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

Friday, 18 May 2018

Pique-nique Chez un Vigneron + Portes Ouvertes Pinon (Vouvray)

This weekend (Saturday 19th-Monday 21st May) is the 2018 version of Pique-Nique chez le Vigneron Indépendant. The formula is simple you take your picnic and the vigneron supplies the wine often with visits offered along with the possibility of buying some wine to take away.  Some have BB-Q facilities.

More details on the Vignerons Indépendant's website. Here is the offer of vignerons involved in Touraine. warning: this search takes a while to load. Check carefully for details as not all vignerons operate over the three days and you may need to book.  

François & Julien Pinon: Portes Ouvertes
Message from François and Julien Pinon inviting people to celebrate François' 30th vintage and the first one of his son – Julien  

Dates:  Saturday 19th and 20th May + Saturday 26th May
'Nous sommes heureux de vous inviter à nos portes ouvertes du Printemps. Venez fêter les 30 ans de carrière de François et le premier millésime de Julien!

Rendez-vous les samedi 19 et dimanche 20 mai, le samedi 26 mai et le samedi 1er décembre 2018, de 10h à 13h et de 14h30 à 18h.'

 Julien Pinon


Thursday, 17 May 2018

Christophe Surget (Couly-Dutheil) – very sad news

I was very shocked and sad to learn yesterday of the sudden death of Christophe Surget, who looked after the commercial and export side of Couly-Dutheil (Chinon).  Christophe was just 50 years old.

My thoughts and sincere condolences to his family and friends. 

The funeral is tomorrow (Friday May 18th)  at 11am at St Symphorien Church located in Couëron.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Jet Set in Hastings: annual meet up

Extensive bike locking facility at Tonbridge Station

For this year's annual Jet Set reunion we have chosen to come back to Hastings – St Leonards. The Jet Set refers to a group of friends who met at Manchester University in the second half of the 1960s. 'Jet Set' was always a rather ironic title and now 50 years later it is even more ironic – the chance of any hell raising is now probably officially zero. Indeed there was some confusion as it whether we had been to Hastings before even though this was in May 2015 and we are staying in the same hotel (Royal Victoria) ....... and drinking in the same pub – the recommended Horse & Groom.

Today was a brilliant sunny day with the sea flat calm. The forecast for tomorrow is cooler.....   

Love St. Leonards mural

The renovated Hastings Pier

Hastings Pier has now been attractively renovated. It is now a delight to visit where before it was a sad burnt out wreck.  

Monday, 14 May 2018

In praise of ebikes

Front view


We had already decided that when cycling became too difficult we would invest in a pair of ebikes. A purchase we saw as for sometime in the future.

My accident on 2nd January when I separated my quads from my left knee cap, brought the acquisition of an ebike forward. Although my knee and quads are now working increasingly well together, I am keen not put too much strain on my left knee. Anyway that is my excuse.

Last Friday afternoon I took possession of a Giant Pro 1 ebike from Cadence Performance at Crystal Palace.

The Giant Pro 1 is a revelation. It makes going up hills easy and a pleasure. There was a time when I was considerably young that I found it easy to climb most hills. I went up some of the classic Tour de France climbs including the Tourmalet, Ventoux and Alpe d'Huez. 

Close up battery
View of the battery of the bike while on charge 
Some might see an ebike as cheating, which it would be if you were in a race with a hidden battery but this is certainly not the case with the Pro 1 as the battery and engine are in full view.
I understand that ebikes are now very popular in Holland and they are becoming more popular in this little island. There is much to be said for anything that persuades people that biking can be enjoyable, especially if they tend to be sedentary and are not super-fit whippets... 
Reducing weight should help people to live longer and so drink more wine – in modération, of course.   

Friday, 11 May 2018

2014 Vallet 'Cru Communaux': Domaine Petiteau

Tasted and enjoyed this 2014 'Cru Communaux' Vallet from Domaine Petiteau this evening. Vallet is one of the latest Muscadet communes to start out on the quest to become a recognised cru communaux. Vallet launched its quest last year. 

The Petiteau's Vallet spends at least 17 months on its lees. Light gold colour with delicate brioche aromas and attractive appley texture with good concentration, balance and length. The long finish has a refreshing touch of bitterness in the finish. This Vallet clearly has the potential to age well and develop further in the bottle.  

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

2015 L'hermine, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Les Vignerons du Pallet

This 2015 L'hermine from Les Vignerons du Pallet is another cuvée from this coopérative. L'hermine spent at least a year on its lees and comes from a similar terroir to the coop's Juliation, the cru communaux wine that spends at least 17 months on its lees.

The 2015 L'hermine has attractive texture, length and complexity. The extended period on its lees has given it yeasty, bready aromas and flavours as well as being a touch lactic. 

Although it is clearly a sur lie wine, L'hermine cannot be labelled labelled as such because it has spent more than a year on its lees. Under current legislation Muscadet that is still on its lees after 30th November in the year following the vintage cannot be labelled sur lie. The law can be an ass.....!     

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

back on the bike + electricity.....!

Yesterday was an important milestone in my recovery from slipping on black ice on 2nd January 2018 as it was the first time I had seriously ventured out on a bike since the accident.  After getting rid of the brace on 11th April I had gingerly tried a few revolutions on the bike but while it was possible it was clear that this was towards the limit of movement and that I should be very careful.

I am delighted that nearly a month on from being able to discard the brace and my discharge I was able to ride my Scott mountain bike a couple of times around Crystal Palace Park and cope with its hilly terrain while cycle shoes with cleats. Previously I had been wary about relying on getting my foot out of the pedal.

Malcolm Nicol consultant @Raigmore Hospital, Inverness

I continue to be very grateful to the excellent care I received from NHS Scotland – this is a real good news story. I am particularly grateful to the surgeon – Malcolm Nicol – and his team who did such a brilliant job reattaching my quads to my knee. It is also a testimony to the healing powers of the human body. I don't think I really ever thought that I wouldn't be able to ride a bike again but it is a wonderful feeling when you are actually able to do so. There is still a way to go before my leg and knee are fully back to normal but I can see real progress.

I have long been a fan of the Good Captain Beefheart, which includes the track Electricity. This classic composition came to mind as I stormed up an assortment of hills around Forest Hill, Sydenham Crystal Palace and Anerley, while test riding the Giant Road-E+ 2 Pro Electric Road Bike.

Giant Road-E+ 2 Pro Electric Road Bike
I have to say that riding an e-bike is a revelation, especially going up hills. With very little effort you sail up them barely breaking sweat. Initially it had seemed so easy that I forgot to change down gears, so wondered by I was struggling on the less steep ascent of Canonbie Road. I realised later that I had gone up this brute of a slope on the big chainring and in one of the higher gears.

Ian Uddin, the general manager at Cadence Performance (Crystal Palace), had stressed that when going up hills it was more effective not to pedal hard instead let the motor do the work for you. Having remembered that I ought to change down for the steepest hills I flew up Anerley Hill at 23.5 kms an hour! Startlingly quick – watch out Quintana!

You are, of course, still exercising by turning the pedals but you are no longer gasping for breath and asking why you are still subjecting yourself to this sort of strain and torture......   

Monday, 7 May 2018

Pure Loire by Bougrier

Maison Bougrier's Crémant de Loire is a blend of Chenin and Chardonnay. This Crémant is well made. Although I suspect that with its striking label it is a popular choice I find that although I enjoy a glass the second is cloying. I would prefer a low dosage but my guess is that the current level is to many people's taste. It is available in Sweden for 16€.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Decanter World Wine Awards 2018 – some good results from the Loire

Judging Loire wines for the Decanter World Wine Awards has been from Tuesday to Friday this week at the Cert Ed section of the ever expanding Excel Exhibition Centre. This is the 15th anniversary of the awards that started in 2004 and have grown to be one of the largest wine competitions in the world.

As Regional Chair for the Loire I was lucky to have an excellent and settled panel for all four days: namely Chris Hardy (Charles Sydney Wines), Nigel Wilkinson (Sticky Mango@RSJ) and Chris Kissack (The Wine Doctor). 

Although not allowed to reveal details of the results, I can say that we had a pretty successful week awarding a number of Gold Medals for a variety of wines –  reds, dry whites and sweets – as well as a good sprinkling of Silver medals.    

View from the 2nd floor tasting room at Excel

The long walkway on the 2nd floor of the Excel Centre 
 The Excel Exhibition Complex
viewed from the east

 Same view as above but this time with a plane 
taking off from the nearby London City Airport

A relaxing drink after a day's tasting 
on the balcony of the nearby Novotel

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Has the Loire escaped spring frosts in 2018?

Anit-frost pots out in the Regional de Cosne 
and du Charitois

While hoping that I am not speaking too soon but it looks as though the Loire has escaped any serious damage from Spring frosts in 2018. Last night and the night before were rather nerve jangling as temperatures dipped. 

However, Laura Semeria of Domaine de Montcy reported that there hadn't been any frost in her domaine in Cheverny, which is prone to frost and where the forecast for Tuesday/Wednesday showed -1˚C. In Ligre (AOP Chinon) Jérôme Billard reported that they had to light to the anti-frost candles at 4am this morning and that they proved effective. 

Initially this coming night – Wednesday/Thursday – was forecast to be tricky but during today the temperatures forecast have risen so the frost risk appears to have gone away with no low temperatures forecast for the coming 10 days or so. 

Even so – we should continue to keep fingers crossed for a while.....      

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Tuesday and Wednesday nights – squeaky bum time in Eastern Touraine

 Météo France forecast for Cheverny, whose low lying 
vineyards are frost prone 

Cheverny - 40% possibility of frost 
Tuesday/Wednesday night  

Vignerons in parts of eastern Touraine look to be facing a sleepless couple of nights on Tuesday/Wednesday and Wednesday/Thursday as temperatures drop to close on freezing or just below.

Elsewhere in Loire the forecast is for a little above freezing – fine as long as the forecast is accurate. Tonight's forecast for Vallet shows a low of 2˚C and 0% chance of frost. 2˚C is getting a bit close for comfort – so fingers crossed!   

Monday, 30 April 2018

Brett Jones – The Wine Maestro – dies

Brett in the Loire

We were very sorry and saddened to learn this evening that Brett Jones – the Wine Maestro – and Wink Lorch's partner died this morning losing his brave and courageous fight against prostrate cancer. 

One of our strongest memories was his performance back in September 2009 on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square highlighting the dangers of prostate cancer, which included, of course, a wine tasting. Brett had been treated and was in remission.

Brett on a high in Trafalgar Square:


Golden pants

The audience

 Stepping off the plinth

Here is the last post on the Wine Maestro blog

A sad day – you will be sorely missed, Brett. Our thoughts are with Wink and Brett's family. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Coldharbour's English fizz stirs memories

Acre Lane from Clapham leads onto Coldharbour Lane,
which heads through to Loughborough Junction

A bottle of 'Coldharbour' Classic Cuvée NV (West Sussex) enjoyed a week ago last Friday on the evening of our return to London after our long stay in Scotland stirred old memories.  

For a couple of years back at the end of the 1960s and very early 1970s I lived on Acre Lane in Brixton. The eastern end of Acre Lane finishes at Brixton Town Hall in the centre of the borough at the junction with Brixton Road.    

Memories of Coldharbour were reactivated in 1997 with the debut album from Alabama 3 that featured the fine Exile on Coldharbour Lane. Back in the days when I lived in Acre Lane, an evening stroll down Coldharbour Lane usually produced an invitation from the shadows to buy a wrapped up piece of dope. 

As I never accepted these kind invitations I can't say whether the proffered dope was anything like as well balanced as Coldharbour's quite austere Classic Cuvée – a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier as are the majority of Champagnes. The winemaker is Dermot Sugrue, whose Sugrue Pierre, we have greatly enjoyed on several occasions at The Harrow in Little Bedwyn.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

2006 Saumur Champigny, Château de Villeneuve

2006 Saumur-Champigny, Château de Villeneuve

If you listened to some received ideas you would imagine that this 2006 straight Saumur-Champigny from Château de Villeveuve would be well past its best. Not at all! In glass it still looks youthful – no sign of brickiness. Similarly on the palate it has the roundness, soft texture and structure that is associated with the 2006 vintage. Tasted blind I am sure it would be difficult to say that this wine is nearly 12 years ago.

Impressive as this is Jean-Pierre Chevallier's straight Saumur-Champigny and not either the Vieilles Vignes or Grand Clos. 

Friday, 27 April 2018

2018 Loire Millésime – some thoughts on the second edition

The second edition of Loire Millésime was based in Blois and ran from Sunday 22nd to 25th April. In all some 70 journalists were invited from around the world with a strong contingent from North America. 

Visits during this second edition naturally focused on appellations to the east of Tours – the various Touraine appellations, especially Oisly, Chenonceaux and Mesland along with Vouvray. Whereas the first edition, based at Fontevraud, focused on Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Chinon and Saumur. 

Sunday 22nd April
This second edition opened with a tasting of Loire Chenin Blanc, which was similar in format to that held at the Domaine de Rocheville (Saumur) in 2017. This year it and our other tastings were held in the Château de Blois.

During the tasting there are trays of canapés served with no sit down meal at the end of tasting. A number of the leading producers marking Loire Chenin were present at the tasting. These included Claude Papin, Olivier Lecomte, Patrick Baudouin, Philippe Porché, Joël et Ludovic Gigou, Vincent Lebreton, Tessa Laroche and Alexandre Monmousseau. 

There were many high quality Chenins to taste. It was also a useful reminder of the high average quality of wines from Jasnières and Coteux du Loir. Good to taste a couple of 2017s from Domaine Lelais, which with 14 hectares in Jasnières makes them the largest producer in this small appellation. Unfortunately Lelais lost 50% of their 2016 crop to frost.  

Unfortunately I find grazing on canapés and trying to taste these excellent Loire Chenin Blancs doesn't really work. I would rather taste without the distraction of food and then eat after the end of the tasting. Given the timing of this evening tasting, leaving eating until the finish of the tasting wasn't possible unless one was prepared to go hungry as local restaurants would be closing by the end of the event. 

Monday 23rd, Tuesday 24th and Wednesday 25th April
As it had been in the previous edition the centrepiece of the 2018 Loire Millésime was the possibility to taste some 700 wines from the 2017, 2016 and 2015 vintages that had been entered into the Le Concours des Vins du Val de Loire. Of these 700 wines – 287 had received medals. 

For the whole of Monday (9am-6.30pm) there was the opportunity to taste the 2017 vintage, then Tuesday and Wednesday morning for the 2016 and 2015 wines.

Doubtless it is admirably democratic that those who enter their wines into the Concours get them to be tasted by a global group of journalists as well as providing an incentive to enter. Unfortunately it is the nature of wine competitions, especially regional ones, that for a variety of reasons the best producers do not enter their wines. Most top producers already have established reputations and may well be a position to sell more wine than they can make. Furthermore with the 2016 and 2017 frosts in the Loire there is a shortage of stock. 

The result? From the 700 wines there were too few that were good and memorable. The overall quality was significantly below that of the Chenin Blanc tasting on Sunday night. The 2018 Loire Millésime is reported to have cost 140,000€ to stage. It does seem quixotic to fly in journalists from around the world and not show them the wines that you believe are the best the region has to offer. Furthermore it is very likely that it is the region's best producers who are present on export markets rather than producers who fail to get medals in their regional competition. 

To be fair the Tuesday afternoon trip to Vouvray, which I was not on, did include a visit with Vincent Carême to his vineyard and to the cellars of Domaine Huet, so two leading Vouvray producers. 

Next year's edition of Loire Millésime will be in the Pays Nantais, I trust that the organisers will have sorted out this problem and will show their guests the very best that the Loire has to offer. One solution would be to show only those wines from the Concours that are awarded medals and to show at the same time a selection from the Loire's best producers. 

Château de Chambord 

Two spectacular soirées
On Monday and Tuesday we enjoyed to two spectacular soirées: Monday evening at Château de Chambord and Tuesday at Château de Moncontour in Vouvray. On both occasions the weather was perfect. Monday featured wines from the straight Touraine and Touraine Villages appellations, while Tuesday was devoted to négociant and cave co-operative wines. 

 Château Moncontour

Visits to Touraines Oisly, Mesland and Amboise
On Tuesday afternoon I opted to go on the trip to Touraine Oisly. Here the focus was on two types of soil. The first, in the east of the Oisly appellation, had clay and limestone that had degraded to flint. The second was more sandy and had heavier clay making it a colder soil with the possibility of poor drainage during a wet winter. The visit included a tasting of Sauvignon Blancs from both Touraine Chenonceaux and Touraine Oisly. 

The tasting confirmed my overall impression from tasting 2016s from the two appellations  on Tuesday morning that the whites from Chenonceaux are more interesting, complex and varied than those from Oisly, which although in the wines we tasted have rich fruit, they have a tendency to blandness due to their soft finish that lacks vibrancy and punch. 

Wednesday afternoon was taken up with a drive in an iconic Citroen 2CV through the vineyards of Touraine Mesland and Touraine Amboise. The highlights were a tasting of five 100% Côt in a vineyard in the commune of Limeray. If the proposed Cru Amboise goes through the whites will be made only from Chenin Blanc and the reds solely from Côt (Malbec). Of the five the 2015 Prestige de Bessous, 2015 La Griffe d'Isa (Xavier Frissant) and the 2016 Domaine de Grande Foucardière stood out. At the end of our excursion a 1997 late harvest botrytised Touraine Amboise from Domaine de la Gabillière (the Lycée Viticole at Amboise) was a fine treat.  

Unfortunately the visits highlighted the high proportion of vineyards in Touraine that blasted with weedkiller. In some vineyards the destruction is almost total with a trace of biodiversity remaining. It is, however, encouraging that the proposal for the putative cru Amboise includes restrictions on the use of weedkillers. 

 Oisly vineyard completely blitzed by weedkiller
Less life in the soil than in the Gobi Desert?

Ouch – old Chenin Blanc in a lifeless vineyard 
@Limeray (Amboise)
There should be a law against treating old Chenin like 



Thursday, 26 April 2018

2018 Loire Millésime – Amboise aiming to be a cru

View over Limeray looking south with 
the south side of the Loire in distance 

Yesterday afternoon a group of us from Loire Millésime paid a brief visit to some of the vineyards of Touraine-Mesland and Touraine-Amboise traveling in convoy transported in six or seven of the mythic Citroen 2CVs (deux chevaux).

Touraine-Amboise is in the process of seeking promotion from Touraine-Amboise to cru Amboise. They are currently in negotiation with the INAO. 

The Amboise cru will be for just red and white. The red is to be 100% Côt (Malbec) and the white – pure Chenin Blanc. The current Touraine-Amboise appellation extends over 11 communes and has a potential planting area of 3200 ha, although the average declaration over the past five years has been only 181 hectares. Under the reclassification of the appellation, only 726 hectares would be kept as suitable for the future cru. These are the vineyards – actually planted or potential sites on the premières côtes that overlook the Loire from both banks. From the potential 726 hectares for the future cru around 400 ha are currently planted. Vineyards that are not considered suitable for Cru Amboise will just be classified as straight Touraine.

Amboise is one the very rare Loire appellations where an appellation has vineyards on both banks of the river. 

The regulations for AOP Amboise will limit the use of weedkillers. Complete blitzing of a vineyard will not be permitted. Producers will be permitted to use weedkiller under the vines but the centre of the rows will have to be grassed over or cultivated. This will be a welcome step forward as the widespread use of weedkillers in Touraine Meland, Amboise and Oisly is all too prevalent where biodiversity is non-existent.        

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

2018 Loire Millésime – fireworks conclude magical soirée at Moncontour

Tuesday's night's soirée was at Château Moncontour (Vouvray) and featured wines from the Loire négoce. The evening concluded with a magical and spectacular firework display set to appropriate music.

Many thanks to everyone who organised this fine soirée.   

Floodlit Château Moncontour