May 2007


lillet.jpgOut in Bordeaux last Friday with my mate Chris, we noticed a sign for Lillet, the aperitif made from a blend of wine fruit liqueurs somewhere south of Bordeaux.  Lillet has come to prominence of late due to being featured in the last James Bond film, Casino Royale (and, of course, Ian Fleming’s original book).  Bond adds it as an ingredient when explaining how he’d like his vodka martini…half a part Lillet, three parts gin, one part vodka, five ice cubes and a twist of lemon.  At least that’s how it’s described on the rather sweet Lillet website (though turn the music off).

I read somewhere soon after the Bond film was released that Lillet had experienced a – probably predictably – huge increase in interest and demand.  On the one hand I was delighted.  Lillet was featured in the film purely because it had also been mentioned in Fleming’s original book, not because, like so many other brands, it had paid millions of dollars to the producers.  On the other hand, I wondered if it would be able to cope with the increase in demand.  Reading the website, Lillet takes between 6 and 12 months to mature…it’s not like they could simply turn on a tap and get some more.  I’m sure they weren’t grumbling, though.

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pau.jpgIt’s been a bit mad, this last week or so.  I was in Seattle (or rather Bellevue, a fairly soulless suburb) for a four-day conference.  Not a great deal to report on the wine front, I’m afraid.  I did drink some, but nothing terribly memorable and, to be honest, most was held in the tight grip of a waiter and I was unable to see the label.  Given we were being entertained and I hadn’t therefore ordered any of it, I’m not sure what it was!  I’m pretty sure Merlot featured and I’m assuming it was US wine, but other than that… 

Otherwise, it was the odd beer (and if you’re ever offered some of a local brew called Arrogant Bastard I can recommend you decline…the arrogance, I suspect, describing those who could have ever claimed they’d produced a decent beer) and an extraordinarily large shot of tequila, which was totally unnecessary (but when are they not?).

I left Seattle on Thursday evening, and a rather ridiculous journey took me to Heathrow, then a car to Stansted to catch a flight to Poitiers followed by a train to Bordeaux to meet a very good mate, Chris, who’d flown into Bordeaux earlier that afternoon.  I’d therefore avoided going home altogether between the business trip to the US and an indulgent weekend of drinking, eating and watching fantastic old cars race around the streets of Pau, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

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We had some very good friends over to stay a couple of weekends ago.  Mark and I went to school together and we’re now Godparents to each other’s first children.  We had a great weekend here at the house and down on the beach; Mark and his wife Philli now have two strapping boys of similar ages to our two, and they all get on brilliantly.  Much good food and wine was inevitably consumed.  Mark very kindly bought me three bottles of Chateau Beauregard 2004, a Pomerol, and though a little young I couldn’t help opening a bottle to try.  Rather stupidly (but not for the first time) I opened it late in the evening after several bottles of various whites and reds had already been finished but, even then, I remember its quality shining through with a big burst of fruit.  I’m looking forward to savouring the other two – they really need to stay in the cave until after 2010.

During the weekend – and probably under the influence – Mark and I decided that we needed to undertake some sort of significant physical challenge in the next year or so.  He’s up for a marathon and, though I have toyed with the idea of the Medoc marathon, my running hasn’t been very comfortable and I think it might be a bad idea.  We both do a bit of cycling, however, so this seemed like a good place to start.  I’m not sure it ended in such a good place, however…

When Mark and I were at school together, we lived in villages about 15km apart and every now and then we’d cycle between the two houses.  What better thing to do, we thought, than to do the same thing again; to cycle from Mark’s house to mine.  The only thing being that Mark lives in Wimbledon, south-west London, and I live a bit north of Bordeaux, south-west France. 

But, the challenge is set.  We’ve mapped out a route which takes us from Wimbledon to Portsmouth on day one, an overnight ferry to St Malo and then five days of cycling (via my house) to Bordeaux.  The last day will see us jump on the ferry from Royan to the tip of the Medoc before cycling the D2 past some of the greatest chateaux in the world.  It’s about 648km in all…so an average of about 110km each day.

We’re doing it for charity, of course – the chosen one being Wooden Spoon and which has already been very helpful and enthusiastic.  We’re looking to get a small team together – probably 6-10 people – along with a support driver.  We’re already roping in a couple of mates but if you’ve got a burning desire to join us, email me at mark@leschapelles.com.

I’ve started training already.  My theory is that I need to train my ageing body to cycle at an average of 25km/h for hours on end.  Yesterday I rode 55km and managed to keep to pace – clicking through 50km in 1:59:52..though the second 25km was a bit slower than the first.  Still, we’re not planning on doing the London to Bordeaux run until late-May 2008, so I’ve got a while to get fit…

madeira-7.jpgIt won’t have even registered with you that it’s been a bit quiet round here for a while, because hardly anyone reads this rubbish.  But it has and the reason has been that I’ve been on holiday.  Not just me, of course; I took the family as well.  We went to Madeira.  It’s a spectacular island – the top of a volcano sticking out of the Atlantic.  There aren’t any beaches, its incredibly steep sides just disappear beneath the sea.  We were perched on the side of the island at Cabo Girao, overlooking Funchal, the capital, and on the edge of one of the world’s steepest sea cliffs.  You walked to the edge, looked over the fence and it was literally 590m straight down to, appropriately, some vineyards and the sea.  Vertigo inducing.

We had a bottle of wine each evening and, to be honest, I can hardly remember any of them!  I can’t say that I’m a fan of the fortified madeira wine itself, so we stuck to various reds and whites from Portugal (we had to, there wasn’t anything else available…).  None of them were particularly offensive; just not very spectacular.  Back home in France now though and we’ve got friends coming over this weekend so I’m off to buy some wine tomorrow to get us through the next few days.  The weather’s great so I’m hoping we’ll be doing a fair bit of cooking on the barbecue (I’ve got a brand new one to put together…how very exciting!) so I’ll be looking for some nice crisp whites and some fruity Right Bank reds, I reckon.