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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Starting my wine blog

Our early forays into wine drinking were typical of young people in the 1960s-1980s - Mateus rosé in Chinese restaurants as students, Nicolas red Franch table wine and, later, £1 Bulgarian red from Sainsbury's.  My first serious purchase was in the mid-70s when, with my wise friend Malcolm Thomas, I invested in a case of Château Batailley Pauillac, for the princely sum of £2 a bottle.  Sadly I was not sufficiently prudent to avoid drinking my share within a few years, but I still keep a few bottles of a more recent vintage in my cellar.  Oddly we have never been great Bordeaux fans, and this is one of the few clarets I've really taken to, but there is still time for us to widen our horizons there

Since we began to visit France regularly in 1993 we have developed our love of and interest in wine, exploring individual makers and their products in our travels especially through Champagne, Bourgogne, the Rhône and the Languedoc, as well as pursuing our interest in the wines of the world through the exceptional international markets and sales outlets of UK supermarkets and specialist wine suppliers.  Our first close view of French vineyards was in the Drôme, around Die and Châtillon en Diois which we visited frequently through our twinning link, and in the mid-90s I was honoured to be elected a member of the Confrerie de la Clairette de Die.  Soon we began to expand our explorations around the Rhône valley, and also to visit vineyards en route in Beaujolais, Bourgonge and Champagne.

Now we live in France permanently, we are taking every opportunity we can to meet vignerons who are new to us, and to revisit old favourites. Our home area of the Languedoc used to be the source of the famed ‘wine lake’ of the 1980s but over the past 20 or so years has transformed itself into one of the world’s major producers of high quality but affordable wines. This has happened by improving practices in the vineyard and above all in the wine-making process, by changing grape varieties and reducing yields to improve quality. Old varieties like carignan which yielded a lot of mediocre wine are now enjoying a new life producing interesting single-variety wines and blends from older, lower-yielding vines.

We haven’t cut our ties with the UK – in particular I'm a member of the Wine Society which now sells wines in France, and I subscribe to Decanter.  So with a little organisation we have access to a wide variety of reasonably priced New World wines. In addition Spain and Italy are on our doorstep, so gradually we are getting to know more of the wines of southern Europe. This is a voyage of exploration very much in progress and this Blog aims to capture some of the (lucid) moments we enjoy en route.

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