Happy New Year!  How was yours?  Mine was fantastic. 

As has become something of a tradition, we spent New Year here at home in France with friends.  The delightful Emma B-D has been here in Les Chapelles for every New Year that we have (arriving a few days after spending Christmas with her mum down near Carcassonne), and the wonderful Warren family (Heather, James and the two little ‘uns) have joined us for the past couple.  New arrivals this year were an old friend of the wife’s and her children from Lyon.  With my folks in residence too it was quite a crowd, and great fun.  The New Year celebrations (well, one specific aspect) also provided the inspiration for this blog.

Of course, everyone’s welcome, but I always particularly look forward to the arrival of James Warren.  James and I (along with his wife Heather and my own wife Michelle) worked together years ago and have been friends since.  Not only is James extremely good company, he’s also a lover of all things French (James and Heather lived in France for a while long before we arrived) and especially its wine.  He’s also far more knowledgeable than I…something he sought to redress slightly this year by very kindly giving me Oz Clarke’s book on the wines of Bordeaux (although to my embarrassment and his amusement, only after I had spent a fair chunk of the journey back from the airport telling James how irritating I found Clarke!  I did stress, however, that I had no doubts about Clarke’s expertise…).  Warren’s arrivial and gift was all the excuse we needed (and we don’t need much) to venture off on a wine buying expedition accompanied by the quietly knowledgeable Emma B-D (which comes through her close friendship with well-known wine expert Matthew Jukes and his family). 

We headed for the E.Leclerc supermarket in nearby Royan.  Now, I can imagine some of you thinking that we should really be visiting splendid chateaux sitting majestic amongst vineyards, but for sheer variety and value you can’t beat the big supermarkets, especially in this part of the world.  Our strategy was quality over quantity and, over the coming days, I’ll let you know what we were drinking, how much it cost us and what we thought of it.  Suffice to say, with Oz Clarke’s guidance and some natural instinct, we have enjoyed some fantastic wine.

The experience also sparked something in me; a desire to get a little more serious about my wine, to increase my knowledge and understanding, to make more of a hobby of my enjoyment of this splendid drink.  James, being the new media guru he is, felt that a blog would be a decent way of recording the experience (for my benefit if nobody else’s!).  He also came up with the name…so blame him.

A bientot.

PS – For all you French grammarians out there, apologies.  I have yet to work out how to get accents and the like onto words in this blog.  Hopefully I’ll suss it soon.