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.

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.

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