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

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Report from the lunatic asylum (now a 5-star establishment...)


Perhaps I should apologise if my posts are starting to include elements of politics but if your country (UK - if you hadn't already guessed) has decided to commit collective suicide it is almost impossible to ignore the current lunacy.

There is now apparently a serious possibility of a No Deal Brexit with the UK crashing out of the European Union without any agreement on 29th March 2019 at 23.00. If there is no agreement chaos is widely expected with complete blockage at the UK ports and almost immediately food and medicine shortages.
We have been told that from next month we will have regular advice bulletins from the UK Government to individuals and businesses on what to do in the event of 'No Deal – Crash Out'. Panic buying emptying supermarket shelves looks a certainty along with miles and miles of lorries parked on the approach to the Channel ports as well as no planes flying. Presumably there will be advice to stockpile food. Perhaps with food rationing in place for the first time since the early 1950s.

There have already been calls to recreate the resilience and togetherness of the wartime spirit. However, the current situation is very different from 1939 - 1945 with the UK very divided. Staying with the 1940s one might see a revival of the 'famous' or 'infamous' wartime Woolton Pie:

'The recipe involved dicing and cooking potatoes (or parsnips), cauliflower, swede, carrots and, possibly, turnip. Rolled oats and chopped spring onions were added to the thickened vegetable water which was poured over the vegetables themselves. The dish was topped with potato pastry and grated cheese and served with vegetable gravy. The recipe could be adapted to reflect the availability and seasonality of ingredients.'

With stockpiling of dried and tinned food it could be time to revive 'delicacies' like spam fritters or corn beef hash. Although tempted I am not going to attempt to suggest wine matches for these two recipes.

However, stockpiling some wine for a 'Chaotic Exit' is a different matter! Here is my small survival, reasonably priced selection – by the time we crash out sterling will doubtless have tanked completely...... No vintages given due to uncertainty...... and mainly from the Loire.

3 bottles of Sainsbury's own label Fino (1 litre)
Although not the best fino available this is very decent in a crisis. 


6 bottles of Crémant de Loire Brut Zéro, Château de l'Aulée
 One of my favourite Loire sparklers and good value. Will have to celebrate having got through another week, month etc..... In less straitened times I might well have opted for Jacky Blot's Triple Zéro, Montlouis. 100% Chenin Blanc   

6 bottles of Touraine Gamay, Domaine de la Chapinière
Very good domaine in 41110 Châteauvieux in the eastern end of Touraine close to Saint-Aignan. The Gamay is delicious – vins des amis.  

6 bottles: Touraine Sauvignon either Domaine de la Chapinière/ Vincent Roussely
Either remaining with Chapinière or moving a few kilometres west along the Cher Valley to Angé to Vincent Roussely's domaine. Both crisp but ripe Sauvignon Blancs.

6 bottles of Saumur-Champigny Tradition, Domaine de la Bonnelière 
Consistently good Saumur and Saumur-Champigny domaine in Varrains run by Anthony and Cédric Bonneau – remarkably reasonably priced.  

6 bottles: En Chenin, Anjou Blanc, Domaine Ogereau
The Ogereau family in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay has long made excellent wines but the arrival of son Emmanuel after working in South-West France, Oregon and elsewhere has lifted the wines to a new level. A supply of dry Chenin Blanc will be essential to survive the privations of a crash-out Brexit.  

3 bottles: Les Varennes, Coteaux du Layon, Saint-Aubin, Domaine Cady. 
From a well exposed single vineyard on a south-facing slope close to the family winery.  Some sweetness in this grim time will be essential. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Orange wine for an orange 'president'

Trump Balloon 

The Orange president in London's Parliament Square......
(above and below)

Trump balloona 

Amber Revolution
Simon Woolf  – Amber Revolution

Last Friday (13th July 2018) London saw the largest ever demonstration against a foreign leader when an estimated 250,000 people marched against the visit of Donald Trump to the UK. There were other demonstrations that day and over the weekend elsewhere.

Although amber Trump is apparently teetotal the arrival of our copy of Simon Woolf's Amber Revolution seems timely – orange wines to enjoy during a Trump protest! It also coincides with David's visit to Georgia.

Like a increasing number of other wine books, especially those that break new ground, Simon's book was Crowdfunded. Before Simon considers suing me and Les 5 du Vin Blog for defamation I should make it very clear that the only possible connection between the abominable oaf that is the current president of the USA, albeit hopefully briefly, and amber wine is colour.

From Simon Woolf's Preface:
'Conundrums aside, orange wine's time has well and truly come – bottles are proudly displayed on the shelves of countless independent wine merchants, in fashionable wine bars and top-flight restaurants as never before. The technique resists mass-production, requiring considerable patience and skill to execute properly, so these wines will never dominate supermarket shelves – but producers across the globe are now almost as likely to have an experimental 'orange' in their line-up as they are a traditional method sparkler or a late harvest dessert wine. (Jim - not sure why Simon insists on using term 'dessert wine' when the sensible term is sweet wine.)
Yet for all of the exponential growth of interest, a great deal of myth, superstition and plain old ignorance still surrounds the style. Its origins and rich heritage, in particular, have received very little love from the great and the good of the wine world.

Amber Revolution is an attempt to right that wrong and to distil a significant body of knowledge about this wonderful and unique beverage into one just about digestible volume. The greater part of the book delves into the histories of people, places and culture from orange wine's heartlands: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Slovenia and Georgia. The persona stories of the winemakers in these regions are as rich and colourful as the wines they produce, and provide the all-important context for their output.

Just two decades ago it would have been impossible to write a major book about orange wine – it didn't even have a name. The explosion of availability, popularity and acceptance of the style unquestionably represents a revolution, whatever shade or hue it might be dubbed.'

Crowd by BBC 

Huge crowd @start of the march by the BBC in Langham Place

Pussy Grabbing Pervert 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Two good days in Peniche, Portugal



Last week we spent two days in Peniche, which is a seaside town on an interesting and curious peninsula on the Portuguese Atlantic coast about 90 kilometres north west of Lisbon.

We took one of the frequent express buses from Lisbon, which takes just over 90 minutes with three stops on the way. We found an excellent B & B on the net –
Mercearia d'Alegria. Up in Peniche de Cima and close to the main beach, it used to be an old grocer's store and has been very sensitively converted and is a treat to stay at. 

Merceria d'A 

Arriving at lunchtime we went to the Restaurante do Parque – close to our B & B.  We both chose grilled skate. It took some 40 minutes to come, which was beginning to make us wonder whether they were having to rush out to catch our fish. Anyway when it did arrive it was excellent – a very generous portion, perfectly cooked along with plenty of garlic chips. As we were thirsty we just had a draught of Portuguese mainstream beer – Sagres.


As Peniche is a fishing port as well as being a seaside resort, there are many fish restaurants mainly clustered around the port area. That evening we chose to try Entre Tapas as we were still quite full after our late lunch so didn't want a full meal.  Selecting a few tapas we had an enjoyable meal here, although we were very surprised that a 'Tapas' bar had run out of ham! Also when CRM ordered a gin and tonic she didn't expect to find half an iceberg in the large glass. This time we did opt for a bottle of wine: 2015 Bacalhau Escolha by Paulo Laureano – a powerful blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Tinta Grossa. Possibly too powerful for our dish of very tasty small sardines – but that's what we fancied. Most times matching food and wine comes down to what we want to drink.

Small sardines
Small sardines + Entre Tapas bar

Entre amis



Our afternoon was taken up with a visit to the Berlengas Islands – a nature reserve with a mass of birds mainly gulls. Berlenga is the main island and is some 14 kms off-shore from Peniche. No wine is made here but it is possible to get plenty of exercise to work up an appetite for an evening meal. This includes some 350 or so rough hewn steps that take you up from the 17th Century fort up to the lighthouse.

Fort and the lighthouse above
The fort from on high with Peniche on the horizon.

Tasca do Joel

Tasca -sign 

tasca do j

A chance meeting with a friend on the way to the Lisbon bus station gave us this time. "You should go to Tasca do Joel," he said. We duly did that evening and it was excellent. Good service and food plus an excellent wine list which comes on an iPad. The only other time this has happened was last year in a restaurant in Moscow.

Tasca - kit
 Kitchen at Tasca do Joel
Quinta de S. Francisco

I started the evening with a glass of the crisp 2017 Quinta de S. Francisco, while CRM settled for a glass of Niepoort's Redoma white.


We started with a delicious crab, which we chose from live in a tank.  Then for mains CRM chose one of the day's special dishes – duck stewed with chestnuts, while I opted for the grilled rabbit. With these two dishes we drank the rich and powerful 2015 Pombal do Vesuvio, Douro from Symington. This was the first time I had come across this particular wine from the Quinta do Vesuvio in the Upper Douro. It is a blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Amarela.

Duck & Chestnuts
Grilled rabbit

15 Pombal do Vesuvio

Pombal do V BL



We spent a good part of the morning in a café with a view of the main beach. Very popular with locals, we enjoyed listening to one of Bob Dylan's later CDs before moving on round the northern coast to find our lunchtime restaurant – Profesco. This is a very popular fish restaurant, like Tasca do Joel, set on its own away from the main restaurant area. Instead on the northern side of the peninsula with a view over to Berlengas Islands. Very professionally run and buzzy Profresco is deservedly popular although the cooking doesn't aim for the quite same standard as Tasca do Joel. 

We had a very good Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato as a shared starter followed by a couple of main courses with CRM choosing a linguine with seafood – a generous portion. The Muros Antigos Alvarinho Vinho Verde made by famous winemaker Anselmo Mendes is always good – a fine combination of weight and freshness. The 2017 is no exception.

17 Muros Antigos



Tuesday, 3 July 2018

2018 Adegga Food & Wine Festival, Lisbon

Adegga held their most ambitious event this weekend at the recently restored Pavilhão Carlos Lopes a two day Wine & Food Festival just outside the recently and magnificently restored Pavillon Carlos Lopes in the famous Edward VII Park that overlooks the centre of Lisbon.

There were some 60 of the best of Portugal’s producers showing some 500 wines along with 10 Portuguese chefs showing their skills in making petiscos (the Portuguese equivalent of Spanish tapas). The weather was kind in this rather bizarre year as it was cool – around 22˚C and it didn’t rain, so good conditions for tasting, so much better than 30˚C of heat.

It was a relaxed occasion particularly on Sunday afternoon which was rather unsurprisingly less busy than Saturday, which made it perfect for tasting.

 There were many interesting and good wines to taste but I’m going to pick out two producers – Vasques de Carvalho and Castelo Rodrigo. Let’s start with Castelo Rodrigo in Beira with their fascinating and complex Pinking. Although from its pinkish hue it looks as though it is a rosé, it is actually a white wine made from from Síria – a local grape here in Beira. There are natural components in Síria that produces the pink tinge. To make a white Síria you have to remove the colour.

 Antonio Vasques de Carvalho, Vasques de Carvalho

However, my big discovery of the festival was the wines of Vasques do Carvalho, especially their amazing array of Ports. Although the family had long grown grapes and made wine they sold to the Port houses, while in keeping a little back for themselves. In 2012 the family decided to strike out on their own. The range of tawnys from 10 YO through to 40 YO are spectacular as is the Porto Special Reserve white, while the Porto Dry White well chilled would make a very acceptable apéro – probably too good to be mixed with tonic. I also tasted the estate’s reds and was particularly impressed by the 2013 Velhos Bardos Reserva.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Restaurante Terroso – Pedro & Vitalina set up in Cascais

Pedro Jorge @ the entrance to 
Restaurante Terroso, Cascais
(above and below) 

 Vitalina rattling the pots and pans 
(above and below)

Sign for Terroso in small Rua do Poço Novo, Cascais

For many years Pedro Jorge ran the Garrafeira Alfaia in the Bairro Alto making it one of Lisbon's best wine bars, while his wife Vitalina, cooked deliciously in the associated restaurant across the street. Unfortunately about a year ago there was a family bust-up, Pedro and Vitalina left. 

The good news is that they have set up on their own in the seaside resort of Cascais with Restaurant Terroso. It is great to see Pedro and Vitalina so happy and proud of their new venture, which opened about three months ago. Pedro stresses that they still have the same philosophy that made Alfaia so successful. People are welcome whether they just want a glass of wine and some cheese or ham or they want a full meal. However, given how good Vitalina's cooking is it is a seriously missed opportunity not to try her food!

Coast towards Lisbon

Looking towards Cascais

Arriving in Lisbon last Wednesday we wasted no time in heading out to try out Terroso. Catching the train from Cais do Sodre we got off a Monte Estoril and walked the rest of the way along the seafront to Cascais.

Terroso is very close to Casais' central seafront near to the Hotel Baia but just off the main drag. You can either eat outside or in – we chose in as there was a coolness in the air. Terroso has been very well done out with clean lines and using the Terroso motif very effectively.

 Here come the reds.....  
 Tiled tables from the 1920s 
that the previous restaurant had covered up

Roots showing the local products 
– including wine, honey, olives

 First things first – a bottle of crisply refreshing
2016 Arinto Quinta do Síbio from the Douro

 We selected a couple of petiscos for our starters.
We had to have the pata negra, which is still delicious 

Also the liver and olives  

Duck and wild mushroom pastry parcel
– one of Vitalina's signature dishes
We were the first to try this as Terroso's 
electricity supply has just be upgraded 
– previously they could run the oven at a sufficient heat 
 The compelling 2014 Casa de Mouraz, Dão
One of the increasingly rare bottles for this producer
badly affected by the forest fires

 Grilled sea bass – we shared 
a perfectly grilled dish

Vitalina, Pedro and their enthusiastic waiter

Terroso is open from Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 11pm.  

How much is a season train ticket from Lisbon to Cascais......? We are already planning to go back.