Colin has been visiting the vineyards of France since he married a girl from Bordeaux 35 years ago. Now living in the Loire Valley after a successful career as a garden designer in the UK, he splits his time between teaching the subjects he loves and leading tours and tastings.
Colin trained with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust at Advanced Level and teaches viticulture to growers and winemakers around the world. Colin’s tours combine this in-depth knowledge and experience with a real passion for the Loire Valley region, its wines, chateaux and gardens.
INTERVIEW WITH COLIN
What are the key highlights of the Loire as a wine region?
The Loire Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage landscape which recognises the interaction of man and nature in the region for more than 2,000 years. The result is a depth of culture and tradition which is reflected in its people, its buildings and in its wines. In short, it’s a remarkable place on every level! You can taste outstanding wines in an ancient limestone cave in the morning and visit a royal palace in the afternoon, having eaten one of the best meals of your life at mid-day.
When is the best time to visit?
Spring is lovely, as growth starts in the vineyard and the excitement is palpable at the beginning of a new season. Summer is superb, never too hot and lots to do and see, with wild flowers everywhere. Autumn is harvest time and you can watch the grapes come in and the wine-making operation get into gear. Growers put in 15-hour days as the potential of the crop is realised. Winters are short, cold enough to do some good but not so cold that you need hide indoors. There’s always a warm welcome at the wineries and if you’re luck, hot chestnuts.
How long should the wine tourist spend in the Loire Valley to get a real taste for the region and its wines?
As long as possible. We receive plenty of day-trippers coming down from Paris by car or train, who return the following year for a week or more. It’s a huge area and well worth spending some time discovering.
Do you have a favourite wine or winery in the region?
I discover gems at every visit and love nothing better than to discover something new. My favourite last week was an organic wine from Cour-Cheverny made from the rare and ancient Romorantin grape. The week before it was an old-vine Quincy white (they are all white in Quincy) and that wonderful Vouvray from Alexander Monmouseau. In two days’ time we have another wine tasting trip and a wine fair at Blois shortly after, so who knows?
What region would you like to visit next?
Every year we try to visit a few more wine regions in France and this summer we were in Beaume de Venise, Gigondas and the Côtes-de-Provence. While I’m tempted to suggest another French region, I would really love to visit Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar del Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria - the Sherry Triangle in Spain.