Friday, December 29, 2006

Brilliant end of the year

Domaine Fayat-Thunevin : Yesterday we had a serious tasting of the 2006 vintage in our new property in Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol, with the participation of the previous owner. The malolactic fermentations were finished and the sulphite added 15 days ago, which allowed us to have a more accurate opinion.
Regarding this Pomerol, I think we have a bomb: full wine, rich, very ripe, concentrated, long, complex. Some violet like in certain Syrah, hopefully it will hold its promises!
The Lalande is more “normal”, smooth.
I can’t wait to see how these wines will compare to their peers, and in which categories we will be placed. In Lalande, we will certainly be in the 15 best, and I hope the same in Pomerol. This shows how high I set my mark.

Valandraud 2004 is finally pumped back in the vat to end the aging (2 wooden vats and 1 concrete), as suggested by Patrick (technique used in Burgundy to refine wines which are “too hard”). Aging should go on for a few more months and we will finally be able to bottle this wine, which, like 1994 and 2001, gave me a hard time, me who likes silky wines… These 3 vintages were tiring.

On the website of Château Loisel (site in French and link available on our French blog), there is a great comment on the Calvet-Thunevin Constance 2004 with a simple rating system easy to understand. This site contains plenty of information. The Constance 2005 is still aging and looks promising! For the ones who are interested, we still have a few bottles of 2002 which are certainly the best deal available in our stock, all wines included.

Again today and to finish the year brilliantly, in the February issue of Decanter, an article by Andrew Jefford listed Haut Carles and Haut Mazeris (I appeal to all responsible journalists to help the Fronsac appellation still greatly ignored by consumers looking for good values), in this same issue, there is also an article by James Lawther on the Roussillon and specifically on Fenouillèdes. And in In Vino Veritas, 2 pages on Chateau Fleur Cardinale, sorry for so little!

In the meantime while preparing for this New Years Eve celebration, which will take place in my home with a group of fine gourmets, I wish you the best for the rest of 2006 and a Happy New Year 2007.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"A great year"

This morning in the Télé matin show on France 2, a piece was aired promoting a new film “A good year” which is being released in France on January 3. In this piece, a great promotion on the story of garage wines, which partly inspired Ridley Scott:

«The story of this feature: a great year started when Ridley Scott and the writer Peter Mayle, friends since the 70s, met and drank a great bottle of wine at the end of the 20th Century. Peter recalls: “Ridley arrived with an newspaper article about new Bordeaux wines, “garage wines”, which fetched astronomical prices without any château, or pedigree. Still people were paying fortunes to acquire them.” Ridley Scott added: “I saw this article in the business section of the Times. It was about a French winery selling its garage wines for more than 45,000 euros per case. It was an article published in 1996, that I kept. At that time, I was looking for an opportunity to go back to France to shoot a new film, and this story seems perfect.»…

One can also mention Patrick Bernard’s interview in the French publication “Les Echos”:

«S.L. : For the past few years, we’ve been experiencing a series of good, if not excellent vintages. What is the level of contribution from global warming versus technical improvement?
P.B.: Bordeaux would not have reached this level of quality today without the contribution from garage wines. Although, themselves being a aberration, they contributed to extraordinary progress. Garage wines are produced on very small plots, considered at first average, by winemakers taking care of there patch of vines with as much attention as a vegetable garden. At the beginning, these pioneers started with little money, they installed their fermentation vats in their garage, hence the name of these wines. Their contribution has been to better take in account the essential part the vineyard has to play... »

When you think that in the past few years some announced the end of garage wines… As if one can ignore today the revolution which changed Bordeaux and the wine world barely 15 years ago!
In other words, as a French saying goes: “to throw the baby with the water from the bath”, which should be interpreted in this case as to get rid of an import fact in order to eliminate the problems and obligations which it creates.

Cold weather is with us

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cold weather is here and frost embelishes the Saint Emilion landscape.

Yesterday in my house I drank a bottle of Franc Maillet Cuvée Jean-Baptiste 2000 with two of my wine merchant colleagues. This wine honors the Pomerol appellation, which is a bit suffering these days, like Margaux, for having disappointed consumers expecting better from such appellation. Indeed, in these prestigious appellations where the price of vineyards can cost between 500,000 and 1 million Euros per hectare – and even more, what justified bottles which were granted the appellation by “ land right” and not by “blood right” if I can allow myself such pun. In these prestigious appellations, 80 % of the wines sold in retail for less than 10 Euros a bottles is bad, 20 % is a matter of chance.
Valandraud 1999 was yesterday a great bottle, with perfect corks for the 2 bottles, which help positively the evolution of these great wines.

On Mark Squires BB, I read a comment from Clive Coates who compares my wines, as well as the ones from Perse and Magrez, to hippopotamus as opposed to good Bordeaux, which resemble gazelles… and therefore considers that the palate of our clients, who appreciate our wines, are handicapped and urgently need a “quality palate” transplant (with the same characteristics as this eminent and famous critic). Except that Clive Coates has no influence, I am surprised that he stubbornly still thinks that I make “blockbuster” wines, when Mr Parker (who he is greatly jealous of) never gave me 98-100!
I am tempted to create a label with a hippopotamus for the anti-Clive Coats.

A few good moments

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I really enjoyed watching the movie « Sideways » on Canal +. The atmosphere, the story of these 2 friends, the time that passes, his unreasonable love of wine in order to cure his unhappiness… I really liked this character, a sort of loser who asses his life and who fortunately still loves wine and teach how to love it (that’s where his life seems useful), and who is faithful in friendship despite all the situations trying to separate these 2 friends.
Another film, but not yet seen: “A good year” inspired by, what seems to be, an article on garage wines by Ben MacIntyre in the Times and directed by Ridley Scott (By the way, if someone has a copy of this article…)

Last Thursday, return trip to Montpellier for the end of the year meal of BEC-FAYAT ENT., with a tasting of La Dominique 2003, Commanderie de Mazeyres 2002 and Clément Pichon 2004. Very good atmosphere, enjoyable meal with the opportunity to meet the son of Bernard Faure, who I worked with for more than 10 years at the Crédit Agricole of Montpon-Ménestrol in Dordogne.
11 hours of driving was unfortunately the price to pay… I don’t like driving with all the dangers, despite having a comfortable and secure Mercedes ML300.

Friday noon, end of the year lunch with my employees, more than 30, to thank them for the work done and the current year.
I spent Christmas eve with my family, a relaxed evening: playing cards with a small meal drinking a Bollinger 1997. I usually don’t like champagnes aged in barrels, but this time I enjoyed it with great pleasure. We followed with La Conseillante 1998 always very good… I think it was my last bottle.
In the menu, warm oysters, cooked in a reduction of shallots, wine and crème fraîche, fresh oysters from Marennes and grilled chipolatas in the fireplace, duck foie gras “mi-cuit” cooked by Murielle, a delicious and unctuous capon and sauted potatoes, cheese and endive salad, and for desert a “bûche de Noël” (Yule log).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Busy schedule

Yesterday, I stopped by the office between 7:30 and 8:30 am… then at 9am I went to Château La Dominique to sign checks for a few payments and plan future investments. Our small businesses must also adapt to the evolution of our business environement American style (lawyers, accountants, etc…).

10 am meeting with the Association des Grands Crus Classés from Saint Emilion where, for lack of representing Valandraud (not yet classified), I was representing La Dominique. It was a good meeting, which is rare, with an strong will to take-up future challenges: INAO, Unions, trades, medias, …

12:15 pm lunch (Clos des Fées 2003 and Clos del Rey 2003) with a friend broker « from the place ». We talked about the evolution of relationships between wholesalers and wineries, the changes going to take place due to the age of some of the top leaders (around 65 years old… which doesn’t prevent me from thinking that I will try to work until 100 if God allows), and on the expectations of the 2006 campaign which look better than we thought, for the market in Bordeaux is healthy (inventory, cashflow of the wholesalers and good brands).

2:30 pm Tasting of samples from 2005 and 2006.

3 pm Office, work on the kosher cuvee and preparation of the trip to Singapore and Japan February 1 until 16.

4:30 pm Meeting with a supplier of air conditioning systems for the cellar and temperature regulation.

5 pm Meeting with the person who will most likely oversee the processes to make sure that we are in accordance top the ISO 9001 and 14001 standards.

6 pm Various telephone conversations including one with Christian Dalbavie who just returned from the USA.

7 pm Fortunately, Puzio (Château Croix de Labrie) picked me up to have a drink at l’Essentiel. ;-)

No time to get bored…

Today, meeting with the architect of the future Château Valandraud in Saint Etienne de Lisse, and at 11 am with the architect for the work in Bellevue de Tayac.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

“Vin doux naturel” – Naturally Sweet Wine

Our Calvet-Thunevin Maury 2004 is finally available. Our range is now complete.
The idea of making Maury in Maury might sound obvious, but the main reason being Jean-Roger Calvet’s desire to make one of the best VDN (naturally sweet wine or fortified wine). We will now be able to test how our customers and wine critics react, aware that Michel Bettane’s comment will be important… In the September 13 2006 edition of L’Express the comment was very positive and we were included in a selection of 11 properties.
In the meantime and before sales begin, our guests for the holidays will be able to taste it with chocolate cake. A good pretext for a good meal ;-))

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fleur Cardinale

I read an article published this week on the magazine Challenge congratulating Florence and Dominique Decoster for getting the Château Fleur Cardinale classified and for the “Coup de Coeur” received for the 2002, 2003 and 2004 vintages.

I also read an article in a newsletter sent by a broker from Bordeaux a few interesting notes on 2005-2006.
“The total sales of Bordeaux wines reached 5.6 millions hectoliters, for a value of 3.2 billion Euros. More than tow thirds of the sales were in France, with revenues reaching almost 2 billions Euros. Supermarket chains, as usual, were the major share with 43%, excluding hard discount chains.”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Wines of the stars

Yesterday on Canal + (private French TV channel), Christophe Lambert and Arthur were guests on Michel Denisot's show. The host presented 4 wines, blind, with the help of several celebrities from show business (Dylan, de Turckheim, Trintignant et Lambert).
Christophe Lambert is currently working with our friend Jean Guyon from Rollan de By and Haut Condissas to develop a wine called Tour Séran. Each wine was tasted by Arthur. He was only able to know the name of the owner, but not the name of the wine. Talk about freedom of expression in our beautiful country of France where you are not allowed to give the name of a wine tasted blind as it could be viewed as disguised advertising… The purpose of this tasting was not intended to respect the Loi Evin which forbids ads for alcoholic beverages on TV or billboards. In any case, one had to be aware of the collaboration between Christophe Lambert, Jean Guyon and Tour Séran to understand.

Yesterday again, this time at the office, we tasted the Présidial and Lalande-Couturier 2005: These wines are simply good and able to seduce our customers looking for good Bordeaux at a reasonable price. Vive the 2005 vintage which produced wines on the fruit powerful and balanced.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Valandraud man

The Atlantic listed "The 100 Most Influential Americans of all time" and Robert Parker was one of them. This started a thread on Mark Squire’s BB, and I was mentioned as the “Valandraud Man” by Vera Lhener… A nickname I should certainly ad to my exisiting list!

In addition, François Mauss reviewed the recent tasting event in Paris which I participated in:

"All 1855 Bordeaux over 5 decades"

11 members of GJE (including Michel Bettane, Herwig Janssen, Dirk van der Niepoort) with 2 guests (JL Thunevin and Alan Plotnik) were invited at restaurant Laurent ** in Paris) , the 5th of december for a very special (and costly) tasting where we had :


in these vintages (semiblind : they knew what they were expected to taste):


Origin of this tasting : as a lover of Haut-Brion, I was not happy at all with the recent results of this wine in the last tastings of Bordeaux by GJE during our regular sessions.

I did taste too, but since I take the last glass, I had a lot of sediments, and certainly Herwig will write his own comments.

The results are:

In absolute, per wine:

1 Margaux 1990 94,91
2 Latour 1990 94,35
3 Margaux 2000 94,19
4 Latour 2000 93,96
5 Lafite 2000 93,63
6 Haut-Brion 1982 93,62
7 Latour 1982 93,59
8 Haut-Brion 1990 93,45
9 Haut-Brion 2000 93,43
10 Margaux 1982 93,27
11 Lafite 1990 92,12
12 Haut-Brion 1966 91,33
13 Lafite 1982 90,88
14 Haut-Brion 1975 89,93
15 Latour 1966 89,71
16 Margaux 1966 89,41
17 Latour 1975 88,59
18 Lafite 1975 87,55
19 Margaux 1975 87,36
20 Lafite 1966 87,11

Most probably, the 2000 will overpass later the 90 who are, at some kind of peak actually.

I will not take too much room in this post, but it is easy for those interested to compute the ranking per wine in all vintages as well as the ranking per vintage.

Haut-Brion is n° 1 in the 3 older vintages, but in recent, we have latour and Margaux.

One possible conclusion : in recent vintages, obviously Haut-Brion is hidden and needs a minimum of 15 years to come out.

It was during this tasting that Laurent Vialette offers us this somptuous La Mission haut-Brion (white) of 1929.

Many thanks to those who offered us some of these bottles !

A great moment."

Monday, December 11, 2006

End of the Year

Saturday evening (December 9) the end of the year dinner celebration of the Fayat Travaux company took place at the Maison des Vins of Beychac and Caillau: more than 200 persons attended, with a mix of new and old employees. Managers and executives were boasting about young employees formed in the company and the faithfulness of the staff (some have been there for more than 30 years).
Sunday (gone so fast), Karl and Axelle enjoyed the Christmas market in Saint Emilion: merry-go-round, poney, cotton candy and Santa Claus (a fake one…according to Axelle who claims she knows). We also had the surprised visit from friends, Martine and Daniel Quellier who set up traditional bakeries in Morocco and especially in Ukraine (it is harder to sell wine there).

Financial results: period from 09/01/2005 to 08/31/2006
Revenues 13 383 658 euros ( 7 507 565 euros on 08/31/2005)
Total revenue 26 494 677 euros
Debt 6 072 963 euros
Stock 10 127 655 euros
Expenses export development 69 548 euros
Salaries full time (30) and seasonal (around 50) : 1 406 059 euros
And in the series "Valandraud chez les stars", after Elton John and Tom Jones, it is now Abba. For an ex-DJ, it is a minimum to spend a good evening.

Friday, December 8, 2006


Yesterday at noon, following a conversation regarding a partnership with a US distributor for the development of a common brand, I had lunch with Francois Mauss. We talked about the evolution of the US market and the revolution taking place in the media, the Grand Jury Europeen and the place of the Internet… All of that as a pretext to spend some quality time together even though the subjects discussed were serious.
It was a good opportunity to taste a Clos Vougeot 2004 from Mr François Legros, 1er cru Les Cras: a good wine, neat, pleasant to drink, buttery but in my opinion lacking concentration and new wood. But I have luxury taste, and as I drink few Burgundies, I only drink the best. In any case, Francois liked it.
Following, and a notch up, we drank a Gevrey Chambertin 2002 Corbeaux from Lucien Boillot. This is just about the type of wine I like to drink: fruity, fresh, long and elegant new oak. Pleasant to drink, even Murielle liked it. If it had been a little more concentrated, this wine would have been perfect for me.
In both cases, 2 good wines with a clear preference for the 2nd one.
Thanks to Patrick, who by his contacts, is trying to introduce me to burgundy Pinot.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Visit of Mr Tanaka

Yesterday, we had a private dinner at Laurent in Paris (2 stars Michelin and 3 in the Bottin Gourmand). Under the supervision of Philippe Bourgignon, we received the full palace service, Paris style: pleasant and friendly, able to even put at ease the shyest of guest.
After a dream tasting which I will qualify with one word: professionalism, and the confirmation of what we already knew, simply a beautiful holiday meal, a good omen for future feasts.
For openers: King Crab in Aspic and cream of fennel. The dishes that followed didn’t prevent me from catching the 3:15 pm TGV to Libourne.
As soon as I arrived, dinner at home with Mr. Tanaka who wanted to know my opinion about the new Saint Emilion classification. I always surprise people when I say that this classification is great in its modernity, and even if I think it could be improved, I accept it 100%. Isn’t the fact that it gets revised regularly and the deserving properties promoted, the way to move forward? In any case, a great evening with pertinent questions, and even though we had to do complex translations, we understood each other fully. For desert, Quadrature de la Coume del Mas 2001 served with a chocolate cake which ended our evening in symbiosis, until our next trip to Japan in February.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


Don’t believe that Bordeaux vineyards are the only ones threatened by the construction of a new highway. In Spain, Ribera del Duero is also concerned, even Vega Sicilia’s landscape is threatened by the construction of a new highway.
I hope that Margaux was able to convince the authorities to build somewhere else.

I leave for Paris this morning at 7 am returning this evening for a tasting and interview with Mr Tanaka, journalist for Winart, a highend magazine from Japan. The article is about the classification and tasting a few of our product (Blanc de Valandraud No 1 2005 and Haut-Mazeris Fronsac and Canon Fronsac 2004).

Monday, December 4, 2006

A weekend meal

Saturday evening, we had for dinner Peter Sisseck (Pingus), Alain and Murielle, and tasted a wine from Roberto Voerzio Brunate Barolo 2001 (rated 93 by Parker, darling of Bettane-Desseauve and the Grand Jury Européen), a good wine, pleasant, not concentrated or modern enough for my taste. Then we had a Barbera d’Asti Bricco Fiore Riserva 2001, unfortunately corked ; Lascombes 2003 (rated 92 by RP, I prefer the 2001) and the Cuvée du Papet 1998 from the Clos du Mont Oliver (rated 95), smooth, balanced which I really enjoyed. I have a remark to make: for some people who think that Parker only likes concentrated wines, they should taste this wine and they would be surprised…

Sunday for lunch at Murielle’s parents and still with Peter, we opened a Lafont Fourcat 2003, full of fruit, and which prompted Peter to say that only Bordeaux could produce a wine with such balance at such an attractive price. No wood, just ripe fruit and a balance hard to find in this vintage.

Next, Bel Air Ouÿ 1999 smooth and with little tannins, the oak flavors of its youth have completely disappeared.

Back to our dinner on Saturday evening, we served a Blanc de Valandraud No1 2005 which are ready to be labeled and is currently being offered to our customers (2732 bottles produced) and Lafont Fourcat 2004 (100% Muscadelle). Followed by a Pingus 2006 (1st sample, malo finished and sulphite just added), decanted for 20 minutes. It is in my opinion the most complete, the most…of all the Pingus: balanced, purity, concentration…the perfect wine… I would love to see what Peter could make in Bordeaux with our climate, varietals, terroirs. In any case, we were 5 professionals thinking that 2006 is going to please a lot of people…at least the ones who will have the chance to taste it.

After, we tasted this rarity, thanks to the visit of our Burgundy friend: Vosne Romané 1er cru from DRC, cuvée Duvault-Blochet 2004, all in lace…Perfect example why we love to drink Burgundy during a meal.
This weekend…the meal of the Veterans.

As pretext for the release of a book on the 50th anniversary of the Groupe Fayat we had the idea to organize a meal in our home with a dozen of the very first employees of Clément Fayat.
Were present, Clément Fayat, of course, Marcel Andraud (Murielle’s father) and a group of men full of life and youth: the youngest being 74 and the oldest over 90! Although most were a bit intimidated by the presence of Clément Fayat, around 3 pm, after the meal, wine and atmosphere helping, they almost started singing! In any case they recalled stories about their work, anecdotes from their youth when work was not considered a disease, and they had nice salaries compared to their bosses (from single to triple). At this time, employees could work many hours overtime paid twice on Sunday and when work had to be done. Of course, they kept a idealistic memory of their youth, but their enthusiasm really showed how much they were proud to have participated and helped create this powerful international group.
Murielle prepared by herself a meal for 16 people:
Moule Marinières, roast beef filet, creamy mashed potatoes, endive salad (from Mr. Andraud’s garden) and the great Basque cake from Lopez, our favorite patisserie in Libourne.

For the wines: A magnum of Jean Boillot 2004, Puligny Montrachet 1er cru Clos de la Mouchère, 2 bottles of Virginie de Valandraud 1999 (a delicatie), 2 bottles of Château La Dominique 1998 (it is at least what we can do to remind that Fayat is also great wines, and that 98 is typical of great La Dominique) truffles with this Pomerol side, almost 100% Merlot and which sets it apart from his illustrious neighbor Cheval Blanc. And to finish, a wink at our recent purchase in Pomerol: Trotanoy 1989 (our last magnum), one of the favorite wines of many of our friends. And it not Clément, Peter, Bruno, or us who will contradict this statement.

Friday, December 1, 2006

The Constance effect

Yesterday, one of our friends found (I don’t know how !) on the internet site of one of our American distributors comments on the Cuvée Constance 2004 from Calvet-Thunevin and these comments were simply terrific.
A young lady drank this cuvee with her fiancé and had one of the best amorous nights of her life. This started a chain reaction with comments such as “I will buy 4 cases for my husband” to a point where the merchant had to post “Out of stock”!
As a matter of fact, there is none left…you will have to wait for the 2005 and use Viagra or another product not as glamorous… Vive les USA where one can say with humor that they had pleasure before and after drinking a good bottle of wine, which is the best publicity we can get after ratings from journalists.
Other than that, with the Jean-Roger Calvet’s team and our bankers from the BNP, we drank a Virginie 1999 and a very good wine from the Roussillon.

Today, we are invited for lunch by Alain Vaultier with a very famous winemaker from Burgundy Mr. Bernard Noblet, a cellar master who received us, with Patrick Essa, very well at the Domaine de La Romanée Conti.
Back at the office at 3 pm. So, 11 person around the table with (and for) Bernard Noblet, Alain offered a Clos des Fées 2004 all in smoothness and a bottle of Ausone 2003, perfect. I hope that our friend from Burgundy appreciated this pleasant moment of friendliness as much as we did.

Tomorrow, another meal in our house with the first employees of Clément Fayat and, of course, Murielle’s father who is our link to this great man. This meal, organized by Murielle, will also link his personal history to the Groupe Fayat which will celebrate its 50th anniversary with today more than 10 000 employees and which became one of the most remarkable success stories in France.

Finding one’s place

It is my turn to find it amazing when an unknown cru prides itself on having beaten my Château Valandraud in a tasting event. Me too, I tended to say that my wine was better than some Grand Cru I used to dream of. In a way, it is a way for a Grand Cru to position itself by comparing itself to him.
Unfortunately, today none of the 1st growth would think about comparing themselves to Valandraud!

To mimic Martin Luther King “I had a dream...for my wine”, I did but it was only a dream, even if I am happy that Valandraud is listed in books as one of the best wines in the world. Parker or Bettane et Desseauve still have work to do.
Here in Saint Emilion, it is incredible the number of times Petrus was beaten by his challengers in blind tasting.

As for me, I am somewhat modest and when I compare Valandraud in blind tasting, it is with a minimum of 4 well known classified growths (ideally around 10 would be better) and I hope to be included in the best.
For instance, I am happy to be in the top 5 in the last tasting of the Grand Jury Européen, results based on 5 vintages (1998 to 2002). If you ad the 1995 vintage, there is no doubt that I would end up 1st or 2nd!

Conclusion: If you are not classified 1st in 1855, you have to fight every day, justify and prove by hard work that you deserve to be included with other classified growth and be grateful to have the opportunity to rub shoulders with these icons.

On the site « », Patrick Essa gives me the pleasure to write everything he follows. Thank you whole heartedly and good reading!

Château Valandraud : Blood and Gold...

I have assembled for this article notes from recent tastings of Château Valandraud (which lost its “de” last year). By publishing them in this aggregative way, I would like to salute the patient work done by my exact opposite in Bordeaux…Almost everything opposes us in facts and then so many things connect us on the human level! I wish for you to taste the crus from this incredible winery – where I recently got lost – for despite the many criticism about its location, it represents with no doubt one of the most refined wine in the “Emilionaise” region. Of course, its price only allows for a rich clientele or at least “passionate” although I think that it truly represents a simple idea of what is allowed to do in culture, aging and vinification when the only watchword is “no limits”!

Blanc de Valandraud 2004 : A rich and ripe wine which owes its freshness to the lack of malolactic fermentation and the right amount of tension from the semillion and the sauvignon blanc. Notes of elder and buds of cassis mixed with notes of pure exoticism which reminisces the crystal purity of the Dagueneau crus and a svelte and filling palate which ends on fine notes of verbena. Very good. 88

Blanc de Valandraud 2005 : This wine has not been filtered and its sparkling robe is slightly tanned. Fine nose, distinguished and held up on notes of vine flowers, lime tea, intense. Dry palate, gracious beautifully expressive and a subtle touch of “northern” wine. The balance is perfect and the wine end with length and beautiful aromas of white truffle and wild mint. Beautiful wine 90.

Château Valandraud 2005 : Jean-luc and Murielle Thunevin are searching the Holly Grail. Understand by this statement that nothing – absolutely nothing – is too beautiful to produce the greatest wine ever in the land they own in Saint Emilion. Their attention to detail is brought to a level equivalent to obsession and it is quite “exciting” to notice the absolute synergy between these two and imagine the miraculous cru they carry and give birth every year. 2005 is the fruit of relentless labor, precision in the vineyards and in the cellar which is only equal to their concept of The great wine. Under these conditions and the exceptional quality which this year offered naturally, it is obvious that this 2005 was made to be remembered. Tasted from assembling lots from several barrels in Bel Air Ouÿ, the wine showed a deep darkness, but absolutely not jammy or too heavy. No, it is searching for balance around prominent tannins which are found at the end of the first year of aging, when they reach a phase of peak and give the wine it’s “angular” nature. I was seduced by the notes of blackberries and crisp grapes which cover the palate and by a perfect quality of wood. Ultra tight matter but fresh and impressive length which doesn’t even give way to Ausone…A gem! 93-98

Château Valandraud 2004 : This cru was not even rated by Parker which meant that it was of “small level” for it is still not being sold and on the other hand …is still in barrels. How all this fine world got it wrong and how Valandraud 2004 will become a major success by respecting its internal rhythm. Let me know which Cru today can claim to accept to go through 3 winters at its own cost? Check out the gossip because this Valandraud has the built of La Turque. Supported by a fiery and a rough character with a supple and harmonious structure, with a sheen given by careful and thoughtful aging. Robe black and opaque, nose with iron bringing out notes of dried fruits combined with aromas of vanilla, mouth straight and elegant, impeccably sculpted and with an astonishing freshness with liquorices. Imposing length. Great wine. 92-97

Château Valandraud 2001 : You feel that the fiery “Valendrienne” youth is starting to calm down and that this cru finds its proper aromatic place in the opacity of the glass. A powerful wine, with perfectly pure tannins. Underlining fruit which express notes of elder and prunes and tight fabric with freshness and length. A wine to dring tomorrow or later. 92-94

Château Valandraud 2000 : This wine is first of all of great sincerity. Wood still present but of beautiful quality, which doesn’t hide nice aromas of carob and black fruits. Svelte palate, perfectly ripe, built on fine tannins. The matter is silky and seductive and the wines possesses the beautiful breed of “Emillionais” terroir. Perhaps not the most accomplished Valandraud but of certainly sure value. 93

Château Valandraud 1999 : Fruitier than its junior, it is supple with a svelte structure and an elevated finish which leaves a great impression. A wine with no fuss that must be drunk today as it seems to peak. I like the character of these “intermediary” vintages and their perfect digestibility. Pure pleasure. 90

Château Valandraud 1995: We tasted it during a meal after an excellent Pontet-Canet 2003, and it really thrilled me. An absolutely pure wine which expresses fresh fruitiness and totally melted tannins which reveal a complex form perfectly lean. Subtle aromas of liquorices dominate a suave and round palate which gives a marvelous palette of aromas going from white pepper to mignonette, peony to blackberry. A great moment at the table for a wine that some people wanted to see it collapse. Great class…97

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blanc de Valandraud

Yesterday our guest for lunch were Jean Roger Calvet and 4 friends winemakers from Maury, our Greek oenologist Fakorellis and 2 of his Greek friends (one who makes a very good wine in Argentina and his son who interns at Malartic Lagravière)

We tasted 15 batches of Blanc 2006 Valandraud n° 1 and 2, and some from Virginie’s property in Lalande de Fronsac: it gets better every year… we promised mountains to Thanos if the notes from Parker and other critics reach 95+. We promised the following (not necessarily in the same order): 12 bottles of Ausone 2006 or 3000 bottles of Côtes de Roussillon (for the same value), a Basque cake from Lopez (in our view the best in the world), an evening in a hip bistrot in Paris with the most beautiful waitresses of the Champs-Elysees, etc…

Well, jokes aside, I don’t understand a thing about white wines and this is the reason why it is Murielle’s responsibility and does wonders with the help of Rémi and Thanos. The 2006 vintage is especially a success at this stage of development: with at the very outset the same acidity as 2005, but more concentrated, richer, riper and in the end more buttery. A few more months and we will see.

Analysis of the Blancs:

Ph 3.13
Total acidity 4.95

Ph: 3.06
Total acidity: 5.71

At lunch we served with Moules Marinières: Lafont Fourcat 2004 (100% Muscadelle), Clos des Fées blanc 2004 (Grenache) and Valandraud blanc 2005 N° 1.

With a big chicken (we were 10) and celery hearts, a Fleur Cardinal 2003 already well balanced, Flor de Pingus 2003, exceptional (one of Murielle’s favorite wines) and after a salad with curry dressing, of course, a Basque cake from Lopez and macaroons from Saint Emilion served with a Vari 2003 Reserve du Château (Monbazillac) pure and balanced (and sold by the owner at a very sweet price)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Carrousel du Louvre, bis

Yesterday, I only wrote a few words about our presence at the Paris tasting event, and wrote about our little adventures. I am going to try to explain this event: our stand, very well situated at the entrance of the hall, was placed on the left…in fact on the wrong side (like all the Bordeaux). Sure enough, when you know a place, the “natural” reflex is to go to the right. On the right side you could find: Champagnes with a few heavy weights, Châteauneuf du Pape, Languedoc and Bourgogne, Italians, etc… and on the left, Bordeaux. With the large number of stands and the time needed to visit every stand, one would have to be very strong to stay 6 to 8 hours straight in this hall. In addition, the many events planned and organized in this trade show pushed the Bordeaux even further away. Other than that, it is worth noticing that the number of classified growth represented by their owners was a great luxury for connoisseurs. You just have to read the comments on Mark Squires BB or the Passion du Vin, or on Hervé Bizeul’s blog and the comments of François Audouze.

Yesterday, good news from Jean-Roger Calvet: the Wine Spectator gave 90 points to the Cuvée Dentelles 2002 from the Domaine Calvet-Thunevin ($30 retail in the US).

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Grand Tasting at the Carrousel of the Louvre

We took the TGV for Paris on Thursday afternoon and went straight to our hotel: Les Jardins du Marais (nice for the price with room a bit small but quiet). In the evening, we went to the Théâtre de Marigny with Jean Guyon to see a play. It was a bit too intellectual for me despite a fantastic Isabelle Adjani, and especially because of my damn habit to go to bed early… Well, at least Marie Calvet had a good time!
After the play, Jean Guyon took us to Le Doyen where, thanks to Philippe Bourguignon, we were able to drink a good Deutz Blanc de Blanc.
We finished the evening in a fashionable brasserie, with a hip crowd and loud music to finally eat at 1 am (after waiting for 2 hours!). The place was nice and despite this ruckus, an attentive boss…Still, we went to bed at 2 am. Tough!
The next day, tasting of our wines in the Carrousel of the Louvre. All 4 of us were sharing the stand with Reignac, La Couspaude, Rollan de By and Laussac. Light attendance, except on Saturday afternoon between 3 and 8 pm.
I don’t like this type of event, but when you accept to participate, it is best to participate seriously, which is what we did, I think. For the economic result, we will see.
Other than that, it allowed us to see our clients, friends, journalists, and this is not quantifiable.
Jean-Luc Delarue was invited a small private tasting (as a VIP guest) and I was surprised to meet a man more restless than me! Is it because of his first name?
We had pleasant meals at Tan Dinh and La Cagouille and went to another play at the Théâtre des Variétés with a Pierre Richard in top form.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Does fate exists?

If like me you are going to read the site of Jean Marc Quarin, you will see that he wrote that « 32% of the wines I taste are not good and 32% are ordinary”. As for me, when a buyer taste our wines in my office, 80% are easily approved!

Isn’t there a problem of approval with AOC? When will this issue be resolved? (For everybody knows that reforms are necessary)

In the documentary recently aired on France 5, I insisted that in 2005 all the wines were good in Bordeaux, like every part of a pig is good to eat, that all our wines, even inexpensive ones are good in 2005…but I forgot to specify that all the ones I buy and the ones I sell, for there are still, unfortunately, some sad bottles forcing our customers to taste everything we propose. And again I will mention Jean Marc Quarin who ends by “no good wine exist, no great wines exist without knowledgeable consumers” and I would ad without competent professionals like me who sign their bottles (Magrez, Rolland, Durantou, Borie, Despagne etc…).

Again, Jean Marc Quarin…who just wrote and nice article on “La Regalona”, a wine we carry and which we present during the UGC week at the beginning of April.

And today

Thursday, November 23, 2006

This morning, lawyers, accoutants and auditors are in the office with Annie Veyssiere to prepare and fine tune our balance sheet (01/09/2005 au 31/08/2006).
This afternoon, I leave for Paris to participate to the “Grand Tasting” in the Carrousel du Louvre. We will meet with jean-Roger and Marie Calvet and our friends. We will be part of the important panel of professionals attending this event.
At the same time, a big Bordeaux négociant and his sales team will be visiting the Château La Dominique to assess the quality of the wine, the equipment and the people.
Yesterday in the INSEEC, in front of the students of the Bordeaux International Wine Institute ( bac + 3), I had to speak for around 3 hours, of everything… and nothing regarding the world of wine (at least in my opinion), and this with no glass of water. Fortunately, François and Laurent invited me to the Bistro du Sommelier and drank some San Pellegrino, and in addition a beautiful bottle of Tour Carnet 2001 (35 euros, what a deal) and blind a surprisingly good Château Margaux 1984 on which I wouldn’t have bet a kopek and that we enjoyed (especially of you think about this sad vintage, but this cru was still well rated by Parker with 87/100).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Programme du jour

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

8:15 am, meeting with a banker from Paris who has been proposing me a property in Saint Emilion for the past 2 or 3 years.. and which is…or not…or maybe for sale (most likely for a high price, the owners being very rich and quite commercial).
I have enough in Saint Emilion, but it could interest one of my contacts, fortunately, I didn’t wait for these types of offers to move forward. It goes that way for managers of small fortunes who want to manage the money I don’t have, as all has been reinvested in my business. I prefer to create wealth that managing it.
After the office, meeting on the building site of Bela Air Ouÿ at 10 am with the architect to reactivate this site which, at this rhythm, won’t be finished before March. Yet, we need this little “Hotel-boutique-Chambre d’hôte in a château”, to help with promotion.
For your information, this concept of “Room in a château” is growing in Bordeaux. Next door, Fombrauge, offers 5 to 7 well equipped rooms to rent (or not) depending on the customer. Fleur Cardinale has one, I don’t know if Faugère will keep on doing it. Haut Carles has 2 superb, Clément Pichon 4 or 5 and Marojallia has a luxury hotel, etc…
Then, I have to go to Bordeaux quickly go to Clément Pichon meet Christine Dupart, responsible for developping private customers for Vignobles Clément Fayat, and collect a few magnums sold by my wholesale business.
From 2 pm to 5:30 pm, I have to do a presentation in Hangar 16 in Bordeaux for students of the INSEEC (invited by Laurent Bergerac) to talk about selling, I suppose. Me, who always was an average student, here I go giving lessons! I was already contacted by a top Parisian school. What astonishes me is that after 15 years I am not yet out of fashion!

Results per country

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

If I take the numbers by country and not per customers, this is what comes out:

France 39% (with at least 80 % exported)
UK 15 % (with at least 50 % exported)
USA 11 %
Japan 10 %
Spain 5 %
Switzerland 3 %
Germany 3 %
Russia 3 %
Singapore 1 %
Australia 1 %
India 1 %
Hong Kong 0.5 %
Luxemburg 0.5 %
Belgium 0.5 %
Denmark 0.5 %
Canada 0.5 %
Taiwan 0.5 %
And Italy, Cyprus, Austria, South Korea, Tahiti, Brazil, Latvia, Israel, Ireland, Andorra…

Other than that, in Pomerol, work on the vineyard have begun: the complete palissage has to be redone, new and higher to increase leafage. We actually take below what needs to be added above.
There is also the preparations of the complantation (replacement of dead vines) in Lalande Pomerol. We plan to pull out one hectare (around 2 acres) and to redo entirely the palissage.
And in the cellar, the malos are going on…it must be the area of Saint Emilion, it drags!

Guide Hachette

Monday, November 20 2006

I just received the applications for samples and spec sheets for the Guide Hachette, this is one the best media support for wine sales, if the wine has been selected as a “Coup de Coeur” and is sold for a reasonable price. A “Coup de Coeur” for Valandraud (which I already received) has no impact on the sales, but would be incredible for Présidial 2005.
These tasting events are organized by our associations, the jury consists of some of our collegues (I think), which can explain why I don’t get any “Coup de Coeur” every time: If the person who rates my wines produces vegetal, light wines and taste like “old barrels”, he will certainly reject my wines, which have no TCA but are full, black, ripe. Of course, if I was a 1st growth, I would have no problems getting a “Coup de Coeur”…
Despite having tasted blind, only a psychic can write comments about the wine!

In any case, I sometimes received “Coup de Coeur”, despite the fact that the director is totally opposed to wines like mine: without any pedigree, history, classification and especially appreciated by Americans and of course getting good notes from Parker (you can see that in the DVD of the 10 hour version of Mondovino). A change in the management might make this guide less opinionated. As for Parker, his last book impacts sales of Valandraud.
For our Parisian friends: November 24 and 25, the “Grand Tasting” will take place between 10 am and 8 pm in the Carrousel of the Louvre. There will be 200 winemakers and 1500 wines selected by Bettane and Desseauve.
It is the 2nd time that I go to Paris for this genre of affaire. The first was with l’Amateur de Bordeaux and the Botting Gourmand in the Crillon Hotel. Very stylish, lost of people, sales impact…nil. Except, of course, for the organizers (and who knows). This year, I decided to participate to many events at least to present the Vignoble Fayat, Château de Carles, Château Haut Mazeris and some of our small properties. I will make a report later. Note that I am allergic to any media events and that I will need concrete results to carry doing such event.

Estimated revenue (wholesale and properties) as well as a few info on the wholesale business

Friday, November 17 2006

The estimated revenues for 2006 (31/8/2005 to 31/08/2006 period), revenues will be around 13 millions Euros. The profit will allow us to finance our expansion : purchase of vineyards, improvements of our buildings and especially the largest account, the French tax office: 34%.
We sold around 800 000 bottles, our price being in the upper segment of Bordeaux (13 Euros)
Our biggest client represents 8% our revenues is English. Enclosed a grid of our best customers, their country and percentage of revenue:
1 UK 8 %
2 Japan 5 %
3 Russia 3 %
4 France – négoce bordelais 3 %
5 France – négoce bordelais 3 %
6 Japan 3 %
7 France – négoce bordelais 3 %
8 Spain 2 %
9 UK 2 %
10 France- négoce bordelais 2 %
11 Spain 1 %
12 UK 1 %
13 France 1 %
14 USA 1 %
15 Indiae 1 %
16 USA 1 %
17 USA 1 %
18 USA 1 %
19 Japan 1 %
20 Hong Kong 1 %
21 Switzerland 1 %
22 Singapore 1 %
23 France – négoce 1 %
24 France – négoce 1 %
25 France 1 %
26 France – négoce 0.7 %
27 France – négoce 0.7 %
28 Switzerland 0.7 %
29 Germany 0.7 %
30 USA 0.7 %

Overall, more than 400 active clients and 300 "small" customers.

We are 15 in the wholesale division (including accounting and logistic) and 15 in the wineries.
Not bad, isn’t it?

J'ai la forme !

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I hired in my company, not on purpose (promise!) a bunch of « Pieds-Noirs » (like me) and several ex-bankers (like me). Gilles Vivès, one of these ex-bank executives, who wanted to do more than handle cash (or liquid in colloquial French) without tasting it, told me that I spend too much time talking about the Leclerc supermarkets and neglect too much our other French customers including Le Repaire de Bacchus and Chateauonline who buy our Tour de Guiet 2003 from the Côtes de Bourg. A delicious wine with incredible value even noted 88/100 by Robert Parker and from one of our favorite red Bordeaux, the wine from our consultant Paul-Marie Morillon, Lafont-Fourcat 2005. Which stock is, unfortunately, gone half way in the campaign, as it is such an easy wine to sell due to its quality and chic presentation. From the same winemaker, we will soon have his high end white 2005 “A nos amours” (too our love) – What a beautiful name.
I had the pleasure to meet the Repaire de Bacchus-Chateauonline team during a video shoot about the 2005 campaign for their internet site. You can imagine that we have many more clients but I cannot reveal them for my colleagues, competitors who read this blog.
Other than that, since yesterday, the whole team from our Russian partner is tasting with Caroline, talk and visit. The temperature is rising in our office when these 5 beautiful Russian ladies walk around (at least for our bachelors).
As for our Austrian friends, who didn’t want to eat and drink too much, they greatly appreciated our wines and Murielle’s great cooking. This is what they tasted between 11am and 1:30pm:
2001 vintage: Le Gay, Croix de Labrie, Quinault L’Enclos, Clos de Sarpe, Valandraud, Virginie, 3 de Valandraud, Marojallia, Clos Badon Thunevin, and during the meal : Constance 2002 de Calvet Thunevin, Griffe de Cap d’Or 2000, Valandraud 1999, Dentelles 2002 de Calvet Thunevin et les 3 Marie 2004 and giving their “bordelaise” preferences: Le Gay, Quinault L’Enclos, 3 de Valandraud et Valandraud 1999.

After the Austrians, the Russians enjoyed Murielle’s cooking. In any case, I believe that Murielle, who prepares these meals by herself using fresh and quality produce, surprises most of our guest who come for the first time and expect to find (like anywhere else) fancy dishes, heavy where presentation counts more than taste.
Here, as for our wines, we like to keep it simple. However, being simple is not an easy task. So, we tasted 2 fair Beaujolais (perhaps simply nor our taste), then 2 astonishing wines sent by Laurent and Samuelle Dupéré-Barrera, who called me a few years ago (before they moved to Provence to setup their wholesale business) and who wanted (and bought) used barrels, against my advice.
Who would think that someone who is so involved in biodynamic and interested in organic can believe that one can buy used barrels without having any probable impact on the micro flora of his cellar? I am not the only one with contradiction…Help, Doctor!
(unless the names of the châteaux selling their used barrels have PR value…and yeast or other thing to help create wines without any additional yeast?)

Well, with or without neutral barrels, both wines were extremely good, be it the Nowat 2004 “négoce” balanced and tasty or the more ambitious Clos de la Procure 2004 with more noticeable freshness, often a sign of biodynamic wines.
Bravo, I don’t know which words I would use if we didn’t like them… We were 7 at the table, hard to lie.
In conclusion, with a bit of self confidence, and some changes in their brochure eliminating the sales presentation and the name of the supplier for their barrels (very good as he is also my supplier) and the reference to great Bordeaux or Burgundies, as it is useless, when you are located in a beautiful place, to apologies for a region that doesn’t need it “yet”. These little mistakes, which all neophytes do: when I started I didn’t stop talking about Le Pin in Pomerol and Tertre Roteboeuf in Saint Emilion, without forgetting La Fleur de Gay from my friend Alain Reynaud.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

In a phone conversation with a major brokerage firm while discussing the 2006 futures campaign, the person told me that the major part of the business was done by top brands from the Medoc and a few from Saint Emilion. He added that Pomerol did not interest wholesalers.
That’s the paradox : not enough volume, no possibilities to amortize the effort prospecting, product development, etc. However, when I was in New York a few months ago, distributors were looking for small niche properties to ensure they won’t be competing with their colleagues. 2 different opinion and each are right, knowing that what is the most important for me, is that the customers of my customers are pleased by the rapport value/quality/pleasure.
I am currently looking for one or several distributors for one of the Pomerols from Vignobles Fayat (Château Commanderie de Mazeyres). This wine is of good quality but needs its look and presentation to be updated (which is currently being addressed).
I try to develop a close relationship with my colleagues and customers to distribute these non speculative wines in markets which have not been worked on but are very competitive. What is important is simply to be the best at the best price.

Blog and Revenues export

More than 9000 hits per month on our internet site and more than 7000 on our Japanese site translated by our partners…isn’t it promising?

On the chart for Export companies/region of Aquitaine/Wholesaler and Beverages, chart based on the revenues generated by export sales, Ets Thunevin is number 59 (out of 300 wholesalers in Aquitaine), and this for 2005 which has been the lowest year in terms of revenues in a long time. I bet that in 2006 we will be in the top 40/50, considering the efforts and results by our sales reps in Europe, Japon and especially the USA.

Besides the pleasure of seeing the company I founded at this level in this chart; it is frustrating for me to see that we are still being excluded from distributing a few top châteaux in Bordeaux. This is most likely due to a lack of understanding how dynamic our company is. Sure enough, a few châteaux and brokers only see my company as a small entity only able to sell a few wines called “Garage” and don’t have any idea that our sales put us in the top 30 best wholesalers in the business!

Gentlemen brokers, don’t become like some of our colleagues, only distributors but think of being prescribers. In any case, Vive Bordeaux wholesalers and the statistics from the French customs which show the work done by our profession in bringing great bottles to the world.

As long as I think of it, yesterday, I tasted (and drank) our first cuvee if 06 post malo at La Dominique, 100% Merlot ripe and full, only pleasure…Hard to spit, almost too good…but as a French expression says, “a swallow doesn’t make the Spring”, we will see with other batches.

Guide Gerbelle and Maurange

Friday, November 10, 2006

And I don’t even have the time to share my latest adventures…
So, just a little word to thank the Gerbelle & Maurange guide for the best values 2007 which lists Présidial 2005, rated 16.5/20
“Jean Luc Thunevin confirms his excellent form with this “négoce” cuvee which should be used as a reference for all big Bordeaux brands. It is a fluid wine, flowing, full with fruit, thirst-quenching, with silky tannins and a colorful robe. It will please restaurants owners concerned to serve a good Bordeaux at a reasonable price.”