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, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year – nos meilleurs voeux pour 2012

L'Eglise à Epeigné-les-Bois

Jim's Loire will be back in 2012

with its judicious blend of the Loire and other

matters including various scams!

Le lac and Epeigné-les-Bois

Douglas Wregg's predictions for 2012

Newtonmore and Creag Dhubh – relatively mild even in the Scottish highlands

Douglas Wregg of Les Caves de Pyréne has some interesting predictions for 2012: 

Predictions for 2012
1. The natural wine debate will continue to stir strong emotions. The wines will, however, begin to be assessed on their individual merits and the notion that there is a highly co-ordinated movement and that wines are either labelled natural or non-natural will be scotched.

2. 2010 will be assessed as a sensational vintage in the northern hemisphere. 2011 will generally be perceived (despite attempts to hype it) as one of the poorer vintages in recent memory. Except in England, apparently.

3. The region? The Loire. Over-delivering year after year and now finally recognised for quality, diversity and personality. Every style of wine from sparkling to sweet, great value intensely drinkable wines with moderate alcohol and lovely acidity. The spiritual home of the biodynamics and with the greatest concentration of natural winemakers. A region of furious debate, grand passion, daft authoritarian regulations.

4. The trend? The move away from oak (specifically new oak) in fermentation. Cement vats seem to be increasingly favoured and the shape of the fermentation vessel is also being considered. Watch out for more eggs, amphorae, qvevri...

5. The grape? Cool climate Syrah for red. Chenin* for white.

Posting Doug's predictions has the great advantage that I don't have to think up my own predictions for 2012. Anyway I especially like Doug's third and fifth predictions. As for 2011 being 'one of the poorer vintages in recent memory' I think it is still too early to say for the Loire. Certainly I think there will be big variations in quality between producers – not only due to the quality of individual's work in the vineyard but also when they decided to pick. 

I look forward to tasting the young 2011s at the beginning of February but given the look of some of the Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc at the end of September and beginning of October it is hard to believe that the resulting wines will be poor.

* Noticeable that Jancis Robinson MW included a very fair sprinkling of Chenin Blancs among her 65 + Great Whites.

Jancis' take on Pancho Campo MW and and Jay Miller in her review of the year is here:

‘The wine topic of the year on blogs and online fora, at least among the wine writers who dominate them, has been wine writer ethics. Acres of cyberspace have been devoted to the sometimes jaw-dropping conduct of Spain's first Master of Wine and event organiser Pancho Campo. Allegations have been made that Campo asked for sums from producer associations for access to the (now ex) Spanish specialist wine reviewer for America's leading wine writer and supposed beacon of probity Robert Parker. The matter is now being investigated and Campo denies any wrongdoing. His last major event was WineFuture, an ambitious international wine conference in Hong Kong at which the three tastings, for 1,000 tasters, were led by me, Parker and Campo. In retrospect it does not look good that much of Campo's tasting was taken up with films of his arrival at various wineries in a Ferrari.’

Looking forward to 2012 the concern is that so far the Loire hasn't had a cold snap, so no chance yet to kill off unwanted bugs and vine maladies. Tomorrow's forecast for Epeigné-les-Bois is for a low of 11˚C and a high of 14˚C – extraordinarily mild!    

Creag Dhubh    

Friday, 30 December 2011

Boxing Day near Rye Harbour

Islay Trader heading out of Rye Harbour on the estuary of the River Rother

Time on Boxing Day morning to head down to Camber Sands for a walk along the beach to work off some of the Christmas Day eating. We walked eastwards from Camber to the channel that comes out of Rye Harbour. The town of Rye used to be an island and was one of the Cinque Ports. During the 1300s the harbour started to silt up and the sea has gradually moved away from the old historic town. Today the entrance to the harbour is two miles away.

The current harbour is still used and is popular as a grain port, although boats have to wait for high tide to enter and exit the port.

Islay Trader headed out to sea with the Pilot Boat following behind ready to pick up the two pilots once the ship is safely clear of the narrow channel.

Fishing vessel heading into the harbour

Jim's Loire: 'Meilleur blog anti-1855' – a Vindic d'or MMXI!

We are delighted that Jim's Loire has won a much coveted Vindic d'or MMXI for our coverage of 1855's (1855.con) herculean and long-standing efforts to frustrate, disappoint and enrage its Bordeaux en primeur customers.     

'Les Vindic d'or MMXI
Les Born Digital Wine Awards, Wine Blog Trophy et autres Wikiosaures n’ont qu’à bien se tenir : pour la deuxième année consécutive, le team bodybuildé Vindicateur révèle son palmarès des meilleurs blogs consacrés au vin… Les Vindic d’or 2011 ! Tous les blogs ont été (é)lus à l’aveugle, derrière des lunettes noires. Au final, ce ne sont pas moins de 20 trophées inédits qui viennent récompenser le méga-meilleur des blogs éclaboussés au vin.'

'Meilleur blog anti-1855
Cette année, Jim’s Loire a largement et généreusement défoncé la gueule du pire site de vente de vin en ligne qui soit… Il faut vraiment lui en rendre grâce !'

We are confident that Fabien Hyon, CEO of the 1855 group, and Emeric Sauty de Chalon, founder and president of, will be equally delighted with the news and trust that they will have passed on these excellent tidings to their benefactor and supporter – Jean-Pierre Meyers, who in between propping up 1855, is on the boards of L'Oréal and Nestlé and husband of Françoise Bettencourt.

I'm sure that Hyon and de Chalon were also delighted by an article yesterday in Rue89 entitled Ventes de vins primeurs en ligne dans le rouge

Hyon admitted that 1855's record on deliveries is unacceptable: 

« Nous ne respectons pas toujours nos propres conditions générales de vente concernant les délais de livraison, et ce n'est pas acceptable », reconnaît le directeur général, Fabien Hyon. « Mais nous remboursons intégralement les clients souhaitant renoncer à leur commande. »

Hyon has made this admission on a number of occasions but unfortunately the situation doesn't improve as I continue to receive regular complaints from angry and frustrated 1855 customers.
1855 reveals in the Rue89 article that it would like to reduce its en primeur sales to just 15% of its turnover in 2012 compared to 60% back in 2006: 

'Depuis cinq ans, les ventes de primeurs représentent une part toujours plus faible de l'activité de En 2012, la société veut diminuer les ventes de vin primeurs à 15% de son chiffre d'affaires, contre 60% en 2006. En déconseillant ce site pour l'achat de primeurs, 60 millions de consommateurs lui file un coup de main…'

Although a small step in the right direction, a reduction to 15% of turnover lacks ambition given that there is unlikely to be a big demand for 2011 Bordeaux en primeur, especially in view of the economic situtation, that in 2006 they were selling the massively popular 2005s (still mythical for some 1855.con customers) and 1855's appalling reputation. I'm sure that with the assistance of 1855's many 'friends and supporters' we can reduce 1855's en primeur sales to Zero

Jim's Loire will make this our New Year's Resolution and will soon be posting some ideas designed to help to make this laudable aim achievable.  


La Revue du Vin de France also has an article and video on the failure of 1855 to deliver,1855-com-site-internet-vente-de-vin-probleme-livraison-conseils-clients-recours,10366,4024205.asp

1855 (1855.con, is a probationary member of La FEVAD


Thursday, 29 December 2011

Open letter to Loire organisers – please get your act together for 2013!

Tasting@Le Greniers St. Jean sadly impossible in 2012


Renaissance des appellations: Mark et Martial Angeli, Virginie Joly, Guy Bossard, Philippe Gourdon, Richard Leroy.

La Dive Bouteille: Sylvie Augereau

Salon Les Pénitents: Thierry and Jean-Marie Puzelat, Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme

Salon des Vins de Loire: Jean-Louis David (Interloire), Benoît Roumet (Bureau du Centre) and Clair de Lune

This morning I received an invitation to the annual Renaissance tasting (28th and 29th January 2012) to be held at the Greniers St Jean, Angers. I would love to go but unfortunately this year it will be impossible. Just as it will be impossible for me to go to La Dive Bouteille (29th-30th January) at Château de Bréze as well as the new Salon Les Pénitents starring the Puzelats and friends. Very unfortunate as I am sure all of these events will be very worthwhile.

Normally these various Salons are the weekend before the Salon des Vins Loire. Unfortunately the Salon des Vins de Loire is a week later in 2012 – 6th-8th February, while all the other 'associated' or 'Salons off' are on 28th-30th January. There is no way that I can travel to Angers for the 28th-30th and then return for the Salon des Vins de Loire. I suspect that this is the same for many lovers of Loire wines, who are based outside the valley.

Without apportioning blame for the lack of co-ordination in 2012, can I make a plea for some joined up thinking and better co-ordination in 2013. Please hold all the events over the same time period in 2013. I'm aware that not all of you share the philosophy or aims but this failure of co-ordination hurts the Loire.


Pithon-Paillé: forthcoming dates

A number of dates from Pithon-Paillé including Portes Ouvertes on Sunday 5th February at their winery in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay

Madame, Monsieur
Voici quelques dates de salons professionnels où nous serons présents début 2012 et où vous pourrez déguster nos vins.
Nous sommes à la fois Négociant-Eleveur et  Vigneron  dans les appellations Anjou, Savennières, Coteaux du Layon, Quarts de Chaume, Crémant de Loire, Chinon, Bourgueil, Saumur-Champigny… Nous travaillons en culture biologique.

Notre cave sera ouverte le dimanche 5 février de 10 à 18 heures, la veille du Salon des vins de Loire, pour une dégustation de nos vins et une visite de notre cave. Nous sommes à 25 kms au sud d’Angers, A 87 – sortie 24. Nous aurons quelques amis vignerons qui vous ferons aussi déguster leur production. Un casse-croute sera à votre disposition.
Si vous ne pouvez venir à ces manifestations, contactez nous.
Jo Pithon – Wendy Paillé

Dear Sir and Madam,

Here are the dates of the professional wine salons early 2012 where we will be presenting our wines.

We are wine growers and Negociant-Eleveur (grape buyers) and work with the following appellations:  Anjou, Savennières, Coteaux du Layon, Quarts de Chaume, Crémant de Loire, Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur Champigny. We proudly work in organic methods certified by Qualité France.  

Our cellar will be open on Sunday 25thFebruary from 10 am to 6pm for a tasting of our wines and a visit of our cellar. We are located 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Angers on the A87- exit 24. We will be hosting winemaking friends who will propose their wines also for a tasting. There will be snacks available for your convenience.

If you are unable to make it to any of the salons and would like more information about our wines, feel free to contact us.  

Yours sincerely

Jo Pithon – Wendy Paillé

Janvier          Du lundi 23 au mercredi 25   
Millésime  Bio, Montpellier Hall 10 – 306
Janvier          Samedi 28 et dimanche 29                       
Renaissance des Appellations      Angers
(sur la table de Richard Leroy)

Février          Dimanche 5                                                    
Ouverture de notre cave à Saint Lambert
February      Sunday 5th                                                    
Our cellar will be open in St Lambert du Lattay

Février          Du lundi 6 au mercredi  8                          
Salon des Vins de Loire, Angers Stand M 297
February:     Monday 6 to Wednesday 8th

Jim's Loire is happy to post details of Portes Ouvertes etc. from other Loire vignerons.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2002 L'Effrontée, Touraine, Vincent Ricard

2002 L'Effrontée, AC Touraine, Ricard Père et Fils (Vincent Ricard)

It is always somewhat of a lottery (perhaps challenge more like) being given a glass blind and asked to guess what it is. So it was as my nephew, Richard, offered me a glass last night after a visit to the Sleeping Beauty panto@The Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells. Golden coloured – it was evident as the glass approached that the mystery wine was obviously sweet or quite oxidised. From first taste – definitely sweet and, although very attractive, with much apparent acidity. So where was it from?

The lack of apparent acidity moves me away – foolishly as it turned out – from the Loire. A Pinot Gris from Alsace I offer without much conviction and wasn't really surprised to learn that this guess was wrong but we establish that it is definitely from France. Flavours of unctuous ripe peach and some apricot confit – might it possibly be a late harvest Chardonnay?

Time for an ambiguous question – phrased so it can be read both ways – "It's not from the Loire, is it?"

Vincent Ricard circa 2003

It's from the Loire. Well it certainly isn't Chenin Blanc not enough acidity, so it has to be a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. It might, of course, have been a Malvoisie but am fairly confident that Richard hasn't got any of the pretty rare Loire Malvoisies. I hazard a guess that it is a late harvest Sancerre forgetting that a number of years ago I had taken him to see Vincent Ricard in Thésée and one of the wines he had bought that day was the 2002 L'Effrontée – a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc vinified in wood. A lovely example - and a fascinating curiosity from Touraine.

Sleeping Beauty@Tunbridge Wells – fortunately all turned out OK in the end!

Gigondas: new book by John Livingstone-Learmonth and others

Gigondas: its wines, its lands, its people

New book on Gigondas (southern Rhône) by a group of writers led by John Livingstone-Learmonth assisted by Georges Truc, Jean-Baptiste Amadieu, Louis Barruol, Véronique Raisin and Ilka Kramer. Kelly McAuliffe, Ned Goodwin MW, Andrew Jefford, Kermit Lynch, Alain Passard, Josh Raynolds, Alain Senderens, Lincoln Siliakus and Christopher Tassan.

Available in both French (Gigondas – ses vins, sa terre, ses hommes) and English, Gigondas is published by Les Éditions du Bottin Gourmand and IG and AV Organisme de Défense et de Gestion Gigondas and Inter-Rhône. It has 501 pages with photo credits to: Ilka Kramer, Georges Truc, Romain Cabon, Agence Elsewhere, Cyrille Suss, Jean-Marie Triat, François Jourdan, Laurent Gernez and Benôit Dignac.

Gigondas will be on sale from 3rd January 2012 (39€) from various shops including branches of FNAC or you can order it on line from the Gigondas website for 33€ + postage and packing. 

King Roan: John Livingstone-Learmonth


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Pancho Campo MW: investigation or witch hunt?

Pancho Campo MW

'Michael Bishop said...

Stop the witch hunts guys and stop acting like dick Tracy .....u seem to be Playing with peoples lives without solid evidence. Investigate first and then comprehensively publish. This hit and miss Public baiting is not good or professional.'

Michael Bishop posted this thought-provoking comment on Jim's Loire on 21st December. Thought-provoking because I think it displays a fundamental misunderstanding of investigative journalism. It implies that a journalist has some clear idea of how the story or investigation will develop and how it will end. In my experience this is rarely the case.

Although there is no way that that 'Campogate' is any way comparable to Watergate, when Bernstein and Woodward started investigating the break in to Watergate and its cover up they surely had no idea that it would lead eventually to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. It is most unlikely that they would have got the full story if they had followed Bishop's advice to 'Investigate first and then comprehensively publish'.

When I was contacted in the late 1990s (1998 – I think) by a bondholder in Ryman's Château Jaubertie who was having problems getting her annual consignment of wine, I had no inkling that this would lead to the discovery of Hugh Ryman's serious financial problems, his failure to pay and support young female winemakers some who were left virtually destitute far from home and then that he had bought Spanish table wine (vino de mesa) which he passed off as DO Conca de Barberà in Norway and other countries.

It was the publication of known parts of the Ryman story that then provided me with further leads and information. It has been the same process with the Pancho Campo MW story. When I was told back at the beginning of September 2009 about Campo being on the Interpol wanted list it was not at all apparent how the story would develop. This isn't and hasn't been a witch hunt – more a process of discovery and reporting and trying to make sense of what has been revealed. It might fairly be characteristised as a witch hunt if it could be shown that the various emails were fake or had been manipulated and that we knew this to be the case. Instead Victor de la Serna (El Mundo del Vino) has stated quite independently that the emails that have revealed 'pay for access' are genuine.

We should know in 2012 the result of the Robert Parker investigation as well as the investigation by the Institute of Masters of Wine and we may discover more about CavesMaîtres, Daniel Li and perhaps what other trademarks he has registered in China. One thing neither Harold Heckle nor I know is whether we are now somewhere in the middle of this story or whether we have reached the end.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Magnum of 1989 Lanson to kick off Christmas lunch

1989 Lanson Champagne

We started our Christmas day family lunch with a magnum of 1989 Lanson, which showed very well with richness from this hot vintage but also good, fresh acidity providing balance. This was one of six magnums that was part of my Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award which I won back in 1997 for work on exposing the Champagne for the millennium investment scams. The Noble Cuvée proved to be a far better investment in pleasure than all the often poor quality Champagnes that were flogged to unsuspecting punters back in 1996 and 1997 by snake oil scamsters on the premise that come the millennium there would be a huge shortage of Champagne. Of course it proved to be entirely erroneous.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas light and a pheasant survives

Tongswood Estate now St Ronans School

School building catching the Christmas morning sunlight. Now a private school – St Ronan's, it was once Tongswood Estate, Hawkhurst where Charles Gunther launched the Oxo cube – used to make gravy and stocks.

One pheasant that escaped the Christmas Day pot!

Friday, 23 December 2011

New Zealand 2007 – a few photos from Waiheke

 Man O'War Vineyards on Waiheke Island, just of Auckland  

In November 2007 a group of us from Circle of Wine Writers had a fantastic two week trip to the New Zealand and its vineyards. We started in Auckland and made our way through the country down to Central Otago before finishing in Christchurch for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Sadly Christchurch has again today been hit by further tremors, some 10 months after the serious earthquake hit the city. As is customary with these CWW we paid our air fares, while The New Zealand Winegrowers generously hosted us while in New Zealand. 

Here are a few photos taken on Waiheke Island at the start of our trip.

   Man O'War Vineyards

Self-portrait@Cable Bay Vineyards

The port@Waiheke

WineFuture HK: CavesMaître France (The Chinese Castel) – the exclusive sponsor for the Grand Tastings

Pancho Campo MW@the start of his Grand Tasting dwarfed by CavesMaître France logo

Daniel Li and his company, CavesMaître France, had the exclusivity for the three Grand Tastings held during WineFuture Hong Kong 2011 – this ensuring maximum exposure as well as a place for Danieol Li on the top table for Robert Parker's Magical 20 tasting. There appear to be no other sponsors' names or logos on view. The three tastings featured Campo, Jancis Robinson MW and Robert Parker. The backdrop for all three tastings was dominated by the CavesMaître logo along with their Chinese symbols – 卡斯特 – meaning Castel. Li and his company own the trademark Castel in China. Quite why CaveMaître has appended France to its name is unclear. Certainly the company's European name appears to be at considerable variance with their Chinese one.

   Jancis Robinson MW presenting her Grand Tasting with CavesMaître above her

Presentation@the end of Robinson's tasting: 卡斯特 (Castel) dominating
Similar for Robert Parker with 卡斯特 (Castel) dominating

In contrast to the Grand Tastings the CavesMaître logo was much more discreet for the other events such as the panels or the press conferences where it was one of a number of other logos.

Press conference: Jancis Robinson MW, Pancho Campo MW and Francis Ford Coppola
A number of sponsors' names displayed 

Tim Atkin MW – panel with Steven Spurrier, Michel Rolland, Michel Bettane and Randall Grahm
CavesMaître logo is evident but one of a number of sponsors including ARAEX 

Given the prominence of the 卡斯特 (Castel) CavesMaître France logo for the Grand Tastings did not Pancho Campo MW owe a duty of care to both Jancis Robinson MW and Robert Parker to check out such a prominent sponsor before giving them the exclusivity for the Grand Tastings?

 Robert Parker greeting Daniel Li of 卡斯特 (Castel) CavesMaître France at the Magical 20 Grand Tasting
What did Pancho Campo MW know about Li and his company and what did he tell Parker?

“Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into Poncho!”

Photo credits: many thanks to WineFuture Hong Kong


The Drinks Business has declared the Pancho Campo MW and the 'Miller Circus' as one of their 10 ten stories of 2011. It's in at No 8.

'8. Campo in the dock
As the year draws to a close, a scandal currently holds the wine industry in thrall.

The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) announced in December that it was opening an investigation into the conduct of Pancho Campo MW following allegations the president and founder of The Wine Academy of Spain charged Spanish wineries up to €40,000 for a visit from Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate.'

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Three more from a Majestic weekend

2004 Les Varennes du Grand Cru, Chinon, Charles Joguet

Three more from the Loire selection from Majestic Wine that we enjoyed over the first weekend of December.. See first post here.   

It is relatively easy to make good wine in favourable vintages much more tricky to make good wine in difficult vintages. For many producers 2004 in the Loire was a vintage of quantity rather than quality, especially in reds, so a success in 2004 is a mark of a good producer. Certainly this 2004 Les Varennes du Grand Clos, Chinon, Charles Joguet (£14.99 but currently unavailable), which comes from a vineyard on the southern side of the Vienne to the east of the Joguet headquarters and winery in Sazilly and just to the east of the better known Clos de la Dioterie, showed impressively well. Still youthful with considerable concentration of red and black fruits, it doesn't have the opulence of 2005 or 2009 but it does have a slightly austere structure and acidity that makes it a good food wine. This bottle is an example of the improvement shown in the Joguet wines following the return of François-Xavier Barc to the domaine in 2003.

2010 Coteaux du Giennois, Domaine de Villargeau
This crisp and citric white – 2010 Coteau du Giennois, Domaine de Villargeau (£9.99 or £8.99 per bottle when you buy two)– made an excellent aperitif. White Giennois is always made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc and has the typical freshness of the 2010 vintage. This comes from a family domaine in the commune of Pougny, just over 10 km to the east of Cosne-sur-Loire.  

2009 Clos du Château, Valençay, Claude Lafond 

Claude Lafond is a leading grower in Reuilly but he also looks after vines in Valençay with a three hectare parcel facing the château of Talleyrand. Sauvignon Blanc makes up the majority of the blend of the 2009 Clos du Château (£8.99 or £7.99 when buying two bottles but currently out of stock) with some Chardonnay to round it out. This is quite a bit softer than the Villargeau – partly due to the presence of the Chardonnay but also because the 2009 is a riper more opulent vintage.

Claude Lafond checking fruit in Reuilly during the 2009 vintage 

Claude Lafond's new winery@Reuilly built for the 2011 vintage


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Emmanuel Charrier: new president of the Bureau Interprofessionel des Vins du Centre

Denis Jamain (a vice-president) and Emmanuel Charrier (president)

C’est lors de l’Assemblée générale du 17 octobre dernier, qu’au nom de l’alternance négoce production, Emmanuel Charrier, vigneron dans les Coteaux du Giennois, a été élu président du BIVC.

Un bureau renouvelé
Emmanuel Charrier sera assisté par Benoît Brochard, vis-président représentant le négoce et Denis Jamain (Reuilly), vice-président représentant la viticulture. Catherine Corbeau-Mellot, Elisa Gueneau, Jean-Claude Châtelain, Pierre Fouassier et Quentin David complètent le nouveau bureau.     


News from Benoît Roumet, director of the BIVC, of the appointment of new president – Emmanuel Charrier, a producer in the Coteaux du Giennois. Emmanuel also has vines in Pouilly-Fumé. He will have two vice-presidents: Benoît Brochard representing the negociants and Denis Jamain of Domaine du Reuilly in AC Reuilly. Jamain is a really excellent producer making fine Sauvignon Blanc as well as very good Pinot Noir. 

More of the team: Pierre Fouassier (Domaine Fouassier, Sancerre), 
Quentin David (Château de Favray, Pouilly-Fumé), Denis Jamain and Emmanuel Charrier

The Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins du Centre represents the following appellations: Châteaumeillant, Coteaux du Giennois, Menetou-Salon, Pouilly-Fumé, Quincy, Reuilly and Sancerre.