My Next Book…

November 13, 2011

Jean Valeix, an English widow, is the owner of a fabulous vineyard in the wine village of Saint-Emilion. But her cherished château is struggling to sell its produce. A handful of people, among them a charming middle-aged Scotsman, a jaw-droppingly beautiful girl and a talented autistic boy, will change her life completely. But not all of her visitors are who they claim to be. All she needs to do is find out who’s telling the truth – oh, and save her business from bankruptcy and solve a murder, too. Only then might she discover that sometimes even good things come in threes.

Viticulture and poetry, mental health and mortality all tumble, along with the cabernets and merlots, into the fermenting vat of the author’s first fictional creation: Broke the Grape’s Joy.

On sale on Amazon from the 30th of November 2011…


Loire Vineyard Tours

August 13, 2010

My adopted home of Normandy is a beautiful region – lush pastures feed France’s finest cattle and fastest race horses; hundreds of miles of coastline provide us with some of the best fish and seafood in the world; the green ‘bocage’ countryside is a bucolic dream.  But…but…we have (almost) no vines.  Apart from one excellent award-winning winery- Les Arpents du Soleil – Normandy is devoid of vineyards.

Wine-loving visitors to Normandy can now experience a one-day tour of our nearest vineyards – a couple of hours south in the Loire Valley.  Loire Vineyard Tours is an exciting introduction to the Loire’s famous winemakers, its vineyards and majestic châteaux.

I’ll be lauching this new venture in the autumn of 2010 – for more information click here…


Vine Lodgings – Food and Travel Magazine July 2010

June 15, 2010

Next month’s Food and Travel magazine publishes a selection of fabulous vineyard holiday destinations.  Featured are seven award-winning wineries from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc and Provence. All the wineries (like  Chateau Saint Estève de Néri, featured below) are exceptional places.  Staying at any of these properties is a joy and it’s the best way to discover a wine region, its wines and the people who make them.

A spot of grape treading at Chateau Saint Estève de Néri 

Want to stay at one of the featured properties? Click on the property name for more details…

Bordeaux – Chateau Pierre de Lune, Chateau de la Grave, Chateau du Tertre

Burgundy – Chateau de Messey

Champagne – Domaine Ployez-Jacquemart

Languedoc and Provence – Domaine Gayda, Chateau Saint Estève de Néri


Loire Reds: a blind tasting

April 11, 2010

La Manche Wine Circle blind tasting, last night: A rough comparison of the main Loire red sub-regions from recent vintages (2005 to 2009), wines from Anjou Brissac, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Bourgueil, Saumur Champigny and Chinon – plus an ‘intrus’ from Cheverny. Once again Chateau de la Varière was the panel’s coup de coeur closely followed by Christophe Baudry’s Chinon – Domaine de la Morandiere. Bronze goes to the ’05 Bourgueil – Domaine du Carroi.

2006 Château la Varière Anjou-Villages Brissac

Black red sombre robe with crystal clear highlights – no signs of ageing. Ripe, rich, sweet black fruit – far more complex and concentrated than the others in the flight with hints of cherry tobacco, vanilla, pepper and confiture. Velvety smooth on the well-balanced palate with a pleasant bitterness on a medium-long finish. Great food wine with the potential to age well – a real Bordeaux-beater! IH (84 pts.)

Chateau de la Variere’s 15th-century cellar

2008 Domaine de la Morandière Chinon

Very dark red, ruby rim and good legs. Tingly ‘bonbons’ aromas at first then sweet, ripe fruit. Almost a Burgundy-style nose. Nice balanced palate, good acidity; refreshing and clean. One to keep 2-3 years. PH (80 pts.)

2005 Domaine du Carroi Cuvée Tradition Bourgueil

Darkest of all the wines in the flight – viscous. Concentrated, ripe blackcurrant fruit with cedar and fresh coltsfoot. An easy-drinker with soft tannins. Another good BBQ wine with enough weight to go well with char-grilled meats and spicy marinades. Drinking well now. DG (78 pts.)

2009 Sylvain Bruneau Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil La Croix Blanche

Very young, dark black cherry with big legs. Black fruit and white pepper over a robust alcohol giving pleasant amylic and menthol aromas and a hint of cedar. Very juicy acidity – one to keep 1-2 years to reveal its potential. IH (75 pts.)

2007 François Cazin (Le Petit Chambord) Cheverny

Ruby robe with a bright rim. Lovely, perfumed red fruit on the nose with a hint of the spice cupboard. Green, herbal, feminine. Pleasing crushed redcurrants and greengage on a medium palate. A very pleasant summer BBQ wine to drink now – the scoring was probably brought down 5-10 points by putting this pinot/gamay blend in a flight of cabernets. DA (71 pts.)

2008 les hauts buits Saumur-Champigny

Mid-red robe, thin. Nice blackcurrant fruit on the nose like weak Ribena but a tad one-dimensional. Very soft palate – a passable breakfast wine! GT (70 pts.)

No surprise to find the 100% cabernet sauvignon Brissac at the top of list for a panel with ‘Bordeaux’ tastes. A first time for a Cheverny for most of the panel and this pinot/gamay wine was easily identified as the odd one out – its relatively low score reflects this but it’s not a bad little wine at all and it went very well with the Thai-style marinated prawns in chilli. The bigger wines from Chinon and Anjou were perfect accompaniments to a hearty Catalan lamb casserole.


Côtes de Bordeaux

March 11, 2010

My very good friends Chrystelle and Jean-Marc Lirand, owners of Chateau Roche-Pressac near Saint Emilion, explain the new ‘Côtes de Bordeaux’ labelling.  Here’s the video from the French TV station TF1… 

Roche-Pressac is a must for lovers of rich, mineral ‘côtes’ wines; Chrystelle is the head of the Order of the Brotherhood of Castillon Wines, and a great cook too. www.laroche-pressac.com

The côtes vines at Chateau Roche-Pressac


Decanter Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter – Feb 20th

February 11, 2010

Taste, enjoy and learn about dream Bordeaux wines at this exceptional Encounter.  You can taste 300 fine Bordeaux wines and meet over 70 winemakers. Wine writers Oz Clarke and Michael Schuster will be there to sign their latest books as will yours truly, along with travel guide publisher and eco guru Alastair Sawday.  Yet another COMPETITION will allow one lucky winner to spend a weekend at one of my favourite wineries. It’s Chateau Carbonneau, a fabulous 19th-century manor house and Sainte-Foy Bordeaux vineyards owned by franco-kiwi couple Wilfred and Jacquie Franc de Ferriere.  Here’s a picture of the house and their beautiful Bouvier Bernois!


Win a weekend in Champagne

October 23, 2009

Thanks to the folks at Waterstones and Eurostar, you can win a weekend at one of my favourite winery/bed & breakfasts – Le Vieux Cèdre – in the heart of the Côte des Blancs near Epernay.  Staying with Franco-British couple Didier and Imogen Pierson-Whitaker is a real treat.  She’s a great cook; he produces excellent Champagne (and sparkling wine from his vineyards in Hampshire, too).

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The prize includes return tickets on the Eurostar – click here to enter the competition.