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

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Fine 2012 Muscadet from Eric Chevalier – dare I say mineral!

The back label

Eric also makes good Pinot Noir

Eric Chevalier is probably best known for his Fie Gris (Sauvignon Rosé)* but this fine 2012 La Noë Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu Sur Lie is a reminder that Eric also makes very good Muscadet. This 2012 is lightly golden with considerable weight, very clean and precise and a lovely mineral character. Yes 'mineral' character!

I'm aware that some 'flavour führers' have cast doubt on using 'mineral' as a descriptor on the grounds that science suggests that roots are 'merely supplying water and dissolved mineral ions' as Jamie Goode explains in his fine new edition of Wine Science. Jamie does wonder whether science isn't missing something here:

'That underlying geology impacts wine so strongly is undoubted. The cost differential between a grand cru Burgundy and a lowly generic Bourgogne, or even a respectable village level wine, is such that there is a significant financial incentive for winegrowers to do all they can to improve the quality of their wine. But even where great care is taken in the vineyard, yields are dropped and the highest level of winemaking is practiced, there seems to be a quality ceiling that is imposed by the vineyard.

So we have a dilemma to solve: how is it that soils seem to be so important for wine quality, when science indicates that they are only playing a limited role in influencing the flavour of grapes?'  Jamie Goode, Wine ScienceSoils and vines

What I think is important here is that mineral best describes the character of what I am tasting. I could use grapefruit, perhaps, but that doesn't encompass the full flavour. So I'm opting for 'mineral' here and will continue to do so.
The Sandeman figure in their cellars@Vila Nova de Gaia

During our recent visit to Porto we took a consumer visit through the Sandeman cellars. It was fascinating listening to and watching the reaction of the people of the visit. In particular one question: "Wine is often described by citing fruits – strawberry, cherries etc. do you add these to the wine?"

The answer is no – any fruit extracts used are added illegally. But the interesting thing is that the person who asked the question was no fool and thought it perfectly possible that these fruits were added to wine hence the use of these descriptors to evoke the taste wines.  

*PS: Actually it is hardly surprising that Eric is known for his fie gris as this variety is incorporated in his website's url. 


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A Lisbon treat!: back to A Taberna da Rua das Flores

 From the inner sanctum through to the 'main restaurant'

A week ago last Tuesday we went back to eat @ A Taberna. André had kindly reserved us a small table in the inner sanctum by the bar. It normally isn't possible to book tables in this tiny restaurant. Even when we arrived around 8pm there was a queue outside. I can, however, assure you that it is worth waiting for André's inventive cooking and it won't break the bank. 

André Magalhães (taken in February 2014)

Fromage de tête (on the house)

 2010 Nana Tejo Reserva: a delicious and soft red wine field blend made 
by André's girlfriend, named in homage to her mother

The dishes here are small – petiscos, so the idea is that if there are three of you then you should choose four, which is what we did

 Bacalhau with chick peas – sensational!

 Squid with Japanese squid noodles in squid ink – wonderfully staining!

 Slow cooked pork

 André's take on a hamburger

Strawberries lubricated with Vinho Generoso
(a version of home-made Port) 
and also in the glasses
+ passion fruit ice-cream – yum!

Vinho Generoso

With the bottle of wine our meal cost the three of us £57.50 – fabulous value!

Kiosk in Príncipe Real

On the way home we stopped for an expresso at a kiosk in Prínciple Real.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Porto: some lovely parts but serious investment required

 Porto: Majestic in parts – inside the famous eponymous café

 View of the Douro, Porto on right and 
Vila Nova de Gaia on left


 Dom Luís Bridge: trams above – road below, and walkways at both levels


 From Porto through to Vila Nova de Gaia

 Remarkable cactus garden close to the Douro

Parts of Porto are magnificent but walking around the centre you cannot fail to notice that there are a lot of abandoned or rundown buildings — to a far greater extent than is the case in Lisbon where a lot of buildings have been renovated over the past ten years or so.  

Porto: a city in need of care?

An abandoned block in the centre

Overgrown and abandoned buildings close to the Douro


Vila Nova de Gaia

Monday, 28 July 2014

2014 Bourgueillothérapie: Saturday 13th – Sunday 14th September – raising money for La Croix Rouge

Jim with a new shirt that is waiting to be auctioned for charity 
on Sunday 14th@Bourgueil 
... but what's the wine?

2013: the auction in progress

Bourgueillothérapie is a unique event blending wine tasting with art based around the appellations of Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. It is organised by Ludo and Sophie Ragot of Café de la Promenade in Bourgueil with Sébastien David (Domaine Sébastien David).

Over the weekend the artists create works of art – pictures, sculptures etc, while based with a vigneron or group of vignerons. These are then auctioned off for charity on the Sunday afternoon. Each year the proceeds go to a different charity. This year it is La Croix Rouge (The Red Cross).   


Saturday 13th September
The artists set themselves up with their vignerons and start work. This year there is a change instead of having each producer host an artist, the producers and their artists will be grouped together. There will be four zones: Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Restigné, the east of the appellation and Café de la Promenade for the vignerons invited from other Loire appellations.
This new arrangement will mean less driving for those wanting to visit the artists in situ and also less chance of getting lost. In the past some of the venues were not very well signposted.

Samedi 13 sept
: les artistes s’installent avec les vignerons dans quatre zones de dégustation dans le vignoble  (afin d’éviter de perdre des promeneurs en route et afin de raccourcir le circuit).
A Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil : Gérald Vallée, Sébastien David, Fréderic Mabileau, Les Vallettes, Xavier Amirault, Les frères Boisard, Laurent  Herlin
A Restigné : Domaine de la Chevalerie, Domaine Pierre et Catherine Breton, Domaine Georget , Domaine du Rochouard, Pierre Borel, Galbrun.  
A l’est de l’appellation
: Château Minière, Xavier Courant et Les Frères Nau
A La Promenade
: les invités hors appellation : Loic Terquem, Romain Guiberteau, Pascal Lambert, La Source du Ruault, Gérad Marula, Wilfrid Rousse, Antoine Sanzay et Vini Be Good.

Details of the three first three venues to come. 

Dimanche 14 sept
: 10 h dégustation sous les halles de Bourgueil puis cochon de lait à la broche à 13 h et dans la foulée à 15 h la vente aux enchères . Cette année les bénéfices seront donnés à la Croix Rouge.

Le jury sera parrainé par Jean-François Carmet

Even though July is not yet over we already have one piece of art ready to be auctioned – a new shirt for Jim.

Jim's new shirt and a glass of what?

More scenes from last year's auction:

Sébastien David with one of the paintings

Last year's crowd 

The well-heeled auctioneer..