Saturday, 6 November 2010

Exclusive Red's from the Rhone

I am are delighted to announce that Maison du Vin is now the official UK stockists for the superlative reds form the Rhone valley produced by top growers Ravoir et Fils . The family business which was started in 1987. Is based in the Luberon gateway to the Rhone valley. The focus is on producing regional wines of the highest quality.

These include wines from areas as Gigondas, Cote du Rhone Village, Vacqueyras and the Luberon to name but a few.

Roger Ravoir

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Sherry Master Class

As a prelude to our Spanish fest in October we are holding a Sherry Master Class at Maison du Vin on September 21st at 7.30 pm. We are co-hosting the event with legendary Sherry producer Gonzalez Byass. There will be a tutored tasting of six fascinating different sherries all served with a selection of tapas.

Even if you no nothing about Sherry. In fact especially if you know nothing about Sherry. This will be a fascinating evening and a real insight into one of the worlds oldest and most misunderstood beverages!

Places are limited and must be booked in advance. To book email

Saturday, 21 August 2010


Our ever popular wine school evenings return to Maison du Vin on the 16th of September.

These events are a great way to learn more about wine in a relaxed light hearted and informative manner.

There is a nominal charge of £10 per head which includes a tutored tasting of up to eight wines and a simple supper after the tasting.

Our theme for this forthcoming event will be the wines of 'I VERONI' an artisan grower based in Chianti.

You can book a place by emailing me at

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Five a day?

Given that grapes are a fruit and that wine is made from the fermented juice of grapes.

Would it be logical to assume that a glass of wine,or two, counts towards your 5 a day?

Bloody hope so!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Cote de Provence Rose. Nectar of the Gods!

Kevin Griffin, owner of Maison Du Vin - Kent's wine specialists, discusses the virtues of one of the best summer wines.

“Being in the wine trade I am fortunate enough to get to drink
many of the world’s most expensive wines. But on a lovely hot day
dining alfresco or just sitting in the shade all I desire is a chilled
bottle of Provence Rosé. Then I am quite happy to kiss the rest of
the day goodbye! Rosé for me has to be dry, with rich fruit but very
pale in colour, and without a hint of sweetness. I want two lines of
fruit with a line of alcohol running down the middle. It has to hit
the spot, if you know what I mean. I find a good Provence Rosé
superb with a wide variety of summer foods. It can cope with
heavily dressed salads, dips, olives, grilled meats, sauces and pickles.
It also evokes memories of long lunches taken in sleepy French
Villages where, at lunch time the only sign of life on the street is a
dog sleeping in the shade. It also brings back memories of steaming
bowls of Soup de Poissons, on the Cote de Azur. But let’s not
forget those lovely lunches here in the Weald, alfresco, surrounded
by friends and family, the perfect summer day with the perfect
summer wine.”

Chateau Pigoudet Cotes de Provence £8.99 per
bottle, available from Maison du Vin. Free delivery
to Tunbridge Wells and surrounding areas.
Maison Du Vin sells wines, cognacs, champagnes
and armagnacs from small, quality-driven,
independent growers.
Open Mon-Sat from 10am. Closed 4pm Mon,
8pmTue and Thurs, 5pm Fri and 6pm Sat.
Closed all day Wed & Sun.
For more details tel 01580 753487
Real Wine, Real Places, Real People

Thursday, 15 July 2010


Great News! After many requests our popular wine schools return on September the 16th.

Maison du Vin Wine Schools are a great way to learn more about wine in a very relaxed and informal evening. They are also great social events.

We will announce the theme in the next few days. However I can tell you now that there will be a tutored tasting of at least six different wines followed by a light supper. There is a nominal cost of just £10.00 per head.

Too book a place or find out more please phone Kevin on 01580753487 or email

Blogger Buzz: Blogger integrates with Amazon Associates

Blogger Buzz: Blogger integrates with Amazon Associates

Saturday, 22 May 2010


We recently announced our new 2hr delivery service. Our latest greener alternative may take a little longer! REDUCING

It's Started!

Well I guess I new this moment would come?

The trend for selling wine by varietals ie, putting the name of the grape on the label, soon killed off in the lower to middle price brackets regional identity in countries like Australia and Chile.

The reason for this is of course that the main flavour of the grape is more important than where the wine actually comes from. So the buying criteria seems to be. "I like Aussie Shiraz I like 3 for £10. Don't really care where in Australia it comes from. My geography of Australia is rubbish anyway" OK all well and good. At least there are three defining choices here. Country of origin, grape variety and price. What is happening now is that those three are being chopped down to just two.

The marketing of wines by varietal has become so popular and it seems effective that wine is now being marketed by the name of the grape alone. For instance in the very bottom categories of Rioja some producers are relegating the name of Rioja to almost the small print and emblazoning the label with the name of the grape variety which is 'Tempranillo' The name of Rioja used to be enough in itself but not anymore it seems?

A lot of these wines are also starting to taste very much the same from one country to the next.

We sell a lovely mid priced Viognier from Sicily. It is delightful but tasted blind one would be hard pushed to tell whether it was from Sicily, Italy,France or wherever?

Does this matter? Many would say not. But I believe it to be the slippery slope to the total homogenisation of wine and I say again. Drinking wine cannot be just a simple matter of how do you want to take your alcohol?

Saturday, 1 May 2010


*Customers spending over £30 in one transaction at Maison du Vin in Hawkhurst will receive a voucher for a free full-price cinema ticket at Kino Hawkhurst (worth £9.25) that may be redeemed when purchasing another full-price or concession cinema ticket for the same film screening. Promotion runs from 1st May - 30th June 2010 inclusive for purchases and voucher redemption. Voucher must be presented at time of payment or ticket collection if payment made by phone. May not be combined with any other Kino promotion. Subject to availability at time of booking.
No cash alternative. Non transferable.
Promotion may be withdrawn at any time.


When I joined the wine business way back in 1988 the French AOC or Appellation Controlee quality control system was the watch word for quality and integrity. In short it was the industry standard. Sadly now in 2010 in the lower to middle price brackets it is almost irrelevant.

For instance. As little as ten years ago it was very difficult to sell a Vin d'pays wine along side a AOC wine for the same or higher price. Now I can mix these two classifications on the racks side by side at the same price and nobody bats an eyelid. Unthinkable in 1988.

The AOC system once the envy of the world was set up in the 30's at a time when making wine was a bit of a free for all. It was common place to add ruff heavy wine from north Africa to say Chateauneuf du Pape to give it more body and it was not uncommon to add Chateauneuf to Claret to give that a bit of umph! Things were getting badly out of control and the French government decided they must act to safe guard the reputation of their most treasured 'liquid asset. So in short this a basic description

An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well. Restrictions other than geographical boundaries, such as what grapes may be grown, maximum grape yields, alcohol level, and other quality factors, may also apply before an appellation name may legally appear on a wine bottle label. The rules that govern appellations are dependent on the area of France in which the wine was produced.

In 1935, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), a branch of the French Ministry of Agriculture, was created to manage wine-processing in France. In the Rhone wine region Baron Pierre Le Roy Boiseaumarié, a lawyer and winegrower from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, obtained legal recognition of the Côtes du Rhône appellation of origin in 1937. The AOC seal, or Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, was created and mandated by French laws in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

The trouble is that AOC was really only set up for the French and nobody else! It is quite difficult to understand without doing you home work first. Of course if your buying from a good knowledgeable wine merchant this isn't really a problem. But in the supermarket or the local convenience store it is a huge problem!

The thing that has really done for AOC is the thing that has done for French wine in general and that is the huge rise in sales of 'new world wine' By putting the name of the grape variety on the front of the label they have completely cut through all the mystery that once surrounded French wine. the attitude now is "I like Merlot and I like £5 per bottle. I'll buy it"

But of course it has also done away with a lot of the romance, history and little quirks that make wine fun and interesting over and above getting pissed!

Look. If I buy a bottle of Sauvingnon blanc from Chile I know that it is going to taste like a Sav Blanc from Chile. However if I buy a bottle of Sancerre, made from Sav blanc I know that it is going to taste different from a bottle of Pouilly Fume also made from Sav blanc and I might prefer my Sav blanc slightly more rounded in flavour with a little less acidity and Pouilly Fume gives me that! Get the idea?

If you know enough you can even differentiate between two differant vineyards in the same area growing the same grapes! That means in the middle to upper price brackets in the world of fine wine the AOC system still plays a crucial role.

But towards the bottom end I guess the only thing that matters is. Is is under £4? and is it at least 14% Alc!

Friday, 16 April 2010

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Tuesday, 30 March 2010


On Saturday night we had a dinner and wine tasting here at Maison Du Vin.

Around the dinner table conversation a question was posed. In the world of buying wine

'What has happened to the middle ground?' It was a good question and provoked an interesting debate. It seems that the vast majority of the wine buying public do not know where the middle ground is either? This is born out by the stark truth that around 80% of all wine sold in the UK is around the £4 a bottle mark. Sales of fine wines say over £15 per bottle are a fraction of the remaining 20%. So this leaves a whopping price band that has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the countries consciousness

Well hijacked actually, hijacked by the Supermarkets! Who else? They dominate the market. You see they have managed through clever marketing to 'shoe horn most of the countries wine buyers into that very narrow price band that is most profitable and most efficient for them. The £4.00 - £5 bracket.

It is in this grubby little hole where all the truly nasty branded horrors lie. The type of wine that you finished off at a party and wished you hadn't! The cocktail of chemicals that has never been anywhere near a vineyard and has probably been made by boiling a pan of water and waving a bunch of grapes over the top! You may point out that most supermarkets have a so called 'Fine wine section' but is never promoted and sales are in general pretty poor.

Conversely of course all the cheap branded rubbish is promoted to hell.

Over the last ten years or so, many many people have adopted a mind set that pigeon holes wine into two categories. Cheap everyday at £4 then a quantum leap right up to fine wines at £20 a bottle plus. Which in most peoples minds is 'far to good for the likes of them!'

Now here is something that might shock and amaze you. The middle ground is only £2 a bottle more! YES just two quid.

When I first started in the wine trade over 20 years ago the middle ground was where most people spent there money and found great value and nothing has changed. In fact I would say that it has got a whole lot better. So where is this hallowed ground? £6 - £12 per bottle that's where £15 if you want to push it. This is where you are going to find all the great wines that time forgot. Macon Village. Cotes du Rhone Village. Chablis, Sancerre, Rioja, Chianti and many many more. Not to mention lots of great bottles from new world independent producers. One could easily drown ones sorrow's in this huge price vat for the rest of ones life and be constantly surprised and delighted and this bracket stretches across all wine producing countries and grape varieties. It opens up an entire new world of discovery and boundless enjoyment and it is only £2 a bottle more.

Now come on. If somebody offered you the chance to change your life for an extra two quid

would you not be tempted? GO ON. GIVE IT A GO!

Saturday, 20 March 2010



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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Have you ever loved a wine so much.......?



Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Wine in deep do-do

Once again Wine is in deep do-do.Article Posted: Saturday October 17thArticle last updated on: Saturday October 17th
Once again Wine is in deep do-do. By Antony le Ray-Cook Oct 09 Television in- France 2 has alleged that wine is full of pesticides, which according to the non-pros can lead to illness. The wine industry has slammed a French television report on pesticides in wine as 'misleading'.
The programme said pesticide traces in wine may lead to illness. It also described the use of non indigenous yeasts in fermentation and the addition of sugar (chaptalisation) as unnatural.
'Wine, is it still a natural product?' was viewed by millions in France Jean-Louis Salies, president of the Comité National des Interprofessions des Vins " Appellation d'Origine (CNIV) expressed 'profound anger' at the report. His thoughts are enjoined by Wine & Dine plus millions of pros.
In an 8 October letter to France 2, obtained by, he wrote, 'Pesticide use has dramatically dropped in the last ten years. Any residual pesticide in glass is subject to maximum limits.'
In the programme Ghislain de Montgolfier of Champagne Bollinger admits there are traces of pesticides in wine, but they would be harmful only if consumed in massive amounts.
'So I would not advise you to drink more than 150 bottles of Champagne per day,' he joked. Try as I might 150 bottles a day is just a little much for a grown man! M. de Montgolfier later explained to pesticide levels in wine must be 'within limits for wine and wine grapes established by the World Health Organisation' and so 'the programme was totally misleading.'
'This was a programme made by non-professionals to scare non-professionals,' Diane Flamand, oenologist with Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), told
'What shocked me is that they did not address lutte raisonée [a system of using pesticides 'within reasonable limits': less often and less aggressively]; excessive pesticide use was a problem 15 years ago, but not today.'

Chiliean earthquake: wineries reaction

Written by Richard Siddle /Harpers
Monday, 01 March 2010

Harpers Wine & Spirit has received messages from Chilean producers, O Fournier and Claro Wineries, following this weekend's earthquake and impact on their wineries. We will keep you updated on events as we receive them.

José Manuel Ortega, chairman O. Fournier Group, said: "As most of you may know, we suffered a severe earthquake in Chile yesterday. The center of the earthquake was just 60 miles from our Maule operations. All our staff is well. The challenge now is enormous as we were about to start our harvest.

"Since we started the O. Fournier project 10 years ago, we have had significant and difficult times. This event tops anything we may have encountered in the past for personal and business reasons. I am blessed to have such a brave and committed group of O. Fournier staff in Chile who will be up to the task with the help of everyone else in the O. Fournier family.

"Finally, I want to thank all the people that have contacted us yesterday, from China, Japan, US, England, Holland, Brazil and so many other places. I was deeply touched by such a sense of care and solidarity. These circumstances show once more why the wine business and its people are so special and make me, once more, be extremely proud to be a part of it."

Juan Ramsay, Claro Wineries, said: "Our company is focusing all of its efforts to provide support to the families of those employees that have been affected, and fortunately we have no lives loss to mourn.

"We deeply appreciate all of your calls for support, and we will keep you updated with the latest news we have about this tragedy.

"In the meantime, we would like to ask you for some patience and understanding until we are able to re-establish communications and service."

Earthquake hits Chilean wine regions

Written by Harpers Editorial team
Monday, 01 March 2010

Saturday's Chilean earthquake has affected some of the country's wine regions, it has emerged, though the full scale of the damage and loss of life remains unclear.
Michael Cox, UK director of Wines of Chile, described the situation as "alarming, shocking, and concerning" and expressed "heartfelt sympathy to all Chileans" on behalf of the British wine trade.
He added: "At this early stage, it has been difficult to ascertain the extent of the damage to Chile's wine regions and winery infrastructure, but I have had contact with a number of friends in Chile who report that there is significant damage in the southern wine areas closest to the epicentre, notably Bío Bío, Cauquenes, and other parts of Maule, and Curicó.
"Even wineries as far north as Colchagua have been affected, with structural damage, road collapses, and power and communication problems."
Cox said his office would monitor the situation, offering updates whenever possible. He added: "In due course Wines of Chile will find a way to ensure that the UK wine trade can send funds to help families in need as Chile finds its proud feet again."

Friday, 19 February 2010


Yes, another major wine scandal has been uncovered. This time involving the French (who else? and giant US wine company Gallo. It seems that for the past few years some French producers have been supplying Gallo with what was supposed to be wine made from the Pinot Noir grape? Turns out that it is anything else but! The thirteen wine producers and traders on trial in the Gallo wine scandal were found guilty of having supplied a large quantity of fake Pinot Noir wines and six were handed a suspended prison sentence in a rare case in which the president of the criminal court said on Wednesday that the fraud had been committed.Claude Courset of the Ducasse wine traders was sentenced to a six-month suspended prison sentence with a fine of €45,000 though the prosecutor had asked for a harsher prison sentence.Five other people were sentenced to fines of between €3,000 and 6,000 and the remaining six for less. The trading firm of Limoux was ordered to pay €180,000 in penalties, according to aThe order is likely to be appealed against.The 13 defendants, including executives from wine estates, cooperatives, a broker, wine merchant Ducasse and conglomerate Sieur d'Arques, were accused of selling 18 million bottles of fake Pinot Noir to Gallo of California. The wine was sold under Gallo's popular "Red Bicyclette" Pinot Noir label though made from far less expensive grape varieties.At an earlier court hearing on January 25, public prosecutor Francis Battut asked for tough sentences, including heavy fines, suspended jail sentences and up to 12 months in jail for one of the defendants.All but two senior executives had admitted their guilt.Scandal reportedly erupted in March 2008 when France's fraud squad, the General Directorate for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF), became suspicious during an audit at Ducasse. He had been buying Pinot Noir at €58 per hL when the official market price was €97 and generic local grape varieties were selling for €45 hL. Also, the volume of wine from the Pinot Noir grape being sold to Gallo far exceeded the possible supply from the region.On the basis of a year-long judicial investigation, the defendants were accused of substituting wine made from less expensive local grape varieties for the Pinot Noir, which is popular on the American market."What worries me the most for my country are the economic consequences," prosecutor Battut said in a telephone interview with AFP, the French news agency." If Americans lose confidence in French wine production, particularly the Languedoc region, which is already going through a serious crisis, the consequences could be terrible."

Comment; The root of all wine scandals is of course greed. Greed on both sides. It beggars belief that Gallo truly thought that they were actually receiving Pinot Noir in the quantities that were being produced and the indeed the price they were paying? Pinot Noir is one of the most expensive grapes to produce and it never really has been successfully mass-produced. Because of this, it does have a huge amount of cache. In addition, to me this has a ring of the 'Kings new Cloths' about it. The thought that not a single US customer complained is both worrying but unsurprising! Worrying that there is still such a massive level of ignorance amongst consumers both here and in the US, that can be exploited in this underhand way. Unsurprising in that at this low level of purchase few questions are asked. If no one spits it out and no one dies then who cares? And for this very reason, most wine scandals are perpetrated at the bottom end of the market. I had to laugh when I heard the author Malcolm Gluck being interview on Radio 2 about this recent scandal. Gluck was very quick to get on his high horse and condemn such villainous behaviour. But here's a thing Malcolm has built his name on promoting the virtues of drinking plonk. Doubtless, many of you will have seen or read his bestselling book of the same name. But it is the continuing dumbing down of wine and it's pricing that leads to many of theses scandals in the first place. In the world of wine, you really do get what you pay for. Well most of the time?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Joys of being a Wine Merchant

It seems that the problems of USA wine merchants are not that different from ours.


As usual the Bordelais are hyping up the latest vintage, in order of course to get the highest possible prices. Apart from some hail early in the season it seems to have been a year when the vintage is exellent. Some experts think it will rival the exellemt 2005, but others including Robert Parker are at the moment cooler about it. Demand from the Far East as usual seems to be strong so 2009 will not in any case be cheap. No doubt the MW's will have lots to say when the fomal releases are made so we will have to wait and see.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


On Saturday 30th of May What’s On were delighted to be invited to a unique event held at one of the south east’s most prestigious fine wine venues. Maison du Vin of Hawkhurst.
We were among a select gathering assembled at the launch of Maison du Vin’s Wine Cellar Suppers’
Jean- Pierre Mucyn, a rising stars of the Northern Rhone, flew in especially to attend the event and present his 2007 wines. It is a vintage that has all the hallmarks of greatness and is set to be one of the best ever years in the Rhone Valley.
We were treated to both Red and White Croze - Hermitage and Red and White St Joseph. All the wines tasted fab and had all the characteristics of a landmark vintage.
Maison Du Vin’s proprietor Kevin Griffin is a chef by profession and did most of his training in the wine regions of France. Kevin served us a traditional and authentic Coq au Vin. Described by Jean-Pierre Mucyn ‘As a triumph!’
Wine Cellar suppers are a unique dinning and wine tasting experience perfect for celebrations, get-together’s and a very special birthday present for the wine lover in your life.
Your evening will be hosted by Kevin Griffin and prices start at £15 per head, which includes a tasting of eight different wines and supper afterwards.
Each event can be tailored to suite your individual requirements.
To find out more or book an event please phone Kevin on 01580 753487 or email

Wine Safari to the Loire Valley

The magnificent Loire is the last of France's truly great wild rivers. Unlike its peers, the Dordogne and the Rhone the Loire remains un-dammed throughout its 634-mile journey from the southern Masif Central region to the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of France

I am sure if you were to ask any number of UK wine drinkers to name 10 French wines, without doubt two names from the Loire would be included. Sancerre and Muscadet.
Yet this fascinating beautiful area of France produces scores of different wines of all styles including the driest of whites. Some of the world’s best dessert wines. Red and sparkling wines. It is intriguing to think that although the Loire has been a top tourist destination for us Britt’s for decades the bulk of its wines remain largely undiscovered.
However, all that was about to change for us and twenty other lucky people when we were taken to Tours by Maison du Vin of Hawkhurst on one of their Wine Safaris at the beginning of October.
First of all if you have not been. Tours (capital of the Loire) is a beautiful city and we were staying right in the centre at the cities only four star Hotel the Hotel Univers. Highly recommended.
Tours is vibrant, bustling and full of style and charm. Head for the old town and you will find a clutch of gorgeous little squares and pavement cafe's and Bistro’s.
This year’s trip started at Ashford International rail station where we boarded the Eurostar at 7.30 am bound for Paris. We were all treated to a fabulous on board breakfast of Bagels filled with smoke salmon and cream cheese plus of course croissants. Oh, there were also some individual fruit salads for some of the more health conscious. All this was provided by Linda Markwick Catering of Tunbridge Wells.
Now despite the early start all this lovely food had to be washed down with more than just mere tea or coffee. Therefore, Maison du Vin provided some bubbly. By the time we got to Paris we were all holiday happy! The second leg of the Journey Paris to Tours takes less than an hour on the TGV. Our arrival time in Tour was 1.30 pm. Therefore, we just had time to fit in another onboard snack. This time we all tucked into a magnificent giant Pork Pie! Not very French but none the less delicious. The pie was made by long standing Maison du Vin customer David Sloan of Classic Touring. This masterpiece of culinary engineering received many admiring glances from fellow passengers as they shuffled passed on their way to the buffet car! You will not be surprised to find out that a few glasses of Vin Rouge washed it down!
The rest of the weekend was spent visiting a host of superb wineries and tasting some truly great wines. One of the unique features of the region is the many Troglodyte dwellings that litter the hillside and cliff faces. Some of the larger ones have been utilised by Wines Makers for cellarage.
One of the biggest and best known is Akerman-RemyPannier in Saumur, whom we enjoyed lunch with on the Saturday followed by a tasting and tour of its 7k of tunnels! Well, not all 7k
Before this, we had visited the region of ‘Chinon’ famous for its chunky red wines made from the Cabernet Franc grape. There we were to meet Ken Soni who owns Domaine Daniel Chaveau.
Ken is a wine maker from California who purchased the estate two years ago. A total eccentric complete with ponytail and cowboy hat! Of course, the locals think he is crazy and they might be right. Even Ken thinks that he is crazy! Nevertheless, judging by what he has achieved in the short space of time he has been there Ken is definitely a wine maker to watch. Anyway. Craziness has never been a barrier to making great wine!
By far and away, the biggest high light of the trip was our visit and tasting on Sunday morning to Domaine Huet in Vouvray
. Talk about saving the best until last! We were personally greeted and escorted by owner and world-renowned wine maker Noel Pinguet. Who had generously agreed to open up especially for us.
Almost the entire operation at Domaine Huet is built into the side a cliff. There is a labyrinth of tunnels where many treasured vintages lay quietly sleeping. Many dating back to the 1920’s and the early 1900’s! So, if you thought that white wine does not age. Think again.
Vouvray is exclusively a white wine appellation with Chenin blanc being the predominant grape variety.
Our tasting was led by Noel Pinguet and consisted of Dry, sweet, semi-sweet and sparkling wine all made from Chenin. All the wines stood out for their amazing balance, freshness and character.
The Loire valley is stunningly beautiful with a fairy tale chateau around every corner. Known as the playground of the Kings. It was once just that. A place where the Nobility of France came to play.
As the majestic Loire slowly makes its way to the sea it was soon our turn to slowly make our way home. Tired but very happy! As our train slowly slipped out of Tours, I began to contemplate what a wonderful time we had all had. This lovely corner of France may be a playground for Kings but for one glorious, golden sunny weekend in October, it was all ours.
Many thanks to Maison Du Vin for yet another fantastic Wine Safari
Cut and paste the link below into your browser to see a slide show of the trip.