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 investdrinks.org

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, 26 June 2017

Escaping the Brexit lunacy

The most famous lie of the Leave campaign



Ever since the narrow result just over a year ago to leave the EU of our ‘advisory’ referendum held on 23rd June 2016 being a U.K. citizen who voted to remain it has been like living through a never-ending nightmare.

Initially it was shock that after more than 40 years in the EU we should have voted to come out in a referendum foolishly held by David Cameron. Foolish that it was held at all but even more foolish that it was held on the basis of a simple majority.

Gradually the implications of leaving the EU have become clearer to more and more people. At the same time the lies and false promises of the leave campaign have been exposed.

Unfortunately on becoming Prime Minister Theresa May, nominally a remainder, opted for a ‘hard brexit’ or even no deal. She appointed three remainers - Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox - to key positions in her Government. Over the past year it has become clear that none of them are properly suited or equipped for their roles.

Fortunately May’s gamble of holding a snap election to increase her majority backfired badly even though she got the most votes and has the most seats in the House of Commons. Instead of a narrow majority, May ended up with a hung parliament far from the thumping majority she had hoped for when she sprung the election.

The extended campaign exposed May as robotic, without empathy and keen to avoid contact with the electorate while demanding a big majority to carry out her hard Brexit or no deal. Her refusal to take part in the broadcast debates being the most obvious example.

At the same the election campaign engergised Jeremy Corbyn allowing him as an experienced campaigner to connect with the youth vote. This was combined with a big vote registration drive. He attracted enormous and enthusiastic crowds in many parts of the country.

Her government has run out of luck – events have started to show the May government in a very unflattering light. As Harold Macmillan is quoted 'Events, dear boy, events' on what blows a government off-course.  

The awful terrorist attacks in Manchester and London in the latter part of the campaign put the spotlight on Government cuts to the emergency services. 20,000 fewer police officers since 2012 involving the drastic shrinking of neighbourhood policing that brings in crucial local intelligence.

May’s arrogant and condescending speech to the Police Federation in 2015 when she scolded her audience for ‘scare mongering’ was widely tweeted and rightly came back to bite her.

The election result left May severely weakened and increasingly a figure of derision. Her pathetic reaction to the terrible fire in the Grenfell Tower coupled with evidence that Ministers had ignored recommendations from previous reports into tower block fire tragedies. It also highlighted the culture of cutting corners which incredibly allowed Grenfell to be clad with flammable material.

The now long running negotiation with DUP illustrates May’s poor negotiating skills just at the time when we are supposed to be negotiating the very complex process of leaving the EU. 

There is a sense that the tide is turning with more people being persuaded that the best option is to remain within the EU. If a so called soft Brexit means staying within the customs union and the single market along with rather acceptance of freedom of movement within the EU, then why on earth are we leaving. Staying in gives us a better deal as well as being involved in discussions.

As inflation moves up, people’s wages decline, the NHS faces an increasing shortage of nurse, farmers wake up to the implications of not finding enough EU workers to work on the land and bringing in the crops, and holiday makers find that sterling buys considerably less than it did when they go abroad the idea of leaving will surely increasingly look stupid and damaging. Not forgetting the UK becoming less attractive to investors and starting to lose EU agencies based in London with Euro passporting rights moving away to mainland Europe.

MPs know that the electorate will punish parties that make them poorer.  If opinion really does swing away from leaver, MPs who know that Brexit is insanity will one hopes start to speak up, especially as there appears to be no positive arguments for leaving. Will there be cross-party alliances.

Unfortunately the Labour position on Brexit makes no more sense than the Conservative position. Corbyn’s call of Brexit for the many is just as vacuous as May’s now infamous ‘Brexit means Brexit’. If Corbyn wants to safeguard jobs and people’s living standards then the obvious course is to reverse course and stay in. Furthermore the majority of his supporters aged from 45 and below want to stay in the EU.

As long as May remains Prime Minister she appears to be determined to pursue her hard Brexit but what if she is overthrown or is forced to resign. Let’s say that Philip Hammond takes over. Since the election Hammond has already made it clear, in contrast to May that the emphasis has to be on economics rather than immigration.

What, if once in No 10, Hammond decided that the Brexit farce had run its course and that we couldn’t afford to waste anymore time and resources on negotiating a worse deal than we already have. What if he revoked Article 50 and kept us in the EU. This would completely wrong foot Labour and presumably diminish Corbyn’s current popularity with younger voter. 

May's shoddy deal today with the DUP could prop up her government for a while at huge cost – a bribe of at least a £1 billion. Who will take comments that there is no 'money tree' seriously now. Clear that there is no money tree for essential services – nurses, fire and police officers – but there is plenty to enable her discredited government to limp on. This deal threatens peace in Northern Ireland and will surely not be popular in Scotland, Wales and Northern England who will want their slice of this generous and magical cake.   


Furthermore if the Conservatives are propped up by the DUP this is unlikely to increase their popularity with much of the electorate. Vote Conservative and get the DUP will be a powerful slogan in elections to come. 

Given what has happened over the past year - Brexit and the election of Trump and Macron - i’m loathe to try to predict what the next few months will bring but it is just possible that we could be nearing the end of the UK’s nightmare.


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Clos Rougeard sold to Bouygues brothers


Nady and Charly Foucault during the 2011 vintage


It was first rumoured back at the beginning of January 2017 that the iconic Clos Rougeard was to be sold to the owners – Martin and Olivier Bouygues – of Château Montrose in Saint Estèphe, the sale was finally confirmed on Friday. 

It remains to be seen whether buying this iconic Saumur estate really makes sense as it was the character and dedication of the Foucault brothers – Charly and Nady – that in time made the estate famous and special.

 

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Reflections on Parkinson's fundraising ride from Pauillac to La Livinière (Minverois)



Jim and Carole @the Cité of Carcassonne

A week yesterday Carole and I were riding through quiet, rolling roads through the Minervois towards our final destination – Domaine Ostal Cazes at La Livinière. Fortunately we had the wind behind us as we passed by vineyards interspersed by garrique and other crops.

In direct contrast yesterday afternoon I foolishly decided to go for a ride in London at the time of the afternoon school run and the start of the Friday weekend rush hour. This made riding on most of the roads no fun at all and I cut short my ride. Such a contrast to peaceful rural France whether it is in the Languedoc or the Loire. 

Although there are considerate drivers in London, there are still far too many that speed, drive recklessly and dangerously with little thought for other road users whether they are fellow drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. 

Riding a bike in London means that you can never relax – always trying to anticipate the next danger or the next impatient idiot. 

Much of our five day ride from Pauillac to La Livinière was along the towpath of the Garonne and then the Midi Canals. There was a good tarred track all the way from the western end of the Garonne canal a few miles east of Langon all the way to the western border of the Aude départment. This meant that we could ride our road bikes along by the canal and benefit from the shade and tranquility – no vehicles! Unfortunately in the Aude the track becomes rough so we had to take to the normal roads to avoid punctures. 

During our ride we had to negotiate two major cities: Bordeaux and Toulouse. Both proved to be cycle friendly and easy to get through. Toulouse entirely on cycle lanes – some shared with pedestrians, while Bordeaux was easy once we reached the new Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas Bridge. The new bridge includes a dedicated cycle lane which then on the eastern side connects to a pedestrian/cycleway that takes you right through and out to the south of the city. In Toulouse we were able to follow the Garonne Canal until it became the Canal du Midi.  

Clearly both Bordeaux and Toulouse a much smaller than London but it was striking, despite the new cycle highways in the centre, London lags far behind these French cities. 

Sadiq Khan, the current London Mayor, makes the right sounds about improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists alike. However, after a little more than a year in power I sense that he has achieved little and that he is better at hot air than taking practical steps. 

Khan appointed Will Norman, as his new walking and cycling supremo on a salary of £98,000 a year. A google search on Norman brings up no recently entries, so you have to wonder what is he up to? 

We are very pleased that our ride across Southern France has to date raised £5,587.19 including gift aid. Donations continue to be very welcome – please donate here  Together we can make a difference to people with Parkinson's. Thanks!        


Destination: Ostal Cazes, La Livinière, Minervois

Cycling group@Trevor Gulliver's house in nearby Homps


Friday, 23 June 2017

Wine tourism: les jeudis du vin de l'AOC Chinon from 13th July to 7th September



Press release from Vins de Chinon @Thursday tastings:

Forteresse royale et AOC Chinon, l'histoire en partage
Que peuvent avoir en commun la forteresse royale et les vins de Chinon ? Si la pierre tendre de tuffeau a permis de batir les plus beaux chateaux de la Loire, elle est aussi celle qui donne aux vins de Chinon un certain caractère. Un sous-sol et une histoire en héritage qui montrent que l'architecture et le vin sont bien affaire de patrimoine*. Un patrimoine vivant que les vignerons de Chinon partagent volontiers avec les visiteurs partis à l'assaut de la forteresse, chaque jeudi de l'été.

9 jeudis 9 vignerons pour découvrir les vins de Chinon avec ceux qui les font !
 

Du 13 juillet au 7 septembre 2017, chaque jeudi après-midi à la forteresse royale de Chinon
A l'image du Val de Loire, Chinon produit des vins raffinés, élégants, parfois aussi puissants que sa forteresse ! Une richesse que l'AOC Chinon propose de faire découvrir aux visiteurs pendant 9 jeudis avec 9 vignerons de Chinon qui se relaient autour de dégustations et d'échanges. Une facon de mieux appréhender un territoire avec ceux qui le font : rencontrer un vigneron, c'est toujours une aventure privilégiée ; un échange aussi fructifère que les cépages Cabernet Franc ou Chenin donnent une gamme variée de vins rouge, rosé ou blanc friands, légers ou au contraire structurés selon l'empreinte que le vigneron a voulu leur donner. 

Déguster du Chinon depuis la forteresse, c'est aussi, fouler les terres des rois Charles VII, Henri II Plantagenêt et aiguiser son palais dans un cadre royal, faire un premier pas vers l’esprit, si vivant, de la "Rabelaisie" en embrassant une vue à couper le souffle sur la ville et les paysages tant chéris par Rabelais, ce géant chinonais humaniste qui marqua à jamais ses nombreux héritiers littéraires. 

Boire du Chinon à la source, c'est enfin permettre aux 173 vignerons de l'appellation, de récolter pleinement le fruit de leur travail, de participer à une économie réelle et vivante qui emploie près de 800 personnes sur le chinonais et de maintenir 2400 hectares en production viticole.

* Reconnaissance du Sénat en 2014 : "le vin, produit de la vigne, et les terroirs viticoles font partie du patrimoine culturel, gastronomique et paysager de la France".

Informations pratiques : Syndicat des Vins de Chinon tél. 02 47 93 30 44 / chinon.com 

Dégustation gratuite et vente des vins sur place et gourmandises dans l'enceinte de la forteresse Droit d'entrée à la forteresse : Plein tarif : 8,5 € / Tarif réduit : 6,5 € / Gratuit : enfant - 7ans 

 Part of the Château of Chinon

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tim Stanley Clarke – Rest in Port



Very shocked and saddened to hear that Tim Stanley Clarke, one of the great characters of the UK wine trade and great Port lover and expert, died last night. Tim had a great sense of humour and enjoyed jolly japes. On a personal level he was very supportive of my exposure of wine investment frauds.

I have fond recollections of a memorable trip with Tim to visit Bouchard Père et Fils following its takeover by Henriot. We flew back from Dijon and it was some time before the ban on taking liquids on planes. Since our flight departed around lunchtime Tim had bought various patés etc plus at least two bottles of Bouchard Burgundy – a well chilled white and a red plus glasses – allowing us to have a very enjoyable lunch at the back of the plane!   

Here are a series of photos I took of Tim at the Circle of Wine Writers' Christmas Party in December 2013 hosed by Swiss Wine. I hope they capture some of the essence of TSC.  

Tim's bio on Linkedin 

News report in The Drinks Business

We will certainly miss you Tim!  





Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Saumur Champigny's 60th anniversary celebrations: Les Grandes Tablées 2nd & 3rd August 2017



The 18th edition of Saumur Champigny's Les Grandes Tablées will be held on Wednesday 2nd August and Thursday 3rd August. This year there will be more than two kilometres of tables for the expected 6000 diners. 

This edition marks the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Saumur Champigny appellation or 'pour ses 3 fois 20 ans as the producers prefer to have it. The appellation came into force on 31st December 1957. 

The meal starts at 7pm and costs 13€ and an engraved tasting glass is a further 5€ (bought on the night). Meal reservations from the Saumur Tourist Office, Quai Carnot, 49400 Saumur. Tel 02.41.40.20.60 or on line: www.ot-saumur.com 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Left the Loire .... back in London



We left the Loire this morning and are now back in London  along with warnings of high levels of pollution tomorrow. To be fair there were already today warnings in Rouen of high levels of pollution and the need to take precautions. Please follow Sadiq Khan's advice to take care.

 Just cloud or a brown, grey cloud 
menacing the City of London?


Monday, 19 June 2017

Brexit: the lunatics set sail for Brussels


Today the UK started its divorce process from the European Union – the lunatics led by David Davis sailed into Brussels with a leaky boat. It is barely two weeks since Theresa's cynical attempt to grab a substantial majority by holding a quite unnecessary election failed spectacularly. May has been humiliated as much by the unbeliveably dreadful 

Not only, following the election, does David Davis and the UK Government have no mandate for any kind of Brexit but Davis appears to be incapable of negotiating his way out of a paper bag even with the benefit of SatNav. 

May and her Government appear not or are deliberately ignoring that the popular mood in the UK looks to be moving away from Brexit as the economic and other disadvantages become increasingly apparent. 

Both the French and Germany Governments have offered us a way out with the option for us to change our minds. I fear, however, for the moment our politicians – both Conservative and Labour – are too stupid and blinkered to grasp this gift horse with both hands. Jeremy Corbyn's – 'Brexit for the many' is as stupid as May's 'Brexit means Brexit'.

Hopefully in the time that remains between now and March 2019 when the divorce is due to be finalised, politicians will wake up and realise that the electorate is likely to severely punish fools and liars who set out to make them poorer long term. 

There is still time to own up and admit Brexit is a terrible idea and instead decide to stay within a thriving EU.       

Sunday, 18 June 2017

2017 Fête des Vins, Boulevard Napoléon, La Livinière, Minervois


 Trevor and Fergus – spud maestros

 Phew it's hot!
 John and Trevor: the quail gatherers

Some photos from yesterday's Fête des Vins @Boulevard Napoléon, La Livinière, Minervois. It was very hot and Fergus, John and Trevor did a sterling job looking after the barbecue despite the intense heat from both the sun and the fire. 

Delicious menu: brains on toast, barbecued quail, Cantal Salers and cherries accompanied by wines from Boulevard Napoléon and some other growers. The Boulevard Napoléon 2014 Grenache Gris and 2014 Bien Autre, the second wine in their red stable, were especially good.     

 Fergus

Fergus + Benji  – a tired and 
emotional part of the event....

Trevor + phone 

Sheathing the tongs

 
Chef John 

Winemakers Benji and Joseph
modelling their regulation blue shirts
 Daniel dealing with a persistent photographer 

... but unable to resist soon relents 

 Kitty – above and below


 Brains on toast

A table (above and below)


 Bob

New York to the Minervois for a weekend 

Trevor and Nicky's neighbours in Homps
(above and below)

 

 The speeches were a tad long this year.......






Saturday, 17 June 2017

St John's Fête des Vins – Boulevard Napoleon: eve of fête paella


It was paella evening (Friday) on the eve of Boulevard Napoleon's annual Fête des Vins. Some photos from the event.



John serving up with Trevor as 
Mr Portion Control and i/c parsley

 
John – the paella king




Counting to five 

Fergus Henderson

Rebecca
 
Tom 

 Max

 Bob + Lars 
 
 Derek finds the Minervois relaxing