Friday the 13th may not be unlucky for the French but the English knew that something had to give. What gave was an inoffensive carignan vine that received the sharp end of my Ibiza as I was attempting (Avis, look away now please) a reverse out of the narrow off-piste track in the hills leading to the vineyard alongside Justin and Amanda Howard-Sneyd's vineyard La Roque. In the black schists and clayey / limestone soils of the Roussillon hills, the old vines of carignan are thin on the ground here and low-yielding.
16 years ago, Katie Jones left Thierrys, a UK wine importer, to take up a job in sales and marketing with the Mont Tauch co-operative in the South of France. At first, she hated the isolation and home thoughts from abroad soon flooded in. Then she started to travel, to Sweden, America and Asia, She was enjoying life again. So much so that she even got hitched to one of the Co-op's members. It didn’t last, and she decided it was time to return home - to the French-sounding but not very French Ashby de la Zouch.
In New Zealand, it’s being called the Great Veuve Clicquot Robbery. It looked like a win-win situation for the centuries-old Champagne house, Veuve Clicquot, and New Zealand’s National Business Review, when, in anticipation of NBR’s 40th birthday celebrations, the two companies joined forces to run a ‘Win Your Weight in Veuve Clicquot’ competition.
What better excuse for island hopping I thought last year than an in-depth look at plavac mali. In the absence of that opportunity, I did the tasting instead. This year, I managed to combine the two with a short visit to Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. I started off on the mainland and the island of Korćula (day 1), headed for the Pelješac peninsula (day 2) and finished off on the beautiful island of Hvar. So beautiful in fact that I stayed on for a few more days relaxation, an experience I thoroughly recommend.
Until yesterday, Charmaine and I were on holiday in one of our favourite spots, the little village of Paziols which is in the Aude close to the border with the Pyrénées Orientales (or, just in Languedoc, close to the Roussillon border if that helps). With the slightly larger town of Tuchan at the head of the valley, and Paziols three kilometres away at its foot, it’s one of the prettiest little villages in the region, and bang in the heart of Fitou. It’s mostly red wine country here, a rugged land of rugby heroes and wild boar.
THE TRUMAN SHOW, PART 2
Anyone who read my blogs on Croatian wine last year will know that Croatia is one of my favourite destinations of the moment. So much so that I returned this year to visit vineyards on the scenic Dalmatian coast. A report will follow, but there’s one aspect of Croatia that I find less than attractive and it’s called Croatia Airlines. Leaving aside for one moment the fact that ticket prices are so much higher than the budget airlines that there seems little point in flying with Croatia Airlines, customer services could do with a makeover.
Opportunities for fine dining may have been somewhat limited within the confines of Victor Verster prison in Paarl, but Nelson Mandela always enjoyed a small glass of semi-sweet Nederberg wine with his Sunday lunch during his incarceration. Today, Mandela’s legacy is set to become entwined with South Africa’s R20 billion (£1.75bn) wine industry.
I have to confess that in the grand scheme of wine drinking and enjoyment, sherry is not as high on my list as I feel it should be. So how come I am salivating at the prospect of opening the bottle of sherry waiting for me in the fridge at the moment and how come I have already consumed three of its ilk since I picked up half a dozen a month ago from Lea & Sandeman at a tenner a bottle ? The answer is simple. It’s simply delicious, no more, no less.
As I arrived at Moët et Chandon’s posh premises in Grosvenor Crescent to taste the new 2002 Dom Pérignon with its affable chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, I received an email from a friend looking for a 'special' bottle (possibly - but not necessarily - magnum) of champagne for a family friend's 90th birthday. ‘My impressionistic take is that you pay for the label with Dom Pérignon etc. So best to avoid'.
Not the World Cup this time, although well done Spain! No, Last Thursday evening I spent mostly taking my clothes off in public. First came the tie, off and into the audience, next the shirt, swirled above my head and into the audience. And lastly the trousers, off, over my head and whoosh, gone. It’s not something I do every day, I’d like you to understand, strutting and swaying on a stage to the sound of Christina Aguilera singing Lady Marmalade. I was in good company, the company that is, of my fellow Semillons.