Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin

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A few reflections on a journey in China and Russia

IMG_3840Shanghai’s new Pudong district
(above and below)


All adventures have to come to an end at some time. Ours finished on Friday when we returned to London on the Eurostar – the fourth and last leg of our train journey from Shanghai to London.

The first leg was a high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing, next a much more leisurely journey from Beijing to Moscow that took six days (five nights) and the third and most luxurious leg from Moscow to Paris’ Gare de l’Est. Our train trip ended a nearly five week visit to China and Russia – an amazing journey.

Before continuing I must thank Hervé for his additional posts on Tuesday while I was away – good to have some gravitas!

Many parts of China were just mind blowing particularly the pace of development over the past 20 years or so. Take the two photos at the head of this post of Shanghai’s Pudong financial district, across the river from the traditional centre of the city. The purple tower was the first new building and this opened in 1994 with all the rest following. A staggering transformation. We saw this view just a few hours after Teresa May had sent her Article 50 letter to start the process of the UK – England only? – leaving the EU. The gap in reality between May’s claims of new global power and what we were viewing in Shanghai was stark indeed.

While away we drank, when we could, Chinese or Russian wine and we didn’t have a bad bottle. Apart from Hong Kong we didn’t see evidence of a wine culture in China. In many restaurants it just wasn’t available, so we drank beer instead. The idea fondly held by some wine producing countries that China, away from the top end, will turn to wine seems far off.

In contrast there is certainly a vibrant wine culture in Moscow along with a buzzy restaurant and café scene, which took us aback. We ate well here. Clearly we were still wedded to the dour tales of Moscow in the cold war period!

Two fine wines:

Tasya’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Grace Vineyard 
Our best bottle of Chinese wine 
drunk in a Hong Kong restaurant

2014 Cabernet Franc
Villa Victoria, ANAPA Valley 


In Moscow we chanced upon the excellent Wine & Crab restaurant, not far from Red Square. Here we had to try this very enjoyable Cabernet Franc from Villa Victoria. Notice that the winery rather cheekily plays on the Anapa Valley and Napa – with a large N!


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Jim’s off on an adventure + Fêtes des Vins de Bourgueil

By the time you read this CRM and I will be in Hong Kong. The first stage of a trip that will take us into mainland China after a few days in Hong Kong. After time in China we catch the train from Beijing to Forest Hill, London SE23 – Trans-Manchurian, Trans-Siberian, Moscow-Paris, Eurostar to Saint Pancras, Metropolitan Line to Whitechapel and Overground to Forest Hill. 


15th Annual Fête des Vins de Bourgueil

This annual Fête des Vins de Bourgueil is highly recommended if you are in the Tours area on Saturday 25th March. It’s a great opportunity to discover not only the latest vintage but also previous vintages. Unfortunately because of the severe April frost last year supplies of the 2016 vintage will be in short supply for many Bourgueil producers. Luckily 2014 and 2015 are both good vintages, so this is a very good opportunity to taste and buy these wines while they are still available. 

À la découverte d’un terroir

Pour la 15ème année consécutive, les vignerons de Bourgueil investissent le centre-ville de Tours pour célébrer la fête des vins de Bourgueil sur le boulevard Heurteloup. Après avoir acheté un verre de dégustation (2 €), les amateurs découvriront le millésime 2016, pourront rencontrer 50 vignerons, et remplir leur cave des meilleurs vins rouges et rosés de l’appellation.

En présence de la Commanderie de la Dive Bouteille de Bourgueil et Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil et de métiers de bouche qui proposeront une restauration sur place, cette quinzième édition de la Fête des Vins de Bourgueil à Tours proposera également des animations pour les enfants autour du goût et de la dégustation.

Informations pratiques

15ème fête des vins de Bourgueil à Tours
Samedi 25 mars 2017, de 10h à 19h – Boulevard Heurteloup, Tours centre.
Plus d’infos sur vinbourgueil.com



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Thirsty Dragon + scams galore

Thirsty Dragon

On my return from magical Lisbon last week I had a treat waiting for me – a review copy of Suzanne Mustacich’s widely acclaimed Thirsty Dragon  China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines – the winner of the 2015 André Simon Memorial Award for drinks books.

I cannot claim yet to have read all 282 pages but I am certainly very ready to add my voice to the praise Suzanne’s book has already received. It is an excellently detailed account of the growth of wine drinking in China. In particular the entrepreneurs both from within China and outside who had the vision and determination to build wine companies in China and spread the habit of the pleasures of wine drinking despite all too often being hampered, frustrated at various levels by the Chinese Government.

Thirsty Dragon, Suzanne Mustacich, Henry Holt $32.  



No let up in the investment scams

I’m not sure whether investment scams are as prevalent in France as they are in the UK. Hopefully not as these scams frequently mean that the victims lose all or part of their life savings, so that these while collar frauds are long-term muggings potentially affecting quality of life over many years.

The straight wine investment frauds continue – see below Jeff Berrill’s Westminster Fine Wines Ltd tawdry scam despite the company’s reassuringly impressive name.

Recently the recovery room scams have been increasingly active. The secondary scams seek to further strip the unfortunate victims of earlier frauds of more of their wealth and savings. They pose as good samaritans but in reality they seek to further thin victims’ wallets through a combination of advance fee fraud and gaining control over the suckers’ wine assets.

Typically recovery room scams will offer above market prices for an investor’s wine portfolio and persuade them to transfer their wine out of their account into one controlled by the recovery room. Then – surprise! surprise! – the deal goes sour and very likely the recovery room scam company disappears as does the wine. The victim is left sucked dry – royally stitched up!

Westminster Fine Wines Ltd: Jeff Berrill banned for 12 years for wine scam
36-year-old Jeff Berrill, based in Northampton and the sole director and shareholder of Westminster Wine Ltd, has been banned from acting as a UK director for 12 years. The ban will run until March 2028.

Wine investment company, Westminster Fine Wines Ltd, was founded in October 2011 and based in a serviced office in Victoria.

The company went into liquidation in February 2014 with Nedim Ailyan of Abbott Fielding Ltd based in Sidcup appointed as liquidator. Berrill gave the estimated deficicency as £232,326. £231,066 was owed to trade and expense customers and £2000 to Barclays Bank.

Berrill took £335,720 from investors. However, Ailyan found that no wine had been bought and that Berrill and Westminster Fine Wines Ltd had no account at any UK bonded warehouse.

One unfortunate investor was persuaded to buy 39 cases of Château Cos d’Estournel from various vintages ranging from 2003 to 2010. Initially he was told falsely that these wines were stored at London City Bond. Later he was told that they were at Octavian. Berrill never bought these wines.

An unexplained sum of £244,443 was taken out of Westminster Fine Wines bank accounts. This included £61,854 paid to restaurants, pubs, hotels, supermarkets and other retail outlets and payments to Berrill of £43,562.

On 6th November 2015 Berrill pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court to five counts of dishonestly making false representations. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for 24 months.


If it was possible to persuade people not to respond to cold calls the level of scams would drop dramatically. Almost all the many victims, who have contacted me since I started looking at scams in 1996, fell for a cold call. Simple rule – never do business with a cold caller.    




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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.