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, 28 May 2020

Emerging from social confinement...

Aynard de Clermont-Tonnerre, the new general secretary of AREV  

After weeks of no social interaction with friends during France's strict lockdown, we welcomed our first two guests to have passed our front gate since early March last Thursday for an apéro à distance sociale.

Fortunately it was a lovely warm evening and we sat outside in the garden, while maintaining a social distance with no handshakes or embraces, of course.  Our two guests were Aynard and Isabelle de Clermont-Tonnerre of Clos du Porteau in nearby Saint-Georges-sur-Cher.

It turned out to be a double celebration – not just for a restrained lifting of social confinement but also an unexpected celebration of Aynard's important new job as general secretary of AREV: the Assemblée des régions européennes viticoles. Aynard took up the initial post as Deputy General Secretary on 1st April. On Monday (1st June) he will take over as General Secretary when the current holder – Alain d'Anselme – retires. 

Aynard is naturally delighted and excited by his new job, which in normal times would be a challenge but it will be made all the more challenging by COVID-19. There will be a a full interview with Aynard soon.

I had decided that for our apéro evening would be restricted to white wine and would feature a trio of wines from Jacky Blot – all from Montlouis.

Triple Zéro, Montlouis, La Taille aux Loups, Jacky Blot

This bottle had considerable bottle age as the cork remained in its tight mushroom form without splaying out. Along with many Loires, well made sparkling wines – Triple Zéro is a pétillant – have the potential to age well if you can resist opening them when they are young. Thursday's Triple Zéro had retained its purity and freshness along with a developed honeyed complexity. A perfect start for our double celebration.

12 Remus + 
2012 Rémus Plus, Montlouis, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups 

05 Rémus
2005 Rémus, Montlouis, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups 

We followed the Triple Zéro with a duo of Rémus – the 2005 was a straight Rémus, while the 2012 was a Rémus Plus: a more severe selection than Rémus and from vines aged between 80 and 100 years old. This was also a contrast of vintages. 2005 had a long hot dry summer with fine weather continuing into the autumn. In contrast 2012 was a more difficult year, although bud-break was early, the vines were badly hit by an April frost on the night 16th-17th April. There was heavy and continuous rain from early October.

The 2005 was noticeably richer than 2012 and naturally more evolved but still with good freshness in the finish, while the 2012 was tighter, very clean and precise with an attractive austerity in the long finish with a clear potential to evolve and age for a long time yet. The majority preferred the 2005, while I had a slight preference for the 2012. Both fine wines with differences that reflect the different ages and climatic differences of these two vintages.


EU drapeau

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Adegga's 50 best takeaway restaurants in Portugal

50 takeaways

From the Adegga site:

'50 Restaurantes para Comer em Casa

Do melhor hambúrguer de Lisboa ao melhor leitão da Bairrada, apresentamos sugestões imperdíveis para encomendar e partilhar com os amigos e a família

Diz o ditado que ‘mudam-se os tempos, mudam-se as vontades’, mas nós temos de discordar. Se há coisa que não dispensamos à mesa é boa comida, capaz de despertar os sentidos e confortar a alma e, à volta dela, a melhor companhia.

Por isso preparámos uma seleção de alguns dos melhores Restaurantes para Comer em Casa, que não pode deixar de consultar da próxima vez que encomendar comida para partilhar com amigos ou em família.

A lista é tão diversificada quanto tentadora: da Feijoada à Transmontana da Taberna das Flores, ao Arroz de Polvo do Gaveto, sem esquecer o Leitão à Bairrada – porque há desvios de Rota impossíveis de contornar-, difícil vai ser decidir por onde começar.'

Responding the closure of restaurants in Portugal due to Coronavirus, Adegga has produced a very useful guide to the 50 best restaurants in Portugal now offering takeaways. The selection doesn't cover the whole country instead it concentrates on restaurants in Lisbon and Porto and those within an hour of each of these cities.

Tasca d'Esquina

Tasca d'Esquina-text

As the entry for Tasca Da Esquina in Lisbon's Campo d'Ourique shows each of the 50 entries lists some of the available dishes, an indication of price, whether they also sell takeaway wine, the delivery zone, contact details and whether you can order through UberEats and Glovo. 
Unfortunately there are some minor drawbacks to this guide. Firstly, it could be financially crippling as I discover more interesting and tempting restaurants in Lisbon, in particular, that I should try. Secondly due to current air-traffic restrictions you can't order from these restaurants from outside Portugal.......

From yesterday (18th May) restaurants in Portugal have been allowed to reopen. This is an indication of Portugal's success in dealing with coronavirus.  As of Sunday 17th May Portugal had recorded 29,036 cases with 1218 deaths. This compares very favourably with its nearby countries – Spain, France, Italy and the UK.

The Portuguese love to eat out, so it will be interesting to see how they react to restaurants reopening. Will they be scared/ reluctant to go back? A question I put yesterday to André Ribeirinho, the CEO of Adegga: 

'Only time will tell. Lots of questions at the moment. Restaurants can open today at maximum 50% capacity, mandatory 2 meter distance between clients and strict cleaning measures.
'Taberna da Rua das Flores opens today and have said they will do takeaway/ delivery until 2021 at least.

'I think many people will continue to order from home for fear of eating out but also because they got used to to it. Uber Eats and Glovo have grown tremendously in the number of registered restaurants in the last two months. Some people will start this phase by staying at home and eating with friends. We will be updating the takeaway guide once a month at least until September.

Tourism is out until god knows when. Looming in the horizon is a massive crisis which is probably the biggest question for many of the restaurants. '

Although takeaways help a restaurant to keep going and retain at least some if not all of their staff, it does mean a significant cut in profits. Restaurants tend to make more of their money on drinks and extras sold than their food. People ordering takeaways will have whatever they intend to drink with their meal already at home. No possibility of customers' after thoughts – a dessert, some cheese, a fancy coffee or any after-dinner drink.
Coming out of lockdown is likely to be a particular challenge for small restaurants like Taberna, who for the first time are taking bookings  for specified times. Previously you queued outside in the street for a table.  


O Gaveto

O Gaveto - details

Great to see O Gaveto, one of Portugal's restaurants heading the Porto selection. As they have a very good wine list it is unsurprising that they are also offering to sell customers wine to go with their takeaway meal.

Bom apetite!


Saturday, 16 May 2020

La Paulée d'Anjou 2020 has a new date: 11th October 2020

Cancelled or postponed wine events in the Loire unfortunately but inevitably keep mounting up. The latest event is the 20th anniversary of Saumur-Champigny's very popular Grands Tablées, which was due to be held on 5th and 6th August. There will, of course, be no VitiLoire in Tours at the end of May. 

La Paulée d'Anjou 
La Paulée d'Anjou due to be held in Saumur on Monday 22nd June has been postponed. Instead a much smaller version will now be held on Sunday 11th October to celebrate the end of the 2020 harvest. Following on from last year's edition that unified Anjou Noir and Anjou Blanc, which is essentially Saumur, the 2020 edition will also include Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil and Bourgueil. Anjou Noir refers to the type of impervious rock found in Anjou: schist, slate etc., while Anjou Blanc refers to the clay limestone of the Paris Basin that is known locally as tuffeau, a soft and easily quarried limestone.

At the 2020 edition there will be between 70 and 80 domaines (compared to 53 last year) showing their wines on the Sunday morning, which will be followed by a simple lunch at midday. All of the domaines present will either be organic or biodynamic.   

Because of the confinement rules limiting the number of people who can gather together, only 100, including the vigneronnes and vignerons, can attend this year's Paulée, so there will just be a few lucky and privileged guest. I am one of the lucky ones so will be reporting on the Paulée here and on Les 5 du Vin

2021 Paulée

La Paulée 2021
A full Paulée is planned for next year – the 10th anniversary of this event. 

These Paulées are the centre-piece of various projects, which will include a code of best practice along with a number of other long-term initiatives. 


Other dates for your diary – Saumur:



Thursday, 14 May 2020

Vincent Pinard: 2013 Charlouise, Sancerre Rouge


2013 is probably the most difficult recent Loire vintage – a very cold spring with flowering delayed until towards mid to late June. A hot July and August averted disaster but picking even in the Pays Nantais didn't start until late September. 

It is difficult vintages that show who are the really good producers. Almost any fool can make a decent wine in 2018, especially regarding reds. In contrast to make a very fine red in 2013 is impressive. The 2013 Charlouise Sancerre Red from Vincent Pinard is a wonderful example of a domaine being on top of its game in a testing vintage. Not forgetting, of course, that in difficult vintages coaxing good quality out of Pinot Noir is much more of a challenge than it is for Sauvignon Blanc. 

The Pinot Noir vines from Charlouise are planted on clay limestone and are on average 50 years old with yields around 30 hl/ha. The grapes are picked by hand and the wine is aged in a mix of barrels and wooden conical vats. Time in wood varies between 11 and 18 months depending on the vintage. My guess is that the 2013 spent closer to 11 months in wood than 18. The 2013 Charlouise has that seductive, silky texture that makes Pinot Noir such as sought after magical wine at its best.

Very impressive given the vintage.    

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Epeigné-les-Bois: les vignes communales ont doublés

The second third of Epeigné's communal vineyard (vignoble partagé) has now been planted. Unfortunately due to the coronavirus the three new rows of vines were planted yesterday on 8th May without ceremony. In complete contrast to 13th April 2019 when the first vines were planted. Epeigné's 'grand cru' vineyard is now fenced off to keep the deer out. 

Some photos from Saturday 13th April 2019: 

First rows pruned 7th March:
The first rows of the vignoble partagé were pruned on the morning of Saturday 7th March – a little over a week before France locked down. No sign of social distancing here, although a number of those present avoided shaking hands, kissing or hugging. 

Friday, 8 May 2020

Epeigné-les-Bois: 8th May 2020 – marking 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe

7th May 2020  – the eve of VE Day

 The war memorial and the church

 The names of those from Epeigné-les-Bois
who were killed during the Second World War

 All is ready for the limited and restrained
ceremony to mark VE Day 

8th May 2020: VE Day

It wasn't intended to be this way in 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day – the day that Nazi Germany surrendered bringing the war in Europe to an end. A time to remember the sacrifices made by many people from many different nations. Particularly poignant for countries like France that were occupied. 

Unfortunately due to the coronavirus the ceremony was  limited to just six people – the Maire (Christian Percevault) plus five representatives.

The front of the procession 


The Maire's speech

 A tribute under 'social distancing'

Laying Epeigné's wreath at the 
base of the memorial

 Silence for Epeigné's dead

Epeigné's wreath

NB: all above photos taken at more than 2 metres distance. 


Memories from 8th May 2011:

Looking back nine years to a more customary marking of VE Day. As it would have been but for the pandemic. In normal years there is a ceremony at the war memorial and then a second ceremony in the cemetery. In 2020 only the ceremony at the war memorial was held.

 Getting ready to march

 The march

The Maire (Michel Mergot gives the speech)

Laying the wreath 

In the cemetery:

A plaque of remembrance


Looking back nine years is also a reminder of people who are sadly no longer with us:

 Piero – one of Epeigné's great characters
with a tremendous zest for life

Gérard Taureau  – a previous Maire of Epeigné (1959-1983)
He died in August 2011

'Élu une première fois au conseil municipal d'Épeigné-les-Bois en 1953, il a assuré deux mandats de conseiller puis quatre mandats de maire soit 36 ans au service de la commune.'