Upstream - The Newsletter of Incentive FM Group

Tour du Vin 2011

Between the 27th and 30th of July, 29 friends and associates descended on the Rhone Valley in France for our first annual charity wine tour - 'Le Tour du Vin'.

This years chosen charity is Myositis Support Group. Myositis is the general term for a collection of afflictions that attack the muscles. The results can be quite debilitating and unfortunately the conditions are little understood. Members of the touring party donated a percentage of their entry fee, as well paying various fines throughout the tour to help raise £4,500 for the charity.

There were two converging groups on this trip - the Drive/Drive group and the Fly/Drive group.

Day 1

The Drive/Drive group got together in some classic British and German sports cars, and convoyed down to the Rhone on the Wednesday. We had a great selection of cars on display - 5 Aston Martin's, a Porsche Carrera S and a BMW Z4. We encountered some fairly horrendous weather on the way down, and there were some fairly hairy moments for the boys in soft tops, as it was neccessary to be going at least 50mph to avoid getting wet!

The Drive/Drive group head down to Reims for the evening, where we were treated to a 5 course supper, which was exactly what we needed after a long day on the road.

Day 2

Day 2 arrived and there were the first sore heads on tour - namely the boys that got stuck into the port after dinner! After a short photo shoot in the carpark, we got on the road and navigated our way towards the Northern Rhone to take part in the first wine tasting of the day - which was on the west bank of Northern Rhone at Domaine Cheze in the small village of Limony.

Louis Cheze and his team treated us to a great selection of their wines, as we tried an entry level Rose, a Viognier, a Cote Rotie and a Saint Joseph for which this grower is most commonly associated.

Our next port of call (after another 3 course lunch where we met up with the Fly/Drive Group and their hire cars for the first time) was to Christophe Pichon, where we were lucky enough to sample some extremely fine Condrieu's, as well as his super Cote Rotie from oak casks.

The final tasting of the day was at Delas. This was a slightly different proposition to the two tastings we had enjoyed earlier in the day. Delas are a large scale producer of wine, and as you can see by the photos they stock hundreds of thousands of bottles on site. These wines tend not to even be labelled up, as many of the bottles are heading East to China and Japan, where they will be labelled locally.

At Delas we tried examples of their Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Cornas and their Saint Joseph wines in both red and white. The Cornas seemed to receive top marks from the majority of the touring party.

The convoy then headed further south to gather at our hotel for the evenings activities. Some tourists hit the pool for some R&R, while others headed for the patio to have a few palate cleansers.

Martin Athey and the 'Tunbridge Wells Massif' kindly sponsored the champagne for the reception, and we then sat down for a gourmet dinner in the grounds of our hotel.

Day 3

Another early start on day 3, as both groups travelled south to Vacqueyras in the Southern Rhone. (apart from a couple of the touring party who managed to oversleep and not make it out until lunch time - Molloney and John 'The Egyptian'!)

Group B had their first tasting at Les Sang des Cailloux. Once everyone had pushed through the first glass of wine at 10am, it was apparent that the wines we were tasting were really quite impressive. The wines had a lovely story to them as well, as the grower, Serge Férigoule, names his principal red wine by rotation each year after his three daughters - Azalais, one of the three, was in fact helping during our tasting.

Serge grows a selection of Vacqueyras wines (red and white) and the most interesting wine was his red wine called "Oumage", is only made in his greatest years and is quite fantastic.

Our next tasting was down the road within Vacqueyras to Domaine de Montvac, where we were greeted by the lovely Cécile Dusserre. Montvac, like Sang des Cailloux, produce some simply stunning Vacqueyras. Montvac also grows Gigondas and some Côtes du Rhône. We have reserved 50 cases of their 'Variation' Vacqueyras for the Club which we all rather enjoyed and we are likely to purchase some Gigondas as well.

One of the highlights from tour was our lunch within the pretty and famous nearby village of Beaumes de Venise. You will most likely associate Beaumes de Venise with its the famous desert wine - Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.

After the furore of trying to park in the middle of Beaumes de Venise whilst the fun fair was in town, we sat down for a very entertaining lunch including much of the local excellent red wine. Those who were not the designated drivers for the afternoon got stuck in to a rather heavy session - which was only made more pleasurable by the very attractive waitresses that were serving us. (take a look at some of the photos if you do not believe me!)

Lunch came and went, and we caused more carnage trying to navigate fifteen cars out of Beaumes de Venise town centre. The touring committee certainly saved the best till last, as we arrived at the beautiful venue of Chateau Beaucastel. (Chateau Neuf du Pape country!)

Again, as you can see by the photos on the right, and below, the grounds at Beaucastel are a sight for sore eyes, particularly so with the sun beating down. We were given a guided tour around the chateau and cellars, where it was simply mind boggling to realise how many bottles they produce, and how much they were able to hold in their cellar stock.

We were fortunate enough to try a number of wines that were just incredible, and knocked the socks off the most serious of wine snobs on tour, as well as amaze the not so knowledgeable tourists. We have since, and are still trying to access an allocation of Beaucastel wines. This is proving to be quite difficult as the wines are so popular and apparently there is only a small allocation available at wholesale prices - but we will keep trying as we believe it would be very special to provide these wines to our ever growing Waud Wine Club membership.

We then made a very enjoyable journey back heading north to our hotel, where we settled in for another champagne reception (this time kindly sponsored by Mike Donegan). We were treated to another gourmet 5 course supper, and more amusing fines - which were this time brilliantly led by the fines chairmen, Martin Athey and Robert Scull, who crafted a fantastic job in extracting plenty of euros to go towards our nominated charity for the tour.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this was an extremely special trip. Many friends and many memories were made over the 4 days on tour, and I am sure this is a trip that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Many thanks and congratulations must go to the touring committee of Jeremy Waud, Martin Athey, Gary Hosie, Steve Waud, Bill Pollard and Jeremy Day for making this trip happen. Here is to next year where we will be travelling to Bordeaux and the Loire for what should be another fantastic outing.

Au revoir for now,

Charles Waud