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!

Mas du Soleilla wins International Trophy

October 24, 2009


Congratulations to Swiss winemakers Peter Wildbolz and Christa Derungs for winning three Decanter World Wine Awards this year including the International Trophy for their 2007 Les Bartelles, La Clape.  I’ve yet to taste the ’07 but the older vintages are superb – the vines are picked by hand, the grapes are transported in small baskets and finally sorted by hand in Peter’s chai on this ‘sunny hill’ above Narbonne Plage.  Read the judges’ tasting notes on all three winning wines on  A full tasting note for Les Bartelles to follow…

For more information about staying at Mas du Soleilla click here

IMG_5599-1Bringing in the 2008 harvest, Mas du Soleilla.

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.

Coteaux du Layon 2007

October 5, 2009

The chenin blanc late harvest of 2007 was saved by a beautiful Indian summer and its wines – like this lighter-style Coteaux-du-Layon from Château de la Viaudière – are a delight: clean, with a delicious balance of sweetness and acidity. It’s raining today but the forecast is more promising from the end of the week – fingers crossed.


Vignoble Gélineau Coteaux du Layon 2007

This ’07 is pale gold in the glass. Its honeyed aromas and a hint of dried apricot precede the smooth but fresh palate. Sweet lychee syrup leaves you with a tasty plum skin finish.IMG_0056









Pierre-Antoine Giovannoni bringing up a case from Viaudière’s cellars.  For accommodation details click here.

From the mountains to the sea

October 8, 2008
A narrow, steep lane leads up through a series of hairpin bends to the top of Mont Redon, one of the limestone peaks of La Clape. From here you can see the vast expanse of the Mediterranean sea, the mountains of Spain in the hazy distance, the cathedral city of Narbonne on the plain below and the château and winery of Francine and Bruno Pellegrini. The house and its various buildings contain five charming gites, each named after grape varieties. Newlyweds can celebrate their nuptials with up to 130 of their family and friends in a huge banqueting hall above the vat-house. During the harvest, this room reverts to its primary function as the loading area where red grapes are poured into the cuves below. Oenophiles will adore the smart tasting salon with its grand chandeliers illuminating hundreds of bottles of some of the best wine of La Clape.
The château has a long history but, like so many winemakers in the Languedoc, its owners moved here relatively recently.  Francine, a tourangelle, settled here permanently in 2001 and was joined two years later by her Tyrolean husband Bruno leaving behind a career as wine courtier. Today they cultivate around 40 hectares of AOC vines on the limestone slopes of La Clape (mainly syrah, grenache and cinsault) and 8 hectares of VDP vines (merlot, cabernet sauvignon and viognier). You’ll find a fascinating mix of vins de terroir and modern, easy-drinking wines.  The top cuvée – Le Blazon – is built in the full, borderlais style despite its principal encépagement of syrah. Between them the Pellegrinis speak French, English, Italian and German; their guests, like themselves, come from afar and fall in love with this ancient house set between the mountains and the sea.

Château Ricardelle, route de Gruissan, Narbonne.




Ripeness is all

September 21, 2008

Well, it must be over 100 days since the diminutive young vine flowered.  A couple of small bunches have mysteriously disappeared inside my guilty-looking Labrador but half-a-dozen remain and have turned black in this pleasant early autumn sunshine.  Unsure as to what to do with the fruit which has small, tannic thick-skinned grapes, I think I’ll preserve a couple of bunches and leaves in alcohol and let the dog have the rest!  I’m off to the Languedoc at the end of this month to carry on discovering interesting wineries to stay at and look forward to the warmth of the South and the wine-dark Mediterranean sea.


September 3, 2008

Anthocyanins produced in the skin are turning the grapes purple-black.  August has been a damp, dull month but the little vine is doing its best.  Picture taken August 23rd.

Time Ripens all Things

August 13, 2008
The bunches of tiny green grapes are beginning to blush in the August sun. In between intervals of sunshine the vine is being drenched by torrents and buffeted by gales. We hope still that there will be some fruit left by harvest time.



Be Fruitful and Multiply

July 24, 2008