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, 30 April 2011

2007 Château de Saint-Louand, Chinon, Baudry-Dutour

This is an impressive and ambitious Chinon from the 2007 vintage, which is generally light with the fruit rarely ripe enough to make a weighty and concentrated wine without extracting green tannins. This Château de Saint-Louand, which comes from Baudry-Dutour's small property in Saint-Louand – a western suburb of Chinon. Aged in oak it still has considerable oak spice; it is drinking well now but would probably benefit from another year to let the wood and the oak marry more completely.  

Epeigné-les-Bois: a few photos from the archives

Le lac@Epeigné-les-Bois

Photo used on cover of the Epeigné Bulletin Municipal 2011 (slightly modified with truck and car erased)

Severe hail damage in Sauternes

Hail damage in Monthou, Cher Valley 2009

'Un violent orage de grêle détruit le Sauternes
Un violent orage de grêle a fortement touché le vignoble de Sauternes, qui produit des vins liquoreux d'excellence, touchant "au moins 40% de l'appellation", a-t-on appris mercredi auprès des responsables de châteaux classés grands crus qui évoquent des "ravages".'

A violent hailstorm hit Sauternes early evening on Monday. The communes of Bommes and Sauternes were particularly affected. Hail can be very destructive. Parts of the Cher Valley, Sancerre and Menetou-Salon were very badly affected by hail in 2009. Fortunately hail is usually quite localised but those affected can lose virtually their whole crop.

See video of damage here on Bill Blatch's Bordeaux Gold.

Now at the end of April the threat of frost is lessening in the Loire, while the danger of hail increases especially as the vines are so in advance of normal this year. We had a little bit of hail last Sunday in Epeigné but as far as I know not enough to do any real damage.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Oddbins: HQ staff to be made redundant on Tuesday + job offers

Closure notice
I gather that the remaining Oddbins' HQ staff are to be made redundant on Tuesday.

A couple of possible job offers:

All very sad. but here's a silver lining. Any ex-Oddbins staff in the Wimbledon area who would like some part-time work, call Mark @ Revelstoke Wines. 0208 879 1810

Tweet from Carte Blanche Wines:
Carte Blanche Wines
Message to all Oddbins staff. Please DM us if you would like a job. Would you all mind rt'ing this? Thank you.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Le Lézard Vert@Epeigné-les-Bois: forthcoming attractions

Saturday 30th April: Moules Frites – both at lunchtime and in the evening or to takeaway.

Saturday 7th May: Grand inauguration of the restaurant

From 19.00 hours. Unclear whether Nico and Carla will be able to make it...

Restaurant open for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday: 10€ for three courses + a 1/4 litre of wine or a demi pression
Restaurant open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday: from 12€ for three courses + a 1/4 litre of wine or a demi pression

Friday and Saturday tagine or couscous available if ordered in advance
Reservations to Stéphanie or Nacer on

8 Rue de la Fontaine, 37150 Epeigné-les-Bois  

VW Passat radiator 2: Philippe Tessier + Pascal Potaire 0

Passat on its way...

After spending an hour and a half tasting at the Foire aux Vins at Amboise on Saturday we headed off towards Cheverny to the open day at Domaine Philippe Tessier where Pascal Potaire was also showing hios wines. Sadly a fault in the radiator of our Passat meant that we didn't get there. At Pontlevoy the warning sign came on and told us to stop immediately, which we did. After a few minutes we switched on again – the warning sign stayed off. Unwilling to take any risk we drove cautiously back to Epeigné. 

We decided to try again on Monday but the warning sign came on immediately, so we had to contact our travel assistance, who arranged for the car to be picked up on Tuesday morning and taken to the VW garage at Perusson, just to the east of Loches. It turns out that the raditor has to be replaced – ouch!

Passat parti! 

Oddbins - Baile to buy six or seven shops

Brief conversation this morning with Lee Manning of Deloitte. Most of the remaining 48 shops are closing but Simon Baile is in the process of buying six or seven shops. Henry Young is not involved in this deal. The Oddbins shop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh has been sold to a separate company with the brand name sold to another unnamed company. It would appear that Baile has not bought the brand name.   

Oddbins: welcome email sent by EFB to the 37 shops - 26th April 2011

Subject: Message From EFB To Oddbins Branches Recently Acquired By EFB


Late on the 25th April 2011 an agreement was reached and you have now become part of the EFB group of companies and we would like to welcome you to the team. EFB is a family owned Private Company that celebrated its 20th Anniversary this year.

The Group is one of the largest independent drinks distributors in the UK.

Whittalls Wines Merchants, a subsidiary of EFB Retail has acquired the trade and assets of 37 stores from Lee Antony Manning and Matthew David Smith joint administrators of Oddbins Limited effective from Monday 25th April 2011; we have now become one of the largest Independent drinks retailer in the UK with over 130 stores.

Please bear with us over the next few weeks while the transition takes place. We will work very hard to get to know our colleagues in the branches we have acquired and start the process of rebuilding.

It is not our intention to rush into widespread changes but we are acutely aware of the poor availability of key lines that you have been experiencing for many weeks.

We have already started work on restocking you with some essentials to enable you to trade as well as possible. By the very nature of the urgency to restock your stores, you will be shortly receiving your first delivery. Our intention is to ensure you are kept in a reliable and consistent supply of a basic core of Wines, Spirits, Champagnes and Beers overlaying this by continuing to source an exciting range at competitive prices.

You will no doubt have many questions and queries and to this end I have attached a question and answer sheet as well as assigning a temporary team of people to help.

There is also a list of names and contact numbers for you to call. In the first instance you have been assigned someone on a temporary basis from EFB retail as your first point of contact. These individuals will direct your calls to the right person in the business and this will improve the speed with which we can answer your questions. The Business Heads are also there to help during the transitional period and their numbers are there for you to use should you feel it necessary.

Oddbins: remaining shops have closed

Closure notice on Monmouth Street Store  – one of the branches closed in March

From the number of messages I have received it appears that the remaining 48 Oddbins shops, excluding the one on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh and the ones in the EFB deal (37 shops), have now closed with apparently the loss of 300 jobs. It looks as though the 'imminent deal' as reported by the BBC* on Tuesday did not materialise.

* 'Deloitte said it hoped the remaining Oddbins would be sold soon.
"We are currently engaged in a range of discussions regarding the sale of the remaining 48 open stores and are confident of an imminent deal," said Lee Manning, joint administrator and partner at Deloitte.'

See article here in The Drinks' Business on unanswered questions over Oddbins. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Oddbins: rumours abound

It appears that the remaining 48 Oddbins are to close – not confirmed. Still no definite answer to who has bought the Oddbins' brand – some say Whittalls, while others Simon Baile and Henry Young. If a deal has been done over the brand name and after all Lee Manning of Deloitte told me Tuesday morning that the intellectual property rights had been sold, why is the buyer still secret? Not another of those superinjunctions!?

Update (28.4.2011): I gather the brand name has not been bought by Simon Baile. Just as well as the failure by Oddbins under Baile to develop its on-line sales must be one of the contributory factors in the company's collapse.

EFB: fine wine list

Although EFB's main list has many brands on it they do have a fine wine list with around 330 references. There are red Bordeaux from 2007 (Château Batailley) back to 1994 including Ch Haut-Bailly (Pessac-Léognan). There aren't many stellar names (or prices) and minor vintages such as 1997 are strongly  featured: shrewd buying of vintages and names that people can afford to drink?

In Chablis Laroche is the supplier with a range of grand cru back to 1997. The most recent Chablis on this list is 2003 and elsewhere in Burgundy the most recent is 2000.

Red Burgundies are all from the 1990s from René Leclerc (Gevrey-Chambertin), Georges Lignier (Morey Saint-Denis), Henri Leclerc (Puligny-Montrachet), Jean Chauvenet (Nuits-St-Georges), Gaston et Pierre Ravaut (Ladoix-Serrigny), Coste Caumartin (Pommard) and Bitouzet-Prieur (Volnay).  

In the Northern Rhône it is largely Paul Jaboulet, including three vintages of Hermitage La Chapelle – 2000, 1999 and 1998 – but there is also 1996 and 1997 Côte Rôtie from Réné Rostaing.

Louis Sipp, Schlumberger and Hugel supply Alsace – again all from the 1990s with 1999 as the most recent.  

The sole Loire on the fine wine list is the 1997 Cuvée des Fondreaux from Domaine Champalou.

There are also listings from Italy, Spain, Hungary, California, Australia, South Africa and Chile – not sure how well 1998 Montes Alpha Chardonnay (Special Cuvée) will have kept – £84 a case duty paid.
Ports include vintages from Taylors (2000), Warre (2000), Cockburn (2000) and Quinta do Noval (1995).

My guess is that if 'fine wine' is to be part of 'an exciting range at competitive prices' offered by Whittalls now that it is a 'national player' this fine wine list will need to be considerably updated and expanded. The current list looks as though it may have hardly changed for a number of years.  

Remaining 48 Oddbins shops
I see that the Guardian is reporting that 'Deloitte, which is handling the administration, said it was also confident of being able to announce an "imminent deal" for the remaining 48 shops that continue to trade.'

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Oddbins: EFB press release on buying 37 stores

Trade press release

EFB Retail Ltd acquires Oddbins stores
Whittalls Wine Merchants, a subsidiary of EFB Retail, the largest family owned independent alcohol retailer in the UK, is pleased to announce that late on 25 April 2011 it reached an agreement with Lee Antony Manning and Matthew David Smith as joint administrators of Oddbins Limited to purchase the trade and assets of 37 stores.

This acquisition adds to the earlier purchase of the Wine Cellar estate in November 2009, with the added benefit of entering the new and exciting trading areas of Scotland and London. 

This acquisition has saved more than 200 in store jobs.

Raj Chatha, owner of EFB Group, said: “We are pleased to welcome Oddbins colleagues to the EFB Group and team.

“The addition to our retail estate means we can truly call ourselves a national player. This represents a new dawn for these Oddbins stores, and with the well reported financial shackles removed, it will allow for a consistent supply of stock and investment at store level for the benefit of all, most importantly its loyal staff and consumer base.

“Our focus over the coming weeks and months will be to replenish the stores with an exciting range at competitive prices. I am also delighted with the number of jobs we have managed to save.” 

Remaining 48 Oddbins shops
I see that the Guardian is reporting that 'Deloitte, which is handling the administration, said it was also confident of being able to announce an "imminent deal" for the remaining 48 shops that continue to trade.'

EFB purchase of Oddbins: list of the 37 shops

Here is the list of the 37 shops bought by EFB. 10 in Scotland, 20 in London and 7 elsewhere in England:

Scotland (10)
Aberdeen City
Rosemount, Aberdeen
Bruntsfield, Edinburgh
Queensferry Street, Edinburgh
Elm Row, Edinburgh
Charing Cross, Glasgow
Hyndland, Glasgow
Mitchell Street, Glasgow
Queens Park, Glasgow
Shawlands, Glasgow

London (20)
Crouch End
Earls Court
Gloucester Road
Kentish Town
London Bridge
Northcote Road
St Margarets , Twickenham
South Kensington
West Dulwich
West End Lane, West Hampstead
Stoke Newington

Rest of England (7)
Chorlton, Manchester
Tunbridge Wells
Allerton Road, Liverpool
Oxford High Street
Little Clarendon St, Oxford


Oddbins – some details on EFB (European Food Brokers) Ltd

It is now confirmed that European Food Brokers (EFB) Ltd has bought 37 of the remaining Oddbins shops. The company was set up by Raj Chatha in 1991 and is now a subsidiary of EFB Holdings Ltd. The last accounts for European Food Brokers Ltd filed with Companies House are up to 31st January 2010 and shows that Raj Chatha holds 100% of the shares. 

EFB Ltd's primary business is the wholesale distribution of alcoholic drinks. The turnover for the year was £96.4 million (2009 – £88.65 million) with a pre-tax profit of £7,186,471(2009 – £5,160,456). Profit after tax was £5.2 million compared to £4m the year before. The company has several subsidiaries including EFB Retail and wholesaler John Stephenson & Sons (Nelson) Ltd. There are also three companies using the Wine Cellar name who are indirectly owned subsidiaries.

Whittalls Wines Ltd is a subsidiary of EFB Holdings Ltd and had a turnover of £464,000 in the year to 31st January 2010 compared to £264,000 the previous year. It made a post tax profit of £221,743.

Oddbins: deal done – 37 shops plus brand sold

Breaking news: 37 Oddbins shops in England and Scotland have been sold as a going concern. However, Deloitte is not yet in a position to say who the purchaser is as they will not be releasing the name until the employees have been told. I understand they will be informed this morning.

Update: Purchaser understood to be EFB (European Food Brokers) Ltd, which was set up by Raj Chatha in 1991. The company is based in Walsall. The drinks business trades under Whittalls Wines Ltd at Château Pleck in Walsall. It is believed that the Oddbins brand name has been sold separately.

Further update: Buyer is definitely EFB with brand sold off separately. Report on The Drinks Business that 200 Oddbins jobs have been saved.

More details as and when. 

#Oddbins: hopefully a deal this week?

Closed Oddbins shop in Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London

Now that the Easter holiday is over let's hope that a deal can be sorted out this week before bank holidays intrude again.

Rumour has it that the deal with EFB Retail Ltd was supposed to be signed late on Thursday last week, then again on Friday, then again on Saturday. The fee, a cash deal of some £4m, had been placed in an escrow account. Hopefully this deal remains on the table and that he hitches can be sorted out.

Apparently a number of Oddbins shops – believed to be as many as 30 on Sunday – did not open due to a mysterious bug sweeping through the staff. 

Some anonymous comments on the blog by anonymous have suggested that it is not in Deloitte's interest to conclude a deal as they continue to get their fees for as long as any money remains in the pot. I would have thought sealing a deal on Oddbins, which still has a media profile, would be in Deloitte's interest and raise their reputation.

In late 2009 Raj Chatha, CEO of European Food Brokers (EFB), savaged KPMG, the administrators of First Quench, when EFB's bid for 200 Threshers' shops was rejected. In October 2009 EFB bought 109 Booze Buster shops from Deloitte, administrators of Wine Cellar – the parent company of Booze Buster. See report here

I did try to contact Lee Manning at Deloitte yesterday but without success. Will be trying again today.  

Monday, 25 April 2011

Epeigné-les-Bois: some photos from Easter Sunday

The boys roar through the village

 Before the storm: inhabitants of Epeigné enjoying their day of free fishing

Here comes the rain...

A few minutes later it's a torrent

A couple of doves feeding after the storm

A very dry start to the year
Up to Friday 22nd April only 54mm of rain had fallen in Epeigné in 2011. Then on Saturday afternoon there was a sharp rain storm with 11mm falling in a matter of minutes. Similarly yesterday as the photos above show with perhaps more than 11mm falling. 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Restaurant Agnès Sorel@Genillé

2010 Noble Joué, Rémi Cosson
We were so impressed with the Restaurant Agnès Sorel in Genillé (under new ownership – Nicolas et Estelle Petit – for just over a year) when we ate there in December that we went back with friends last night. We had an excellent and very enjoyable meal. The three course menu at 22€ is extremely good value.

We kicked off with a bottle of the 2010 Noble Joué (AC Touraine Noble Joué – a blend of three Pinots: Noir, Gris and Meunier) from Remi Cosson in Esvres-sur-Indre  – a delicate shade of pink, an attractive balance of ripe red fruits and refreshing acidity. Made a very good aperitif and went well with the smoked salmon and gravalax that most of us chose. CRM went for the aparagus soup, which was delicious.

Chapeau! beautifully presented aparagus soup   

Main course was a choice of sea bream or nine-hour cooked belly of pork – two of us chose the fish and two the belly. The belly was excellent and was well partnered by Yannick Amirault's medium weight 2008 La Mine, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, which is drinking well now but can be happily kept for a few years more.

We finished with CRM choosing the crèpe wrapped around a baked apple, while I went for the gauffre (waffle) with blackberry purée and icecream – a fitting finale.  

#Oddbins: Deloitte no deal done yet – "all a bit fluid"

Phone call this morning from Lee Manning of Deloitte to tell me that no deal has been done. "No deal – your information is wrong. We were very close to a deal but it didn't happen. We are now reviewing the options. It may not turn out as we thought it would a few days ago. Nothing is likely to happen tomorrow but can't say for sure. All a bit fluid at the moment."

If there is a deal to be done, with perhaps EFB as the leading contender, then I hope for the sake of the remaining Oddbins' staff it is done soon. Otherwise, the longer the process is drawn out the more branches are likely to close, the business will cease to be a going concern and Oddbins will be Dodobins.  

Saturday, 23 April 2011

#Oddbins – Raj Chatha's EFB Retail Ltd rumoured to be in pole position

Breaking news
Raj Chatha's EFB (European Food Brokers) Retail Ltd are rumoured to be in pole position to take over a substantial number of the remaining Oddbins shops with a bid that is substantially bigger than any other bids on the Deloitte table. The deal may have been cut late Thursday night/early Friday morning.
Jim's Loire understands that an announcement will be on Tuesday. However, the EFB bid success has not been confirmed and should be treated as rumour although the source is well placed and has been accurate before. It has not been possible to contact the administrator at Deloitte for confirmation. 

EFB Retail Ltd was incorporated in 1996. In 2009 they acquired 109 Wine Cellar Stores, when it went into administration. In late 2009 the company mad ean unsuccessful attempt to buy 200 stores from Threshers' administrators – KPMG. The company is based in Walsall in the West Midlands.

I gather staff in Eire have received payslips for April. They have been paid until the 20th of April, although apparently had been told they would be paid up until the 28th.

Oddbins site down for 'routine maintenance'. When it is back up will it announce the change of ownership?

Correction (Sunday 24th April 11.40)
Just had a call from Lee Manning of Deloitte's to tell me that the rumour is incorrect – see next post.


#Oddbins – no news

Tried several times late yesterday afternoon to contact Lee Manning, joint administrator of Oddbins, but without success. No go this morning either, so no idea whether a deal or deals have been done.

Spring 2011: flowers

Azalea and leaf

Flowers and blossom seems to be particularly fine this year, so a few pics:


A fern tree, which is definitely prettiest@this time of year 

Montrichard: yesterday

Array of spring vegetables at the Friday market@Montrichard

Excellent poultry from Malbran-Clement

Lower part of the market: early on
Hotel de Ville

Friday, 22 April 2011

De ferme en ferme: Indre-et-Loire: Sunday 24th and Monday 25th April

Bertrand Jousset

This weekend (24th/25th) throughout France a number of farms, which practice sustainable agriculture, will be opening their doors to visitors through the programme de ferme en ferme. In Indre-et-Loire there are several vignerons involved. In MontlouisLise and Bertrand Jousset and Valérye Mordelet and Jean-Daniel Kloeckle (Domaine les Loges de la Folie); BourgueilLaurent Herlin (Chouzé-sur-Loire), Pierre Caslot (Domaine de la Chevalerie) and in ChinonJean-Christophe Pelletier (Domaine des Béguineries), 52 Rue de l'Ancien Port. 

Jean-Daniel Kloeckle

Epeigné-les-Bois: forthcoming attractions

Sunday 24th April: free fishing at the lake for those who live in Epeigné-Les-Bois. The 2011 fishing season starts on 1st May.

Animation spectacle: Le Buveur de Livre: Saturday 7th May@10am in the Bibliothéque Epeigné-les-Bois

Fête Country: Third edition on Sunday 5th June.
Also randonnée pédestre et VTT (le matin)