Les 5 du Vin

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The monumental Oxford Companion to Wine – editor: Jancis Robinson MW + Hervé born again!


Jancis Robinson MW (editor) and Julia Harding MW (assistant editor): Oxford Companion to Wine – 4th edition, OUP, £40, 860 pages, hbk (publication date: 17th September 2015)

Here is the 4th edition of this remarkable work of wine scholarship.  Jancis explains in her preface that this revision has been the most ‘thorough’ with ‘every single entry has been subjected to intense scrutiny’. This new edition has 300 new entries out of a total of 4.104 – the third edition had 3930 entries.

She notes that ‘Throughout the wine world, the emphasis continues to shift from ‘making’ to ‘growing’ wine, just as we are seeing a step change in the style of wine to which thoughtful producers aspire. In terms of wine structure and alcohol levels, big is no longer as beautiful as it was at the end of the last century. And the range of grape varieties harnessed for serious commercial wine production is wider than it has been for decades. ‘

‘Because the Companion was already very long and heavy (a common complaint which has inspired the publication of a digital version of this fourth edition), our esteemed publishers Oxford University Press were extremely strict with us about the total length of this new edition, which is less than 4% longer than the third edition in terms of the total number of words.’

It is interesting and obviously sensible that there is a digital version of this monumental reference book, whose printed version weighs in at 2.88 kilos. The Companion to Wine was first published in 1994 when printed books were king, kindle meant to start a fire and ‘ebooks’ would have been a ham actor attempting a Yorkshire accent.

I fancy that if the digital version is well publicized it may well out-sell the printed book on the grounds of practicality. The weight of the printed book means that it will stay in one place whereas the digital OCW can be at hand all the time. Add to this the ease of linking and connecting entries with each other and the advantages of the eOCW are clear.

Yet it is good to see that printed books continue to survive. There is something about owning and touching a book in comparison to an ebook even if it may be more practical. More cynically you can also show that you own a copy by displaying the tome on a coffee table or desk.

The list of contributors runs to eight pages with an additional 50 for this new edition. The following from the Circle of Wine Writers have contributed to The Companion to Wine: Tony Aspler, Nicolas Belfrage MW, Beverley Blanning MW, Michael Broadbent MW, Stephen Brook, Bob Campbell MW, Steve Charters MW, Nicholas Faith, Christopher Fielden, Michael Fridjhon, Rosemary George MW, Caroline Gilby MW, Lisa Shara Hall, James Halliday, Hugh Johnson, Michael Karam, Wink Lorch, Richard Mayson, late Edmund Penning-Rowsell, Michael Schuster, Stephen Skelton MW, Joelle Thomson, late Pamela Vandyke Price and José Vouillamoz.


Hervé judging Crémants May 2015

Hervé judging Crémants May 2015

2015 Born Digital Awards – Hervé Lalau on judging panel
Good to see that the 2015 Born Digital Awards have appointed my fellow Les 5 blogger Hervé Lalau to this year’s line up of judges for the resurrected Born Digital Awards to add gravitas to an already distinguished panel. Hervé’s fellow multi-national panelists are Richard Siddle (chair), Sarah Abbott MW, Pedro Ballesteros MW – Spain’s first MW, Willi Klinger, Elin McCoy and André Ribeirinho.

The Born Digital Awards are intended to recognise and reward work that was first published on-line. They started in 2011 and also ran in 2012. Then there was a two year gap before they were relaunched this year. Entries have to have been originally been published online between 1st January 2014 and 30 June 2015. The closing date for entries is 10th August 2015.

Unlike the Anglophone Louis Roederer Awards the Born Digital Awards accepts submissions in French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish as well as English. Furthermore happily it is not sponsored by a Champagne company. Roederer’s involvement in writing/photographic awards is mildly ironic given Champagne’s relentless and shocking pursuit of Jayne Powell (aka Champagne Jayne) through the Australian courts).


Hervé judging a strawberry tartlet May 2015

Hervé judging a strawberry tartlet May 2015


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Withdrawal symptoms from the 2014 Tour de France + 2014 Bourgueillothérapie

2014 Overall

The final overall classification for the 2014 Tour de France 

It has become a tradition for me to comment on the Tour de France and bike racing on Les 5 du Vin.  For some this is controversial, not surprising given the cycling’s dark recent doped past. But cycling remains for me a compelling sport and the Tour de France an extraordinary story, so much more than a mere bike race.

Vincenzo Nibali was duly crowned on Sunday as the 2014 Tour de France winner in the 101st edition of the Tour first run in 1903. Nibali has now won all three Grand Tours – France, Italy and Spain. He joins only five other riders who have managed this feat: Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault and Alberto Contador.  

Nibali is a very worthy winner – he has clearly been the best rider in this year’s Tour. You can speculate what would have happened if Chris Froome and Alberto Contador hadn’t crashed out of this year’s Tour but what is important is that Nibali finished and they didn’t. I fancy that if Froome hadn’t crashed and injured himself on Stage 4 from Le Touquet to Lille, it is very likely that he would have lost considerable time to Nibali on the cobbles the next day.

Even though it has been pretty clear from the end of the first week or so that Vincenzo Nibali would win this year’s Tour without Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, it has still been an exciting Tour. There have been unexpected and remarkable stage winners and a real battle for second and third on the podium. Great to see two French riders on the podium with Thibaut Pinot confirming his potential along with an impressive performance from Jean-Christophe Peraud to take second place. then, of course, there is young Romain Bardet in sixth place. Only a puncture in Saturday’s Time Trial prevented Bardet from holding onto 5th place.

The Tour de France continues to become increasingly global with Ramunas Navardauskas as the first Lithuanian stage winner and Rafa Majka as Poland’s first winner of the Climbers’ Jersey. Ji Cheng, clear winner of La Lanterne Rouge at 6.02:24 down on Nibali, is the first Chinese rider to compete in the Tour and the first to finish. 

Given cycling’s shady past I just have to hope that this year’s edition was clean. To date no-one on the 2014 Tour has tested positive. Nibali is the first Italian to have won the Tour since 1988 when Marco Pantani won a Tour made infamous by the Festina doping bust. 1998 should have ushered in a new era of clean cycling. Sadly the reverse was true as it was the start of the infamous EPO era with Lance Armstrong either as the ringleader or the most successful proponent of blood doping. Given Pantani’s history you have to wonder whether he was a clean winner in 2008.

Although no one in this year’s Tour has failed a dope test, July had seen UK rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke banned for two years due to irregularities in his blood passport. His victory in the Tour of Britain 2012 has been scrubbed and his contract with Sky terminated with immediate effect. The irregularities predate his joining Sky in October 2012.

Cycling still had people in senior management positions, who have a history of doping. Alexander Vinokourov, the general manager of Nibali’s Astana team, was caught blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France and served a two year ban. Bjarne Riis, the general manager of Tinoff-Saxo admitted in 2007 admitted that he had doped when winning the 1996 Tour.

Even so I will be looking forward to the next edition of the Tour. In the meantime there is the Vuelta, which starts next month, to enjoy.  

 Earlier in the day Marianne Vos deservedly won the first La Course – the race on the Champs Elysée for women. See details here. Curiously the manner of her sprint victory was repeated a few hours later by Marcel Kittel.

Having a Eurosport subscription for my iPad has meant that I have been able to see a lot of the 2014 Tour. Given the amount of cycling on Eurosport, £2.99 a month is a bargain even though it does make meeting deadlines even more difficult!



Just one of the celebrated young artists taking part last year and likely to be gracing the 2014 edition.

 2014 Bourgueillothérapie: Saturday 13th – Sunday 14th September
This is a unique event blending wine tasting with art based around the appellations of Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. It is organised by Ludo and Sophie Ragot of Café de la Promenade in Bourgueil with Sébastien David (Domaine Sébastien David).

Over the weekend the artists create works of art – pictures, sculptures etc, while based with a vigneron or group of vignerons. These are then auctioned off for charity on the Sunday afternoon. Each year the proceeds go to a different charity. This year it is La Croix Rouge (The Red Cross).   

Saturday 13th September
The artists set themselves up with their easels etc. amongst their vignerons. This year there is a change instead of having each producer host an artist, the producers and their artists will be grouped together. There will be four zones: Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Restigné, the east of the appellation and Café de la Promenade for the vignerons invited from other Loire appellations.

This new arrangement will mean less driving for those wanting to visit the artists in situ and also less chance of getting lost. In the past some of the venues were not very well signposted.

Samedi 13 sept : les artistes s’installent avec les vignerons dans quatre zones de dégustation dans le vignoble  (afin d’éviter de perdre des promeneurs en route et afin de raccourcir le circuit).

A Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil : Gérald Vallée, Sébastien David,  Fréderic Mabileau, Les Vallettes, Xavier Amirault, les frères Boisard, Laurent  Herlin

A Restigné : Domaine de la Chevalerie, Domaine Pierre et Catherine Breton, Domaine Georget, Domaine du Rochouard, Pierre Borel, Galbrun  

A l’est de l’appellation : Château Minière, Xavier Courant et Les Frères Nau

A La Promenade : les invités hors appellation : Loic Terquem, Romain Guiberteau, Pascal Lambert, La Source du Ruault, Gérard Marula, Wilfrid Rousse, Antoine Sanzay et Vini Be Good

Dimanche 14 sept : 10 h dégustation sous les halles de Bourgueil puis cochon de lait à la broche à 13 h et dans la foulée à 15 h la vente aux enchères . Cette année les bénéfices seront donnés à la Croix Rouge

Le jury sera parrainé par Jean-François Carmet

Even though July is not yet over we already have one piece of art ready to be auctioned – a new shirt for Jim.


New shirt to be auctioned for La Croix Rouge.




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Echoes of Bourgueil


Vincent Simon – left his restaurant in Belgium last year with his wife Olivia to set up a small restaurant in Ingrandes-de-Touraine next to Domaine Lamé Delisle Boucard. Vincent raises chickens and geese in his vineyard which is looked after by LDB.


Café de la Promenade: you don’t mess with Dorothée!!

It is now two years since Les 5 du Vin spent a truly memorable weekend in Bourgueil and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. Sadly to date due to the pressing nature of our diaries this is the last occasion that we have managed to organise trip involving all of Les 5. Last week I was in Bourgueil mainly to take photos for an upcoming exhibition called ‘Aspects of Bourgueil’ which will be starting at the same time as the 2014 Bourgueillothérapie (www.bourgueillothérapie.com). The exhibition will open on Friday 12th September @Café de la Promenade with the proceeds going to this year’s charity. It will close on the 21st October by which time the 2014 vintage here should be well finished.

Here are a few recent photos that may make the selection.


Pierre, Stéphanie and Emmanuel Caslot (Domaine de la Chevalerie) star in Les journées binette.


Unlike last year the 2014 flowering here and elsewhere in the Loire has benefitted from ideal weather. The vignerons are smiling – no frost, no serious hail (so far), the flowering is nearly finished and grapes (Cabernet Franc) should ripen evenly for a harvest from around 20th September. Long way to go yet, of course, but some serious hurdles have already been cleared.


The fence at Vincent’s restaurant in Ingrandes has a triple purpose – keep the chickens in, the foxes out and imprison journalists who push their luck!

Jim Budd

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A suitable shirt for an historic occasion

ImageA new shirt – discretion assured

Historic occasions, I’m sure you will agree, should be suitable marked and acknowledged. In future years the first time a Chinese winery exhibited at the London International Wine Fair may well come to be seen as an historic occasion – see press release:

‘China to exhibit wine for the first time at LIWF 2013

‘Chinese wine will be represented at this year’s London International Wine Fair for the first time.  Château Hansen was established by the Han family in the 1980s and winemaking has been overseen by French winemaker, Bruno Paumard since 2010.  Bruno Paumard, who was previously at Saumur-based Bouvet-Ladubay, will be presenting the wines at the LIWF in May.

Château Hansen is an organic estate – China’s first – located in Wuhai, on the southern edge of the Gobi Desert, in Inner Mongolia.  450ha of vineyards have been planted in the Wuhai Valley and adjacent region of Ningxia, at around 1,500m.  Conditions are arid with temperatures dropping to as low as -30°C over the winter months, when the vines are buried for protection.

Château Hansen currently produces around two million bottles annually, with no history of exporting until now.  Château Hansen will be showing its Côtes du Fleuve Jaune du Désert de Gobi at the LIWF.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Gernischt, Cabernet Franc and Merlot sourced from parcels in Ningxia, Gansu and Wuhai and aged in 30% new French oak for 16 months.  Cabernet Gernischt is considered the flagship varietal for China with spicy, peppery characteristics.’

On Friday I was delighted to find a shirt above that will mark this occasion in this own modest manner.

Apparently China is the fifth largest wine producing country in the world. Only France, Italy, Spain and Turkey* have more vines planted than China, where there are now 1,233,000 acres (498,977 hectares).

* A significant proportion of vines in Turkey are for table grapes.