Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 6 August 2018

e-bikes, health and wine

Giant Pro-1 e-bike

(This article was first posted on les 5 du Vin on Tuesday 31st July 2018. I am posting it on Jim's Loire as I have just ridden 2000K since I got back on the bike after my accident on 8th May 2018.)

With the 2018 edition of Le Tour finishing in Paris last Sunday this seems a very appropriate moment to praise cycling and, in particular, e-bikes. I will make no mention of the outcome of this year's Tour as I have no wish to propel one of this blog's supporters to apoplexy. Nor is there any suggestions that those who rode Le Tour had any electrical assistance.

You might reasonably wonder what e-bikes have to do with wine or, indeed, other alcoholic drinks apart from both drinking wine and riding a bike generally being pleasurable activities.

The link is I contend health. Regular cycling, whether purely for pleasure, exercise or commuting, brings many health benefits including reducing weight, reduces the risk of diabetes type 2, strengthening your heart, increased cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and flexibility, and there is some evidence that it can reduce certain cancers such as bowel and possibly breast.

This web page from the Government of Victoria (Australia) gives a good summary of cycling's health benefits. It is true that other forms of exercise, in particular walking.

Here are some of the conclusions from a recent UK study into commuting by bike in comparison to walking or taking the bus:

Cycling to work: major new study suggests health benefits are staggering:

'We found that cycling to work was associated with a 41% lower risk of dying overall compared to commuting by car or public transport. Cycle commuters had a 52% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer. They also had 46% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 45% lower risk of developing cancer at all.

Walking to work was not associated with a lower risk of dying from all causes. Walkers did, however, have a 27% lower risk of heart disease and a 36% lower risk of dying from it.

The mixed-mode cyclists enjoyed a 24% lower risk of death from all causes, a 32% lower risk of developing cancer and a 36% lower risk of dying from cancer. They did not have a significantly lower risk of heart disease, however, while mixed-mode walkers did not have a significantly lower risk of any of the health outcomes we analysed.

For both cyclists and walkers, there was a trend for a greater lowering of risk in those who commuted longer distances. In addition, those who cycled part of the way to work still saw benefits – this is important as many people live too far from work to cycle the entire distance.

As for walkers, the fact that their health benefits were more modest may be related to distance, since they commute fewer miles on average in the UK – six per week compared to 30 for cyclists. They may therefore need to walk longer distances to elicit meaningful benefits. Equally, however, it may be that the lower benefits from walking are related to the fact that it’s a less intense activity.'

The full study was published in the British Medical Journal. of course The Netherlands, Denmark and other countries are far in advance of the UK in facilitating and encouraging cycling.

The longer we can remain fit and healthy the longer we can enjoy wine, en modération naturellement, and if we can extend our life span we have the chance of trying and enjoying more bottles of wine. Furthermore I think it is highly likely that someone who is feels good will get more enjoyment from a glass of wine than someone who is unwell.

So e-bikes....?

When I was in my 30s I spent many hours on a bike not only commuting but also training for time trials. I used to seek out steep hills as well as some of the classic mountain climbs used by Le Tour including Le Tourmalet, L'Alpe d'Huez and Le Ventoux. Although I was never particularly quick along the flat I was able to climb with some facility and fluidity.

Unfortunately when I started to write about wine in late 1988 I ceased to ride the bike regularly and before long stopped entirely as I spent more hours sitting in front the computer. The bikes I had ridden in the 1980s gathered dust – neglected

Gradually my waist expanded – 32" trousers ceased to fit, then 34" suffered to same fate and I moved onto 36". I still did a certain amount of walking and we cooked fresh food eating reasonably healthy avoiding processed food. Happily this meant that my gradual weight gain wasn't catastrophic but it was enough for my partner to observe that I was becoming 'portly'.

I was shocked in September 2012 to be diagnosed as borderline Diabetic Type 2. I resolved I had to do something – enough was enough! I started going to our local gym every day and a few months later bought a mountain bike – great fun! Then later a couple of road bikes – one for the winter and an all carbon one for the summer days.

My sessions in the gym allied with taking as little sugar as possible helped me to lose up to 10 kilos. Subsequently this loss has varied between 7 and 8 kilos but my sugar levels at my annual check up are below the trigger point for a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.

Into the ambulance 2nd January 2018

As I have already posted on Les 5 I slipped on black ice on 2nd January 2018 and separated my quads from my left knee, so my major upper muscles were no longer connected to my knee.

Fortunately I had brilliant care from NHS Scotland and a very talented surgeon who reattached my quads to my left knee. However, I also played my part as had spent hours lying down during my recovery period (three and a half months) I would have lost muscle power. Instead I walked and walked initially with two crutches, then one until I was able to dispense with these supports.

I was discharged as an outpatient at Inverness Hospital on 11th April and very soon placed an order for an e-road bike through Cadence Performance at Crystal Palace in South London taking possession in early May. Since then I have ridden over 1750 kilometres on it.

Some might claim that using an e-bike is cheating. Given a combination of my age and the injury I would reject that entirely. I wanted a way of continuing to ride while not putting strain on my knee. My road bike has been brilliant I now have the freedom to tackle any slope, however steep – 20%+ is now entirely possible. These were hills that I could no longer contemplate with any sense of comfort. You still have to pedal but there is aid available.

As you can see from the photo of the e-Pro Road Bike at the beginning of this post there is is no attempt to hide the battery pack. It's an e-bike and proud of it!

e-bikes enable people of a certain age to either continue cycling in comfort as well as encouraging other to start or return to their bikes. In all probability help riders to enjoy their wine to the full – which can't be bad!


Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Report from the lunatic asylum (now a 5-star establishment...)


Perhaps I should apologise if my posts are starting to include elements of politics but if your country (UK - if you hadn't already guessed) has decided to commit collective suicide it is almost impossible to ignore the current lunacy.

There is now apparently a serious possibility of a No Deal Brexit with the UK crashing out of the European Union without any agreement on 29th March 2019 at 23.00. If there is no agreement chaos is widely expected with complete blockage at the UK ports and almost immediately food and medicine shortages.
We have been told that from next month we will have regular advice bulletins from the UK Government to individuals and businesses on what to do in the event of 'No Deal – Crash Out'. Panic buying emptying supermarket shelves looks a certainty along with miles and miles of lorries parked on the approach to the Channel ports as well as no planes flying. Presumably there will be advice to stockpile food. Perhaps with food rationing in place for the first time since the early 1950s.

There have already been calls to recreate the resilience and togetherness of the wartime spirit. However, the current situation is very different from 1939 - 1945 with the UK very divided. Staying with the 1940s one might see a revival of the 'famous' or 'infamous' wartime Woolton Pie:

'The recipe involved dicing and cooking potatoes (or parsnips), cauliflower, swede, carrots and, possibly, turnip. Rolled oats and chopped spring onions were added to the thickened vegetable water which was poured over the vegetables themselves. The dish was topped with potato pastry and grated cheese and served with vegetable gravy. The recipe could be adapted to reflect the availability and seasonality of ingredients.'

With stockpiling of dried and tinned food it could be time to revive 'delicacies' like spam fritters or corn beef hash. Although tempted I am not going to attempt to suggest wine matches for these two recipes.

However, stockpiling some wine for a 'Chaotic Exit' is a different matter! Here is my small survival, reasonably priced selection – by the time we crash out sterling will doubtless have tanked completely...... No vintages given due to uncertainty...... and mainly from the Loire.

3 bottles of Sainsbury's own label Fino (1 litre)
Although not the best fino available this is very decent in a crisis. 


6 bottles of Crémant de Loire Brut Zéro, Château de l'Aulée
 One of my favourite Loire sparklers and good value. Will have to celebrate having got through another week, month etc..... In less straitened times I might well have opted for Jacky Blot's Triple Zéro, Montlouis. 100% Chenin Blanc   

6 bottles of Touraine Gamay, Domaine de la Chapinière
Very good domaine in 41110 Châteauvieux in the eastern end of Touraine close to Saint-Aignan. The Gamay is delicious – vins des amis.  

6 bottles: Touraine Sauvignon either Domaine de la Chapinière/ Vincent Roussely
Either remaining with Chapinière or moving a few kilometres west along the Cher Valley to Angé to Vincent Roussely's domaine. Both crisp but ripe Sauvignon Blancs.

6 bottles of Saumur-Champigny Tradition, Domaine de la Bonnelière 
Consistently good Saumur and Saumur-Champigny domaine in Varrains run by Anthony and Cédric Bonneau – remarkably reasonably priced.  

6 bottles: En Chenin, Anjou Blanc, Domaine Ogereau
The Ogereau family in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay has long made excellent wines but the arrival of son Emmanuel after working in South-West France, Oregon and elsewhere has lifted the wines to a new level. A supply of dry Chenin Blanc will be essential to survive the privations of a crash-out Brexit.  

3 bottles: Les Varennes, Coteaux du Layon, Saint-Aubin, Domaine Cady. 
From a well exposed single vineyard on a south-facing slope close to the family winery.  Some sweetness in this grim time will be essential. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Orange wine for an orange 'president'

Trump Balloon 

The Orange president in London's Parliament Square......
(above and below)

Trump balloona 

Amber Revolution
Simon Woolf  – Amber Revolution

Last Friday (13th July 2018) London saw the largest ever demonstration against a foreign leader when an estimated 250,000 people marched against the visit of Donald Trump to the UK. There were other demonstrations that day and over the weekend elsewhere.

Although amber Trump is apparently teetotal the arrival of our copy of Simon Woolf's Amber Revolution seems timely – orange wines to enjoy during a Trump protest! It also coincides with David's visit to Georgia.

Like a increasing number of other wine books, especially those that break new ground, Simon's book was Crowdfunded. Before Simon considers suing me and Les 5 du Vin Blog for defamation I should make it very clear that the only possible connection between the abominable oaf that is the current president of the USA, albeit hopefully briefly, and amber wine is colour.

From Simon Woolf's Preface:
'Conundrums aside, orange wine's time has well and truly come – bottles are proudly displayed on the shelves of countless independent wine merchants, in fashionable wine bars and top-flight restaurants as never before. The technique resists mass-production, requiring considerable patience and skill to execute properly, so these wines will never dominate supermarket shelves – but producers across the globe are now almost as likely to have an experimental 'orange' in their line-up as they are a traditional method sparkler or a late harvest dessert wine. (Jim - not sure why Simon insists on using term 'dessert wine' when the sensible term is sweet wine.)
Yet for all of the exponential growth of interest, a great deal of myth, superstition and plain old ignorance still surrounds the style. Its origins and rich heritage, in particular, have received very little love from the great and the good of the wine world.

Amber Revolution is an attempt to right that wrong and to distil a significant body of knowledge about this wonderful and unique beverage into one just about digestible volume. The greater part of the book delves into the histories of people, places and culture from orange wine's heartlands: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Slovenia and Georgia. The persona stories of the winemakers in these regions are as rich and colourful as the wines they produce, and provide the all-important context for their output.

Just two decades ago it would have been impossible to write a major book about orange wine – it didn't even have a name. The explosion of availability, popularity and acceptance of the style unquestionably represents a revolution, whatever shade or hue it might be dubbed.'

Crowd by BBC 

Huge crowd @start of the march by the BBC in Langham Place

Pussy Grabbing Pervert