Awards and citations:


1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for investdrinks.org

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award




Monday, 25 May 2015

Corrour – excellent family meal in the wilderness to celebrate Netta's 91st

 Corrour Station House @1338 feet above sea level

On Saturday we had a family celebration to mark Netta's 91st birthday on Wednesday 20th May at Corrour Station House. Railway buffs will be familar with Corrour in the middle of the desolate Rannoch Moor, which apart from a rough, private road, is only accessible by rail. Corrour is on the Glasgow to Mallaig via Fort William line and 17 miles from the nearest metalled public road. 

Despite being in the middle of nowhere there is a Youth Hostel at Corrour and the very good Corrour Station House restaurant, which also has four rooms run by Ollie Bennett and Lizzie MacKenzie
    


 The bleak moorland looking westwards 



 The line northwards towards Spean Bridge and Fort William 


Corrour Station and the Station House to the left 


Tulloch Station looking north-west

Towards Corrour and Rannoch Moor

Early Saturday evening we caught the southbound train from Tulloch Station just after 6pm. Tulloch is about a 15-minute journey to Corrour sharply uphill all the way. 

Understandably the Corrour Station House is well set up to serve three courses and then get guests onto the last train at around 21.30 northwards to Tulloch and stations to Mallaig. 

We had an extremely good meal – no need to make allowances for the restaurant's isolation. 

11-strong family group 

Home smoked trout  

Loin of venison 

A very clever dessert – chocolate and rhubarb cake

Two bottles from the short but well-chosen wine list: 
Picpoul de Pinet and an Argentinian Malbec



 Restaurant view westwards .... and eastwards below 


 Ollie Bennett and Lizzie MacKenzie with Netta


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Review of Wine behind the label: am I being unfair?



Neville Blech responds:
Hi Jim

I think you are being a little unfair on us (my review of Wine behind the label) and this is probably because of your intimate knowledge of the region which far exceeds most wine writers including us.  

David is responsible for the Loire section and whilst he would admit that it is not always possible to be completely up to date, it is as up to date as the information available to us is.

He wrote an email to all the vignerons in the Loire who were in the book - in French, even - asking for updates and managed to get replies from less than 15% of them. Many of them do not have websites whereby we could get information from and even when they do, they are not up to date.

Taking the two examples that you quoted of people who have died, if you look at the websites of St. Just and Taluau-Foltzenlogel, show me where one could glean that these two gentlemen were deceased? Both gentlemen are there as large as life, if you will excuse the inference.

Similarly, La Maison Huët is still “dirigé par Noël Pinguet” according to their website. Jacky Blot - if you go to http://www.jackyblot.fr/taille_loups.php, it still states that there are 25 ha. of vines.

We cannot, of course, visit every domaine that is listed in the guide and have to rely to a great extent on the producers’ websites for contact and proprietorship information such as this. We do not have your intimate specialists knowledge and it is not our fault that these websites have not been updated themselves.

Rest assured that our wine ratings have been updated whenever we have had the chance to taste them.

I would have hoped that you had contacted me for comment with the contents of your blog before you actually posted it. I do hope, therefore, that you will be able to post up the above reply in your blog page as the record needs to be put straight.

So where do we go from here? We have done the best we could. We would love you to be involved as a contributor to Wine behind the label, with your specialist knowledge, by at least keeping us abreast of any changes such as these and also pointing the way to new kids on the block and to those who have fallen back in the quality of the wines they produce, but I don’t know if we could afford to pay you much for it. Reviews like yours aren’t going to help increase our revenue stream. If you would like to quote us the smallest fee you could live with for doing this, we would be happy to consider it. 

••

Hi Neville,

Many thanks for your your response, which I have put up on Jim's Loire.

I don't think I have been unfair or harsh. The 9th edition claims to be 'fully revised', Steven Spurrier is quoted saying 'For me, by far the best of the wine guides' and you show three awards the previous editions of the guide has received – André Simon, Louis Roederer and Glenfiddich. Purchasers have every right to expect this edition to be up to date. The 9th edition of Wine behind the label must be judged in the light of your claims.   

I acknowledged that you and David have taken on a massive task which is not helped by the low response (probably predictable) from the Loire vignerons and their failure to update their websites – equally predictable.

On page 7 of WBTL you explain the concept: 'Wine behind the label was first conceived as an ambitious attempt to produce an authoritative single volume guide to producers of quality wines from around the world'.

I suggest that your starting point should be: can we make our guide authoritative and as 'fully revised' as possible. What steps do we need to take to achieve this and are we able to fulfil this aim.

The deaths of Yves Lambert and Joël Taluau were both covered by Jim's Loire and elsewhere as was the departure of Noël Pinguet from Domaine Huet – one of the few Loire domaines that is widely considered world class.  Incidentally it is hilarious that the French version of their website still has Noël Pinguet running the domaine, while it is interesting to note that there is no mention of either Gaston Huet or Noël Pinguet in the English version.

Compare and contrast



You gave me access to the new edition of Wine behind the label to review it, which I did in respect to the Loire section. I am under no obligation to contact you to give you a pre-sight of my review, though I did send you an email to say that a review had been posted.

The questions is not 'where do we go from here' rather 'where you go from here'. If you promise an exceptional dining experience it is no good saying, if you get complaints, "well we cannot afford to buy prime ingredients and we only have a single gas burner".

Best wishes


Jim  



 


Saturday, 23 May 2015

Wine behind the label 9th edition: David Moore and Neville Blech (editors)



 
David Moore and Neville Blech (editors): Wine behind the label (9th edition), Wine behind the label Ltd, £29, €43, $49, 2248 pages
It has taken Neville and David two years of updating and editing to put together the 9th edition ('fully revised and enlarged') of Wine behind the label. The first edition was published in 2003 and put together by Philip Williamson and David Moore. The other contributors are Sarah Ahmed, Professor Kathleen Burk, Stuart George and Gary White.

Wine behind the label provides overviews of wine producing countries and regions and then detailed profiles of recommended producers and their recommended wines.  

Neville and David have other projects associated with Wine behind the label as Neville explains:

‘We are also in the process of producing mini Regional versions of the guide that will enable you to download at 2.99USD/1.99GBP/2.69EUR each.  These will also be available as Kindle versions for you to buy at Amazon, at the same price in due course. You can download the South Australia guide for free by going to http://www.winebehindthelabel.org/south-australia-wine-guide/. I will keep you informed as and when the others become available.

The most exciting new feature of the guide is the new award system we have devised. Those who have had previous editions of the guide will recall that we awarded in each edition a winemaker award for those star winemakers who have made the most impact on us during the period of research for that edition. In this 9th edition we have expanded our choices from about three to nine. As well as the award winning winemakers of this edition, there are many Stellar Cellars that stand out for the quality of their current releases. We have opted with this edition to amend our approach with many more producers awarded with rosettes to reflect the quality of their work. For details of these awards - see pages 9 & 10 of the Guide.

There will, of course, be a number of new entries – producers who we have discovered to be worthy of the highest accolades but sadly also some entries which will have been deleted due to closure, death, merger, or just, in our opinion, not maintaining the standards which we had hitherto expected from them.

Finally, we are working on a template to produce a printed edition of Wine behind the label. By using a two-column page and cutting out the photos (but not the maps), this will be reduced to around 900 pages and will sell for around 80USD/50GBP/60EUR. This should be available late summer.’

Wine behind the label is a hugely ambitious project. Not unlike, I fancy, painting the Forth Road Bridge, an unending task until a very long lasting paint was developed. So châpeau to Neville and David for taking on such a task.

The 9th edition is said to be ‘fully revised’. Given the size and intended coverage of Wine behind the label it is inevitable that the guide cannot be fully up to date. However, if the section on the Loire is a guide, further revision is needed especially in respect to the growers’ profiles. Many of these appear not to have been updated for some time – possibly the last edition 

There is little mention of the latest generation taking over from their parents. A number of the producers profiled have now retired with their sons and daughters now running the estates. Examples include Domaine Vincent Pinard, Bernard Baudry and Domaine des Rochelles.   

Worst domaine profiles where there have been deaths have not been updated. Yves Lambert is said to be running Domaine St Just in Saumur – sadly Yves died in June 2012. Similarly Joël Taluau of Joël Taluau et Thierry Foltzenlogel in Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil died in June 2013.  

Noël Pinguet is listed as running Domaine Huet with Anthony Hwang when he left in acrimonious circumstances in February 2012 and Anthony has handed over the running of the domaine to his daughter and son. Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Taille aux Loups – Montlouis and Vouvray) is said to have 25 hectares of vines. He now has at least 60 hectares across the two appellations. 

Château Yvonne (Saumur) is said to still belong to Yvonne and Jacques Lamunière when the property was sold to Matthieu Vallée in 2007. 

Brief mention is made of the late Didier Dagueneau’s project in Jurançon is expected to ‘produce brilliant results’ when the first vintage was 2004. Domaine Henri Bourgeois – 'A new investment has been made in Marlborough in New Zealand.' The Bourgeois Clos Henri was set up in 2000 with the first vintage in 2003 – admittedly just three barrels. 

More positively there are profiles, such as Domaine FL (Anjou) and Domaine de l'Ecu, that do cover recent changes. However, if the Loire section is a guide then Wine behind the label still needs considerable further revision. Certainly before it is published as a printed book in late summer at £50 or $80 or €60.  


•••

Neville Blech responds:
Hi Jim

I think you are being a little unfair on us and this is probably because of your intimate knowledge of the region which far exceeds most wine writers including us.  

David is responsible for the Loire section and whilst he would admit that it is not always possible to be completely up to date, it is as up to date as the information available to us is.

He wrote an email to all the vignerons in the Loire who were in the book - in French, even - asking for updates and managed to get replies from less than 15% of them. Many of them do not have websites whereby we could get information from and even when they do, they are not up to date.

Taking the two examples that you quoted of people who have died, if you look at the websites of St. Just and Taluau-Foltzenlogel, show me where one could glean that these two gentlemen were deceased? Both gentlemen are there as large as life, if you will excuse the inference.

Similarly, La Maison Huët is still “dirigé par Noël Pinguet” according to their website. Jacky Blot - if you go to http://www.jackyblot.fr/taille_loups.php, it still states that there are 25 ha. of vines.

We cannot, of course, visit every domaine that is listed in the guide and have to rely to a great extent on the producers’ websites for contact and proprietorship information such as this. We do not have your intimate specialists knowledge and it is not our fault that these websites have not been updated themselves.

Rest assured that our wine ratings have been updated whenever we have had the chance to taste them.

I would have hoped that you had contacted me for comment with the contents of your blog before you actually posted it. I do hope, therefore, that you will be able to post up the above reply in your blog page as the record needs to be put straight.

So where do we go from here? We have done the best we could. We would love you to be involved as a contributor to Wine behind the label, with your specialist knowledge, by at least keeping us abreast of any changes such as these and also pointing the way to new kids on the block and to those who have fallen back in the quality of the wines they produce, but I don’t know if we could afford to pay you much for it. Reviews like yours aren’t going to help increase our revenue stream. If you would like to quote us the smallest fee you could live with for doing this, we would be happy to consider it.



Friday, 22 May 2015

Tour de l'oc: Wine trade charity ride from Tain-l'Hermitage to Collioure via Le Ventoux



The Ventoux from Rasteau January 2006

The Drinks Business:
'The ride will begin on Monday 1 June when the cyclists head south from a start point at the M. Chapoutier winery in Tain l’Hermitage, finishing at Collioure near the Spanish border on Thursday the same week – and the challenge has been dubbed the Tour de L’Oc, after the ancient name for the region, Occitania.


Organised by Mentzendorff managing director Andrew Hawes, this is the ninth charity cycle ride led by the head of the UK wine importer for Bollinger Champagne, and probably the hardest. Taking in the punishing ascent of Mont Ventoux, the intrepid wine trade cyclists will have to climb the 1912 metre mountain, famous for its barren summit and high winds.'

'Importantly, the aim of the cycling challenge is to raise a target of £30,000 of vital funds for the drinks industry charity The Benevolent.'

Read the rest here.

The ten cyclists include Patrick Schmitt, the editor of The Drinks Business
 


Patrick Schmitt:
'For the first time in four years I’m bringing out my bicycle for more than the daily 10 kilometre trundle to work, and this time it’s for the toughest challenge I've ever entered. Starting in the northern Rhône in Tain-l'Hermitage on 1 June, and finishing four days later in the coastal town of Collioure, I’ll be covering around 500km across some of France’s most extreme terrain.


In particular, I’ll be climbing just short of 2,000m in a single ascent as the route includes Mount Ventoux – the hardest climb of the legendary Tour de France, and famous among biking fans for claiming the life of 
English cyclist Tom Simpson.

My preparation? A few rides round Richmond park. I’ve also bought some new rims for my bike, which is now almost 15 years old and dented and scratched like a beer keg.

Like the last long distance ride I attempted in 2011, this is a personal test, but it’s also for an extremely good cause, so once more I’ll be raising funds for The Benevolent – The Drinks Industry Charity. I urge you to visit their website to read more about their good work, but I should say here that it’s being brilliantly run by David Cox to really support the most needy in the drinks trade.

All that's left to say is thank you very much for taking the time to visit my JustGiving page and any donation would be hugely appreciated.'


https://www.justgiving.com/Andrew-Hawes3/ 

https://www.justgiving.com/AlanMontagueDennis2015/https://www.justgiving.com/AlanMontagueDennis2015/

I hope the ride goes well. Certainly climbing Mont Ventoux, I assume from the Bedoin side, was the toughest climb I ever did. It's a long, steep unrelenting climb and likely to take some of them a good two hours. I trust, in addition, to buying new rims for his bike, Patrick has made sure that he has suitably low gears for the Ventoux.