Tag Archives: wine tasting

The Bacchus Gricer – Still Enjoying The West Country

A few more tales to tempt your taste buds to get out there and try English wine!

After a few more days spent working amongst the vines at Eastcott Vineyard, we once again had the opportunity to go exploring the Devonshire countryside.

Huxbear Vineyard

A good start to the day was calling in on Lucy and Ben Hulland at Huxbear Vineyard, Chudleigh. They shared with us their inspirational story of giving up their ‘day jobs’ to head South from Manchester, learning how to make wine at Plumpton College and purchasing land to plant a vineyard. Living in a caravan in a field far longer than envisaged, where they have now planted vines, built a house and a winery from scratch. They have also managed to grow a family of two children and two dogs in this time.

They now have over 9000 vines to look after, which Ben impressively does himself. They have a selection of German varieties for a white blend, but their focus is on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for future production.

It was a true pleasure to meet a young couple who have changed the direction of their lives and committed to the land. They have achieved a huge amount since 2007.

We weren’t able to taste the white blend as this had sold out due to production being of a limited number of bottles. However, we did taste the 2012 Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay, both still developing in the tank and we were able to take a bottle of Ben’s Huxbear Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay home with us.

IMG_0027 (2)   IMG_0015   IMG_0029


By now it was almost lunchtime, so what better than heading to the Coast for chips by the sea. We spent time enjoying the sun in Seaton, looking out over the sea lapping against the Jurassic Coastline. We were blessed with glorious weather and the town was bustling with locals and tourists. Even the Town Crier was out and on form.

IMG_0306 IMG_6961 IMG_6966 IMG_6965

The town also boasts a vintage tramway that runs from the town centre to Colyton, running along the banks of the Seaton Marshes in the Axe Valley, it is a very picturesque setting indeed.

IMG_6955 IMG_0032

It was such a lovely sunny day, we decided to drive along the Coast taking in the picturesque seaside towns of SidmouthBudleigh Salterton and Exmouth. We highly recommend visiting these charming seaside towns with their striking coastal views.

IMG_6978 IMG_6977 IMG_6980 IMG_6984 IMG_6988 IMG_0049 (2) IMG_0051 (2) IMG_0047 (2)

Pebblebed Wine Cellar

Our final call of the day was at Topsham, a quaint harbour town on the River Exe estuary. We enjoyed a pleasant walk along the marine harbour, passing local pubs and bars already filled to the brim with people sat outside in the warm evening sun.

IMG_0063 (2)

We specifically wanted to call into the Pebblebed Wine Cellar, which is situated close to the harbour, not too far from where the 1904 Thames Barge Vigilant is being restored.

IMG_0065 (2) IMG_0066 (2) IMG_0067 (2) IMG_0311

Our initial thoughts were that we were going to be disappointed as the Wine Cellar looked full when we arrived, however, there was space at one of the long tables, if you don’t mind sharing there’s plenty of room for everyone.

All Pebblebed wines were available to purchase by the glass as well as by the bottle, which gave us the opportunity to try the full range. The food on offer was simple but tasty, meat and cheese platters or thin based pizza, we elected for the latter – tomato and mozzarella oh so good!

The staff were very friendly and helpful, willing to discuss the wines and the vineyards. On this occasion we hadn’t booked to go on a tour of the vineyards and the new winery as we felt a visit to the Wine Cellar would complement our evening better.

IMG_0073 (2)

Wines tasted:

Sparkling Seyval 2010 – pale lemon green, nice persistent small bubbles, apple fresh with good acidity, after a while in the glass more pastry, brioche notes come out, lovely bubbly tipple.

Sparkling Rose 2010 – Seyval Blanc & Rondo, delicate rose pink in colour, larger bubbles, more prominent fizz on the palate, aromas of cranberry, strawberry, hints of apple, yeast characteristics mid palate, fruit tapers off at finish.

Dry White 2011 – Seyval Blanc & Madeleine Angevine, light floral aromas, lemon citrus, white pepper, creamy mouthfeel, surprisingly low acidity, which for us affected the structure of the wine.

Dry Rose 2011– Seyval Blanc & Rondo, orangey pink, light red fruit aromas, cranberry, strawberry, smoky overtones, creamy on the finish, very soft low acidity. 

Red 2011 – Pinot Noir Precoce & Rondo, pale ruby red in colour, a lovely promising nose of red fruits, cherry, violet, plum, herbs and some smoky savoury notes. Rondo characteristics shone through, fruit lingered on the palate, surprisingly nice for an English red.

For our next instalment, sadly leaving Eastcott Vineyard behind, we headed to Torquay – or should we say The English Riviera! Taking in the sights, sounds and wines to be had, or should we say in the case of the wines, to be drunk!


The Bacchus Gricer: Enjoying The West Country

While you’re out enjoying some English wines and have the chance to visit some of our beautiful vineyards, don’t forget to look out for other attractions to visit. Here’s a taste of Devon & Cornwall.

The days that we were not amongst or around the vines during our stay at Eastcott Vineyard were utilised to explore what was to be a combination of visiting and tasting wines from other local producers as well as taking in one or two none wine related local activities.

The first place where we took advantage of this was immediately after our day at the Ruby Market where we had been helping out with Eastcott’s stall.

Dartmoor Railway

Armed with Grumpies of Cornwall pies, we took ourselves off to the nearby Dartmoor Railway. The railway is currently closed to a scheduled operating service but it is still worth a visit to Oakhampton station, which has been restored to its former Southern Railway glory. A station cafe is open most days with places to sit outside on the platform where you can watch various historic vehicles being lovingly restored.

This railway runs adjacent to the Granite Way cycle route and footpath and a walk or ride along this takes you past Meldon Quarry (once a main source of ballast for British Rail) and Meldon Viaduct that used to carry the main line over to Plymouth with such trains as The Atlantic Coast Express. Panoramic views can be enjoyed of the countryside around Meldon where plenty of footpaths have been created for various walks. We were not the only ones taking advantage of the glorious weather as we experienced a frequent procession of cyclists using the main track as well as one or two folk camping in the valley below close to the Okement River that runs along its contours from the reservoir, opened in 1972.

IMG_6823  IMG_6825  IMG_6881 IMG_6831  IMG_6828  IMG_6833

Launceston Railway

Later that week, we took ourselves on a journey which would involve several attractions in a single day; including a bit of wine tasting as a grand finale in the evening and all set against wonderfully sunny weather!

The first attraction on our schedule was the Launceston Railway. This is a narrow gauge railway built on just over two miles of the former North Cornwall Main Line and created by a husband and wife team Nigel and Kay Bowman (again, it was nice to see another husband and wife project success).

The station site at Launceston also includes a museum with displays of industrial artefacts as well as a small collection of classic cars and motorcycles. It is also close to the nearby English Heritage site of Launceston Castle that still stands guard over the town.  Again, there is a pleasant cafe on the station where we whiled away some time watching the proceedings of the outbound steam service before heading off to our next destination.

IMG_6898  IMG_0076  IMG_0073IMG_6889

Bodmin Railway

Now winding our way into Cornwall and the temperature of the mid-day sun getting hotter, we called in to the heritage railway centre at Bodmin, which was already bussling with tourists. Here, we took in a visit to the locomotive and carriage works to witness several items of rolling stock under restoration whilst the steam service busied itself in the station for its next departure. The opportunity was then taken to have another lovely cup of Cornish tea whilst writing out a few postcards.

IMG_6912  IMG_6906  IMG_0090

Lanhydrock House

Now things were really beginning to heat up and the call for ice cream became ever more popular on our way to this lovely National Trust property.

IMG_6922  IMG_6929  IMG_6924

Obviously many more people had the same idea as us because the place was very busy when we arrived. We decided that taking a slow walk through the well maintained gardens was the best option as the heat was starting to slow us down and it was more challenging to walk through the house as it was quite stuffy. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our visit, both agreeing that sticking to the gardens had been a good bet. The only downside is that we could not find an ice cream within the property so we decided to wait until we arrived at our next port of call, which was to be the delightful seaside harbour town of Padstow.


We parked in the car park in what used to be the town’s railway station. Its station building still standing proudly but no trains have called there for 50 years or more.

Padstow is a traditional Cornish harbour town and on our visit, was absolutely packed with folk enjoying the sun.

We decided to stick with tradition, the long overdue ice cream, from the Harbour Ice Cream Parlour, was calling but not before sampling a traditional Cornish Pasty, from the Padstow Pasty Co., and so many there were to choose from, with fillings to cater for all tastes and imaginations.

This is a place to simply slow down, take things easy, sit back and enjoy the comings and goings along the harbour front. Though a bit of a challenge was trying not to get dive-bombed by the gulls who seemed intent on getting their bit of pasty and if not, letting go of some cargo of their own!

IMG_6935  IMG_6934  IMG_0102

Camel Valley Vineyard

As a couple of tight Northerners we do indeed like to get our money’s worth, although by now, we had reached our limit of attraction visiting endurance and needed quite rightly, something to drink. So our final call on this day was to drop in for the Wednesday evening Grand Tour at Camel Valley with no other than the man himself Bob Lindo, doing the honours.

Bob was very entertaining and kept the rather large tour crowd amused as well as informed about his wine and the English wine scene in general. He also proudly showed off his International Wine Challenge awards as well as drawing the crowd’s attention to the fact that HM The Queen also likes a tipple (or could that be quaff?) of Camel Valley fizz. Bob is currently also the only producer in the country to have a PDO site rather than the generic PGI that is tagged to all of England – times are indeed a’changing! We were also fortunate to arrive in time to see the first flowers appear on the vines.

The sun was still shining and the heat was on, so the chilled wine that was served was most welcome! A couple of purchases were made for something to savour back home (and hopefully to be drunk in similar sunny settings (we hope).

IMG_6945 IMG_6949 IMG_0119 IMG_0122 IMG_6947 IMG_0117 IMG_0301

What a fabulous end to the day!

Our Star Choices:

Cornwall 2011 – Seyval Blanc & Chardonnay: Crisp fresh apple with some yeasty notes. Refreshing on a summer’s evening.

Bacchus Dry 2011: Crisp, fresh with aromatic Bacchus flavours. The fennel seed breadstick which was served with this drink helped to bring out and enhance the flavours of both the wine and the aniseed.

Other Wines tasted:

Rose 2012 – 100% Pinot Noir: Red fruits and a touch of creaminess. Quite light and delicate.

Cornwall 2010 – White Pinot Noir: Good mousse with red fruit character, autolytic notes and a good finish.

Sparkling Red 2010 – Rondo: very English characteristics, cranberry, elderberry and bramble. Red sparkling wine on the whole is not one of our favourite tipples, a bit of a novelty.

Tune in for a continuation of The West Country blog coming to a computer near you soon!

Grand Cru Drive Thru: Entre-Deux Mers

Guest Wines Tour de France

Happy 2014!

We hope this year brings all our followers prosperity and continued enjoyment in discovering new wines as well as rediscovering old favourites. We shall begin the year by turning the clocks back just a little to continue our French wine adventures.

Entre-Deux Mers produces most of Bordeaux’s AC wine and does particularly well with rosé wines, the vast swathes of vines stretch as far as the eye can see across rolling hills interspersed by picturesque fortified towns, such as Sauveterre-de-Guyenne where we stopped off for a brief stroll one day.

IMG_0723 IMG_0724

It is in this appellation where we were introduced to another English couple, Mark and Fran Dean, when Paul went to meet them on one of the day’s of our stay (from Château la Tour de Chollet), to offer his advice on starting out in the winemaking business.

Mark, an ex-RAF pilot (now working for a private airline), along with his wife Fran, have been converting their Château from its derelict burnt out state for the last five years and it’s still a work in progress. They are also fitting out a modern chai since the responsibility for the vines on their property, which were previously under lease, have now returned to their control and they have taken the brave step of deciding to have a go at winemaking themselves.

IMG_0737 IMG_0729

We returned to “Château Dean” a week or so later with Kirstie and Paul to have dinner in what was the old barn, now converted with an open terrace, on a lovely October evening. Using the wines each of us had brought, including a couple from Château La Tour de Chollet, we also gave a brief introduction to wine tasting, which seemed to go down well.


It will be interesting to see how this couple get on and we will keep a keen eye on any developments as we are very much looking forward to sampling their range in the future. In the meantime, the Deans are getting to grips with the alchemy of winemaking!


Château Dean’s first vintage

There was another English couple on our agenda to visit in this particular area, Gavin and Angela Quinney of Château Bauduc, near Créon, whose wines have made headlines and now feature as the house wines in Gordon Ramsay and Rick Stein’s restaurants as well as Hotel du Vin. The Château has also featured in Oz and James’s Big Wine Adventure. Unfortunately, on this occasion we were unable to coordinate our schedules to make a visit but we would certainly like to return here in the future.

From here, join us as we continue to explore Bordeaux where we discover more excellent and value for money wines.

NEWTS Christmas Dinner

The North East Wine Tasting Society, otherwise known as The NEWTS, has been in existence for some 30 years or more with regular meetings held in Newcastle. With a limit on numbers and with most of its core members still active within the society, we felt honoured when a couple of places became available and we were invited to join just a year ago.

Since then, we have tried to attend as many of the monthly meetings as we could (though our schedule this year has been somewhat busy to say the least). However, the ones that we have managed to attend have always been a great learning experience alongside tasting some fabulous wines.

These tastings are either hosted by an outside organisation, such as a local wine merchant, or are undertaken internally, with each of us given the task of presenting. The only restriction is that we have to stick within budget, the session lasts no more that 2 hours and it must be interesting! We have our presentation pencilled in for next summer – so we’d better get planning!

The society also offers a bi-annual dinner. This gives an opportunity for members to get together and bring along with them some interesting wines for anyone to try. This event is currently held at Newcastle College – The Lifestyle Academy and sees us served a dinner by those training to work professionally in the hospitality  industry.

IMG_0014 IMG_0960 IMG_0990  IMG_0002 IMG_0007 IMG_0016 IMG_0022

Again, the Academy did us proud, the food and service was good, all washed down with some great wines!

Back for more … International Wine Challenge 2014


Mid-November saw us return to the International Wine Challenge in London for the first stage of the 2014 competition that has now been split into two parts, with the first ‘Tranche’ being mostly dedicated to Southern Hemisphere producers. This time we found ourselves working at a different location than that of the April 2013 event, the Barbican, where we arrived on a cold, wet Monday morning to begin what would be an intensive fortnight. However, the thought of this was eased by the welcome sight of familiar faces amongst a few newcomers to the crew. It’s strange to think in only April this year we were the newcomers, yet now the new members of the team are coming to us for advice on how to do things and it was nice to know that we could give adequate answers.

IMG_0905 IMG_0024 IMG_0027 IMG_0007 IMG_0011 IMG_0018 IMG_0023

The event has been slightly more relaxed than envisaged due to its present size in comparison to the April event, which made for smooth running.

IMG_0170 IMG_0195 IMG_0153 IMG_0178 IMG_0204 

Panel judges at work, alongside Co-Chairs Peter McCombie, Martin Moran, Oz Clarke, Charles Metcalfe, Sam Harrop, Jamie Goode, Richard Bampfield

This year, we were both given positions that had more of a key role to them, which was very exciting as well as a little scary as neither of us wanted any major, or minor, hiccups along the way. Ruth was given the task of ‘Floor Pit Boss’ to ensure the smooth running of the tasting tables, whilst Kel had the position of ‘Dispatch Pit Boss’ whose role it is to oversee the correct dispatch of tasting flights to the tasting tables. Jokes about husband and wife communications swiftly arose as our roles needed to ensure that we made ourselves clearly understood to ensure that the wines arrived at the tables on time. All went well reflecting that this husband and wife team are a perfect match!

IMG_0172 IMG_0181 IMG_0154

The competition week went well and passed by quickly. It was great to meet up with many of the judges again and to witness their expertise at first hand – many red lips and teeth by the end of the competition.

The week was nicely rounded off with a curry dinner all washed down with a nice glass of wine … or two.

The results from this event shall be released on December 4th, so remember to look out for those medals and snap up the wines whilst you can… just in time for Christmas!

Tranche 2 is to be held at The Oval in London, April 2014.

Picture this … Catalunya!

Day 6 in Roussillon

It was an early start today to tidy the winery ready for a group of American and French journalists who were arriving for a tour and a tasting.


Leaving Jonathon to host them, I went to see the 25th International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan with Rachel, Georgia and Jill. The photographs are exhibited in various buildings across the city, some of which are not usually open to the public. So it is a fantastic opportunity to see some rarely visited places as well as beautifully shot photography although the images were often shocking and at times disturbing. I must admit the majestic Serengeti lions made up for the dark violence of human behaviour.


A lovely lunch at a nearby cafe gave us a chance to sit and have a break from the intensity of the exhibition after which we were ready for more.

IMG_0085 IMG_0086

Then on our way home, a caramel ice cream from Olivier Bajard was most welcome, possibly one of the best ice creams I have ever tasted!


picture sourced from http://ecole-olivier-bajard.skyrock.com

Back at the winery, I took a short walk around Troullias before settling down in the evening sun with a glass of Pierre Andre, Les Craies Bourgogne Aligote 2010, which I had bought at Les Caves Maillol and was planning on using as the mystery wine for everyone to taste that night.

The wine had a flinty, smoky nose with some tropical pineapple and passion fruit aromas. Both Jonathon and Georgia were impressed and we all liked it a lot, not bad for something under 10 euros. It matched extremely well with the barbecued duck, rice and salad that we had for dinner.

We were treated to Treloar’s Tahi and Le Secret as well as a taste of the co-fermented Carignan/Syrah that is still in barrel. What a powerful wine, beautiful voluptuous nose of violets, black and red fruits, spice, the gripping tannin is to be expected but should integrate and soften out nicely. I look forward to getting hold of a bottle of this next year!


As yet unnamed Carignan/Syrah

The wine was flowing and everyone was chatting, Jonathon got his guitar out and entertained until bedtime.


Join me for the final episode in my Roussillon experience next week.

Not Fair Game!

Day 5 in Roussillon

A Sunday lie in didn’t really happen this morning, if anything I was awake earlier, lots of noises disturbed my slumber last night. The chickens were bloody lively so I hope its chicken for dinner today, sweet revenge!

I got up for a coffee and decided to make the most of a bit of down time to write up my notes. I can now see the bruises developing nicely on my arms and legs alongside the scratches, ah the signs of hard work!

IMG_0072_2 IMG_0082 IMG_0071_2

So far, it’s been an interesting experience at Domaine Treloar. I’ve certainly learnt a lot in a short time and had the chance to do a variety of jobs already, all very important in learning how to run a small winery. It’s nice to know my French is coming in useful too, helping with customers and sending out messages to the pickers. Rachel and Jonathon’s lives are certainly pretty hectic but its really not a bad lifestyle at all.

The town of Troullias seems like a nice little place, on my first day a couple of ladies out walking said good morning and commented on the heat, which came as a welcome surprise in contrast to my frequent visits to the small town of Ceret where I have visited my sister for near enough 12 years, possibly as Ceret receives so many foreign visitors each year.

As picking was still delayed, more grape samples were required so Georgia and I headed out to the vines.

Sample taking was easier today because it was overcast, so was much cooler, however, the trip out was a tad less peaceful than usual when a single and very loud gun shot rang out across the vines scattering a flock of birds sky high. I nearly jumped out of my skin and not for the last time as the shots continued to shake the air.

It was very unnerving not being able to see where the shots were coming from, they sounded too close for comfort a couple of times. In the Grenache vines on the hill three grouse flew out as I disturbed them, flipping heck I wondered if I would end be the next target. Further down the hill, in the Syrah, the shots felt very close over head and a hare ran past me, terrified. Again, I thought I might get hit if the hare was the target. Then I noticed a man standing behind camouflage at the tree line, rifle in hand, who was responsible for the shooting.


Sam, Domaine Treloar’s dog, seemed non fazed, which was good in a way as I was jumpy enough and glad to head to the next parcel out of the way of gun fire. Nevertheless, Sam got his comeuppance as something startled him in the vines, Georgia said she might have seen a snake, yikes, maybe that spooked him but whatever it was made him yelp and run like the wind. We frantically shouted for him hoping he hadn’t run into the road but there he was, tail between his legs at the end of the row. Silly pooch!

Back at the winery, Jonathon checked the alcohol and acid levels of each sample. Still none were ready for picking yet, as the acids were high and skins not quite ripe enough, further delaying the harvest until after I leave, which is a shame.


The next job to be done was to transfer the white juice we pressed on Thursday from the steel tank to barrels, these needed washing out and then rolling under the concrete tanks. This was not a nice job and was made even nastier when each tank had to blasted with CO2. Jonathon looked on the verge of fainting. We stuck our noses in it and it smelled very strong with a burning sensation like peroxide up your nose.

After filling the barrels, it was once again cleaning time! With a slight wobble, I climbed the ladders up to the top of the tank to hose it down. Just when Georgia and I thought we might have finished for the day we then had to re-rinse a couple of the concrete tanks, detach the sluice doors and clean out the gully, making sure all pump hoses were rinsed thoroughly and detached. Phew, done by 7pm.

As the sun set and the clouds have cleared, the sky was once again blue. The grapes will welcome the sun and heat now.


We were treated to a Sunday dinner of beautifully tender lamb shank with roast potatoes and green beans! Along with a bit of Domaine Treloar’s Motus, 100% Mourvedre, and Domaine Trilles Incantation Rouge, it went down a treat.

To hear what happens next don’t forget to follow the series.


Les Vignerons Des Aspres

Les Caves Byrrh Wine Fair, 7 Sept 2013

IMAG0275 IMAG0301 IMAG0309

Les Vignerons des Aspres Wine Fair held at Les Caves Byrrh in Thuir, was the first of its kind to promote wine producers in the Aspres region of Roussillon. It was organised through the local tourist office in collaboration with Jonathon Hesford of Domaine Treloar and Andre Gil of Domaine de la Perdrix. They were very pleased with the turn out and I was certainly impressed as I wasn’t sure what to expect and underestimated the size of it.  Twenty-two local producers set out their wines on tables lining one aisle of the huge Cave, either side immense oak barrels lead down to the piece de resistance, the largest oak barrel in the world, which holds 1 000 200 litres.

Georgia and I were tasked with manning Domaine Treloar’s table alongside Jonathon, providing tastings and explaining the wines to customers. I’m proud to say that this was all done in French too!

IMAG0266 IMAG0287

Rachel Treloar and Georgia prepare our table and Jonathon describes Treloar wines.

The cellar is a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard and produces a broad range of aperitifs of which Dubonnet and Cinzano are amongst the products made The Cave itself is very impressive, set on 7 hectares and with some 600 barrels is immense. We entered the site through what was once the railway station, designed by the architect Gustav Eiffel, it is  extremely ornate giving you the feeling that you have stepped back in time!


picture sourced from http://www.justacote.com

The event was initiated with a procession through the main aisle where giant figures lead the local drummers band and human pyramid to stop in front of the great oak barrel and entertain the crowds.

IMAG0293 IMAG0281 IMAG0279

A funky jazz band then played for the rest of the evening whilst the crowds enjoyed the wines on offer.

IMAG0288 IMAG0295

I managed to try a few wines from other producers, three of which really impressed me. Domaine Sol-Payre offered three reds with variations of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, all well made and striking wines. Chateau Planeres‘s Blanc Brut de Brut made from 100% Tourbat, also known as Malvoisie du Roussillon, was quite delicious and approachable. Domaine Trilles Incantation Blanc made an interesting white blend of Vermentino, Grenache Blanc and Maccabeu plus the Incantation Rouge from Syrah, Carignan, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre was fruity with good structure, one for early drinking.

On the other hand, Clos Saint Georges, run by an older French couple, were quite rude and seemed not all that interested in explaining their wines giving the impression that they spoke for themselves, which to me they did as I wasn’t very impressed. I think the owner walking off in the middle of my asking him a question was the rudest experience I’ve had for a while.

Jonathan certainly received plenty of compliments on his wines with several people returning to tell us that his selection was one of the best at the event.

Things started winding down about 10pm when we were able to pack up, although there were a couple of keen tasters reluctant to leave.

It was a buzzing evening and brought my French wine lingo swiftly up to speed, thankfully people were friendly and complimentary of my explanations.

Over 700 people attended the event and 670 tastings were purchased that only cost the customer a mere 5 euros  to taste each producer’s wine. For the first fair of its kind in the Aspres region, I was really impressed by the organisation and amount of people there. I would certainly call it a success!

IMAG0303 IMAG0302 IMAG0305Read more in this short series on Roussillon coming soon.

Tanks for the Memory

Days 3 and 4 in Roussillon

My next job was to start sweeping the tops of the concrete tanks and top floor of the winery ready for washing down. Wow, Cinderella eat your heart out! Broom in hand, surrounded by clouds of dust I brushed and brushed and brushed, until the place looked clean.


We just about had time to get changed ready for a trip to Perpignan and a wine merchants called ‘Les Caves Maillol‘, where Guillaume, the shop’s owner, and his wife were hosting an ‘English wine tasting with Jonathon’. A good number of people turned up early and enjoyed the tastings and nibbles. I’m sure once the word spreads this will grow.

IMG_0037 IMG_0039 IMG_0038_2

Back at the house, two mystery wines were brought out for tasting. It turned out they were both Malbec, one from the Languedoc, which I honestly would not have guessed, the other from the South West, a Cahors, which I almost got. Blind tasting really isn’t easy but it was very interesting.

I have been waking up with the village bells at 6am each morning and the chickens across the road are usually in full clucking action then. Saturday was the first morning I woke up to grey skies and the forecast for thunder storms was spot on, it started raining at lunch time and just got heavier and heavier.


The grapes need rain at this point just before harvest, even though it makes them swell it won’t dilute them too much as they will revert to what they were before. It’s the skins that need the water, as they are dehydrated and may not ripen fully if they lack fluid. At the moment they aren’t quite ripe, which is partly why the harvest is late, the hot topic of discussion in the wine community at the moment is that it’s been a strange harvest so far.

Today the tank cleaning needed to be finished, which meant actually climbing down inside each one – there were four to do. With the ladders lowered in and safety light tied on Georgia was first to disappear into the hole. It felt a bit like an Indiana Jones adventure finding some long lost cave and lowering yourself down into the unknown. I was a bit apprehensive but thankfully okay once in the tank and not claustrophobic, phew.

IMG_0042_2 IMG_0043 IMG_0055_2 IMG_0053_2

We cleaned two tanks each, which involved brushing the dry tank to get rid of all the bits, then rinsing it down with water. A cleaning solution was then pumped through the system.

It took the day to get the 4 tanks done and there was more still to do but we were due to head to Le Cave Byrrh in Thuir for Les Vignerons Des Aspres wine fair. So after a quick shower and change, off we went.

Keep following the series, read more here about the wine fair at Les Caves Byrrh and much more.


Newcastle Wine School Wine Fair EAT Festival

ImageThe annual EAT Festival in Newcastle and Gateshead came a little later this year, though this did not deter the crowds from the many events that have taken place over the last 16 days.

Earlier last month, we were involved in the Sideways Speakeasy film and wine show, in collaboration with Carruthers & Kent, and now on the final day of this event, Kel found himself helping out at The Newcastle Wine School Wine Fair at the Assembly Rooms in Newcastle City Centre.

Newcastle Wine School is part of the Wine School Franchise . This was the first of such and is the brainchild of Chris Powell, who since the turn of the Century has ran this venture. However, he recently handed over this responsibility to David Harker, so that he can concentrate solely on the growing Wine School franchise. There are presently 14 wine schools across the UK with more due on stream shortly. Coming soon are international wine schools , so watch this space!

IMAG2333Newcastle Wine School now in the capable hands of David Harker.

These schools are a great way in which to get to know and appreciate wine. They also provide professional industry level training via the WSET programme from Level 1 to Advanced. All wine school facilitators are WSET Diploma and/or equivalent qualification or above. Check their website for some fabulous tastings and events.

This years wine fair saw a mix of local independent merchants such as Carruthers & Kent, Michael Jobling, Tyne Wines and Spanish Select displaying their wares alongside Majestic, Fenwick Stores and Marks & Spencer. Newcomers this year were Italyabroad.com and Heathcote Wines, whose Tim Hossack presented a Masterclass on their range of wines that was well received by all those in attendance. The WSET also had their own stand for those interested in undertaking some formal study either directly with them or via Newcastle Wine School or Carruthers & Kent/Taste Train with Helen Savage.

IMAG2337 IMAG2335 IMAG2340

We look forward to many more Wine School events in the coming year.