Wine Quote of the Week

"Days of wine and roses laugh and run away,
Like a child at play"
Johnny Mercer

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fine Wines in Ireland

I'm just back from Ireland (at least a stone heavier ) where we caught up with all our friends and relatives and enjoyed a gastronomical tour of the countryside.
The quality of food , particularly in West Cork, where we were based really is high with so many cottage industries producing food locally. So, if you are based in Clonakilty for example you can enjoy a meal from ingredients sourced within a 10 mile radius for the most part.
Succulent fresh meat, locally caught fish and shellfish, a huge variety of cheeses and breads and organic produce are widely available. The restaurants, too , seem to have pulled up their socks , offering good quality meals at reasonable prices.
A group of us dined at The Terrace in O'Donovans Hotel , main street Clonakilty and all 8 of us were very happy with our meal with dishes like hot mussels cooked with chorizo, roast duck on a bed of lentil cassoulet and millefeuille of vegetable with pistachio topping, it was hard not to be.
However, good quality, reasonably priced french wine was hard to come by ... is it possible to get a nice bottle of french wine in Ireland in the 10 - 12euro bracket?
I'm still looking .... perhaps we will be able to bring some of our favourite Roussillon wines to Ireland in the near future?
Watch this space ..

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Wine Harvest has begun!

The vines are heavy with grapes here late August in the South of France - reminding me of dairy cows ready to be milked, and it's time for the farmers now to milk their vines ( ok, easy to spot that I'm just back from holidays in Ireland!) and start the harvesting of their precious fruit that they have been carefully tending to for the last 12 months.

It is such a sight to behold , groups of weatherbeaten pickers hunched over the vines, working their way slowly and surely ( and back breakingly) through the fields as they gather up the fruit of their labours.
The old tractors and trailers then come bouncing down the laneways, laden down with mounds of grapes, leaving a trail of grape juice in their wake, to deliver their precious cargo to the wine cellars where the process of making the wine commences.

The time for picking the grapes depends on a number of factors : the grape variety, the weather and what the grapes are going to be used to make.
In my mind, there is no better time to visit the vineyards than now and for the next two months or so. The vineyards are electric with activity, the excitement is palpable, the tensions high and the sights and smells are unforgettable.

With The French Tour Co, we take you behind the scenes on our Wine tours where we get as close to the wine making action as possible.
If you're feeling energetic, a half days picking with vigneron lunch can even be arranged.

.. And then there is the collective sigh of relief once the harvest is finished and the grapes are safely indoors. The relief is marked by the Harvest Festivals - a celebration of the successful harvest and of a job well done.

The French Tour Co are organising a fantastic Wine and Pamper weekend to coincide with the Harvest Festival in October. See here for details and to book online.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wine labels - a straight jacket for French wines?

Bitch from Australia

Did you know that if you're a french wine producer, making AOC wine, you are severely restricted on what you can put on the label of your wine bottle?

Therefore, if you are producing a AOC wine, you cannot put the grape variety on the label - the logic behind this being the concept of terroir and that the purchaser should KNOW what a Languedoc Roussillon wine tastes like or a Bordeau or a Cotes de Rhone, etc.

However, with the advent of the availability of New World wines and their relaxed labelling rules, Josephine Public has decided that she loves Chardonnay and Shiraz as her favourite White and Red. Josephine goes to the French section of her wine shop and cannot find any Shiraz or Chardonnay so she slips back to the Australian or Chilean section where she can confidently select her favourites.

And so the French Wine Industry suffers. It is true that most Vins de Pays can note the varietal on their label but then vins de pays are not highly thought of outside of France where Josephine Public thinks that this is a second rate wine ( not always the case at all)..

Some French vineyard owners are copping on to the marketing for outside the Republic and there are brands like FAT BASTARD, ARROGANT FROG, ROYAL BITCH proving extremely popular with the Josephines...

Time for the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine )to lighten up on the labelling rules and help us to choose the french wines we are pretty sure we will enjoy?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bored with Beaujolais?

Had it with Nouveau Beaujolais? Check out the Nouveau Roussillon Wine Festival.

The French Tour Co have teamed up with to offer you an incredible getaway experience during the annual Roussillon Wine Festival in Perpignan. Ideal for wine lovers who also enjoy a little pampering, french cuisine and late summer sun.

Put it in your diary: Thursday October 15th to Sunday October 18th.

The itinerary includes 3 nights B&B in a new luxurious spa resort, 1 evening meal, a guided wine tour with four course lunch and tastings in 3 top vineyards where we meet the vineyard owners, a day in Perpignan soaking up the atmosphere of the Wine Harvest Festival and a day in coastal Collioure, rated one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Transfers from nearby Girona ( 1 hour) are included in the special price of 379euros inclusive ( single supplement is extra)
Full use of all spa facitilies is included in the price.

For more details and to book your place , click here on Perpignan Wine Festival Tour

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Red Beret from Ceret!

Looking for something to do from Ceret on Monday 17th of August? Love the Roussillon wines and interested in learning more about them? Well, unusually, The Red Beret Wine Tour departs from Ceret this Monday.

It promises to be a superbe day taking in 3 very different vineyards, meeting the owners of the Chateaux, sampling some of the best quality wines from this region, learning how it is made and much much more.

I hasten to add, for you gourmet lovers, there will be a delicious 3 course lunch with wine at the vigneron's table. Best of all The French Tour Co collects and drops you off at your place of stay.

This will be an insightful tour of life as a vineyard owner - come along for the fun, the knowledge and of course, the vino!

Email Suzanne at