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

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Epeigné-les-Bois: a fine restoration and a real embarrassment

 L'eglise @Epeigné-les-Bois 

The magnificent restoration of Epeigné-les-Bois' church is now almost complete. It stands as a testament to the quality of work by the four companies involved: Hory-Chauvelin (masons), Delestre (woodwork), Merlot (roof) and Mamais (clock restoration). All that remains to be done is to put up the lightning rod and the weather vane cock. The total cost of the renovation was 532,079€. 

It is a shame that the church is not used more. Mass is no longer celebrated here and sadly one of the main uses for the church is for burial services.   

An embarrassing addition to the village's Patrimoine 

In stark contrast to the fine work on the church is this horribly botched job of a wall, which Epeigné's Bulletin municipal 2017-2018 shows cost the commune 10,728 €. Money that would have been better spent sending the 'mason' to a school to teach him how to build walls properly. 

The contrasting quality of work is particularly stark as this lamentable excuse of a wall is just across from Epeigné's now wonderful church.  


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

2018 VitiLoire – Plouzeau and Bonneau

Silice - Chinon Bonnelière


New Chinon Blanc
I tasted the 2016 Silice the first Chinon Blanc from Marc Plouzeau – Château de la Bonnelière  Marc planted his 50 ares of Chenin Blanc in 2013 on a south facing site. This rich and concentrated wine is vinified in 600 litre barrels. There are some wood notes present but these I expect will soon blend in.


Rapport qualité-prix in Saumur-Champigny

Cedric+ Bonneau 
Domaine la Bonnelière
Son of Anthony Bonneau helping Cedric Bonneau on their stand 

Domaine la Bonnelière in Varrains continues to offer remarkable value and quality with both their Saumur-Champigny Tradition (6€) and Les Poyeux (8.50€). The Tradition is currently 2017 and 2015 for Les Poyeux. 

Monday, 28 May 2018

2018 VitiLoire: an enjoyable morning in Tours

We spent a most enjoyable Saturday morning (27th May) in Tours at VitiLoire.

It all started well as the SNCF were operating – there was no grève that day. Even better there was a special SNCF promotion for VitiLoire – Chenonceaux to Tours return for just 4 euros each. Furthermore there was full-on sunshine and clear blue skies.

After a quick coffee we started on VitiLoire just after 10am – the official start time. It is always good to get in early before the crowds arrive. First off a stroll around the stands along the Boulevard Heurteloup and in the Jardin de la Préfecture.  Time to chat with producers I missed seeing because my accident at the beginning of January on black ice precluded me going to the Salon des Vins de Loire.

All without exception were very pleased with the current state of their vines, which are growing fast due to the warm weather. Obviously hail is a threat. News of the hail storm which hit parts of Bordeaux the day before will have underlined the threat.  Indeed later in the day on Saturday around 6pm there was a violent storm at Epeigné-les-Bois featuring strong winds and briefly torrential rain but fortunately no hail. Unfortunately this week, although cooler, threatens unstable weather. As I type this there are distant rolls of thunder.

Current indications are that 2018 could well be a generous harvest. While producers need decent quantities this year after small harvests from and including 2012, it will be very important to avoid an excess volume resulting in dilute wines as was the case in 1992 following the severe frost of 1991.
In general flowering is predicted to start in the next ten days or so. Jean-Max Manceau, Domaine de la Noiré in Chinon, said he had seen the first signs of flowering the day before. Although this isn't as early as the remarkable 2011 vintage the start of flowering in early June is still early. Promising news as an early harvests usually bring good quality, although this is not invariably the case especially if there is a lot of rot around at vintage time as there was in 2011.

Touraine Noble-Joué

 Jérémie Pierru
 Jérémie Pierru


I took the opportunity to taste Touraine Noble Joué from three producers – Rousseau Frères, Rémi Cosson and Domaine Astraly – formerly owned by Domaine Jean-Jacques Sard, who has now retired and now run by Jérémie Pierru. Noble Joué is an unusual rosé being a blend of three Pinots – Gris, Meunier and Noir. When in a Touraine restaurant I often chose a Noble Joué as an apéro. Unfortunately they have recently often been hit by spring frosts. For instance, Cosson lost 80% of his crop in 2016 and 35% in 2017. 

All the three Noble Joués the one from Michel Rousseau (50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Gris, 15% Pinot Noir)  was the most austere, while Rémi Cosson's had the most concentration with Astraly's ( 65 Meunier, 25% Gris, 10% Pinot Noir)  closer in style to Cosson with  a touch of sweetness, wild berry fruit and good length.  

Julien & Justine Thomas
Julien et Justine Thomas, Domaine Thomas et Fils, Verdigny (Sancerre)

It was good to meet and taste the wines of Julien and Justine Thomas of Domaine Thomas et Fils in Verdigny (Sancerre).  They have 15 hectares of vines, which have been farmed biodynamically since 2012. 

Although their red Sancerre is pleasant drinking, the whites are much much interesting. They showed three cuvées highlighting Sancerre's three soil types. Up first 2016 Le Pierrier  from the limestone caillottes. This had attractive texture and precision. Next up 2016 Grand Chaille from vines on silex (flint). Again good texture, concentration and length but a currently a little closed in the finish. Lastly 2016 Ultimus from 40 to 60 year old vines on argile-calcere (clay limestone) vinified in oak barrels – spending six months on its lees. This is their most concentrated Sancerre with attractive texture and length but like the Grand Chaille currently closed in the long finish.    

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Loire presentation@London Wine Fair


Yesterday it was a 'master' class presentation on the diversity of Loire wines @the London Wine Fair at Olympia. I'm not sure of the capacity of these seminars but they must be a good 80 plus. It was gratifying that my seminar was completely full – probably the same for all the others..... 

Here is the list of the wines that showed, which elicited some very favourable responses. I want to show not just a diversity of wines but also a diversity of producers – growers, négociants and co-ops.
  1. Crémant de Loire, Brut Zéro, Château de l’Aulée
  2. Jubilation, Le Pallet, Vignerons du Pallet 2014
  3. Vouvray sec, Domaine de Tania and Vincent Carême 2015
  4. Le Bel Ouvrages, Savennières, Damien Laureau 2012
  5. Les Hauts Lieux, Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, Famille Bougrier 2016
  6. Goutte de Rosé, Chinon Rosé, Domaine de la Noblaie, Jérôme Billard 2017
  7. Saumur Champigny, Château de Villeneuve 2015
  8. Clos de l’Echo, Chinon, Couly-Dutheil 2014
  9. Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru, Domaine de la Bergerie, Anne and Yves Guegniard 2014

I would have liked to show a Touraine Noble Joué but unfortunately that proved to be impossible to source. 

Today we drove to the Loire. Great to be back in the Cher Valley after an absence of best part of seven moths.  

Monday, 21 May 2018

VitiLoire @Tours: 26th and 27th May 2018


Vitiloire centres around the Boulevard Heurteloup
and close to Tours central station

This coming weekend sees VitiLoire in central Tours. This is the Loire’s biggest consumer Wine Fair with some 150 producers from throughout the Loire. It attracts thousands especially on a fine day and this year the forecast is good. Highs of 28˚C are predicted for both Saturday and Sunday in Tours before an early Monday morning thunderstorm.
There are 135 vignerons showing their wines from appellations from the Pays Nantais all the way up the river to the Côtes d'Auvergne. There is the opportunity to buy with 'grooms' available to carry your purchases to your car as well as numerous food stalls when you get hungry. There is also the possibility of arranging to have your wine delivered to your home. Not forgetting 12 chefs demonstrating their art – six on Saturday and six on Sunday.

It is always a fun and convivial event and a great chance to taste a very wide range of Loire wines. I prefer to get there early and then slope off around lunchtime but that is because I'm a boring old fart...... 

More details etc. on Facebook

Hours: Saturday 10am - 7pm; Sunday 10am - 6pm

Time for lunch



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!