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Chris Kissack
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Chris Kissack

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Now summer has arrived (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) I will be taking my customary break from Winedoctor updates for a few weeks......

My summer break, and plans for Winedoctor after I return.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/blog/2015/07/a-summer-break-sunshine-saumur/
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Chris Kissack

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The schistous slopes of Anjou are littered with viticultural domaines which, for one reason or another, simply never make it onto our radar. Château de la Genaiserie was almost one of those domaines. Quite a few years ago - perhaps ten or fifteen years in fact - I was quite unaware of the estate, but then I chanced across a small parcel of bottles from the domaine in question. They were all sweet wines from the Coteaux du Layon appellation, from the villages of Saint-Aubin-de-Luigné and Chaume (this was long before the latter developed its stand-alone, premier cru status). Suitably curious, I purchased them, and this turned out to be a good decision. They are text-book examples of what can be achieved with the triad of schist, Chenin Blanc and botrytis, and many years later I still have some of those bottles to look forward to.

In this profile I look at the history of this domaine, which is sketchy and concerns the noble Pissonnet de Bellefonds family, as well as the modern era under the direction of Frédéric Julia, before following up with details on the vineyards, winemaking and of course all my tasting notes.

I renew my profile of Château de la Genaiserie.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsprofile/genaiserie.shtml
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The Loire Valley is a land of modest people, and it seems to me that the men and women who make the wines largely choose to invest in their vineyards, or their winemaking facilities, rather than in the construction of grand châteaux. It has long been this way, for many centuries in fact. One should be prepared, even when visiting the greatest domaines, to find on your arrival nothing more ostentatious than a small roadside house, and perhaps a dusty courtyard filled with the paraphernalia of the winemaker. And of course there are the cellars, usually dug by hand; they run into the limestone scarp behind, and are sealed off from the world by the seemingly obligatory tired wooden gate. If we were to draw an analogy with a region in Bordeaux, I think we would have to conclude that the Loire Valley is less like Pauillac, with all its imposing châteaux, and more like Pomerol, as characterised by the understated farmhouse-turned-winery. Of course, that is probably where the similarities end.

A new profile of Château Soucherie, with new detail on the estate's history (albeit sparse), new images, new info on the vineyards and wines, and my latest tasting notes on the 2013, 2012 and 2011 vintages.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/loire/soucherie.shtml
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Only a month or two ago I was dining at Martin Wishart, overlooking the Water of Leith, and my index finger settled on my first choice of wine. Enquiring as to some specific detail - if I recall correctly I was looking for the exact identity of the cuvée in question - and not liking the sound of the answer I ultimately decided to opt for a different bottle. This time my finger landed on the 2012 Menetou-Salon Blanc from Philippe Gilbert. It should work well with scallops. And it should work well with turbot. That settled it; my choice was made.

As I write this report I am now simultaneously dipping quill into ink pot to write to Philippe (pictured below) to apologise for his wine not being the very first one upon which my finger landed....

An update on Domaine Philippe Gilbert, with five recent releases tasted.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/philippegilbert2015.shtml
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Admit it, we've all thought about it. Instead of merely cellaring it, or just drinking it, or even writing about it, wouldn't it be more rewarding to be actually making it? Rather than living our lives as a bystander, a cheering spectator, what would it feel like to be one of the players for a change? What would it be like, as Richard Leroy put it to me a few years ago, to have your own domaine, your own kingdom, where you take all the decisions, making your own wine and ultimately taking control of your own destiny?

If you haven't thought about it then I certainly have. Usually, however, the thoughts are quickly curtailed with tedious rationalisations. It's not practical, I don't have the time, and there is that old adage about starting out with a large fortune, and ending up with - well, I'm sure you know how it goes. It isn't long before I have managed to talk myself out of it, and my thoughts turn to something else. Someone who didn't talk herself out of it though is Christelle Guibert (pictured below). In her case these nascent plans began, with the help of Vincent Caillé of Domaine Le Fay d'Homme, to crystallise into something real, something tangible. That 'something' is called Vine Revival.

Another new Muscadet profile, for Vine Revival, a micro-cuvée made by Christelle Guibert and Vincent Caillé.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/loire/vinerevival.shtml
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Vacheron is a name that has, for me, always existed in Sancerre. I first visited the domaine well over two decades ago, and even as a broke student I had a few bottles in the cellar, along with Chinon Clos de l'Echo from Couly-Dutheil and Saumur-Champigny from the likes of Filliatreau and Château de Villeneuve. Suffice to say I have known of the domaine for a long time, and although I have not followed it consistently across the last two decades I have certainly been doing so during the last six or seven years. By this time the domaine had already been converted to biodynamic viticulture, the cousins Jean-Dominique and Jean-Laurent having made this move in 2004. They really upped their game from about 2010 onwards though, with the introduction of the singe-vineyard cuvées. The Vacherons now offer not only reliably exemplary quality and classic style with their domaine cuvée, but also a portfolio of delightfully nerdy interest and complexity with the new, broader range of wines. What is more, this range has just been expanded with the addition of two new cuvées, Le Pavé and L'Enclos des Remparts, the latter a fascinating wine which all committed fans of Sancerre should taste at least once.

Read on in my Domaine Vacheron 2015 Update, as I report on the state of play chez Vacheron today, taste my through the latest releases from the 2013 and 2012 vintages (plus a couple from 2011 and 2010), and meet two great new cuvées for the first time, Le Pavé and the ultra-rare L'Enclos des Remparts.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/vacheron2015.shtml
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Chris Kissack

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For many years our perception of Muscadet has been, rightly or wrongly (I would suggest the latter), that it is one very large amorphous appellation. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. The entire region is peppered with distinctive terroirs, igneous and metamorphic rocks of all types, granite, gabbro and gneiss, serpentinite and amphibolite to name but a few. If you were to set out to walk the length of the Loire, travelling upstream, once you had passed Brissac-Quincé in Anjou you would not see terroir like this again for hundreds of kilometres, not until you reached the volcanic landscape of the Auvergne.

Muscadet cognoscenti, however, know this well, and they know the little towns and villages associated with these terroirs. To the committed drinker of Muscadet, the names of Clisson (where we find granite), Saint-Fiacre (orthogneiss) and Château-Thébaud (a different type of granite) carry no less significance than names such as Fourchaume, Montée de Tonnerre and Montmains do to your average Chablis addict.

Of these names perhaps Clisson is the best known, rightly so. As noted above the vines here are planted on granite which, even though it accounts for barely 5% of the Muscadet vineyard, in terms of quality and interest this is a very significant terroir. Clisson lies right on the banks of the Sèvre, and just downstream is Gorges, where gabbro rocks give this village's wines a spine-tingling minerality which for me, I think, makes this another of the more exciting terroirs here. One figure tending soil in this region is Jérôme Bretaudeau (pictured), of Domaine de Bellevue. He is based in Gétigné, on the opposite side of Clisson to Gorges, and he landed here just after the turn of the century. This century, in case you were wondering.

I profile Jérôme Bretaudeau, of Domaine de Bellevue, and taste some recent releases.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/loire/bellevue.shtml
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The drive out from the centre of St Emilion to the western reaches of the appellation, and to Pomerol, is a fairly straightforward one; it is really a case of follow your nose, and there is only one turning you need to watch for. Hang right and within a minute or so Château Cheval Blanc will come into view, its admittedly rather understated château still a prominent feature of this corner of the appellation, especially so since the addition of new cellars, inaugurated in 2011. It sits here on the very edge of St Emilion, pointing the way to Pomerol, to Château L'Évangile, Château La Conseillante and others. Hang left, however, and your eye is likely to be drawn to the dramatic facade of Château Grand Barrail, a luxury hotel. Continue on and you will soon find yourself on the main road that skirts the edge of the Libourne suburbs, wondering how you are going to get back among the vines once more.

Between these two routes there lies a triangular slice of the St Emilion vineyard but I confess, with Château Cheval Blanc on one side and Château Grand Barrail on the other, I am usually looking in the opposite direction. And yet here, hidden behind the trees that line the Ruisseau du Taillas, the stream that runs from the town of St Emilion and which forms in part the eastern boundary of the Pomerol appellation, lies another estate of great interest. This is Château Figeac which, along with Château Cheval Blanc, is one of the two estates that occupy the Graves St Emilion, the gravel banks that really signify the end of the sands of St Emilion and the beginning of the Pomerol terroir.

Read on....

I update my profile of Château Figeac, now split across seven pages, with new historical detail, a summary of recent leadership changes, new images and more.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/bordeaux/figeac.shtml
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It has been a little while since I have taken a look at something from Domaine Huet. I used to taste the most recent releases with Noël Pinguet every year at the Salon des Vins de Loire, but that stopped this year (not just for me, but for everybody) as Huet is one of many domaines that recently pulled their support from the Loire Valley's annual trade and tasting fair. In this they are certainly not alone, as many other famous domaines have done the same, including Château de Tracy, Henri Bourgeois, Joseph Mellot, Bouvet-Ladubay, Couly-Dutheil and Domaine Champalou to name but a few. This is not, I should make clear, meant to be an exhaustive list.

Nevertheless I (and lots of other people) was able to meet up with Jean-Bernard Berthomé and Benjamin Joliveau at the Renaissance tasting.....

My weekend wine - I take a look at the 2010 Vouvray Pétillant from Domaine Huet.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/weekend/huet_vouvraypetillant_2010.shtml
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Weekend Wine: Domaine Huet Vouvray Pétillant 2010
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It was late on a December afternoon when I first saw Château Cos d'Estournel. It was the week before Christmas, and I was in Bordeaux with a group for a few days of tastings, visiting the likes of Château Brown, Château Sociando-Mallet, Château Margaux and a number of smaller estates. We were on the D2, heading north into Médoc territory, having already left behind the city of Bordeaux and the communes of Margaux, St Julien and Pauillac. Ahead of us our temporary residence for this trip awaited us, prompting thoughts of dinner and an evening of relaxation, all very welcome after a long day of visits and tasting.

Within the car it was warm, but outside was bitterly cold, as it had been since 8am, when our day had begun with a vineyard inspection and quick pruning lesson. And above us, the sky was beginning to darken as night advanced, ousting the dim light of day. And there, situated on a turn on the D2 just ahead of us, catching a few of those final, fading rays, was the golden sandstone of the chai at Cos d'Estournel, its Oriental pagodas sitting proud and yet conspicuously alien, as if the whole building had recently been lifted and transplanted here from some foreign hilltop.

I renew my profile of Château Cos d'Estournel with new detail, in particular on the white wine.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/bordeaux/cosdestournel.shtml
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There was a time when the approach to the primeurs taken by Bérénice Lurton at Château Climens confused me. I mean, why taste from barrel, why not put together a representative sample like all the other châteaux in Barsac, Sauternes and indeed all Bordeaux? This is despite the fact that I am well aware, having undertaken many barrel tastings in the Loire Valley and one or two in Bordeaux, how much the 'same' wine can differ when tasted from different barrels. Even a wine that has been taken out of barrel, blended in vat, and subsequently put back into the barrels can taste dramatically different when drawn from two different barrels just a week or two later. I have seen this when tasting both with Vincent Carême in Vouvray, and with François Mitjavile in St Emilion.

Now, however, I thoroughly enjoy my visits to Château Climens.....

I pay a flying visit to Château Climens and check out five vintages, including a first taste of the 2013 blend, a first taste of 2012 from bottle, and the 2011-2010-2009 trio.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/climens2015.shtml
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I am fortunate because, although I have now visited Bordeaux many times, I am not yet at that stage where I know every châteaux, every road and every vineyard. As there are many thousands of châteaux here I think I will never be at that stage, and happily so, because one of the joys of wine is making new discoveries. To encounter a back road I have never met before, and to find halfway along its length an unfamiliar château (or perhaps one where the wines are familiar, but the location of the vineyard that produced them is not), an ancient citadel surrounded by regiments of ancient vines, their black bodies silhouetted against the verdant green of spring, can sometimes be one of the most memorable moments of any trip.

The patchwork quilt of vineyards that makes up St Emilion is so broad that, in truth, I don't always need to head down a back road in order to make such a discovery. Sometimes I just need to pay a little more attention when zipping along from one appointment to the next, to look up from the white lines of the road and to scan the landscape around me. So it was on a recent visit, when I was heading east out of St Emilion on the road that snakes along between the railway line and the edge of the limestone plateau, that I noticed an imposing and clearly ancient château set back from the roadside. It was entirely unfamiliar to me. How had I not noticed it before? I decided I would have to investigate, and it wasn't long before I was knocking on the door, tasting the wine, and making one of the most memorable wine discoveries of the trip. I had just discovered Château Lassègue.

I profile Château Lassègue, on the slopes of the St Emilion plateau, where Pierre Seillan makes very noteworthy wines.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/bordeaux/lassegue.shtml
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  • Winedoctor
    2000 - present
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Chris Kissack is the author of Winedoctor.
Introduction
Chris Kissack is a British wine writer, creator and author of Winedoctor online, and the Pocket Guide to Bordeaux in print. Having launched Winedoctor online in 2000, Kissack was one of the earliest writers to adopt the internet as the main medium for his writings.
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  • Douglas High School
    2014
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