a reminder that Hong Kong very smartly reduced wine duty from 40% to ZERO on February 27, 2008 - what a move to tie up the burgeoning Asian market, a real hub there from now on. Berry Brothers have a wine education school starting up, and there is big action there now. Here in Britain, we were hit with increased duty on wine - 15p a bottle if I recall - in the mid-March budget. Second: Le Parisien, the French newspaper, published an article on Champagne last year, and it has been deemed by the Judge of First Instance to have constituted publicity for wine. The threat is now that all articles on wine in France should bear a health and pregnancy warning. Websites on wine in France are also menaced by another judicial move that may prevent them showing any publicity. If all young drunks got hooched up on wine, this might be more explicable but all growers feel under threat now from this sort of over-reaction and grim disapproval from those on high.
The only other commercial tip I can relay from my weeks in France in January is - try not to fly internally: the Air France monopoly will cost you about twice more than your local aller-retour flights from a nearby country. Some 2007 Pomerols may be OK, as will the southern Rhône. At the moment, 2006 views have been posted on a series of Châteauneufs, including Beaucastel, Clos des Papes and Rayas 2006, for instance. More will be posted this month.
In the meantime, you will see that the website has moved to a subscription service. The cost is £40 a year. The idea is for a data base that is gradually built up over time. The website will be updated on a gradual basis, but it should be treated as a live archive rather than a daily or weekly newspaper. I emphasize that I do not and cannot earn my living from wine writing, so I also work in communication training, which takes me around the world, far from the vineyards. So blocks of data will be loaded at intervals. Please do not expect daily updates.
I am often asked the question - when is the Southern book coming out? My answer is: my post-tax revenues from the 700+ page Northern book so far - advance and royalty - are less than US$4,000. Expenses obviously lurch this figure into a blazing Syrah red. I would expect - and hope - that many of you would not get out of bed for such derisory income for work that took over 2 years. So you do what you can: the website is the first stage towards a Southern book.
One other item of news: on 28 March, 2007, I formally participated in the purchase of 0.8795 of a hectare at Cornas, split between the site of La Genale and Thezier. A group of British and Scandinavian wine enthusiasts and professionals assembled the necessary to acquire this land and to rent it to the nephew of the vendor for a 40-year period. The seller was Robert Michel, who was taking his retirement. The nephew is Vincent Paris. He will continue to produce a wine called La Geynale. As a result, I declare an interest in the domaine Vincent Paris, as of spring 2007. VIVE LE CORNAS!
You may note that the website is a little more polished than before. You can now search more easily for specific wines, specific vintages or specific tasting notes triggered, for example, by how many stars you seek in a wine. If you want a 4-star St-Joseph, go to Search, plug in St-Joseph in the Vineyard box and 4 stars in its box, and there should be an abracadabra moment of revelation. Scroll down past mountains of Guigal and St-Joseph is there at the bottom, in correct alphabetical order. I cross my fingers on your behalf(ves).
This is a site intended to cover the Rhône Valley wines, people and vineyards. It is being gradually launched, since its composition will be the fruit of over 30 years' work, and that means a mighty number of little orange Rhodia notebooks (must be size 14).
My name is John Livingstone-Learmonth. I am the author of 4 books - "The Wines of the Rhône" - published by Faber & Faber in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. My latest work on the region, The Wines of the Northern Rhone, was published by University of California Press, on sale from November 2005 (US$55, £ 35.95). It can be referenced on http://go.ucpress.edu/livingstone-learmonth.
The book won two Awards in 2006. The first was a Special Commendation for the André Simon Award. It has since been voted the Louis Roederer International Wine Book of the Year 2006. Press reaction has also been favourable, and I have received some enthusiastic e-mails from readers in countries including Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, even England. None from France yet, but I am informed of an American gentleman who likes to drink at Willis Wine Bar in Paris. He was seen seated at the counter with a bottle of Clusel-Roch Les Grandes Places and Barge Côte Brune Côte-Rôtie on either side of him, my book in front of him, muttering "this book is going to cost me a lot of money." He has since returned to drink a magnum of Clape Cornas.