Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 28 February 2011

Sintra and Praia Adraga

Camara Municipal de Sintra (Sintra Town Hall): above and below

Last Thursday we took the train up to Sintra from Rossio Station in Lisbon. Then strolled along from the station to the centre of the small town. 

Buildings in Sintra

Looking from the centre of town back towards the town hall

Then it was back to Sintra Station to get a taxi to take us to Praia Adrega. Curiously the taxis in the centre of the town are apparently only allowed to circulate in the town.

The beach at Praia Adraga was virtually deserted with the customary, creamy Atlantic rollers to watch. Once again the small stream that follows into the sea at Adraga had changed course over the beach during the winter. Either the stream or winter high tides (or a combination of the two) has destroyed the small wooden broadwalk that runs from the car park across the stream to the beach. 

Praia Adraga
We had time to sit for half an hour on the beach before heading for a latish lunch (2pm) at the Restaurant Praia Adraga. One of the good things about Portugal is the relatively flexible eating times. In many parts of France the chances of being able to sit down to lunch at 2pm are decidedly slim. Indeed it can be tricky from 1.30pm.   

Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato

We had a table by the window overlooking the ocean. Lunch as ever here was excellent – a dish of ameijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams cooked in olive oil with garlic, chilli and coriander) to share between the four of us. This was followed by simply grilled seabass and turbot – again shared. We drank a very good bottle of 2009 Alvarinho, Vinho Verde, Muros Antigos.

Sea bass (in foreground); turbot (behind)

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Le Patio B & B in Saumur

Sunrise@Le Quai Mayaud, Saumur

I'm very grateful to Cathy Shaw and Nigel Henton for news of Le Patio, another recommended B&B in Saumur.

From their report:
'We stayed at this B & B in Saumur on Thursday night. Located on the river front just next to the Hotel Anne d'Anjou, this B & B is a delightful find.

Read the rest here.

Marie & Romain Legrand
Le Patio Saumur
31 Quai Mayaud
02 41 51 20 22
06 09 94 84 55

1855 (, 1855.con): tally heading to 6000 bottles@300,000€

Château Beychevelle: 2005s and 2007s outstanding

The extraordinary tally of Bordeaux en primeurs not delivered by 1855 to its clients continues to mount and becomes ever more jaw-dropping. Nearly 6000 bottles remain to be delivered for a value of close on 300,000€.

As of today, the tally of wines known to have been ordered, paid for but not delivered has reached 5930 bottles (494 cases) for an estimated value 295,923. The value is the cost to buy calculated by taking the cheapest price credible price from UK merchants on wine-searcher. The figures do not include excise duty and sales tax.

Vintage breakdown

2002           1 bottle             39.93€

2003       118 bottles     10,330.77€

2004       353 bottles     10,808.35€

2005     3734 bottles    170,372.96€ (+ 4 bottles Flor de Pingus 275€)

2006     1131 bottles      49,341.05€

2007       589 bottles      54,755.08€

Although it is clear that 1855 ( got into big problems with the 2005 en primeurs, these figures show that the difficulties had already started with the 2003 and 2004 vintages. Fabien Hyon's (COO of 1855) explanation that the failure by 1855 to deliver the ordered en primeurs is down to the economic crisis of 2008 looks increasingly unlikely. 

Hyon said that only 5% of the en primeurs ordered had yet to be delivered. Not knowing the total value of the en primeur orders placed for the vintages 2002-2007, it is impossible to know whether Hyon's figure is correct. However, 1855's total turnover is around 10 million euros and en primeur is only part of their business, so 5% may be an underestimate.  

Do 1855 have the resources to supply both the undelivered en primeurs from 2002-2007 as well as the 2008s, whiuch are due in June? 

1855 is a member of Fevad (la Fédération des entreprises de vente à distance).

From 1855's press release of 31st January 2011 announcing that they had become a member of La Fevad

'La Fevad accorde depuis toujours la plus grande importance à la promotion de règles fondées sur des valeurs de transparence et de respect du consommateur. Ces règles garantissent l`éthique de la profession et permettent de renforcer la confiance des consommateurs, dans l`intérêt de l`ensemble de la profession.'

'Toute entreprise membre de la Fevad s`engage à respecter les principes généraux et les règles prévus par les codes et chartes de la Fevad, tant dans l`esprit que dans la lettre.

"Le fait pour 1855 d`être devenu membre à part entière de la Fevad et signataire de ses codes et chartes est une nouvelle illustration de notre engagement à bâtir une qualité de service de référence » selon Fabien Hyon, Directeur général de 1855."

Contact Presse
Lucie Delaruelle
Responsable Communication, 1855
Tél. : +33 (0) 1 42 61 06 55 - Email :


Saturday, 26 February 2011

Belém: Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and Torre de Belém

Part of the monastery through the trees
Details from the monastery's facade

While in Belém we visited the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos de Santa María de Belém and strolled along to the Torre de Belém via the Discoveries Monument celebrating the exploits of Vasco da Gama and other explorers.

Torre de Belém

Detail from Tagus facing facade

Opening at the top of the Torre (illustrates amazing zoom on Canon PowerShot SX 210 IS)

Part of the Torre de Belém with the 25th April Bridge in background

Looking across the Tagus to Porto Brandao

Pasteis de Belém

Following our late morning visit to Lisbon's botanical gardens we headed off early afternoon to Belém. Warm early spring sun along with February holidays had brought out the crowds. Hardly surprising as the monastery looked particularly attractive bathed in sunshine.

Naturally a visit to the famous Pasteis de Belém for coffee and some delicously light pasteis was oligatory.

So good are the pasteis that I couldn't get the camera out while this one was still whole!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Dinner@O Galito, Carnide

To the right: Daniel, the owner and sensible one

Having friends to stay has been a good opportunity to get out and show them some of our favourite Lisbon restaurants. The first night it was Adega do Teixeira (see here), so on Wednesday night we headed northwards on the metro to Carnide and O Galito and the Alentejo cooking of Dona Gertrudes. It is her grandson, Daniel who is now in charge front of house. When we first starting going in early 2003 it was Henrique, Daniel's father who was very much in charge but now he is taking a back seat to Daniel.

2008 white from Quinta do Pinto

O Galito is not only known for its cooking but always for its fine selection of wine and this is now very much Daniel's area. Wine wise we started with a bottle of the rich but mineral 2008 Quinta do Pinto Branco, which is a nicely opulent blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussane with some oak still present but with a good mineral finish. This saw us through the various starter dishes that come as standard. On Wednesday they included the always very good slivers of rabbit with broad beans as well as scrambled egg with wild asparagus.

2001 Syrah, Quinta do Alqueve

A bottle of 2001 Syrah, a Vinho Regional Ribatejano from Quinta do Alqueve, was our first red. I'd noticed it among the special offers listed at the front of the substantial wine list. The 2001 still has very attractive spicy fruit – still youthful and quite soft but with an edge and well balanced. It worked well with our bacalhau cooked with tomatoes and onion.

2004 Calda Bordealez, Bairrada

Having shared the salt cod dish, we moved on to an estufa of hare, which was also delicious. Daniel suggested we have a 2004 Calda Bordalez from Bairrada. This opulent and powerful red (15.5% alc), which is a blend of 10% Merlot, Petit Verdot 15% and 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, split the party. Three liked the wine finding it more interesting and complex than the 2001 Syrah. I disagreed. I thought the Calda Bordalez was a clumsy fruit bomb that was just too powerful and sweet for the hare dish.


'The best Portuguese
Henrique Galito has not enough walls to display so many newspaper articles and awards won by his traditional restaurant along the years. He will have to find a spot yet for his newest prize: that of best Portuguese restaurant in Lisbon, granted by VEJA Lisboa jurors. Within this small 42 seat-room, Alentejano blood reigns in the recipes and also in the decoration, made up of hand-painted rustic furniture and Portuguese cobble stone. The house's special seasoning is prepared by Maria Gertrudes Grave Fortes, aka Dona Gertrudes, who, at 77 years of age, is still happy to serve at the tables. Her son, Henrique, receives the customers, together with his own son, Daniel. Three generations of a family that migrated from the Évora district to make a name in the capital, with a menu that offers, for example, eggs with tomatoes (4.50), oven-baked cheese with oregano (6.50), Alentejano crumbs (12.00), partridge in escabeche sauce (24.00), encharcada (4.50) and bread cake made with pumpkin (4.50). During the game season: hare stuffed with grain and turnips, rabbit, and feijoada with wild hog ribs are also served. Customers also can drink well since displayed on a brick shelf is a selection of the best Portuguese wines: Vale de Ancho, Reguengos Garrafeira dos Sócios, Carrocel, Chryseia, among others. Clients who are not interested in a full bottle may always ask for a glass of wine.

(From a review of the restaurant when it won a readers' competition in 2007.)
Rua da Fonte, 18D, Carnide, Lisboa, Colégio Militar. Tel: 21 711 1088 (42 lugares)

Ducking out of Lisbon

The botanical gardens in the centre of Lisbon is a tranquil haven from the bustle of Lisbon's streets. Although somewhat run down, the entrance fee is ridiculously cheap: just 1.80€ or for more frequent visits an investment of 8.50€ will provide you with an annual family card.

Anyway spent a quiet 40 minutes or so in the gardens late on Wednesday in the warm late February sunshine mainly watching a duck on a small pond swimming around and cleaning himself.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Adega do Teixeira (Lisbon): very good dinner

Filetting a sole@Adega do Teixeira
Tuesday night we had dinner at Adega do Teixeira, a traditional and unpretentious restaurant on the eastern edge of the Bairro Alta. Although they do appear to have a menu we have never been offered one. Instead you are shown what fish and meat they have and asked what you would like to eat. In reality, although there is a choice, the choice is often out of your hands as it is the boss waiter who often decides. Here that is fine by us as the food is always good, especially the fish.
On Tuesday night the four of us opted for grilled fish – a duo of groupa and very good Dover sole.

As for the wine – again we have never seen a wine list but the house wine is always drinkable and good value. On Tuesday it was the easy drinking, juicy:
2006 Terra de Galgos from the Alentejo

Pears poached in Port
Halving the pears

To finish with we had very good pears poached in Port – again we had no real choice here but they were very good. Along with the starters – soft cheese, ham, olives and excellent bubbling hot squid – the bill for four came to an extraordinarily reasonable 117€.

Sadly the restaurant was virtually empty Tuesday evening. Apparently business is very up and down at the moment. Anyway Terxeira is certainly recommended.

Adega do Teixeira
Rua do Teixeira 39
1200-459 Lisboa
Tel: 21-342 83 20

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Out and about in Lisbon

Looking south east: church dome and across Tagus Bay to Vasco da Gama Bridge

Have friends staying with us for a couple of days, so yesterday afternoon it was out to see some of the sites of Lisbon.

High speed ferries on the Tagus

Santa Engrãcia
View from part of the Castelo de S. Jorge

Evening light on trees@Castelo
Investment property near Castelo
Peacock in tree@Castelo
Part of his tail

Elevador Santa Justa

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Nau Frères@2011 Salon des Vins de Loire

Abel Osorio, Nau Frères

Firstly my apologies I had intended to get this post written yesterday but got delayed partly by having to get my weekly post for Les 5 du Vin written (see here) but also following the tumultuous events across North Africa and the Middle East, especially Libya of course. I've done my fair share of deriding silly tweets but in the current situation you can see the power and effectiveness of tweets for spreading news quickly. See the Guardian's page of tweets from around North Africa and the Middle East.

Although I have never yet managed to visit them (I must spend more time in the Loire!) I think Nau Frères are among the best of Bourgueil's producers and always enjoy tasting with Abel Osorio during the Salon. He shares the stand with Philippe Pichard of Chinon and François Pinon, a top Vouvray producer whose wines I didn't have time to taste this year – again I need to visit!

With Abel I started with their attractive easy drinking 2010 Bourgueil Rosé with its wild red fruit flavours and a touch of bitterness in the finish. One third comes from immediately pressed fruit and two thirds is saignée (juice run off from a red vat). 2010 Les Varennes was the first red – juicy, black fruits – a cuvée printemps, which will be bottled in March. It comes from vines planted on sand and gravel with a little clay. 2010 Les Blottières, which is from vines on gravel and limestone, is more structured with greater length of flavour than the Varennes with black fruits and floral tones, violets in particular. It will be bottled later on this year.

I asked Abel about the difference between 2010 and 2009. "2009 is bigger – more massive and imposing," he replied, "with the tannins more present. In 2010 the fruit is more suave with smoother tannins. The fruit was riper in 2010 with lots of black fruit flavours. Due to less good flowering conditions in 2010 the yields are a little bit lower than in 2009. With us we had average yields of 44 hl/ha in 2010, while 2009 they were 48/49 hl/ha. I think 2005 and 2009 are comparable. 2010 is like 2006 but with more elegance."

2008 Vieilles Vignes, Bourgueil, Nau Frères

We moved on to the 2009s. First Les Blottières with its tannins well incorporated with the fruit and a quite mineral finish. The 2009 Vielles Vignes from the clay limestone coteaux has yet to be bottled but it certainly has potential with its concentration of ripe fruit and tannins but you will need to wait a good five years to enjoy it at its best. We finished on a real high – the 2008 Vieilles Vignes. Less concentrated than the 2009, this has lovely sweet, elegant fruit and is all about finesse rather than power. Best to wait three to five years.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Coteaux d'Ancenis: promotion to l'AOP expected this year

La Maison des Vins@Ancenis

Message from Interloire about news of the promotion of the Coteaux d'Ancenis to L'AOP status:

Suite à votre demande, je vous informe que l'accession  à l'AOP pour le Coteaux d'Ancenis devrait intervenir courant 2011 (peut-être avant l'été).

Nous vons informerons une fois que nous aurons confirmation.'

Assuming this promotion goes ahead as expected Ancenis will, I think, be the last of the old Loire VDQSto be promoted to appellation status. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Tim Atkin MW gives an agnostic's view on natural wines

 Jean-Christophe Garnier: Vin mousseux de Qualité

Interesting and well balanced but agnostic look by Tim Atkin MW at the 'natural' wine phenomenon. Originally published in Off Licence News, Tim has posted it on his site.

Like Tim I'm agnostic or questioning, perhaps more accurate, with regards to 'natural' wines. There are certainly some wonderfully expressive wines that are described as 'natural', equally there are some real horrors – see above the sparkling wine from Jean-Christophe Garnier in Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay (original post here). Also some reflections on the 'ayatollahs' of the movement

Another couple of Muscadets

2009 La Noë, Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu, Eric Chevalier, Domaine de l'Aujardière

A look at two more recently tasted 2009 Muscadets – one (Eric Chevalier) from the Salon des Vins de Loire and the other (Alexis Sauvion) kindly sent as a sample.

First up La Noë from a parcel that records show was first planted in 1694 (white grapes). This is 15 years before the extraordinarily severe winter of 1709, which is said to have persuaded produces that the Melon de Bourgogne was the right grape variety here because it resisted the prolonged cold. The La Noë vineyard is on granite with very little soil. Eric Chevalier is best known for his Fie Gris but his Muscadets are also impressive. The 2009 La Noë has buttery weight balanced by a good mineral grip in the long finish.

2009 Climat, Muscadet, Alexis Sauvion, Château de la Fessardière, Vallet

Alexis Sauvion is an organic Muscadet producer in Vallet  with 27 hectares of vines. They also make a range of jams and jellies – see here. I first tried the 2009 Climat back in June 2010 (see post). It has taken on more weight since then but although it is well made it still lacks the complexity and mineral excitement of top Muscadet. Estelle Sauvion had recommended that I tried it on several occasions, which I did. Perhaps I should have put it into a carafe.  

Lisbon: warm sunshine and the Vasco da Gama Bridge

Looking northwards upstream along the Tejo. The block on the left hand side is being renovated and turned into an hotel

Despite a few menacing black clouds there was warm sunshine when we went for a walk along the Tejo this morning. The Vasco bridge is always eye-catching, especially when lit up by sunshine.

Photo by CRM