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…


Valmengaux – Top Bordeaux!

October 24, 2009

IMG_6918Parker is a fan of Vincent Rapin’s wines, the Guide Hachette team like it, and so do I. On the 15th October, at the restaurant La Coupole in Paris, the Syndicat des Bordeaux voted Domaine Valmengaux 2007 as the ‘Top Vin’ of the Bordeaux Appellation.  I tasted it from the barrel on a freezing cold day in December last year. I was amazed by its ripeness and concentration of fruit, especially for a wine from what was a challenging harvest in the Gironde.  Hats off to Vincent (photo) – he’ll be in London on the 28th of this month with his wines at the book’s press launch at the October Gallery in Bloomsbury.  I’ll be posting a full tasting note for the ’07 very soon.

For more information about Domaine de Valmengaux and its holiday accommodation click here.

Le Zèbre

October 7, 2008
People flock to Pézenas to dine at its many restaurants. They say that L’Entre-Pots is the best but they couldn’t fit me in so I found this little side-street café called Le Zèbre. Just my kind of place when travelling and researching: quick service, no formalities and really good, cheap and tasty Mediterranean food. What better for the hungry traveller than a sweet and savoury aiguillettes de canard in a honey, orange and cumin sauce, served with a surprising variety of spicy pulses and vegetables, and all chased down the little red lane with a pichet of local wine?



An Englishman Abroad

October 7, 2008

The man responsible for creating Aubaï Mema, malgré his mother’s French roots, is a true Englishman; a foreigner whose characterful Vin de Pays wines have been rightly fêted by the French wine press. Mark Haynes has transformed the former cave coopérative in Aubais (northwest of Montpellier) into a restaurant, caveau and tapas/wine bar.  His winery is also in the village and within the leafy, walled grounds of his Maison de Vigneron there is a superb bed & breakfast.

Mark conducts the vineyards along biodynamic principles and the results speak for themselves: well constructed, concentrated wines which express the real character of the Languedoc, its local varietals and its terroir.  Make sure you taste his excellent Syrah “La Douzième”, the 100% pure Viognier “Sauto Ro” and, bien sûr, a platter of delicious mixed tapas.

Aubaï Mema, 20 av. Emile-Leonard, Aubais.

Diversity and quality at the Bergerie

May 21, 2008

Domaine de la Bergerie between the pretty villages of Rabelais and Champ-sur-Layon is the home and winery of Marie-Annick et Yves Guégniard. From 36 hectares of Coteaux-du-Layon vines (Cabernet Sauvingon, Franc and Chenin…) you expect a wide range of wines but the big surprise here is the quality and character of each of his wines. Each wine expresses its personality – heady, luscious Quart de Chaume, aromatic and crisp Savennières, an Anjou Villages with incredible concentration of fruit and oak… Definitely worth seeking out.

Domaine de la Bergerie Anjou Villages ‘Evanescence’ 2005 – Powerful nose with an intense core of sweet, ripe red raspberries with a very fine oak expressing pepper and vanilla. A very pleasant palate where the fruit mixes with cinnamon and clove on a long finish. Try it with a saddle of wild hare.

The Moon is Full

May 8, 2008


Bourges is a great little city and Xavier (ex-comedian/entertainer) has just opened this new bistrot/bar-a-vins on rue Porte Jaune.  Two women are in the kitchen working like galley-slaves; Le Patron when he’s not out front kissing the clientele is slicing charcuterie and serving the best regional wines. It’s great to see everyone with a glass of real wine in his or her hand. These young, attractive Bourgeois certainly know their Quincy from their Menetou-Salon – it’s inspiring. There are pickles in jars on the tables, piles of different cheeses on the zinc counter and saucissons secs dangling from doorframes. One chap, leaning against a huge saucisson, turned around to reveal a floury imprint right across the back of his suede coat. No one seemed to mind, least of all him. The food?  Charcuterie, home-made rillettes, terrines, salads – great bistro food – and wonderful home-made desserts.  Everyone kisses each other and they’re all so happy; it’s like some kind of 1960s love-in. I speak French but I don’t really understand these people – what makes them so joyful? The 35-hour week perhaps. Love the laid-back, friendly atmosphere – you keep hearing ‘yes’ and ‘cool’ and always the ‘tu’. I was on first-name tutoyant terms with half a dozen people by the time I left. This is the sort of place where the patron says, “you site THERE!” and “you eat THAT!” and nobody finds it rude. Getting out of the door wasn’t easy as by 10.30 the place was packed. Getting out of Bourges through it’s labyrinth of Kafkaesque cobbled streets was no easier. Still, as the Terminator always says, “I’ll be back.”

Bistrot La Pleine Lune, 12 Rue Porte Jaune 18000 Bourges