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

Monday, 30 June 2014

Masters of Riesling trip

Early Sunday morning light on Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel

Off later this afternoon on a Masters of Riesling trip to the Mosel and Rhine. We will be visiting the Leitz, Loosen, Gunderloch, Dönnhoff, Guntrum and Fürst estates. Here are a couple of photos from my last Masters of Riesling trip in 2006.      

Rüdesheim on the Rhine

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Hail hits part of Burgundy for 3rd year running

Vouvray: 23rd September 2014: still unrepaired 
damage from 17th June 2013 storm
To date Loire vineyards have fortunately escaped 
serious hail damage this year.

Here is a very moving report from scott paul wines on yesterday's violent storm that hit Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, and Beaune. All the more devastating as the 2014 crop had been looking very good:

'Violent hail in the vineyards – a report from Volnay
Yesterday afternoon at 5:15pm, the Côte de Beaune was hit with a violent hailstorm, destroying 50-90% of the potentially beautiful crop that was hanging in the vineyards in Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, and Beaune. This was the third year in a row that these villages were hit with a devastating storm. As if that were not bad enough, this will now be the fifth year in a row with a very tiny crop, as 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 all produced a fraction of what a “normal” year would bring. Over those four years, they produced about two years worth of wine. As you can well imagine, the effects of this will be beyond devastating for many of Burgundy’s producers of all sizes.'

Read the rest here

So tough to face a series of natural disasters resulting in several very short vintages and all the financial implications this brings. It was noticeable during June in the Loire how the spirits and morale of the producers rose as they could see that they had cleared two major hurdles during the growing season – no frost despite a very early budbreak and a successful flowering in ideal conditions during June. One could literally see them breathe more easily! 

Of course there is a long way to go yet, so fingers firmly crossed!   


Saturday, 28 June 2014

With James Millton (Millton Vineyards, NZ) in the Loire (21.6.2014) – part 3

James Millton with Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups) 

Saturday morning was spent with Jacky Blot. Again the emphasis was very much on visiting vineyards with just a little time at the end to taste a few 2013 Montlouis and Vouvrays from barrel. We started with Jacky's Vouvray vineyards – the Clos de la Bretonnière and the Clos de Venise. 

Although I have regularly visited Jacky's vines in Montlouis along with Domaine de la Butte in Bourgueil this was the first time I had managed to get to his Vouvray vineyards. I had been due to visit them in April but the day chosen turned out to be wet and unpleasant, so we postponed it.

Clos de la Bretonnière is a four-hectare plot in Noizay on clay, which makes it difficult to work. Clay rapidly goes from being too heavy and claggy to work if its is too wet to rock hard if it is too dry – it is rarely a happy medium. Hirtherto Jacky has rented the vines but as the château attached to the Clos has now been sold he is now able to buy the Clos, which he is the process of doing. Prices of vineyards in Vouvray remain substantially higher than those in Montlouis. Jacky is convinced that there is a close correlation between the price of an appellation's bulk wine and the price of their vineyards. A hectolitre of bulk wine in Vouvray is about three times the price of Montlouis, so land is correspondingly more expensive. 

We then moved onto the Clos de Venise at Vernou-sur-Brenne. This is a one-hectare monopole on clay and flint making the soil lighter and easier to work. Both Bretonnière and Venise are on the premier côtes overlooking the Loire. This is where the best sites in Vouvray are, whether all of the premier côtes fulfil their potential is, of course, another matter.  

Jacky Blot in the Clos de Venise, Vernou (above and below)

 Flowering nearly finished with an even 
and quick set in ideal conditions 

More to add



Friday, 27 June 2014

With James Millton (Millton Vineyards, NZ) in the Loire (20.6.2014) – part 2

 James Millton, Didier Champalou and 
Céline Champalou in the Clos du Portail, Vouvray
A close inspection of the vines

After the morning spent with François Chidaine mainly in the vineyards, then a quick look at his new winery that is now finally nearing completion, a quick tour of the old cellars and then a short tasting at La Cave Insolite (the 2011 Les Choiselles Montlouis on flint was a favourite), it was onto Domaine Champalou in Vouvray where we had been kindly invited to lunch. Céline, Catherine and Didier's daughter, and her partner Kevin Fontaine, who makes the wine at Charles Joguet in Sazilly (AC Chinon) had visited James in New Zealand. 

Catherine had billed the lunch as a simple affair but it still lasted some three very enjoyable hours – eating, chatting and trying some interesting wines. I was impressed by the 2013 Sec Tendre, the harmonious 2012 Les Fondreaux, a delicately sweet 2003 la Moelleuse, despite the heatwave that years. We also tasted a couple of older wines – a 1991 sec that had taken on quite a lot of colour and was decidedly austere in the finish and the fine 1995 Tri de Vendange with white truffle and honey. It was fascinating to taste the 1991 as this was the year of the severe frost on the 21st and 22nd April, which overnight destroyed two thirds of the 1991 crop, so it is rare to taste 1991 now. 

We also tasted the promsing 2011 Clos de la Dioterie, Chinon from Charles Joguet in magnum, which is still young and will benefit from more time than we were prepared to give it. 

In time 2013 Vouvray from those producers hit by the violent hailstorm of 17th June 2013 will be equally rare. The Champalous were fortunate to have something to harvest last year as some Vouvray producers made no wine at all.       

Catherine Champalou and Kevin Fontaine, Céline's partner 

 2014 flowering close to being successfully completed

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Domaine de Noiré (Chinon): 27th June Musique et Vins du Domaine with pianist Gabin Lesieur

Also on 18th July and 14th August:

'Des apéros-concerts dans les vignes, cela vous dit ? Le 18 juillet et 14 août prochains, nous vous attendons au Domaine de Noiré pour savourer vins AOC Chinon du domaine et jus de raisin accompagnés de gourmandises et amuse-bouches au pied des vignes … en musique ! 

Le 18 juillet, les Barons du Bayou et le jazz de la Louisiane débarquent à Noiré, le 14 août carte blanche à Ruby’s Allshine pour une soirée folk & soul à partir de 19h.

Tarifs : 10 €/pers (3 dégustations et amuse-bouches), de 5 à 12 ans 5 € (jus de raisin et gourmandises), – de 5 ans : gratuit.

Réservation nécessaire : – tél. 02 47 93 44 89.

Parking et espace enfants à votre disposition. Soirées en extérieur sous barnum – prévoir un vêtement chaud.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

#DWWA2014: 2012 Sancerre first Loire winner of a DWWA International Trophy

Jean-Paul Balland's 2012 Grande Cuvée Sancerre is the first Loire wine to win an International Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards, which started in 2004. The Grande Cuvée took the Best Sauvignon Blanc over £15. The Grande Cuvée comes from old vines (more than 45 years old) with 60% coming from Caillottes (limestone) and 40% from Terres Blanches (clay limestone hillsides). 60% is aged in new oak 600 litre barrels for 12 months. 

Village of Bué: Jean-Paul Balland's base

A 2013 Sancerre from Michel Thomas et Fils won the Regional Trophy for the best Loire Sauvignon Blanc. 

A 2009 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine from Les Vignerons du Pallet also made DWWA history as the first Muscadet to win the Regional Loire White Wine Trophy (Sauvignon Blanc is a separate category).

Château la Varière won the Regional Loire Sweet Wine Trophy over £15 with the 2011 Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru Les Guerches. This is another first as 2011 is the first vintage of Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru.    

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 allowed to continue despite Deputy Prosecutor General's advice

Emeric Sauty de Chalon

Fabien Hyon

France 2 TV programme called 1855 a fraud (arnaque)

Despite their appalling and well-documented trading history – taking money for wines that all too often are not delivered or years too late, Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon were given permission on 18th June 2014 by the Tribunal de Commerce de Paris to continue running their 'businesses', although 1855 and Chateauonline remain in administration. This depite the advice and opposition of vice-procureur générale (Deputy Prosecutor General) Mme Garrigues.

See article here in La Revue du Vin de France: 

'A la surprise générale, mercredi 18 juin, le tribunal de commerce de Paris a finalement acté la poursuite d’activité de 1855 et ChâteauOnline, maintenus en redressement judiciaire. Nous déconseillons très fortement à nos lecteurs de commander des vins sur ces sites.'

I entirely agree with the LAVF's very strong advice not to buy from either 1855 or Chateauonline. Indeed, given the history, anyone who does order from 1855 or Chateauonline may be clinically insane! 

Are French on-line wine retailers up to regulation speed?

Last week I looked at some UK on-line wine retailers to see who had changed their Terms & Conditions to come into line with the new pan-EU regulations covering distance selling. It was a mixed picture.  

Today on Les 5 du Vin are the results of a similar exercise looking at 25 on-line retailers in France. Of these 10 offer the correct 14 days cancellation period after delivery, while 15 are still only offering 7 days, so do not conform with the current legislation. Those not conforming include some of the best known on-line wine companies such as idealwine, Millésima, Nicolas and Savour Club.  

Monday, 23 June 2014

Viñas Santa Rita: 'agent orange' award for sustainability

Orange grass is so artistic and 'environmentally friendly'!

Jim's Loire is delighted to recognise Viñas Santa Rita's sustainability programme with an 'agent orange' award. It is good to see a company be so proud of their orange weedkillered vineyards that they featured them in their news and press releases section of their website.  

 Recent news with orange background

Wine awards

Press releases with an orange background

Extract from the Santa Rita sustainability programme:

'A commitment to sustainability is one of our values, which we understand as the combination of environmental friendliness, social equity, and also having the capacity to run an economically viable business.

That is why our sustainability strategy at Santa Rita includes measurement and management of our performance in environmental, social and economic areas throughout the winemaking process. That is, from the field to the glass.

Main Aspects of the Sustainability Program
Our sustainability program focuses on four of the most important aspects of wine production and from this perspective measurement processes are incorporated for an effective administration of all sustainability aspects and to work on projects aimed at producing continual improvement.

1. Vineyards:
We have implemented measurement processes in our vineyards that allow us to efficiently oversee vineyards, implement a water management program, and to inform ourselves of the climate conditions that are affecting them so we can make informed decisions on the effective and responsible use of resources. Some of our projects are related to:

• Reduced water consumption: 70% of our vineyards use modern irrigation technology, which reduces the amount of water consumed per hectare by 35%, thus maximizing efficiency.

• Reduced use of synthetic fertilizers and nematicides:'
(No mention of reduced or rejection of the use of herbicides)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

With James Millton (Millton Vineyards, NZ) in the Loire (20.6.2014)

Biodynamic Duo: François Chidaine with James
outside La cave insolite (François wine shop in Montlouis)  

It has been a busy but hugely enjoyable few days showing James Millton (Millton Vineyards in New Zealand) around part of Touraine as well as some of the vineyards of Anjou. It has been fascinating as James naturally looks at vines, soils, etc. with the eye both of a vigneron and as a producer, who needs to make a profit to remain in business, so you become aware of different aspects and different questions arise.

James arrived on Thursday evening around 9pm. The French rail strike had attempted to stop or, at least complicate, his first visit to the Loire for 19 years. Fortunately they failed, though the train he was due to catch was cancelled but he was able to get one that run two hours later. 

 Thursday night we also had Gerry Dawes, writer and Spanish expert, 
and his partner Kay staying  with us. Gerry is wondering 
why his glass is empty as we await James' arrival.
This temporary problem was soon sorted

As Millton Vineyards is the only New Zealand producer to make serious Chenin Blanc we concentrated on visiting a range of people in Montlouis and Vouvray. Millton has been biodynamic for 30 years, so we started with François Chidaine concentrating on some of his 110 different parcels of vines. Time constraints meant that we stuck to Montlouis, so missed the Clos Baudouin in Vouvray where James did the 1995 harvest with Prince Poniatowski, the then owner, as well as the AC Touraine vines at Chissay in the Cher Valley.
Very much a hands on visit – looking at cover crops, soils - 
their smell and the root system including the elasticity of individual roots.

François was very relieved that he had got safely through two major hurdles – no frost despite early budbreak and the flowering, which was getting close to being finished over quickly and evenly in lovely sunny conditions.    

 More to follow in further posts.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Friday, 20 June 2014

Epeigné-les-Bois: vapour trails

Tuesday night (17th June 2014) extraordinary vapour trails in the night sky – so many planes and where are they all headed?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Which UK on-line wine retailers are up to speed with new Consumer Contract Regulations?

Answer: a number of companies' T&Cs do not conform to new regs on extended cancellation period:

2013 Consumer Contracts Regulations 
Came into force Friday 13th June 2014

Last Friday (13.6.2014) the new 2013 Consumer Contract Regulations came into force. The new regulations have implications for all retailers selling on line or offering services on line across the EU. They put into the force Direective 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 25th October 2011. 

The Directive is intended to harmonise practices across the EU and to promote cross-border sales:   

'The cross-border potential of distance selling, which should be one of the main tangible results of the internal market, is not fully exploited. Compared with the significant growth of domestic distance sales over the last few years, the growth in cross-border distance sales has been limited. This discrepancy is particularly significant for Internet sales for which the potential for further growth is high. The cross-border potential of contracts negotiated away from business premises (direct selling) is constrained by a number of factors including the different national consumer protection rules imposed upon the industry.'

Doubtless a laudable objective but will, I fancy, be tough to put into practice. The difficulty of the task is illustrated by a quick check on cancellation period  offered by a selection of UK on-line wine retailers in their current Terms & Conditions.


The statutory cancellation period as set out in 2000 Distance Selling Regulations (in force from 31st October 2000 until 13th June 2014)

Cancellation period
(2) Where the supplier complies with regulation 8 (information on right to cancel etc.), the cancellation period ends on the expiry of the period of seven working days beginning with the day after the day on which the consumer
receives the goods.

Cancellation period under the new regulations (in force from 13th June 2014): 
'(3) If the contract is a sales contract and none of paragraphs (4) to (6) applies, the cancellation period ends at the end of 14 days after the day on which the goods come into the physical possession of—
(a) the consumer, or
(b) a person, other than the carrier, identified by the consumer to take possession of them.'
(Notice that under the new regulations it is now 14 calendar days not working days after the day of delivery. Presumably 'calendar days' have been chosen as 'working days' are now difficult to define. Furthermore 14 working days in France would run from the end of April through to the beginning June due to the number of public holidays in May.

Paras 4-6 covers 'multiple lots or pieces of something are delivered on different days'. Here the cancellation period of 14 days starts the day after the last lot has been delivered.

The general rule is that customers must be now be refunded within 14 days of giving notice of cancellation.

En primeur sales exempt from right of cancellation.

Cancellation periods offered by a selection of UK merchants (as of 18.6.2014):

   Berry Bros & Rudd: within seven days of receipt of goods
– refund in 30 days 

'Return of Goods/Cancellation
Subject to the specific cancellation provisions below in relation to specific services, orders for goods (to be delivered) may be cancelled within 7 working days of receipt of goods. A full refund will be offered provided the goods remain in good condition and that the request to cancel is received in writing. Any cancelled order will be refunded within 30 days. A charge of £10 for collections will be payable. If returned wines are not deemed to be in a saleable condition, a re-delivery fee will also be charged. Contact us on 0800 280 2440 or email'

Farr Vintners:

 Farr Vintners: three days 

'5. Acceptance
You undertake to inspect all goods when collecting or immediately on delivery and to notify ourselves or the carrier forthwith of any shortage or damage or other deficiency. You will be deemed to have accepted the goods as satisfying your order three days after collection/delivery, and thereafter will not be entitled to reject wines for any reason.'


Laithwaites: 14 calendar days from the date of delivery

Cancellation and Refund

If you buy any of our wines and don't like a bottle, please see our Quality Control section below.

If you change your mind about some or all of your order, you may cancel your order up to and including 14 calendar days from the date of delivery of your order and we will arrange to collect (free of charge) the unwanted wines and reimburse the appropriate sum paid including delivery costs within 14 days from the day we receive the goods back or if earlier on the day on which you supply to us appropriate evidence of having sent back the products provided all the bottles are unopened and intact and the wine is in its original packaging.

Majestic Wine:

 Majestic: seven working days after delivery

Cancellations and complaints

You may cancel your order at any time until seven working days after delivery. Should you decide to cancel, all charges to you will be refunded as soon as the goods are returned in merchantable condition to your nearest store.

In the event of complaint please contact the store concerned if it refers to a particular order. Alternatively email giving as much detail as you can. All complaints will be acknowledged within 48 hours and you can expect a full resolution of your complaint within a further 72 hours. You will be kept informed if there is any delay beyond this. Each complaint will be treated as confidential and will be attended to by a senior manager or director.

Naked Wines:

 Naked Wines: no specific cancellation period 
mentioned though money back guarantee

'Cancelling an order

If you want to cancel your order for any reason, give us a bell on 01603 281800 as soon as possible after you've ordered, and we'll cancel it for you and give you your money back.

N.B. Because we offer Next Day Delivery as standard, it isn't always possible to cancel your order because our warehouse team move VERY quickly! But you can refuse to accept the wines when they arrive (just tell Parcelforce to return them to us). We'll then refund your money when the wine arrives back at our warehouse.


If you don't like a wine, or it's corked or damaged, then we'll give you a full refund.

Email us at OR call us on 01603 281800 and we'll sort it out for you.

N.B. If you have several bottles of the same wine that you want refunding, please don't open them as we'll come and collect them. We'll let you know when you get in touch.


 Oddbins: '7 day cooling off period from the 
day on which the Goods are delivered'
'refunded with 30 days of receipt of the returned goods'

'8.1 You have a 7 day cooling off period from the day on which the Goods are delivered to you to cancel your Order for any Goods purchased on our Website. During this time you may return Goods to us for a full refund. A full refund will be offered provided the goods are deemed by us to be in the same conditions as they were delivered to you and that the request to cancel is received in writing. Any cancelled Order will be refunded within 30 days of receipt by us of the returned goods. Where we collect Goods that you wish to return to us we will charge you the sum of £10. If returned Goods are not deemed by us to be in the same conditions as they were delivered to you, we will return the Goods to you and a re-delivery fee will be due and payable by you to us.'


Sainsbury's: 28 days following receipt

10.1 You have the right to cancel your order up to 28 days following receipt. This includes your right to cancel your order under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (exclusions apply).

10.2 Our refund policy extends to 28 days your rights under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 which requires us to provide you with goods in compliance with the contract and allows you, subject to Term 10.3 and 10.4 below  to cancel your distance contract with us without giving any reason (e.g. if your product is not wanted) within 14 days following the date of receipt of the goods.'   


 Tanners: seven day right of withdrawal from distance selling contracts
(timing of right of cancellation not specified)

Cancellation of Orders
You have a seven day right of withdrawal from distance selling contracts. If you wish to cancel please notify us in writing or by using our contact form. Please note that a charge may be made to cover the cost of collecting goods in the event of a cancelled order that has already been delivered.


Tesco: 14 days following the receipt of an item

'Cancellation of order
You have the right to cancel your order up to 14 days following the receipt of an item by contacting our Customer Services department on 0800 323 4080.

If the item(s) have not been dispatched we will cancel the order and we will refund payment in accordance with our refund policy in section 7 below. If the item(s) have been dispatched to you and we are unable to stop the delivery, you can refuse to sign for the delivery so that the item(s) are returned to us and we will refund in accordance with our refund policy in section 7 below. Alternatively, if you have already taken delivery please follow the procedure for returns in section 8 below.

Sometimes you may not be able to part cancel an order. If this is the case, Customer Services will explain this to you.'


Waitrose: 14 days after the day of delivery

Cancellation rights:
Please note that you are entitled to cancel this contract if you so wish, provided that you exercise your right no longer than 14 days after the day on which you receive the goods or services. 

Wine Investment Association:

 WIA: week's cooling off period from when sale is agreed
9.2 at the point at which the sale is agreed and prior to the contract being formed, the Member will offer the customer a week’s cooling off period in which the customer may decide to cancel the purchase and not to enter into the contract. The Member will accept such cancellations with good grace. 

The Wine Society:

 Wine Society: cancellation: fourteen days of receipt of goods refund within 14 days

'1.10 Right to Cancel

If you change your mind about some or all of your order, contact us within fourteen days of receipt of goods and we will arrange to collect the unwanted wines (free of charge) and reimburse the appropriate sum paid within 14 days of cancellation, provided it is returned as sold in teh original packaging. Different terms apply to wines bought in Opening Offers (see 2.7 below).

If we fail to deliver on the specified date offered at the time of order, please let us know; you may cancel the order and The Society will reimburse the full price paid.'


Yapp Brothers:

 Yapp Brothers: up to 7 days after the delivery

Cancellation of an order is possible in part or in full, for up to 7 days after the delivery is made.  We will then arrange collection of the wine and reimbursement of the appropriate sum.


Where the customer has not been properly informed of their rights the statutory period of the right of cancellation can be extended to a year after the normal 14 days allowed. Furthermore any contract is not considered binding on the customer untill all of the required information has been given to them in a 'durable form'. 

From this selection of on-line wine retailers it appears that the larger companies, especially supermarkets, have made the necessary changes to their Terms & Conditions. However, many of the smaller companies have not updated their T&Cs and in some instances have not conformed with the 2000 Distance Selling Regulations let alone the new regime.