Tag Archives: food and wine

How to drink like a French Woman.

Wine and coffee

Finish the meal with black coffee

There are so many books out there telling us how all French women are slim and beautiful, with chic style, look ten years younger than their age, have perfect children and great sex lives, etc., etc. You name it; the French are better at it than us. It’s enough to make you reach for a drink!

I’ve lived in France for over thirty years so I’m happy to dispel a few of these myths so that we non-French women can dust off our self-esteem.

The French have some great phrases relating to the after-effects of over indulgence, such as “mal aux cheveux” (my hair hurts) and the famous “crise de foie” (a liver crisis). So they obviously don’t have this thing covered either.

Everybody lies about his or her alcohol consumption, but figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the French win at alcohol consumption 12.2 litres per capita, with the United Kingdom at 11.6 and the United States at 9.2. But it’s also about what we drink. In France, over half is consumed as wine, compared to a third in the UK and less than 20% in the US.

The figures also show the divide between men and women. In the United States, men are reported as drinking 13.6 litres per capita per year and women 4.9. In the United Kingdom, it’s 16.5 litres for men and 6.9 for women. The French beat us all at 17.8 litres for each man and 7.1 per woman.

The French do drink differently.

– They consume most of their alcohol as wine and mainly at meal times. Friends rarely meet for drink in France, they drink with food, so they’ll meet you for dinner or lunch. Yes, they are the champions of the “aperitif” but very much as a pre-meal experience—no pre-loading here.

Kirwan apero

Wine with food – even as an

Drinking with food rather than on an empty stomach reduces the Blood Alcohol Concentration, and protects the liver. In France, they advise a spoonful of olive oil before drinking, in England, we advise a glass of milk. I prefer full-fat yoghurt, as it helps with probiotics who also suffer from too much alcohol.

– They take their time over meals, chewing well; they eat less and enjoy it more. Chewing warns the stomach what food is heading its way, preparing the digestive process and allowing time for a full sensation to reach the brain from the stomach. This process slows down both food and wine consumption.

– They have both wine and water on the table. Drinking at least one glass of water for every glass of wine helps reduce headaches exacerbated by the dehydration as your body tries to dilute the alcohol. This habit helps. And no ice in that water, iced water inhibits the digestion.

Wine and oysters

Wine and water and food

So French women drink their wine with food, but their eating habits are worth a look, too:

– French women do not snack in between meals.

– Croissants are for breakfast, not for a mid-morning top up.

– You don’t see French women walking around town with polystyrene cups of milky coffee. In fact, apart from breakfast, they never put milk in coffee.

– They eat three meals a day.

– They don’t eat on the hoof; they stop for lunch, take their time, eat slowly, and enjoy.

– They don’t eat half a baguette while waiting for the starter to arrive or a bowl of peanuts with the aperitif.

–  They drink lots of water.

– They eat their veg; a French family meal will usually start with either salad (crudités) in the summer or soup in the winter. Vegetables are served with the main course and salad offered with cheese before dessert.

– They finish their meal with a strong (bitter) espresso, which closes the appetite.

You don’t have to come to France to eat and drink like a French woman but when you do, you now know how to fit right in!

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The original of the post was featured on A Balanced Glass and is taken from The Drinking Woman’s Diet, A Liver friendly Lifestyle Guide. available in paperback as an e book or on Amazon. Contact me for  a signed copy as a Christmas gift.



Wine and dine your way through the Bordeaux vines.

In 2016 I posted about the Chateaux in Bordeaux opening restaurants to better showcase their wines. Given their success, and the increased sophistication of wine tourism in Bordeaux, more properties have since joined the party so here are a few updates of not-to-miss dining opportunities on your next Bordeaux wine tour.

Château Troplong Mondot opened the Les Belles Perdrix restaurant in 2012 when the chateau started offering casual dining for guests staying in their guest rooms. Chef David Charrier was awarded his first Michelin star in 2016. Under new ownership and management since 2017, the cellars and the restaurant are undergoing a complete renovation and will reopen the stunning terrace with some of the best views in the region, in 2021. In the meantime, you can sample Charrier’s cuisine if you book a tour of the vineyards. The sommelière, Celine, will take you on a tour through the vines in their Landrover to finish with a tasting of five wines accompanied by delicious ‘amuses bouches’ created by the chef.

Troplong defender

Rather than create a restaurant at the property,  Chateau Angelus, purchased  Le Logis de La Cadène in 2013, one of Saint Emilion’s oldest restaurants in the heart of the medieval town.  They won a Michelin star in 2017 thanks to the skill of chef Alexandre Baumard. It too, has a wonderful shady terrace for sunny days but a word of warning – wear sensible shoes, as it’s half way down a very steep slope!   You can also sample their cuisine on the go, this June they opened Les Paniers du Logis, a fast food outlet with a difference. All the meals are home-made; from local products and served in reusable glass bocaux (big jam jars), including delicious desserts, pates jams and of course bottles of wine.

Paniers du logis

Sauternes has now joined the party. This year saw the opening of the Lalique Hotel in Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey. Under the new ownership of Sylvio Denz, the hotel opened in June this year – a 400th birthday present to the estate.

Jérôme Schilling, the former executive chef of Villa René Lalique, (two Michelin stars) runs the restaurant. Given the quality of both the cuisine and the service a Michelin star must surely be on its way. The rooms are beautiful too, so don’t worry about driving home; have that last glass of Sauternes!


The foodie revolution in Sauternes started at the beginning of the year  with the opening of La Chapelle, a restaurant in the beautiful old chapel of Chateau Guiraud. As well as Château Guiraud by the glass, they have a really good selection of half bottles of Sauternes and Barsac on the wine list, a great way to taste your way across the appellation.


Just across the Garonne is the Entre deux Mers, sadly overlooked by wine tourists, but the restaurant at Chateau Malromé might just be the thing to get them there. Chateau Malromé is famous for the previous owners; the family of Toulouse Lautrec. The impressive 16th century chateau has been completely renovated by the Huynh family and continues to welcome visitors to discover the home of the artist as well as the wines. The contemporary restaurant Adele by Darroze in partnership with neighboring Langon institution Maison Claude Darroze.  Opened in the chateau earlier this year it has a beautiful terrace off the main courtyard (we do like alfresco dining in Bordeaux!). Managed by Jean-Charles Darroze with Chef Sébastien Piniello the modern setting is perfect for a cuisine that reflects both local and Asian influences of the two families.

From here you can head back towards Bordeaux through the Cadillac region. This area, known for it’s sweet white wines, has vineyards that roll down steep slopes on the right bank of the Garonne River. At the top of one of these slopes look out for La Cabane dans les Vignes; a lovely wooden chalet dominating the most spectacular view of the Garonne valley amongst the organic vines of Chateau Bessan. Sibelle and Mathieu Verdier built this cabane so guests could taste their wines and enjoy the sunset – you can too now. Book ahead on Friday and Saturday evenings to taste their wines alongside tasting plates and enjoy the breath-taking views.


Then there is the Medoc. I have previously mentioned Michelin starred Cordeillan Bages and the more relaxed brasserie Café Lavinal in the villages of Bages but if you want a light lunch in a unique setting you should call in to Chateau Marquis d’Alesme in Margaux. This classified growth, right at the heart of the village of Margaux, was purchased by the Perrodo family in 2006 who already owned Chateau Labegorce. Or at least they purchased the vines, the original chateau remaining in the hands of the previous owners. Starting from scratch to build a functional but beautiful winery, again inspired by their dual Chinese and French heritage, they decided to share their passion not just through the cellars and wine but also through a relaxed restaurant. Tucked away in the Hameau of la Folie d’Alesme, light plates of local specialities accompany a by-the-glass and by-the-bottle selection of the property’s wines including a not-to-be-missed chocolate and wine pairing.

Chocolate ar Marquis d'alesme

If you are passing through Bordeaux and can’t make it to the vines (shame on you) the vines can come to you. Chateau Lestrille, a family vineyard in the Entre Deux Mers region, has its own wine bar in the heart of old Bordeaux. The dynamic owner, Estelle Rummage, opened the chateau to tourism years ago and now she has opened the wine bar Un Château en Ville’ to serve and sell her wines to the city dwellers and visitors. She produces a complete range from white and red to rose and also bag in box – there’s plenty to choose from, accompanied by tasting plates from oyster to cold cuts, toasties and cheese plates.

Chtx en ville

If you prefer grand cuisine there is La Grand Maison; the hotel and restaurant that really is a chateau in the city belonging to wine magnate Bernard Magrez. The excellent cuisine of this two Michelin star restaurant is created by Jean-Denis Le Bras under the watchful eye of Pierre Gagnaire.

London friends, if you can’t make it to Bordeaux, Bordeaux can come to you. Clarette opened in the spring of 2017, in a beautiful half timbered Marylebone townhouse, Clarette is the project of a young generation of wine lovers with deep Bordeaux roots: Alexandra Petit, of the Château Margaux family and restaurateur Natsuko Perromat du Marais (the Perromat family are from the Graves) are in partnership with Thibault Pontallier, son of the much missed director of Château Margaux, Paul Pontallier. Go for its relaxed, fun atmosphere and stay for the excellent by-the-glass wine list.

Clarette outside

Clarette by night

Another Bordeaux first growth in London is Château Latour. The smart private club; Ten Trinity Square has a Château Latour Discovery Room and dining room allowing punters to taste a unique collection of Chateau Latour by the glass as well as by the bottle, all accompanied by the cuisine of Anne-Sophie Pic who also has her La Dame de Pic  restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel in the building.

Thanks to a recent tweet from fellow Bordeaux insider Jane Anson I have just learned there’s another one to add to the list: Boyds Grill and Wine Bar linked with Château Boyd Cantenac in Margaux. More research needs to be done – who’s with me?






Villa Lacoste – breathless.

Finally I arrive in Provence.

I say finally as it was a last minute inspiration to add a few Provence days on the end of a recent Rhone wine tour. My friends (we’ve been touring together too long to call them clients) had decided to go and I tagged along for a few extra days.

I’m thrilled I did; thanks to a recommendation from Mary Dardenne of Decanter Tours I discovered a spectacular new wine tourism destination: Villa Lacoste.

Our timing was perfect. The vineyard and sculpture park of Château Lacoste are well established, but we were there just in time for the opening of their new hotel.

I have been known to be gushing in my praise before, but this place took my breath away. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I had been warned it was very contemporary. We arrived on a very busy Sunday afternoon. Driving through the sculpture park and past the art centre looking for the hotel, I wondered what we were heading for. So well hidden is the hotel that initially I thought I’d brought my friends to stay in a series of Nissan huts. Fortunately these were the new, Jean Nouvel wine cellars, not the hotel.

Around a bend, up a slope, hidden by trees and vines we discovered the spectacular new, purpose built  hotel.

Villa Lacoste amongst the vines and trees

Having just left the historical building of la Mirande in Avignon, (see a previous post) this was a big culture shock. The beautiful, ultra modern suites are perched high up the hillside with spectacular views of the vines, the valley and the art scattered across the 200 ha estate.

We enjoyed the warm welcome and undivided attention of their very first days. With everything brand spanking new, we had the impression of having the place almost to ourselves – but given the layout I think this would be the case even if the hotel was full.

The elegant suites are not exactly minimalist but their deceptively simple design is a show case for wonderful details: lots of contemporary art, complemented by curated books to learn more about it, as well as fresh fruit, local specialities and of course, a bottle of Château Lacoste Rosé to be sipped on the balcony looking at that view.

My suite at Villa Lacoste                                       Photo Credit Wendy Narby

The all white theme runs into the marble bathrooms each with their own terrace and an elegant olive tree over the bathtub.

The bathroom with it’s own olive tree             Photo Credit Wendy Narby

We dined in the Louison restaurant. Thanks to a photo shoot, Michelin star chef Gérald Passedat was there and it was like having a private chef. We were thoroughly spoilt.

The Couple by Louise Bourgeois high above our table at dinner.


Amuses bouches at Louison                                Photo Credit Wendy Narby

The food was spectacular. Excellent quality local ingredients, traditional recipes, all with an original and inventive twist, as exciting for the eye as the palate.

Olive Bread – more olive than bread                Photo Credit Wendy Narby

The art theme runs right though this place down to the smallest details. My friends liked it so much they returned for dinner the following night and were just as thrilled.

The crab…..                                                               Photo Credit Wendy Narby

and its provencal vegetables         Photo Credit Wendy Narby

Onion: the content and the container. Photo Credit Wendy Narby

There is also a more informal restaurant, a cool bar, a well-stocked library to browse the wine and art books, as well as a swimming pool to occupy the residents.

The next morning, after a power walk through the vines, getting lost amongst the art installations, breakfast was served on the terrace of the hotel. Suspended high up above the pool, as delicious as breakfast was, it was hard to concentrate on with such a spectacular view.

Breakfast with that view                                      Photo Credit Wendy Narby

After breakfast off we went to discover the sculpture park – driven in a shiny new Land Rover Defender. Another box ticked for the boys on the tour.

Irishman Patrick McKillen purchased this classic French Provencal estate in 2002. As well as renovating the chateau and replanting the vines, Mckillen has created a unique sculpture park with thirty major contemporary artworks spread throughout the vineyard. The art centre, created by Japanese architect Tadao Ando in 2004, holds pride of place at the centre.

The Louise Bourgeois spider at the art centre Photo Credit Wendy Narby

It is breath-taking – arriving in front of the centre you are welcomed by a Louise Bourgeois
 Crouching Spider sculpture, which seems to be floating over the water. It was here that charming young Irish art expert, Tess Rumgay, met us.

I highly recommend taking a guided tour. You can of course walk around and discover at your own pace with a well-edited guide and map but Tess’s explanations and insights made all the difference. We felt so much more intelligent and cultured at the end of the morning.

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Tom Shannon’s Drop – in action

And the wine? Well, sadly I didn’t have time to visit the impressive new cellars designed by Jean Nouvel, (the ones that look like Nissan huts). That’ll be for another trip. But we did taste the wine. As well as the tasting room and shop, there are several restaurants to choose where you can sample by the glass or the bottle. The art centre has a light and airy Tadao Ando restaurant running alongside the water. But, after all the contemporary art, we returned to the more traditional atmosphere of the original château courtyard for lunch. The Terrace restaurant serves fresh organic produce from the neighbouring kitchen garden, at tables laid out around the fountain, all served with a selection of the delicious still and sparkling rosés from the property.

The Rosé Fountain                                                Photo Credit Wendy Narby

There is so much to see here that it merits at least a couple of days stay, but do allow extra time if you can just to soak up the Zen atmosphere of the place. A quite remarkable wine tourism experience; it merits reflection.

Part of the warm welcome at Villa Lacoste    Photo Credit Wendy Narby





Château Sigalas Rabaud – a family tradition

The same names do tend to pop up again and again on my blog – I don’t apologise for having my favourites and Chateau Sigalas Rabaud is one of them.

Chateau Sigalals Rabaud

Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

It ticks a lot of boxes for me:

– sweet wines are, of course, part of my Bordeaux history,

– it is tiny (just 14 ha – the smallest of the 1er Crus) so defies the perception of Bordeaux vineyards all being enormous estates.

– despite being a 1st growth of Sauternes from the 1855 classification it is still family owned and has been for 7 generations

– it is run by a woman who is also the wine maker.
I rest my case.

Chateau Sigalas Rabaud is perched on a gentle southern slope of the ‘terrasse du Sauternais’ where all the top growths of Sauternes are situated. The gravel topsoil, deposited over a clay subsoil by the Garonne River 600,000 years ago, gives the best of both worlds; gravel for ripeness, clay for water supply.

Less than 500 metres to the North West of Château d’Yquem, it is closer to the Ciron, the small cold stream responsible for the autumn fog, the key to the development of the fungus Botrytis Cinerea. Its slope exposes the grapes to a light breeze, drying the botrytised grapes in October, encouraging both the noble rot and the subsequent concentration of the natural sugars for these great sweet wines.

Morning mists from the Ciron

Morning mists from the Ciron

Being a family property has its challenges but also its advantages; it implies a notion of stewardship; a respect for the terroir and the long view of leaving a living soil to future generations, preserving the biodiversity. Through observation, ploughing the soil and the use of pheromones to repulse some pests means the property has vastly reduced any pesticide use and eliminated the use of weed killers.

Sauternes - a time consuming process

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot checking on barrel aging Sauternes

The feminine side of the property runs through its history Rabaud was founded at the end of the 17th century and passed down as dowry through one of the daughters. In 1863, Henry de Sigalas acquired the Château and his only son sold the biggest part of the property (now Chateau Rabaud Promis) in 1903, keeping only the “jewel” of the terroir, that homogeneous southern slope that makes up the property today. Henry added his name to the property and it became Château Sigalas Rabaud. There’s nothing new about vanity vineyards!

La Marquise

La Marquise

In 1951, Château Sigalas Rabaud was taken over by Henry’s granddaughter, Marie-Antoinette de Sigalas, who was married to the Marquis de Lambert des Granges. Two generations later, in 2006, Laure de Lambert Compeyrot joined the estate as technical director. She succeeded her father as manager, the Marquis Gérard de Lambert des Granges, in 2013 buying her uncle’s shares, to become the major shareholder of the château, following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Marie-Antoinette de Sigalas, and bringing back a feminine signature to the estate.

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot

Laure de Lambert Compeyrot – elegance runs in the family.

Her two sons, who work in their own Bordeaux merchant house also, help out – the seventh generation of the family.

As well as Chateau Sigalas Rabaud Sauternes the property produces a second Sauternes, Le Lieutenant de Sigalas, and Laure is also one of the pioneers of the dry white revolution in Sauternes. Despite some resistance from the family she introduced La Demoiselle de Sigalas, the first dry white wine in the history of the property, named after the rather beautiful Marquise. As her confidence grew, Laure continued to innovate with the 100% dry Sémillon ‘La Semillante’.

The wines of Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

The wines of Chateau Sigalas Rabaud

This varietal is used in white blends throughout Bordeaux, dry as well as sweet although it is more often associated with sweet Bordeaux. It is rare to find a 100% dry Sémillon. It is quite different in style to the Sauvignon-led dry whites with more weight, a very floral nose when young and a potential for ageing.

See here for an interview with Laure and Jacques Lurton about the dry white wines of the property.

Often relegated to a dessert wine, Sweet Bordeaux wines are so much more versatile than we often give them credit for. Chateau Sigalas Rabaud, like many others in the sweet appellations, are turning their back on the heavier style of wine, crafting wines with a freshness and elegance that compliment so many foods.

Sweet wine doesn't have to be served with dessert

Sweet wine doesn’t have to be served with dessert

Or you could just sit back and enjoy a glass on it’s own – I know I do.

Wine Time.

Tradition has it Bordeaux wines are best serve with food, but that does not mean it has to be a formal dinner or lunch. To prove the point Chateaux in Bordeaux are now thinking outside the box and offering visitors the chance to taste their wines in a more relaxed atmosphere.

I mentioned in a previous post that Les Medocaines will offer you breakfast before tasting on a Sunday morning and for the summer Chateau Pape Clement, a classified growth in the Graves, is offering a series of themed brunches. Pape Clement is known for its wine tourism, with its Chateau bedrooms available for guests, as well as tasting rooms and cellars.  It is effectively an urban vineyard, a small green oasis in the middle of the Bordeaux suburbs, so perfectly placed to invite city dwellers over. The next brunch will take place on the 15th June with a fruit theme serving a selection of fruit juices and jams produced by Alain Milliat each one chosen to highlight the fruit aromas associated with the Château wines such as peaches, strawberries, blackcurrants, and much more. The 29th June will be a completely different Japanese theme with a Sushi selection and in July, on the 6th and 27th, the theme will be ‘pink’ so come dressed in pink to sample some rosé or on the 10th August for a seafood buffet.

Brunch at Chateau Pape Clement

Brunch at Chateau Pape Clement

If your prefer your wine in the afternoon, call in to Château Carbonneau in Pessac Sur Dordogne. Here, not far from Saint Emilion, Wilfrid Franc de Ferrière and his New Zealand wife Jacquie have created ‘The Glass house’, a ‘Salon du Thé’ named after the spectacular green house built onto the side of their 19th century chateau.

The Glass House

The Glass House

The chateau has been in Wilfred’s family since the 1930s and it is one of only a few vineyards in Bordeaux that still practise mixed agriculture with their 20 strong herd of Blonde d’Aquitaine cattle as a compliment to the 20 hectares of  ‘Saint Foy de Bordeaux vines producing red, white and rosé wines.

Tea Time

Tea Time

If driving home along the winding lanes after your tasting seems a too risky, book ahead to stay in one of the 5 guest rooms in the Chateau. You can then join fellow guests for dinner prepared by Jacquie in the Chateau dining room and the next morning take breakfast on the South facing terrace or in the conservatory – and you can start all over again.













Brilliant Brillat

Brillat Savarin, French philosopher, famous for his ‘Physiologie du goût’ written in 1825 was the first food and wine matcher, advising Graves wine with Poulard de Bresse and old Sauternes with oysters, insisting on changing wines with every course. What a wise man.

He also has a delicious cheese named after him. Brillat Savarin is a fresh, creamy cows milk cheese from Normandy and Burgundy. Our local ‘fromager’ Pierre Rollet Gerard, in the covered market in Libourne, prepares this cheese by slicing it in the middle and stuffing it with truffles. It is so delicious that just this one cheese suffices on the cheese board – no need for a selection. It is also perfect match with an older Pomerol – well known for the development of truffle aromas as they age.

Brillat Savarin with truffles

I was not that surprised then to find the match of Brillat Savarin and truffles on a menu recently – what did surprise me however was that is was suggested as a dessert. A Brillat Savarin cheesecake served with a truffle ice-cream. This was at the excellent ‘Restaurant 23’ in Leamington Spa. Chef Peter Knibb, came back to his home town in 2006 after working with various Michelin star chefs all over Europe and in February this year moved to a grade II listed Victorian building in a leafy avenue in the centre of town. It was delicious, may I suggest an old Sauternes as a match?

Brillat Savarin cheesecake with Truffle ice cream at Restaurant 23