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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sancerre tasting and dinner: 2nd March

Sancerre: autumn 2007

Here is the list of wines we will be tasting on Monday night along with the menu:


2007 Sauvignon Domaine de Bablut [that very well known Sancerre!]


2007 Les Pierris, Roger Champault et fils

2007 La Vigne Blanche, Henri Bourgeois

2007 Le MD, Henri Bourgeois
From Les Monts Damnés, the steep slopes above Chavignol

2004 Les Culs de Beaujeu, François Cotat
Les Culs de Beaujeu is another steep vineyard above Chavignol

An assiette of fish with herb risotto and pepper coulis


2007 Les Pierris, Roger Champault et fils

2006 Côte de Champtin, Roger Champault et fils
Another steeply sloped vineyard

1996 Domaine Vacheron in magnum

Roast saddle of lamb
Fondant Potatoes, Savoy cabbage, carrots
Red wine jus

Lemon & mixed berry roulade

Sancerre from the vineyards of Pouilly

Visit to Christophe Daviau, Domaine de Bablut

Saturday 31st January 2009

Christophe in serious mood during the harvest@end of September 2008

It is just a short drive from Domaine des Rochelles in Saint-Jean-de-Mauvrets across country to Domaine de Bablut (Vignobles Daviau) on the western edge of Brissac-Quincé – the venue for our last visit of the day with Christophe Daviau. The Daviau family have been growing vines here since 1546. They were also millers. Apparently Bablut means two windmills in old French and there still is an old mill on the property, now used a tasting room. At the end of the 19th century the family ceased to be millers and concentrated on vines and wine.

Christophe studied in Bordeaux and then worked for 18 months in Australia. I first met Christophe in September 1989, soon after he had returned to Bablut to take over the reins from his father, Jean-Pierre. Bablut has around 80 hectares, which have been farmed organically since 1996.

Our tasting on 31 January started with the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (VDP) – still in tank and due to be bottled in March, which has attractive grassy and gooseberry flavours.

Then on to the mineral 2008 Petit Princé – one of two Anjou Blancs Christophe makes. This is the junior wine, which comes from the well-ventilated plateau at Haut-Perche. Grandpierre, Christophe’s wonderfully minerally and balanced Coteaux de l’Aubance, also comes from this area. Petit Princé is fermented and aged in stainless steel. It matures on its lees, which are frequently stirred to give the wine additional weight. The 2008 will be bottled in June/July of this year.

Ordovicien is the ‘grand vin’ blanc sec and comes from vineyards on schisteous soils. Vinified and matured in barriques, Ordovicien is bottled after 18 months. The 2008 is still fermenting but has a promisingly rich structure. The long and slightly buttery 2007 is due to be bottled at Easter.

The 2008 Rosé de Loire at 11.5% alcohol was attractively light and fruity. Now made from 100% Grolleau, this used to be a blend with 30% Cabernet. Until recently the Rosé de Loire regulations required a proportion of Cabernet. Fortunately this has now been dropped and there are no minimum or maximum requirements as far as the permitted varieties (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grolleau, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay and Côt) are concerned. Previously a number of Rosé de Loire producers used to ignore the rules, saving their Cabernet for either their red or Cabernet d’Anjou.

The dense, black fruited 2007 Anjou-Villages-Brissac (70% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon) is still in tank as is the 2007 Petra Alba (100% Cabernet Franc, grown on limestone) , which is remarkably concentrated with soft tannins after 70 days of maceration. Bottling is due in March.

We discussed best drinking times for the recent vintages and Christophe suggested that it would be best to drink the 2007 and then wait for the 2006, which is high in acidity, and the 2005.

Because of difficult flowering conditions, Christophe didn’t make Petra Alba in 2008 with the grapes going into the Bablut Anjou –Villages-Brissac instead. However, he did make Rocca Nigra (100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown on schist and slate) as his Cabernet Sauvignon flowered in better conditions, although the yield was under 20 hl/ha. Both of these wines are looking promising, although it is still very early days, especially for Rocca Nigra which won’t be bottled until Easter 2010.

To finish we tasted 2006 and 2005 Rocca Nigra and Petra Alba. In both cases the Petra Alba showed better at this stage with greater delicacy and balance, although all four are rich, powerful wines. ideally all of them still need at least another two years in bottle and, in the case of the 2005 Rocca Nigra, a minimum of of three years in Christophe’s opinion.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jean-Hubert Lebreton: Saturday 31st January (cont)

Domaine des Rochelles

Jean-Hubert Lebreton

Following a very enjoyable lunch – simply but well cooked (Catherine Ogereau always promises us a simple meal with no starter but cheese and dessert always follows the main course) – it was off to the Lebretons at Domaine des Rochelles in Saint-Jean-de-Mauvrets close to the Loire and north of Brissac-Quincé.

Here we were looked after by Jean-Hubert Lebreton. Jean-Hubert used to be the assistant-wine maker at Hardy’s Banrock Station in Australia, where just one tank held more than the entire production of Domaine des Rochelles. He also worked in Bordeaux at Pichon-Baron and Lynch-Bages.

As elsewhere the Lebretons had a small crop in 2008 – down overall by 15%-20% due to a combination of frost damage, poor flowering and small grapes with little juice. Normally they make 350-400 hls each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, making a total of around 800 hls of Anjou Villages. In 2008 they made only 180hls-200hls of each. Jean-Hubert mentioned that they are now selling 240 hls of VIn de pays Sauvignon in bag-in-box.

Both the 2008 and 2007 Anjou Blanc, which is vinified in 400 litre barrels were attractive. The 2007 showing moiré honey, while the 2008 at this stage a more mineral character. The 2008 L’Ardoise Anjou Rouge (10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 90% Cabernet Franc) has a sooty nose and quite ripe, easy drinking fruit – as an Anjou Rouge should be. (Ardoise means slate – one of the rocks of Anjou.)

Tom King tuning into the French language

The 2006 Anjou-Villages (80% Cabernet Franc/ 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) initially has soft, floral black fruits with quite tarry tannins in the long finish. As you would expect the 2007 AV is less rich. It is also less tannic, so best to drink this while waiting for the 2006 to show its best. “It is difficult to get Cabernet Franc soft and supple – it needs time,” commented Jean-Hubert. “It is easier to sell La Croix de la Mission.”

The 2007 la Croix de la Mission (90% Cabernet Sauvignon/10% Cabernet Franc) has pretty impressive richness and structure for a 2007 with remaining soft.

Jean-Hubert: “2007 wasn’t easy. The Cabernet Sauvignon was picked some 10 days after the Franc – the yield was 45 hl/ha. With Cabernet Sauvignon it is possible to push the maturity further than with Cabernet Franc because Franc’s skin is not as tough and robust. The wine had three weeks maceration.

“In 2008 we picked La Croix de la Mission on 1st and 2nd November with the fruit coming in at 13.5-14% potential for 35 hl/ha.”

The 2008 La Croix is very deep coloured with sweet, richly concentrated fruit with good length. A this stage it is a bit cloying but is still has a long way to go before it will be bottled.

Onto the very rich and powerful 2005 Les Millerits, Anjou Villages, which comes in at 15% with blackcurrant and coffee notes. Still too young, this needs leaving in the cellar for at least another three or four years. Les Millerits is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a vineyard planted on friable, yellow schist. In contrast the 10 ha La Croix de la Mission is on quartz-red schist. It is aged for 18 months in barrels – partly new, partly one wine and partly two wines.

Jean-Hubert: “We didn’t make Les Millerits in either 2006 or 2007. The 2008 is not yet in barrel. It went through malo in tank but in future we’d like it to do its malo en barrique once we have enough cellar space available. While I was at Pichon-Baron we did some experiments on this and found that malo en barrique made the wines rounder and richer. ”

The infant 2008 Les Millerits is like the 2005 – dark and brooding, with very rich, concentrated fruit and unlikely to be ready to drink before 2015.

Tasting these powerful Anjou-Villages Cabernet Sauvignons is once again a reminder that you can get good results with Cabernet Sauvignon in Anjou but that it is very site-specific. To get ripe fruit you need a warm soil, so that the vines get off to an early start. Planted in cold soils it is very rare to get ripe Cabernet Sauvignon here. The Lebretons are fortunately to have some of the best vineyards for CS in the area.

Finally onto the sweet wines with the quite rich, nicely balanced and citric 2007 Coteaux de l’Aubance the first up. This is fermented and aged in 400 litre barrels. Not super sweet but one to enjoy as an aperitif or with blue cheese. The agreeably citric 2008 is lighter and without the same length as the 2007. It illustrates that 2008 is not a sweet wine vintage in the Loire. Providing you don’t pay very much for them, there are some perfectly pleasant wines to be enjoyed young and drunk as aperitifs or with rich pork and chicken dishes.

We finished by tasting the rich and concentrated 2007 L’Ambre, the Lebreton’s top L’Aubance with its fine peach and apricot flavours. Unsurprisingly L’Ambre was not made in 2008.

We talked about the rumours of some Anjou producers turning in 2008 to osmosis machines to try to make sweet wine without taking risks. Picking at 14%-15% potential and hoping the machine would work its magic. I guess this is an unfortunate illustration that despite the big renaissance of sweet wine in Anjou over the last 15 years that there are still producers who think that osmosis machines or chaptalisation for sweet wine are acceptable. They are not and we agreed that the sooner Anjou bans chaptalisation for sweet wine the better. Apparently the L'Aubance producers are considering banning chaptalisation – bravo I hope they soon take this long overdue step.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Domaine Ogereau – Vincent, Catherine and Emmanuel

Salon trip report: 31st January 2009
Our next stop was just across the Layon to Domaine Ogereau in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay. Catherine and Vincent are close friends of Claude and Joëlle and they work together with them in Savennières on the Clos le Grand Beaupréau venture along with Yves Guignard of Domaine de la Bergerie in Champ-sur-Layon. For the first time Emmanuel, their son, joined us for the tasting. He is now in the middle of his wine studies and is hoping to be able to arrange a stage (work experience) in Oregon.

Vincent started by saying that in 2008 they had only made around 50% of their normal volume, which is never excessive. They expect to make 850/900 hectolitres a year – in 2008 they made only 600 hls.

As usual we tasted through the range – some 2008s plus other vintages – with everything meticulously organised in advance. We tasted the rosés and reds before turning to the whites. Also as usual there wasn’t, with one notable exception that I’ll come to later, a poor wine amongst them.

Particular favourites that I picked out were: 2008 Cabernet d’Anjou: all pretty red fruits and a pure, fresh finish.

2007 Anjou Villages: quite rich for a difficult vintage. The tannins are still a little edgy, so this ideally needs another year or two in bottle. However, equally, with food I’m sure it will be fine now.

2005 Anjou Blanc Prestige (100% Chenin Blanc): while the ‘basic’ cuvee includes 20% Chardonnay. The Prestige 2005 is rich and concentrated and has thrilling energy and precision in the finish. In comparison the 2006, tasted next, although richer and fuller even than the 2005 is more ponderous.

2007 Anjou Blanc Prestige: very promising – the volume of 2006 with the energy of 2005.

2008 Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay: citric – hints of lime, apple too. An attractive, easy-drinking Layon and picked before 20th October. The good autumn weather of 2008 came to an abrupt end in early November whereafter it rained almost every day for the rest of the month dashing hopes of some very good sweet wines. Vincent showed us what they had picked in mid-November. Even though these grapes had a potential alcohol of 17% the result was dilute not fully clean. Fascinating to taste the two different cuvées. Needless to say the second won’t be appeared under the Ogereau name but will be sold off in bulk.

Emmanuel Ogereau

2007 Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay: wonderful purity showing the hallmark of the 2007 vintage with rich peachy fruit and citric flavours.

2003 Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay 2005 Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay
A marvellous pair of rich sweet wines with the 2003 very rich and concentrated but with good freshness in the finish. “It’s beginning to eat some of its sugar,” observed Vincent. At the moment the 2005 with its honey and citric purity and balance has it over the 2003 but in the long haul, I wonder.

We finished with the 2007 Bonnes Blanches Coteaux du Layon Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay with its exotic fruit, especially passion fruit. It’s good but decidedly overshadowed by the 2003 and 2005.

Following a very enjoyable lunch – simply but well cooked (Catherine always promises us a simple meal with no starter but cheese and dessert always follows the main course) – it was off to the Lebretons at Domaine des Rochelles in Saint-Jean-de-Mauvrets close to the Loire and north of Brissac-Quincé. (See separate post.)

(Further reports to follow.....)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tom’s highlights!

My personal Salon de Vins de Loire (2nd-4th February 2009) highlights included:

Jack Blot – Domaine de la Taille aux Loups: Remus 2007 + various La Butte (Bourgueil) cuvées plus a vertical tasting of Mi-Pente, Jacky’s top Bourgueil, from 2002 to 2006

Pierre Luneau: L' d'Or 2007, Muscadet-de-Sèvre-et-Maine

Fred Mabileau, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Bourgueil, Saumur and Anjou: across the range

Didier Champalou, Vouvray: his 2007's

Domaine Richou: Didier’s two Anjou Blancs – 2007 Chauvigné and 2006 Les Rogeries

Eric Morgat: 2007 Savennières L'Enclos

Vincent Roussely – Domaine du Clos Roussely, AC Touraine: across the range from a promising young producer based in Saint-Georges-sur-Cher.

Tom@Château de la Roulerie, Saint-Aubin – 1.2.2009

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of the 2008's and there are some very good 2007's, especially Chenins.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Four successful visits

Claude Papin

Saturday 31st January 2009
Claude and Joëlle Papin (Château Pierre-Bise), Vincent and Catherine Ogereau, Domaine des Rochelles (Jean-Yves and Jean-Hubert Lebtreon) and Christophe Daviau (Domaine de Bablut)

Claude Papin
Visiting and tasting with Claude Papin is always an enjoyable challenge. The wines are invariably excellent. It is fully comprehending the ideas and often the need to translate them into English that is the challenge, especially as I'm aware that Claude's understanding of English is increasingly good even if he doesn't speak in English very often.

Today Claude gave a fascinating explanation as to why cultivating (ploughing and harrowing) the soil regularly often as a way of avoiding using weedkiller is a mistake. On a previous visit Claude had expressed reservations over cultivation as it disturbs the soil's natural profile. However, this was a much more full-throated condemnation – explanation that the practice was decidedly harmful.

To make his case Claude drew an exact analogy with a car. The fuel is the humus, the power or size of the cylinder is the depth of the soil and the amount of water that it can hold, while accelerator is the amount of air in the soil. The more air in the soil the faster the humus is burnt and the more nitrogen produced. The problem with frequent cultivation of the soil is that it puts more air into the soil and thus increases the nitrogen produced. This inbalance affects the vines' leaves and also makes it more susceptible to disease.

Tom hard at work tasting@Château Pierre Bise (Claude Papin)

Claude is predicting that within five years weed killers as we currently know them will have ceased to be used in the vineyards. Instead there will be sprays based on plants that will keep grass and weeds under control, or there will be plants developed and used in the vineyards that are less vigorous and are less greedy with their use of water, or cultivation will be used. Obviously Claude hopes that at least one of the first two options will be available, so that cultivation can be avoided.

Claude also talked out the effects of global warming in Anjou, especially in relation to the increased level of transpiration. Between 1968 and 2008 the average min temperature has risen by 1˚ and the max by 2˚. At the same time the amount of sunlight has increased and transpiration has consequently risen by 30%. In 1978 around 600 mls of water was lost per annum through transpiration. As the average rainfall was 550-600 mls this was in balance. In 2008 the transpiration rate was 830 mls per annum – so out of balance with the result that some of the oak trees around the Layon are now dying. Apparently there is a new vine rootstock that has been developed whose transpiration rate is 30% less than existing rootstocks.

Among the range of Claude's wines that we tasted, we particularly liked the following:

2007 Haut de la Garde, Anjou Blanc
Rich and long

2007 Grand Beaupréau, Savennières
Honeyed with a mineral finish

2005 les Rayelles Coteaux du Layon Rochefort-sur-Loire
Rich citric flavours – brilliantly pure.

2007 Quarts de Chaume
Opulent fruit with wonderful lacy balance, showing how good some of the 2007 Loire sweet wines are.

2007 Spilite, Anjou Villages
Good concentration and texture for the year.

2006 Spilite, Anjou Villages
Rich concentration – gamy character. Good bottle now but will certainly keep three or four years.

More on the other visits to follow.....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Salon des Vins de Loire: report to come

The Anjou-Villages Brissac stand at the Salon

I fear we were rather over-optimistic about the amount of posting that we could do during the Salon, especially given our busy programme. This will be rectified as soon as possible. In the meantime Jim's Loire has some news of the Salon and our trip to the Loire.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Visits before the Salon des Vins de Loire

30th January 2009

Tom and Jim had very good conditions for the drive from Calais down to Saumur where we had our first visits – Thierry Germain (Domaine des Roches Neuves) and Jean-Pierre Chevallier (Château de Villeneuve). With Thierry we tasted the 2008 Saumur-Champigny and Saumur which, although just babies now, are looking promising. Thierry is continuing to look for more finesse and subtlety in his wines. The high point of our visit was a vertical tasting of Thierry's Marginale, his top Saumur-Champigny, going back to 1993 – the first vintage of this cuvée. The 2006, 2002, 1999 and 1995 were the stars of the tasting.

This rather delayed us so we got to Jean-Pierre a bit late. Fortunately this wasn't a problem as he was with a journalist from Cuisine et vins de France. We didn't taste any 2008s with JP. Instead we tasted some recent vintages. The honeyed and citric 2007 straight Saumur stood out as did the 2006 and 2007 Saumur-Champignys. JP will be releasing just one red in 2007 and this should be excellent value as it will include what would normally go to make up the Vieilles Vignes and Le Grand Clos. JP judged that the quality just wasn't there in 2007 to release his top cuvées.

Vines@Domaine des Roches Neuves

Interestingly both Thierry and Jean-Pierre talked about they way their wine styles have moved away from being influenced by Bordeaux to Burgundy. Although Cabernet Franc is a Bordeaux variety, Thierry and Jean-Pierre, who are very good friends and constantly taste each others wines, now believe that the finesse of Burgundy is more what they want than the power of Bordeaux. Certainly I think the culture of the Loire with its family units has more in common with Burgundy than Bordeaux, especially at the top end. However, one should dismiss their earlier vintages. Le Grand Clos 1996 from Château de Villeneuve, for instance, remains an extremely good wine that is aging very well.

After quickly checking our bags into the Hotel du Mail, our hotel of choice when in Angers, dinner that evening was with Christophe and Claire Daviau (Domaine de Bablut). Une Ile is run by the Gerard and Catherine Bossé, who used to have Les Tonnelles on the Isle Behuard close to Savennières. They closed Les Tonnelles in December and opened this new restaurant in Angers on 21st January. The cooking is extremely good but not cheap, particularly with sliding sterling. We chose the entry level 48€ menu – amuse bouche, St Jacques poelées au beurre de truffe, brochet de Loire au beurre blanc and dessert chocolate. After a glass of Champagne Drappier zero dosage we enjoyed the rich and subtle 2006 Les Treilles Domaine Jo Pithon.

Les Treilles is the very steep south-facing vineyard overlooking the River Layon that Jo cleared of scrub at the end of the 1990s and planted in 2000. Following his bust up last January with his business partner, entrepreneur Philip Fournier, Jo has managed to keep this special vineyard.