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.”