What is a cru bourgeois and why should we care? Basically, the Bordeaux hierarchy has its own classification for those châteaux on the Left Bank of Bordeaux excluded from the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux. The 1855 classification was never meant to be set in stone, but since this super league of five divisions was drawn up for the Exposition Universelle in Paris under the auspices of Emperor Napoleon III, it has by and large proved to be so accurate as to be worth retaining.
Take two extremes of Rioja and it would be fair to say that they're represented by López de Heredia Viña Tondonia in the traditional corner and Roda in the modern. This fact was underlined by a visit to both wineries in Haro in la Rioja Alta during last week's Los Grandes de la Rioja tastings put on by the Rioja region.
Not yet 20 years old, Roda is slick and smart, the entire winery purpose built to capture the essence of freshness and minerality of old vine tempranillo and garnacha.
Friday the 13th may not be unlucky for the French but the English knew that something had to give. What gave was an inoffensive carignan vine that received the sharp end of my Ibiza as I was attempting (Avis, look away now please) a reverse out of the narrow off-piste track in the hills leading to the vineyard alongside Justin and Amanda Howard-Sneyd's vineyard La Roque. In the black schists and clayey / limestone soils of the Roussillon hills, the old vines of carignan are thin on the ground here and low-yielding.
16 years ago, Katie Jones left Thierrys, a UK wine importer, to take up a job in sales and marketing with the Mont Tauch co-operative in the South of France. At first, she hated the isolation and home thoughts from abroad soon flooded in. Then she started to travel, to Sweden, America and Asia, She was enjoying life again. So much so that she even got hitched to one of the Co-op's members. It didn’t last, and she decided it was time to return home - to the French-sounding but not very French Ashby de la Zouch.