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

Sunday, 31 May 2015

VitiLoire 2015 – a few photos

 Benoît Mérias, Montlouis 

Vincent Dupuy, Noblé Joué, Malvoisie

 Eric Santier, Domaine Dozon, Chinon
He took over the domaine in September 2013

 Laurent Saget, Domaine des Grandes Esperances, 

Bruno Curassier, Domaine de la Grange (AC Touraine) 
Very good 2014 Gamay

 Lead singers for Les Poules Rampants

 Vincent Simon

Philippe Boucard

 One of the Grooms employed to cart visitors' wines 

More to follow

Saturday, 30 May 2015

An echo from VitiLoire – storm brewing in Vouvray

I spent the day at Vitiloire in the centre of Tours. This year there were 158 Loire producers from the Pays Nantais to Saint-Pourçain showing their wines. Once again this year there was a very friendly atmosphere making Vitiloire an annual event not to be missed.

I will report soon on some of the wines I tasted but firstly brief mention of a storm brewing in Vouvray that I discovered today. 

François Chidaine 

Jacky Blot

Two of the leading Vouvray producers – François Chidaine and Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups), who have the majority of their vines in Montlouis just across the Loire, may well be unable to use the Vouvray appellation unless they vinify their wines within the aire of the Vouvray or in the derogation area of Nazelles-Négron. Jacky Blot has no facilities for vinification in Vouvray, while François Chidaine does apparently have some limited facilities at the Clos Baudouin. However, François now has a new modern winery in Husseau which is naturally much better equipped. 

François has recently been elected président de la Fédération des Associations Viticoles d'Indre-et-Loire et de la Sarthe.

At the centre is the latest Vouvray décret of 8th June 2011. This décret sets out that AC Vouvray has to be vinified within the zone of Vouvray with a part of the commune of the Nazelles-Négron, on the north bank of the Loire just across from Amboise. Transitional arrangements were made for the commune of Montlouis allowing Vouvray to be vinified there until the 2013 harvest. These arrangements have now come to an end, so what happens now? 

The relevant parts of the décret:                 

'Décret n° 2011-650 du 8 juin 2011 relatif à l'appellation d'origine contrôlée « Vouvray »
1° Aire géographique :
La récolte des raisins, la vinification, l'élaboration et l'élevage des vins tranquilles, la récolte des raisins, la vinification, l'élaboration, l'élevage et le conditionnement des vins mousseux et pétillants sont assurés sur le territoire des communes suivantes du département d'Indre-et-Loire : Chançay, Noizay, Parçay-Meslay, Reugny, Rochecorbon, Tours-Sainte-Radegonde, Vernou-sur-Brenne, Vouvray.'
3° Aire de proximité immédiate :
L'aire de proximité immédiate, définie par dérogation pour la vinification, l'élaboration et l'élevage des vins tranquilles et la vinification, l'élaboration, l'élevage et le conditionnement des vins mousseux et pétillants, est constituée par une partie du territoire de la commune de Nazelles-Négron du département d'Indre-et-Loire (partie du territoire au nord de la route départementale n° 1 et à l'ouest de la route départementale n° 75).'   

'XI. ― Mesures transitoires:'
'2° Aire de proximité immédiate :
A titre transitoire, la vinification, l'élaboration et l'élevage des vins tranquilles peuvent être assurés jusqu'à la récolte 2013 incluse sur le territoire de la commune du département d'Indre-et-Loire de Montlouis-sur-Loire.'

Since there was a special dérogation introduced for Nazelles-Négron, it seems odd that there wasn't a similar permanent dérogation for Montlouis as both Chidaine and Blot had vines in Vouvray when the current décret passed into law. 

Both Jacky Blot and François Chidaine have no real need to put AC Vouvray on their labels in order to sell their wines. It's their reputations that counts. Should François and Jacky chose to label them as Vin de France they would still sell with no problem.

A suivré!

Friday, 29 May 2015

James Seely – dies at 75: 1940 - 23rd May 2015

 James Seely's: The Loire Valley and its Wines 
Published in 1989

Very sorry to learn late this afternoon that James Seely died on Saturday 23rd May aged 75. Unfortunately he had been ill for a number of years.  James wrote a number of books on wine regions including The Loire Valley and its Wines (1989), Great Bordeaux Wines (1986) and The Wines of South Africa (1997). His son Christian is managing director of AXA Millésimes.

Message from Olivier Bernard,
Président Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

'Chers Amis,

C'est avec une grande émotion que nous avons appris le décès de M. James Seely, père de Christian, décédé des suites d'une longue maladie, le 23 mai à l'âge de 75 ans.

James Seely était un ami des grands vins de Bordeaux ; journaliste et écrivain, il a signé de nombreux ouvrages sur les différentes régions de France dont le livre «Great Bordeaux Wines », dont la première édition remonte à 1986. Cet ouvrage a été traduit en russe en 2000 et a été présenté lors d'un dîner de gala organisé par l'Union à l'Ambassade de France à Moscou.

Nous présentons à Christian Seely et sa famille, nos très sincères condoléances et l'assurons de notre profonde amitié et soutien.

La date précise des obsèques n'est pas encore connue, mais elles auront lieu le mois prochain dans le Suffolk, en Angleterre.'

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Amongst the vines – Touraine fin mai

We arrived in Epeigné early evening yesterday following a fine drive down from Calais. The good weather has continued today – indeed some of the locals here would have preferred for once if we had brought rain with us as the ground is certainly dry and hard. After tackling the 'lawn' with over knee high grass after a month of neglect, I found time to take the mountain bike out into the vines to have a quick look at how the vines are progessing. 

On a very quick look while riding through the local vineyards, backed up by comments from the RAW Fair (17th May) and at the London Wine Fair (18th May), there seems to be quite a big 'sortie' of potential grapes this year. Probably certainly bigger than the last three vintages. It is, of course, still very early days. The next step, flowering, is crucial. If the weather during flowering is cold and wet, then the yield this year will be considerably reduced. If instead the weather is hot, sunny and flowering is over in a few short days then most of the potential bunches will have become real ones. Time will tell! For the moment the forecast for the next few days is good unless you are a gardener and need rain. 


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

2015 Vitiloire 30th-31st May (central Tours) + Vendredis du Caveau 29th May (Saint-Lamert-du-Lattay)

Monday, 25 May 2015

Corrour – excellent family meal in the wilderness to celebrate Netta's 91st

 Corrour Station House @1338 feet above sea level

On Saturday we had a family celebration to mark Netta's 91st birthday on Wednesday 20th May at Corrour Station House. Railway buffs will be familar with Corrour in the middle of the desolate Rannoch Moor, which apart from a rough, private road, is only accessible by rail. Corrour is on the Glasgow to Mallaig via Fort William line and 17 miles from the nearest metalled public road. 

Despite being in the middle of nowhere there is a Youth Hostel at Corrour and the very good Corrour Station House restaurant, which also has four rooms run by Ollie Bennett and Lizzie MacKenzie

 The bleak moorland looking westwards 

 The line northwards towards Spean Bridge and Fort William 

Corrour Station and the Station House to the left 

Tulloch Station looking north-west

Towards Corrour and Rannoch Moor

Early Saturday evening we caught the southbound train from Tulloch Station just after 6pm. Tulloch is about a 15-minute journey to Corrour sharply uphill all the way. 

Understandably the Corrour Station House is well set up to serve three courses and then get guests onto the last train at around 21.30 northwards to Tulloch and stations to Mallaig. 

We had an extremely good meal – no need to make allowances for the restaurant's isolation. 

11-strong family group 

Home smoked trout  

Loin of venison 

A very clever dessert – chocolate and rhubarb cake

Two bottles from the short but well-chosen wine list: 
Picpoul de Pinet and an Argentinian Malbec

 Restaurant view westwards .... and eastwards below 

 Ollie Bennett and Lizzie MacKenzie with Netta

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Review of Wine behind the label: am I being unfair?

Neville Blech responds:
Hi Jim

I think you are being a little unfair on us (my review of Wine behind the label) and this is probably because of your intimate knowledge of the region which far exceeds most wine writers including us.  

David is responsible for the Loire section and whilst he would admit that it is not always possible to be completely up to date, it is as up to date as the information available to us is.

He wrote an email to all the vignerons in the Loire who were in the book - in French, even - asking for updates and managed to get replies from less than 15% of them. Many of them do not have websites whereby we could get information from and even when they do, they are not up to date.

Taking the two examples that you quoted of people who have died, if you look at the websites of St. Just and Taluau-Foltzenlogel, show me where one could glean that these two gentlemen were deceased? Both gentlemen are there as large as life, if you will excuse the inference.

Similarly, La Maison Huët is still “dirigé par Noël Pinguet” according to their website. Jacky Blot - if you go to, it still states that there are 25 ha. of vines.

We cannot, of course, visit every domaine that is listed in the guide and have to rely to a great extent on the producers’ websites for contact and proprietorship information such as this. We do not have your intimate specialists knowledge and it is not our fault that these websites have not been updated themselves.

Rest assured that our wine ratings have been updated whenever we have had the chance to taste them.

I would have hoped that you had contacted me for comment with the contents of your blog before you actually posted it. I do hope, therefore, that you will be able to post up the above reply in your blog page as the record needs to be put straight.

So where do we go from here? We have done the best we could. We would love you to be involved as a contributor to Wine behind the label, with your specialist knowledge, by at least keeping us abreast of any changes such as these and also pointing the way to new kids on the block and to those who have fallen back in the quality of the wines they produce, but I don’t know if we could afford to pay you much for it. Reviews like yours aren’t going to help increase our revenue stream. If you would like to quote us the smallest fee you could live with for doing this, we would be happy to consider it. 


Hi Neville,

Many thanks for your your response, which I have put up on Jim's Loire.

I don't think I have been unfair or harsh. The 9th edition claims to be 'fully revised', Steven Spurrier is quoted saying 'For me, by far the best of the wine guides' and you show three awards the previous editions of the guide has received – André Simon, Louis Roederer and Glenfiddich. Purchasers have every right to expect this edition to be up to date. The 9th edition of Wine behind the label must be judged in the light of your claims.   

I acknowledged that you and David have taken on a massive task which is not helped by the low response (probably predictable) from the Loire vignerons and their failure to update their websites – equally predictable.

On page 7 of WBTL you explain the concept: 'Wine behind the label was first conceived as an ambitious attempt to produce an authoritative single volume guide to producers of quality wines from around the world'.

I suggest that your starting point should be: can we make our guide authoritative and as 'fully revised' as possible. What steps do we need to take to achieve this and are we able to fulfil this aim.

The deaths of Yves Lambert and Joël Taluau were both covered by Jim's Loire and elsewhere as was the departure of Noël Pinguet from Domaine Huet – one of the few Loire domaines that is widely considered world class.  Incidentally it is hilarious that the French version of their website still has Noël Pinguet running the domaine, while it is interesting to note that there is no mention of either Gaston Huet or Noël Pinguet in the English version.

Compare and contrast

You gave me access to the new edition of Wine behind the label to review it, which I did in respect to the Loire section. I am under no obligation to contact you to give you a pre-sight of my review, though I did send you an email to say that a review had been posted.

The questions is not 'where do we go from here' rather 'where you go from here'. If you promise an exceptional dining experience it is no good saying, if you get complaints, "well we cannot afford to buy prime ingredients and we only have a single gas burner".

Best wishes