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29 March 2008

Malbec galore Cahors April 4th to 6th

Why not indulge in a weekend of unbridled Malbec (in moderation of course, as Big Brother governments keep reminding us) in the pretty old town of Cahors (a good bit north of Toulouse or east of Bordeaux), at the first 'International Malbec weekend'? There's a somewhat intense-looking trade and press conference called Grape of the 21st Century? taking place on Saturday April 5th in the morning, but otherwise the gen pub is welcome to invade the place and try the region's unique red wines made wholly or mostly from this increasingly trendy (?) variety; and no doubt plenty of opportunity to stuff your face with some lovely southwestern French food specialities (magret de canard, duck breast fillet and a chunky Malbec red sound like a good combo actually). In addition, there'll be a group of winemakers from Argentina, where apparently there's at least five times the surface area of Malbec planted, who presumably will be bringing a few examples for you to taste in their bubble-wrap lined suitcases. More info from www.french-malbec.com. And full marks to the Cahors growers' union, or whoever had the bright idea, for coming up with the latter name for the website rather than something obscure in French that no English speaker would find on Google! Posted 29/3/08.

28 March 2008

Waitrose plants English vineyard

Leckford Farm

Patriotic British supermarket Waitrose recently announced a project to plant vines on the retailer's own 4000 acre (1600 hectares) farm, called Leckford Estate in Hampshire (southern England). The aim is to produce English fizz that should appear in their stores by 2014. "Waitrose has stocked English wine for over twelve years. In 2007, we reported a growth in sales of over 90%," says their press blurb. "There is simply not enough English wine to meet customer demand," they claim, despite stocking at least 28 lines (depending on if and what's made in the local area) in shops and on-line.
It'll take a bit of time to see the results, bearing in mind the vines will need at least three years before they yield the first decent crop of grapes, and then a "two year wine-making and maturation cycle for the production of this high quality sparkling wine." Meaning it's not worth releasing it without at least 15-18 months bottle-ageing on the yeast lees plus a bit more after removing the sediment. Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, chief wine buyer at Waitrose said: "Our customers are really enthusiastic about English wines and we have seen some fantastic quality from Nyetimber, Ridgeview, Chapel Down, Camel Valley and Denbies. We are all incredibly excited about being involved with the planting and growing of our first vineyard."
I'm told Leckford Estate is located on rolling chalk hills either side of the River Test. "There are several sites with a sheltered southern aspect, where the soils have just the right balance of chalk and clay loam for our grapevines." Basically, should be a good spot - I'll find out which varieties they're going to plant and report back. This huge farm has been part of the John Lewis Partnership (owner of Waitrose) for 80 years and is managed to "high environmental standards." It already churns out a variety of produce for the supermarket including cider, apples, pears, apple juice, mushrooms, flour and Leckford chicken. There's also a substantial dairy producing 5 million litres of milk every year from 600 cows (that's a lot of manure for the new vineyard), as well as organic milk, goats milk and no less than 12,000 hens for free range eggs. More info at waitrose.com/wine.

27 March 2008

Lebanese cookery classes Languedoc-style 4-6 April

Full of original ideas to attract wine tourist punters, Château Coujan in Saint-Chinian country is running a Lebanese cookery course over the weekend of 4th - 6th April. The full package includes all meals and accommodation in Coujan's on-site gite and costs €200 or €300 per couple. So, if you're going to be in the Murviel-les-Béziers area (not that far from Béziers) and fancy something different, book it quickly as there's only room for eight people. Contact Florence Guy or Stanislas Pujol: chateau-coujan@orange.fr, www.chateau-coujan.com, tel. +33 (0)4 67 37 80 00. Lebanese wines here.

26 March 2008

Armagnac and curry?

Nicolas and Karen Kitchener at Armagnac and wine producer Domaine de Lauroux in Gascony have become the French distributor for Curry Knights fresh curry sauces. They're recruiting retail stockists as I type these words, and curry-craving ex-pats (or even Madras-mad French people for that matter) can buy them directly from their webshop www.curryknights.com. I'm told they also do 2.7L caterer packs of each sauce, so currily interested restaurant owners should get in touch. More info: tel +33 (0)5 62 08 56 76, www.lauroux.com or SKYPE ID lauroux.

15 March 2008


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