Andrew in the Wine Trade. Lucky or what!

This is either my 14th or 15th article in Countryside La Vie and over that time it seems I have gathered quite a varied and eclectic readership. They have varied from van drivers to entrepreneurs and mums with kids to bankers with their bonuses. It is rewarding to learn that ones efforts are appreciated so thank you very much.

All, well ok most, have said how much they enjoy my recollections and experiences about my years in The Wine Trade and I must admit it is great to have the chance to indulge myself and pass on some of the simply fabulous experiences and tell of just a few of the people I have met. In the next few editions I shall be telling of more places and people, so if you have a wine memory, do get in touch as I might know them too or more probably have been to the region. You could well trigger a forgotten memory for me to include another time. Mail me on

Gottfried in the Chamonix Cellar
The love affair continues...

At the beginning of each year, once all the baubles and tinsel have been put away, we start the rounds of Wine Tastings where we meet up with winemakers and producers from around the world. This January I shall have spent most of a week in London, attended 4 Tastings and tasted around 400 wines AND made notes on each. - well, someone has to do it don't they? Is it sad to say I get really excited about that, even after over 40 years? Ha ha, I don't care, I come home tired and with black teeth from all the young red wines but full of excitement for the coming year and bursting with ideas of what to buy.

I also start to plan any trips away and in 2012 I hope South Africa will be again on the agenda. Just recently we tasted one of the wines from the lovely, Gottfried Mocke, head winemaker of Cape Chamonix in the beautiful Franschhoek Valley. Gottfried's 'elevation' to chief winemaker was double-edged as his predecessor died soon after he arrived at the farm. A shrewd move on the part of the German owner who took the plunge and has been highly rewarded. In the space of 2 or 3 years the reputation of Chamonix had risen so far that some of their wines must now be allocated as demand increased ahead of production.

Franschoek Valley
We stock the classically styled oak-aged Chardonnay, the great Sauvignon Blanc that spends 11 months in a barrel giving it a mellow and layered 'edge' and most importantly, the sublime Pinot Noir that can easily rival many red Burgundies at twice the price. With prices from £12 to £20 these wines are top end not top price.

As you can see by the photo, Gottfried can make the ladies swoon, but boy his wines do it for me!

Enjoy your wine drinking but don't be silly. I'll see you again next edition.

Andrew Hill

First image: Gottfried in the Chamonix Cellar
Second image: Franschoek Valley