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We welcome the Year of the Horse with the news that the drinkrhone CHEVAL MASCOT, our super equine friend CORNAS, has been retired from his racing career. Born on September 14, 2002, he officially became 12 years old on 1 January, 2014. He appears to have lost his zip, his last two races at Chepstow and Exeter (where he has a very good record) being very disappointing. He is showing signs of fatigue with the challenge, although he is sound in limb. At present, he is at the stables of Nick Williams, and a new retirement home is being sought for him. If any reader has a good paddock or two, please let me know.

CORNAS has always jumped with nimble accuracy, and perhaps could be retrained for more sedate jumping. During a career that started in October 2007, and has been followed with interest by readers from around the world, he ran 34 times, for 1st place 5 times, one of those wins in Ireland, 2nd place 4 times, 3rd place 3 times, one of those in France. He mixed in the best company, as they say. I know readers really get a buzz from the wines of CORNAS, old or young, rustic or polished, so please raise a glass to CORNAS, who, as I always tell the Mayor of the Village, is more famous than him. ALLEZ, CORNAS!!

On a personal note, I have been diagnosed with stomach bacteria probably picked up a few months ago on one of my journeys in the Rhône, the result being a sharp slowdown in the ability and energy to work. As a result, the close-up reports on appellations for 2012 have been annoyingly delayed. What I have done instead is to enter as many 4 star wines and above as I can for 2102, both Northern and Southern, so I recommend use of the Search engine for those. Treatment is now under way, so an acceleration in the data posting will occur later in February. Apologies for the delays. If subscribers have pressing questions about particular 2012s, send them in; I answer every email and the address remains jll@drinkrhone.com