Thursday, December 29, 2011

Farewell to 2011, and look at what's coming

There hasn't been much happening lately: after a tour of duty in Europe in October we had two containers arrive, one from Germany, one from France; moved from NSW to Victoria; and now we're counting down the days until our first child puts in an appearance.

Winewise, Eurocentric now has stock in Melbourne so we can serve our customers better with next-day deliveries and not have to worry about temperature variations from one state to the next on the slow haul with Australia Post.

We've got a new container on the water out of France and the first of the offers will hit mailing list inboxes in the next 24 hours. It's Domaine David Clark 09 red Burgundy, which means it will sell out in a flash (we get just 34 cases). To follow will be a Champagne offer on the cult kings Cedric Bouchard and David Leclapart. You'll have to be fast (and flush) for that one.

The next shipment arriving January 26 will contain wine from: David Clark & Pierre Guillemot (Burgundy); Pattes Loup (Chablis); Gilles Azzoni (zero-sulphur reds from the Rhone); Julien Sunier and Alain Coudert (Beaujolais); Sebastien Riffault (Sancerre, more Akmenine and Quarterons); Emile Balland (Coteaux du Giennois -- well, the 30 cases the freight company didn't smash when they were loading the container anyway); Estezargues (Rhone); Henri Billiot and Rene Geoffroy (Champagne).

Bouchard and Leclapart will headline the container after that. I'm doing a pre-arrival offer now because I had to pay for them early to secure an allocation, and there are other things I need to pay for, such as Georges Laval, Marie Courtin and DeMarne-Frison champagne, Alain Gautheron chablis, Domaine de la Tournelle (Jura), Paul-Henri Thillardon (Beaujolais), and Jean-Philippe Fichet, Benoit Ente and Bruno Clavelier Burgundy.

After that, at last, we'll bring in some Italian and Spanish wine to at least get started with our exciting collection of producers.

By the end of 2012 we should have stock on hand from 100 quality-driven boutique producers. Hopefully you'll come on a vinous discovery with us.

Many thanks for the interest and support in 2011 and here's to an even bigger and better 2012.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Always start with a summery summary ...

World's worst blogger here ... maybe I will have time to catch up today and post a few things. I've just arrived in Champagne for three days of meetings and tastings. This would normally be cause for celebration (champagne perhaps?!) but I'm having a shocker.

For some reason I left my carry-on case unzipped in the boot of the car, so when I pulled it out the contents flew everywhere. Somehow the magnum of AJ Adam riesling and the bottle of Van Volxem Sparkling Riesling didn't break, but my laptop now has a very sticky space bar. No problem I though, I'll get my wireless mouse. Um, oops, looks like I left it at one of the past two hotels.

To make matters worse I left my toothbrush with it's sheephead mirror-sticking head protector. Poor old sheepy. Lucky I have the airline toothbrush still, and luckier still it's not one of those clip-together jobs with four bristles on it.

So, this is Saturday, September 24. The weather is fantastic. Was hazy this morning -- I even drove through low-flying clouds as I crested the bridge from Germany into Luxembourg -- but it's clear away now to be a gorgeous 22C and possibly climbing.

In case I don't get back to it, here's what's happened this week:

Monday, 3.30pm: After somehow getting to the airport almost on schedule two hours before the flight, we still managed to be pushed for time trying to do last-minute things, stuff some food down and get on the plane. Watched three movies on Thai Airways to Bangkok, and strangely had Mel Gibson in two of them: The Beaver and Signs. Loved the third film, Midnight in Paris. It's not out in Australia yet and it would work just fine as a DVD rental but I enjoyed it immensely. Funny thing was that I liked old penis nose Owen Wilson even though I often don't, and I didn't like Rachel McAdams even though she's rung my bells since well, blush, The Notebook. Probably goes to show they can act. Anyway, it's an odd Americans in Paris with a message about making the most of what you have. Unless of course what you have sucks.

Bangkok airport was fine if not confusing with its different levels and limited stairways joining them. The Thai lounge seemed to have more people in it than the rest of the airport did, and the internet failed after reading about 20 of my 30 new emails.

Shuffled onto an old SAS plane to Paris via Copenhagen. I had seat 1A for kicks. It was a cheapy business deal combined with the Thai economy, which I needed because of the arthritis in my knees. I was in agony on the first nine-hour sector, and it didn't help that the cabin was about 35C. This time the creaky old seat was fairly uncomfortable, even in lie-flat mode (more like lie in the shape of a question mark), but I slept a fair bit and chatted in between with a lovely gentleman who owns a window-making business in Melbourne.

Hmmm, here we go again with the verbosity. OK, Tuesday I drove from Paris to Rudesheim in the Rheingau; Wednesday I had appointments with Leitz (first wines to come soon, from the 2010 vintage); Knebel (will buy a little 2010 as they keep improving and I am hopeful one day the punters will recognise the quality); and Schloss Lieser (Thomas Haag is becoming a bit of a rockstar in Germany. He's definitely top five in the Mosel, if not top two if you count Egon Muller in the Saar.

Thursday I had appointments with AJ Adam in Neumagen-Dhron (near Piesport) and Roman Niewoniczanski in Wiltingen (Saar), where we ate lots of grapes as Roman barked instructions to the pickers (first day of harvest). Then I went to Trier for the VDP presentation of the 2010 vintage. Tried lots of wines and very happy with my team of Schloss Lieser, Fritz Haag, Willi Schaefer, Zilliken and Van Volxem.

Friday was VDP auction day. I got my times wrong thanks to useless overnight internet and arrived just 10 minutes before the end of the morning tasting session. No problem, I speed-tasted the best wines there and even took some groupie photos of winemakers. Then lunch with Christoph Schaefer and Hanno Zilliken before the auction. I managed to snag three bottles of Willi Schaefer auslese goldcap and six half bottles of Zilliken Auslese Goldcap and got blown away on everything else. Really, 5300 euros for a double magnum of auslese goldcap or a bottle of 1999 TBA? Yeah, OK, I desperately wanted them too, and in hindsight I should have stumped up the 550 euros for a bottle of the Muller AGC.

Saturday is forget-everything day and break what you don't forget. I'm in a two-star motel on the fringe of Epernay. It's called Kyriad and it's actually pretty good. The internet is working anyway.

I have appointments this afternoon with Rene Geoffroy and David Leclapart, and then hopefully not yet another pizza alone in my room.

Tomorrow I'm going to Lancelot Pienne and not sure if I can get anyone else, and on Sunday I'm seeing Laetitia at H. Billiot, Olivier at Ulysse Collin and Bertrand at Vouette et Sorbee, plus Yves at Charles Dufour if I can find him. Then it's on to Alsace!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A pregnant pause

Our crazy life is about to get more hectic! My wife and I are expecting our first child early next year, so that is adding some urgency for me to get back to Europe while I can and quickly round up some more producers!

Who knows when I or we will be able to travel next year, so I'm off in mid-September for a quick tour of France. Actually I'll start at the VDP auction in Trier when the best rieslings of the 2010 vintage will be shown and sold, and sneak in a few quick visits to my German producers, including new star AJ Adam.

Then I'll whizz through Champagne, Alsace, Jura, the Ardeche, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Chablis, Sancerre and Anjou.

I've got quite a few people to track down and try to get on board, and the tail end of this year was already going to be frantic trying to get everything into the country.

There's a shipment of wine from France on the way (Riffault and Thomas-Labaille from Sancerre, Oudin from Chablis, Croix, Camille Giroud and Arnaud Tessier from Burgundy, Burgaud Beaujolais, Vouette et Sorbee & Thevenin Champagne, Espiers and Cuvee des Copains from the southern Rhone), to be followed by a container of 2009s and 2010s from Germany. That will include wine from Willi Schaefer, Zilliken, AJ Adam, Rebholz, Knipser, Schmitges, Emrich-Schonleber, Fritz Haag and Schloss Lieser. If there's room I'll sneak some more Maximin Grunhaus in.

The big challenge will be getting the third in the queue underway, with an expensive mountain of champagne to move: David Leclapart, Georges Laval, Benoit Lahaye, Lancelot-Pienne, Pierre Gerbais, Cedric Bouchard, Ulysse Collin, Rene Geoffroy, Chartogne-Taillet, Hubert Paulet ... it's gotta be done for summer!

I'm also keen to get more Beaujolais here from our team: Jean-Marc Burgaud, Roland Pignard, Paul-Henri Thillardon (who won an international gamay competition with his first vintage) and Alain Coudert. There are some others I'd like to track down. If only they had email addresses!

There's more Chablis too, from Moreau-Naudet and Alain Gautheron, plus new vintages out of Burgundy: Benoit Ente, Jean-Philippe Fichet, David Clark and Pierre Guillemot from Savigny les Beaune. We could also offer some Anne Gros wines from Burgundy and Minervois.

Of course I've also got quite a lot of wine lined up from Spain and Italy. As you can see, it's just as well we are picking up new buyers all the time, and this needs to continue. So long as that dollar holds strong!

For now, I'm chained to the desk working on taxes and other paperwork so I don't feel so guilty when I head north. And I'll try to do a better job of keeping you posted from Europe, with photos and a few videos too.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Time flies when you're doing tax

Yeah, right.

Since that amazing European journey (which I'm sure I didn't finish writing about), I've been buried in paperwork mostly. I can see the end now, just another couple of days.

But for now a heads up: I'm on the road in Australia again.

I've just had a week in the trade in Perth, including two public tastings that were very well received. Working with Terra Wines, we scored a number of new listings, including the Espiers Cotes du Rhone 2010 going on by the glass at Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth. We had a great meal there too, so if you haven't been get down there. Just go easy on the food - the servings are huge!

Coming up, here's the schedule for the next few weeks:

July 5, Sydney: Trade tasting. Email for details
July 6, Sydney: Public tasting. 20 wines for $50, specials on the night. At Wine Vault in Artarmon. Email for details. There'll be a booking link on the website in the next day or so.

July 8: Driving to Melbourne.
July 11-13: Trade tastings in Melbourne. Will try to book a public dinner, perhaps on the Tuesday.
July 14: Tastings for trade in Beechworth and Albury and anywhere along the road to Canberra.
July 15: Trade tastings in Canberra.

July 18-20: Trade tastings in Brisbane/Gold Coast. Will organise a public dinner on the Tuesday.

There are no new shipments on the water at the moment but a fair avalanche planned for the next couple of months. German riesling fans should be warned that our allocations from 09 and 10 have been slashed so much I'll be able to fit the wine from 13 producers and two vintages in one container. Glad I added AJ Adam to the team!

There's a bunch of other great wines I can't wait to land, including more grower champagnes, bargains from the Rhone, more Beaujolais, Chablis, our first Sancerre and Alsace wines, southwest sweeties, Spanish, Italians ...

And with the end of the financial year looming, it looks like time for another clearance sale. We are moving to a new stock control system in two weeks and I don't want to enter product codes for wines down to the last couple of dozen. Watch your email inbox. If you haven't subscribed, do so now (free and easy) at

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bad to the Beaune

The rate at which we have been acquiring kilometres in our poor rental car has slowed dramatically in recent days. After a leisurely week through Germany and a week in Champagne we quickly visited some top estates in Chablis and then scurried back to Beaune to recharge our batteries and our stock of clean laundry. Plus of course taste at our existing estates and two or three potential new ones.

Anyway, we've hit 10,000km in the Silver Bullet. So glad we didn't hire that Sixt rental car with its limit of 4900 free kilometres!

Since we visited our larger Champagne producers last Thursday, we've had some interesting stops. Our final night in Champagne was spent at Hotel Jeanson in Ay, which is a lovely boutique hotel about 100m from Rene Geoffroy. It has an indoor pool, double beds (crikey, the number of double rooms we've had with two single beds pushed together!) and a decent shower (room to turn around without getting wrapped in a clammy shower curtain or turning the water off or, worse, up to melting point), but the wifi was pretty poor. They say this is soon to be rectified.

We went out for dinner with Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy and were joined by his wife late in the piece. Lovely dinner at a classy establishment not too far away, and despite the Champenoise addiction to drinking champagne ("Well, we are in Champagne", they say), I ordered a 2009 Lapierre Morgon off the list. I'm even spreading the Beaujolais gospel in France! I've had this wine once or twice before, perhaps a year ago. My first reaction is to think that it's bretty from the nose, but I don't believe it is. It has that kind of cooked-grass aroma that is common in cabernet franc from the Loire, but the palate was plush and satisfying. It's not the best 09 I've had by a fair way, but JB was impressed and it went well with the food.

Next day we drove to the southern region of Champagne, the Aube. I'd forgotten it was more than one and a half hours away from Ay! It turned out to be a day to stretch my limited French, but we got by. First up was Cedric Bouchard. I'm not going to go into tasting notes here, but this guy certainly can make champagne of character. He grabbed four wines, two from the Inflorescence range and two from the Roses de Jeanne lineup that everyone fights over. Interestingly he says the Inflorescence vineyards are improving faster than the RdJ lieux dits, and he believes they will eventually catch up.

Eurocentric's first shipment from CB is a chunk of Val Vilaine Blanc de Noirs from the lovely 2008 vintage, and some Les Parcelles BdB that spent 80 months on lees. We'll find out in less than two weeks how much of our 2011 request has been granted.

In the same village of Celles-sur-Ource is the down-to-earth Pascal Gerbais and his incredibly inexpensive range of Champagne Pierre Gerbais. I hope people don't think these wines aren't that good just because Pascal underprices them! He even has a wine called Originale, made from 107-year-old pinot blanc vines. I hope to have these wines into Australia just after mid-year.

After lunch in the baking sun (Europe has skipped spring and gone straight to summer) we went to one of our faves, Bertrand Gautherot at Vouette et Sorbee. We started on a sad note when discussing the weather as we found out the Blanc d'Argile vineyard had taken a hit from frosts early in the morning on April 13. No one had predicted the overnight low of -4 or -5C, and with the warm weather having promoted bud break about a month earlier than average, the vines were exposed and defenceless.

A second snap on April 18 was countered by a sprinkler system but the damage had been done. Pinot noir can sprout again but chardonnay is a one-shot wonder, and the damage might extend into the 2012 vintage as well. There have been a succession of setbacks for Gautherot in recent years, with a large number of vines dying in the harsh winter of 2009-10 as well.

Demand is far outstripping supply, and a new vineyard couldn't come on stream fast enough. Thankfully there is ample 2009 Fidele, but the Saignee de Sorbee and Blanc d'Argile were made in minuscule quantities.

Having taken so long to collect my 2006 allocation I missed out on 2007, and my 2008 reservation was cut almost in half in response to bigger requests from every market on Bertrand's books, but we pulled one back on this visit by scoring almost half of an unclaimed allocation for Brazil: another 120 bottles of Fidele and 30 Blanc d'Argile.

I better not go into too much detail for the next few visits: two in the village down the road from Bertrand, one of which might be an exclusive for a retailer in Australia and the other a tiny allocation for us from a couple on the cutting edge of champagne production; Marie-Courtin in Polisot, whose first shipment is just weeks away from landing in Australia; and another bargain bubbly from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere.

After this we stayed a night in Troyes for a visit to one of my favourite wine bars-cum-retailer-cum-restaurant for some delicious food and a bottle of Selosse La Cote Faron (the Ay lieux dit formerly known as Contraste). At the end of meal we were treated to a tour of the centuries-old two-level cave beneath the floorboards. Amazing!

Easter Sunday and still will push on, starting with a lovely 10am tasting with the picture-perfect Gautheron family in Fleys (this will be the new backbone of a greatly expanded Chablis range).

We took to the famous Sunday markets in the centre of Chablis to gather supplies for lunch (roast pork, ham cut from the bone, a wild tomato, cheeses, a kilo or two of Spanish strawberries, an apple tartelet, some gougeres) and went cross-country to the top of Les Clos grand cru vineyard, where we found a spot in the shade to gorge ourselves and kill some time before our second appointment in another cute village. Good solid wines here but I'll wait to see the prices before deciding whether it's worthwhile adding them.

We've used for a lot of our hotel finds on this trip and rather than stay at my regular in the heart of Chablis (the Bergerac, which has had dodgy wifi in the past), I took a punt on a chambre d'hote 25km away. The drive was amazing. At one point I stopped to take a photo of a field of canola (bright yellow against the deep green of the grain fields) only to lower the camera just as a huge crack of lightning split the sky. The thunder immediately followed and we enjoyed a light show and some heavy rain for the next couple of hours.

Fortunately it didn't appear to contain any hail, but the storm knocked out the power at the "hotel" from time to time, and the internet was non-existent. Lucky it was the quietest weekend of the year I guess. Dinner was a strange four-course affair at a table of strangers (with several bottles of the local wine), which combined to knock me out early in the piece.

The next day we had a quick breakfast to make a 9am appointment, only to be told we'd have to wait half an hour till the boss arrived to take our payment! Lucky for me (since I'm always late), it doesn't seem to bother the winemakers, and we enjoyed another cracking tasting in the cellars at Moreau-Naudet. These are brilliant Chablis, as good as I've tasted, but also priced higher than others in our collection. Due early second half of 2011 too (2007s and 2008, after spending two years on lees).

Then it was off back to Beaune, a nice chance to catch up on chores and prepare for the last two legs of our marathon journey.

Crikey, why didn't I stick to the diary entries!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Where did that month go?

Uh-oh, I couldn't even keep up with an abbreviated record of events :-(

So here's a diary for me to come back to and fill in.

Saturday, March 26: Drove from Pau (France) to Santander (Spain). Surprised at the speed limit and number of speed cameras in Spain, plus how they build villages around industrial areas (an oil refinery!) and apartments in the middle of the countryside.

Sunday, March 27: Drove to Vigo on the west coast. Didn't plan on doing 600km a day.

Monday, March 28: Raining heavily. Went to a groovy wine bar in Albarino country and picked the locals' brains about good wines. Bought three glasses for benchmarking. Visited one estate (couldn't get an answer from others) and fortunately it was a goodie.

Tuesday, March 29: Drove to Ribera del Duero for a tasting. Stayed in a hotel opposite a bull-fighting stadium!

Wednesday, March 30: Another Ribera del Duero tasting, then drove to Rioja. Popped in to Artadi, then spent a while with a radical winemaker called Gonzalo Gonzalo. Drove to Calatayud.

Thursday, March 31: Tasting with a foreign local, then drove to Barcelona for a tasting of a range of bargain wines I'll be importing: a grenache-shiraz and cava to start, and a tempranillo to follow.

Friday, April 1: Two tastings in Priorat, one fantastic and one miserable. Great fun driving around the windy roads and up into the hills with Dominik Huber of Terroir al Limit (the fantastic one), but hayfever struck hard!

Saturday, April 2: Drove from south of Barcelona to La Ciotat on the south coast of France.

Sunday, April 3: Drove to Treiso in Piedmont, Italy.

Monday, April 4: Tastings around Piedmont. Some really bad wines ... still find it difficult to get my head around young nebbiolo, but being in the region really accelerated my understanding. Found an excellent producer of Dolcetto, Barbera and Barbaresco. Add one to the list: Giuseppe Cortese.

Tuesday, April 5: Another goal: Francesco Scanavino will supply us with spumante (I couldn't believe how good this vintage methode champenoise was!), moscato d'asti, arneis and barbera. Then drove via Pisa to Montalcino for a Tuscan tasting.

Wednesday, April 6: Several tastings around Tuscany, none satisfying. Then drove north of Verona to a great view, terrible location for our needs!

Thursday, April 7: Day 1 of Vinitaly. Got in thanks to a friend and made several tasting visits. Should do this to start my Italian trips, then follow up those who show well. Found a great source of pinot noir and budget reds from Sicily, plus a couple of quirkly varietals.

Friday, April 8: Another long drive -- to Alsace via Switzerland. Gee, the Swiss make like they don't want visitors. Will try to avoid in future.

Saturday, April 9: Three tasting appointments around Alsace, from one extreme to the other (and over an 80km span). Might take two of them.

Sunday, April 10: Fabulous lunch and then drove to Silz in the Pfalz area of Germany.

Monday, April 11: Tasting at Rebholz in Siebeldingen. Fantastic range of 2010s. Wondered why they told me they didn't deacidify. Was soon to find out -- it is the hot topic (or should be) of the German vintage. Followed this with tastings at Schafer-Frohlich and Emrich-Schonleber. Lots of great wine.

Tuesday, April 12: Quick tasting at Knebel in Winningen (09s mostly sold out, 2010s not finished fermentation), then a leisurely drive along the Mosel to Schmitges in Erden.

Wednesday, April 13: Carl von Schubert in the Ruwer, then Reinhold Haart in Piesport and Willi Schaefer in Graach. Have to be quick with my orders as yields were down by up to 50%!

Thursday, April 14: Fritz Haag and Schloss Lieser, what a double! Brothers with contrasting approaches and results. Queueing up! Had to skip Van Volxem cos they have no 09s left, and 2010s are sold out before they have even finished fermenting!

Friday, April 15: Zilliken looking lovely, and a great opportunity to try some back vintages and see the vines.

Saturday, April 16: Driving back into France and straight to Bouzy for a tasting and chat with Benoit Lahaye. Awesome bio champagne.

Sunday, April 17: A crazy five-hour walk and talk and vertical tasting with Vincent Laval in Cumieres. We drank the last bottles of several vintages, back to 1988. Looking forward to finally landing these in Australia. Then an interesting dinner in Ay, with 18 rare and older champagnes matched to tapas dishes prepared by two three-star chefs. Great night!

Monday, April 18: The Terres et Vins event. I tasted pre-release champagnes and the 2010 vins clairs of my four producers there -- Lahaye, Rene Geoffroy, David Leclapart and Chartogne-Taillet. Then tried those not represented in Australia and was keen on a couple. Mouth almost numb from two days of high acid, I raced off to Sillery for a tasting with an Italian importer friend, then went south to Congy for an incredible afternoon and evening, chatting with the livewire Olivier Collin of Champagne Ulysse Collin. Take the tip, the Wine Advocate is calling his 2008s the Coche Durys of Champagne!

Tuesday, April 19: Another trade tasting, this time Artisans du Champagne, in Reims. I have my eye on a few here, but Pierre Gerbais and Lancelot-Pienne are definites. Then off to the legend, Fallet (or Fallet-Prevostat) in Avize. Two dozen bottles safely in tow, I popped in to see if I could get some Selosse. Sucess there too!

Wednesday, April 20: A day to be sick and do paperwork :-(

Thursday, April 21: Tastings at Ployez-Jacquemart, Henri Billiot and Rene Geoffroy. Wow, the latter collection is screaming hot. So glad to have a restock shipment on the water now.

Almost up to date! That'll do for now. Will add a pic or two when I have better internet signal.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The week that was

So many great stories to catch up on and share. Here's what's been happening:

Thursday: Visited JF Hillebrand in Beaune to talk about my shipments they handle
Friday: Camille Giroud and David Croix for tastings of 08s and 09s, and Fabienne Bony in Nuits St Georges, which only confirmed my opinion on how difficult it is to sell wines from that appellation. Dinner at Cave Madeleine.
Saturday: Spent a long time at an Orange store to buy a SIM for my phone. Wasn't thrilled when it ran out of the 35e credit in one day. Turns out the assistant had forgotten to turn off the roaming 3G. Caught the tail end of the farmers' market, and went to the Athenaeum. Dinner at Comptoir des TonTons.
Sunday: Visited Stephane Aladame in Montagny les Buxy to taste the 2008s and 2009s. I added some half bottles to my order they had just packed (2008s). Then went to Domaine Dublere in Savigny les Beaune (American Blair Pethel). Finally caught up with David Clark in Morey St Denis. It was meant to be for a coffee, but he didn't have any, so we tried the 2010s out of barrel and a bottle of 08 and 09. Looking fantastic. Dinner at Picq Boeuf.
Monday: Late decision to say in Burgundy for the Trilogie en Cotes de Nuits, a biennial tasting in Vosne, Chambolle and Morey St Denis. Lots of 08s and 09s on taste. Many surprises -- on how insipid and dirty some domaine's wines are -- and a couple of discoveries. I'll be trying to import at least one. Then drove to Roanne for dinner at three-starred Troisgros. Was interviewed on French TV to coincide with the local translation of Aur Revoir and All That, a book by an American on the decline of French cuisine. We protested ... but spent the last part of the evening and the rest of the night in the bathroom. It must have been something I ate at the tastings ... PS, if you go, save some money and stay at the Grand Hotel next door.
Tuesday: No breakfast, no lunch, cramps all day ... Drove to Beaujolais for tastings with JM Burgaud (2010s and some 2009s), tried to confirm my final order of 09s (but I'm still not sure as he doesn't seem to like emailing); tasted with Stephane Aviron of Potel-Aviron, who has bought fruit from several crus; visited Paul-Henri Thillardon and Alain Coudert, who I will import from (Chenas, Fleurie and Brouilly, although the Fleurie is on the border of Moulin a Vent). Worst dinner ever at the Atelier near the town hall in Villie-Morgon. Rude waiter told people we were English and therefore couldn't handle meat being rosé (pink), when in fact the meat was like an old boot and I couldn't even cut it!
Wednesday: Visits to Faury and Barou in northern Rhone, the latter a run-down 200-year-old farmhouse but intense wines made by passionate no-nonsense people. Organic since 1971. The whites were incredible, and there's a St Joseph that goes into new oak for two years. Then on to Espiers near Vacqueyras. Great visit. Checked out a few vineyards and tasted some wines. Ordered a pallet of the 2010 white, and will get even more of the reds (200 cases of the CdR already on the way to Aus). Stayed just up the road, but had to drive about 15km to find a restaurant, and again it was awful.
Thursday: Driving day ... did some work in the morning and then drove 500km to Pau in southwest France. I've been using to choose hotels. Stayed in Montpensier for two nights. Pretty good, and only 67e a night. Found an amazing bistro and couldn't get in, two nights in a row. Will post the details later. Ate at a pub called Le Bureau (The Office). Nice burger and beer.
Friday: Another great tasting day and two more new producers. Will be buying from two stars of Jurancon. Third visit to Madiran was not so successful. The winemaker, a smoker who said he was an alcoholic, was lovely but I couldn't get my head around his wines, a tannat, a tannat-cab franc, a petit manseng and a special cuvee blended with the sixth barrel from three producers and hence labelled 666. Drove back to Pau (an hour) and ate at a little crepe restaurant facing the chateau.
Saturday: About to drive to San Sebastien in Spain (maybe for lunch) and then to Santander on the coast. On Sunday we will drive on to Vigo to be handy to Pontevedra for Albarino tastings on Monday.

I have some great stories among all that and hope to come back to them at various points. Better I at least recorded some thoughts than let them pile up though! Feel free to ask for more detail about anything.