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

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Serious crashes mar Stage 3 – won by Joaquin Rodriguez with Chris Froome grabbing Yellow

 Joaquin Rodriguez triumphs on Le Mur

Chris Froome snatches Yellow by one second from Tony Martin

Unfortunately two crashes marred yesterday's Stage 3 that finished on top of Le Mur de Huy. The second was poarticularly serious and led to the race being neutralised due to the number of medics and ambulances tending to injoured riders. It also led to the abandonment, after finishing, of the Yellow Jersey – Fabian Cancellara – with two fractured vertebrae a very sad way for Cancellara to finish what may have been his last Tour de France.  William Bonnet, who was the first to crash, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, Australia's Simon Gerrans, South African Daryl Impey and Dmitry Kozontchuk (Russia) also abandoned. 

Joaquin 'Purito' Rodriguez won the steep climb to the top of Le Mur de Huy with Chris Froome just behind on the same time and gaining a six second time bonus. Alexis Vuillermoz was third with Dan Martin in 4th. Although Le Mur is only 1.3 kilometres long its steepest gradient – given as anything between 20% and 26%, there were some significant time gaps. Amongst the overall favourites Tejay Van Garderen, Bauke Mollema, Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde lost 11 seconds to Froome (before adding the six second bonus), Contador (18), Rigoberto Uran (34), Romain Bardet (36) and Thibaut Pinot (1' 33"). 

Overall Froome now leads his rivals by: Van Garderen (13"), Uran (34"), Contador (36"), Mollema (1' 32), Nibali (1' 38"), Valverde (1' 51"), Rodriguez (2'), Bardet (2' 54") and Pinot (2' 58").     


Stage 4: Seraing to Cambrai
Today's stage at 223.5 kms is the longest of the 2015 edition and includes seven sections of cobbles totalling 13 kilometres. Although in contrast to last year's awful wet conditions, the forecast is for the dry weather to continue during the day with the possibility of rain in the evening after the stage has finished.

Even so today's stage will surely shake up overall standings again. Will Froome come through unscathed in marked contrast to last year when a wrist injury forced him to abandon before the race hit the cobbles. Nibali, who rode so well last year, will be looking to repeat his performance and grab back some time.

Cancellara would have been amongst the favourites to win today.  

Update: The possibility of rain at the end of the stage appears to have increased.

Monday, 6 July 2015

#TDF2015: Griepel wins in Zealande, Yellow for Cancellara – Belgian classic today

Stage 2: From Griepel first up to 17th

The potential chaos for chaos in Stage 2 duly arrived with wind and rain ripping the peloton to pieces with some of the overall contenders notably Nibali, Quintana and Pinot losing significant time on Froome, Contador and Van Garderen. First of the leading contenders is Van Garderen on 44''. He is followed by Froome (48''), Contador (1 minute), Pinot (2'07"), Nibali (2'09"), Valverde (2'22") and Quintana (2'27").

However, a rider like Nibali, may well make up some or all of this deficit on tomorrow's cobbled stage to Cambrai.

Despite having plenty of team mates in the leading group Mark Cavendish didn't win the sprint coming in fourth after André Griepel, Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara. Mark afterwards complained that Mark Renshaw, normally such a reliable leadout man, had peeling off too early leaving him to sprint 300 metres rather than his preferred 200 metres. Mark's fourth place and Cancellara's third meant that Tony Martin missed out on the Yellow Jersey as Fabian's bonus seconds put him in Yellow instead. 


Stage 3: Antwerp to Huy  

  Profile of Stage 3 with plenty of sharp climbs 
towards end of stage finishing with Mur de Huy 

The tough end to Stage 2 could see further time gaps between some of the overall contenders as the stage ends with the ascent of the Mur de Huy with an average gradient of 9% but with parts up to around 20%. This climb features in the La Flèche Wallonne won this year by Alejandro Valverde, who must fancy his chances for a repeat performance today.  

Sunday, 5 July 2015

#TDF2015: Rohan Dennis goes like the wind – will wind cause chaos today?

Previous World Record Hour holder Rohan Dennis surprised Tony Martin, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Dumoulin with a blistering ride around Utrecht. Dennis was the only rider to break 15 minutes completing the 13.8 kilometre course in a record speed of 55.446 kph (34.4 mph). He beat Tony Martin by five seconds, who finished in 15.01. Martin explained afterwards that he couldn't cope with the heat.

Vincenzo Nibali was the fastest of the four overall favourites finishing with 15.39, so leading Chris Froome (15.46), Alberto Contador (15.54) and Nairo Quintana (15.57). There were good rides by other overall contenders – Rigoberto Uran (15.36), Thibaut Pinot (15.37) and Tejay Van Garderen (15.38). These results appear to further confirm recent results that Chris Froome's time trialling form is considerably below what it was in 2012 and 2013.  

Stage 2: Utrecht to Zealande

Today's stage (166 kms) really is pan flat – starting at 4 metres altitude in Utrecht much of the day is spent at sea level or one metre with the highest point being six metres. With no shelter from the wind this could be a very tricky stage with echelons forming and the potential for splits in the peloton. This will surely be a win for one of the sprinters with Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff (28 today) and André Griepel being the most obvious favourites. Whether it is a big bunch sprint will delend on what effect the wind has. 

Unfortunately there are likely to be crashes today, so hopefully everyone will come through safely.

It would be great to see Mark Cavendish notch up his 26th Tour de France stage win, especially as he hasn't won a stage since Saint Amand Montrond when he beat Peter Sagan in a stage where the wind blew the peloton into small groups.     

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Cambridge Wine Merchants: The wines we tasted on 23rd June

The wines we tasted:

2008 Crémant de Loire Préférence Domaine de Landreau £14.99 
A blend of Cabernet Franc, Chenin and Chardonnay, which spends three years sur latte. Note: clean, lemony fresh, still pale, no sign of evolution, good aging potential.  

2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Château de l’Oiselinière de la Ramée. Bernard Chéreau  £8.99 
From a 10-hectare domaine in Vertou, a commune close to Nantes, this is crisp, lemony and still young. It has the fine balance that is typical of 2014. Can be enjoyed but will happily keep and develop for a number of years.

2014 Petit Bourgeois - Sauvignon Blanc, IGP Val de Loire Domaine Henri Bourgeois - £10.50 screwcapped
Pungently gooseberry and grassy – even a hint a cat’s pee when first opened, this is made from grapes sourced mainly in Touraine. The Bourgeois are well known for paying above the normal négociant price for good quality grapes.

2014 Reuilly Blanc Domaine du Chêne Vert, Domaine Valéry Renaudat £11.99

White Reuilly has to be made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc Renaudat’s Reuilly won a good number of friends here. It is more restrained than the Petit Bourgeois but has good concentration and would benefit from more time in bottle as it is quite tight in the finish.

From Valéry Renaudat’s website: ‘Né en Berry, je débute mon expérience professionnelle aux Etats-Unis, avant de revenir parfaire mes connaissances dans le Bordelais et en Bourgogne. En 1999, je m'installe sur 2.5 ha de vignes répartis sur les deux appellations : AOC Reuilly et AOC Quincy. Aujourd’hui, avec mon équipe, j'exploite 18 hectares avec les cépages sauvignon, pinot noir et pinot gris.’
(Born in Berry, I started my professional wine experience in the United States, before returning to France for spells in Bordeaux and Burgundy. In 1999 I started my own domaine with 2.5 hectares of vines: split across the appellations of Reuilly and Quincy. Today with my team I have 18 hectares of vines planted with Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

2013 Menetou Salon Le Prieuré des Aublats Domaine Henri Bourgeois
Unlike the Reuilly this Menetou Salon from the Bourgeois stable and from vines on clay/limestone is more ready to drink – lemony, lightly grassy, well balanced with good length. 

2014 Château de l’Abbaye Morlat, Pouilly-Fumé £14.99 
This domaine in the St Laurent commune Pouilly sur Loire to the north/north east of Saint Andelain.
Still young and quite restrained on the nose, attractive texture and some complexity. A little tight in the finish at the moment, this Pouilly-Fumé should age well.

2012 Sancerre Rouge La Croix Renaud Clément et Florian Berthier
The Berthier’s own a total of 8.5 hectares in Sancerre – Sury-enVaux and Saint-Gemme-en-Sancerrois (to the north of Sury) with the vines coming from the maternal side of the family. Jean-Marie adds a further 10 hectares in the Coteaux du Giennois.  

Over the last 20 years there has been a revolution in the quality and ambition of the Pinot Noirs from the Central Loire Vineyards. This medium weight Sancerre Red has attractive, delicate red cherry fruit. Their 2014 is likely to have more concentration. The Berthiers also make a good, pure Pinot Noir in the Coteaux du Giennois – called Inedit, which is stocked by Cambridge Wine Merchants but was not in the tasting. 

2014 Cuvée du Domaine, Bourgueil Joël Taluau and Thierry Foltzenlogel £9.99
This well-known domaine has 28 hectares four of them in Bourgueil and the rest in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. Sadly Joël Taluau died suddenly in June 2013. The estate is now run by Thierry Foltzenlogel, the son in law, and Clarisse his wife and Joël’s daughter.

The early-bottled 2014 Bourgueil has lots of the juicy, perfumed fruit now associated with the 2014 vintage in the Loire.  Good value at £9.99.

2012 La Chapelle, Chinon, Domaine La Jalousie, Cravant-les-Coteaux £18.99
The prestige cuvée from Domaine de la Jalouise. This softly and quite lightly textured wine raises the interesting question whether it is worth releasing a prestige in a difficult vintage like 2012, especially when it will be compared to vintages like 2014. It is difficult to claim that the 2012 Chapellle is worth paying nearly twice the sum that will secure a bottle of the Taluau and Foltzenlogel Bourgueil. I know which one I would buy…..

2011 Coteaux du Layon Tri de Vendange Domaine du Landreau £19.99
Domaine de Landreau is owned by Raymond morin, who also owns Domaine la Jalouise in Chinon. This Coteaux du Layon comes from vineyards in Saint-Lambert and the neighbouring St Aubin-de-Luigné.

2011 is a very good sweet wine vintage and this attractive Layon is delicately sweet without huge concentration, which makes it a more versatile than a super-concentrated cuvée. As such it shows the stupidity of referring to these sweet wines as dessert wines. This 2011 will be much better drunk as an aperitif, with blue and hard cheeses rather than many desserts, which will tend to mask the sweetness and heighten the acidity. Alternatively enjoy a glass at the end of a meal in place of a dessert.