Thursday, May 31, 2007

USA Suite: Las Vegas

The trip began with a Gala dinner (600 people) held at the Wynn – we were the only 2 bordelais (Pape Clément and us), and good representation of Spanish, Italians, Americans and Laurent Perrier.
A very professional tasting event took place at Alain Ducasse’s Mix restaurant on the 37th floor of the beautiful Mandalay Bay Hotel. Only top professionals, some fans of Valandraud and supporters of Garage wines (we are not far from Silicon Valley…)
Most were either French or Francophiles, and not surprisingly, Valandraud 99 and 98 were hits. Success also for Blanc de Valandraud No 1 2004, Les 3 Marie 2004, and paradoxally Les Dentelles 2004 which was appreciated because of its Carignan and its “Nature” side and a bit of wildness brought by this varietals. Tasted blind, I didn’t even recognize it.

Here is the complete list of wines tasted by the guests:
N°1 Blanc de Valandraud 2004 Bordeaux Blanc
Lalande Couturier 2005 Bordeaux
Calvet Thunevin Constance 2004 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
Le Vin de Bob 2003 Bergerac
Château Haut Mazeris 2003 Fronsac
3 de Valandraud 2001 Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Clos Badon Thunevin 2004 Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Haut Carles 2004 Saint Emilion
Château Haut Mazeris 2003 Canon Fronsac
Virginie de Valandraud 2001 Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Château Valandraud 1999 Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Château Valandraud 1998 Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Domaine Calvet Thunevin Dentelles 2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages
Domaine Calvet Thunevin Hugo 2004 Côtes du Roussillon Villages
And Les 3 Marie 2004

For dinner, we had a great meal in this beautiful restaurant and were particularly spoiled.
Yesterday, May 29, on Arte (an intellectual French-German television station), a report on globalization of wine was broadcasted. It was difficult to stay awake as it had no main thread and was slow. Still, we were able to see a few interesting pictures. For instance subject like our colleague and friend from Bordeaux Ginestet’s production of his brand wine, American technique to reduce alcohol levels in wine, Mexicans who pick grapes in a rush (at night), the evolution of the major international group Constellation Brands (Mondavi-Corona-Hardy-Tsingtao, etc…) with its target group strategy, and especially the universal taste called here baby taste for sweetness and additives to get vanilla flavors in wine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Journalists - critics

Monday 28 was a low-key day meeting with a journalist from Decanter to have a serious conversation about Garage, 4 hours. Croix de Labrie 2003 and 1999 plus Valandraud 1995 helped to understand this vast subject which was already covered in last month’s Revue du Vin de France.

Almost all the ratings have been published. While still optimistic on the quality of the 2006 vintage, I hope that the futures campaign will finally begin. Other than that, I regret the lack of commitment from many of my friends journalists who, once again, support well known brands instead of promoting more difficult discoveries or sure values which are harder to sell such as Fronsac: Haut Carles is one of the best wines produced in Bordeaux this year, and still the notes, are only good. La Dominique, which is one of the great successes of Saint Emilion this year was “forgotten” by Parker, few tasters saw the new positioning of Clos Badon, Fleur Cardinal was forgotten by some, etc… As for the prices, it is another story, the high Euro is not helping.
112 wines have now been released.
1) How many offers have been successful for more than 70%?
2) On 38 deals finalized, how many succeed for more than 70%?
3) Why do brokers and maybe wholesalers want to buy 2006 at the price of the lowest wines in the open market? Even if the quality of the 2006 vintage is superior to 2004, 2002, even 2003.

It is hard to believe that the quality and success of a vintage have for the moment no interest to the clients of our clients (there is unfortunately a bit of truth in this).

I regularly read French internet sites on wine (I don’t understand English well) and would like to quote Luc Lavaux: “I like fine wines when they are not thin. I like powerful wines when they are balanced, I find pleasure depending on the circumstance and avoid to fall into the traps of treating some as elegant, others as vulgar, letting people believe that I have the monopoly of good taste.” Bravo, simple to understand.

Still Yves Zermatten ads “Why would a sexy woman would necessarily be vulgar? Does subtlety exclude sensuality?” Phew, at least there is still Croix de Labrie to help.

The futures campaign has started and opinions are all going the same way.. (guess which!)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy birthday Virginie!

Friday 25 in the evening, instead of celebrating her birthday (30 years old), Virginie organized a surprise party!

In the afternoon, we visited our property in Margaux (Bellevue de Tayac) and especially Pauillac to be inducted into the Commanderie du Bontemps of Médoc and Graves, Sauternes and Barsac, with a friend as sponsor (jean-Michel Cazes), but I will write more about it later . After this medocaine visit and as soon as we got back to Saint Emilion, Virginie brought us to the party she organized for my birthday (April 13). After picking up a friend she asked me to follow her car to Montpon Menestrol in Dordogne, to the bar-restaurant “Le Petit Prince” which I opened in 1981 with a partner. Inside, 40 people: childhood friends, family, employees surprised me. Murielle and I were totally surprised, especially as we had no clues.

Nice dinner, the current owners kept the place exactly the way we had created it. Guest brought bottles one after the other (Torus 2003 from Alain Brumont and Mangot 2002 Cuvée Quintessence). At midnight, some of us drove to the night club where I used to DJ: the Tackouk, in Pizou, where my parents had a farm. I spent there part of my youth (from 1968 to 1983) as a customer and also employee (coatroom, bar and especially DJ, I already enjoyed speaking in a microphone… which goes to show…)

We went to bed at 3 am, still dealing with my jetlag. A late morning was mandatory! Well, in any case, it was a great evening organized by my daughter and my friends. Of course, Jean Paul, Martine, Sylviane, Pierre, Edmond and us were like nostalgic veterans, but our youth is still in our heart and even our glasses don’t prevent us from seeing the bright side of life.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Nantucket Wine Festival

Xavier and I left Bordeaux on May 17 at 10:30 am, on Air France, for Boston via Paris. Business class for me with seats convenient for sleeping (even though it is a daytime flight). I read l’Express (magazine in part responsible for the success of Valandraud) and started a big book written by Frederico Moccia (and translated from Italian by Anaïs Bokobza) called “I want you”. This book, that I bought at the airport, attracted me because the text in the front and back covers:
- Madly romantic, this impossible love between Step and Gin became the cult novel for a whole generation.
- To Gin: your smile told me this story.
- To Mamie Elisa and Aunt Maria who cooked well and with love.
- Thanks: I would like to thank everyone who, in good or bad times, and especially without even knowing, gave me a starting point. In a way, life is beautiful for this very reason, because it doesn’t only depend on you. But for a book, it does.

A few lines which made me want to read this book… (which I did with pleasure during this whole trip).

We arrived in Boston and took a small 9 seat plane for the Island of Nantucket. An hour after flying over the sea and Martha’s Vineyard, in this little plane, we arrived at the hotel at around 7 pm: “The White Elephant” where we each had a small house looking over the harbor and the beach. Nantucket looks a bit like Cap Ferret.

According to Xavier, each little wooden h

ouse costs more than one million Dollars. In any case, this is a beautiful place. The dull weather made everything grey – blue. The first night, from 6 to 9:30 pm, around 700 people came to taste wines and dishes prepared by great American chefs.
Fund raising event and loud atmosphere, cheerful, everyone seemed happy to be part of the high society of this very chic island. We served rapidly 18 bottles. Same for our friends from Bordeaux. Philippe Magrez (Fombrauge etc), John Kolasa for Rauzan Segla and Château Richelieu (Fronsac), represented by their Dutch co-owner were also attending. If you count the time difference (- 6 hours), we had a long day of 24 hrs.

Concerning the futures campaign 2006: there is no more Moulin Saint Georges, nor Giscours.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Finally! Back!

1 day delay! In New York, after spending 3 hours in the Air France plane waiting for a hydraulic system to be repaired… We all left the plane at 11 pm, and despite the friendly staff, there was no serious support to help us with the reserved hotels.

It looked like an Exodus… the Air France customers were left on their own, and no special attention was given to the 1st class passenger: They were staying in the same place as everyone, in a shabby and sad hotel, like in Paris, where the 4 star chosen for me had sheets so old and used from too many laundry that they had holes!

Well, I know that the priority is security, but when you are exhausted from the journey, jetlag, stress and the expensive price for a business class ticket, it would be nice not to treat your customers like a piece of luggage!

Other than that, the futures campaign has barely started, and is struggling for lack of visibility and pragmatic prices?

Monday, May 21, 2007


Leaving for the USA on Thursday morning May 17 for a series of exceptional events.

First, Boston (via Paris) for the Nantucket Wine Festival and a series of diners and tastings:
On the 17, dinner tasting event on the theme of food pairing in the White Elephant Hotel with the restaurant Les Zygomates where a few of our wines are on their wine list (Peyfol, Tour de Guiet et Bellevue de Tayac).

On the morning of May 18, tasting event in the Straight Wharf Restaurant, presenting Compassant and Valandraud, and in the evening, dinner where guests will discover Blanc de Valandraud, Valandraud 2001 –2002-2003-2004-2005 and our Calvet-Thunevin Maury.

The next day, we leave for Las Vegas to participate at the “Bon Appetit Culinary and Wine Focus” gala dinner event which is held at the Wynn.
And to end this trip, on May 21, our distributor organized a tasting event at the restaurant “Mix” (Ducasse) where around fifty sommeliers are expected.

Back in the office on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Henry Marionnet

Tuesday, I took the time to visit Henry Marionnet, the famous winemaker from Touraine, to taste, with famous friends, his wines as well as an experimental wine made with no SO2 and non grafted vines. Time passed to fast and I still had many technical questions when I left. Hopefully, we will be able to continue during Vinexpo.

In any case, I am happy to have been able to see this beautiful vineyard planted more than 150 years ago and with plenty of life left… It is a mystery to see these vines still alive and productive, even after 100 years. Like the ones we own in Maury.

Below, comments made by Peter Hirsch on Mark Squires BB:

1998 Valandraud - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (5/12/2007)
Consumed with some Bryan Flannery 60 day aged Ribeyes.
I just can't keep my hands off these bottles. Maybe they'll be better in the future, but it's just damn good wine, today. As I've written before, a flavor profile that reminds me very much of '89 Haut Brion (or any really great Graves wine). Tobacco leaf flavor, great length, great balance, lots of complexity (3-D flavors), I really love this juice. An initial '93' RP rating, I've always wondered if it was underrated due to the very high Cabernet Franc component in this vintage? Parker often says he underrates Cheval Blanc initially for the same reason (and the '98 CB got upgraded from 93 to 98+). Price on this wine has been pretty stable over the last few years ($200 or so), so it's actually cheapened relative to other great wines that have massively escalated in price. Guess those tricky wine funds aren't buying this (great!). (97 pts.)

Back to the Hamburg tasting

Tuesday, May 15

Enclosed a few pictures from the vertical tasting of Valandraud which took place in Hamburg at the beginning of the month.

The organizers: Werner Riess and Guy-Michel Robert

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Back from Shanghai

Just returned from Shanghai with Laurent and Xin where I presented our company and some of our wines in the SIAL.

We departed on Tuesday, May 8 very early, Bordeaux Paris on Air France, then Paris Shanghai on China Eastern (11 hours of flight). I was lucky to be upgraded to 1st class, in other words, I had a seat reclining 190°, into a small bed. It was definitely useful for when we arrived jetlagged with 6 hours difference, we had to leave again to Xin and Shenzhen (2 additional hours of flight) to meet an important client and sign a distribution agreement. It was a complex negotiation, with nice people. Still, it will be difficult to know if despite signing this contract, this will be a good partner. The next 6 months will tell us.

Back the next day for the SIAL where some of our colleagues were already there, fortunately, Laurent and Xin sent invitations in advance for without them, we would have not met interesting contacts: too many exhibitors and too many “amateurs” with our small stand near so many others, and the Ets Thunevin and our 6 bottles didn’t allow us to select the people passing in the alleys. However, it is the 2nd time we participate in this show, Laurent already went 2 years ago. We made a few good contacts and met 3 journalists and perhaps only 3 potential clients.

Was it worth it? Yes, in addition to our order, we closed a deal with these 3 new clients.

We didn’t have time to visit stores, do a little tourism or go to good restaurants (except one), for we returned on Saturday evening and arrived in Bordeaux on Sunday at 2 pm after missing our connection.

Today, Lunch at home with Staglin, a group of Americans with François Mauss.
During our stay in China, the futures campaign was quite calm and I hope this will be the same next week as I am traveling to the US (Boston and Las Vegas).

I read on La Passion du Vin that I was only writing about dollars and self satisfaction on my blog: it is true that my blog evolved quickly from “Blog of the owner of Valandraud” to “Blog of a wine merchant” for writing about what I practically don’t do anymore (work in the vineyards: I am lucky as it is Murielle’s domain) seemed, for me, not as useful and already well covered by blogs from nice and competent winemakers, when I don’t believe that there are not many from negociants.

The work of the negociant is simply the one of a merchant and I find it hard not to talk about Dollars, Yens, Huans, Euros, Swiss Francs… and how can I, who loves my job, not be optimistic, if not satisfied by my work (and my employees that I think I don’t forget).

Out from Château du Tertre, with an unfortunately too small allocation which would already be sold 10 times…

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I found a few comments surfing the net:
On Mark Squires BB, comments posted by Jörgen Lindström:

Calvet-Thunevin Hugo 2003
Amazing richness already on the nose here, revealing sweet, dark berries, mineral and gorgeous oak elements. Full-bodied, with serious amounts of sweet tannin, and concentrated crushed, black berry fruit, cherries supported by integrated oak. High alcohol finish where the Carignan-acidity keeps it long and interesting. Not for everybody, though. (Carignan/Grenache with some Syrah) Now-2012. 94 p.

Calvet-Thunevin Les 3 Marie 2004
Totally complex nose! Intensely fruity, very young where soil components are centred, and lots of quality fruit creates interest. This is oozing stuff. Full-bodied with dry Port similarities, finishing very long with a wall of tannin – but all positive. One of the biggest wines I’ve ever had. Controversial old vine Grenache macerated for 50 days and aged in 100% new oak for 18 months. 2009-2020. 98 p.

Chateau Valandraud 3 de Valandraud 2003.
Plush, really cool stuff, with ripe, dark berry fruit, and a freshly cut herbaceous “green” edge which balances the otherwise forward nose. Medium-bodied+ with overall great balance, and a long, fruit-driven finish supported by mineral traces. 92 p.

Chateau Valandraud Virginie de Valandraud 2003.
Stepping upwards, this is bigger and more intense, with greater mid-palate concentration, also more oak, but all balanced to perfection. Great stuff from now through 2012. 94 p.

And a comment from Denmark....Valandraud 2006 according to Izak Litwar:

"The powerful, beautifully shaped, nuanced and impeccably made Valandraud scored also 93p."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Lets speak ratings : everyone can check and compare all sorts of notes and statistics on the site of Bertrand Le Guern :

Friday, May 4, tasting in Hamburg in the Conrad Hinrich Donner Bank, of Valandraud 2004 to 1995 for a few German journalists and professionals (16). It is the 3rd time that I participate to this sort of tasting and I think that the level and consistency of my wines impressed my partners, especially if you take into account the different terroirs, since the 2000 vintage, the clayey limestone one from the Saint Etienne de Lisse plateau and sandy gravel one from Saint Sulpice de Faleyrens.

I think that my order of preference was: 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2004 (yes, yes). Only the 1996 bottle had already reached its peak.

The organization was perfect, very professional, natural light, wines temperature controlled (16° C), glasses clean and neat, rinsed with steam and view on the center of Hamburg.

During the buffet and aperitif, presentation of a Bordeaux cuvee I produced for our partners “La Place de Bordeaux” (the Bordeaux trade) which was well received. The consumer price being under 10 euros should make it a great success.

Incredible meal for dinner in an Italian restaurant, the San Michele, I don’t know how many different dishes were served, at least more than in China and I never drank and tasted so many Rieslings! Besides these 2 names: Riesling Von Buhl 1989 Auslese Trocken (Very good) and a Schlossgut Diel 1983 Spatlese (very pure), the 15 other bottles were each time for me a surprise.

The journalist Mario Scheuermann had the good idea to ad a Champaign Grand Corton 1985 from Mumm, absolutely delicious, and now I am starting to like old Champaign!

Well, in any case, traveling is not yet over: I leave on Tuesday very early morning for Shanghai and Canton, back Sunday, to participate to the Sial with Laurent and Xin and meet a few importers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The glass half full or half empty

Thursday, May 3

The notes from Parker are currently being analyzed by everyone, pros and anti Parker. The 2005 vintage was reconfirmed as a whole which will certainly give a new boost to the sales of the last batches available and increase the prices for the whole vintage, even if they are already very expensive. The good “surprise” comes from the good notes given to many 2006, even if, in my opinion, this will not have a great impact on sales if the prices are not adapted. We will see.

It gave me great pleasure to see many of my friends getting good notes, as well as sadness to see wines under-rated or not even rated, even though I am certain of there quality. Perhaps, and I hope, that Parker will note other 2006, and I am certain that La Dominique or Haut-Carles, and many more, will be good deals for us consumers before they become for us wine merchants.

They are here!

Thursday, May 3

For lunch, we drank an excellent Cairossa 2004, from Tuscany, and tasted a series of Margaux including a delicious Le Tertre 2001.

At 2 pm, the notes from Parker came out, with good ratings for many of my friends and a few deceptions including La Dominique which was not rated.

But this morning, Neal Martin didn’t forget La Dominique in his ratings with 88-90, nor our white with an incredible comment:

2006 No.1 de Valandraud Blanc (93-95)

Another very Burgundian nose, here reminding me of a fine Meursault from Dominique Lafon. Lime, citrus fruits, a touch of almond and white flowers. The palate is very polished, harmonious with well integrated creamy new oak. Fine acidity. Touch of oyster shell and green apples on the finish. A lovely wine: shame it produced in such small amounts! Tasted April 2007.

Monday, May 7, 2007

El Bulli

Wednesday, May 2

El Bulli in Roses (Spain) was again elected best restaurant in the world.
I am happy to be able to go there to eat in June with a group of friends, for in addition to Ferran Adria’s creativity, wine amateurs like us will have the privilege to experience the pairings and discoveries from our friend Juli Soler. The location, a portrait of paradise and the cultural justification of Dali’s work will make it a great experience.

Yesterday for May 1st, we had a meal with François Mauss. His comments were published on the Mark Squires BB:

Lunch at Thunevin for May 1st which is a "day-off" in France.

After a good Clavoillon from Domaine Leflaive 2000 and a finer, more elegant Boillot Chassagne (white) 1er cru 1999, we did start by a huge, powerful, complex Valandraud 2000.

But, today, I prefer to speak about a pure gem, served blind, that I did put on the left bank as a first growth : Valandraud 98.

I was astonished by the highly complex aroma and, more over, by the length and sensible finish, with a little pepper taste (not green), a spicy touch and an elegance of high class.

Maybe someone will tell me the score in primeur of this wine, but certainly a big surprise in the right bank.

When I did ask Jean-Luc : why such left bank tipicity, he put that on the fact, for this vintage, he has 50 % cabernets francs.

Definitively a varietal able to bring "more" to top merlot ?

And to go on the fresh first strawberries : an Eiswein 2002 from Schlossgut Diel : whao ! That's something too !


Monday, April 30

All the ratings from Quarin were just released, and as our friend François Mauss would say, it would be best to subscribe than receive the notes by fax (and this is valid for all the journalists and people who copy who, while they save money, are not very coherent). Jean-Marc Quarin gives a list of wines which are better in 2006 than 2005 and La Dominique is one of the red wines included.
Enclosed a little picture posted for Jean Dominique Pierre to show him that I am a good support:

And for May 1st, a picture of wild lily of the valley (picture taken in the vineyards of Roussillon)

Revue du Vin de France trade show

Monday, April 30

On Saturday 28 and Sunday 29, from 10 am to 7 pm, the 1st trade show event organized by the Revue du Vin de France took place in Paris, in the Palais Brogniard (La Bourse !) : a very spacious place, with plenty of light and very well attended (I wouldn’t be surprised if I was told that 2500 people per day were there).

The 150 exhibitors seemed happy (only Vega Sicilia and Pingus were missing!). In any case, I was presenting the wines from Clément Fayat and Valandraud, and Jean Guyon his. We met plenty of people: wine enthusiasts young and old, sommeliers, store owners, distributors and journalists. Amongst all these people, I met Jean Michel Deiss during a live broadcast on Europe 1. His passion for Biodymanic didn’t leave me indifferent. Back in the trade show, we tasted each others wines and I found his good, digest, quite complex and with obvious purity, even for a neophyte about Alsace like me.

For dinner, we had a enjoyable meal with the Droulers (Haut-Carles) in the restaurant Tan Dinh and drank Pierrail 2002, Haut Carles, and Tertre Rotebeuf.
The next day, in Villaret, we drank a Meursault 1999 which I forgot the name (average), a Hermitage 2002 from Chave completely closed and a beauty Guigal “La Turque” 99. Well, I just checked: 100 point from Parker… well deserved.

Paris-Libourne in the TGV, the journey lasts 3 hours 10. We took the Paris metro, the fastest way to travel through the city, but still had to run with our luggage to catch our train. Our neighbor, a doctor from Bergerac, must have found us a bit hyper!

The 2 days in Paris went to fast ! We didn’t even have time to speak with Erik Kaellgren and other wine fans, nor had we time to read books available in the apartment our friends lent us.

2 nice articles on this RVF show were published on the internet: One on the site of Les Echos “Au plaisir des découvertes” and one on the site of JDD “A new race of winemakers”.