Articles from: January 2012

Wine Blog – Croatia Wines

Wine tour guests at

The wine blog today is all about Croatian wine. Croatia  has a history dating back to the Greeks settlers, and their wine production on the southern Dalmation islands of Vis, Hvar and Korcula some 2,500 years ago. Like other old world wine producers, many traditional grape varieties still survive in Croatia, perfectly suited to their local wine hills. Modern wine-production methods have taken over in the larger wineries, and EU style regulations have been adopted, guaranteeing the quality of the wine.

There are currently over 300 geographically defined wine regions, and a strict classification system to ensure quality and origin. The majority of Croatian wine is white, with most of the remainder being red, and only a small percentage is pink wines. In 2005, Croatia ranked 21st in wine producing countries with 180,000 tonnes.

Wine is a popular drink in Croatia, and locals traditionally like to drink wine with their meals. Quite often, the wine is diluted with either still or sparkling water – producing a drink known as gemišt (a combination of wine and carbonated water), and bevanda (a combination of wine and still water).

Grk is a grape variety that comes from a Croatian island called Korcula in the Adriatic Sea. Apparently the white wine comes from vines that have no pollination, as they have only female flowers.  Grk Bijeli or Grk is a white wine named from the variety of grapes. It is in particularly found in the village of Lumbarda on the island. Literally, “grk” in Croatian means bitter, but the wine is dry, high in acidity, somewhat aromatic, with hints of pine.The Grk vine only has female flowers. To ensure pollination it must be co-planted with another grape variety with male flowers, ratio about 10-20 percent, usually a variety called Plavac Mali. So now you know.

Our Sunday


A lovely relaxed day spent with our friends Maggie and Peter. They are friends we met from our French end I mean the life of Wine tours and holiday guests and drinking wine all in the name of tasting at our base Manoir de Gourin in the most beautiful Loire Valley! Its a place of magic with those fairytale chateaux and  manicured gardens, the monasteries and churches, and the vineyards that extend over beautiful countryside, and it allows the traveller to follow the course of history of the nobility of France (and England), politics, religion, the arts and much more from the 11th century right up to modern times. Anyway I digress from our lazy Sunday afternoon I’ve got no mind to worry close my eyes and drift away with our thespian friends Maggie and Peter. I call them that because Maggie is a theatre director and Peter an actor and are  both doers of props and costume and everything that goes with the job but its not a job its a great deal of fun. Yes we went on a jaunt to Dungerness. If you’ve never been then its worth a pop along to see the landscape and the old fishermen’s cottages dotted amongst the pebbles with the stark contrast of the Power Station behind. The pic is of Maggie standing looking sort of out to sea whilst loitering beside part of the garden created by Derek Jarman (we think but not sure). Afterwards we went for a late lunch at the Rocksalt Restaurant in Folkestone overlooking the old fishing harbour. Velly nice. Food was OK and Peter’s choice of wine was an Italien something or other I can’t remember the name  (if he reads this perhaps he will remind me).  It was a jolly fine  red with what I would describe as a mild spiciness that really went rather well with the seafood and pork tangy pickle starter and the beef, chicken and gnocchi main. A super day out catching up on whats been happening and most importanly what will be happening with the next bit of acting that will fill me with such fun over the summer. I must say I really enjoy it all, BUT I’m no good at my lines so the director ticks me off! Naughty Boy. I must learn my lines this year. Today’s blog was not about wine so much but if Peter comes up trumps with the name of the wine I’ll tell you more next time.We’re looking to extend the range into Italy so this should be a good beginning.  Cheers.

The Sandgate Wine Club Part 2

Richard Desouche a great Saumur Champigny winemaker.

So moving on from Anjou or not quite as we need to discover the grape of the Anjou and Saumur red appellation. A relatively late ripener, Cabernet Franc ia a hardy grape and resistant to rot, which enables it to take advantage of the Loire valley’s Indian summers. Planted in the Middle Ages, it arrived by way of Bordeaux, where it is still widely cultivated, particularly in Saint Emilion, where it dominates the other blend of the area Cabernet Sauvignon which is a later ripener. Cabernet Franc is favoured for its concentrated berry flavours, its supple texture, its finesse, its gentle tannins and it lively acidity, all of which account for the fact that its charms when young and beguiles when aged. On gravelly soils its fruity and bouyant really juicy and a great summer drink just on its own or with a simple lunch or supper slightly chilled to bring out the fruity flavours. The Saumur Champigny appellation is a favourite of the Parisians and very fashionable with the in crowd. This is an elegant wine and the example we tasted last night is typical of this style of wine from the limestone “tuffeau” soils. This 2008 vintage of the ‘Chateau’ cuvee of Chateau de Chaintres begins to show the jammy compote flavours of more intense fruits and with the sample we tasted of the  Saumur Puy Notre Dame appellation  of Domaine de L’Enchantoir the wine begins to develop a complexity of deep cassis and prunes as it develops with age. So you see there is a need to sample these wines carefully to experience the nuances between them and your personal palate will determine which you will prefer. Maybe next time we may encourage you to try these very different wines all made from the same varietal Cabernet Franc. Cheers.

The Sandgate Strictly Wine Club

The cabernet Franc grape of the middle Loire region

Oh what a disappointment for us as we had hoped that Sandgate would embrace a new adventure.  Our first meeting of the wine club attracted the grand total of two people. Diana and George from Dover. Thank you for coming along. It would have been rather lonely otherwise. Anyway never mind we spent  a lovely evening at the Old Fire Station on the first floor reading room talking about wine of course and tasting our selection of reds in  a really inspiring place. Actually it was a wonderful opportunity to taste our selection from the mid section of the Loire. Not a well known area generally for wine drinkers and unless you can gain some inside knowledge of the wines of this area I suppose you would move elsewhere into more well known territory. That would be a little foolish unless you had an interest in discovering new and exciting wines. The Loire being further north than most wine producing areas has developed a distinctive style of wine that historically was developed by the people of the region to match their food. So here in the Loire the traditional food was fish from the Loire and white meats like pidgeon, duck, goose, pork and lamb. The dishes of cooked rillauds and rillettes, terrines and foie gras need the right accompaniment to these dishes so the wines need the level of tannins and fruit to match the food and is of vital importance to the Angevin for example in the middle Loire. So we tasted these middle Loire wines to try to understand the precise style that would match these foods. The Anjou rouge from Domaine de Saugourde is very much the classic style that the local people drink with pike, or white asparagus. The rillauds of pork cooked slowly and rendered in its own fat should be eaten with a good vintage saumur rouge like the one we have from Domaine de L’Enchantoir. This is a 2009 vintage a good year that produced a good mature grape.  The Caberent Franc grapes are vinified in large old concrete vats and left to age slowly at a low temperature to tease out the soft tannins that so match the fatty pork. The pork is not healthy but don’t worry the wine will offset the fat with its natural healthy polyphenols that help the heart stay healthy. Part two tomorrow . Cheers.

Saga Tasting event

Richard the winemaker with our wine tour guests at Chateau de Chaintres

Our next tasting event at Saga in Enbrook Park in Sandgate will be on Friday 27 January in the Pavillion between 12 and 2pm during the lunch break. After our previous events there we hope to attract plenty of employees to our tasting. We will be tasting our favourite wines. This month we will be on Anjou Blanc from Domaine de la Saugourde, Anjou rouge also from Saugourde, the pink from Domaine de  Rocheville a lovely soft dry pink that goes great with cheese, and dishes like chicken, pork, and lamb. We will be showcasing the wines from Chateau de Chaintres. So the Saumur Champigny reds from the cuvee ‘domaine’ a light fruity soft that is a great mix with starters. The cuvee ‘Chateau’ certainly goes with  a good steak and finally the ‘des Oratoriens’ cuvee with a rich sauce and game. So there you are. You cannot go wrong. By the way Richard at Chaintres reckons you cannot better the ‘domaine’ cuvee with Fish and chips! The Little Fish Shop in Sandgate does some lovely fish. See you on Friday. Cheers.

Our new wine club

Having fun eating and tasting wine at Manoir de Gourin

We are busily contacting all our known friends and enemies to tell them about the inaugeral meeting of our Sandgate Strictly Wine Club on thursday at the reading room in the old historic Fire Station in Sandgate starting at 6pm. So anyone logging onto the blog near us here please come along. If you are further afield then why not start you own club. Just pick up the phone and dial 01303 226692 or email   I’ll be glad to discuss the ways you can start a club and make some money at the same time.

We’re doing six great Loire Valley wines to start off as it’s home territory for me but we will be spreading our wings further afield into all of France and beyond. It’s a great way of learning about wines whilst being able to taste the wines at the same time which makes it all the more appealing and worthwhile. Don’t forget to let us know if you are interested. Cheers.

The Strictly Wine Club

We are starting our new wine club in Sandgate this week with our first tasting of wines so if you are interested in joining us to taste and see what we have to offer please contact Simon on 01303 226692 or email: We will let you know the venue in Sandgate for the event which will be on Thursday this week starting at 6pm. The idea is that members will pay a yearly membership fee of £36 or £3 per month which will allow then to buy the wine selection of the month at about 35% of the full retail price we charge on our retail website. The membership fee covers the cost of running the club from producing the monthly newsletter, organising the venue and tasting event, taking the orders and payments, receiving and distributing the wines.  Each month we will hold a tasting event of the wines and members will enjoy a bottle of each of the six wines selected. Members will also be able to buy more of the wines if they wish. This months wines are a sauvignon Balnc from the Loire, a pink Cabernet de Saumur, and four reds from Anjou rouge, Saumur rouge, Saumur Champigny and a Saumur Puy Notre Dame. Please give us a call or email to let us know you would like to come. We look forward to seeing you there. Cheers.

Wine prices

I was reading an article by Andrea Catherwood today in the papers about the problems that we have fighting the big companies like the supermarkets. Did you know that 70% of the alcohol we consume is from supermarkets. That can’t be good healthy competition. Andrea took over her local pub that had gone bust a couple of times. The only way they survive is through the food as beer and wine sales make very little money. On a pint of Lager for example at £3.80 the government take £1.28 in tax. For a bottle of wine selling at £15 the government take £4.80 nearly a third. By the time the cost of buying the beer and wine and all the overheads the profit is nothing so they have to make money on the food.  Compare that with the price the supermarkets charge for beer and wine. A pint of beer costs over 10 times as much in a bar as in a supermarket.

This is patently not fair and I see increasingly that the government and local authority has to try and justify this unfair practise whatever the issue at hand. They continue to try to tell us how they are helping small business and the public but in truth that is far from anywhere near what we have to deal with everyday. Government is not on the same wavelength as us so we need to keep telling them to make life for us fairer. Cheers.

Joan of Arc

File:Château de Chinon vu de la Vienne.jpg

The fortress of Chinon

The Loire valley is steeped in history and characters and throughout the middel ages and onwards the history of France and its relationship with the UK has ben interlinked. If you come and stay with us at Manoir de Gourin you will be able to partake in the experience. Henry of Anjou or Henry Plantagenet as he was named after the sprig of broom his father Geoffrey of Anjou wore in his hat.

Henry II (5 March 1133 – 6 July 1189), also known as Henry FitzEmpress or Henry Plantagenet, ruled as King of England (1154–89), Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled Wales, Scotland and Brittany. Henry was born to Geoffrey of Anjou and the Empress Matilda. Henry became actively involved in his mother’s efforts to claim the throne of England by the age of 14, and he was made the Duke of Normandy at 17. Henry inherited Anjou in 1151 and shortly afterwards married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the recent divorced wife of the French king Louis VII. Henry intervened in England again in 1153, leading to King Stephen agreeing peace terms in 1153 and Henry inheriting the kingdom on Stephen’s death a year later. Still quite young, Henry now controlled an empire stretching across western Europe.

Henry was an energetic and sometimes ruthless ruler, driven by a desire to restore the lands and privileges of his grandfather, Henry I. During the early years of his reign he restored the royal administration in England, re-established hegemony over Wales and gained full control over his lands in Anjou, Maine and Touraine. Henry rapidly came into conflict with Louis VII and the two rulers fought what has been termed a “Cold War” over several decades. Henry expanded his empire, often at Louis’ expense, taking Brittany, pushing east into central France and south into Toulouse. Despite numerous peace conferences and treaties no permanent peace could be agreed. Henry undertook various legal reforms in both England and Normandy, establishing the basis for the future English Common Law, and reformed the royal finances and currency. Although Henry usually worked well with the local hierarchies of the Church, his desire to control and reform the relationship between the Church in England led to conflict with his former friend, the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket. This controversy lasted for much of the 1160s and resulted in Becket’s death in 1170, for which Henry was widely blamed.

As Henry’s reign progressed he had many children with Eleanor and tensions over the future inheritance of the empire began to emerge, encouraged by first Louis VII and then Philip Augustus. In 1173 Henry’s first son, the Young Henry, rebelled in protest at his treatment by Henry; he was joined by his brothers Richard, Geoffrey and by their mother, Eleanor. France, Scotland, Flanders and Boulogne allied with the rebels against Henry. The Great Revolt spread across Henry’s lands and was only defeated by Henry’s vigorous military action and talented local commanders, many of them “new men” appointed for their loyalty and administrative skills. Henry was mostly generous in victory and appeared at the height of his powers. Young Henry and Geoffrey revolted again in 1183, however, resulting in Young Henry’s death. Despite invading Ireland to provide lands for his youngest son, John, Henry struggled to find ways to satisfy all his sons’ desires for land and immediate power. Philip successfully played on Richard’s fears that Henry would make John the King of England and a final rebellion broke out in 1189. Decisively defeated by Philip and Richard and suffering from a bleeding ulcer, Henry retreated to Anjou where he died.

If you come over and stay at Manoir de Gourin you will be able to experience Chinon and Fontevraud Abbet where Henry and his queen Eleanor are buried. Cheers.

Jims Loire wine blog

Jim has decided to put a pic of me on his blog calling me the elder brother of George Clooney. What cheek! It was an error. Its the younger brother if you don’t mind Jim. Have a look and see for yourself. It can’t be true. I ceetainly look younger don’t I? Anyway thanks Jim. Also I notice he did not mention our blog. Must be fear of the opposition taking over. By the way Jim says he lives in a house over looking the river Cher. I think he said the  place is  called Chenonceau. I’m not sure  has anyone heard of it? Its got these arches.   You will all recognise Jim if you see him  he wears Hawaiian  shirts of all shades and designs.The one at Lords was somewhat subdued. Must have been the stuffy surroundings Jim. Cheers.

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January 2012
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