Monday, June 30, 2008

Fête de la Fleur

The “Fête de la Fleur” (the flower festival) in Bordeaux was a great success and had all the elements needed to be successful: nice weather, a good selection of guests, serious organization and stars.
Mrs. Claudia Cardinale had a special charisma and her eyes were amazingly sparkling. The speeches of Mr. Cruze and Mr. Juppé were short and good (and particularly on the Right Bank).
Our table was reserved by my property in Margaux – Chateau Bellevur de Tayac, and the company of our friends made this evening fly. Fireworks on the Garonne river were shot during this event, in front of the beautiful facades of Bordeaux. I promise that for the next event, I will wear the “robe” of Commandeur!

Sunday morning, I watch on TV a nice program called “Thé ou Café” hosted by Catherine Ceylac, and shot in Jean-Louis Trintignant’s vineyards Rouge Garance.
With the nice weather, the cicadas were singing, as in the South. Perfect weather for our vines. I quickly went around our vineyards to check out the damage done by coulure and millerandage on our old vines, often tired. Nothing too serious though.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Bordeaux est en fête from June 26 to 29. Wine is again honored for the 6th time in this magnificent city.
Even the Commanderie du Bontemps from the Right Bank is going to Bordeaux (this is a sign), to attend this feast where more than 1000 guests, wine professionals, stars, politicians (them too) gather for a prestigious dinner honoring the fine wines of the Left Bank.
Guest being honored will include: Claudia Cardinale – another sign considering that Florence Bontemps-Decoster (from Château Fleur Cardinale) and Murielle Andraud (Château Valandraud) will also be enthroned as well as Yasmina Benguigui, Charles Berling, Stéphane Freiss, Stéphane Bern, Françoise Laborde and Patrick Poivre d’Arvor.
“Que du beau linge” (the right group of people), an expression my mother used to say.

Well, I would like to note that I joined the Commanderie du Bontemps a short time ago, and it will be the first time I participate to an event as Commander (and my 3rd time if you take in account the times I attended as guest).
In 2006, there was 350 000 visitors in this Fête des Vins. A record to be beaten.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Millerandage, nice village and nightclubbing

Yesterday, I had a quick lunch with a banker from BNP and Michel Puzio in the web-bar of Pascal Fauvel and Catherine Papon-Nouvel, 37 rue Guadet: “Chai Pascal”. I ordered a salad, an unctuous home made smoked salmon and drank a glass of water. This is one more nice restaurant in Saint Emilion helping to reduce the “tourist-trap” image of most places.

Before lunch, I saw La Puce (86 years old) helping a friend tend their vegetable garden in Fongaban, and earlier I saw Mrs Dubois (also 86 years old) still go to her small vineyard near Clos Badon to stem, deleaf and especially “avoiding to spend time doing nothing like old people”, she said.

The En primeur campaign is just about over with a few cases left being sold in the secondary market. Already, Rémi-Christophe-Jean Philippe gave me an initial report on the status of our vineyards saying that the yields for 2008 will clearly be lower. We will have a better picture in 10 to 15 days.

While walking by a store in Saint Emilion, I saw a poster promoting a party in the local night club “Le Bois de L’Or” (indeed I did). This is historical considering that I used to hangout in this club durin my youth. This night-club is located on the border of the little town of Libourne on the RN 670 (Libourne-Bergerac).
Why am I writing about it? Because the theme of the party looked a bit unusual at first glance: in fact, it is a “camping” evening: bring your tents, sleeping bags and flash lights!
What the hell, I will write about it: Damn, we are in the middle of a crises!

In my time, parties at Takouk or in Bois de L’Or, were called: Soirée Cabaret, Soirée Palace, Soirée Tzigane, birthday Party… but here, imagine… everything is going so bad : diminishing buying power, the rise in the price of petrol. Young people now even have to bring their own sleeping equipment! Tough when reality catches up…

Jokes aside, this club belongs to the same owner for almost 40 years, Mr Duponteil. Grand children of my first clients now go there: the entire youth in the region knows this club. The only difference is that during our time, customers used to go there between 11 pm and 5 am; today, they go between 1 am and 6 am and drivers cannot drink alcohol.


Last night Murielle was invited by Juliette Bécot for an informal dinner with our American guest, Jeff, Mr. Bécot and our “discoverer” Jeffrey Davis. She told me, this morning, that she had a nice dinner. Juliette’s fieriness, her sparkling spirit, made time fly and took away any negative vibes. She also just discovered, surprisingly and suddenly, the same anguishes as I have or Dominique or Alfred or, etc…
Is there a relation between realizing that time goes by and living happiness? I think so.

As for me, I was in Bourg sur Gironde with Gilles to attend a big tasting event (+ meal) organized by the groupe La Passion du Vin 33 in the restaurant Plaisance. I was quite happily surprised by this group passionate about wine, curious and especially without any prejudice. I didn’t even have time to catch my breath as questions/answers were swift. I was able to put a face on names that had met on the site.

Valandraud 2006 was still exceptional, the wines from the South were well represented by a perfect Hugo.
It was hard to get up this morning…

A few infos from the CIVB:
As our boss, Alain Vironneau, says, the French wine industry has been able to take up the challenge of competing despite all the obstacles our absurd regulations put on us or badly adapted charges.
Revenue 2003 7.80 billion Euro
Revenue 2004 7.55 billion Euro
Revenue 2005 7.74 billion Euro
Revenue 2006 8.74 billion Euro
Revenue 2007 9.34 billion Euro

These numbers are probably wrong for in 2007, our wholesales business was shipping 2005 (expensive) and the 2007 vintage is currently being sold and will be delivered in 2009. Still this is not too bad!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The best wines of France in 2008

In the last reference guide published by Revue du Vin de France, Valandraud still has 2 stars and I am happy that Ducru Beaucaillou received it’s 3rd star to reward them for the work they’ve put in the last few years.
2 stars is not so bad, if I compare my wine with the classified growths looking to claim a 3rd star.
Château La Dominique received 1 star. I hope I will be getting a 2nd one in the near future.
Château Fleur Cardinale received 1 star for this wine recently classified.
Haut Carles, 1 star. It will also deserve a 2nd one if journalists want to reward the work put into it.
Château La Commanderie de Mazeyres is listed, which is a good beginning… As well as the wines produced by Guillaume Quéron (Villa Mongiron) and Château Clément Pichon.
Also listed in the Roussillon is my joint venture Thunevin-Calvet.

Tonight, tasting with the group LPV33 and Gilles.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer is here

Friday evening, we had a dinner at our house with Catherine, Laurent, Jeff, Michel, Gérard and Emmanuel to celebrate the arrival of Summer.
Caviar, Pata Negra, roast chicken, mash potatoes with black truffles, brie Bizeul style, raspberries and strawberries with vanilla. Simple but always good, when you think that we started dinner at 9 pm instead of 8!

Before, I organized an important tasting for my guests :
Valandraud Blanc N°1 2007and 2006 and N°2 2007 and 2006, Virginie de Valandraud 2007-2006-2005-2004, Clos Badon (I don’t remember), Bad Boy 2005 and Valandraud 2007-2006 (a monster) -2005-2004-2003-2002-1999, Fleur Cardinale 2007-2006-2005 (incredible), Croix de Labrie 2005-2001-2000 (a beauty)

We were thirsty when we sat for dinner, and the wines were showing their best:
Cristal Roederer 1990 and a bit of vodka for enthusiasts, and wine from property owner I highly regard (Magrez, Cazes):
Pape Clément Red 2001, always so good, bravo the Grand Jury Européen for encouraging me to buy some.
A wine which never turned Mumu and I down : Lynch Bages 1990 youthful and with such precision… Following, Latour 1952, incredibly youthful, tasting 30 to 40 years younger, a perfect bottle Jacques Luxey and his friends would have greatly enjoyed.
For desert: Cossart Gordon Madeira Bual Salera from 1845, Rhum from Martinique J.M.
Michel Puzio was in heaven. He experienced in the past our memorable monthly dinners where such wines was served, even with the little money we had. It is true that in the years 85/95, wines didn’t cost as much as they are today.
(Although old fine wines are not as expensive as 2000 or 2005).

Friday, June 20, 2008

La Dominique, suite

Several thoughts went through my mind following this extensive tasting of more than 20 vintages of this Château:
1/ At what temperature were these wines stored? I suspect that the older vintages were stored in a non temperature controlled cellar, hot in the Summer, cold in Winter, until the new cellar was constructed.

2/ Corks older than 20 years which can properly fulfill their purpose is like playing the lottery.

3/ The taste of purity. A neat harvest and clean grapes have been a major improvement in today’s wines.

4/ Old barrels were a normal practice, with rotations on 3/4/5 vintages.

5/ Our professional taste doesn’t accept anymore defects which some amateurs consider as quality in old wines (smells of mushrooms, cellar, wet earth, straw).

6/ Will our wines hold up to the test of time? And will they go through tough tastings by demanding young enthusiasts 30 years from now?

I love this picture posted on François Mauss blog (from the Grand Jury Européen)

End of the campaign

Lots of work this week. The sales of futures are coming to an end with the release of Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Pingus and Yquem today.
Besides the obvious 1st growths and others, some wines are also part of the status I call “icons”. These wines include Pétrus, of course, and Ausone, for a short time. It is particularly amazing that my friend Peter Sisseck’s Pingus entered the small circle of cult wines some years ago.
I have the privilege to sell some of these wines, which, in difficult years, allows me to boost the sales of my entire range, in addition to the profits I make from the “normal” sales of these wines.

Yesterday, I drank a Sine Qua Non rosé (cult wine from California) brought by Jeff Leve, followed by a bottle of La Mondotte 1999 and blind Bad Boy 2005, which fulfilled perfectly its role of pirate wine.
Today, the first vintage of PSI was released. This wine is produced by Peter Sisseck and is in part at the origin of my Bad Boy cuvee.

This morning, tasting organized by Pierre of a nice series of vintages of La Dominique:

1970 good, past it’s peak
1975- 76 – 77 bad
1978 good
1979 correct
1980 very nice bottle in this difficult vintage
1981 average
1982 nice wine, past it’s peak
1983 not good
1985 average
1987 correct, nice success of the vintage
1988 austere, vegetal
1989 not drank today, but I bought 12 bottles in London for my personal cellar after having tasted it!
1990 correct, no more than that
1992 correct and especially good for the vintage
1993 astonishing, beautiful, young, a success for this difficult vintage
1994 correct for this equally difficult vintage
1995 the best of this lot, delicious
1996 very disappointing
2006 very good, since bottling, each week, the wine improves, very powerful. I have great hope for this wine.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Are Cheval Blanc and Yquem going to be released this year ? And what about Pingus ?....

In any case, Yquem received a nice note in the Wine Spectator with 97/100 ! So did Haut Brion blanc.

Thank you the Figaro Magazine

A big article on Bordeaux was published in the June 14 2008 issue of the Figaro Magazine. La Dominique received a nice note and I especially noticed 2 pages (140 and 141) written on us (Murielle and I) tasting Bad Boy 2005 in the real garage of a friend (and not in mine, of course) who lent it to us for the photo. This Libourne garage had an Alpine Renault and a Citroën SM. The journalist wrote a nice article (with a few mistakes, especially on garagists including the ones who don’t like to be called as such).

I was given the title of famous consultant (in the microcosm of the wine world) and mischievous agitator (which suits me well!): I was an employee of the Credit Agricole bank (in Dordogne), and currently customer of the Crédit Lyonnais. I had the privilege of having 2 parcels declassified in table wine (“L’Interdit” de Valandraud and Clos Badon), well.

Were also just released the special issues of Bordeaux Primeurs from Gault et Millau and Vinifera.
We spent the weekend near Paris to listen to our friends sing, drink and eat well: Yquem 1999, Pavie 1998, Pichon Baron 1989, Haut Carles 2003 etc…

Other than that, the En Primeurs campaign will certainly end this week. Phew!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Release of Valandraud

Thursday morning, visit at La Dominique with a VIP guest of the Group Fayat. Business and pleasure are combined as interest in wine is an added plus in a business relationship.
In the meantime, Haut Brion, Mouton Rothschild and Lafite Rothschild were just released.

In the list of successful sales this year (yes, there are some!): Haut Marbuzet, Lynch Bages, Talbot, Montrose, Pontet Canet, Phélan Ségur, Moulin Saint Georges, Ducru Beaucaillou and Troplong Mondot. Of course, the 1st as well but unfortunately, I don’t have any allocations on the Left Bank except for Mouton. Luckily, I still have the Right Bank.

Today, Friday, I am releasing Valandraud 2007.

Lets review the situation

The vineyard is getting it’s first pruning and flowering of the Merlots is almost over. The humid weather and constant rain are making Christophe Lardière et Guillaume Quérons’ teams stressed and tired.
Who’s talking about global warming?

The En Primeur campaign is winding down. As far as we’re concerned, we still have a dozen chateaux, then we’ll review the results.

In the meantime, Xavier and Christian are in the USA to promote our wines and the properties I am the consultant for. The USA is becoming one our biggest markets, despite the Euro/Dollar exchange rate.

In the Grand Jury Européen tasting of the 2004 vintage and the Cercle des Grands Vins de Rive Droite, Haut Carles stood out as well as Fleur Cardinale and Commanderie de Mazeyres. It certainly feels better than getting a kick in the…

In response to Eric Varache who inquired about the sales strategy for Bad Boy, the wine is already available for the world and response is very good. In Paris, the wine is on the list of Pavillon Ledoyen, thanks to the sommelier’s enthusiasm. It is also sold at La Maison Millésimes, boulevard Saint Germain and of course, in Saint Emilion, in L’essentiel for 15 Euros.
The wine is also available in the wine fairs of Auchan who were enthusiastic with this cuvée.
It is also sold in the USA, Japan, Hong Kong, etc.

And again, the comment in the Nouvel Observateur :
BORDEAUX Bad Boy 2005
The critic Robert Parker, his American accomplice, calls Jean-Luc Thunevin «Bad Boy». It is a fact that Bordeaux « enfant terrible » loves provocation. This 100% Merlot, dense and concentrated, aged in 100% new barrels, is only part of the first stage of a vin de pays de France cuvée with 70% Merlot and 30% Grenache. “I am not afraid to look silly in front of people who taste wine like scientists” says the founder of garage wines, sure of his success. To be continued.
- 15 Euros
33330 Saint-Emilion
Tél. : 05 57 55 09 13

Yesterday, Murielle and I drank a sample of Troplong Mondot 2007. A pure delight ! How do they do to be so good in 2007 ?

Château Belair, 1er grand cru classé B, was just bought by Christian Moueix.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Grand Hotel de Bordeaux

The Grand Hotel de Bordeaux finally opened it’s fine dinning restaurant called « Le Pressoir d’Argent »
Friends of mine have already ate there and were pleased. Service was impeccable and some of my wines are already featured, including Blanc de Valandraud 2006 (N°1), and sold at a sweet price (thanks!).

Today, release of Clément Fayat. I hope it will be successful. My colleagues négociants are starting to be tired with this campaign. But could we have expected anything else?

Concerning bottled wines, our activity is still strong. Christian Dalbavie used the word “Today’s wines” to define the pleasure felt by his customers tasting wines I produce or sign and meet success every time.
What more to ask for?

Friday, June 6

Following a busy day of En primeur 2007 releases and refusing orders requests for wines well rated by Parker, like Climens (we have no allocations), Pape Clément white (reserved in priority for customers who bought 2006) and the anticipated success of Carruade de Lafite, which still has a strong demand in China, I can already say that, this campaign is not going so bad in terms of turnover, despite a gloomy atmosphere and complaints about the prices. Still margins have not be so good as well as image.
What will happen for the 50 wines left and not yet released , including mine and the ones from Vignoble Fayat?

In the meantime, and trying to ward off ill fortune, we had a nice dinner in our home. The atmosphere was a bit out of place considering the year and “exclusive”, with our VIP guests. Murielle and I are lucky to have such illustrious guests. Hope it lasts!
This job is one of the best where you can mix pleasure and work.
Patanegra, caviar, roast beef with mach potatoes, cheese, raspberries, and a nice selection of wine: Salon 88, Meursault Goutte d’Or 2004 from Domaine Buisson Charles, Russian Vodka PYCCKNN CTAHOAPT, Pingus 1998, Harlan 1998, Valandraud 1998 and our Maury 2004 Thunevin-Calvet. Old rhum from Martinique as digestive.

Saturday was hard with jetlag.

Decanter features in the July 2008 issue many in-depth articles in a supplement titled “Bordeaux 2008”.
It’s a sort of status report, but as I don’t speaking English, I could only understand part of the text.
Plenty of article on the Right Bank, and on the garagists, of course. Articles signed by Margaret Rand, Panos Kakaviatos, James Lawther, Clive Coates, Fiona Morrison, Jane Anson, etc…
I will get them translated, just in case some nonsense would be written about me or my friends. Note that when I communicate with a journalist, I don’t comment on what he, or she, writes or think (only 2 or 3 times in 15 years, it’s not much…)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Japon, following episode

One of our distributors organized a dinner in Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant in Tokyo. It was the first time I went to this restaurant located in one of the most astonishing neighborhoods of Tokyo.
Ultra modern architecture and top cuisine, of course. The restaurant was entirely reserved for regular customers who were sent an invitation via internet announcing the tasting event “Valandraud-Thunevin”. Some were even placed at the bar as the room was full (only 50 seats are available in the dinning room).
The affluent customers were very elegant and seemed to enjoy themselves. They were very respectful of the staff and our wines. After eating a good meal and a session of autograph and picture, we went to an astonishing place – a mix of night club, American bar, ultra luxurious with a beautiful, young and cheerful crowd where fine wine are slowly replacing cognacs. Difficult to leave without taking pictures with all the sommeliers for who Valandraud is like a dream.

The next day, we took the train for Osaka where the French restaurant in the Okura hotel organized a similar event as Gagnaire, for 60 people, all regular customers and Valandraud enthusiasts. In all these places, I had the pleasure to share, with Andreas Larsson, some of our best vintages, from 1995 to 2005 included, and meet customers from 1995-1998 who, at that time, bough my wine for more money than Petrus or Romanée Conti.
Be it at L’Ecrin in Ginza, or Alain Ducasse’s Spoon in Hong Kong, all these places serve our wine in beautiful glasses, at the right temperature, with such professionalism which often lacks in my country.

Flight back with Air France where, by surprise, I was upgraded to 1st class which gave me the opportunity to take a good nap in what was close to a bed, with, on top, ultra sophisticated service drinking a glass of Château Canon 2003 (average meal though – in my opinion). 11 hours later, change for Bordeaux with, in addition, 7 hours of time different.

Impressions of Hong-Kong, by Jean-Roger

For the second time, we participated to Vinexpo Hong Kong. The dynamism and energy we felt from Hong Kong, the attendance at the show, the great progression in interest and education generated by wine, have given us great enthusiasm as opposed to France’s gloomy atmosphere.
Hong-Kong is becoming the unavoidable ecomomic platform in Asia for, as a government official explained, this city is located only 5 hours flight from more than 3 billion people. It is therefore crucial to be present, for the day Asia will wake-up et drink wine…

In the meantime, work on the cellar in Maury is progressing. The roof with its photovoltaic cells is installed, the concrete slab poured, the Canadian well dug and we are now choosing the furniture for the sales counter and office.
The vines are beautiful. We are busy with work in the vineyards and flowering, a sensitive period in our area for Grenache, is going well.

Best wishes
Jean-Roger Calvet.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Asian trip

Vinexpo Hong Kong 2008 was a success. Very well attended compared to 2006.

The Chinese market is growing fast so as for the wine world. Attendance for all the tastings I took part of with Château La Dominique, part of the Saint Emilion Crus Classes, was around 600 people. Even though I poured small amounts per glass, my 6 bottles could only accommodate 300 people, and this in an attentive and friendly atmosphere. In 2006, only the Union des Grands Crus was successful. This year too, but the Cercle Rive Droite as well.
The image of Bordeaux is very strong. I hope that our leaders, CIVB, trade unions and other regional officials don’t miss this opportunity.

I always have a hard time to evaluate the impact of such event. But if I can, I will create a sales office in Hong Kong to promote and establish properties who trust me as well as mine in this promising country. Hong Kong being the principal gateway.
In any case, Hong Kong’s governmental Agency encouraged me to setup shop stating that everything is possible and that Hong Kong’s infrastructure is available for me! They even sent a French speaking person to convince me, this after spending an hour with his Anglophone colleague!
We were busy most of the time, except for a few moments in the morning and during the big tastings. For the next show, instead of being 3 (Jean-Roger Calvet, Xin Yan and I), I think that 4 or 5 people will be necessary to respond to all the demands.

We had nice meals everyday, either with Chinese friends already customers, or ones taken everyday in normal restaurants (for instance, we paid 6 Euros for 2: nice addresses for the Guide du Routard).

Following, we went to Japan with Andreas Larsson. Perfect organization: 10 people accompanied us to present wine for only 12, journalists or restaurants in Tokyo. Great attendance for the Château Robuchon tasting with the Saint Emilion Grand Crus Classés. I represented Château La Dominique. Great attendance as well for the primeurs 2007 tasting organized by our colleagues from CVBG and Ginestet for the second consecutive year. The wines tasted good and Tokuoka’s organization was more than perfect.
We also had quality meals, very VIP (400/500 Euros per person) but in this case, Valandraud is very well known, a sort of “Fairytale” – not garage, but “Cinderella wine”.

Jean-Roger will forward his own recap of Vinexpo to be published…

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

2007 vintage according to the RVF

I mentioned in a previous post that the Revue du Vin de France was going to publish their notes

In Saint Emilion, one of the "exceptional successes" : Chateau La Dominique 2007 with 17-18/20
Chateau Valandraud and Chateau Fleur Cardinale are part of "great successes" with 16-17/20

Also tasted and commented, BAD BOY 2005 :
"Jean Luc Thunevin’s cuvée, Saint-Emilion’s troublemaker, still has a beautiful color, with a great expression of black fruit and flattering wood. A beautiful wine."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Vinexpo Hong Kong : it's over

Busy schedule on the stand and in the evening.