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

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Farewell Alastair Mackenzie: teacher and wine writer

I am very sorry to learn that wine writer and long-time member of the Circle of Wine Writers, Alastair Mackenzie, died last night. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease for some time.

He was a teacher by profession and taught English and Latin for many years at St Paul’s, an independent school beside the Thames in Barnes (London). Alastair wrote his first article on wine in 1970 and passed the Wine and Spirit Education Trust's Diploma Examination, with honours, in 1974.

Although until he retired wine writing was a part-time activity, Alastair nevertheless produced an impressive body of work. With fellow Circle member, Jeffrey Benson, he wrote two books: Sauternes: A study of the great sweet wines of Bordeaux (1984) and The Wines of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol (1979). Alastair’s Daumas Gassac: The Birth of a Grand Cru appeared in 1995.

A CWW Honorary Life Member, Alastair was a very keen supporter of the Circle. He served on the Committee and was a frequent attender at our AGMs, tastings and dinners. Alastair had a great and scholarly interest in wine without in anyway being stuffy.  

My sincere condolences to Alastair’s wife and family. 

Alastair with Freddy Price (2006)

Monday, 29 June 2015

Farewell Pierrot Brinet – one of Epeigné's great characters

 Pierrot@the 8th May 2011 parade to  
commemorate the end of the 2nd World War

Very sad and sorry to hear that Pierrot Brinet, one of Epeigné-les-Bois' great characters, died suddenly yesterday morning. Pierrot had a great zest for life and sense of fun. He was a keen fisherman – often down at our lake and always ready with a warm and cheery greeting. He will be greatly missed. Our sincere condolences to Pierrot's family. 

I remember when the village had a band – sadly now long gone – he played the cymbals. It was clear that his contributions were strictly rationed. He and his fellow player were only allowed to join in on one or two tunes during a concert!    

 Pierrot@the 8th May 2011 parade to  
commemorate the end of the 2nd World War

Pierrot at the Répas des anciens: October 2014 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

European Terroir Wine Festival: Belém – Friday 3rd/ Saturday 4th July

Vinho ao Vivo

Report from a warm Lisbon evening:
Hardly had I settled in early this afternoon than I had a message from Pedro Marques - Vale da Capucha inviting me to the sixth edition of Vinho ao Vivo on this coming Friday and Saturday – 3rd and 4th July. This wine festival is held at the Restaurant Á Margem, Belém, Lisbon. This restaurant, right on the Tagus, is between the memorial to Vasco da Gama and the delightful, bijou Torre de Belém. It should be a stunning occasion with wine and music as the forecast is good but not too hot. Any #winelovers coming for the Adegga fair on Saturday, Vinho ao Vivo allows you to get a double dose of tasting in!

I have to confess that this is the first I have heard of this festival but am looking forward to going on Friday as Saturday will be reserved for the Summer edition of the Adegga wine fair in the centre of Lisbon.  

Further details from Pedro Marques below + more background here.

European Terroir Wine Festival:

40 wine european wine producers

July 3rd and 4th, 2015 from 19h00 to 24h00

Restaurant Á Margem, Belém, Lisbon 

Vinho ao Vivo is back, with a high concentration of authentic European wine producers. Wine meets music along the Tagus riverbanks: a major event in celebration of genuine wine!

During this 6th edition of the European Terroir Wine Festival, we will bring together 40​ independent producers from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Austria, who will make you discover their goliardic wines. Wines with tipicity, audacity, perfection. The event will take place in the stunning outdoor setting of the river Tagus, in “À Margem” located in Belém. Jazz, classic and world music will be part of the event. The wines tasted will be for sale at the event, and can be delivered at your home in Lisbon.

An exceptional and unique selection of authentic wines to taste and purchase.​

Videos of previous editions:

Participating producers (this may change):
Adega Reg. de Colares / Viúva Gomes (Colares)
Vale da Capucha (Lisboa)
Quinta da Serradinha (Lisboa, Leiria)
Humus (Lisboa, Óbidos)
Quinta do Mouro (Alentejo)
Bageiras (Bairrada)
Campolargo-Tiago Teles (Bairrada)
Caves São João (Bairrada)
Quinta da Boavista (Dão)
Quinta da Pellada (Dão)
Lagar da Darei (Dão)
Aphros (Vinho Verde)
Dorado (Minho)
Mateus Nicolau de Almeida (Douro)
Quinta do Infantado (Douro)
Quinta do Romeu (Douro)
Rita Ferreira, Conceito (Douro)
Vale de Pios (Douro)
Val da Figueira (Douro)
Fraga Alta (Douro)

Rinaldi (Piemonte, Barolo)
Roagna (Piemonte, Barbaresco / Barolo)
Cantina Giardino (Campania) 
Bera (Piemonte)
Fattorie Romeo del Castello (Sicilia)

Domaine Labet (Jura)
La Pépière (Loire, Muscadet)
Eric Texier (Rhône)
Domaine La Cadette (Bourgogne)
Tribouley (Roussillon)
Domaine Chamonard (Morgon)
Meyer-Fonné (Alsace)
Eric Bordelet (Normandie, Poiré)
Clos des Grillons (Rhône)


JL Mateo/ Quinta da Muradella (Galiza/Monterrei)
Alberto Nanclares (Rias Baixas)

Everything you need to know:
How is it going to happen? Each participant will receive a glass to taste the wines offered by each producer.

When? July 3 an​d​ 4 (Friday and Saturday) from 7pm to 12pm.
Where? In Belém, Lisbon, in À Margem an esplanade by the river Tagus, in an outdoor setting. 

How much will it cost? 20 euros a day, 30€ for two days. Until the 23rd of June, 25% reduction.

Why two days? Tasting 200 wines takes a few hours. The live concerts on Friday and on Saturday are different.

What's included? The tasting of 200 (excellent) wines and live music.

Will there be food? Yes. À Margem will provide a special menu with different options from the light informal to more traditional sitting down meals. And also live cooking!

Can I buy any of the wines? Yes. Each participant will receive a list of the wine prices and, when leaving, arrangements can be made for ordering and delivering according to your wishes. Free delivery orders over 50 euros in Lisbon. Special requests will be considered on a case by case basis. 

Where can I get a ticket?

1 - On-line at Tickets on-line or Facebook Is Goliardos

2 - At À Margem, before or on the day of the event ( 

Sílvia Mourão Bastos: (+) 351 96 888 15 30 
FACEBOOK : vinhoaovivo
Twitter: Vinhoaovivofest
Nadir Bensmail: (+) 351 96 20 22 24 2'

Not forgetting the Adegga Wine Market on Saturday:


Saturday, 27 June 2015

Off to Lisbon tomorrow after a ride along The Thames Path to Plumstead

 Detail of Belem's monastery 

 Cathedral@Estrella with tramlines

Off to Lisbon tomorrow, so a small selection of photos to whet my appetite – not really necessary!

 The Vasco da Gama Bridge across the Tagus@Oriente 
(above and below)

Late night coffee kiosk in Principe Real


Today I rode along the Thames path from Rotherhithe Overground Station to Plumstead and then back through Charlton, Blackheath and Lewisham. 

It is fascinating to see how the south bank of the Thames has changed over the past 45 years – of course there have been big changes on the northside too but I was riding the southside. Back in 1970 I did a short spell of supply teaching St Michael's in Bermondsey some time before the gentification transformation started. Then I have memories of the largely abandoned warehouses along the Thames close to the river and the empty space, as far as I can remember, that was Surrey Dock.    

I fancy the least changed part of the Thames Path that I rode today is the section between Greenwich and the Thames Barrier. Much of this has to be ridden with care as it is often quite narrow and bikes have to share the space with walkers, runners and dogs.

Next time I think I'll aim to ride from Rotherhithe (easy to take the bike there on the Overground from Forest Hill) to Erith following the Thames Path after the Woolwich Ferry

My abject apologies to the two female cyclists who asked me in Woolwich about a foot tunnel and I directed them to the Greenwich tunnel. Hopefully someone else gave them the correct information before they pressed on towards Greenwich!      

Friday, 26 June 2015

Summer Adegga wine market @Lisbon Saturday 4th July

Approaching fast the Summer Adegga Wine Market in Lisbon – a great opportunity to taste and buy direct from Portuguese wine producers. Held in the Hotel Florida – right by the Marqués de Pombal in the centre of Lisbon.  

After Lisbon the Adegga market heads to Stockholm (19th September) and Berlin (3rd October) before heading back to Lisbon for the winter edition at The Hotel Florida on 5th December. 

Scenes from the Adegga Wine Market: December 2014 Lisbon:

 Busy tasting 
The very exclusive special club room! 

It's all mine!

Keeping track of your tastings 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wine investment fraudster Spyros Constantinos guilty on all 10 Charges

Serial fraudster Spyros faces jail

43-year old Spyros Constantinos has been found guilty at the Old Bailey (London) of defrauding clients who were persuaded to invest in wine by this smooth tongued salesman. Constantinos faced ten counts that included running a fraudulent business, intent to defraud and acting as a company director while disqualified.

The guilty verdicts on all ten counts come at the end of a three-week trial. The case was bought by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards.

Their barrister Pauline Thompson QC told the court that Constantinos had stolen £1 million from investors. Instead of buying wine he spent the money on holidays including a trip to New York and other luxuries.

One of Constantinos's ploys was to offer a guaranteed return on wine after a year.  The rate of return varied from 8.9% to an astonishing 50%

The jury heard a sad litany from investors who bought wine and were fobbed off with endless unfulfilled promises of cheques in the post. Frustrated investors got repeated promises of cheques at the end of the month, while receiving further wine investment offers. Instead getting their money it was moved into accounts for Constantinos’ personal use.

Michael Phelps, md of EHD bonded warehouse, where Constantinos stored what wine he did buy, told the court that he had never seen documents supposedly from EHD that were sent to investors. This included one that guaranteed that wine was in EHD’s care. 

Following the collapse the Bordeaux Wine Consultants Ltd, Constantinos’ first wine investment company, he was banned from being a UK company director from 2008 to 2017. However, he acted as company director for the Premier Bordeaux Wine Company and Classic Bordeaux Wines, which was based in Marbella.    

Underlining his intent to defraud and common to other fraudsters and those involved in telesales scams, Constantinos used a series of false names when dealing with his clients or potential clients. False names used by Constantinos included Andrew Miles and Stephen Williams. (NB: Stephen Williams was an alias that Constantinos chose. There was no connection whatever with Stephen Williams of the long established Antique Wine Company as this post on investdrinks in March 2013 makes absolutely clear:

Sentencing is to follow in some 28 days. I hope Constantinos will get a considerable prison sentence, especially as he continued to run his fraudulent schemes despite being banned as a director and having given undertakings at the time of his ban.  

Congratulations to Tower Hamlets Trading Standards for bringing this case, to Pauline Thompson QC and her team for getting the result and to the jury for not being conned by Spyros. Tower Hamlets Trading Standards already have good form here having brought the £35 million land banking case that would have involved Andy 'Russian brides' Dunne if the hard man hadn't fled to Northern Cyprus.

Spyros should see prison as a blessing – a good opportunity to lose some weight. 

Like other convicted drinks investment fraudsters, Spyros chose to plead not guilty and stand trial despite the evidence against him provided by his gulled clients. You would have thought Spyros would have seen that pleading guilty in the hope of receiving a shorter sentence might have been a sensible investment. Evidently not!

Fraudster Spyros Constantinos guilty on all 10 counts

Excellent breaking news!

43-year-old Spyros Constantinos was found guilty this afternoon at London's Old Bailey of defrauding investors for around £1 million. The jury found him guilty on all ten counts – six relating to fraudulent trading including running a fraudulent business and intent to defraud and four offences of acting as a director whilst disqualified.

Sentencing will be in around 28 days time – hopefully Spyros Constantinos will receive a substantial prison sentence.

More to follow shortly.  

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Police action over Gareth Davies threatens UK press freedoms

Gareth Davies of the Croydon Advertiser

Heading from the petition from The Press Gazette 
to the Met Commissioner

The background to the petition:
On 31 March 2014 three Metropolitan Police officers issued Croydon Advertiser reporter Gareth Davies with a Police Information Notice prevention of harassment letter. 

This PIN was prompted by him sending one email and making one doorstep visit to convicted criminal Neelam Desai. 

Davies was following up on complaints from readers that Desai had conned them out of tens of thousands of pounds. 

He was warned that if he contacted her again he could be arrested.' 

Read the rest here and please sign this petition 

Read here the very supportive letter written by Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central.

The Police's decision to issue Gareth Davies with a Police Information Notice prevention of harassment letter on the basis of one email sent to an alleged fraudster, who he was investigating plus one visit to her home is both absurd and a deeply dangerous precedent. The provisions of the harassment law are not intended to hamper the work of a responsible journalist. By sending a single email to the alleged fraudster, Davies was giving her the opportunity to reply to the allegations.

The police appear to be being overwhelmed by a unprecendented surge of companies seeking to scam investors by offering a range of high dubious alternative investments. You would have thought the police would be welcoming the work of journalists like Gareth Davies rather than seeking to hamper him.

If you live in the UK and believe responsible press freedom to be important, please sign the petition.      

Jazz on the strand@The Thames

Walking back from a meeting at the RSJ Restaurant to London Bridge I came across this jazz quintet entertaining the crowds above on the Thames Walkaway, while taking advantage of low tide on the Thames – nearly La Côte d'Azur but more space! 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Loire presentation at the Cambridge Wine Shop

In Cambridge to present the Loire and some of its wines at the Cambridge Wine Shop this evening. Good range of wines from Muscadet to Pouilly including a Sancerre Rouge and a 2011 from the Coteaux du Layon. Should be fun! 

 Shows the popularity of cycling in Cambridge!

 Part of the CWS's Loire selection 

L'Inédit, Coteaux du Giennois – 100% Pinot Noir
Not in tonight's tasting but worth trying 

Monday, 22 June 2015

Fraud trial of Sypros Constantinos in concluding stages

Mail headline on 2nd June 2015 at start of trial

I spent much of today at the Old Bailey following the now concluding stages of the fraud trial of Sypros Constantinos, who ran a number of wine investment companies. Constantinos is alleged by the crown to have acted dishonestly and defrauded a number of investors, while disqualified from being a UK company director.

This afternoon Pauline Thompson QC started her concluding speech and will finish tomorrow morning. She will be followed by Constantinos' defence barrister's speech. Then His Honour Judge Worsley will sum up and give his instructions to the jury, who are expected to retire around lunchtime on Wednesday. 

Pauline Thompson spent much of this afternoon going through the experiences of a number of investors with Constantinos' various companies and dealing with his several aliases – Andrew Miles and Stephen Williams. She recounted in detail the promises made by Constantinos of wine or cheques about to arrive. When these didn't materialise they would be replaced by further promises that were not kept. Often fresh wine investment offers would be made – many with a guaranteed return within a year. 

Thompson recalled the evidence of Mike Phelps, md of EHD bonded warehouse. Phelps stated that he had never seen a certificate purportedly issued by EHD that wines were safely stored in their bond that was sent to investors. Nor had he seen a certificate with a hologram – EHD had no facility to produce such a document.

Thompson contrasted the frustrating experiences of these investors, who frequently ended up with no money and no wine, with Constantinos' expenditure on himself and his girlfriend, which included a trip to New York.

The case has been brought by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Faces from a conference in Porto – December 2010

Sorting through some photos this evening I came across these from a Wines of Portugal conference held in Porto in December 2010, which stirred memories.

 Robert McIntosh

 Willi Klinger (Wines of Austria)

 Alastair Marshall (Adnams)

 Ana Sofia Oliveira 
 André Ribeirinho

 Carrie Jorgensen
 Charles Metcalfe 
 Finkus Bripp
 Cristiano Van Zeller 
 Jancis Robinson MW
Joe Roberts

 Ken Payton, Luiz Alberto and Vasco Magalhaes

 Louise Hurren

 Neal Martin

 Ryan Opaz