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…


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!

Le Relais de Franc-Mayne

January 10, 2009


Château Franc-Mayne stands sentinel over six hectares of classed growth vines on the Saint Emilion côte at the edge of the famous village. Contemporary sculpture, cubist topiary and Japanese-inspired water gardens create a fusion of tradition and modernity not at all at odds with the 18th century building’s clean lines.img_6858

Hervé and Griet Laviale have transformed this ancient Girondine into a sumptuous boutique hotel and ultramodern winery. From the reception area in the vaulted roof space of the winery you look down on the immaculate vat room and first-year barrel cellar. Filling the cathedral-like space are rows of new barrels and great tanks in stainless steel and oak. In the vineyard, the vines sink their roots into the limestone hillside under which last year’s vintage matures in vast subterranean caves. Oenologue Laurence Ters produces a rich, elegant wine, with bags of fresh, aromatic complexity.  A stunning place to stay; a superb wine.


Château Franc-Mayne Grand Cru Classé, Saint Emilion.

Bellevue on the broad Gironde

January 10, 2009

Several centuries after the Romans planted the first vines here this hill was occupied during the Arab incursions and the vineyards still bear the name Gazin, a corruption of ‘Saracen’. Anne-Sophie and Alain Lancereau came here in 2003, transformed the wine of Bellevue Gazin, and created a charming chambres d’hôtes in the turn-of-the-century house where they entertain wine-lovers, artists and gastronomes.

Fifteen hectares of Premières-Cotes-de-Blaye vineyards cover the west-facing côte that slopes down towards the village of Plassac. Yields are low and chemical treatments are kept to an absolute minimum. The wines are modern and clean with a delicious fruit, silky tannin, and a subtle, aromatic oak.

img_7037A short drive away are the towns of Bourg and Blaye; each a fortified seaport, the latter’s impressive 17th-century citadel built by the Marquis de Vauban was recently named a UNESCO world heritage site. Also at Blaye is the ferry known as le bac which takes cars and passengers across the broad Gironde to the Médoc and the high-duned beaches of the Atlantic coast.


Chateau Bellevue-Gazin, Plassac.


If God forbade drinking, why would he have made wine so good? – Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu

December 16, 2008
img_6667The King’s minister, Cardinal Richelieu, in a quest to find the best vineyards in the Bordeaux region purchased lands here on the Tertre de Fronsac. His nephew built the château which still bears the family name. Dutch winemaker Arjen Pen gave up a career in the airlines business and now co-owns Château Richelieu where he cultivates around 10 hectares of vines organically. The exceptional terroir has allowed Arjen and his talented team (which has included img_6783expert advisors like Stephane Derenoncourt) to produce a very fine wine, much fêted by the pundits on both sides of the Atlantic. Within the classical 17th century house, are five chambres d’hôtes whose names follow a Musketeer theme – Athos, Porthos, Aramis, D’Artagnon and, downstairs, a suite named after their arch-enemy, Richelieu. Three red wines are produced: an easy-drinking, lighter-style Fronsac called La Temptation, the main cuvée Château Richelieu and a prestige wine called La Favourite whose 2005 vintage was awarded 93 points by Mr. Parker. Arjen’s talents are taking him even further afield in the wine world – his most recent projects in South Africa are starting to bear fruit and one imagines that this Flying Dutchman will go far!
Arjen Pen, Château Richelieu, Chemin du Tertre, 33126 Fronsac


The lovers of La Vigneronne

October 31, 2008
On the edge of the village of Faugères stands an impressive 19th century ‘Vigneronne’ or winemaker’s house which is so much more than its name implies. Belgian couple, Christian and Régine Godefroid, have restored and extended the property which now houses the winery and cellars plus a wine boutique and five smart-rustic chambres d’hôte rooms. Régine is an impeccable host and her regional table d’hôte cooking is delicious. Christian’s vineyards are on higher ground just outside the village where he cultivates 5 hectares of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and grenache blanc vines. The white grenache ‘Soif de Toi’ is a fresh, floral wine whose clean palate and notes of lime blossom make a perfect accompaniment to Régine’s warm salad of Pelardon goat’s milk cheese with garlic, thyme and honey. The red ‘de Chair et de Sang’ (60% mourvèdre, 40% grenache) is full of aromatic concentrated fruit and an elegant minerality coming from the micaceous subsoil hereabouts. Good food, fine wines, a wonderful house full of charm and hospitality all surrounded by the pretty hills of Faugères; the Godefoids fell in love with La Vigneronne and so do their guests.
La Vigneronne, Faugères.

The house on the sunny hill

October 8, 2008
Christa Derungs and Peter Wildbolz are a Swiss couple who moved to this ‘house on the sunny hill’ in 2002 and together produce some excellent Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape wines. Soon to be certified organic, the grapes are harvested by hand to very low yeilds (25 Hl/ha) and produce a range of wines of superlative quality. The wines from the typical regional varietals express the character of the ‘Clape’ terroirs: aromatic, fresh and mineral Roussanne and Bourboulenc, and deeply rich mineral fruit from the GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvedre) blends. A real surprise is the local character expressed by the wines made from merlot and cabernet franc – the borderlais blend ‘Terre du Vent’ has a personality all of its own. The house, which was built in the 1970s contains five beautiful chambres d’hôtes rooms in a colonial-rustic style in keeping with the property’s Provençal architecture. Breakfast in the comfort of the ochre and sienna coloured dining room or beside the azure pool overlooking the vines. 
Mas du Soleilla, Route de Narbonne Plage, Narbonne