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Whirly tour of Sicily, 11-14th May 2017

Day 1, Thursday 11th May

I love coming to this island. Its people are very different from the mainland I find. Thats all I am going to say on this front. But the island is full of passion, history and wonderful architecture too. Oh and quite old temples. I am here on this trip to find wines at that crucial £10 mark that I talk of at the end of my last tour to Croatia and Slovenia in March. So its a big trip. Will I succeed? Buono Fortuna amico mio.

First stop is Alcamo and an old friend or two. Not wines for the £10 sticker but wines that are natural and a little more expansive shall we say. Bosco Falconeria are an Organic vineyard and they now make natural wines. Yeah, here we go again, on the  ” Natural wine world trail!‘ They are located high above Alcamo in the rolling hills and to get there the drive is along a dirt track and some crazy corners. But when you get to Bosco its heavenly and tranquil, a massive contrast to the rubbish and abuse of the environment that one experiences on the S113 to get here ( this is my one gripe about Sicily I am afraid, its worse than SW16 where I live). Natalia and her family live I feel a very special life that they have created. Sadly Mary her mother is in New York, her birthplace so I missed her ( she came here in 1969 met Tony fell in love and stayed, just like that!)

We taste 2015 wines. All are almost sold out and the 2016 are not ready to taste but they will be ready for Whirly to import in September this year. First we taste the Cattarato 2015 white label. I have imported this wine before but back in 2012. Its evolved a great deal as a wine since then though. totally natural yeasts; does not stay on skin contact at all, a very little sulphite in the beginning. Natalia explains to me,

” I d0n’t like the definition of natural so much.I don’t think its the best definition. I prefer a wine that respects the grape and the terroir. What we do with the wine depends on the year.” She goes on to explain that they use bentonite, a form of clay to clean the wines, but again not every year. The wine has great depth and character, a great deal richer than all other Cattarato’s I have tasted. Next wine is the ” Peregrino” ( the yellow label below). Three days maceration on the skin. This is a red wine version of the Cattarato, but picked at the same time as the first Cattarato. ( 13% alc vol) Lastly Nero D’Avola (15% alc vol) very expressive, much more so than I can remember in the past, this is a very “bright and happy wine,” I remarked at the time. Nine months in tank, ” It’s better for the wine’ says Natalia, ” the earlier you bottle it, it will need sulphites since its not stable.” I say goodbye to Natalia and Tony and drive back down the gravel track with a happy smile on my face.

Next stop, Castelvetrano, just north east of Marsala. I know exactly where to meet Gaetano and Sebastiano and as I walk into the bar opposite McDonalds just off the the A29. They spot me and are very surprised to see me. I could not call on the way and had emailed  that morning to say could we meet earlier at 1.30pm. Gaetano could not be more different from Natalia and Tony, he is as far away from the ” Natural” set up in Alcamo as one could be removed: he’s a local farmer, hard working and eager to sell to me and he owns 42 hectares of vineyard land as well as olive groves, so a substantial area of land. We race around in Geatano’s beaten up Fiat Punto and he shows me his vineyards, on a road I have travelled many times on the road to  Porto Palo, a windy and also beaten up road, that passes across a long valley of flat farmland with a bridge of enormous proportions taking vehicles east to Agrigento and west to Marsala. Under this bridge is where I find myself in the vineyards of ” Donna de Coppa”. We then visit his olive groves and where he packages the olives and finally his bottling and winemaking plant. Its a middle sized set up, larger than most wineries I work with but in tasting the 2016 wines out a tank I am convinced they are wines that I can sell to my customers at around the £10 mark and they will be enjoyed. They are very good wines indeed. This is what Sicily can offer, some really fab wine at fab prices. We taste ” Bianco Siciliana” 2016, a blended wine of Trebbiano and Cattarato and probably some other white local grapes out of the tank, then a Vermentino 2016 out of tank, a Syrah 2016 and finally a Nero D’Avola-Syrah 2016 blend. All are bright and expressive and well made. I manage to finally get back to me car ( Gaetano wants me to stay for dinner)  and say farewell with another big smile on my face. I have achieved what I came here to do. Four hours later at 8pm I arrive in Siracusa on the east coast of Sicily, just in time for dinner. If you have never been to Siracusa go. Ortigia is the most wonderful place and as I discover over the next 2 days the birthplace of civilisation as we know it.

Day 2, Friday 12th May

I am here to meet Simona at Cantine Gulino. It turns out that the vines are just at the back of the hotel I am staying at. I meet Simona and Sabastiano Gulino, the family owner who explains to me, after a walk around the Muscato Bianco and Nero D’avola vineyards ( 7 hectares) both famous for being varietals with their origins in this area. This is the home of both grapes. The vineyard has been in the ownership of the family since about 1600 but in the 20th century with the onset of the industrial revolution, the discovery of the the natural springs  that meant vegetables were planted and vine ripped out, the vineyard site fell away and very much into disrepair. In 1995 they started to restore the buildings and its now the way it is now. They show me, high up above the floor the original vats where they would press the wines with their feet. The picture below of the arch shows the pipe in the ceiling where the juice would run free.

The first wine we taste is called ” Fania”, 60% Fiano and 40% Inzolia, from grapes in ” Contrada Burgio” near to Noto. Inzolia is a native grape to this land, the Fiano’s homes is Napoli. Inzolia is ” the king of grapes”. Simona explains,” Its very difficult not to produce a wine here without structure. The structure here is bigger.” She means that its the perfect place to grow Fiano and other grapes, the sun shines and it rains very little. The soil is limestone and very fertile. Its all about sun, weather, limestone soil. “The land here was part of the African plate “ Simona goes on. The soil is full of marine sediments full of calcium and this mountain range  is called the ” Monte Iblei”. There are three other mountain ranges in Sicily: Madonie near Palermo, Pelottaani near Messina and Etna near Catania. All four form Sicily. Back to the wine. They make 30,000 bottles of Fania, its very dry with great acidity, very citrusy. “ Wines of the African plate are full of acidity and therefore keep fresh and last for at least 3 years in the bottle”. Good news. the grapes are de-stemmed. no skin contact, pressed, 24 hours maceration then seperate tanks for 6 months. Next wine is Chardonnay 100%, the only wine I don’t like. Made for a commercial export market and not indigenous.

The third wine we taste is the Albanello 2016 a grape typical of the Siracusa wine region and SE Sicily. Cantine Gulino are the only producer of pure Albanelle in Syracusa, the wine is very different with 24 hours on their skins, very quick and notes are both sweet and savoury with a little melon. I like it. Next ” Fanus” a red wine, blend of Syrah and Nero D’Avola ( 60/40). As I taste this the swifts are flying in and out of the barn where the wines are stored. Syrah loves Sicily and Sicily loves Syrah. A grape that Alessio Planeta used to put Sicily on the wine map almost 20 years ago flourishes in this hot, dry dusty land. This wine is macerated for 2 days on the skins, then 6 months in tank before being blended. No oak. Crimson red in colour and light on the rim, 30,000 bottles made, ” simple yet delicious”. Then a wine I tasted in London in January this year, and the reason why I am here, their 2014 Nero D’Avola, 12 months on oak, dried on the vine then a small percentage under the sun. This is a big juicy Nero D’Avola, a really exciting wine that needs time and will age well with plums, rich blackberries and a little sweet spice. 6,000 bottles made, delicious. The last two wines we taste are the Moscato bianco wines from the vines on the property that we walked a few hours earlier ( see picture below). The Don Nuzzo is made by drying some of the grapes under the sun. Its a fresh wine, full of figs and dried apricots. This is indeed a special wine in Italy and Sicily as Simona explains to me. The Jaraya is lighter in colour,as you can see from the picture below. The grapes are totally dried under the sun as well as on the vine, its a great deal sweeter than the first wine and also richer and full of apricots. Supremo Quality.
In the afternoon I decide to take a wee drive over to Noto to meet Theresa who I met in London in January when she was looking after the wines from Cantine Gulino and who now runs a new Enoteca called Enoteca della strada de Vino del val Di Noto”. The business in only a few weeks old but in a great site in a lovely square off the main street running through this gloriously beautiful town. Its not as old as Siracusa, so does not have the depth of time in its architecture, nevertheless the buildings are stunning and its so very well kept indeed. Below is a picture of one of the many churches in the town.

I taste some wines from local producers picture belkow and the Organic wines from Giasira and Riofarra stand out. What I am finding is that each grape, whether its Grillo, Cattarato, Fiano, Albanello or Nero D’Avola all show themselves in a very different yet exciting way depending on the where they are grown and due to the various soils in Sicily that are part of the four different mountain regions discussed earlier. This means we have a very exiting prospect for importing wines from Sicily in the future and one could have say 4-5 Cattarato’s that all show themselves to be very different from each other.

Day 3 Saturday 13th May

A drive back to Palermo then the most splendid Passajata for 4 hours around the town, ending in dinner at my favourite restaurant, Piccolo Napoli. Street food ( Palermo possibly has the best street food in Italy) old town Palermo, The Opera house , what a joy this place is. 

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Wine tour of Slovenia and The Istrian Peninsula, Croatia, 23-35 March 2017

Day 1 Thursday 23rd March

After a fraught time at Marco Polo airport in Venice ( told by hire care company that the car I had booked through Car could not be taken out of Italy! Great! So be careful, you really do need to read the small print with car hire nowadays, they are changing their terms and conditions all the time) I grabbed another car and headed in the long curve east around to Trieste, whirled down the steep descent to this glorious city as fast as I was allowed to, stopped for a quick lunch and beer and then skipped across a little piece of Slovenia into the brown hills of the Istria where I am discovering some beautifully made wines.

Its all about one grape here really, Malvazia ( with a Z not an S here) which might sound boring but its not since they vary so much from vineyard to vineyard, but they do have one thing in common, they are dry, dry dry. Very much a style I like but i think they are very much food wines and are not in anyway like the Malvazia made just north of here in Collio in Friuli where I will be tonight.

Having ditched my Michelin map 736 that covers the whole of Slovenia down to Macedonia, so far too small a scale for Whirly’s liking, I found some lovely people in a garage who sold me a very large scale map of the Istrian peninsula ( we don’t use Sat Nav on whirly tours BTW) and a little advise we popped over a few hills to the most lovely little town called Groznjan. What a find this little town is, little cobbled streets, no cars and some more helpful people, Sasha and Tanya that were in running a wonderful hand made furniture shop as well as a cafe, who delight in telling me about their favourite little vineyards. From here I followed my fab large scale map to Momjan where Marino Markozic makes Organic wines of subtlety and finesse. I first of all tasted their RE Brut sparkling wine, made from a assemblage of 80% Malvasia, 10% Pinot  Noir and 10% Chardonnay. Bone dry, 6 grams of sugar, dried and candied stone fruit, but unlike anything I had tasted before. Next was a 100% Malvazia, so so dry, exquisite, refined, great strength. 100% steel fermentation, 2015, again stunning quality: dried, candied lemon peel, bitter fruits, needs food.

There were no reds made in 2015 due to lack of rain, so I could not taste the locally grown Teran grape which is a shame. The last wine I tasted was their Muscat Momjanski 2015, a great here only find here in Momjan, hence the name. Intense orange peel and zest on the nose, so intense with a little spice and kumquat. Again refined and so well made, 13.5% alc vol, quite spicy and punchy. I am heading back there this morning to try to taste the Teran out of the tank, 2016 with the owner since he’s back at the helm today.

Last night was spent in the coastal town of Umag at a wine restaurant called It Istria, run by 7 winemakers of the region. Top wines again tasted, the highlight for me was the wines from Coronica, both the Malvazia and Teran were poured from a newly opened magnum, right up Whirly’s straza and they were mind blowingly gorgeous. So you will forgive me I have to whirl and email Moreno form Coronica, Marino from Kabola and make tracks. I have to be in Slovenia soon after lunch so the map is going to come in great use for short cuts. Break a leg whirly and over and out! More soon, pictures to follow!

Day 2…Friday 24th March

Big day ahead, tastings planned in three countries, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. After the wonders of Coronica last night I found the little village of Koreniki just south of Umag on my “very large scale map” and off I went at 8.30am to find the first of many vineyards today. In a little village with a circle of olives trees and perfectly manicured grass in the  foreground, I found the HQ of Coronica and Eva who went through the wines with me. I had already tasted their Malvasia 2015 which was more aromatic than other samples tasted so far as well as their ” Gran Teran 2012″ which was superb. Eva explained, the Gran Teran is two years on oak and has only just been released; it takes 4 years to get it ready for the market and is only produced in certain years. In 2014 there was too much rain and not enough sun, which is difficult to comprehend yes, so none was made. The 2015 Malvazia is finished here in the tasting room and I tasted the new 2016 which was good but not as rich as the 2015, I would imagine it needs some more time in bottle. Mareno is the third generation winemaker, his father started making modern technology winemaking in 1990 ( which means bottling of the wines). I also tasted here their ” Gran Malvazia 2015″ which has 1 year on the yeast and a few months on oak. I prefer this style of Malvazia, the oak helps open the wine up and since we are only 3000 metres from the sea here, there is a different feel to the wines from their terroir with a little salt at the end of the wine. “ We plough the field and scatter, the good seed of the land” is what sprung to mind this morning as I drove through the small patches of vineyards here and saw the red soil that had been newly ploughed up, incredibly rich in minerals.

On the way back to Umag I stopped at a little village on the coast and watched a sailing boat motor in and anchor. The apple blossom was was out on a tree and the bee’s and hornets were buzzing around it, the smell of the Adriatic combined with the blossom was evocative and joyful. I quick drive north to the corner of the peninsula to Savudrija and Degrassi proved fruitless since they were shut so I followed my large map back to Kabola and managed to meet Marino the owner very quickly, who is a winemaker of repute ( Kabola is the only Organic vineyard here in Croatian Istria) as well a truffle hunter too! Truffles! We love truffles. It was on the way back to Groznjan to say thank you to Sasha & Tanya for their help that I once again saw this old man tending two rows of vines in a village called Marusici. I asked to take a photo and this was the result: I am not holding a gun up to him don’t worry, just my i phone but the result is the same! What a lovely man, a lovely face and  notice, from his trousers at the back he has the cuttings of the vines hanging that he is pruning. Next stop the crazy Rojac from just across the border in Slovenia making stunning natural wines. Yes you heard it, the penny has dropped, Deeee- dunngg! Mr Whirly’s view on this style of wine has been changed forever.

Uros asked me to call him when I reached the first roundabout after the the Croatian border crossing. But I ignored this and almost found his vineyard myself until he whizzed around the corner on his scrambler motorbike. Yes I would say Uros lives life to the full was the first impression that he made on me. On the you tube video is the first wine we tasted, click on it and have a look please, its pretty exciting stuff, hand disgorging of his ” Moia” wine, ” Mine” into an ice bucket full of water, oh the theatre and excitement of wine and winemakers! He says to me as we taste the fizzy, frisky pink juice, “ I want sincerity, I want the grape variety, I want the terroir.” This wine showed me that winemaking this way can be exciting, fresh and vibrant and simply enjoyable to drink not something I have come across before with most natural wines. Next up was a 2016 Malvazia, selected yeasts and a delight! No label. I want it. Next a 2013 Orange wine, all about maceration here, indigenous yeast so that means natural from the skin like in Roman times man! Next, we are moving from one wine to the next in rapid succession, Malvazia Letnik 2013, 60 days skin contact, 2.5 years in oak, big barrels, completely bio-dynamic wine, old style.Then some Refosk: re means king, fosk means something dark. This is a very old grape from these parts. We taste a 2014 Refosk and even though there was a great deal of rain at the wrong time ( September) Uros has still managed to make a great wine, a very puristic wine. Next a Ronero 2016 out of tank; Max Ro-Nero! This is a big story wine: the grapes are dried naturally on the plant, picked at 8 gms of sugar, slightly sweet but delicious and it then spends 5 years in the bottle before being released to be drunk. As I drove Uros down the hill and dropped him off at that first roundabout and drove north to the Italian border, it struck me that I had just witnessed a man in his complete entity. Here was someone making his own style of wines, in a far flung country not recognised by the mass wine market but in a state of complete happiness. The penny had dropped for him and for Whirly.

From here I headed to find Martin in a wine region of Slovenia called ‘ Kras”, a limestone plateau just to the east of Trieste. I had been here before and loved their salami which they make themselves from their own “sounder of swine.” However it was very much  a case of following my nose since my large scale Croatian map had run out at the border and the sat nav is not a thing we use on a Whirly tour as you already know. So it took me an hour or so to find  ( ok 2 hours) but the fun I had completing this journey was immense. In order for me to find the vineyard I had to stop in a little country town to ask directions called Trebiciano to ask directions to Sezana just across the border. A stop entailed a little expresso and a bombolino ( ok two) at a cafe and a chat to a local gentleman who pointed me in the right direction. After a Graci and a farewell I thought this would not have happened if I had been using a SN and I would have simply driven to the ” Ostirjeva Kmetija” without any interaction with the locals. By the time I reached the salami place just east of Dutovjle the sun was setting and I had still a tasting or three to finish. Martin showed me some of his wines I chomped gleefully through his salami that is daughter, who is still at school but was running the shop very efficiently, had carefully cut and laid out for us. His wines are honest wine and made in a lovely simple and old school way. I would import them, in fact they are the perfect wines for me since they would be at the right price and I would be able to sell them under the vital £10 mark. But lets see how we get on with his salami for the shop shall we!? Martin  is keen for me to taste some wines at another natural vineyard back in Dutovjle so he drives be back to Rencel, a vineyard that started in 1986. It is here that I am told that this area his the home of Teran ( another name for the refosco grape) and that Martin has indeed gone to Brussels to fight the Croatians who have stole the name for their wines. Josko Rencel, the owner makes wine in very small amounts, 500 or 1000 bottle parcels so he’s pretty damn tiny. His wines, like Rojac are not ” inexpensive” either but the quality cannot be denied.

Its all about Teran here as I have already explained. First off is the ” Kras Carso” 2013, natural yeast, only 1000 bottles made 75% Teran. Then a Pinot noir 2009, macerated for 8 days and then 5 years in barrel. Serious wine. 800 bottles made. Vincent 2013: Sauvignon, Malvazia and Chardonnay. Next the local grape. ” Vitovska Grganja”, ” Orange wine”, different process of maceration which is basically the opposite to rose wine which is creating a rose style wine from red grapes, goo but not me. Then a Sauvignon blanc 2012, malolactic, 3 days of maceration, yellow Sauvignon! Then a Cuvee 2009 Orange wine, same blend as above, no sulphites, 5 years in oak: ” Cameroe” 2003, 16.5% alc vol ( variation of Amarone, dried grapes): Negra 2006, Teran 2006, 6 months of drying the grapes, amazing wine: ” Malvazia 2003″ sweet wine, 6 days drying, 8 years in barrel 100% Malvazia….at this point given that it was now 8 pm and I still had to drive 1 hour without a sat nav my mind began to wander and my notes did not cover the reaming two wines. What I can say is that yet again my thoughts and feelings on Natural wines have been transformed: they can be fresh and enjoyable so drink.

In Friuli the next day after a late night drive to Cormons I tasted some really young but exciting wines from Buzzinelli.What was to me extraordinary was the fact that these wines were half the price of some of the wines I tasted on my last two day trip  but also only half as good, in my humble opinion. What have `I learnt from this trip? The wines from the smaller producer, in general, are increasingly difficult to find for that £10 bottle and that I will have to find these wines in future from slightly larger producers. Sad but true.








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Tuscany and Piedmont Tour, July 10-13th 2016

Recently, following a failed attempimg_0794t to get there in May, I visited the home of the two great red varietals of Italy, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, Brunello de Montalcino and Barolo. Despite the miles in between the two towns and the crazy late night driving along the Mediterranean curve near Genoa, I had a fabulous time visiting both towns. They are held in so much admiration in the wine world of Italy and indeed the whole world and this reputation is growing every day.

After the most delightful night in Siena watching the people in the main square and not going un-noticed was the lovely sight of young people not looking at their i-phones but talking to each other enthusiastically! Wow it would be lovely to see a bit more of this in London. But what a city and Square this place is: I love the way it is hidden up and above the town so that if you did not know there was a beautiful city with the most amazing panoramic square that is beyond belief in terms of atmosphere and feel. Do go if you have never been.


( Manzone Single Vineyard wines above the highlight of which is “Il Castelletto 2011”, the small vineyard around the Castle)

I skipped Chianti the next morning and headed to the smaller yet to me, far more individual grower of the best the Sangiovese can offer in Italy, Montalcino, which received its DOCG status in the 1970’s. Another beautiful little hillside town, as many wine towns are, Montalcino is located about 20 miles south of Siena on the small road to Rome! It took be about 2 hours to find ” Terralsole” and the vineyard of Mario Bollag and his lovely wife Athena, since the signs are very difficult to follow and no one knows the vineyard when asking! Its not surprising since when I eventually do get on the right road its down the end of a gravel track of about 3 miles, as seems to be nearly always the case!


( The view from Monforte D’Alba across to Serralunga D’Alba and below the cellar at Manzone)

As Athena shows me around the house and cellar ( Mario is tasting 2012 vintages before blending with some of his consultants or friends) she explains to me that Mario was the black sheep of a prominent Basle family in Switzerland and he was an artist who studied at ” Ballata” in Florence in the 70’s. He fell in love with wine as well as art and worked his first vintage in Montalcino in 1990. However ” he wanted a bigger palate” so he bought the land we were walking on in 1993 as well as some land called ” Fonte Latta”, meaning “milk fountain”, since legend has it that if you were short of breast milk for your baby you drank the water from this fountain and the milk would flow. In 1995 he started planting the vines up here and built the house I stood in which was built from scratch.


Mario uses 600 litre barrels of French oak  from Alier,for his wines and somehting about 220 litre wines and they are nowin the second year of conversion into Organic status. They also have higher elevation vineyards here in Montalcino which means the grapes are far more expressive and these vineyards are called ” Pian Bossolino” up to about 410 metres.

What I like about this whole set up is the clear passion for producing some of the most individual Brunello’s that one could possibly wish to find. They are up there in price too mind you but the quality and precision behind the winemaking is wonderful to witness. Mario also does not release his wines too early. Their present vintage is 2006; 5 years ageing in barrel and two in the bottle.

We tasted some 2012’s wines that were at present single vineyard wines. His Reserva 2012 was very soft and elegant, the Trio 2008 was a blend of grapes from other countries, Cabernet franc, Merlot and Syrah and velvety too. The 2013  ” Milk Fountain” was out of the barrel as well as the 2013 ” Pian Bossolino” which is a special cuvee of “Sangiovese Grosso”. The last wine we tasted was my personal favourite and was called ” Anata” and was a blend of the two vineyards and is clearly going to be an excepttional vintage, very bright and light.



(Mauro with his delightful father Giovanni)

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Whirly wine tour of Corbiere, Limoux, Gascogne and Jurancon 26th-29th June 2016

Following ” Brexit” I felt pretty numb so it was probably a positive idea to a have trip planned to Corbiere, Jurancon and Gascogne planned for this week; let the dust settle whilst I am away. However despite my awful use of the French language all I could hear on most radio stations on the drive from Toulouse to Pau yesterday were the words ” Brexit” so clearly its made its mark here in Europe also.

Onto the wines, well with a little bit of Brexit too!  I am always on the outlook for great wines at very competitive prices but none more so than now and in the months and years ahead. With this in mind I have been planning a trip to Corbiere for a long time. Corbiere is in very poor part  of France but possibly one of the most undiscovered and beautiful in its very arid, rocky and barren way.

Domaine La Bouysse” have been making Organic wines for three years but they have been making wine here for three generations. The abandoned and derelict Cooperative in the centre of the village of Saint Andre de Roquelongue is testamount to the past history and the development of the wines here in this region over time.  The Tramontane wind from the west thats swoops across the Atlantic was kicking up quite a storm as I approached the town sweeping over the escarpment of the same name.  La Bouysse is the name of the mountain, well escarpment, pictured below that protects the vines on the property and emphasises the ruggedness of the region. It really is hard country down here. I have been following this wine region for over ten years and after many visits to this unheralded wine area it was time to import some wines from here myself.



I tasted the following wines at the vineyard ( pictured above)

Domaine La Bouyysse “B” range: a range of wines that really do excite the palate yet that are are at an “entry level”. Their white is made from Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat Petit Grains. Its a really different wine with some herb and savoury notes and  perfect for summer drinking. Their rose is made from Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Its dry with that lovely slightly Provencal Pink colour so would go down well in the UK with the rose market. The Bouysse ” B” red consists of Merlot, Syrah and Carignan and is juicy and easy to drink.The Carignan wines are over 80 years old, planted by the grandparents of Delphine, who has been busy in the warehouse all morning as we taste the wines, so this certainly helps the makeup and smoothness of this wine.  So three great wines that would sell well this summer and beyond at sensible prices.

Also tasted, were the ” Floreal” rose from AOC Corbiere, 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, again with that lovely very light pink colour as well as the Carignan 2014, made from the 80 year old vines, that needed a little more time and some air so I must remember to re-taste again today since its in my little Fiat 500 ready to go again. Their wines are also made up of grapes from another appellation, Boutenac, which is about 10 miles north and this wine has to have at least 50% Syrah in its makeup.



( Ann Marie, head of sales and marketing at La Bouysse with the escarpment of the same name in the background and the view of La Bouysse from the other side, heading to Limoux)

La Bouysse are a small vineyard, only 120,000 bottles in total so they fit Whirly wines profile very well indeed. I already have a small parcel of their Viognier reserved, which is sold out apart from this small amount so now its up to Mr Whirly to get the wines over from here and into the Whirly shop. I expect that to happen in the next week or two.

From this little village close to Narbonne I had a 90 minute drive to Limoux, a wine region that even more so remains undiscovered but makes some of the most exciting yet unheralded wines in the south of France. On the way I drove up the Gorge  de L’Orbieu, which wound its way up to around 600 metres then down the other side to Limoux and past  the remains of Chateau Durfort, one of many Cathar castles built here one thousand years ago. The picture below is of the Chateau D’ arques a few miles down the other side of the Gorge de L’Orbieu.



At Limoux, I had already spotted a vineyard I would like to visit, having crossed its path the day before on my way to Lagrasse over and around the country hills and forests that are full of deer and wild boar.  Limoux is famous for its status as ” AOC Limoux Blanquette de Limoux” and ” AOC Cremant de Limoux”. I drove with as much speed as my Fiat 500 would allow up the windy road behind Limoux to ” Domaine de Fourn” where I quickly tasted two wines, the “Blanquette de Limoux Brut Carte Noire 2013”, made from 90% Mauzac, 5% Chenin and 5% Chardonnay, hand picked and matured in bottles for 15 months in the cellar. Very, soft and elegant and a truly delicious wine. I also tasted the “Blanquette de Limoux Brut Carte Ivoire 2013″ made from 90% Mauzac and 10% Chenin. Another exquisite wine, possibly slightly sweeter than the Carte Noire but with another really delicate flavour and mousse. I was really surprised by the quality of these wines and I shall look to import some small parcels very soon.

From Limoux I had a three hour drive to Pau via Toulouse in order to get there in time for the Spain v Italy match. I shot back onto the autoroute just north of Castelnaudry ( famous for its Haricot beans for Cassoulet) and drove as rapidly as my Fiat 500 would allow me to this city close to Tarbes and Lourdes. Why you might ask was I heading here? Well, just south of here is Jurancon, a region whose wines I have always loved and yet never had the chance to visit. The next morning, after England had failed so awfully against Iceland and the French were loving there own  little double edged meaning of ” Brexit”, I spent about 50 minutes driving to this little Appellation that specialises in Gros and Petit Manseng varietals. Only 50 since I had a meeting in Eauze in Gascogny at 1pm and it was already 10am.  I found some wonderful Jurancon wines from Camin Larredya and Clos Thou, that are on either side of a vallye from each other and yet which were so so different. I tasted the La Part Davant 2015 Jurancon sec at Larredya that was very expressive and exotic in terms of fruits on the palate. At Clos Thou I tasted the Jurancon sec Cuvee Guilhouret that was so, so different from the Larredya, more minerally and textured and not so full of fruit. Why were they so different? I have no idea since I had to visit Tariquet in Gascogny, wines that I have already imported but I shall let you know their makeup and why they are so poles apart once the wines are in the shop in SW17.

Next wine tour Piedmont and Tuscany, 10th-13th July, visiting Brunello and Barolo as well as other vineyards.



( the view across the valley from Camin Larredya to Clos Thou and the woods in between)