Saint Emilion Wine Mystery – FREE today on Amazon

December 11, 2012

My 5* vineyard mystery “Broke the Grape’s Joy” is FREE today (December 11th) on Amazon Kindle (usual price £1.99).

Happy reading!



Free Bordeaux Wine Novel on Kindle

October 2, 2012

The Bordeaux wine novel “Broke the Grape’s Jo”y will be available to download for FREE from Amazon from Monday 1st October. I’m delighted that so many Goodreads readers have added it to their ‘to-read’ list – now’s your chance to read it for free! The freebie Kindle version contains the first chapter of the sequel “Devil in Every Grape”, to be published in 2013. Happy reading!

FREE Kindle Wine Novel…

June 1, 2012

This summer’s must-read Wine novel “Broke the Grape’s Joy” is FREE!

Pomerol and poetry, Saint-Emilion and sinister goings-on, Bordeaux and bad, bad men…

FREE on kindle from the 3rd to the 8th of July.

PLUS this edition includes the first chapter of the sequel “A Devil in Every Grape”.

“What a delightful, heartwarming novel it is. I thoroughly enjoyed it.” Peter May, Wines Editor, Bella Online

“…full-bodied, spicy with fascinating and fruity overtones.” John Walker, Author of “The Jagermeister’s Apprentice”

This Kindle version contains an extract from the sequel “A Devil in Every Grape” to be published in 2013.

Broke the Grape’s Joy in Paperback from Amazon…

May 29, 2012

Available from Amazon price £7.99 inc. postage.

Broke the Grape’s Joy in print

April 14, 2012

The print version of my latest book Broke the Grape’s Joy will be launched on Amazon on the 1st of June.

The paperback is available NOW from the publishers, Feed A Read, at the special discount price of £6.99 + p+p here.

“This is a book I wanted to finish and yet was enjoying the journey so much that I forced myself to ration the chapters to make it last longer. I just hope this is the first of many such books from this very talented writer with a mastery of bitter-sweet tales.”

– Peter F May, Wine Editor, Bella Online

COMPETITION! Win a Saint Emilion Grand Cru . . .

March 23, 2012

. . . PLUS a basket of French gastronomic goodies courtesy of the Restaurant du Délice in Normandy AND a signed copy of Broke the Grape’s Joy . . .

Love French cuisine? Grand Cru Bordeaux wine? Think you could do a short voice-over? Then read on. . .

Broke the Grape’s Joy by Patrick Hilyer, published by FeedARead Publishing, is out in paperback on the 1st of June. The talented young French filmmaker, Jacques-Henri Heim, is producing a short promotional video for the book which will be screened on Amazon and YouTube. We would like YOU to read and record a few lines to use as a voice-over in the video. The voice of the book’s female central character is British English, but everyone is welcome to take part.

All you need to do is:

  1. Download the FREE preview (to your web browser or eBook device) of the Broke the Grape’s Joy from Amazon here.
  2. Read aloud from “I wondered, as I often did . . .” to “. . . like the chimes of the angelus that rang clearly over the empty valley to announce midday”, recording your voice using a PC, Mac or other digital recording device.
  3. When you’re happy with your recording, email the audio file to, along with the answer to this question: Where did the title Broke the Grape’s Joy come from?

The selected winner – whose voice will be used on the video – will be announced on the 1st of June and will receive their tasty prize by post along with a signed copy of the book!

If you have any questions or comments please post them here on the blog.

Good luck, find your voice, don’t be microphone shy and enjoy!


‘Sailing’ over the Cote Chalonnaise

March 7, 2012

A balloon flight over the vineyards of the Cote Chalonnaise with Guy Cinquin (Domaine de l’Europe, Mercurey). Click on the picture…

A partridge in a vineyard

February 28, 2012

Early in the morning, this startled bird in the organic vines of Château de Suronde, Quarts de Chaume.

The Cradle of Muscadet

February 22, 2012

For all you lovers of the delicate, lively and utterly quaffable white wine Muscadet – here is where it all started. In 1740 the vineyards of Chateau de la Cassemichère in La Chapelle Heulin were granted the title ‘Muscadet’ in a legal act. Whether the first Muscadet (or Melon de Bourgogne) vines, imported from Burgundy, were planted here as the stone plaque implies is debatable. There is evidence to suggest that Melon de Bourgogne was planted well before the devastating frosts of 1709…


Chateau de la Cassemichère 44330 La Chapelle Heulin

Staying in Château Valley

February 8, 2012

The Loire valley is a country of rivers and medieval castles. Scores of fortified buildings and famous châteaux punctuate the watery landscape from Angers in the west to Orléans in the east – a distance of only 150 miles.  The river cuts its way through the soft pale limestone that history’s château builders have quarried here for centuries.  Limestone also forms the bedrock of the Loire’s vineyards; today the old caverns harbour oak barrels and countless bottles of the region’s other famous attraction: wine.

If you’re here in search of fine wine as well as history then why not stay at a vineyard? The owners of Le Manoir de la Noue near Angers, like many winemakers hereabouts, have created three charming chambres d’hôtes rooms in their historic manor house.  Spend an afternoon visiting the early medieval fortress at Angers then arrive at Le Manoir at apéritif time.  Olivier and Catherine de Cenival will treat you to a glass of their deliciously sweet Coteaux-du-Layon wine or even a full tasting of the estate’s excellent reds, whites and rosés.  The bedrooms are in the annex next to the 16th-century house in a converted stone barn.  Inside has a rustic feel with oak beams and colour washed walls; outside you’ll discover original statuary, a moated folly and a little grotto within a shady wooded garden full of the colours and scents of the season.  Young vines and fruit bushes line up in a mixed nursery that provides sweet grape juice for breakfast and fruit for Catherine’s homemade confitures.

Restaurants abound in Angers; one of the best destinations for a taste of local cuisine and wine is Le Relais run by sommelier Gérard Pelletier and chef Christophe Noël.  Choose from over a hundred of the region’s wines to accompany Christophe’s fragrant classic and modern French cuisine.  If you’re torn between cheese and dessert, try a dish that is almost both: the fruity, light Crémet d’Angers aux fruits rouges.  A semi-sweet Cabernet d’Anjou rosé is the ideal accompaniment to this duo of crème fraîche mousse and red berries.

An hour’s pleasant drive along the left bank of the Loire brings you to Saumur and its château, dominating the skyline from a rocky promontory overlooking the river.  Two of the town’s museums are here – don’t miss the view from the ramparts over grey slate roofs to the river valley and the vineyards below.  At twelve o’clock everyone hurries to their favourite restaurant and this is the best moment to taste the area’s most celebrated export – Saumur Champigny.  This versatile red wine goes well with all kinds of food – try a half bottle at Au Rond de Serviette on Rue Saint Nicolas where they serve up some of the delicious charcuteries from Gerard Girardeau’s award-winning deli next-door.

About twenty miles upriver from Saumur on the banks of the Vienne is Chinon – the birthplace of François Rabelais.  On the Quai Jeanne d’Arc a bronze statue of France’s famous satirist gazes down at passers-by and seems unaware of his beloved château whose ancient walls, surrounded by vines, rise up above the town. To sample the best red wines of Chinon head for one of the many independent wineries along the Vienne valley like Domaine Baudry-Dutour in the sleepy wine village of Cravant-les-Coteaux just outside the town.  Not far from Chinon is Azay-le-Rideau and its Italian renaissance-inspired château.  This beautiful mansion appears to float upon a limpid lake whose serene waters reflect towers and turrets built five centuries ago.

Driving Northeast from Azay you skirt the environs of the city of Tours and, continuing eastwards, rejoin the great river.  Tours has no château of its own but Amboise, a short drive upriver, is home to the magnificent royal castle of Charles VIII.  Just across the river at Lussault-sur-Loire is the petit Château de Pintray in the Montlouis appellation where you can spend the night.  Maryvonne Rault runs a busy chambres d’hôtes business in the main house and her husband Marius has transformed the vineyards which now produce some of the regions best dry and sweet white wines.  The rooms here are stuffed full of character: big comfy beds, real family portraits, antique wallpaper, huge roll-top baths.  Eat in Amboise in the evening and, in the morning, be prepared for a feast at the breakfast table.

Travelling south from Lussault you reach yet another of the Loire’s many tributaries, the Cher, and the quintessential Loire Château – Chenonceau.  Straddling the rippling river, its fairytale turrets and graceful arches create (as Gustave Flaubert reflected) a feeling of ‘gentle peace, elegance and strength’.  Garden lovers will be enthralled by the labyrinth and formal gardens.  A few minutes drive upstream takes you to the small town of Montrichard.  There you’ll find the family winery of the Germain family and their beautiful 18th-century maison d’hôtes, Les Tabourelles.  As well as Anne’s charming smile and genuinely warm welcome, you encounter cellars and stairways hewn from the pale rock, a sunny south-facing terrace overlooking the valley and three grand bedrooms with great views.  No, it’s not a château, but it feels like a little castle clinging to the rock – a delightful place to stay during your tour.  On balmy evenings you can walk into the village to dine at one of several good eateries or stay home and prepare an alfresco meal on the balcony.  Try a bottle of the Germain’s fruity rosé – the perfect wine for a summer barbecue.

The journey back via the autoroute is surprisingly short and you arrive in Angers in less than two hours.  Return home with memories of renaissance châteaux and the verdant landscape of the Loire valley; and the next time you’re handed a restaurant wine-list look out for the Chinons and Saumurs, Coteaux-du-Layons and Montlouis – names that are synonymous with this river of wine and its fairytale castles.