Monday, March 31, 2008

"Parker barrel"

If I understand correctly Philippe’s point, I have a harder time with Jaime Marfish.
Jaime Marfish (funny web address! Just a reminder: I accept pseudo on my blog – as long as it remains decent), states that it is a known fact that the Parker barrels have been wildly used and that they still have a great future. There it is!
Give me names Jaime, please do! Just to confirm your affirmations…

As the monster of the Loch Ness, Parker is supposed to have a specific palate, American, and of course, inapt to understand subtleties: this is a fact for anti Parkers.

In fact, Parker has surely influenced some producers, like the Michelin guide influences a few restaurants. Parker is not responsible for his success, and if some property owners produce wines to appeal to his taste, they do it for commercial success (including myself). Certainly, I liked “Parker” wines before producing wine and going on the other side of the fence. I also had the Luxey taste, the Bettane taste, the Burtschy taste, the Quarin taste, the Jancis Robinson taste, the Tanzer taste, the… taste, the… taste, the quasi homogenous taste of wine critics as well as wine lovers. Excuse me, and many of my colleagues, for not having a taste for: unclear, unripe, vegetal, diluted, TCA.

Is it abnormal to want to please your customer? Parker is a booster and helps make wine accessible.
I would welcome Parker barrels, as I love Parker wines. it would finally give me regularly the 100 points so much coveted and well deserved!
I am ready to invest my entire small fortune in a cooper who would make miracles, like in Lourdes, with my wines aged in Parker barrels. I would only make wine appealing to gurus and other media. Why a barrel versus barrels? The price invested in these barrels would largely be amortized, wouldn’t it?

Long live fantasy! I also had to make an effort to be successful. Artists are not the only ones who have to do this! Of course, a little talent is also needed, otherwise it doesn’t work.
That’s how the ball bounces. Every one as the right to have his, or her, own opinion in our democracies. Yes, they do…
It has to do with the way we manage our lives, as the way we make our wine: we do the best we can. In any case, it always ends badly. So lets just go through life with optimism.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tastings for the 2007 futures

The tastings will take place at LA DOMINIQUE !

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cool, Raoul

In response to Philippe du Bois d’Enghien’s suspicious comments.
« Why do samples for journalists need to be "prepared"?Aren’t the bottles simply taken "at random" from the barrels?Are these samples "improved" to please critics? »

Definition of prepared: organize in advance.
How can you taste a bottle on Monday when the wine is still aging in the barrels, except if samples are taken 2 or 3 days in advance from the barrels?
Definition of samples: small representation.

If the sample of this new wine is too far from the wine delivered, it is called a fraud and no respected brand can survive for a long time if it is not able to prepare samples close to the final product. Chance doesn’t apply in this case but instead, rigor, forecast and experience as the goal of all the tastings taking place in most cellars is to sell the wine. 1st and 2nd wines will, in general, be presented and in rare occasions the 3rd.

Nothing prevents you from subscribing to the primeurs system, the notes, prices set in advance and instead choose to buy wine already bottled. Be careful though, if you are suspicious, your life will be difficult in the world of wine. Is the wine sold in the USA the same as in France? Is this bottle – coming from the same barrel as the one rated? Or than the bottle tasted in a 3 star restaurant or with a journalist or a wine merchant? Is it the same one as the one bought in the supermarket? Even worse, is it the same batch of corks?
Or worse again, are you the one telling the truth?
Or, what an anxiety! Is life just an illusion, hot air and trickery?

In another register, yesterday, Murielle was all worked up and stressed out :
Will the meal be good enough?
Will our friends be happy to share our bread, wine and truffles, and the rabbit smothered with shallots and the sautéed potatoes?
Will the vanilla from Tahiti and the custard work well together?
Will we be able to be ourselves and still be in harmony with our friends?
Yes, perfect. (the glass is, perhaps, half full…)

Valandraud 1995 was in great shape, Pétrus 1999 even better than in a dream, Maury 2004 from Marie and Jean-Roger Calvet served before coffee was like a caress.
The 2007 Valandraud White and Red, and time flew by too fast. It’s an advantage to remain hungry, hungry for real food as well as intellectual nourishment…
What a great moment, what luxury to have a job which allows such things. Thank you.
When can we start again…

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Primeurs/futures campaign 2007

All the samples are being prepared for tastings with Revue du vin de France, Schüster, Parker, etc…
Yesterday, I taped 3 videos for the site of Chateauonline featuring the 2007 Valandraud, La Dominique and Clément Pichon.
Yesterday we received a very important customer for Christian Dalbavie (and ourselves), as we are barely selling in the country he is based in. Our wines tasted good and the atmosphere was good. We are now just waiting for an order…

Next week, the tastings for the futures campaign are starting:
We are taking advantage of the tastings organized by the Union des Grands Crus to invite you to come and taste the new vintage of Jean Luc Thunevin’s properties as well as our friends:

From Monday, March 31 until Thursday, April 3 2008

Location for the tasting: Château La Dominique, St Emilion

- Properties of Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle Andraud
2007 Château Valandraud - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Virginie de Valandraud - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 3 de Valandraud - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Clos Badon-Thunevin - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château Bel Air Ouÿ - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château Prieuré Lescours - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Blanc de Valandraud N°1 - Bordeaux blanc
2007 Blanc de Valandraud N°2 - Bordeaux blanc
2007 Château Bellevue de Tayac - Margaux
2007 Le Clos du Beau Père - Pomerol
2007 Domaine des Sabines - Lalande de Pomerol

- Partnership with Jean Roger Calvet :
2007 Domaine Thunevin-Calvet « Les Dentelles » - Côtes du Roussillon Villages
2007 Domaine Thunevin-Calvet « Hugo » - Côtes du Roussillon Villages
2007 Domaine Thunevin-Calvet « Les Trois Marie » - Côtes du Roussillon Villages
2007 Domaine Thunevin-Calvet - Maury

- Partnership with Clément Fayat :
2007 Domaine Fayat-Thunevin (ex Vieux Chateau Bourgneuf) - Pomerol
2007 Domaine Fayat-Thunevin - Lalande de Pomerol

- Wines selected and distributed exclusively by Ets. Thunevin
2007 Thunevin-Calvet et Cie « Constance » - Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
2007 Château Franc Maillet- Cuvée Jean Baptiste - Pomerol
2007 Presidial Thunevin - Bordeaux blanc & rouge
2007 Clos del Rey et Mas del Rey - Côtes du Roussillon
2007 Baby del Rey - Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
2007 Château Compassant (en fermage) - Bordeaux rouge
2007 Château Lafont Fourcat & A nos Amours - Bordeaux rouge et blanc
2007 Château Bellevue La Randée - Bordeaux rouge
2007 Bad Boy - Bordeaux rouge
2007 Château Lalande Couturier (Virginie Thunevin propriétaire) - Bordeaux rouge

- Jean-Luc Thunevin consultant or manager
2007 Château Haut Mazeris - Canon Fronsac et Fronsac
2007 Château de Carles - Fronsac
2007 Haut-Carles - Fronsac
2007 Château Fleur Cardinale - Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé
2007 Château La Dominique - Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé
2007 Château Clément Pichon - Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois Supérieur
2007 Château Prieurs de La Commanderie - Pomerol
2007 Château La Commanderie de Mazeyres - Pomerol
2007 Marojallia et Clos Margalaine - Margaux

- and our friend’s wines
2007 Château Croix de Labrie - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château Busqueyron - Bordeaux rouge et blanc
2007 Château Le Gay - Pomerol
2007 Château La Croix Figeac - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château les Gravières - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Lynsolence - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Gracia - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Les Angelots de Gracia - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château Villhardy - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château Maro de Saint Amant - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château Quinault - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château Serilhan - Saint Estèphe
2007 Château Moutinot - Saint Estèphe
2007 Château Rollan de By - Médoc
2007 Château Haut Condissas - Médoc
2007 Château La Clare - Médoc
2007 Château Machorre - Bordeaux
2007 Villa Machorre - Bordeaux
2007 Château Beau Soleil - Pomerol
2007 Château Petit Gravet Ainé - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Clos Saint Julien - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Le Plus de La Fleur de Boüard - Lalande de Pomerol
2007 Château La Couspaude - Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé
2007 Château Rouget - Pomerol
2007 Château Thénac - Bergerac rouge et blanc

2007 Le Grand A d’Arguti - Vin de Pays de Côtes Catalanes
2007 Domaine Eternel - Côtes du Roussillon Villages
2007 Domaine Chiroulet Grande Réserve - VDP de Gascogne
2007 La Regalona - Cabardes
2007 Château Montus Alain Brumont - Madiran
2007 Château Bouscassé Alain Brumont - Madiran
2007 Domaine Terre Rousse - Côtes du Roussillon Villages

2007 Château Sénéjac - Haut Médoc
2007 Château Belle Vue - Haut Médoc
2007 Château de Gironville - Haut Médoc
2007 Château Paloumey - Haut Médoc
2007 Clos du Jaugueyron - Haut Médoc
2007 Château Mille Roses - Haut Médoc
2007 Château Cambon La Pelouse - Haut Médoc
2007 Château d’Agassac - Haut Médoc

Vignobles Bernard Magrez
2007 Château Fombrauge - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Magrez Fombrauge - Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2007 Château Pape Clément - Pessac Léognan
2007 La Sérénité - Pessac Léognan
2007 Château La Tour Carnet - Haut Médoc
2007 Château Les Grands Chênes - Médoc Cru Bourgeois Supérieur
2007 Servitude Volontaire - Haut Médoc
2007 Passion d’une Vie - Côtes du Roussillon
2007 Mon Seul Rêve - Côtes du Roussillon

2007 Pingus - Spain
2007 Quinta Sardonia - Spain
2007 Tenuta di Trinoro - Italy
2007 Testamatta - Italy


Aging of a wine

Easter Monday (meal for 6 guests)
For lunch, we served a typical meal from the South West of France: omelet (with truffles from Riberac) with farm eggs, loin of lamb and mash potatoes with truffles, strawberries from Spain with Tahitian vanilla and Armagnac (3 drops);
We drank Blanc de Valandraud 2005, Haut Carles 2005, Valandraud 2005, Harlan 1997 (slightly corked), replaced by an incredible Harlan 1995. We finished with a delicious Maury Calvet-Thunevin 2004.
Our friend from Macao should import, I hope, a few of our wines including Bad Boy 2005.

Panos asked me about the aging of wine:
“ I remember you used Cheval Blanc 1947 as an example to show that wines with high alcohol and low acidity can age well. But how can you explain that great wines from the past such as Mouton 1961 for instance or Figeac 1950 are very good now but have alcohol levels of 12 and even 11.5?
Modern wines such as the ones from the Right Bank, which have been characterized as made with very ripe grapes and alcohol levels of 14 and even 15 percent – are they less able to age than wines with higher relative acidity and lower alcohol? Does the acidity level impact the aging of wines from the Right Bank of Bordeaux? In your opinion, is this role overrated? Why or why not?”

The ability of a wine to age is still not predictable. Any authoritative opinion has, of course, its opposite.
Alcohol and maturity are they obstacles to good aging? Is that so!
What about Sauternes and Ports?
Maury and Banyuls?
Vega Sicilia and all the great Italian wines?
And great red Burgundies where sugar is being added to increase the alcohol level.
Just consider all the wines boosted with Hermitage and Algerian wines (very rich).
On the contrary, an Egon Muller or great Bordeaux have been able to age well for a long time with low levels of alcohol.
Some wines have been able to stay alive, but why? Perhaps for historical or intellectual pleasure?

Some of these old wines produced with unripe grapes were undrinkable for a long time, and still are. Otherwise, we drank a 1929 Corbin Michotte last Sunday to celebrate the birthday of my father-in-law: the wine was moving, sentimentally speaking. This wine was alive, beautiful, good, stored properly, with an incredible cork, never travelled, a typical wine from an old vintage. It would have pleased many. I think that François Audouze would have served it as the main bottle in one of his chic soirees. You can ask my father-in-law, the bottle was not even finished by the 4 of us, even with the “Portuguese” decanting. I must admit that the Chateau La Dominique 2006 seemed to be a better deal: in fact, I bought the 1929 from a friend for 300 Euros (instead of 500) whereas La Dominique 2006 cost less than 50 Euros (including VAT).
Of course, there are great old wines: Lafite Rotschild 1928 drank a few days ago was a proof.

What allows a wine to age well? We don’t know. What’s certain, is that some wines never aged well, some aging very fast. Is it a problem of ph? or caused by a bacteria (brett)?
The only argument, and I am not 100% sure, is, I believe, the ph, which, if too high, can encourage bacterial infection. Old ph had the advantage of being lower with, in great vintages, ripe fruit, like some in Maury or on clayey soil.

Other than that, Denis Dubourdieu seems to have a lead: Glutation.
Don’t ask me what it means.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

2007 vintage tasting at the Union des Grands Crus

I only tasted wines from the Left Bank I distribute (except for Sauternes) and all the Right Bank.
Lots of good wine in my opinion, with a successful vintage overall in Pomerol and particularly Gazin (which I don’t distribute…yet!), Clinet is very good and La Conseillante is again one of the successes of this vintage with its “nothing too much” characteristic.

The wines from Stéphane Derenoncourt, Right and Left Bank, were fruity, good and digest. Superb Beauséjour Bécot and Troplong Mondot again on top.

Saint Emilion not as homogenous as Pomerol, a few diluted wines, others too hard; I hope that La Dominique will be as well received as the 2006 where my appointment was noticed by my colleagues negociants.

As for the Left Bank, I liked Giscours and Le Tertre, Gruaud Larose and the white and red Graves: Of course Pape Clément and the surprise Fieuzal. I have not experienced this level of quality since Mr Dupuis (this goes to tell the jump in quality).

I didn’t have any pens to write so all of this is from memory. I probably forgot some very good wines that I don’t distribute and 2 or 3 crus I found good.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Explanation on the text

In response to my post yesterday, François Mauss wrote in his blog :
“As a good French man, I should have written “in his court” and not “their court” and I should have also have made it clearer that it is the margin of the property”.

I read the post again and did understand that François Mauss wrote about the margin from the properties. And without copying the astonishing comments published in the last Revue du Vin de France and written by Denis Saverot, prices are and will always be a balancing act between offer and demand. This still needs to be discussed and all parties should be involved, and not be influenced by Bruel and the success of poker, which essentially consists of lies.
In addition, François Mauss writes about 200 top crus. I think that the problem concerns less than 80 properties, some having had access to the futures system don’t deserve to be part of it, except in successful vintages. Lets not forget that the first rule for the futures campaign in Bordeaux, is the price revaluation, speculation or not. It is the only reason for a buyer to pay today a wine which will be delivered tomorrow!

Jean-Marc Quarin didn’t like the 1998 vintage in the USA: Too much taste of cork, evolution, closed wines… bad patch?
In any case, tomorrow on Good Friday, he will taste the 2007 and 2006 produced in my properties and where I am consultant. In the evening, it will be with another important critic to end my day.

For journalists and critics, it is the busy period of tastings, coupled with the stress of getting it wrong, of missing, and the weight of the PR campaign on top.

Cant: Stéphane Toutoundji talks about it, especially when commenting on our barrels and coopers. It is tough to support this lack of frankness when you try to do better for the good of everyone. This reminds me this Bordeaux saying: You can tell a Chateau owner that his wife cheats on him, never that his wine is bad.
Consultants, oenologists, advisers are often limited by what the client can or wants to hear. Trying not to shock while still moving forward, that’s a real balancing act.

I also had the opportunity to taste some 2006 produced in the Roussillon by a new “Bordelais” who moved there after falling in love with this region. And this despite being very well known in Bordeaux. You will hear about this wine nicely called Domaine de Mastrio. They produce a “normal” cuvée and an old vine (100 years old). For some that know him, his name is Michael Paetzold. He is looking for distributors in the whole world, or almost the whole world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mauss, "tontons flingueurs" style (trouble maker)

Yesterday, François Mauss posted the following comment:
“Lets keep our cool concerning the worries of Bordeaux wine merchants : they should regain control on price negotiations with the property owners for, if they have what it takes, the ball is a bit more in their court, isn’t it?

In Bordeaux, margins, like in Champagne (I speak about the top 200 crus), are sufficiently large to weather a 2 digit drop for the 2007 vintage, no?”

Mr Mauss doesn’t know anything regarding margins, or even the economy. If he did, people would know about it!
Don’t touch at my margins, Mauss… or else!

Jokes aside, you seem to forget net margins, after taxes from the “caste” of Bordeaux negociants…
You would be amazed at what’s left, except for around 30 companies (out of 300 or 400)! A point should be made about the fragility of this sector (just ask banks). Almost no one in Bordeaux will be able to afford the 2007 vintage and only sell 30 to 50% without receiving payments from its own customers.
The normal margin for wholesalers in Bordeaux is often under 20% after taxes, which gives no rooms to maneuver in case of a catastrophe, pay a large sum to the tax authority or carrying inventory. With interest rates at 5/6% per year for the best customers. The usual gross margin for 80 to 90% of sales is around 12 to 13%. You take out 7 or 8% for operating cost. You see what’s left.
When one doesn’t know, one shouldn’t speak, except if your intent is to be provocative, and now is not the right time.
As a conclusion, it is not because I sell a few speculative crus, 5 to 10% from my allocation, at market rate, that the rest was not sold at the release price + a little margin, to faithful customers who bought 2002, 2004 and even 2006!

On the 25, the civil court will hold a session to get to the bottom of the last Saint Emilion classification opposed by a few downgraded properties.
As you know, I am often on the side of the complainer, the widow, or the oppressed. But I am also paradoxically very legalist (check Pierre Marie Chauvin’s theses).
I experienced the rejection of Valandraud but didn’t contest this decision for I believe that if this time I didn’t pass, the next time I will, if I present Valandraud. I find it ridiculous to contest this decision.
It makes me think of married couples who, once they want to divorce, only say bad things about the one they once loved (which is like shooting your own foot).

Today, the UGC hosts a tasting of the 2007 vintage for all the wine merchants and brokers from Bordeaux before the grand festival which will begin at the beginning of April. I will be attending to represent my wholesales business as well as Château La Dominique.

Speeding up

The rhythm is speeding up.
Since yesterday, I need to attend at least one meal, tasting, meeting per day. Every Chateau or organizations invite Bordeaux wine merchants and brokers to taste the last vintage planned to be sold. Followed by meals intended to seduce and the wines served are often rare vintages (1967-1949- 1962, etc..).
Some of these meetings are only intended for top merchants, and even though we are an average size company (our wholesale business must be in the top 50 out of 300 in Bordeaux), I occasionally get invited, sometimes to the surprise of some of my colleagues who think I only represent Château Valandraud. They don’t realize that in 2009, our turnover will be 15 million Euros with sales of 1 500 000 bottles, with only 1/3 coming from our own production. It’s an accomplishment as we buy and sell a lot of wine on a daily basis. Last week, we bought a batch of a well known Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2002 (28 000 bottles).
We have in our inventory almost 10 million Euros in stock, from entry level (which we sell for around 3 Euros) to 1st growths which are worth 1000 Euros and up!

Monday, I went to my attorney to buy another small plot of less than an hectare near our vineyards for our white. It already had old vines of Semillon which we will have to pull for they are too old.

Tuesday, I was in the Medoc and Château Gloria to attend the general assembly of the Commanderie du Bontemps of Médoc and Graves, Sauternes and Barsac. They gave me the title of Commander, proposed by colleagues proprietors in the Medoc, this, thanks to my position as manager of Château Clément Pichon and owner of Château Bellevue de Tayac in Margaux (and thanks to Jean Michel Cazes who is tending his last mandate as head of the organization and will be replaced by Emmanuel Cruse).
For your information, I am not even part of the Jurade of Saint Emilion, but have been in Loupiac and Pomerol for quite a long time, and each time invited by illustrious sponsors.
The only problem is how can I be useful and work seriously considering all the work waiting for me at the office?

One more thing, the Bordeaux wholesalers are, this time, seriously worrying about the 2007 futures campaign, due to the current economic situation in the world.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Studious weekend

Saturday for lunch at the Château La Dominique, we received a group of (famous) consultants and 2 Masters of Wine English students. Visit and tasting followed by a lunch in a good ambiance, this helped by a professional host.
The 2006-2007 samples of La Dominique were very good and during lunch, this group, which has visited a few well known crus, has, if I understood correctly, preferred our 2001 and 1998 (more accessible, I suppose) and my comments, which were different from the usual speech made by other chateaux. It caught their attention, which looked to be an uphill battle.

Is it useful? Is it necessary to spend your Saturdays and Sundays doing PR to gain notoriety? That’s another story. It would certainly easier doing nothing.
Is it profitable? Probably not. However, if my work was only based on profitability, I would not have had the chance to get this kind of demand and to be invited to the sorts of event I participate in.

I watched again “La Vie de Château” which is constantly broadcasted on TV7, to see if I said any stupid things. The editing is true to the spirit of the interview, which is perfect.
Florence Lafragette was very professional and able to focus the discussion on the objectives of Clément Fayat, who’s presence was even felt.

Sunday, family lunch to celebrate the birthday of Murielle’s father, who will turn 79 on March 20. It is the last relax day before the next few weeks which will be busy with a full agenda.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Long live journalists and Bordeaux 2007

From time to time, in our industry, I notice that “malicious” journalists are sometimes allowed to make a faux pas: this situation makes me think of an article published in the Revue du Vin de France on the 2007 vintage which was written by a colleague foreign to Bordeaux. I would have loved for him to taste Talbot 2007, Connétable de Talbot 2007, Caillou Blanc 2007. I had the privilege to taste them along with 100 professionals from Bordeaux including wine merchants and 4 brokerage firms.

Well, I am not going to rave about the left bank for, it is well known that it is on the right back that successful wine will be found this year (Bordelaise humor;-)).

Joke aside, when the 2007 vintage produces the kinds of wine I tasted, my experience tells me that our customers will like them. The only problem? prices. But this doesn’t concern wines like Talbot which is one of the best “brands” from Bordeaux (which means that the price has been well “thought through” and is always accepted by our customers).
In fact, the Euros is still strong and other parameters have to be taken in consideration, especially when you are dealing with a vintage which is of rather good quality but not speculative like 2005, which still is in high demand. Well, these questions will be answered in a few weeks.

On the way back to Saint Emilion, I stopped by the friends of Château Sénéjac where 2007 was also a success. We tasted the last vintages of this cru which is part of the Biturica club, as you already know. We also tasted at Château Beau Soleil which has just been included in the group of legendary Pomerol in the last Revue du Vin de France.

The day before, I was in Paris with Murielle, or more precisely in Bagneux to tape a TV program for the Demain TV (Tomorrow TV) channel: more than 2 hours of taping with a nice group of self made entrepreneurs and company executives explaining that it is possible to create successful businesses in France if one has the energy and a good project. This program will be broadcasted on multiple occasions at the launch of this channel on the Ile de France TNT network (French Digital Network). I met a lot of people and everyone was attentive to what others had to say, and curious to learn about the neighbor’s story. The empathy of the journalist, and joie-de-vivre of the guest made the time flew too fast. We exchanges cards and promises to meet again and I even received a generous contribution to help my company sell wine (thanks Stephano).

Stéphane Droulers planned dinner with his friends at 8 pm and we arrived at 10 pm! I didn’t even have time to write down the name of this nice Italian wine and was just able to enjoy Paolo Petrini’s cooking.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On sale as of April 13 2008

BLACK SHEEP wouldn’t deign
BAD BOY I remain

The bottling of the cuvee BAD BOY 2005 is about to start: 6666 cardboard boxes of 6, or 39996 bottles. 95% merlot, 5% cabernet franc, with vines at least 40 years old in a great terroir of clayey limestone.

I was thinking of creating this cuvee when the Vin de Pays de France appellation would be launched. It would give me the opportunity to blend grenaches or carignans from Maury with our merlots from Pomerol, Saint Emilion or Bordeaux. Unfortunately, regulations for table wine move very slowly and doesn’t allow to list a vintage.

I was able to create this 2005 cuvee, as one would say during the Academy Awards, thanks to my parents without who this would have been impossible; my wife and my daughter who accept my crazy ideas, my bank who keep on backing me, hoping that it will work, my past and future customers who always trust me, wine merchants from Bordeaux and brokers (who for this time are not the reason for this cuvee!), and especially, I thank: Robert Parker who gave me the idea to call this cuvée Bad Boy in one of his comments on Valandraud:
“A terrific effort from bad boy and leading garagiste, Jean-Luc Thunevin, and his sidekick, Murielle Andraud, the inky/blue/purple-tinged 2005 Valandraud exhibits superb aromas of graphite, black currants, blackberries, violets, white chocolate, sweet licorice, and espresso roast. Boasting great intensity, full-bodied power, beautiful purity, and layers of complexity, this stunning wine should be unusually long-lived. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2025+. »

Eric Soulat who set the ton and spirit of the label.

Guillaume Quéron, with the help from Jean Philippe Fort, who produced the 2005 vintage of this wine.

With a consumer price of 15 Euros (25 to 30 Dollars in the US and Asia), this wine should please wine lovers as much (if not more) than expensive wine.

Pity for one which can’t hold its promises… In any case, it is my first “marketing” wine
Def: Marketing is the effort made by companies to adapt to competitive markets, to attract consumers by creating product which are perceived as superior to their competitors, (Mercator, 8th edition, 2006).

While waiting for mi-April, you can read comments in Cuisine et Vin de France, Nouvel Obs hebdo, Vinorumcodex, Wine Tasting Tags Asimov, Bertrand Le Guern, Oenoline.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pomerol /Decanter/ Rolland

After Revue du Vin de France, Decanter published several articles on Pomerol : 4 pages dedicated to it, and this, following a 6 page article on Christian Moueix (man of the year 2008).
In the same issue, the title “Italy: the French connection!”. Only Michel Rolland is missing. Maybe he is too famous! Too French!
In any case, Michel Rolland is proving (as if he needed it) with Château La Dominique, that he is the king, able to make a great number of great wines in 2007 with his talent to blend, and experience as a plus…

Just a quick round trip to Paris with Air France, cheaper if one travels with his partner or with an employee (land of equality?), to tape a TV program for TNT Ile de France (France’s digital network) - Tomorrow TV IDF.
It will be a good opportunity to eat with the owners of Château de Carles.

Decanter on the web:
A great amount of investment is being made in bottles of wine. Don’t expect wine lovers to find the same prices as 10 years ago!
This way of choosing wine doesn’t look at the quality but the profits earned in the past. To put this in perspective this article: Trees don’t grow all the way to the sky, which means that if a cru has increased by 50% per year for several years, it will most likely stop.
Valandraud has not been a speculative wine for several years. It was listed as the best investment 10 years ago. Just shows you that here, as in the stock exchange, one has to be careful. The ideal situation is to buy these kinds of wines to drink with friends, and this, is the best investment in the world.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Resumption of activities

I have a lot to write as Cécile just got back from a week holidays.

As an opener, my partner Jean-Roger Calvet was just reelected as part of the list of the incumbent mayor (65%). This proves that work and dynamisms can sometimes be understood, even in small rural villages like Maury. It also shows that this community chose changes in the cooperative, in the village, the arrival of new winemakers, from Bordeaux, Americans, instead of withdrawing on themselves which is common in French rural areas.

Below, Marie Calvet wrote that the Michelin guide gave a star to a restaurant in Maury:
“La Maison du Terroir.
The news was published this morning: Pascal Borrell received 1 star from the Michelin Guide. It took less than a year for this chef to receive this recognition. This well deserved prize gives a great boost to all the efforts made by this community and reinforces the belief that a prestigious window is necessary to promote the wines from our terroir.
Congratulations to the chef and his team.
As for the work on our new cellar: it’s moving forward! This week, the walls will be finished and the roof structure will follow right after.”

We had a meeting with our Franco Chinese partner to check the progress of our project. Already 1 store is opened, 1 showroom and an office in Shanghai. The plan is to open 5 to 8 boutiques per year. We’ll see if it is possible.
In the meantime, we had a great lunch at “Atelier Robuchon”, just before it received it’s 2nd star from Michelin. I had the opportunity to run into Gérard Depardieu and talk to him.

Peter Sisseck:
Parker gave 99 points to Pingus 2005, 96 to Flor and 97 to Amelia. I think he should have gotten 100 points, but I am biased. In any case, I am proud of him. And when I see him remaining so humble and anxious about always doing better… while I boast with my 95 pts!
One more thing about Sisseck: a big article was just published in Weinwisser and he received 19/20 for Pingus 2005, 17/20 for Flor and 20/20 for Pingus 2004.

Quarin also made a classification for the top 100 Bordeaux.

TV7 produced a piece on Château La Dominique called “La Vie de Chateau”. It is broadcasted regularly (today at 4 :30 pm, tomorrow at 11 :30 am and 10 pm, Wednesday at 4 :15 PM…)

We drank with Anthony and Andreas Larsson, a bottle of Le Pin 1999, slightly corked , but still corked, that we had to dump in the sink… I understand when that happens to consumers with my wine!
Otherwise, the other bottles were good. We started with a Clos Badon 2000 and Magrez Fombrauge 2001, which I liked very much. Then an astonishing wine from Hungary Bock 2004 Villanyi, which showed that Andreas tasted and can still discover a few gems unknown to the consumers.
A bottle of La Conseillante 1962, still full of youth and would have surprised many with its great quality if it had been drunk blind. We finished with a beautiful and rare bottle of Lafite Rothschild 1928, reconditioned in 1990. Perfect.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Futures campaign

During the week of the "primeurs", or futures campaign (from March 31 until April 3, 2008) many tasting events will take place in Saint Emilion. They are reserved to wine professionals:

Union des Grands Crus in La Couspaude
Cercle des Grands Vins de la Rive Droite in Clos des Jacobins
Association des Grands Crus Classés in Laroze
Thunevin et Cie in La Dominique
Tasting organized by the Vins du Libournais trade union in the town of Saint Emilion

Without forgetting all the groups of friends organized for this event


I found in the online archives of the French magazine L'express, an article on Valandraud published in 1997 !

08/14/1997 L'Express n° 2406

Wines: The maverick from Bordeaux
by Georges Dupuy

With his Saint-Emilion, Château- de-Valandraud, Jean-Luc Thunevin shakes the Grand Crus hierarchy. And lots of habits.

Bordeaux hides well its game. The order seemed to be set for eternity between the 200 top and middle brass within the group of classified growths and the plethora of rank and file of small to middle producers. However, as it is custom in a good middle-class family, the vineyards have their lot of ungrateful children, of marginal forerunners and mavericks. Such as Jean-Luc Thunevin, on the right bank of the Garonne.

While his wine, the Chateau de Valandraud, colored and structured from Saint Emilion, with aromas of ripe fruits, if not jam, still unknown to consumers, was released as future at the same price as top crus, such as the popular ones of the time… However, the 1996 vintage is now fetching 480 F per bottle, 255 F more than Château Angélus, one of the stars of this area, recently promoted to 1st Grand Cru Classé! Already in Medoc, on the other side of the Garonne, the Grand Cru owners gasped when, in Saint Julien, Michel Delon released 40% of his superb 1996 Léoville-Las-Cazes at 380 F. “I am not competing with the great Châteaux”, comments Thunevin, lucid and modest. Too much, perhaps. In September 1996, Valandraud was sold, at Christies, for 2500 F per bottle. More than Petrus. This year, ten days after being released, it was already worth 1500 F, and was reselling for almost 2000 F.

Besides his name, nothing predisposed Thunevin, son of Pieds-Noir (French immigrants from North Africa), to become the troublemaker in Bordeaux. Far from the 85 hectares of Lynch-Bages, Valandraud’s surface is modest: 2.5 hectares. The property only exists since 1989. In his previous lives, Thunevin was a lumberjack, bank employee and second-hand dealer, before starting two wine bars in Saint Emilion.

“I was not born with a wine tasting cup in my mouth” explains Thunevin. He acknowledges having major influences, especially barrel fermentation he borrowed from Château le Pin, a mythical Pomerol: 1.2 hectare, with a production of 3000 bottles almost all exported. For the rest, Thunevin had a few ideas of his own, tested with his childhood friend Alain Vauthier, young owner of Ausone. The unshakeable bond with the co-prince of Saint Emilion (with Cheval Blanc) and the organic tendency believing that plants feel the human aura, bothers a few people. A broker said that: “he is crazy!”
Too much wine kills wine.

In fact, the secret for this ex disc-jockey, helped today by Michel Rolland, the pope of Bordeaux Oenologist, is perhaps to do the opposite from others. He uses a high temperature, short maceration and a very long aging time in barrels, which preserves the structure of the wine as well as the full colors of the grapes. As far as innovations are concerned, he seems to go back to old methods, like stirring of the lies and vinification in wooden vats: “I use techniques which make my wine more authentic, I follow no trends”.

This ecumenical has a certain sacred belief : Too much wine, kills wine. So, from April until September, the Thunevins – father, mother and daughter – patrol the vineyards to disbud, prune, thin out and harvest green, only keeping one out of 3 or 4 bunches.
In addition, when local winemakers produce 58 hectoliters per hectare, Valandraud, only 35. At the beginning, mother nature was not cooperative: in 1991, frost destroyed his harvest. Courageous: “I didn’t care of not surviving, I wanted to make the best wine in Bordeaux”
Maybe, he is crazy… However, Robert Parker, the American guru from the Wine Advocate, who calls the shots in Bordeaux, and Stephen Tanzer, his competition from the International Wine Cellar, agree: Thunevin produced in 1995 and 1996, wine worthy of the greatest Bordeaux. The first year, Archibald Johnston, heir to a long line of Bordeaux wine merchants told him : “You are funny. I will take your wine, but I don’t know who I will sell it too”. The answer is now a fact: Americans, British, Japanese, Taiwanese, but also top French restaurants.

« Half of my customers are speculators », Thunevin remarks, who sells his wine at around 1000 F per bottle, for a cost which runs between 80 and 100 F. The money earned from this success will help expend the house and the cellar, and buy an extra hectare in a nice terroir.

The ex-bank teller from Credit Agricole doesn’t have wild ambitions. His greatest glory could be for having learned. Beginners followed his path, like the owners of Rol-Valentin, as well as established properties. The Becots, from Beau-Séjour-Bécot, also produced in 1996, 9000 bottles on the 2.5 hectares of their property of La Gomerie. Beyond this, his methods have an impact. “That you like me or not, still I woke something up”, says Thunevin. Christophe Reboulse-Salze, in charge at CVBG, one of Valandraud’s top customers notes : “Thunevin shook things around, but the prices he commends show that it is worth it”. What does it matter, a chateau owner says in a disdainful tone, with his little cellar: Oh yes, Valandraud, this little garage wine!” After all, Steve Jobs, the founder of modern micro-computers, also started that way.

© L'Express 2007

Monday, March 3, 2008

What’s the connection between sex and Bordeaux wine?

This is the question being asked, here in Saint Emilion, when you meet Michel Puzio, owner of Château Croix de Labrie. His wine has gone from being a garage wine (according to Parker) to a salon wine (according to the Revue du Vin de France) and a medicine wine (“Liquid Viagra” according to Parker).

Is Croix de Labrie prescribed in Chinese pharmacies as an alternative to Rhinoceros horn?
It would be a good way to protect Rhinos… and to financially help Michel Puzio fulfill his dream of building a nice cellar in the Saint Emilion appellation (this is a notice for sellers of nice cellars).

Isn’t porn (chic of course) a great promotional avenue ?
In any case, Michel Puzio’s wines have been good for quite a long time. 100% Merlot is not only reserved to the illustrious Petrus and I hope that the American film on Merlot will have as much impact as Sideways had for Pinot.