the best white wines on the market, especially from South Africa and its native Loire Valley.

2007 Taste the Difference Chenin Blanc, Western Cape (£6.99, 12.5%, Sainsbury's). Tropical fruity Chenin from Ken Forrester, with a touch of oak for added complexity.

2005 Savennières L'Enclos, Eric Morgat (£13.95, 14.5%, The Wine Society, Concentrated, barrel-fermented Loire Chenin with honey, apple and vanilla notes.'

A treat in store: The Observer magazine 7th December 2008

Ripening Chenin in the Coteaux du Layon: October 2005

Friday, December 5, 2008

Recent additions to the restaurant wine list

Jacky Blot: Domaine de la Taille aux Loups

Triple Zero, Montlouis Pétillant
2007 Rémus, Montlouis

Frantz Saumon
2006 Clos du Chêne, Montlouis

This week we have added three very good wines from Montlouis to the list – two from Jacky Blot, already an established favourite of ours, and one from Frantz Saumon, one of a number of new and impressive Montlouis producers. Frantz's first full vintage was 2002. All three are made from 100% Chenin Blanc.

Jacky sorting grapes during the 2008 harvest

Jacky Blot: Domaine de la Taille aux Loups
Triple Zero, Montlouis Pétillant
Pétillant is a local speciality in this part of Touraine – a sparkling wine with only 2.5 atmospheres of pressure compared to five for other sparkling wines including Crémant de Loire and Champagne.

Why Triple Zero? Because this has no added sugar at any stage – unlike most Champagne. No added sugar to the grape juice before the first fermentation, no added sugar when it is bottled for the second fermentation that makes the bubbles, and no added sugar when it is dégorged. Because the grapes are picked ripe Triple Zero has a richness with an attractive lemony finish.

2007 Rémus, Montlouis
This is Jacky’s top dry wine from Montlouis. The 2007 is beautifully clean and minerally.

Frantz Saumon
2006 Clos du Chêne, Montlouis
This comes from a vineyard close to the small town of Montlouis which includes some vines that are around 90 to 100 years old. The 2006 is rich, complex with a fine mineral finish.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wines to enjoy at Christmas

RSJ Christmas Wine Offer

The following wines are a special selection from the extensive RSJ wine list and are offered at a discounted rate until the end of the year. We have already put together number of ‘mixed cases’ but please feel free to mix your own cases if you prefer.

A box for Christmas Day £ 52.00
1 bottle: Crémant de Loire Brut, Domaine de Nerleux
Delicious sparkling wine made in the traditional method
from Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.
2 bottles: 2006 Sauvignon, Domaine de Bablut
Organically grown Sauvignon from the highly regarded Christophe Daviau.
2 bottles: 2007 Chinon, Domaine de la Perrière Baudry-Dutour
Lovely ripe and fruity with an excellent balance and flavour.
1 bottle: Taylors First Estate Port

The Prestige case (6 bottles) £85.00
(A stunning collection of our vignerons' top wines)
1 bottle: 2004 Les Terrasses, Anjou Blanc Château de la Roulerie, Philippe Germain
1 bottle: 2007 Chenin Blanc, Saumur Frédéric Mabileau
1 bottle: 2006 Bourgueil, Racines, Frédéric Mabileau
1 bottle: 2007 La Croix de Mission, Anjou-Villages-Brissac
Domaine des Rochelles, Jean-Yves Lebreton
1 bottle: 2005 Chinon, Vieilles Vignes Philippe Alliet
1 bottle: 2005 Coteaux du Layon, Les Rouannières (50cl)
Château Pierre-Bise, Claude Papin

Champagne & Sparkling Wine
Crémant de Loire Brut, Domaine de Nerleux £8.95

Vouvray Brut, Domaine Champalou £9.35

Champagne J.P.Robert Brut £16.95


2007 Saumur Blanc, Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers £6.25
Dominique Tessier’s lovely ripe Chenin Blanc has a good length and is most appealing.

2006 Muscadet ‘Sur Lie’ Le Clos des Allées £7.35
Pierre Luneau’s stunning Muscadets go from strength to strength and this wine has real ripeness and excellent balance.

2007 Touraine Sauvignon, Jean-François Merieau £7.35
Organically grown from low yields, this lovely ripe Sauvignon has much more concentration than most from this appellation.

2006 Sauvignon, Domaine de Bablut £7.35
Christophe Daviau’s delicious organically produced Sauvignon is ripe, elegant and has a lovely balance.

2007 Château de la Roulerie, Chenin Sec £8.75
Now in the hands of the dynamic Philippe Germain, this famous old Anjou property has gone through a transformation. This superbly balanced ripe fruity wine goes well with lightly spiced and oriental food as well as traditional fish and white meat dishes.

2006 Vouvray Sec, Domaine Champalou £8.75
Didier Champalou’s delicious Vouvray has lovely ripe fruit and great length. It is for wines like this that he is regarded by many as the leading vigneron in this appellation.

2006 Chinon Blanc, Baudry-Dutour £9.50
Although predominantly a region for red wines, a number of vignerons have planted Chenin Blanc with great success, not least Christophe Baudry who has made a delicious ripe and well balanced wine.

2007 Quincy, Domaine des Ballandors £8.95
Jean Tatin’s delicious dry zesty and beautifully balanced award winning Sauvignon is now drinking superbly.

2007 Sancerre Les Pierris Domaine Champault £9.95
This classic Sancerre from the Champault brothers has a lovely blackcurrant nose, ripe Sauvignon flavours and is beautifully balanced.

2007 L’Insolite, Saumur Blanc, Domaine des Roches Neuves £13.85
Thierry Germain’s fabulous Chenin Blanc is made from vines over 75 years old, which gives it a wonderful concentration and complexity. It is aged in oak for several months.

2007 Saumur Rouge, Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers £6.25
A ripe and fruity Cabernet Franc from Dominique Tessier – this
wine has an elegance and nice balance
2007 Anjou Rouge, Domaine Ogereau £7.20
Easy drinking, fruity and with a nice concentration, Vincent Ogereau’s latest vintage is fantastic value.

2007 Touraine Gamay, Jean-François Merieau £7.35
Delicious fruity Gamay from low yields grown organically by this much vaunted young vigneron.

2007 Chinon, Domaine de la Perrière, Baudry-Dutour £7.95
Christophe Baudry’s lovely 2007 is packed with ripe fruit - it has a glorious nose of violets and a lovely balance.

2007 Chateau Peyredoulle, Premières Cotes de Blaye £7.50
Made from predominantly Merlot, this ripe attractive Claret is drinking very well.

2007 ‘Les Rouilleres’ St Nicolas de Bourgueil £8.40
Frédéric Mabileau’s delicious 2007 is rich ripe and elegant with an excellent balance.

2007 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny £8.50
The highly regarded Thierry Germain has made a delicious Champigny this year, full of ripe fruit and charm.

2006 Domaine des Rochelles Anjou Villages £8.95
Jean-Yves Lebreton has produced a wonderful wine made from Cabernet Franc – it has a lovely concentration and length.

2006 Bourgueil ‘Racines’ Frédéric Mabileau £9.95
Frédéric Mabileau is recognised by his peers as one of the finest vignerons in the Loire valley and his 2006 Bourgueil, made from old vines, has lovely ripe fruit and a very good length and concentration enhanced by careful ageing in oak.

2007 Sancerre Rouge ‘Les Pierris’ Domaine Champault £9.95
Delicious Pinot Noir from the Champault brothers with good balance and drinking well.

2005 Chinon ‘ Vieilles Vignes’ Philippe Alliet £15.95
Stunning wine from this great vintage made from very old vines and aged in new oak. Lovely rich and concentrated. A masterpiece from Chinon’s greatest wine maker.

Sweet Wines
The following selection of sweet wines go extremely well with blue cheese, Foie Gras and various fruit desserts – why not treat yourself to a bottle or two this Christmas?

2005 Coteaux du Layon Cuvée Prestige, Domaine Ogereau (50cl) £11.50

2005 Coteaux du Layon, Les Rouannières, Château Pierre-Bise, Claude Papin (50cl) £11.95

2003 Quarts de Chaume, Château Pierre-Bise, Claude Papin (50cl) £19.50

Please place your orders with Tom King on or telephone 020-7928 4554.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Noël Pinguet: Domaine Huet (Vouvray): 2008 vintage

A quick call to Noël Pinguet to catch up on how the vintage has been for him in Vouvray*.

Noël: “2008 is a small harvest for us in Vouvray – only 23/24 hl/ha. There weren’t many potential grapes to begin with and then, in May, we suffered badly from mildew. Acidity levels are quite high – between 6-8 grams per litre. The majority of our wine will be demi-sec, with a little bit of sec but no moelleux. I’m reminded of 1998 and 2002, although in 2002 we made moelleux. The sec wines will probably have around 10 grams of residual, while the demi-sec will be between 20-25 gms.”

1996 Clos du Bourg demi-sec:
currently showing well

(*Historical note: following Gaston Huet’s death in 2002, the Huet family sold out in 2003 to Anthony Hwang, who took a controlling share, with 20% held by Noël Pinguet. Prior to the sale Noël had no share in the domaine, although he has been involved since 1976.)

Web:Domaine Huet

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2009: some dates for your diaries

We have now fixed the first set of dates for 2009 for both Ursula Ferrigno’s Sunday lunches and the wine tasting dinners – the first three are all on a Monday night. We are still working on the themes and will get these to you as soon as possible. We hope that at least one of the March wine tasting dinners will be hosted by a Loire producer.

19th January: wine tasting dinner
25th January: Ursula Ferrigno’s Sunday lunch
Glorious Sicily
2nd March: wine tasting dinner
15th March: Ursula Ferrigno’s Sunday lunch
30th March: wine tasting dinner
26th April: Ursula Ferrigno’s Sunday lunch

Provisional bookings and any queries to Tom King on or telephone 020-7928 4554.

‘Cellar Raid’: tasting and dinner

(17th November 2008)

The opportunity to delve into the RSJ’s wine archives attracted a lively and knowledgeable crowd on Monday evening, who filled the upstairs dining area. Some 44 sat down to a tasting of ten wines and three courses.

The evening’s dominant topic – bottle variation – soon emerged with those on the eastern side of the restaurant faring best, while those closer to the setting suffered a few disappointing bottles, in particular the 2001 Les Rouillières Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil from Frédéric Mabileau and the 1989 Cuvée Reservé Bourgueil from Pierre-Jacques Druet. To rub salt into their wounds the east end enjoyed very good bottles of both the Druet and the Mabileau.

The cork is the most obvious variable between the bottles. However, the variations which tend to increase as the wine ages may well be compounded by storage conditions. I suspect, although I have no proof, that a tasting of three bottles of Pierre-Jacques Druet’s 1989 cuvée reservé in his troglodyte cave at Bougueil might well have shown less variation. Furthermore one of the 1989s was corked. If the milk or orange juice industries had a similar failure rate they would have long been out of business, although it is unusual to attempt to keep milk for nearly 20 years!

With the exception of the aperitif and the last three reds, the wines were served in pairs.

Tasting & Dinner: 17th November 2008


1] 2006 Saumur Blanc, Domaine de Nerleux, Régis Neau £7.20
100% Chenin Blanc, this is long been one of the RSJ's best selling whites. Attractively citric and floral but with some weight from the 2006 vintage. 2007 likely to be more racy.

(Unfortunately none available to purchase.)

2] 1996 Savennières Roche-aux-Moines, Madame Laroche
The Roche-aux-Moines is a particularly well-sited 19 ha sub-appellation within Savennières with a number of owners. This estate, with just over eight hectares of Chenin, is now run by Monique and her daughter, Tessa. We have tasted these wines over a number of years and continue to find them erratic and only rarely do they match the potential of the vineyards.

The 1996 showed considerable oxidation along with considerable power and character. This is a wine that will be liked by those who are happy with a measure of oxidation and rejected by those who do not. Questionable how far the oxidation is a Savennières’ characteristic and how far down to winemaking.

3] 2002 Chinon Blanc Cuvée Confidentiel Christophe Baudry
Out of 2300 hectares of Chinon in production only 40 ha are planted with Chenin Blanc. Christophe Baudry used to make small amounts of this barrel fermented white as well as a straight cuvée fermented in stainless steel. Since joining Jean-Martin Dutour to form Baudry-Dutour, this cuvée is no longer made.

2002 is a very well balanced vintage and this shows in this wine with its attractive blend of crispness and weight along with good vibrant length. Of the two wines the majority preferred this.

Langoustine, Mullet & Sea bass tartlet with a ginger butter sauce
(served with wines 3 and 4)

1997 Cuvée Alain Chabert Alain Rohart Vouvray

4] 1997 Vouvray, Cuvée Alain Chabert Alain Rohart
Nigel and Jim went to see Alain Rohart in Vouvray some 8 to 10 years ago. He has 5 ha of vines in Vouvray and Rochecorbon – mainly Chenin but a little Gamay, Grolleau and Pinot Noir bottled as AC Touraine.

1997 was a very fine vintage with a good summer and a warm autumn giving rich wines. The cuvée Alain Chabert is Rohart’s entry level Vouvray sec. The 1997 showed very well, although it was just a touch rustic and lacked the precision of flavour found in those of Huet or Foreau. Some said that this was ‘classic Vouvray’, while one person found it smelled of the ‘barnyard’.

1997 Les Cormiers Saumur Blanc, Château de Villeneuve

5] 1997 Saumur Blanc, Les Cormiers Jean-Pierre Chevallier
Jean-Pierre undoubtedly ranks as one our top Loire producers both in reds and dry whites. His work both the cellar and, particularly, in the vineyard is meticulous.

Les Cormiers comes from old Chenin vines and is J-P’s top white, which is fermented and aged in 500 litre barrels for 11 months. The 1997 had attractive richness, some honey balanced with minerality. For Nigel and Jim this was the wine of the evening. However, the majority preferred the Vouvray.

The whites showed that decanting isn’t just for red wines – good whites will also benefit. Les Cormiers wasn’t decanted and was served too cold, so needed time to open out in the glass.

6] 2001 St Nicolas de Bourgueil ‘Les Rouillères’ Frédéric Mabileau
2001 was an average Loire vintage with a quite difficult and wet September with the weather improving around mid-October. Last night this was the first example of flagrant bottle variation. About half the room thought this was well over-the-hill and that it should have been drunk a couple of years ago, while one section were delighted with their bottle with Trevor waxing lyrically declaring it to be the best wine of the evening.

Frédéric is now one of the top producers in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and we hope he will be over to do a tasting for us in the first half of 2009.

Michel Robineau: Anjou Villages 1995

7] 1995 Anjou Villages
Michel Robineau
Nigel and Jim went to see Michel at his very small winery in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay a couple of times some eight or nine years ago. Then form memory Michel had just four or five hectares now that is up to ten.

1995 was the first good vintage after 1990 and ended a run of four difficult vintages that began with the frost of April 1991. The reds, however, have quite firm tannins particularly from Anjou and highish acidity. They have aged well with having the charm of the 1996s. This was typical of 1995 and really needs food.

Beef Wellington, buttered French beans & young carrots
red wine jus
(served with wines 8, 9 and 10.)

8] 1989 Bourgueil Cuvée Reservé Pierre-Jacques Druet
Although hailing from Chissay in Loir-et-Cher, oenologue Pierre-Jacques has established himself as one of the leading producers in western Touraine. As already mentioned earlier this was badly afflicted by bottle variation. The good one showing the perfume, richness and charm that makes 1989 such a geat vintage.

1996 Chinon Beaumont Pierre Breton

9] 1996 Chinon Beaumont Pierre Breton
Several Bourgueil producers also have vines in the Chinon appellation often in Beaumont probably as it is the closest to Bourgueil – Druet is another. Pierre’s Chinon had good weight, though with slightly drying tannins and it went well with the beef.

10] 2002 Saumur Champigny, Les Loups Noirs Domaine de Nerleux
Nerleux means black wolf in old French, so hence the name Loups Noir from a parcel of particularly well-exposed old vines overlooking the valley of the Thouet. Aged in barrel, this cuvee has the potential to age for at least 10-15 years. The Loup Noirs 2002, while not as rich as 2003 or 2005, showed well last night showing a touch of gaminess, some rich fruit, good balance and length. It was the preferred wine of the trio, although the outcome would have been decidedly interesting if there had been two good bottles of Druet.

Chocolate Cherry Torte with Kirsch

The waiting and kitchen staff were given a rousing round of applause at the end of the evening. We are hoping to soon publish our first events of 2009 on this blog and the website. (Now up – posted 18th November.)

Any comments from anyone at the tasting are most welcome.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

2008 news from Chinon


Jean-Martin@the Baudry-Dutour winery in Panzoult

Jean-Martin Dutour: “I’m very happy with the quality but our bank manager isn’t happy about the volume we’ve made this year. It doesn’t take long to do a tour of all the vats! Overall our average yield is 35 hl/ha – on parts of the plain around Cravant it is only 30. We lost 10 hl/ha from the early April frost and then 10 hl/ha like everyone else from other factors during the year such as the drying wind during September and October.

But the quality is very good, although for the moment the acidities are high – there’s a lot of malic. We will have to see what happens once the malolactic fermentation is finished. We started picking around the 4th/5th October and finished on 20th. The grapes’ potential varied between 12% and 14%. Once again this year there has been no need to chaptalise.”

I ask Jean-Martin if there is another vintage that 2008 resembles. His response is commendably cautious. “It is really too early to say. It depends upon how far the acidity lessens and softens. High acidity means that the wines will age a long time but won’t necessarily get better as high acidity never softens – take 1986, for example. Certainly the reds are bigger than last year – more structured and with more substance.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

2008: Eric Nicolas Jasnières + Frédéric Mabileau (update)

View from Jasnières vineyards towards La Chartre-sur-Loir

Christine and Eric Nicolas: Domaine de Bellivière (Jasnières)
2008 is one of those dry years that we have become used to over the last few years. However, the year’s circles were different and the rain was spread at different times from normal during the year. Unfortunately it is difficult to trust Meteo France’s forecasts enough to help plan our work. It is the same during the vintage. I’m now writing this at a calmer moment after we finished the harvest just before a band of rain that we only had a few hours advance notice.

The grapes had a potential alcohol between 13%-14,2% allowing us to make dry whites and vibrant and fine reds. The reds have the potential for a great Loire vintage with delicate aromas and a fine balance of freshness and tannin. They should age well.

The whites are very similar to 2002 with a lot of variation in the stages of maturity from the ripe Chenin. The acidity levels remain high allowing them to age well. And the variations of maturity will give complex wines.

As far as volume is concerned 2008 is good without being excessive. The juice is now fermenting and the first indications are promising.

Frédéric, Sarah Ahmed (The Wine Detective)
and Thomas: August 2008

Frédéric Mabileau, St Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Bourgueil and Anjou

Thomas Meunier (commercial director): “The fine weather held right to the end of the harvest and the grapes were properly mature. We are very happy, although it is a small harvest. Overall the average yield is 37 hl/ha. This compares to 47 hl/ha last year. Unfortunately we will only have a third of normal of Les Rouillères.

The reds already taste round though they have yet to go through the malo and the press wine is delicious. We expect that this will be the first year since 2005 that we have made L’Éclipse, which has just gone into barrel.

As last year we picked the Chenin for the Saumur in two sweeps through the vineyard. During the first on Saturday 11th October we picked the golden coloured grapes that were around 13% potential. Then we picked again two weeks later we had about 30% with noble rot and between 14.2%-14.5% potential. We are vinifying the same way as last year with 25% in new wood and the rest in tank.”

We are hoping that Frédéric Mabileau will be over for a tasting at the RSJ sometime in the first part of next year and are in the process of sorting out a convenient date. Will let you know once we have confirmation.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Eat London and other guides

Autumn – means the appearance of the annual restaurant guides in addition, of course, to the Loire vintage. We are very pleased to be featured in a new guide called A hedonist’s guide to … Eat London – the restaurant insiders’ guide to London’s best restaurants.

Eat London advises diners at the RSJ to ‘abuse the wine list’ and lists us ‘a clandestine rendezvous’! ‘The cooking is French on the whole, but takes in Mediterranean influences and likes to make use of name-checked seasonal British ingredients.’

‘The wine list, a favourite of Heston Blumenthal (celebrated chef@The Fat Duck), is a long love letter to the Loire Valley, with the 250 or so different bins from the region.’ The scope of our selection of wines by the glass is also praised.

There are 150 London restaurants listed and chosen by ‘those who know the most about food’. Those in the know include Angela Hartnett, Bill Knott, Fay Maschler, Gary Rhodes, Giles Coren, Heston Blumenthal, Jancis Robinson, Jay Rayner, Oliver Peyton, Pierre Koffman, Rpwley Leigh, Trevor Gulliver and Zoe Williams.

The Good Food Guide 2008
We have now notched up 28 years without interruption in the UK’s most famous and long established guide. We do, however, have some way to go before we can match the Connaught with 56 years or the Gay Hussar with 52!

‘RSJ’s long standing appeal is the list of wonderful Loire wines and a sensibly modern menu that for many years fused French and British styles, but is now incorporating Italian dishes’.

Montlouis: new name on the list and other recent additions

Stéphane Cossais
(Click on name above for more details from Jim’s Loire)

Not José Mourinho but Stéphane Cossais

We think Montlouis is currently one of the Loire’s most exciting appellations. Much of the excitement comes from a series of outsiders who have set up here. We are delighted to have the stunning 2005 Le Volagre from Stephane Cossais (wonderful purity – almost Burgundian in flavour, balance and weight) on the restaurant wine list for £35.95. Nigel will be ordering shortly some Montlouis from Stéphane’s mate Frantz Saumon.

Didier Dagueneau: September 2007

Other new arrivals include 2004 Buisson Renard Pouilly Fumé (£45.99) from the late Didier Dagueneau and from François Cotat in Sancerre 2004 Les Mont Damnés and 2004 Le Cul de Beaujeu both at £35.95.

Friday, October 31, 2008

2008 harvest: further updates

Most of the harvest is now finished with the exception of the Chenins for sweet wines, especially in Anjou. From Nantes to Pouilly-sur-Loire the quality is a lot higher than everyone feared it would be in early September. Once again, as in 2002 and 2007, the vintage has been saved by a fine September and October. Volumes, however, are certainly sharply down throughout the Loire with Muscadet particularly badly hit by the sharp frost of April 7th.

Here three more of our producers report on the 2008 vintage:

Jean-Hubert Lebreton

Jean-Hubert-Lebreton, Domaine des Rochelles: 28th October
The 2008 vintage looks very interesting thanks to the fine autumn weather which concentrated the Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Grolleau, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenins. We have high alcohol degrees but small quantities.

We picked the Chardonnay and Sauvignon in the first week of October. Then we waited until the third week of October to first pick the Cabernet Franc followed by the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chenin is still on the vine as we are waiting firstly for the rain that is forecast for this week to clear away and then for the grapes to reconcentrate and for the botrytis to develop. At the moment the Chenin is golden with botrytis slow to develop, so the rain should be very beneficial. We just have to be patient.

In short: 2008 is good but small.

Philippe Germain

Philippe Germain, Domaine de la Roulerie, St. Aubin de Luigné, Anjou: 28th October
2008 is a very special vintage. Right until the end of August the situation was very worrying but we had the luck to have two very good months – September and October. So the quality is there but not the volume. At La Roulerie I’m between 35%-40% down on a normal year’s production. In contrast we have degrees that vary between 12.8˚ and 13.2˚ for the Chenin with an acidity of between 5.5 and 5.8. As far as the Coteaux du Layons are concerned we are making the premier tri (first selective picking) with grapes between 12.5˚ and 18˚ and we will be continuing next week. For the reds production is even more limited with degrees between 12.5˚ and 12.8˚, which I’m quite happy about.

Champalou (Vouvray) 2008 vintage report: 31st October
We finished the harvest a week ago and are pleasantly surprised by the finesse and the richness of the grapes that we have pressed. After the poor summer we weren’t very optimistic. However, our work in the vines – deleafing and severe debudding as well as the sunny months of September and October gave us a healthy harvest with a very interesting potential: degrees from 12.5˚ at the lowest to 17˚-17.5˚ for the most concentrated. There was very little noble rot this year but had a significant concentration through passerillage (drying through sun and wind). The structure and the texture of the juice indicate that the wines will be fruity with an interesting potential to age. 2002 is the closest similar vintage with perhaps greater complexity. I think this year we will see the range of Vouvray will be from sec-tendre (off-dry) and sweets that are delicate with an emphasis on freshness and fruit – fine wines not too sugary.

Didier Champalou

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vincent and Catherine Ogereau: 2008 progress report

I caught up briefly on the phone this morning with Vincent and Catherine, Domaine Ogereau in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay in the Layon Valley.

Vincent: Overall the vintage isn’t too bad. We have been very surprised by how little there is – lack of juice in the grapes and small berries. However, the quality across the board – Rosé de Loire, Cabernet d’Anjou, Anjou Blanc Sec and the reds – is good. We finished the Cabernet Franc last Saturday. As it was completely ready we picked all of it in a day with a big team of 20-25, including university friends of Emmanuel (Catherine and Vincent’s son). The Franc had 13% potential and the acidity had come down to 4.8 gms – 10 days ago the it had been up at 7.5-8 gms. But the yield is only 20 hl/ha!

“On Thursday we finished the Cabernet Sauvignon in the Côte de la Houssaye – potential 13.7%. As far as the sweet wines are concerned we have hardly started – just two small passages through the vines with the grapes around 18% potential. The Chenin is now about ready to pick but it’s damp this morning and unfortunately rain is forecast for Monday and Tuesday. The pity is that if we had fine weather there is only about a week’s picking left.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nigel's wines of the moment (1)

This is the first of new series. I will be recommending wines that I’m particularly enjoying drinking at the moment. It might be the wine that hits the spot when I have a moment to relax. Equally some new discovery that we have just added to the list.

Hence my ‘wines of the moment’! I will be updating my choice fairly regularly, although it won’t be every week. Instead it will probably every two or three weeks. Tom King has promised to badger me. Equally you could always post a comment of this blog to remind me.

Here then are my first 'wines of the moment':


2006 Saumur Blanc Château de Villeneuve Jean-Pierre Chevallier (£19.50*)
Jean-Pierre’s ‘basic’ white is made from 100% Chenin Blanc, part is vinified in stainless steel and some in 400 litre barrels. I love the balance of ripe fruit and acidity. It has both concentration and freshness, which can be difficult to achieve – too often you have the concentration but lose the freshness.

I’m also enjoying Pierre Luneau’s Muscadets. He is really doing some good things and they are great value. We have a range Pierre’s Muscdets – all sur lie and from the Sèvre-et-Maine – starting from 2006 Domaine Pierre de la Grange (£16.25) up to the 1990 L’Or de Pierre Luneau (£29.95). Yes, that’s not a typo it really is 1990 as Pierre’s wines age incredibly well.


2006 Chinon Tradition Philippe Alliet (£22.95)
This is really quite big I thought as I poured myself a large glass of this last weekend. Going back to it a day later the acidity was starting to show through and it was fresher. This has developed a slightly gamy nose and is drinking really nicely at the moment. Nobody is making better Chinon than Philippe. Can be enjoyed now but should easily keep up to 10 years.

* Restaurant list prices.

Retail prices:
2006 Saumur Blanc Château de Villeneuve Jean-Pierre Chevallier £9.50

2006 Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine, Domaine Pierre de la Grange £6.95

1990 L’Or 1990 de Pierre Luneau Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine £12.95

2006 Chinon Tradition Philippe Alliet £10.15

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Loire sites and blogs

Over the last couple of months there have been several launches blogs or sites featuring Loire wines as well as the RSJ’s own blog. The most recent is Richard Kelley’s the definitive guide to the wines of the Loire. Richard, who is the wine buyer for Richard’s Walford one of the UK’s best wine importers and whose clients include Domaine Huet (say no more), went live this week. For the moment his detailed guide covers Savennières but more will be added soon.

We are delighted to see the Loire finally getting the attention it deserves.

We are happy to recommend:

Chris Kissack: The Wine Doctor (
Jacqueline Friedrich: The Wine Humanist (
Jim Budd: Jim’s Loire (
Richard Kelley: (

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chinon tasting: Monday 13th October 2008

Looking across the Vienne from the coteau
near Cravant-les-Coteaux

Around 20 members of the RSJ wine club enjoyed a tasting of Chinons from 2006 back to 1986 with the customary three-course meal. As Jim was just down the road at Vinopolis on a wine investment panel, Nigel ran the tasting. His comments on the wine are in purple italics.

Nigel: I thought all the wines were showing well – there were no major disappointments.

2006 Chinon Blanc Baudry-Dutour £10.15*
With the unfortunate family schism at Couly-Dutheil Baudry-Dutour is now probably the biggest individual producer in Chinon. The white has to be 100% Chenin and, although the area planted with Chenin has increased recently, it remains a tiny proportion compared to the Cabernet Franc planted for the red.

Had nice weight and it went down very well with everyone.

Cuvée Tradition 2006 Philippe and Claude Alliet £10.50
From gravel vineyards, which are not as good as those up on the coteau but these are what Philippe started and established his reputation with.

This is really quite big I thought to myself as I poured a large glass of this last weekend. Going back to it a day later the acidity was starting to show through and it was fresher. This has developed a slightly gamy nose and is drinking really nicely at the moment.

Christophe Baudry at the new Baudry-Dutour winery in Panzoult

2002 Vieilles Vignes Domaine de la Perrières Christophe Baudry £9.95
From a lovely vintage – not a heavyweight but classic Chinon character, very elegant.

2000 Beaumont Pierre and Catherine Breton n/a
The Bretons are one of several Bourgueil vignerons to have vines in Chinon, Pierre –Jacques Druet is another, and Beaumont to the west of Chinon tends to be a favourite area for them. Not surprising as it is close to Bourgueil. In 2000 you really needed to pick before the rains started in mid-October as they didn’t stop until the following March!

Compared to the big vintages like 2005 and 2006 this has a much fresher character, balanced with some weight. I would drink this now. Was good with the seared organic salmon.

Château de Coulaine

2004 Bonnaventure Château de Coulaine n/a
The property dates from 1300 and vines been grown here ever since. The estate, which is west of Chinon on the road to Avoine and Bourgueil, now has 12 ha and has been run by Etienne et Pascale de Bonnaventure since 1988. Coulaine now one of the appellations leading producers and is organic.

Really lovely – given that 2004 is not a superlative vintage, it showed very well against the 2005s.

2005 Vieilles Vignes Domaine de la Perrières Baudry-Dutour £9.95
From vines that are more than 40 years old and planted on gravel, the wine is aged in wood for 12 months – a mix of casks and barrels – before bottling.

Typical 2005 with very ripe black fruits to the fore and a touch of wood that gives structure and spice to the wine. Should age well as 2005 was an excellent vintage .

First course:
Seared organic Salmon
Roasted fennel, potato gnocchi
Red wine reduction

1986 Clos de l’Echo Couly-Dutheil (magnum) n/a
Just opposite the château Clos de l’Echo is the most famous single vineyard in Chinon and one of the best-known in the Loire.

I’ve spent years waiting for the 1986s to come round and show their paces. This is tasting much better than it has done in the past. Even though it hasn’t been brilliantly stored the neck level is good. It has a light red fruit nose and red cherry flavour. It is certainly not past it – indeed there is plenty of life there. I remember years ago Christophe Baudry telling me that the 1986s were potentially better than the 1985s, which was a very good 80s vintage.

2005 Vieilles Vignes Philippe and Claude Alliet
Although Nigel didn’t say so, the VV can be enjoyed young now but has the potential to age and become more complex.

Wow! This is a big old bugger! There’s so much fruit – black fruits and smoke.

2004 Coteau du Noire Philippe and Claude Alliet £16.95
Previously I’d found the oak quite present, however it's now showing very well with huge concentration and it went very with saddle of lamb. The oak and the tannins are becoming much better integrated. You need a good chunky dish for this one.

Main course:
Roast saddle of lamb
Black pudding
Creamed savoy cabbage, heritage carrots, new potatoes
Red wine jus

Iced pandan parfait, poached pear, passion fruit sauce

When we took a vote at the end the stars were: 2006 Chinon Blanc Baudry-Dutour, 2005 Alliet Vieilles Vignes and the Coteau de Noire 2004.

Were you at the tasting? Do you agree with Nigel’s comments? Either way we would love to hear from you.

Also if you are not on the mailing list for RSJ events – tastings and Ursula's Sunday lunches – please contact Tom King on 020-7928 4554 or if you would like your name added to the list.

(* retail prices and correct on the night of the tasting, when a 10% discount was offered on wines ordered during the evening.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sancerre 2008: Roger Champault et fils

Receiving grapes at the Champaults' winery in Champin.
Note the conveyor on the right of the tractor.

8th October 2008
Late morning we dropped in on the Champaults in the hamlet of Champtin, which is just a couple of kilometres west of Bué. We saw Claude Champault and his father, Roger. Laurent, the other brother, was out in the vineyards.

“We started last Thursday,” said Roger, “and there are about three days harvesting left.” While we talked Claude and a couple of workers were trying to fix the belt of the conveyor that takes the grapes into the press. Machines breaking down at vintage time are always a problem. So much of the equipment, like presses and conveyors, needed during the vintage is only used for a maximum of two or three weeks in the year. Only after their long lay-off to be used almost continuously, so breakdowns are inevitable.

Using conveyors means that the fruit is treated much more gently than pumping it in through a pipe. It is very noticeable how much more care now take over the handling of grapes.

Claude had time to let me taste some of the 2008 juice, which was very clean – just as it has been with all the producers visited in Sancerre and Pouilly. “We picked the Pinot Noir in Menetou-Salon yesterday,” said Claude. “We harvest about two hectares a day and I expect that we will finish on Friday. Yields are averaging 60 hl/ha.”

As we left Claude pointed out their shiny new Italian Defranceschi pneumatic press. Just a few more days work before it gets a long rest before the 2009 vintage!

View towards hamlet of Champtin and its vineyards

Friday, October 10, 2008

Harvest news from Frédéric Mabileau

Freddy is now picking his Cabernet Franc. “We are harvesting in the sunshine,” said Natalie Mabileau. “The quality is very good with the grapes between 11.5% and 13% potential depending on the parcel. But unfortunately the yield is tiny – varying between 10 hl/ha and 30 hl/ha. Tomorrow we will be in Le Puy Notre Dame to make our first tri (selection) of the Chenin Blanc for our white Saumur.

Harvest news from the Central Vineyards (Part1)

On Monday we headed off to Sancerre and Pouilly to catch up on the harvest there. On the way we dropped in on Chantal Wilk and Jean Tatin of Domaine des Ballandors in Quincy. Jean was delighted with the harvest and certainly walking through the vineyards, watching the picking machine make its way up and down the rows, the grapes looked perfect. Chantal and Jean started picking on Friday 26th September and they expect to finish at the end of this week.

Jean Tatin tasting Sauvignon Blanc in Quincy: 6.10.2008

“It’s like 2006, which was a very good year,” enthused Jean, “The Sauvignon is coming in between 13%-14% similar to 2006, which had a level of ripeness that hadn’t been seen in Quincy since 1959! It was September, which has made the difference. Even though the temperatures have not been high during the good spell of weather it’s the wind from the north that has concentrated the sugars and acidity.”

Small bunch of Sauvignon Blanc: Quincy 6.10.2008

Next stop was Sancerre where they are getting fully into harvest mode having as usual started about a week later than Quincy, as Sancerre and Pouilly are noticeably colder in the winter. The drizzle that had been threatening form much of the morning became more persistent as we got towards Sancerre where we saw Jean-Marie Bourgeois (Henri Bourgeois).

He was as enthusiastic about 2008 as Jean Tatin. “I’m very happy with 2008,” he said. “We started picking last Thursday.” We tasted 2008 juice from several tanks, starting with the Petit Bourgeois – their vin de pays made from juice they buy in from producers in the Cher Valley, who have to operate under strict quality controls but who are paid well over the going rate. The juice is impressively good – pure and with considerable richness. It’s the same with the rest of the juice we taste. “We picked some of the Pinot on Saturday – between 12.55% and 12.8%. We are between a quarter and a third of the way through the harvest.”

Hotel and restaurant Les Côtes des Monts Damnés

That evening we had dinner with Jean-Marie in the new restaurant at La Côte des Monts Damnés, which has been enlarged to include a 12-room hotel and bistro. It is run by Jean-Marc and Karine Bourgeois, Jean-Marie’s son and daughter in law. We also stayed there overnight in a very comfortable room. The hotel and restaurant are definitely recommended.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Harvest news from Saumur

(3 October 2008)

Looking towards the church of Souzay-Champigny
and Château de Villeneuve (right)

Jean-Pierre Chevallier

Jean Pierre Chevallier, Château de Villeneuve
Caught up with Jean-Pierre in his Les Cormiers vineyard (Chenin Blanc), close to the famous Clos des Murs. He and his pickers were busy doing a selective picking – choosing those bunches affected by noble rot and therefore too rich and powerful in alcohol to go straight into Les Cormiers, his grand vin blanc. They started yesterday afternoon and Jean-Pierre was very surprised that the juice that came out of the press was 18.4% potential. “I can’t make dry wine with that!” he said. “I’ll ferment it separately and may be I’ll make some Coteaux de Saumur again this year – not what I had intended to do.” Château de Villeneuve has made Coteaux de Saumur only twice before – in 1921 and 2003. JP is well satisfied with the quality of the fruit both Chenin and Cabernet.

What they are picking: botrytis affected grapes

What's being left to pick next week:
perfect bunches for a great dry white

“I got a special derogation from the INAO to start picking my Cabernet today as one parcel was already at 13.7% on Monday and the rest is between 12.8%-13.2% but with an acidity of 6.7. I’ll start picking the Cabernet next week.”

Thierry Germain (Domaine des Roches Neuves)
We saw Thierry on Thursday afternoon. He was hoping to start on Friday (3rd) if the weather holds. His Chenin is between 12.5%-13% potential and between 6.5 and 7.5 acidity. “The acidity levels are dropping,” said Thierry. He intends to start on his Cabernet Franc next Wednesday. “They were at 12.2% potential last Friday with the acidity at 5.5.”

Cabernet Franc in one of Thierry's vineyards (2.10.2008)

“With the high acidity levels and their thick skins the 2008 reds will be complicated to vinify well,” he says. “It will be very important not to extract a lot of tannin. With the white I will do a less severe débourbage (juice settling) than usual.”

We went with Thierry on a quick drive to look at his vines. This took in a visit to his small parcel (15 ares – 0.15 ha) francs pieds vines (ungrafted vines) planted using the old system of échalas (cultivation around a pole). Thierry’s 15 ares are planted with Cabernet Franc to the equivalent density of 10,000 vines per hectare – the average density in the region is 5500 per hectare. He is very excited as he will get the first crop off them this year as they were planted in 2004/05. “I love their purity of flavour – their freshness,” says Thierry. “The flavour is totally different to grapes from grafted vines.” This fruit will be vinified separately in 400 litre open topped barrels. Thierry hopes to get a few vintages from them before the vines are destroyed by phylloxera. The soil is sandy clay over limestone, so with luck it may take a little while for the phylloxera to get at them. “I’ve long had a dream to cultivate vines using this old system (échalas) that you’ll find in parts of Burgundy.” It can also be found in the Mosel.

Thierry in his ungrafted vineyard of Cabernet Franc

Thierry also confirmed that there will be no Marginale 2007 as the vintage wasn't good enough. Instead it will be blended into the other cuvées. Jean-Pierre Chevallier has come to a similar decision for his 2007 reds – there will be no Grand Clos or Vieilles Vignes 2007. As in 2004 and 1998 all will go into the straight Saumur-Champigny, which will be bottled in early 2009. On previous experience this should mean that the Villeneuve 2007 will be extremely good for the year and remarable value.

Antoine Foucault: getting ready for the vintage
We dropped in on Antoine at Chacé who, assisted by his cousin, was busy making final preparations for the start of the harvest of his Chenin Blanc expected early next week depending on the acidity levels. When last checked his young Chenin vines were at 12.2% and the Centenaires at 13.5% with acidity levels around 7. Antoine said that the Foucault brothers, Antoine’s father Charly and Nadi, will probably start in the middle of next week – again dependent on what happens to the acidity.

Antoine with his 2006 Domaine du Collier Saumur Blanc

We quickly tasted the Domaine du Collier 2006 Saumur Blanc, which has just been bottled – absolutely delicious (see below) as well as the 2005 La Charpentrie Saumur Blanc from 100 year old vines. This is richer reflecting both the vintage and the age of the vines but still with fine minerality.

Antoine Foucault’s stock control problem
So delicious is Antoine’s 2006 Domaine Saumur Blanc that his father, Charly, can’t keep his hands off this recently bottled wine, which has some floral aromas, a hint of butter and toast but overall a wonderful mineral purity and great length of flavour. Although the disappearing stock may be hitting Antoine’s bottom line, it’s also a huge compliment as Charly and his brother, Nadi’s, wines are the benchmark for the region.

Antoine's dog gets ready for the vintage – snoozing in the little trailer that will take the debris that's left over after being through the press

We currently have both the 2004 Saumur Blanc Domaine du Collier and the 2004 Saumur Blanc La Charpentrie from Antoine Foucault on the restaurant list.

Régis Neau, Domaine de Nerleux
Our last visit on Friday (3rd) was to see Régis. From having been a glorious morning the sky was now covered and threatening rain. There’s good news for RSJ customers, who enjoy Régis’ ever-popular Crémant de Loire.

Régis in his vines destined for Coteaux de Saumur: early November 2007

“I’ve finished picking grapes for the Crémant,” said Régis “We started on the Chardonnay on 19th September, the Chenin on 22nd and the Cabernet on 23rd/24th. We finished on 29th/30th with another parcel of Chenin. We now have 7 hectares, which we use for sparkling wine. As everywhere the yields are down this year. Normally we have 70 hl/ha – this year it’s 57 hl/ha overall. The Cabernet at 50 hl/ha and the Chenin at 65 hl/ha. We are now waiting for the Chenin and cabernet for the still wines. For the Cabernet the acidity in the best parcels is now down below 6. At Monsoreau I have some Cabernet that is between 11.2 and 12.2 with acidities between 5.2 and 6.5. The Chenin is a 12% with 7.5 acidity. It’s been very dry – we need a little rain now but not too much!”

Will be reporting from Sancerre, Pouilly etc. early next week.