Images of Vacqueyras

Guy Ricard of Domaine le Couroulou


Classic Garrigues Nord terroir, lieu-dit La Clapière


Igor Chudzikewicz of Domaine les Amouriers


Crossroads at the south of the appellation near the town of Sarrians


Eric Bouletin of Roucas Toumba


Grape pickers in lieu-dit La Verde


Jacky Bernard of Domaine la Ligière, president of the appellation


2019 Grenache destined for Rhonéa


Images of Vaison-la-Romaine and Puyméras

Images of Vaison-la-Romaine

The town of Vaison-la-Romaine.


The old town - off to taste some wine.


Vincent Rochette of Domaine Roche-Audran.


Looking east towards the town of Vaison-la-Romaine from the appellation's most westerly commune, St-Roman-de-Malegarde. This is effectively the north-facing slope behind Cairanne.


Villedieu, one of the five communes that make up the appellation of Vaison-la-Romaine.


Looking north towards Vaison terroir in the foreground; over the river in the background lies Vinsobres.


Images of Puyméras

Looking north towards the principal terroirs of Puyméras.


Classic red clay and limestone pebbles of Puyméras vineyards.


Amélie Sauveyre of Domaine Le Puy du Maupas.


Cave la Comtadine (L to R): Jean Foch, Marco Cuny, Christophe Lazib.


Nathalie Sauvan of Domaine de Combebelle.


Images of Gigondas


Domaine du Cayron 2011, 1991 and 1971 - the year it was awarded its own appellation


The Faraud sisters of Domaine du Cayron; Delphine, Rosaline and Cendrine


Gigondas village, surely one of the most picturesque in France


Louis Barruol of Chateau de Saint Cosme in the new Grenache conservatory


The new winery at Domaine Santa Duc


Yves Gras of Domaine Santa Duc...


... and his son Benjamin Gras who has been making the wine since 2017, in front of the Dentelles du Montmirail


Julien Brechet, Domaine des Bosquets


Sunburnt Syrah grapes from the 2019 heatwave


Shortlisted for a Roederer!


I heard this week that I've been shortlisted for an award - Online Communicator of the Year for the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Awards.

I was asked to submit a couple of articles from work that I published last year, so I chose The kingdom of the blind and Undeniable class - the panel must have enjoyed them. Since the awards are international in scope there is a lot of competition, so it's a nice award to be nominated for.

The awards ceremony is at The Royal Academy of Arts in London on 18th September. It's the third time I've been shortlisted but I haven't bagged one yet so keep something crossed for me!

Images of Laudun and Chusclan

Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Laudun



The village of Laudun, from the valley floor


Sandy soils of Laudun, and drip irrigation - an increasingly common site in the Southern Rhône


Joséphine Arnaud of Château Courac in one of their vineyards


Roman artefacts that have been dug up in the vineyards of Château Courac - a coin minted in Sicily


Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Chusclan



Chusclan vignoble looking south towards Orsan


Grégory Brunel, Vice President of Maison Sinnae (formerly Laudun Chusclan Vignerons) in the Château de Gicon that they now own


Deep sandy soils in the valley floor


Gilles Chinieu of Domaine la Romance - limestone soils towards the north of the appellation


Outcrop of galets at Mouticaut


Benjamin Boyer, Château Signac


Images of Cairanne


Denis Alary of Domaine Alary with a map used during Cairanne's promotion to Cru


One of Domaine Alary's galet-strewn vineyards on the Montagne


Romain Roche, Domaine Roche


Alluvial soils of the Garrigue


It does rain here occasionally...


Bruno Boisson, Domaine Boisson



Lighter gravelly clay soils of the Terrasses de l'Aigues


Loïc Massart, Domaine Les Chemins de Sève


Looking west from Cairanne


Marcel Richaud, Domaine Richaud


Blending the 2018s, Domaine Richaud

Images of Sablet and Plan de Dieu

Images of Sablet



The village of Sablet


The sandy soils of lieu-dit La Piaugier near the village


Thibaut Chamfort, Domaine La Verquière


Cheval Long towards Séguret


Les Briguières towards Gigondas


Images of Plan de Dieu


Endless vines, looking towards Mont Ventoux (centre) and the Dentelles de Montmirail (right)


Ancient river bed, free-draining pebble terroir


Standing in lower altitude IGP terroir, looking towards the raised pebbly plateau of AOC Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu - olive trees and figure for scale


The Rules of BYO

Many of us have a few ‘special’ bottles in our collections but finding the time to drink them can prove surprisingly tricky. We don’t all have the skills or the space to cook a meal for friends at home, so one solution is to open treasured bottles in a decent restaurant. But with different policies, corkage charges – and with some restaurants refusing outright – what’s the best way to proceed? According to wine writer David Crossley, “once you get used to doing it, you cease to be shy about asking.” I’ve spoken to head sommeliers, restaurant managers, collectors and wine lovers in an attempt to draft the unspoken rules of engagement.

Always call ahead

“Firstly, definitely call the restaurant ahead of time just to make sure everyone is aware and agrees to the corkage policy,” says James Fryer, Beverage Director at the Woodhead Restaurant Group (Portland, Clipstone, Quality Chop House). “No-one wants to start off the evening with the old ‘are you aware of our corkage policy?’ line.” Everyone I spoke to agrees that calling ahead is the golden rule.

And don’t just ask the restaurant if it’s OK to bring a bottle, enquire specifically if there is a corkage fee (i.e. a charge for taking your own wine) and what it is. How much is fair depends on the type of restaurant. Wine writer Simon Reilly regularly takes wine to restaurants if their wine list is uninspiring or if he’s “meeting up with fellow wine geeks.” He reasons that a corkage charge equal to the cost of the cheapest wine on their wine list is fair. “At least they’ve got an income from booze they are happy with as otherwise it wouldn’t be on the list,” he says. Fees are entirely at the restaurant’s discretion however, and anything from £10 to £30 is common, with some top-end restaurants charging even more. Sparkling wines sometimes attract a premium.

Take something special

It goes without saying that just rocking up to a restaurant with a bottle of ‘value’ supermarket plonk isn’t going to win you any friends. Fryer says “we’re not going to turn anyone away, but it can feel like you’re trying to cheat the system” with a very cheap bottle. Restaurants offer corkage policies so guests can take something special that they happen to own, rather than a way of them saving a few quid. “And special doesn’t mean expensive,” he continues, “just something interesting, something different.” When pushed on what kind of wine might be considered too cheap, he suggested that a retail price equal to the price of the restaurant’s house wine would be a good starting point.

With a corkage charge of £25, if you spend less than £15 retail on a bottle of wine, it’s likely to be cheaper to buy the same bottle directly from the restaurant anyway.

You might also want to think about the restaurant’s cuisine and how it works with the wine you want to take. If you’ve got a great bottle of Riesling you want to open, it’s more likely to show its best at a fish restaurant rather than a steakhouse.

Offer your server a taste

“A big point-scorer (although by no means required) is to offer a taste to the team member who is looking after you,” says Fryer. “For me, many of the most prestigious and formative wines I’ve had the privilege of tasting have come from generous patrons offering a sip of BYO bottles. It’s an incredibly useful resource for us as we train and develop our palates.”

Check it’s not already on their list

Rémi Cousin is Head Sommelier at Le Gavroche and he suggests checking that the restaurant you’re visiting doesn’t already carry the wine you’re planning to take. “If the restaurant has it on their wine list then I think it is a little ridiculous,” he says. It suggests you’re simply trying to avoid paying the restaurant’s mark-up. The easiest way is to look on their website before booking.

Buy off the list as well

Buying other drinks while you’re there is seen as friendly gesture if taking your own bottle. Joey Scanlon is Head Sommelier at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and he suggests buying a second bottle if in a group. “Usually restaurants will waive a corkage fee if a bottle is bought,” he adds. During his career he’s noticed that approaches to corkage differ widely from place to place however. “For example, when working in Napa corkage was widely accepted versus working here in Dublin, where corkage is not something that is widely appreciated.”

Exceptional service = exceptional service charge

The professionals quoted here work at restaurants with serious in-house wine expertise, but smaller local restaurants can be just as uncertain about corkage etiquette as most of their customers. The only places that I’ve encountered that have refused to accept corkage under any circumstances are neighbourhood joints who simply aren’t familiar with the concept.

Steve Thomas lives in Islington and works in insurance, and regularly takes bottles to his local Italian. “They let me bring my own wine but have never explicitly asked for a corkage fee,” he says. “I usually give them an additional £10-15 on top of the service charge.” Having to deal with a customer’s own bottle can be nerve-wracking for staff and goes beyond standard service, so it’s good to acknowledge this one way or another.

A bottle means 75cl

Matt Whitaker is Restaurant Manager at Pompette in Oxford and he’s had “a few customers in the past try the old ‘one magnum equals one bottle’ trick,” he says. If you’re taking a magnum to a restaurant, expect to pay double the standard charge.

When not to take a bottle

There are some places you wouldn’t want, or wouldn’t need, to take your own wine. David Crossley suggests places such as Noble Rot, The Remedy or 40 Maltby Street, “places where the wine list is so good that I don’t need to lug wine around all day.” He also points out that some restaurants stock wines that simply aren’t available to buy retail, such as Terroirs near Covent Garden, which occasionally stocks cult Jura producer Domaine des Miroirs.

One final tip

A few years ago, I went to Chez Bruce in Wandsworth. I’d brought a bottle of 1998 Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape which I gave to the sommelier on arrival. He offered to decant it for me, and served me a taste at the table to check its condition, like he would with any bottle of wine. “It’s corked,” I said. We stared at each other – he couldn’t offer a replacement because I didn’t order it from their list. Just as well I’d brought another bottle, just in case. It’s worth dropping a backup bottle in your bag – the safety net for the BYO pro.

Pompette– £20 per bottle corkage, £25 for sparkling

Portland, Clipstone, Quality Chop House– £20 corkage, maximum two bottles per table; free corkage on Mondays at Portland and the Quality Chop House

Le Gavroche– corkage not allowed

Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud– corkage not allowed

Simon Reilly’s recommendation – The Sportsman,Kent– £10 any day for any ‘special bottle’

First published on

Images of Valréas and Visan

Images of Valréas


Looking north to the town of Valréas


Caroline Bonnefoy in full mistral!


Atop the Massif de la Côte, looking south


Jacques Coipel, Mas de Sainte Croix


L-R: Paul-Henri Bouchard, Domaine des Grands Devers; Emmanuel Bouchard, Domaine du Val des Rois; Aurélie Lardet, Maison Lavau; Julien Coipel, Mas de Sainte Croix; Stéphane Vedeau, Clos Bellane; Mathilde Mure, Domaine du Séminaire; Damien Marres, Domaine Grande Bellane; Caroline Bonnefoy, Domaine Caroline Bonnefoy

Images of Visan


The Village of Visan


Pebbly marls of the Visan hillside


Adrien Fabre, Domaine la Florane


The home town of legendary oeno-geologist, Georges Truc

Images of Tavel


AOC Tavel - 100% rosé.


Limestone soils to the west of the village known as Lauzes


Raphaël de Bez, Château d’Aquéria, joined his father and uncle at the estate last year


Christian and Nadia Charmasson of Balazu des Vaussières, whose natural Liracs and Tavel are now in Vin de France


Les Vignerons de Tavel, cave co-operative