Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Visit of the vineyards in Pomerol

Visit and tasting with Michel Puzio (Croix de Labrie) and Philippe Fezas (Seguin Moreau) of our properties in Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol.

The grapes in Pomerol, Le Clos du Beau Père (ex Ratouin, ex Angelus in Pomerol – 2 ha) and the Domaine des Sabines in Lalande de Pomerol are already changing colors and you can already see the difficulty to get an homogenous harvest: bunches with bays of different sizes, shatter, differences in maturity. I believe that the sorting tables I am planning to buy or rent will be quite useful this year. The wines from 2006 are good and evolving well.

The Vignobles Fayat-Thunevin in Pomerol went through a regrettable accident: Our new Jaguar experienced a malfunction in the hydraulic system (this is the least we can say) and sprayed oil on ten rows. The grapes from these rows having been polluted are lost (at the price of the m², it represents a good sum of money). Will the vines and soil be affected? Possible. Experts will tell us. This will give us even a smaller harvest. The rest of the vineyard has been more balanced since last year, the 2006 will be part of the successes in Pomerol. This was confirm in different tasting.

In Lalande Pomerol, the vineyard looks normal, up to now this is rather good considering this difficult vintage . The 2006 will also be of a good level. The intensive work in the vineyards is almost finished, the last treatments, the last trimmings, finishing off. The cellars have been repainted with lime, it was necessary.

For me, work in the office is more relaxed: a job meeting concerning a senior position available at one of my friend’s companies and we hope to get nice weather for the next 75 days.

Monday, July 30, 2007


On Mark Squires Bulletin Board, the « Garagiste Blog » thread received 44381 visits and 945 written notes.

Every 15 days, an article about garage wines is published in the international press… positive or not. Why are there so many articles if this trend doesn’t exist anymore?
Isn’t the Cabernet style still considered herbal? It is often the same people who defend this style who criticize the small garagist for picking his grapes too ripe, too much… too much…
Are great wines only supposed to be elegant, refined? Can any great wines also be extravagant, extrovert, extra everything?
Every time I have the chance to taste Cheval Blanc 47, I think that fortunately everything that year was too much! I only had once the opportunity to taste Mouton 45. I have the firm belief that this wine has always been “too” good. To say that a garage wine from America, Spain or French will provide the same emotions… let’s wait and see. But why not? We just have to wait 40 to 60 years!

Elections in Saint Emilion: the current administration has been reelected with a large majority and without any opposition! Is it good for the local democracy?.. Perhaps for the electorate has cast its choice. As for me, like at every election, my vote was mixed as it is necessary in a small district. This time, I still had friends in each of the 3 lists, which made things hard for me to choose. In fact, in France, one cannot speak about politics or religion… I am catholic, but I like the idea of reincarnation (which explains a lot!).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Busy day

I woke up early after going to bed late, is that sensible?
I spent time with a group of highly motivated PR agents and journalists talking about various subjects on ways to communicate. I am certainly one of the hardest person to convince to spend money to advertise my “product”. It is for me simply inconceivable, maybe because I am too stingy. I was saying that if a media was capable of selling our wine “immediately”, it would not be necessary to send sales people fishing for budgets, but that we, winemakers, would contact these medias constantly. As it is the case for Christophe Château, director of the 5 Côtes de Bordeaux association, I think that what we miss the most is motivated sales reps, able to tour the world to convince our customers, for now, except around fifty ultra-luxurious and expensive wines, many, many Bordeaux are, after all our handicaps (the Euro, legislation, etc.), real value for money.

I spent a great evening which started at Kinette and Michel Gautier’s for fun appetizers , then we ate dinner at our friend Jean-Pierre Xiradakis, La Tupina. We arrived at 9 pm and left at midnight. Tough for me who lives on the same time schedule as my roosters… In bed at 1am awake at 6am!

During this meal shared with Jean Guyon (Rollan de By), we drank with pleasure a Haut Condissas 2001 despite the unbelievable number of wines we tasted, including an astonishing Marginal 2003, an American wine I forgot the name (in a Amarone style). Part of this very professional dinner was spent preparing an important event in Hong Kong.

To go back to one of Patrick’s remarks: in fact, this is a strange vintage. In our vineyards, I saw the Cabernet Sauvignon start changing color before the Merlots. Go figure!

As for the rest of the remarks, of course, I always imagine that each vine gets precise and specific attention: you just have to wander around Saint Emilion vineyards or Pomerol to notice, at least with the best winemakers. In fact, perfect analysis are not sufficient to produce a good wine (it is bit like the story of Camembert made with raw milk versus pasteurized, isn’t it?)

Thursday, July 26, 2007


The grapes are now starting to change color which means that the beginning of the harvest will most likely start on September 17 and end on October 10?
I must buy 600 new barrels for my Bordeaux wines (including the barrels for Haut Mazeris).
If you ad the properties I manage, consult for, I think I can ad 1000 barrels. Maybe it is time for me to invest in a cooperage company.

I am currently preparing a trip to South Africa. Should I go there as an investor, a consultant, or not do anything?

This evening, I am having dinner at la Tupina with Jean Guyon and his friends where we will have a major tasting.

I have in my head the song from Christophe Willem « Double je » (a play on words meaning "double me" instead of double game – “jeu”): “That’s the way it is, what can I do about it, what do you want…” (for the rest go to
Let me adapt these words to my situation “when I will be old I will finally know who I am, but in the meantime I am at ease with being garagiste… That’s the way it is, what can I do about it” ;-)

Cru bourgeois

Yesterday, I attended the meeting of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc at the Château Clément Pichon, to try to keep the Cru Bourgeois term alive (it had been such a nice PR tool). I tried to keep a spirit of consensus including with the properties excluded from the last classification, hoping to reinstate the mention Cru Bourgeois as quickly as possible. Then, what about the classification? I am not the kind of person who would be in charge of any official organizations, trade unions, but I admire the commitment of those who are involved in them and who often receive for their efforts blows below the belt or jealous behavior. My god it is difficult to take care of other people’s business! In any case, I liked the constructive atmosphere of this assembly which had all the reasons to be edgy!

Following, I visited the vineyards to make an assessment of this year’s yields, Bellevue de Tayac (30 hectos/ha), Lalande Couturier Bordeaux from my daughter (40 hecto ?), Haut Mazeris (less than 40 hecto), Haut Carles (less than 30 hectos), Carles (40 hecto), La Dominique (40 hecto), Valandraud (less than 30 hecto), and other vineyards in Saint Emilion will be less than 40 hecto. At least we won’t be responsible for the surplus of production!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tropical climate

Despite the constant threat from diseases due to the tropical climate, nothing has yet been lost for this 2007 vintage : if the weather cooperates in August and September, Bordeaux will still be able to produce a nice vintage.
In the meantime, a little highlight on a few scenarios…
1/ A vine where the owner missed a treatment:

2/ Our vine, not so bad :

3/ The vine from one of our very organic neighbor. He doesn’t make a living from his vineyards but only produces a small plot for is personal consumption :

Friday, we received one more contingent of Russian visitors at l’Essentiel. However, we knew one of them as it was the representative from one of our best customers (and one of her friends) from the area of St Petersburg. In addition from being pretty, this young lady had this joy, this cheerfulness which is so often missing in our sales contacts. This lust for life which makes each of our meetings a moment of happiness, positive and useful for she is also looking to improve her sales, and even consider taking a wine course… What an energy! She is so communicative that I guided her through one of the most magical places of Saint Emilion: the caves of Ferrand, of course in addition to Valandraud.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Yesterday, I spent almost the whole day with a Russian television crew shooting a major piece on Bordeaux, without going through the trade organizations, CIVB, etc… There guide was Russian Francophile very knowledgeable about the world of wine and I had the pleasure to spend a good ten hours with them.

There too, evolution has been rapid: 1st cru buyers, comprised of rich wine enthusiasts want to be able to find lesser known wine which can give them similar sensation for lesser money. This would make them look like being civilized and connoisseurs in the eye of their friends… I feel that this process is going faster, in terms of evolution of taste and knowledge, than the American market which has now become an ultra sophisticated market like in Japan.
La night for dinner (with 7 people), we drank in the following order:
Blanc de Valandraud n° 1 2005
Château Commanderie de Mazeyres 2004
Château Compassant 2004
Haut Carles 2004
Vieux Chateau Certan 1945
(sublime ! served quickly and at the right temperature : in other words with a cellar at 16° C where this bottle rested for more than 10 years)
Calvet Thunevin les 3 Marie
Calvet Thunevin Maury 2004

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hervé Bizeul’s view on Bordeaux primeur

Hervé, I couldn’t resist sharing the enthusiasm you posted today on your blog.
… “I would like to reveal, to shout for almost no one is talking about this wine, which is for me, this year, one of the most beautiful and greatest wines of this vintage, a Fronsac. Certainly, it is a simple Fronsac, but people making this statement don’t know that Fronsac is one of the greatest terroir in Bordeaux, and is most likely the most disliked, forgotten and neglected. It’s stupid, but this is the way it is. Oh, I know, this post will have less impact than if it was published in the Figaro Magazine or the RVF, but there is there no reason one cannot pray in the desert. Who knows, after all.

Haut-Carles, not to name it, is an exceptional wine this year, the living symbol of what a great Bordeaux can be when all goes well and that it is made by a passionate winemaker with a brilliant team and almost unlimited means. It will certainly be expensive, around twenty Euros en primeur (I am joking, considering the means used, I am not sure if it will be sold at a loss…), however, for me, this is the wine I will pop in a couple of years with a glimmer in my eye, when my friends will pull out their gleaming labels. Bang, Bang, I can already see the deceptions;-))

This wine is a monster of power, refinement, elegance, depth, complexity and, if you only buy one this year, allow me a bit of confidence, this is the one. Oh, one day, it might even reach the top group at a Grand Jury Europeen tasting. Or if Bob has the opportunity to taste it, he will be stricken for it is the style he likes. However, if one day it gets appreciated at its right value, with or without an increase in value (who cares, no?), I assure you that this wine will enchant you, will surprise you, will astonish you, will impress you for years and years.

So, I said it, it is now your turn to see." Hervé Bizeul


While waiting for my meeting at the bar of the CIVB last Monday, I had the time to talk with some of the communication staff.

One of the important activities of the CIVB is education, Mr Troquard told me: an impressive number of tourist (I think I understood 30,000?!) take a 2 hour course in the CIVB to discover Bordeaux. The Bordeaux tourist office located across the street is a nice place, with no fuss, which probably explains its success. But as the saying goes: “who from the hen or the egg arrived first”?

Equally Bordeaux wine schools have opened all over the world. This should interest any distributors to have such centers teaching Bordeaux wines in their area.

Even better: education centers should be created for members of wine departments of supermarket chains (and why not include wine stores?)
I left convinced that the direction in communicating on Bordeaux is good, as they are so different, so complex with history old as well as new, traditional and avant-garde.

Bordeaux is still moving: a film is going to be shot in around 20 properties.

Jean-Marc Quarin (
www.quarin.com) writes, in his column N° 43, about a few wines from the 1998 vintage and makes the following comment: Pomerol dominates this vintage and 1998s are often superior to 2000 and equal to 2001. I am OK with this, with certainly a few exceptions, but unfortunately, I drink less Pomerol than before. Denis, if you read me…

In any case, this vintage offers a great deal of pleasure today, in Pomerol or even in Saint Emilion.

We offered our clients the Blanc de Valandraud N°2 which will be perfect to drink at the end of the year.

The futures campaign is almost over, the revenues and numbers of bottles sold is much less than for 2005, which, it is true, was exceptional. We are falling back on the level of 2001. The activity on wines delivered will be more than 30% from last year, which was a small year. We will pass the 1 million Euro mark and probably more than 1 million bottles delivered!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The CIVB is changing

Yesterday, the meeting with 4 American jourmalists was put together to show, in part, the “new face of Bordeaux” and for that, I brought 6 bottles of 2005 (which erased the word “has been” from the vocabulary of all the anti-Bordeaux).
In fact, this vintage is so seductive and so complex that it can be appreciated by neophytes as well as most astute wine connoisseur. The tasting and meal at Greg’s with these professionals went to fast, except for Pauline who was translating and trying to eat at the same time.
I brought the following wines: Présidial, Commanderie de Mazeyres, La Dominique, Haut Carles, Fleur Cardinale and Valandraud. Each wine had its « little success ».

Back on the UGC week

The following comments were published in the June 2007 issue of VINIFERA (in the « impertinent column » of Jacques Perrin), a way to bring us back to the last UGC week.

“From caviar to Valandraud” – Monday, April 2

At this time of the year the picturesque town of Saint Emilion vibrates with a particular energy and excitement. As if the wine planet decided to meet there, on the same day. To a point where it is almost impossible to walk around the abrupt and busy street which crosses St Emilion. Fortunately, I have my alternate routes I keep secretly to myself. The visit at Jean-Luc Thunevin’s is one of the must of this great media event. With a relaxed and affable attention, he receives, in his home, in the heart of St Emilion, importers, journalists, wine enthusiasts, to introduce his wines, and the properties he consults for, cuvees he sells and friends winemakers he invites every year. This way, in the middle of samples of Bordeaux 2006, one can also taste, a happy bunch, the wines of Vega Sicilia, Pingus of Peter Sisseck, le Clos des Fées of Bizeul, other wonderful wines from the Languedoc, the Roussillon or from the Nahe! At the time our stomachs start to beg for attention, my concentration is disrupted by a bunch of Japanese who, scattered in the main room, seem to share a piece of information, which by the seriousness of their faces, appears to be at the same time important and confidential. Intrigued, I put my concentration aside for a moment to try to understand the reason for such agitation. One word seems to come back in the short sentences they exchange, like boomerangs, on top of the compact crowd: “Caviar, caviar!”. A little later, outside, in front of a buffet about to be pillaged, even though it is being protected like the Holly Grail by a group of knights about to indulge, I start to believe in my chances to practice one day the rudiments of the Hiragana language: a beautiful tin of Sevruga caviar sitting in the middle of the table, empty, polished like a precious box. Too late… Fortunately, Jean-Luc Thunevin, who never misses a thing, leaves me in the good care of his wife Murielle. She puts together a light meal in the kitchen of their first floor apartment. As one of my dear friend would say: “I lived worst moments in my existence but will avoid talking about them!”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Weekend in Maury

We spent the weekend in Maury and visited our vineyards. They looked nice despite a difficult year.

We ate in the brand new fine restaurant where wines from Maury are being prominently featured (we drank a very good Clos del Rey 2004, served at the right temperature in these new trendy glasses which I don’t like, but they are solid…)

We visited Claudine and Hervé Bizeul in Vingrau, said hello to the children, tasted the latest wines produced including a remarkable Clos des Fées white, and visited the Domaine de la Chique with its olive grove planted in terrace. This large property (I believe around 150 hectares?) has a beautiful view on the Etang de Salse. It includes 20 hectares of vineyards plus thousands of crickets.

We had one more meal with Geneviève and Jean Pla in the table d’hôte then back to work on Monday where a new employee who will be responsible for trading just started. As for me, I am having lunch at Greg’s with 4 American journalists to talk about “Bordeaux new style”.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Organization of our distribution

Visit of the vineyards and cellar of Château Valandraud in Saint Etienne de Lisse and of Clos Badon. Also, visit of our warehouse in Saint Magne de Castillon with 3 of our customers from California (French Americans) and a video reporter video for the internet site Vininews : vininews.blogs.com

Tasting in L’Essentiel of Château Commanderie de Mazeyres which they will distribute in California, in addition to the wines they already carry: Vin de Bob, Haut Mazeris…

Following the distribution agreement already in place for the USA and Canada, we are currently finalizing a distribution agreement for our kosher cuvees for the rest of the world, including France. We’ll provide the contact info for our exclusive distributor upon request.

Meeting with the architect in charge of our project in Maury, which is finally starting. This project will cost less, time had reason of our crazy plan to build an ambitious cellar. Money, always money… The world of wine, despite its “artists”, always need money to operate, financing, clients, etc…

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Last Night, dinner for 5 people

Dom Perignon 1998, delicious, easy to drink as an aperitif at the beginning of dinner. With Caviar, our Blanc de Valandraud n° 1 2004 was a good match.
Following, roast beef with ceps (Boletus Edulis) and grating dauphinois (potato gratin), served with bottle n° 949/1500 from Domaine de la Mordorée 2003 called Eternité, La Plume du Peintre. This wine was amazingly rich (15.4%) and still for me, easy to drink, especially after spending some time improving in my glass. Valandraud 1998 was still able to follow and the Maury 2004 from Calvet-Thunevin was a perfect match to a soup of fruit and vanilla (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries from the garden).

This morning, meeting in Saint Etienne de Lisse: it looks like only decoration needs to be completed in our new guest house (6 beautiful rooms with bathrooms, living room, dinning room and kitchen) which will allow us to receive comfortably our customers and maybe rent on a weekly basis the “Château” to rich tourists.

In the cellar, Remi and the employees from the cellar are transferring Valandraud 2005 from the barrels to finish aging in our concrete and wooden vats. This technique seemed to have worked quite well with our 2004 (thank you Patrick!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Various activities

Today, I am signing deeds for the purchase of small plots of woodland surrounding our vineyards in Saint Etienne de Lisse, and this afternoon, I will be visiting the Auchan store in Bordeaux Lac, which has one of the nicest cellar in the region.
And this evening, I plan to have a nice dinner with friends in our house.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Friday morning, we tasted 6 batches of Valandraud 2006 aged in various barrels. This was done directly from the barrels with our oenologist from Laboratoire Michel Roland, Jean-Philippe Fort. This time, our preferences were totally different from our first tasting. Why these tastings? Simply to make sure that the level of quality of the barrels is still good. In fact, a simple way to understand is that some barrels tend to dry-up the wine’s smoothness giving it a dusty wood flavor, while others give it roundness and in this specific case, the barrels from our main supplier (and historical) Seguin Moreaux were hardly noticeable and enhanced the fruit flavors.
In the same week, I could find my wine extremely deceiving and incredible this Friday, especially drank during a meal. Such evolution is hard to understand, after already spending 21 months in the barrels. The wine must keep on aging for another 3 month.

In the afternoon, following a last minute cancellation of a meeting with the group Fayat, in Bordeaux, I visited our favorite wine store in Bordeaux (Maison des Millésimes) in front of the Grand Theatre. Looking at the prices of old vintages of 1st growths displayed, I noticed that they were half the price of the latest vintage… Go figure?!

Friday, July 6, 2007

2004 according to GJE

Yesterday, Murielle and Valérie showed Alain Bringolf (from winemag.com, site that I regularly visit) around our vineyards, Daniel Seriot from Saint Emilion (who I don’t know) and 2 of their friends who didn’t leave us their cards.
I try more and more to have Murielle show our vineyards as I spend less time there my time being mainly taken by the wholesale business, the Vignobles Fayat, etc…

Murielle “just” opened a bottle of Valandraud 1999. We mainly serve this vintage as it is not so concentrated, already ripe and probably drinkable now as it is custom for an “average” vintage. In addition, we still have a bit of stock as opposed to 38 bottles of 2001 and 175 of 2001. Today, with the addition of clayey limestone terroirs from Saint Etienne de Lisse, ph close to 3.5 and strong acidity, such a wine would most likely avoid oxidation!

The Grand Jury Européen published its notes and comments of Bordeaux 2004 tasted blindly.

I participated to one of the events and also loved Magrez Fombrauge (42nd) and Marojallia (25th). I am happy to see Pape Clément getting 1st place and 2nd for Angélus, which are becoming regulars to theses first places with this jury.
When one looks at the results, there seems to be a consistent regularity, regardless the vintage, for Haut Condissas, Pavie and Valandraud (20th).
Confirmation for wines lacking the notoriety of a noble appellation, like Les Grands Chênes, Le Pin Beausoleil, Karolus and especially for Haut Carles which, again, reaches a place in the very good Bordeaux (52nd).
Clos Badon, Commanderie de Mazeyres, Compassant, La Fleur Mongiron are in the top 100 and considering the price, are confirmed as very “good values” for enlightened and not snobbish amateur!



Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Question of Price

Yesterday afternoon, I received a group of Spanish winemakers from Ribera del Duero, Vina Sastre, who wanted me to taste their Regina Vides 2003. A good wine, but especially their micro cuvee Pesus 2004. Murielle and I found it particularly astonishing, to the point that we finished the bottle for dinner. The price of these 2 wines is simply very expensive. Is that due to a marketing decision or because of demand?

Yesterday alone, I probably tasted around ten wines, and in addition to the wholesalers, I went around visiting négociants and cellars.

Cheval Blanc 2006 with the small volumes it released, won’t be difficult to sell, but if the allocations keep on being reduced, all these great wines will end up in the micro cuvee category (as the term garage doesn’t apply).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Primeurs : the end ?

Cheval Blanc and Petit Cheval, while looking for a few bottles to purchase of Lafleur, Le Pin and of course Pétrus.

The futures campaign is getting more and more difficult…. I have too many wines hard too sell for they are either too speculative or too expensive, and have a hard time to find the few sought after chateaux. It has become clear this year that the gap between the top 20/30 chateaux and the hundreds others sold en primeur is getting wider.

Parker, who’s end has been announced (like the Garage wines), has more and more influence on the market, while other critics have become source of information and for some, discoverer of new talents.

However, Bordeaux is not only top wines. Fortunately, every day, we sell – yes we sell – wines that don’t have spontaneous demand, normal Bordeaux like Coucy in Montagne Saint Emilion, Puy Arnaud Maurèze in Castillon and Présidial. We became specialized in what I call mid range wines, as we are not able to compete in entry level wines. It actually works out better as no one in my company likes these entry level and as we don’t have enough of the sought after Bordeaux icons!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Primeurs, suite...

Yquem…. Dear, alas, but a great success this year reaching 1st place (with an average note of 97/100) based on Bertrand Leguern’s calculation compiling all the notes it received, in front of Mouton Rothschild etc…

Firday evening, we attended an exceptional party with 700 people organized in Clément Pichon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the group created by Clément Fayat. What a pleasure for me to be part of this international group composed of more than 10.000 employees and associated to its success via its chateaux.