Friday, 29 August 2008

Award Winning red wine from South Africa

The 2004 Somerbosch Cabernet Sauvignon is just about ready to be enjoyed now. This wine had an amazing intensity when tasted in 2006, which has now calmed and mellowed into a beautiful rounded elegant red wine. Matured in mainly French oak barrels, so that tight rich full style of toasty oak is now in perfect harmony with the intense spicy cassis ripe fruit. This wine is sensational with roast lamb or richer meats as well as a strong cheese. Awarded a GOLD MEDAL at the Michelangelo Wine Awards in South Africa. The winery has now sold out in Stellenbosch, so we have the last few cases remaining in the UK. A great deal at £99 per case including vat. Send orders direct to:

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Chateau La Grave Harvest starts

Just heard that Chateau La Grave at Badens have started their harvest last night. They pick their white grapes...mainly Sauvignon Blanc during the night and very early morning, when the temperature is much cooler. The grapes will arrive in pristine condition at the winery.

Chateau La Grave is unusual in the Minervois area to have so many white grapes planted. They seem to benefit from the very cool breezes that come down from the North passed the city of Carcassonne. Their wines are always very clean and cool with delicate flavours. Look forward to tasting them later this year after fermentation or early next year.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Domaine Les Eminades Cebenna 2005

Colour: Intense, opaque deep garnet red.
Nose: Intense, spicy, mature, ripe, dark, brooding, serious, rich, mocha, alcohol intensity evident.
Palate: Deep, ripe, intense layers and layers of clean dark damsons and dark mature fruits.
After: A long smooth slightly smoky finish. Balanced tannins. This wine will develop further but is excellent now (with a bit of air in a decanter?)

Cebenna is the best wine produced at this very small and very hands on wine estate run by the passionate husband and wife team of Luc and Patricia Bettoni. They have small parcels of ancient Grenache, Carignan and Syrah vines scattered around the St. Chinian hills. Their enthusiasm is enormous, their dedication is charming. They are converting to total organic certified viticulture (however they have been practising organic principles for many years.) Certainly a wine estate to watch for the future.
I had to stop cycling this morning to take this snap. Sometimes the natural environment confounds you. 5 minutes later the sun was shining and the lights were on! The camera says 6.02am..but I can confirm that it was 7.02am in France. This picture is looking East (as we are northern hemisphere!) towards the rocky outcrop of La Clape and the coast beyond. The mediterranean sea is about 30 km as the crow flies. Summer is drawing to a gradual close.

Monday, 25 August 2008

A cloud! Harvest starts soon.

Max took this picture last night. I think this was the first cloud that we saw all day! Fantastic weather with a cleansing vent du nord.
Lots of clearing up work in the vineyards all weekend.
The harvest here in the Languedoc will start soon (some whites are gradually being picked). Lots of grape analysis and chin rubbing and general decision making will take place over the next month. Although the lack of water is an ongoing problem and there are rumblings that this will reduce the quantity significantly, the omens are looking good.

Bordeaux saves France

I found this interesting article written by Sophie Kevany recently.

International sales of the exceptional Bordeaux 2005 vintage have saved French wine export figures for the first half of 2008. Figures released last week, for the period January to June 2008, show a fall in French wine export volumes of 8.72%, but an almost equivalent rise in value of 8.16%, compared to the same period in 2007.

Broken down by wine category the figures, compiled by France’s national agency for export development, Ubifrance, show a clear drop in exports of cheaper wines, and a rise in demand for more pricey ones.

Exports volumes of lower category vin de table wines for the period fell by 35.65%, and value by 19.53%. Exports from the more expensive Bordeaux region on the other hand fell by 1.52% in volume, but rose by a significant 42.5% in value.

Hervé Henrotte of Ubifrance said the significant rise in Bordeaux values was partly explained by sales of the exceptional 2005 vintage, now being delivered to retailers and consumers.

However, the overall export trend, Henrotte said, was away from simpler, cheaper wines and towards higher priced, more sophisticated ones.

“In America and the UK people are moving away from varietal wines and towards more complex ones, particularly the young, urban drinkers,” he said. “They are not buying a food product, they are buying a moment of pleasure.”

Henrotte also said the dive in volume and value of the cheaper wine exports was partly a correction on last year. “During much of 2007 exports [of these wines] rose significantly during the ban in Russia on imports of wine from Moldova,” he said.

However, the high value of the euro against both the dollar and sterling also played a role he said, as well as the fact that at this lower level, there was a lot more competition from other wine making countries, and consumers were more price conscious.

Cabernet Franc is rarely seen on a label alone. It is normally blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for classic Bordeaux blends, or made as superb wines in the Loire region.
However this little beauty comes from an historically fascinating wine estate on the outskirts of Beziers in the South of France....Baronnie de Bourgade. The wine estate was owned by Baron Gilles de Latude and his English wife Ruth Parker until very recently. Gilles and Ruth have now sold up and are enjoying themselves on a 'Grand Tour' of France. They worked relentlessly to develop their original and stylish label 'Les 3 Poules'. They were extremely successful with this wine, winning international acclaim and trophies, awards etc. But sometimes the energy exerted in growing grapes and producing wine....let alone the marketing/traveling and eventual sales are too much vis a vis the financial return.
I wish Gilles and Ruth good luck, and will closely monitor the future wines from this property under the new ownership.
The Cabernet Franc here was from the 2005 vintage. It has a superb deep spicy nose with ripe autumn fruit balanced with a classic Cab. Franc cut capsicum earthy character. No oak aging for this wine, so the palate is pure fruit with a grip from fruit tannins rather than heavy wood. A clean and well balanced wine for early drinking rather than long cellaring. A universal food match wine, but lovely with barbecue meats and cheese.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Wine made by women for women

This is an interesting new wine competition.
Apparently more than 70% of wine purchased is by women.
This competition is for wines made by women and judged by women.
So Melanie, the winemaker at Cave Les Trois Blasons entered two of her latest wines.
And bingo....
Element Syrah Cabernet 2007 16/20
Element Merlot Grenache 2007 14.83/20
I noticed from the website that the chair of the judges was a lady called Laetitia Bléger, France Beauty Queen 2004, the daughter of a wine grower from Alsace.
This is all great. However the person who seemed to have created the competition was called ....Didier!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Aston Martin runs on wine.

Back in July there was a story that hit the UK press regarding HRH Prince Charles converting his 38 year old classic Aston Martin DB5 to be powered by a combination of Bioethanol and sustainable fuel from waste products. At the time there was outcry as it was revealed that the 'waste product' was in fact wine from an un named vineyard in Wiltshire...there was a big hu ha and the English vignerons were very defensive!

With the petrol price per litre in France being €1.35 and in the UK at £1.10 I am sure that there is an opportunity to use some of the wine that is stored throughout the Languedoc Roussillon far more efficiently. As we could be using a waste product it would also reduce our carbon footprints. I will check the costings!

Reasoned Fight...Lutte Raisonnee

Some French expressions really do not translate!

Lutte Raisonnee is an untranslateable phrase which is used for essentially explaining that wine growers are responsible and respectful of their environment.

It is near organic status...without having Ecocert organic certification.....But Lutte Raisonne is not full on Organic or Biodynamic viticulture.

Growing grapes may be a 'romantic' lifestyle. However it is tough and also can be very cruel financially. The unknown element after all the hard work and the investment is the uncontrollable and unpredicatable element of the weather. If you practise organic agriculture the weather can ruin you.

I strongly believe that Lutte Raisonne is a good middle ground for responsible grape growers who are tending their land for quality grapes, but also bearing in mind that they have to make a living. Minimal interference but working with the seasons and the elements may prove the best philosophy. Maybe not a reasoned fight....more a reasonable harmony.

Secret pathway.....

This secret path leads through the garrigue...the wild rosemary, thyme, sage, small kermes oak trees and the broom.

We picked sensational wild asparagus from the low bank on the left in early Summer. Much of our cooking has additional flavours from pickings in the garrigue. You can not get better and more local thyme and rosemary!

At the end of the path there are two blocks of Grenache vines.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Lovers

I am not musically minded, having once listened to 'The Best of Rolling Stones' continuously on a solo drive from London to St.Emilion (well it was 20 years ago!).
My latest musical 'find' are a fantastic Eurotrash kitsch group who are Anglo French. They are soon to be big in Moscow and we were treated to a fantastic concert on a hot early Summer's night back in June in France. Have a look at and click on their my space link to hear their tunes.
My favourite track must be 'FrogsnSnails'. Any song that has the words.... 'Yummy Yummy Yummy Yum protect me from the restaurant' has to be a winner.
The music is best appreciated with a chilled glass of 2007 Rose from Domaine Sainte Leocadie...a fantastic ripe cherry nose with great balance on the palate and clean dry style after. A bountiful fruity Rose made from free run Grenache and Syrah juice with a dash of Carignan.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Domaine La Prade Mari Contes de Garrigues 2005

Well the question is: Do I let the cat out of the bag??? I think the picture gives far too many clues. Let's just say that Eric is going off to Paris in a couple of weeks to receive his award from the 'bible' of French wine reviews.....and I had better secure a larger allocation of the sensational Domaine La Prade Mari Contes de Garrigues 2005. Great news for Eric. Lets see if this converts to greater recognition and eventual sales for a wine that retails at c £12 in the UK (c $25 in the US).

Ch. Sainte Eulalie Minervois La Liviniere 2005

Oh dear. Some good friends gave us this bottle recently. I was very keen as the estate is well regarded and the appellation of La Liviniere has a good reputation. But wine is a mysterious thing. Drinking this wine in mid August 2008 it is nearly three years after the grapes were picked. Maybe the weather was too hot last night, maybe the wine was just tight and awkward.

Ernie Loosen from Dr Loosen wine estate always says 'Drink my Riesling Kabinett wines in year 1 or year 11, but be careful in between'. These words can also be relevant to fine red burgundy. Great and showy with maximum 'pink cherry' character when young but can 'go to sleep' in mid term before coming back with class and elegance after 7-8 years.

Anyway back to the wine tasted! It was just unexpectedly tight with evident new oak masking some quality dark intense fruit. We should have given it some air...or maybe left it for another couple of years. It was just a shame to try a wine at its awkward youthful stage. I would like to try more wines from this estate as I think there is quality lurking here, it was just unexpetced in this style when many of the wines of the area are far more open and evolved at this stage. 55% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 15% Carignan. 40% new oak for 1 year.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Cinsault??? Who makes the best in the world?

I have a problem. We have a small block of 56 year old Cinsault vines, which are grown organically (but currently without certification). I don't know whether to grub it all up and replant some Syrah or maybe some Viognier or whether to perservere with these old vines.
Does Cinsault ever hit the high points???
We have made a light Rose previously...but it was not world beating!
What is the best Cinsault based wine produced?
Any advice?

Monday, 11 August 2008

Fantastic Review: Ch.Haut Maurac 2003

Tractor Time

We are in the quiet time before the storm! The grapes are gradually ripening and most work is being done in the cellars to prepare equipment and clean tanks(and also to avoid the extreme heat outside). But soon it will be TRACTOR TIME!

This means that the August tourist traffic jams will be replaced by the (far more appealing) September agricultural traffic jams. This is a favourite time for the boys....and here they are on their favourite tractor.

The white grapes will start to be picked at the end of August then the reds will start to be ready from the second week of September. Although Spring was a bit dull and Summer started a bit later than normal, the latest hot spell has really been a great boost to the grapes. So we are optimistic for a quality 2008 harvest.

Friday, 8 August 2008

This is the wild and hairy Eric Mari. He is a young chap who lives up in the hills of the Minervois in the South of France. He tirelessly works every day on his 24 hectare wine estate....he employs one part timer. His wines are sensational. He makes one white wine (Viognier) and three reds. The reds are blends of Syrah and Grenache with sometimes a dash of good quality Carignan. Eric's USP is really the terroir and the vineyard sites. When we had a UK buyer visiting recently we tasted some wines up in the vineyards on a warm Summer evening. We had to walk through the garrigue* and down a small path through the different vineyards. The soils are sandstone...but different red and yellow multilayered sandstones. There are also some limestone outcrops and clay soils. Each small vineyard parcel is very different with pine trees and small spindly oak, almond and olive trees surrounding each unique spot.
* The garrigue is a fragrant mix of lavender, thyme, rosemary, sage and juniper that acts like a scrub in the mediterranean area. The fragrance from this wild hedgerow undoubtedly positively affects the style and uniqueness of these wines. has more background details.
If you want more price details or to check on availibity then drop me an email or have a look at

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Tasting and lunch at Jimmy's Mill

Went to Capestang this morning to re taste a selection of very stylish wines from Domaine Moulin Gimie. Francois and Christine Gimie then prepared a splendid light lunch ...only 3 hours this time. Usually the feast involves something that Francois has shot (woodcock are his favourite prey) or something grown from their amazing garden. I have previously had figs and juicy tomatoes and amazing sanglier (wild boar) pate chez Gimie, but this time we went for melon (from the garden) and lovely local cured ham followed by ratatouille (all veg from garden) and sausage grilled on vine cuttings. The cheeses were all fresh and light...mainly young goats cheese (as the weather was so hot) followed by an array of ice creams. The wines were also superb.

Francois has a 30 hectare wine estate about 15 kms west of Beziers. The property is just south of the St Chinian appellation and outside the Minervois appellation. This essentially means that all of his wines fall under the far reaching 'Vin de Pays' category. On a positive note this gives Francois the opportunity to grow grape varieties that are slightly different from his neighbours. He has Viognier, Clairette, Muscat, Vermentino, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Grenache planted. The absolute star was Domaine Moulin Gimie Merlot Syrah 2006 which is currently available at This a sensational wine for £5.99 retail. Mellow smooth silky red summer fruits style meets dark rich spicy syrah. No oak just pure class.

I'll be showing this wine alongside some other South of France wines at the WILD FRANCE tasting this Friday in Oundle. Have a look at Amps website for more details.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Wild and Wonderful

This wonderful caterpillar was discovered by Sue on the jasmine plant just outside the house in France. Max snapped the pic and we all went to the Natural History Museum the following week in London.
The lady in the 'Discovery' section was very polite and knowledgeable...and we were very excited that we might have discovered something amazing!
However she took all of 3 seconds to anounce that it is an Oak Hawk be.
Sometimes 4 inches can be very exciting!

Deep Woods

Just tasted some fantastic wines from Deep Woods wine estate. This medium sized property (32 hectares) is based in the northern part of the Margaret River region of Western Australia.

The initial vines were planted by the Gould family, and the talented young team lead by Ben Gould produced some very good wines (5 star rated by James Hallyday). The property was subsequently sold to the businessman Peter Fogarty. Peter and his family are now investing significant amounts in the estate and plan to continue the good work. Peter F also owns the iconic Hunter Valley property Lakes Folly as well as Millbrook wine estate near Perth.

I love the delicate (11.5% alc) Deep Woods Ivory 2006 (Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend). It is so refreshing to have an intense clean style of Sauv Blanc wine but balanced with lighter alcohol. Some of those big Marlborough NZ wines are just too a French friend says...'a meal in the wine'.

We have a great offer on the Deep Woods wines on the Special Offers page at

Monday, 4 August 2008

400 year Old Oak tree

Trees like rivers are always fascinating!

This oak tree is a remarkable example. It is reputed to be over 400 years old. It is on the top of a windy plateau high up in the hills of the Minervois. The tree has a central cusp, which you can sit in and admire the amazing views. There is a story that if water is found in the cusp of the tree then there will be rain forecast for the area! ....There is not too much rain around this area, but the tree seems to thrive.

When visiting UK wine people and friends arrive we frequently visit this beautiful tree and taste a selection of wines from the area, whilst taking in the sensational surroundings.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Muscat morning..chilled Rose evening

Tasted an excellent selection of sweet Muscats made from the Muscat Petits Grain grape. This is one of the many members of the Muscat family. These wines were in the idyllic village of St Jean de Minervois up in the hills. The project was on behalf of a UK client. A competitive price was essential for a quality wine. My favourite Muscats are from Domaine Barroubio and also Clos Bagatelle...however these were too pricey for this project. I will crunch numbers on Monday morning and see whether we can do a deal.

Zoomed down to the beach to catch up with Sue and the boys. After a refreshing swim we found a stunning beachside restaurant where we had a seafood frenzy and a delicious 2007 Rose from Domaine Piccinini....a wine estate from La Liviniere in the Minervois.

The Rose was a deeper, richer intensity than my normal preference, but it worked really well with the grilled tuna and Rouget.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Wine in South of France

Why are the excellent wines from the Languedoc area so under acknowledged and miss understood?
Bordeaux has been 'established' for many years...mainly due to the ease of trade from the port of Bordeaux and the historic links from the time of Henry 2nd and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (nice dowry!).
But the dynamism and action are certainly taking place in the Languedoc and the Roussillon areas of France. This diverse region spreads from near Marseille through to the Spanish border. Some of the wines from the undiscovered hills of the Minervois region (near Carcassonne/Narbonne/Beziers) are sensational. One specific grower is the young, wild, hairy man called Eric Mari who is producing stunning wines at Domaine La Prade Mari. These wines are now being served at Rick Stein's restaurant in Padstow as well as the award winning St.John's Restaurant in London. In fact the Viognier grapes in this picture next to Max were picked last year and are now being served as the Domaine La Prade Mari Viognier 2007.These wines are such great value and are available in the UK via