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 July 2015

#TDF2015: Griepel wins in Zealande, Yellow for Cancellara – Belgian classic today

Stage 2: From Griepel first up to 17th

The potential chaos for chaos in Stage 2 duly arrived with wind and rain ripping the peloton to pieces with some of the overall contenders notably Nibali, Quintana and Pinot losing significant time on Froome, Contador and Van Garderen. First of the leading contenders is Van Garderen on 44''. He is followed by Froome (48''), Contador (1 minute), Pinot (2'07"), Nibali (2'09"), Valverde (2'22") and Quintana (2'27").

However, a rider like Nibali, may well make up some or all of this deficit on tomorrow's cobbled stage to Cambrai.

Despite having plenty of team mates in the leading group Mark Cavendish didn't win the sprint coming in fourth after André Griepel, Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara. Mark afterwards complained that Mark Renshaw, normally such a reliable leadout man, had peeling off too early leaving him to sprint 300 metres rather than his preferred 200 metres. Mark's fourth place and Cancellara's third meant that Tony Martin missed out on the Yellow Jersey as Fabian's bonus seconds put him in Yellow instead. 


Stage 3: Antwerp to Huy  

  Profile of Stage 3 with plenty of sharp climbs 
towards end of stage finishing with Mur de Huy 

The tough end to Stage 2 could see further time gaps between some of the overall contenders as the stage ends with the ascent of the Mur de Huy with an average gradient of 9% but with parts up to around 20%. This climb features in the La Flèche Wallonne won this year by Alejandro Valverde, who must fancy his chances for a repeat performance today.  

Sunday, 5 July 2015

#TDF2015: Rohan Dennis goes like the wind – will wind cause chaos today?

Previous World Record Hour holder Rohan Dennis surprised Tony Martin, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Dumoulin with a blistering ride around Utrecht. Dennis was the only rider to break 15 minutes completing the 13.8 kilometre course in a record speed of 55.446 kph (34.4 mph). He beat Tony Martin by five seconds, who finished in 15.01. Martin explained afterwards that he couldn't cope with the heat.

Vincenzo Nibali was the fastest of the four overall favourites finishing with 15.39, so leading Chris Froome (15.46), Alberto Contador (15.54) and Nairo Quintana (15.57). There were good rides by other overall contenders – Rigoberto Uran (15.36), Thibaut Pinot (15.37) and Tejay Van Garderen (15.38). These results appear to further confirm recent results that Chris Froome's time trialling form is considerably below what it was in 2012 and 2013.  

Stage 2: Utrecht to Zealande

Today's stage (166 kms) really is pan flat – starting at 4 metres altitude in Utrecht much of the day is spent at sea level or one metre with the highest point being six metres. With no shelter from the wind this could be a very tricky stage with echelons forming and the potential for splits in the peloton. This will surely be a win for one of the sprinters with Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff (28 today) and André Griepel being the most obvious favourites. Whether it is a big bunch sprint will delend on what effect the wind has. 

Unfortunately there are likely to be crashes today, so hopefully everyone will come through safely.

It would be great to see Mark Cavendish notch up his 26th Tour de France stage win, especially as he hasn't won a stage since Saint Amand Montrond when he beat Peter Sagan in a stage where the wind blew the peloton into small groups.     

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Cambridge Wine Merchants: The wines we tasted on 23rd June

The wines we tasted:

2008 Crémant de Loire Préférence Domaine de Landreau £14.99 
A blend of Cabernet Franc, Chenin and Chardonnay, which spends three years sur latte. Note: clean, lemony fresh, still pale, no sign of evolution, good aging potential.  

2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Château de l’Oiselinière de la Ramée. Bernard Chéreau  £8.99 
From a 10-hectare domaine in Vertou, a commune close to Nantes, this is crisp, lemony and still young. It has the fine balance that is typical of 2014. Can be enjoyed but will happily keep and develop for a number of years.

2014 Petit Bourgeois - Sauvignon Blanc, IGP Val de Loire Domaine Henri Bourgeois - £10.50 screwcapped
Pungently gooseberry and grassy – even a hint a cat’s pee when first opened, this is made from grapes sourced mainly in Touraine. The Bourgeois are well known for paying above the normal négociant price for good quality grapes.

2014 Reuilly Blanc Domaine du Chêne Vert, Domaine Valéry Renaudat £11.99

White Reuilly has to be made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc Renaudat’s Reuilly won a good number of friends here. It is more restrained than the Petit Bourgeois but has good concentration and would benefit from more time in bottle as it is quite tight in the finish.

From Valéry Renaudat’s website: ‘Né en Berry, je débute mon expérience professionnelle aux Etats-Unis, avant de revenir parfaire mes connaissances dans le Bordelais et en Bourgogne. En 1999, je m'installe sur 2.5 ha de vignes répartis sur les deux appellations : AOC Reuilly et AOC Quincy. Aujourd’hui, avec mon équipe, j'exploite 18 hectares avec les cépages sauvignon, pinot noir et pinot gris.’
(Born in Berry, I started my professional wine experience in the United States, before returning to France for spells in Bordeaux and Burgundy. In 1999 I started my own domaine with 2.5 hectares of vines: split across the appellations of Reuilly and Quincy. Today with my team I have 18 hectares of vines planted with Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

2013 Menetou Salon Le Prieuré des Aublats Domaine Henri Bourgeois
Unlike the Reuilly this Menetou Salon from the Bourgeois stable and from vines on clay/limestone is more ready to drink – lemony, lightly grassy, well balanced with good length. 

2014 Château de l’Abbaye Morlat, Pouilly-Fumé £14.99 
This domaine in the St Laurent commune Pouilly sur Loire to the north/north east of Saint Andelain.
Still young and quite restrained on the nose, attractive texture and some complexity. A little tight in the finish at the moment, this Pouilly-Fumé should age well.

2012 Sancerre Rouge La Croix Renaud Clément et Florian Berthier
The Berthier’s own a total of 8.5 hectares in Sancerre – Sury-enVaux and Saint-Gemme-en-Sancerrois (to the north of Sury) with the vines coming from the maternal side of the family. Jean-Marie adds a further 10 hectares in the Coteaux du Giennois.  

Over the last 20 years there has been a revolution in the quality and ambition of the Pinot Noirs from the Central Loire Vineyards. This medium weight Sancerre Red has attractive, delicate red cherry fruit. Their 2014 is likely to have more concentration. The Berthiers also make a good, pure Pinot Noir in the Coteaux du Giennois – called Inedit, which is stocked by Cambridge Wine Merchants but was not in the tasting. 

2014 Cuvée du Domaine, Bourgueil Joël Taluau and Thierry Foltzenlogel £9.99
This well-known domaine has 28 hectares four of them in Bourgueil and the rest in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. Sadly Joël Taluau died suddenly in June 2013. The estate is now run by Thierry Foltzenlogel, the son in law, and Clarisse his wife and Joël’s daughter.

The early-bottled 2014 Bourgueil has lots of the juicy, perfumed fruit now associated with the 2014 vintage in the Loire.  Good value at £9.99.

2012 La Chapelle, Chinon, Domaine La Jalousie, Cravant-les-Coteaux £18.99
The prestige cuvée from Domaine de la Jalouise. This softly and quite lightly textured wine raises the interesting question whether it is worth releasing a prestige in a difficult vintage like 2012, especially when it will be compared to vintages like 2014. It is difficult to claim that the 2012 Chapellle is worth paying nearly twice the sum that will secure a bottle of the Taluau and Foltzenlogel Bourgueil. I know which one I would buy…..

2011 Coteaux du Layon Tri de Vendange Domaine du Landreau £19.99
Domaine de Landreau is owned by Raymond morin, who also owns Domaine la Jalouise in Chinon. This Coteaux du Layon comes from vineyards in Saint-Lambert and the neighbouring St Aubin-de-Luigné.

2011 is a very good sweet wine vintage and this attractive Layon is delicately sweet without huge concentration, which makes it a more versatile than a super-concentrated cuvée. As such it shows the stupidity of referring to these sweet wines as dessert wines. This 2011 will be much better drunk as an aperitif, with blue and hard cheeses rather than many desserts, which will tend to mask the sweetness and heighten the acidity. Alternatively enjoy a glass at the end of a meal in place of a dessert.


2015 Tour de France: opening time trial + Vinokourov's cynical flip flops!

 Tour de France in Pauillac July 2010

Cycling's greatest sporting event – Le Tour de France – starts today in Utrecht, Holland. It is certainly the most famous of the three Grand Tours – Italy and Spain being the others. It isn't, however, necessarily the toughest in terms of the terrain although the pressure especially in the first week must be enormous. 

This year's edition starts with a short time trial of 13.8 kms a largely out and back course through Utrecht and virtually dead flat. Most of the course is at three metres above sea level. Unusually this will be the only individual time trial of this year's edition. 

Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) will be the first rider off at 14.00 CET. Teklehaimanot is an exciting African rider, who won the King of the Mountains jersey in this year's Dauphiné. As last year's winner Vincenzo Nibali sets off last at 17.17. A one minute interval separates the riders.

I think I'll play safe with my picks to win today: either Tom Dumoulin or Tony Martin. Picking between the two I'll opt for Tony Martin. Although Fabian Cancellara has had huge success in opening Tour de France prologues and time trials I'm putting Martin and Dumoulin ahead of him this time due to age and long layoff from racing following his injury in the E3 Harelbeke in late March.

UK's Alex Dowsett, who recently held the hour record until Bradley Wiggins beat his distance, will be looking to do a good ride today. 

Nairo Quintana, the first of the four overall 2015 favourites (Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome are the other three), sets off at 15.00. He is followed by Tom Dumoulin (16.25), Alex Dowsett (16.28), Tony Martin (16.44), Fabian Cancellara (17.03), Tejay van Garderen (17.11), Alberto Contador (17.13), Chris Froome (17.14) and Vincenzo Nibali (17.17). 



Alexander Vinokourov and Astana's cynicism 
Sadly even before this Tour de France drug taking has again hit the headlines and again featuring the Astana Team. Yesterday it was reported that a pre-Tour drug test on Lars Boom found low levels of cortisol, which can indicate abuse of cortisone. 

UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) rules allow riders to continue with these low levels. However Astana signed up to the MPCC (Movement pour un Cyclisme Crébile) which has stricter rules and requires riders with low levels of Cortisol to stop competing for for at least eight days, and until their Cortisol levels have returned to normal so Boom under MPCC rules should not start the Tour.
MPCC's press release on Lars Boom yesterday.

Statement here by MPCC on Lotto leaving MPCC earlier this year and reiterating that their rules on low levels of Cortisol stand.          

Doubtless it suited Astana managed by Alexander Vinokourov, who was banned for doping on the Tour de France during his racing career, to add some credibility to their bedraggled reputation, especially when their racing licence was under question due a number of their riders failing dope tests. 

For the good of the sport's reputation and that of Astana, the MPCC's rules should have been accepted with Boom not starting. Instead what do Astana and Vinokourov do? They walk out of the MPCC, admittedly a voluntary body, so Boom can start.

Sadly Vincenzo Nibali, last year's Tour winner, is a member of the Astana team. Although he is a great and exciting rider, being a part of the Astana team inevitably casts a shadow over his achievements.