Les 5 du Vin

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A few dispatches from a bizarre little island off the north coast of France

Join conference

You may have thought that the government of this bizarre island were convinced that they should get out of the EU. However, in July they will host a conference that seeks to persuade countries from the Western Balkans to join the EU. See below – you couldn’t make it up!

Here are some of the details as reported in The Independent 

‘The British government will host a summit encouraging six European countries to join the EU for the sake of their “security, stability and prosperity”, months before it is due to sign its own Brexit withdrawal deal with Brussels.

London will in July play host to Western Balkans governments including Serbia and Albania, as well as existing EU member states, to discuss reforms to pave the way to future EU enlargement.

The summit is part of the so-called Berlin Process – a series of meetings aimed at supporting the region towards joining the bloc and described by the European parliament’s research arm as “bringing a new perspective and impetus to the enlargement process”.’


Early example of the new potential Cru Vallet:



Tasted and enjoyed this 2014 ‘Cru Communaux’ Vallet from Domaine Petiteau this evening. Vallet is one of the latest Muscadet communes to start out on the quest to become a recognised cru communaux. Vallet launched its quest last year. 

The Petiteau’s Vallet spends at least 17 months on its lees. Light gold colour with delicate brioche aromas and attractive appley texture with good concentration, balance and length. The long finish has a refreshing touch of bitterness in the finish. This Vallet clearly has the potential to age well and develop further in the bottle.



In praise of ebikes

Front view

We had already decided that when cycling became too difficult we would invest in a pair of ebikes. A purchase we saw as for sometime in the future.

My accident on 2nd January when I separated my quads from my left knee cap, brought the acquisition of an ebike forward. Although my knee and quads are now working increasingly well together, I am keen not put too much strain on my left knee. Anyway that is my excuse.

Last Friday afternoon I took possession of a Giant Pro 1 ebike from Cadence Performance at Crystal Palace.

The Giant Pro 1 is a revelation. It makes going up hills easy and a pleasure. There was a time when I was considerably young that I found it easy to climb most hills. I went up some of the classic Tour de France climbs including the Tourmalet, Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez.

Close up battery

View of the battery of the bike while on charge 

Some might see an ebike as cheating, which it would be if you were in a race with a hidden battery but this is certainly not the case with the Pro 1 as the battery and engine are in full view. 

I understand that ebikes are now very popular in Holland and they are becoming more popular in this little island. There is much to be said for anything that persuades people that biking can be enjoyable, especially if they tend to be sedentary and are not super-fit whippets…
Reducing weight should help people to live longer and so drink more wine – in modération, of course.

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A dispatch from the lunatic asylum…..

But for a slip on black ice on 2nd January I would be at the Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers. Unfortunately when I fell my left leg went underneath me and ruptured my quads from my knee cap. This necessitated having on operation on 4th January to reattach the tendons. (See ambulance and knee photos below). 

Fortunately my recovery seems to be going well. I can now go out for long walks relying on just one crutch rather than the two I started out with after the operation. Despite this progress it is still impossible for me to travel, so very sadly no Millésime Bio and no Salon des Vins de Loire this year. 

However, I gather from Chris Kissack, the estimable Wine Doctor, that the catering in Press Office has gone down very sharply in my absence. In the past the Press were offered a very considerable spread for lunch. Clearly austerity has arrived in Angers! Chris reports that the Salon, which for the first time runs for only two days, was busy on Monday and that La Levée de la Loire has expanded considerably. Doubtless this is a reflection of the continued growth of organic viticulture in the Loire. 

But to return to the lunatic asylum – the lamentable state to which the madness of Brexit has reduced in the UK. The latest piece of lunacy is Teresa May ruling out staying in the Customs Union after we leave (if we leave) the EU at the end of March 2019. How May and her government are going to square this with the agreement at the end of Phase One that there would be no hard borders between Northern and Southern Ireland? 

May parrots the aim of achieving ‘frictionless’ trade ignoring the fact that the Customs Union provides frictionless trade. So why attempt to create a new system, which the EU may well not accept anyway? It is amazing that 18 months after the referendum vote on 23rd June 2016 the UK government has still not agreed on what they are seeking as a trading arrangement following Brexit. 

At least being in Scotland I’m in the antechamber of the lunatic asylum and there have been some compensations being in Scotland. As already posted we ordered a selection of wines from The Wine Society – a selection of whites from South West France, a selection of reds from Spain and some Sherries. 

In addition Château de Tracy and Couly-Dutheil have kindly sent me a selection of samples, so that I can continue to work during my convalescence.


 5.2.18: the scar healing up 



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#winelover in the madness of Brexit (lack of progress report)


UKIP and Farage + papers like Daily Mail played and continue to play race card

My apologies for rather straying from the subject of wine but as we head towards the six month anniversary of the madness of the UK’s lunatic referendum result, I think a progress report from this little island off the coast of France is in order.

As you may imagine Brexit remains a major topic of news and conversations here. In contrast on continental Europe my experience from time spent recently in France and Portugal, the UK’s leap off an economic cliff comes some way down the list of conversational gambits for very obvious reasons.

To date, despite having six months to cobble together a  policy, no-one in the Government appears to have any clue about what they actually want from Brexit or a realistic idea of what they actually get. Our Prime Minister has been declaring since July that « Brexit means Brexit » – slightly less useful than saying « croissant means croissant »….

A few days ago she managed another ringing but equally meaningless slogan – « We want a red, white and blue Brexit ». Impressive that this took nearly six months to formulate…..

Prime Minister May wants to trigger Article 50 that sets in motion the UK’s move to leave the EU and last week the timetable was agreed by our parliament with our official opposition – The Labour Party – agreeing to this timetable despite the Government’s failure to inform them or anyone else what their negotiation strategy.

There is, however, a big potential hindrance to this end of March 2017 timetable. Last month London’s High Court ruled that Prime Minister May cannot trigger Article 50 by using the royal prerogative. The UK government appealed this decision to our Supreme Court. Arguments were presented last week with a decision expected before the end of January 2017. There was an added complication with Scotland and Northern Ireland permitted to argue that Scotland and Northern Ireland should be allowed to give consent to triggering Article 50. If  the Government loses the appeal it will have to introduce a bill to Parliament to get consent to triggering Article 50.

Meanwhile there are some indications that regions that voted to leave the EU last June are now having second thoughts. A poll in Sunderland claims that 60% would now vote to remain. Another poll shows that Britons do not support a Brexit that leaves them worse off. Sadly a number of those who voted to leave bought the blatant lies that leaving the EU would produce loads of money that could be spent on our National Health Service. Little surprise that in this crazy year of 2016 Boris Johnson, one of the chief peddlers of this NHS lie, is now our Foreign Secretary….

The one bit of good news recently has been the enticing possibility of EU associate citizenship for individuals. I’m certainly up for this and expect to see thousands forming an orderly queue behind me….

Breaking news: yesterday afternoon a knifeman stabs another man on train at Forest Hill, where I live in London, apparently shouting that he wanted ‘to kill Muslims’. Hatred stoked by Daily Mail, The Sun etc + UKIP? Dark days indeed!

That’s all from the lunatic asylum for the moment.














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What is more depressing – 2016 Loire or Brexit?


« You idiots! »
Berlin taxi driver brilliantly
sums up the UK’s stupidity


2016: Mildew has been virulent in the Loire
attacking not just leaves but grapes, too

At first sight I am finding it difficult to decide which is more depressing – the 2016 Loire vintage or Brexit. Both have very considerable capacity to induce gloom – black dog.

« Compliquée ! » is the most common description to sum up the 2016 Loire. This year has thrown almost everything possible at many producers: frost in late April, torrential rain and floods at end of May inducing attacks of mildew of rare virulence, an uneven flowering at best, then a heatwave and virtually no rain during July and August grilling any grapes foolish to be facing the afternoon sun.

Producers, who still have 50% of their potential crop, are lucky. There is a significant number of producers, who will not bother to harvest this year. Others have picked well less than 10 hl/ha. One small Muscadet producer picked just 4.5 hl/ha last week.

Vincent Carême (Vouvray) likened the 2016 vintage to a ham slicing machine. 10% of his crop disappeared with the frost, another 10% in the torrential rain, 10% at flowering, 10% through mildew and another 10% on sunburn to reduce his crop by half.

There are, fortunately, some producers less badly affected often those with vines on steep slopes but it remains even for them a complicated year.

If 2016 is a complicated vintage, it is nothing compared to the complications and demons released by the exit vote in the UK’s remarkably foolish referendum. Unfortunately our government has interpreted this advisory referendum as a mandate to seek the worst possible deal for the UK by choosing a hard Brexit. Ministers dream of new trade deals with countries like Australia – current population 24 million – while we turn our back on our nearest market of 500 million. It’s enough to drive you to sample multiple bottles of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc……

A short reflection clarifies that Brexit is undoubtedly more depressing than 2016 in the Loire. Here there is always the hope of a good and generous vintage in 2017. With Brexit you know it is going to get much worse…..





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La Loire beckons and other musings..

vglamoursPicking in Sancerre September 2009

By the time this post appears on the portal of Les 5 du Vin, I will have left London behind and will be installed in the far east of Indre-et-Loire – able to watch the folly and confusion of Brexit from a distance. To date we have established that Brexit means Brexit just as Weetabix means Weetabix, Ready Brek means Ready Brek, while beanz means Heinz. I trust this makes the UK’s post EU referendum position crystal clear….

We will be in the Loire to follow the 2016 harvest such as it will be after the ravages of frost, mildew as well as hail in places such as Jasnières. It is difficult to imagine that it will be a happy vintage with lots of joyous and pleased vignerons and vigneronnes as there were in years like 2005, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015.

Picking will be late. Muscadet is expected to start from around the 20th-22nd September, while some like Lamé Delisle Boucard think that they won’t pick their Cabernet until as late as 26th October. The very dry, hot weather through July and August hasn’t helped their few remaining grapes to ripen as their vines have shut down due to lack of water. However, in the Anjou-Saumur region they started picking Chardonnay for the Crémants yesterday.

I expect to have more detailed updates on the 2016 Loire harvest next and subsequent Tuesdays.

François Chidaine and Jacky Blot with their 
Vin de France Vouvray

I was very pleased to see that Jacky Blot and François Chidaine now have eight stars between them for their wines, which include their Montlouis and Vin de France Vouvray. Jacky and Joëlle Blot have been promoted to a five star domaine in the latest Bettane et Desseauve guide, while François and Manuéla are now a three star domaine in La Revue du Vin de France. You would have thought that Vouvray would be keen to  have these two producers adding lustre to their appellation rather than treating them as outcasts……still it is what is in the bottle that is important. I will happily buy and drink their Vin de France Vouvray.