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

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Update on Caroline Henry's Terroir Champagne fund raising

Caroline Henry: the end is in sight!

Fundraising for Caroline Henry's proposed book on small grower, organic Champagne is, due to 150 generous contributors, just over €1500 off its target of €10,000. The total is currently €8455* (85%) with eight days left to get the remainder!   

Message from Caroline:

Dear all, 

Another short update before I leave Switzerland to go back to Champagne.

I cannot thank you enough for the continuing support - all your shares and positive comments are paying off as we are now at just about 83% with 7.5 days to go!!!

A few more articles on this campaign have appeared - Erica Landin's Swedish post translated in a few more Swedish book sales, and Koen Meuwis posted a call to action in a Belgian wine forum!

Yesterday's Salon du Champagne consumer tasting proved once again that the consumer cares about more natural Champagne - in fact they are very hungry to learn more about this specific type of Champagne. Quite a few people stayed a very long time at my table, asked many questions and came back with friends to show them the alternatives to the big brands. A few people also asked for the link to contribute. The first of these donations came in late yesterday afternoon and I more will come later today!! 

To me this proves this campaign is not about me, but about the consumer and the producer. The consumer is actively looking for a more environmentally friendly, natural and healthier Champagne but he needs a little guiding hand to find his way there. Ultimately this is why I am writing this book!!

Have a wonderful Sunday!


* Now €8520 – under €1500 to go. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Heracles' magic – turning Lafite into Bordeaux Supérieur

 Château Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac

It is one of the great contemporary feats of the magicians' art: transforming cases of en primeur Château Lafite into €5.50 Bordeaux Supérieur.

Brilliantly simple in conception – persuade people to buy good vintages of Lafite etc. and eventually after many intervening years of frustration waiting for delivery offer them a €5.50 Bordeaux Supérieur as an exchange – it requires the very highest skill in sleight of hand to succesfully carry it off. 

Warning: this is not a trick that should be attempted unless you have friends in the very highest echelons of French society.  

 Emeric Sauty de Chalon: the great magician!
Also known as 'Madoff' in parts of Bordeaux
PDG: Heracles (previously 1855)

 Cora: Foire aux Vins d'Automne 
Highlighted @€5.50 (on left) – 2012 Bordeaux Supérieux Château Eyraux

Domaine Charles Pain (Chinon) hit by fire – could have been much worse

View of part of the Chinon appellation from Cravant-les-Coteaux
Looking from the Coteau towards the flat gravel vineyards 
where Pain has his winery

On Monday night a fire broke out in a house that adjoined Charles Pain's winery in Panzoult. Fortunately the fire was spotted by fellow vigneron Fabrice Gasnier, who quickly raised the alarm. 

With the help of other vignerons, neighbours and the fire brigade a substantial part of Charles Pain's production that was threatened by the fire was saved – losing about 300 hl from 800 hl that was under threat.

Charles Pain consistently makes good wine and, although it is good news that the majority of his stock was saved still losing 300 hl (37,500 bottles) will be a heavy blow especially after two short vintages in 2012 and 2013, while 2014 wasn't exactly abundant. 

Report on the fire in La Nouvelle République:  

'Le domaine Charles Pain ravagé par le feu

A une demi-heure près, je n'avais plus d'exploitation. Charles Pain, vigneron à Panzoult, en plein cœur de l'appellation Chinon, a la sensation de n'être pas passé loin d'un drame. Lundi soir, vers 23h, il a cru perdre l'essentiel de son exploitation.

La faute à un incendie qui a pris dans une maison attenante, inhabitée depuis trois ans. « Nous rentrions de soirée quand nous avons aperçu une lumière rouge sous les ardoises, se souvient Fabrice Gasnier, son voisin et également vigneron. Nous avons donné l'alerte immédiatement. »

Un réflexe grâce auquel une grande partie de la production de Charles Pain a pu être préservée.

Sur les 800 hectolitres de vin menacés par l'incendie, la perte s'élèverait a minima à 300 hectolitres.

Part of the village of Panzoult

Bucolic scene in the centre of Panzoult

Friday, 21 November 2014

CWW: a Harrowing day out @Little Bedwyn!

A challenging day@the office!
Tasting menu@The Harrow, Little Bedwyn
The commissioning letter for the CWW's 2nd BYO!

Life as a freelancer is frequently tough, ever changeable, always having to be prepared for the next challenging assignment .....

Yesterday a small group of the Circle of Wine Writers and their guests headed out to the Wiltshire countryside away from the misty metropolis. We caught the 11:18 from Paddington to Bedwyn. Getting off at Hungerford, from there a couple of taxis took us through the streets of Hungerford – time enough to remember Nick Davies' Hungerford Wine Company and its spectacular bust – before arriving in front of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn.

Michelin-starred The Harrow is run by CWW member Roger Jones and his wife Sue – our venue for the 2nd CWW BYO event. We held the first in September at the Lahore Kebab House on the Commercial Road in London's East End. Unfortunately, although he is a keen fan of the Lahore, Roger hadn't been able to make this but very kindly offered us a special deal for our 2nd BYO – a special price for the tasting menu and no corkage.     

 The entrance to award-winning The Harrow with 
a list of natural producers who supply the restaurant 
(above and below)

After our arduous journey from London Paddington it was great to be welcomed with an enticing and delicious glass of Moutard Père et Fils Prestige Rosé Champagne served from magnum. This also gave us (11 members and guests) time to unwrap and assemble the various bottles we had brought with us.  

 Part of the assembled déjeuner de la modération (above and below) 

A brilliant start to our assignment: foie gras macaroons
with 2004 Belle Epoque, Perrier Jouêt

 2009 Clos Windsbuhl, Domaine Zind Humbrecht 
Very impressive  – a great intro to CWW Alsace tasting 
on 26th Nov (sorry sold out!)

 Another lovely amuse bouche: ceviche of wild sea bass 
– cucumber & wasabi sorbet 

Jacky Blot's Triple Zéro, Montlouis Pétillant 
proved to be a winner  

Tuna carpaccio with 
Wiltshire truffles, poached leeks and truffle cream  

One of the stars of the lunch 
1989 Premier Jour 25 août, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Louis Métaireau 
A rare and unique bottle given to me by Louis many years ago.
With age the Melon showing its Burgundian roots complexity and finesse 
but with wonderful fresh vibrancy

Another stunning dish: Pembroke lobster ravioli
crab and carrot jus

On to the reds: 
3 Pinots to kick off!

 1997 Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus, Beaune Grèves, Bouchard Père et Fils
(en magnum)
showing brilliantly

 2002 Gevrey-Chambertin, Domaine Armand Rousseau
Also lovely, underlining why people are fanatical about good and great Pinot Noir!

2009 Pinot Noir, Cuvée de Trois, Russian River Valley
Joseph Swan Vineyards 
Not outgunned in this exalted company with 
its own distinctive Pinot Noir character 
from California's Russian River 

Fillet of Northumberland Roe Venison
Game Bon Bon, Parsnip Puree

Another stunning bottle (a half actually): 2009 Sassicaia
Wonderful complex aromas, silky texture

2000 Pavie Decesse on right 

Two further reds were decanted: 2000 Pavie Decesse, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and 2001 Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc and Merlot, Eden Valley.

2011 Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc and Merlot 
Eden Valley (2nd left) also Offley 20 Year Old Tawny (far right)

1977 Vintage Port, Delaforce
Two fine Ports with the cheese 

20 YO Tawny, RP20, Quinta do Bom Retiro 

The wonderfully inventive pre-dessert: 'Boiled Egg and Soldiers'

2008 Private Bin, Eminence, Noble Late Harvest Muscadel, Nederburg 
lovely deep apricot flavours, nicely balanced not cloying

Chocolate platter

 Roger Jones: our host and chef 

All in all a marvellous and highly memorable lunch. Our grateful thanks to Susan and Roger Jones and their staff who looked after us so well bringing an endless supply of high quality glasses. By the time we added in five plates of cheese shared across 11 of us, coffee and a tip, our bill for our working lunch was £55 each. 

Excellent value when you consider the quality of the cooking and what the wine we enjoyed would have cost retail let alone on a restaurant list! Furthermore some of the wines – eg the 1989 Muscadet just could not have been sourced. 

The CWW will be continuing to organise these recently introduced BYO events at varying prices – sometimes at lunchtime and sometimes in the evening. Watch this space!