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

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Newtonmore: bright sunshine on the hills + reminder for drivers in Scotland

 The snowy slopes of Creag Dubh
(above and below)

The edge of Newtonmore below Creag Dubh

Forgot to change white balance for 
first shot but quite like effect 


On December 5th 2014 the alcohol limit for drivers in Scotland reduced from 80 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood to 50 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood.

The breath alcohol equivalent reduced from 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath to 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath (5).

The Scottish Government say they have changed their drink drive limit to bring Scotland in line with most other European countries, to save lives and make Scotland’s roads safer.

This limit is now lower than in England and Wales, which remains 80 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood.  

Friday, 19 December 2014

Why my Christmas will be Champagne-free

Jacky Blot Triple Zéro Pétillant, AC Montlouis

I'm looking forward to a Champagne-free 12 days of Christmas. The 12 days will be Champagne-free because of the CIVC's ludicrous, extremely heavy-handed and ruthless attempt to crush Jayne Powell (aka Champagne Jayne). As the CIVC represents all of the Champagne producers Champagne, whether from one of the large houses or from a fashionable grower, is not at all appropriate for festive celebratory occasions. 

Given that Champagne Jayne is a highly enthusiastic – dare I say relentless – Champagne advocate and supporter, I should save Champagne to mark man's ingratitude to women! 

Amazingly despite all she has endured I am confident that Jayne will be drinking Champagne over the days of Christmas.

This week has seen the unedifying sight of the CIVC wielding its very substantial legal might in the Federal Court in Melbourne to attempt to crush Jayne Powell ('Champagne Jayne'). Although Jayne is a great Champagne enthusiast and advocate, she stands accused of benefitting from the renown of Champagne and for tarnishing Champagne's reputation by occasionally mentioning and tasting non-Champagne sparkling wines. 

See the daily reports by Graeme Lofts from the Melbourne court room: 15th December, 16th, 17th and 18th

Jayne spent two days in the witness box with lawyers from the CIVC trying to show that she confused and misled consumers by mentioning and featuring both Champagne and non-Champagne sparkling wines. Demonstrating their green credentials the CIVC lawyers produced, during the cross-examination, a 282-page print-out of Jayne's around 3400 twitters followers. Doubtless there  were multiple copies made – for the judge, for defence lawyers etc. The CIVC's lawyers wanted to know if Jayne knew all of her followers and whether she thought there might be any that could be misled. 

Although many consumers often tend to think of any wine that has bubbles as Champagne, it isn't actually very difficult in a shop to distinguish between Champagne and other sparkling wines. You'll find Champagne printed on the label. Also non-Champagnes are often cheaper and better value.             

The two parties announced at the start of the Thursday session – the last day of the trial – that they had agreed to mediation in March 2015. Good news if the mediation turns out to be meaningful.

It is, of course, right that Champagne protects its name but the CIVC and the Champagne producers have lost any sense of proportion. As Graeme Lofts commented after attending the trial: 

'I have no doubt that as Champagne Jayne, Ms Powell has had a positive impact on the Champagne brand in both Australia and the UK. Why not work with her rather than against her? In this way both sides would be winners.'

Rather than Jayne Powell tarnishing Champagne's reputation, it is the CIVC who has tarnished the reputation of Champagne. This tarnishing has been ably assisted by Veuve Clicquot pursuing (harassing?) small producers in Tasmania and Italy over alleged similarities in the colour used in their labels. 

It would be intriguing, but of course highly unlikely, to see one or a group of the currently fashionable Champagne producers decide to sue ther CIVC for inflicting needless damage on Champagne's reputation by their relentless pursuit of Champagne Jayne. As far as I know there hasn't been the merest batsqueak of a protest from Champagne against the CIVC's action.

Before the case started I tried to speak to someone in Champagne about the case and what they thought about it. Despite using someone with good contacts no-one was prepared to speak. There were, however, fatuous suggestions that Champagne Jayne was doing this for publicity. Through her stand against the CIVC and the Champagne producers Jayne could face potential bankruptcy – there are safer and less risky ways of getting publicity!

I see that the Champagne may become a world heritage site. If they are successful, it will be the first known time that UNESCO has awarded heritage status to blue plastic rubbish bags. If the Champenois application is successful will, I wonder, the sugar beet fields in the Champagne region be included in this World Heritage site? 

     ‘unique and exceptional value characteristics of the site’ 
A vineyard at Epernay

One of the sparkling wines I will be enjoying will be Triple Zéro (Montlouis) from Jacky Blot. Delicious and made from low yields – so low that many Champagne growers would assume that the decimal place is wrongly positioned! Made from ripe grapes with no extra sugar added at any time – first fermentation, tirage or expédition so, hence, Triple Zéro.

Here's to Jayne Powell 'Champagne Jayne', who bravely stood her ground and refused to be intimidated despite the pressure and against the odds!  


Diary date: RAW Sunday 17th and Monday 18th May 2015


RAW London, 17th  & 18th May 2015 

Message from RAW organisers: 
'We're back in central London for the fifth edition of the fair.

London's largest artisan wine fair is returning to the Old Truman Brewery (Spitalfields) on 17 & 18 May 2015. All wines showcased are organic or biodynamic with low intervention in the cellar, and many are totally natural - pure fermented grape juice.

Be sure to save the date so you can pop along and sample tasty wonders alongside a delicious range of other artisan food and drinks. Ticket sales and trade registrations will open at the end of January 2015.

We are also working on another location for 2015 - more news to follow. 

Stay in touch: twitter (@RAWfair)  | facebook (/RAWfair) |'

The Truman Brewery venue for RAW 
on 17th and 18th May 2015


Thursday, 18 December 2014

CIVC v Champagne Jayne: Day 4 – Fizzical battle paused

Despite the pressure and bullying by the CIVC Jayne remains loyal
'One of my favourite Champagnes – Louis Roederer'
Mildly ironic in view of this week's trial that Louis Roederer 
sponsors wine writer awards!

Graeme Lofts reports from Melbourne 
After three days of argument and aggressive cross-examination of Champagne Jayne by lawyers representing The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the opposing parties have agreed overnight to mediation during the first week of March next year in an attempt to reach a settlement. If a settlement is not reached, the case will resume in Melbourne’s Federal Court on 10th March 2015, so the Champagne Jayne case on hold.

The CIVChas been seeking to demonstrate that by using the business name Champagne Jayne, Rachel Jayne Powell has deceived her clients at her Champagne tastings and social media posts by referring to other sparkling wines, thereby tarnishing the Champagne brand.
Ms Powell has denied misleading her clients and presented evidence showing that she has always clearly distinguished between Champagne and sparkling wines from other regions of France and other parts of the world. She has argued that it is necessary to discuss and taste other sparkling wines in order to ensure that, while vigorously promoting the Champagne brand, she must also show it in the context of the diverse category of sparkling wines, in part to add to her credibility as a Champagne expert.
The accusation that Ms Powell has tarnished the Champagne brand as Champagne Jayne is somewhat difficult to understand given that she has been honoured with the title Dame Chevalier by the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, the official fraternity of the major champagne brands, authored an award winning book entitled ‘Great, Grand & Famous Champagnes: Behind the Bubbles’ and been named International Champagne Educator of the Year 2012 by Harper’s Magazine.
In a rather one-sided battle, the action of the CIVC, which has formidable financial resources, a large team of lawyers and well-known for litigation to protect the Champagne brand, has placed Ms Powell, a sole trader with a turnover believed to be less than $100,000 per year, in a precarious financial situation and could force her into bankruptcy. 
As part of the agreement to attempt to reach a settlement Ms Powell is forbidden from communicating with journalists and “other third parties” about the case and is unable to comment. 

Graeme's reflection on the case:
'On reflection, I am wondering why the CIVC has chosen to attack and destroy Jayne Powell’s reputation and business rather than take advantage of her knowledge of Champagne, her ability to educate wine consumers about Champagne and her impressive credentials. I have no doubt that as Champagne Jayne, Ms Powell has had a positive impact on the Champagne brand in both Australia and the UK. Why not work with her rather than against her? In this way both sides would be winners.'

Jim's comment:
I entirely agree with Graeme's measured reflection on this case. I cannot imagine that their apparently single-minded pursuit of Champagne Jayne has won the Champenois many friends. Instead I suspect that for many in the wine trade the CIVC and by extension all Champagne producers this pursuit has shown them as cold hearted bullies prepared to crush one of their friends and advocates. Whether this reprensible and thuggish behaviour has a reasonance outside the wine trade is another question.
I wonder who instigated this offer of mediation? Did Champagne (CIVC) blink I wonder? Did they decide that they hadn't landed a KO blow on Champagne Jayne and could lose the case? It is surely likely that if Jayne Powell had offered mediation the CIVC would have taken this as an admission of defeat.

Back in March 2014 the court had ordered mediation but it proved unsuccessful. I've no idea of what was offered but I suspect that the CIVC played hardball as they have through out this case. It would have been in Jayne's interest to find an honourable compromise. Hopefully the mediation in March 2015 will be meaningful and a solution will be found.

Many thanks once again to Graeme for his fine reporting on the case.