The best documentary I have seen in a long time......

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Travel blog, second edition.

And so we begin, It’s August, it’s getting hot and we’re beginning our road trip today.
The day before I rushed around, packing bags, laying out camping equipment and planning how I would fit it all in the car. I decided to leave the bulk of our stuff at Laurens mothers (Glenda’s) house so that we could pack the car in peace without nosy neighbours and local busy bodies getting wind of what we were up to, where we might be going and how long. So with a couple of luggage bags we headed to Glenda’s to fit the two bikes, tent, cool box, sleeping bags, kitchen and cooker and other paraphernalia. All in to the back of a Toyota Yaris with its seats folded over.

Our first leg of the journey is to the Southeast seaside town of Ramsgate for our Travelodge. Note for next time, there are two. If you want loud busy seafront Travelodge book the seafront one with its noisy pubs and revellers partying in to the night. If like us you wanted the quiet retail park with chain restaurants and cinema for a relaxing night prior to the early morning ferry crossing, book the out of town Travelodge. Don’t whatever you do mix them up as we did and after a nice meal, three hours of Harry Potter have to drive in to the town to find the other Hotel!

An early checkout was on the cards in order to catch our 9am crossing for which you check in to at 8am. Dover is only 15-20 minutes drive from Ramsgate and is easy to find without ‘satnav’. Earlier crossings are cheep and if you are prepared to travel between 2am and 5am, book early and go in low season you can catch a single crossing for £4 with car! Our return crossing at more sociable hours was £54.

I like the boat a lot, it’s not as frantic as checking in to airports, and much more leisurely. You can walk around, sit inside and watch the Cliffs of Dover disappear or stand on deck and catch some fresh air. You don’t need particularly sturdy sea legs as the boat doesn’t ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ that much and you could even squeeze in a light beer or as we did cup of coffee and pastry. I like to read maps on the boat; I don’t use sat-nav and rely on memorising the route. A fun task that I rather enjoy. Sad, I know! I recommend Michelin France 2011 indexed as National 721. A big fold out road map for £5.99 that I will use again and again. 

Our two hour crossing got us to Dunkerque for 10am and we ploughed straight in to our 3.5 hour drive to Epernay. With a lunch break we arrived before 3pm at the Municipal campsite. Municipal is how the French refer to the more basic of the campsites they offer. I would recommend the site, it’s in walking distance of the town and several Champagne houses or a short drive to the village of Ay, A grande cru village boasting some top producers. Oh, the site:

Epernay Municipal
Alee de Cumiers,
12-18 euro.

We booked in advance with a simple email although even in August they probably could have squeezed us in had we just turned up but I wouldn't recommend it. I got the feeling that they preferred a bit of notice.

Here is an extract from my Diary from the trip, hope it sums up our time here.

Diary 05/08/11

Surrounded by Joggers, Cyclists, and Canoeists. There’s a rock climbing wall and a man swimming in the river. This isn’t the Epernay I imagined. Fast-forward two hours and every ten minutes or so ‘pop’ goes another bottle of Champagne, this is more what I had in mind. The campsite has come alive-BBQ’s fired up and wine flowing-Cumbersome fat pigeons precariously meander around the treetops too delicate to support their weight. Crows (I’ve never seen so many) mobbing the skyline crow and squawk to the fading light.
            Lauren and I lapped up the Drappier Grande Sendre rose Champagne we hoofed from England. Cold, Delicate beads of foaming sun set hue in the fading light-aromas of rose petal, orange blossom and strawberry plant scent the bulb of the glass. Crisp, fine, mousy, dry with fresh fruit tones reminiscent of Bandol rose and creamy autolytic flavours bring texture and roundness to the palate. All in all a brief but perfect encounter in Epernay and perfect second night (first in France) to the Holiday.   

Travel Blog Series-Plan your Holiday this summer on a shoe string and go camping in France

Travel Blog

If your thinking of getting away this summer and like me enjoy a spot of camping then I can strongly suggest nipping over to the continent. In particular I would highly recommend driving and camping in France. Last year I endured and enjoyed a 3500 mile round trip in just under 4 weeks. It was a little too long if I am being honest (referring to distance travelled) but the idea was to do a bit of recon on the best spots and favourable locations to camp.

Our trip took us through Epernay in Champagne, Tain L’hermitage in the Rhone valley, La Londe on the Provence coast and onwards to St Tropez. We crossed the boarder to Liguria and later Toscana Italy. The most noticeable outcome was the standard of campsite, even our 12 euro per night municipal in Epernay was fantastic. Clean equipped and sadly head and shoulders above that of any Italian site we visited.

Costing a trip like this is tricky because you just don’t know what to expect or where you may be on any given day or night but as a rule of thumb this is the breakdown of our main costs. You will notice some pleasant surprises like the Ferry crossing and certain campsites.

Return Ferry crossing from Dover to Dunkirque £54 with Norfolk Ferries.
Travel insurance £19,
Kwik Fit European Breakdown Cover, £5.99 per month. Annual policies are usually cost affective against one offs.
Epernay campsite 12 euro per night
Tain l’Hermitage 30 euro per night
La Londe 39 euro per night
Liguria 35 euro per night
Toscana 39 euro per night

Note how the cost of campsite increases as you go further south in France or closer to the Med’

In all Fuel cost and road tolls will be your biggest cost, don’t expect it to be cheaper than flying to your destination because it won’t. However you do have the freedom to move around and explore. I probably spent £500 on fuel and if you are unlucky you could pay just as much on tolls. I probably spent £250 on tolls. So there is £750 straight off on car travel before you even think about camping and eating or visiting tourist attractions. However much that sounds though we where away for four weeks and I dare say you couldn’t stay in Hotels for that length of time on the budget we had.

So, over the next few weeks I’m going to put together a few instalments of my trip from last year and with the benefit of hindsight tell you of the plan we have for this summer.  

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Pancakes and a Halfling

The day has arrived in the annual calendar where when we are succumbed (again) by social convention and actively induce sugar comas; test our susceptibility to heart disease and other dietary conditions. Yes today is Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday, as it should be referred. Yet we only really peruse this day for the Pancake.

There will be a ‘nut’ out there who is reading this and saying to them selves, “ah, yes but you could have savoury pancakes with a nutritious and healthy filling”.  I say, get real pancake nut. I’m going to give myself a sugar head ache and sore teeth because that’s the kind of crazy fool I am.

My better half requested that I provide lemon and sugar only for the topping of her pancake but seeing as though we are having pancakes for our main meal of the day I decided on something verging on nutritious.

For her: Hazelnut, Sultana and grated lemon peel with a toffee and Kahlua sauce.

For me: Blueberry and cherry with cream.

And there we have it, two tasty toppings to please all. But hang on! Isn’t this a wine blog?

Enter our half bottle of Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux by Sainsbury’s. Widely available and a widely affordable treat at £3.49. (half bottle)

This slither of the Bordeaux department runs down the western edge of the massive Entre-Deux-Mers (land between two seas) and sits on the bank of the river Garonne. The noble grapes Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon Blanc and Muscadelle are affected by Botrytis Cinerea a fungal disease that causes the grapes to shrivel and loose water content, heightening sugar content. In short a sweet luscious wine is made with citrus grapefruit and marmalade fruits with a light backdrop of orange and bergamot spice. What really impresses about this wine and its combination with the pancakes is that it doesn’t appear sweet alongside the toffee sauce and sweet fruit. The wine appears elegant with rich texture and comparable fruity flavours. A harmonious coupling of two. I couldn’t recommend this wine enough for pure value for money and a genuine snap shot of what Bordeaux sweet wines are all about.      

Friday, 20 January 2012

Verget caught up in a gaff.....

Above you can view the outrageous tale of events that happened at the Macconais winery Verget in 2010. It's quite unbelievable really but delivered in a sensitive and at times humerus way. Great cinematography and wine pic's to boot. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Another one for your christmas table........

Otra Vida Malbec-Mendoza-Argentina.

I've tried this wine a lot over the years and always though it to be, mmm....ok I suppose. I've recently tried the 2010 vintage and can tell you that at £6.49 it's an absolute must. As you will know £6 is not a lot to pay for a bottle of wine these days but finding one that you feel offers value ain't that easy. This wine is packed with complexity and showing signs of development that come with a carefully handled and matured wine. A punchy nose that comes across quite meaty (roast beef, leather, almost bretty) and powerful but allows bright red berry fruits of plum, red currant to shine through, as well as high notes of violet, a dead give away to this variety. Developing notes of warn leather, medicinal spice indicate some form of oak treatment weather barrel or staves  but either way impressive for a bottle at this price.

Unlike some new world Malbec, this one remains quite bright and fruity without being too dense and chewy. That's not to say it's thin in any way. It will pair perfectly to roast beef or a nice bit of steak, you could also venture a little more towards game. Venison, rabbit, pheasant, would be a just match! I may even suggest it wouldn't be too heavy for your turkey if that's what you prefer.

Widely available, you might try Tesco if you are struggling to track it down.


Monday, 12 December 2011

Moueix anyone?

Moueix anyone?

The Monday night Tesco shop was a blast tonight, I had plenty of time on my hands so I plugged in some quality tunes to my eardrums (Big L, not for the faint of heart I might add) took my sweet time and wandered the aisles. No surprise that when I fell upon the BWS aisle I slowed right down to a crawl in order to see what delights they had in stock pre-Christmas. Lots to choose from this year. Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon making a return appearance, always a winner. Roda Rioja, Legaris Ribera del Duero, both top rival wines from Spain. Tesco Finest Hermitage at £20 looks like a Billy bargain and on closer inspection revealed it was made by cooperative la Tain, a winery worth visiting just on the outskirts of the Tain l’Hermitage where you look straight from the tasting room window up on to the cascading terrace of vines that is the hill of hermitage (l’hermite). And so I wandered and wondered at these impressive wines until I found a fine wine section (fine wine section in tesco?). Impressive stuff too, not least tonight’s tipple that I was tempted by. A 2004 Saint Emilion Grand Cru not a ’08 or ’07, no. Something with a bit of age on it. Impressive! I was struck by the bold italics MOUEIX front and centre on the bottle. Surely not the same Moueix that in 1946 acquired the legendary Chateau Petrus and went on to promote it to the world renowned status and pedigree it is today. (You can by a bottle in Vesuvio Wine Bar, Darlington for £1400, and that’s cheep) The wine? Fauzinat l’Hermitage (no relation to the afore mentioned) absolutely stunning. I’m sat here tasting while I write this blog and can not believe how good it is. As soon as I pulled the cork I could smell those brambles and plums, I didn’t let it breathe at all. It didn’t seem to need it, it is after all 8 years of age. Complexity is there too, leather, cocoa, cigar box, pencil lead all coming through. Really the best thing about it though……. £14.99. I’d get down to Tesco if I were you.

Friday, 2 December 2011

It's been a long time.........

So , July was my last post, eek.......

I'm back now though after a few months of pursuing other interests, it seems that bicycles are quite big at the moment. Check out my new blog if you are in to that kind of thing.

Back to the topic of wine though, my new site is up and running and with it comes a new business venture for myself. Go check it out. The new site hosts my newly formed Wine Academy and I'm hoping it's going to be a huge success in 2012.

The Academy will provide both informal tutored wine courses and professional courses. The option to come for one night events or over a course of weeks is available. Courses will be hosted at Darlington Arts Centre in the Garden Bar and I am looking forward to meeting budding wine cadets and talking to you all about wine.

The title page of will also be used as a notice board for associated ventures and events. The aim of this to promote oenology in the northeast.

I'll be back soon with some more info and an update of whats going on.

Until then, enjoy another glass of wine. (responsibly)

David :  )