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

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Reflections on Parkinson's fundraising ride from Pauillac to La Livinière (Minverois)

Jim and Carole @the Cité of Carcassonne

A week yesterday Carole and I were riding through quiet, rolling roads through the Minervois towards our final destination – Domaine Ostal Cazes at La Livinière. Fortunately we had the wind behind us as we passed by vineyards interspersed by garrique and other crops.

In direct contrast yesterday afternoon I foolishly decided to go for a ride in London at the time of the afternoon school run and the start of the Friday weekend rush hour. This made riding on most of the roads no fun at all and I cut short my ride. Such a contrast to peaceful rural France whether it is in the Languedoc or the Loire. 

Although there are considerate drivers in London, there are still far too many that speed, drive recklessly and dangerously with little thought for other road users whether they are fellow drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. 

Riding a bike in London means that you can never relax – always trying to anticipate the next danger or the next impatient idiot. 

Much of our five day ride from Pauillac to La Livinière was along the towpath of the Garonne and then the Midi Canals. There was a good tarred track all the way from the western end of the Garonne canal a few miles east of Langon all the way to the western border of the Aude départment. This meant that we could ride our road bikes along by the canal and benefit from the shade and tranquility – no vehicles! Unfortunately in the Aude the track becomes rough so we had to take to the normal roads to avoid punctures. 

During our ride we had to negotiate two major cities: Bordeaux and Toulouse. Both proved to be cycle friendly and easy to get through. Toulouse entirely on cycle lanes – some shared with pedestrians, while Bordeaux was easy once we reached the new Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas Bridge. The new bridge includes a dedicated cycle lane which then on the eastern side connects to a pedestrian/cycleway that takes you right through and out to the south of the city. In Toulouse we were able to follow the Garonne Canal until it became the Canal du Midi.  

Clearly both Bordeaux and Toulouse a much smaller than London but it was striking, despite the new cycle highways in the centre, London lags far behind these French cities. 

Sadiq Khan, the current London Mayor, makes the right sounds about improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists alike. However, after a little more than a year in power I sense that he has achieved little and that he is better at hot air than taking practical steps. 

Khan appointed Will Norman, as his new walking and cycling supremo on a salary of £98,000 a year. A google search on Norman brings up no recently entries, so you have to wonder what is he up to? 

We are very pleased that our ride across Southern France has to date raised £5,587.19 including gift aid. Donations continue to be very welcome – please donate here  Together we can make a difference to people with Parkinson's. Thanks!        

Destination: Ostal Cazes, La Livinière, Minervois

Cycling group@Trevor Gulliver's house in nearby Homps

Friday, 23 June 2017

Wine tourism: les jeudis du vin de l'AOC Chinon from 13th July to 7th September

Press release from Vins de Chinon @Thursday tastings:

Forteresse royale et AOC Chinon, l'histoire en partage
Que peuvent avoir en commun la forteresse royale et les vins de Chinon ? Si la pierre tendre de tuffeau a permis de batir les plus beaux chateaux de la Loire, elle est aussi celle qui donne aux vins de Chinon un certain caractère. Un sous-sol et une histoire en héritage qui montrent que l'architecture et le vin sont bien affaire de patrimoine*. Un patrimoine vivant que les vignerons de Chinon partagent volontiers avec les visiteurs partis à l'assaut de la forteresse, chaque jeudi de l'été.

9 jeudis 9 vignerons pour découvrir les vins de Chinon avec ceux qui les font !

Du 13 juillet au 7 septembre 2017, chaque jeudi après-midi à la forteresse royale de Chinon
A l'image du Val de Loire, Chinon produit des vins raffinés, élégants, parfois aussi puissants que sa forteresse ! Une richesse que l'AOC Chinon propose de faire découvrir aux visiteurs pendant 9 jeudis avec 9 vignerons de Chinon qui se relaient autour de dégustations et d'échanges. Une facon de mieux appréhender un territoire avec ceux qui le font : rencontrer un vigneron, c'est toujours une aventure privilégiée ; un échange aussi fructifère que les cépages Cabernet Franc ou Chenin donnent une gamme variée de vins rouge, rosé ou blanc friands, légers ou au contraire structurés selon l'empreinte que le vigneron a voulu leur donner. 

Déguster du Chinon depuis la forteresse, c'est aussi, fouler les terres des rois Charles VII, Henri II Plantagenêt et aiguiser son palais dans un cadre royal, faire un premier pas vers l’esprit, si vivant, de la "Rabelaisie" en embrassant une vue à couper le souffle sur la ville et les paysages tant chéris par Rabelais, ce géant chinonais humaniste qui marqua à jamais ses nombreux héritiers littéraires. 

Boire du Chinon à la source, c'est enfin permettre aux 173 vignerons de l'appellation, de récolter pleinement le fruit de leur travail, de participer à une économie réelle et vivante qui emploie près de 800 personnes sur le chinonais et de maintenir 2400 hectares en production viticole.

* Reconnaissance du Sénat en 2014 : "le vin, produit de la vigne, et les terroirs viticoles font partie du patrimoine culturel, gastronomique et paysager de la France".

Informations pratiques : Syndicat des Vins de Chinon tél. 02 47 93 30 44 / 

Dégustation gratuite et vente des vins sur place et gourmandises dans l'enceinte de la forteresse Droit d'entrée à la forteresse : Plein tarif : 8,5 € / Tarif réduit : 6,5 € / Gratuit : enfant - 7ans 

 Part of the Château of Chinon

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tim Stanley Clarke – Rest in Port

Very shocked and saddened to hear that Tim Stanley Clarke, one of the great characters of the UK wine trade and great Port lover and expert, died last night. Tim had a great sense of humour and enjoyed jolly japes. On a personal level he was very supportive of my exposure of wine investment frauds.

I have fond recollections of a memorable trip with Tim to visit Bouchard Père et Fils following its takeover by Henriot. We flew back from Dijon and it was some time before the ban on taking liquids on planes. Since our flight departed around lunchtime Tim had bought various patés etc plus at least two bottles of Bouchard Burgundy – a well chilled white and a red plus glasses – allowing us to have a very enjoyable lunch at the back of the plane!   

Here are a series of photos I took of Tim at the Circle of Wine Writers' Christmas Party in December 2013 hosed by Swiss Wine. I hope they capture some of the essence of TSC.  

Tim's bio on Linkedin 

News report in The Drinks Business

We will certainly miss you Tim!