Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What’s the right remedy for the financial crises?

Below, the analysis from the lab, dated Friday, for the vineyards due to be harvested in 10 days:

Alcool 13.00 % vol
PH 3.37
Total Acidity 4.09 g(H2SO4)/l
Malic Acid 2.7 g/l
Tartaric Acid 6.5 g/l
Nitrogen 123 mg/l

Young Merlots
Alcool 13.12 % vol
PH 3.49
Total Acidity 3.96 g(H2SO4)/l
Malic Acid 2.9 g/l
Tartaric Acid 6.5 g/l
Nitrogen 205 mg/l

What’s the right remedy for the financial crises?
Supporting banks and insurance companies is immoral, but doing nothing is dangerous, and in the end, regular citizens will be paying for the damage.
Yesterday, during lunch with people of quality (heads of companies, ex-bankers, political figures) I heard some opinion which sent shivers down my spine!
This crisis will allow the USA to bring back billions of Dollars from coffers in China and oil producing countries?
In fact this crisis is similar to the property-wholesaler relationship in Bordeaux, one holding the other one hostage.
I also heard a frank statement from another politician (which is rare in this profession), in this high spirited evening, at least in regards to the subjects discussed, regarding the Evin Law: don’t expect this law to be struck down. It will actually be reinforced. Such a subject as alcohol is politically incorrect and wine won’t be an exception. A word to the wise is enough!

My colleagues attending think that the problem of the wine industry is not the Evin Law but the lack of having a lag company (such as Pernod-Ricard and their brands), and the lack of margin in France due to mass merchants, therefore the inability to finance prospection for export.

As for me, I have it all wrong: I spend my time looking for funds to finance my growth, too fast this year. Only this week, 2 of my sales people are traveling throughout France to participate in sales promotions and Xavier, Xin and I are abroad all week.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Flor de Pingus, time for the harvest and good reading

This weekend, before I leave for Hong Kong and Shanghai, I went around the vineyards with Murielle and our big dog, Max.

The calm before the storm: the white grapes are maturing well, as much in taste as in ripeness, the cold nights (between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius), are ideal for the flavor or our Sauvignons Gris, Sauvignons Blanc and Semillon.
The Sauvignons Gris were picked this morning and the whites will be picked at the end of the week.

As for the Merlot, it looks like there is some blockage. The ripening process has stalled, as if the bad Summer weather stressed out the vines, the effect of a real drought, as if it wanted to test our nerves. The next 15 days could still produce a miracle. This morning, I thought about 1983 and the successful Palmer and Margaux. Why, when similarities don’t exist – despite what is commonly said – 1978 (late), 2002 (low yields), 2001 could be good.
Nice meal at Murielle’s parents with snails (yes) picked in Bel Air Ouÿ and perfectly cooked (ask Murielle for the recipe). We drank Flor de Pingus 2003, my father-in-law’s favorite’s wine, served at the right temperature, it was simply the perfect match. This wine is incredible rich, almost like a Maury, certainly a southern wine, but so appropriate for this moment, this dish… Too bad that we taste so many wines and drink so few without questioning them.

Why this little comment? I read 3 books in no time. Rubbish on Carla Bruni, a second and very interesting book, which will become a hit due to the PR it got on Michel Drucker’s TV show. This book “In Vino Satanas” from Denis Saverot deals with dozens of themes including the stupidity of prohibitionists who, wanting so much to impose their views will end up creating the opposite. It was a useful book, even though it was a bit opinionated.

The 3rd book from Dupont helped understand better (probably voluntarily) this great critic from the magazine Le Point. It is now understandable why he likes so much women winemaker, why he likes “little crus”, I realized that he will never like Valandraud (the wood) and that our success is a bit of a handicap for him, for us…?
It doesn’t matter, he’s coherent, competent, and his book, which I still didn’t finish, reads like a novel.

Sunday, I read in the newspaper Sud Ouest a full page on my friend Jean Dutruilh and his Croix Figeac. Bravo

Friday, September 26, 2008

The economy : my rebellious (lefty-catholic?) side is still sleepy

The real question should be : « should working people have to pay for the mistakes of speculators?”
I feel uncomfortable when speculators pocket billions without working – just speculating. Don’t they realize that trees don’t grow beyond the sky and that work is the source of wealth? The taxes on their profits were certainly not as high enough as the cost of today’s catastrophe.
What’s more astonishing is that this hardcore free-economy country now calls on the state for help. Are we walking on the moon, or on our head, aren’t we?

Will the financial crisis affect our sales? This was asked to me by a journalist from Agence France Presse.
It is difficult for me to be pessimistic: our wholesale business is selling well, thanks in part to the deliveries of the 2005 vintage. In addition, our sales strategy is now starting to be understood by our clients in Bordeaux, France and the rest of the world.
While this crisis will certainly affect many lives, our small company can still increase its revenue and sales, for it is positioned in luxury product and will suffer less than the low end segment.
I will have a better idea after traveling around the world between Hong Kong, Shanghai and the USA where I will be in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Soon the harvest

Following Oz Clark book signing at the CIVB, we had dinner at L’Entrecôte. If you have no problems queuing up in front a restaurant in Bordeaux, you should go to L’Entrecôte (Cours du XXX Juillet in Bordeaux, across the street from the CIVB): fries, sirloin with a nice and slightly acid sauce, all at a very attractive price (17 Euros).
Unfortunately, the wines they carry are OK but more like table wine. The atmosphere was friendly and the customers a mix of young and old. This unpretentious establishment located in a great area has been successful for more than 40 years.
The first time I ate in one of the restaurants L’Entrecôte (it is part of a small chain), was in 1968 in Toulouse. During my previous life in the department of Ariège, as a lumberjack and forestry worker, I was a partier, always going to local village dance parties and night clubs. There was plenty of them in Ariège and Toulouse (rue Saint Rome?).

I visited the vineyards where a few young vines are starting to suffer, in other words they’ve reached the end of their vegetative cycle and the ripe, and almost ripe, grapes are fragile and some are starting to rot. We will have to do some selective picking. Luckily, it’s been our method since our first vintages and it was certainly much harder then when we had no money.

Some of the plants in front of the cellar of Prieuré Lescours are ready to be picked. However, the good, even the very good news is that the harvest of both white and red can start on Monday 29. We will first start with the Sauvignon Blanc and Gris which seem to me our best since the 1st vintage (2003). It has already been 8 years since Murielle started pampering these vines and each year, the wine produced is better than the year before. Only missing are comments from a few well known journalists and a few blind tastings…

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New book on wine

Tuesday evening, I first had a meeting with a contractor to speak about storage, our warehouses have become too small. Following, I met a TV journalist producing a 50 minute film on the world of wine. He wants to cover a few stories and address the issues due to Europe, globalization and – I didn’t quite understand - organic, scandals… Well, a film about wine.

Murielle, this journalist and I left for the CIVB in Bordeaux to meet Oz Clarke who was presenting his latest book translated in French. We arrived late, but were still able to say hello to Oz Clarke, a successful writer, well known TV presenter in the UK, original and charismatic, smiling, full of humor a good person we would love to know better. Somebody special in the wine world.
It is a beautiful book, and I have no doubt it will be successful. I believe he will be signing it today at the Mollat bookstore.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

La Jurade

The 60 anniversary of the revived Jurade of Saint Emilion was a great success.
Busy schedule: The fund raising auction which followed Dominique Lapierre’s conference was really successful, with 180 lots sold raising more than 55000 Euros.
Special thanks to the Decoster family who were instrumental in introducing Dominique Lapierre to the wine world of Saint Emilion.

The night of heritage with orchestras, street bands, cultural activities and processions ended by a superb show with fireworks around La Tour du Roy which left our American guests amazed!
Sunday, guests and members of the Jurade of Saint Emilion gathered around 9 am. Murielle was informed at the last minute (it was a surprise) that she was being inducted (one day she will be inducted as a Jurat, except if Pomerol asks her to be Hospitalier de Pomerol!).

The grand mass taking place in the collegial church was packed. Fort this occasion, our church looked like a cathedral: Magnificent, magical, the priest lived up to the grandeur of this event.

11:30 am, a number of dignitaries (around 20) were inducted, including Murielle, who was of course really moved, and Dominique Lapierre who, in addition to being a famous and successful writer, showed that he was also a great orator able to move even the toughest old skin. It was a great moment of emotion hearing him speak about his foundation.

At 12 :45 pm, an aperitif was served in the gardens of the town hall, and the guard of honor formed by all the brotherhoods greeted the 1000 guests attending!
We sat for lunch until 4:30 pm at the table for 10 I reserved for my friends. The meal, inspired on a 1948 theme, was good and served for 600 people. The only drawback of this magnificent event was that the wines served should have been checked before by competent personnel in order to avoid corked and off bottles, especially when so many professionals and journalists were invited and were happy to taste the diversity of wine presented.

At 5 pm, the ban des vendanges (the start of the harvest) was announced on top of La Tour du Roy. It was a nice show. Alleluia!

Just a little note for people who couldn’t attend : Korean and local TVs, as well as Vininews and other photographs (amateur or professional) attending took pictures of me wearing the robe of Commandeur de Bontemps Médoc (Jean Michel Caze’s robe fits me like a glove) with Emmanuel Cruse (Chateau d’Issan), our great master. They inducted me before Saint Emilion. It is only this year that they asked me, but it was too late, I cannot cumulate mandates!!

Petrus and the Americans

(I will write about the feast for the Jurade later)

Friday 19, still with our group of Americans, distributor and clients from New York : we visited our warehouse in Saint Magne de Castillon in the morning. This is a good way to show how our company works seeing the accounting department, the administration, logistics and cellar employees working on orders being shipped all over the world.
Following, we visited La Dominique and tasted the 2006 vintage, followed by a quick lunch at the restaurant La Cadène served with La Clotte 2001 and Fleur Cardinale 2004.

In the afternoon, we visited our Fayat-Thunevin property in Pomerol where the bottling of the 2006 vintage was taking place, a success in Pomerol as well as Lalande de Pomerol. We followed by Clos du Beau Père and Domaine des Sabines where the 2006 vintage will soon be sold.

Following, we went to Château de Carles and tasted both Chateau de Carles and Haut Carles 2004-2005-2006 vintages and which are already part of the assortment sold by our American friends.
In l’Essentiel, we tasted 10 new wines in order to increase our assortment of wines carried by this distributor. It seems like they might be interested by 4 to 5 additional products for the New York market!

The evenings were reserved for fun and eating well!
Tomato soup, leg of lamb with white beans, Dutch cheese (brought by Christian) and chocolate cake from Lopez.
We tasted blind, and in the following order, only Pomerol (after a magnum of Puligny Montrachet 2006 from Etienne Sauzet, very good):
Le Gay 2003, very good, rich, surprising in this difficult vintage for Pomerol – our guests thought it came from the left bank !
Montviel 1998 : hard, austere, left bank ?
Le Moulin 1997 : I liked this wine, “light” like Le Pin. A treat. Everyone unanimously guest it came from the Right Bank.
Starting with this wine, our American guest understood that we were dealing with Pomerols, especially as I was regularly taking about Petrus, Petrus, Petrus… I resisted opening one . In any case, the myth is well entrenched in the heart of Americans.
Following, La Conseillante 1997, delicious and guest by Bernie. The only wine discovered by our 12 wine lovers! Rated 10/10 for this wine was at its peak, the moment, the atmosphere…
Still, after Lafleur Pétrus 1995 very good, almost everyone said Petrus. In any case, it had the Moueix-Berrouet style.
It was not over : Eglise Clinet 1993 incredible density for the year. Our American guests admitted that no clients would have thought that such wines could exist in vintages considered difficult.
We finished by La Fleur de Gay 1993, still beautiful, young and pleasant. They learned that such wines had an influence on the birth of Valandraud for in 1990, Fleur de Gay and Clinet were part of the new wave. With desert, we drank a Sauterne, a special cuvee from Château d’Arche: Arche-Lafaurie 2001, good. I believe that no one could have handled another Pomerol, and still…?

Saturday for lunch :
Clos Margalaine 1999-2000-2001 and Griffe de Cap D’Or 1998 always good.
For dinner and with every one, plus the Droulers from Château de Carles, and with us for cocktails the most famous French wine critic, Michel Bettane.
Clos des Fées blanc 2004 good
Ducru Beau caillou 2004 - magnum, good
Pontet Canet 2003 very good
Tour Carnet 2003 good
Moulin Saint Georges 2003 very good
Valandraud 1998 : 2 bottles which tasted different but both very good. As it is my wine, I have a hard time to be objective. Still, it is probably one of the 4/5 best wines in Bordeaux.
For desert, a liquid treat : Schloss Reinhartshausen 1989 Rheingau Riesling Auslese, 9.5% alcohol, acidity-sugar well balanced, lots of apricots. And the extraordinary Reichstrat Von Buhl 1997 Riesling Beerenaulese which, with 8.5% alcohol, was so easy to drink, with its pineapple flavors… we got close to excellence.

Sunday evening, and to close this busy week, we only drank one bottle of 1952 La Gaffelière (Naudes). It showed what can be done with a 56 year old wine. What ever you can expect from a great old Bordeaux wine: superb color between dark red and bright mahogany, pure aromas with no deviation, spices, truffle, raisins, cinnamon and discreet wood, silky mouth, power and harmony. It was a rare bottle I bought a long time ago and which had not travelled much.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


For 3 days, we are hosting one of my US importers. This group includes members of the staff and their clients, in other words, 9 people including Christian. They are staying at Valandraud and have their meals in restaurants but mainly at our house. Thursday, they visited our property in Margaux: Château Bellevue de Tayac, then Marojallia and Clos Margalaine, the properties of our supplier and client Philippe Porcheron.
This American sales force was followed during their visit by a TV film crew from Vininews who is producing a series of programs to be broadcasted on our internet site and included on a DVD used by my sales reps during their travels.
Thursday evening, despite a 6 hour jetlag, my American guests ate at our house and we drank a series of magnums:
Clos Badon 2004 : tight shut, too young
Cos D’Estournel 1999 : thin, dry
Croix de Labrie 2001 : delicious, ripe, a treat
Léoville Poyferré 1998 : refined, powerful, balanced, a really nice bottle
We finished with a Fine Bordeaux.

On another subject: I watched the morning news on BFM TV. This young and dynamic program where the journalists have a good time puts me in a good mood!

The celebrations in Saint Emilion will begin on Saturday. How many visitors will come to our small town ? 10 000, 20 000, 30 000 people during these 2 days? Between the Night of Heritage and the Jurade to announce the start of the harvest, it’s going to rock!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tasting and U.G.C. (Union des Grands Crus)

Wednesday, lunch at home with 6 people: Moules Marinière (mussels), rabbit casserole and slow cooked potatoes with shallots, cheese, oeufs à la neige (floating Island) with Croix de Labrie, Gracia and Valandraud 2004, all very good, especially Blanc de Valandraud 2004 with its flavors of mature white wine: fatter, richer, probably ready to drink now, before aging further. Dry white wines, as well as reds, are not too good if drank too old!
The Rocher Bellevue Figeac 2001 was very good paired with cheese. Again, it proves that Saint Emilion can make wines at a fair price – certainly not expensive enough for their owners… Tough to please every one!

This morning, I attended the Union des Grands Crus of Bordeaux at Canon La Gaffelière where I represented Chateau La Dominique. Tough to deal with basic issues before jumping to unessential topics. In any case, it is time to travel to new places: Northern and Eastern Europe, Brazil, India, etc… It’s been known for a while in Paris or Brussels that the UGC in Bordeaux is a fabulous communication tool. Still, we shouldn’t neglect our traditional export countries. Not being able to move forward would be a step back…

Ideas for the weekend:
Marojallia’s beautiful room could be the right luxury get away weekend place during a visit to Margaux and the Medoc.
Same with Château d’Arche to visit Sauterne and Franc Mayne to visit Saint Emilion.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Little visit in Pauillac

Tuesday at 1pm, I had a meeting in the Café-Restaurant Lavinal in Bages with the manager of a top chateau in the Medoc for a nice meal, of course, and talk about the relationship between my wholesale business and this great chateau. We’ve been long term clients of this chateau, but like many other crus in Bordeaux, they didn’t know our wholesale activities. In general, this work is done by brokerage firms, but often, they choose the easy way by only selling today’s 10 or 15 biggest wholesalers…

So, in this restaurant, I had the pleasure to drink a glass of Châteauneuf du Pape white from Domaine des Senechaux, a property Jean-Michel Cazes acquired in 2007. He told me that he wanted to visit our property in the Roussillon, and has always been very friendly with Murielle and I.
I must have made a big impact in this busy brasserie dressed in my robe of Commandeur loaned by Jean-Michel Cazes to represent La Commanderie du Bontemps Médoc during the feast for the Jurade, next Sunday!
Too bad that Pauillac is so far from Saint Emilion.

Christian Dalbavie arrived at 4:45 pm in Bordeaux Merignac airport and on our way back to St Emilion, we visited our vineyards which we have in tenant farming in Genissac, followed by a simple dinner served with a high end cheese from Holland: 1 year old Reypenaer and drank a bottle of Bulgarian wine produced by, I believe, Marc Dworkin: Enira Reserve 2006, quite good – with 14.7% ! A bit like an Australian wine. I don’t know the sales price but I’m afraid that it is not going to be expensive…

On another note : for a while, I was looking for the name of one of the most famous Perigordan and Christian told me that « Sylvain Floirat was the reason why I moved to the USA”…

Nostalgia, Edith Piaf and Angélus

Monday, I attended a tasting organized by the Alliance of Crus Bourgeois from Médoc for the Bordeaux marketplace (wholesalers and brokers from the Gironde). Large and small wholesalers, large and small brokerage firms attended as well as many Crus Bourgeois owners.
We were presenting the 2004 vintage (we still have 28 000 bottles to sell) and 2006 (nothing left at the domain). The inventory at chateau Clément Pichon is quite low, and this is not a bad thing.
There was a good atmosphere. It felt like the beginning of school. This was helped by the nice weather which seems to stay till the end of the week. This shows how unpredictable it is to have an accurate forecast with wine.

Bottling is taking place in the cellar as well as a few things being tighten in the vineyards. The whites will most likely be picked next week. It is crucial to wait!

Anthony Perrin from Chateau Carbonnieux gave me the idea for the title of this post – Nostalgia. I should have written Nostalgeria for this small world of pieds noir, French citizens born in Algeria, is sad to not to see the smiles, the closeness, the friendliness and empathy. I regret not being able to spend more time with him. His death brought us closer to his family (in the broad sense of the word).

This nostalgia was again present Monday night: Chateau Angelus invited a lot of people, including some special guests for a recital given by Jil Aigrot (who interpreted the voice of Edith Piaf in the film La Mome – La Vie en Rose in English). Her talent, her classy interpretation and the talented musicians were in par with the finest Parisian stage… this event, celebrating Edith Piaf, the movies was not to be missed and Angelus showed its talent in communicating in films. The wines served after the show and the atmosphere reminded us, at least Murielle and I, that we really are in a great profession.

One more point about Nostalgeria… Edith Piaf’s greatest love, and it’s not much to describe her life, was one of our most famous pieds noir: The boxer Marcel Cerdan.

Algeria… Algeria, when will I have the opportunity to see it again? “My Lord, it’s so beautiful, it breaks my heart” (“Milord”, words by Georges Moustaki).

In the meantime, Kinette is curious to go to Maury to see if I tell the truth. Watch out Kinette, the Tramontane wind is dreadful for hats…

Monday, September 15, 2008

Foires aux vins (wine promotion)

The supplement issued by Le Figaro, in partnership with the Revue du Vin de France, is entitled: Bordeaux, Saint Emilion, Pomerol-Fronsac....
Listed as good wine store, L’Essentiel
Listed as atypical domain: Valandraud
Listed in special selection: Haut Carles 2005

The Foires aux Vins section in all the newspapers includes Bad Boy 2005, Virginie de Valandraud 2006, Château de Carles 2005, Château Fleur Cardinale 2006.
The whole media is talking about the Foires aux Vins, despite our prohibitionist laws, and will certainly contribute to sales. For, considering the status of the French economy, wine is not a priority commodity for the “average” income consumers (what is “average” these days in France anyway?)

Today, a tasting for Bordeaux wholesalers and brokerage firms was organized by the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois in Hangar 14 in Bordeaux. The purpose of this tasting was to taste and retaste available vintages.

Friday 12, Mr Clément Fayat hosted a lunch at La Dominique for a few of his initial employees – average age 80 years old! A happy moment, stories, memories and emotions. My father in law who was the 15th employee of this group which now employs more than 12000 employees, was part of this formidable adventure. I am glad that I am playing a part, in my own way, in this Groupe Fayat, as the manager of its Vineyards.

Saturday, I hosted a group of banks, traders, financial consultants at La Dominique with Christine Dupart. It put me right back in the real world of sales and promotion necessary for all our wines.

Friday, September 12, 2008


We drank a good Clos des Fées 2003 yesterday for lunch and talked about the Chinese market with Claude Lada, the owner of a PR firm. He would like to create a guide in Chinese to present a few crus from Bordeaux. It will be a useful tool fo this country where everything has to be created: image, notoriety… (except for Lafite Rothschild!)

The Cercle et much more

Well, back to the Cercle de la Rive Droite, where I represent Château La Commanderie de Mazeyres. I find normal that every member, rich or poor, big or small, pays the same amount for the membership fee for we all get the same service and have the same power: 1 vote/1 voice.
As we say the “egg and chicken” situation… If we didn’t promote the Cercle, who would do it? Promoting the Cercle will certainly increase its visibility.
By using the ratings from Parker to Bettane, and others, I also help raise their notoriety with consumers.
It’s the “give-give”, “win-win” system, etc…

The Cercle des grands vins de la Rive Droite meeting took place at Château La Couspaude in Saint Emilion. Every day, I thank the people in charge of such organization, or association for I could never do it.
For instance and as I personally experienced, the fact that I selected and reduced the numbers of chateaux who present their wines with mine (even though this promotion has been only offered and organized by me), I don’t get friendly greetings from people who previously considered me their “friends”.
That’s the way life goes.

The lunch in the restaurant Le Grand Barrail, which followed the presentation from the bank Société Générale, was nice and the wine from Jean Luc Sylvain was very good. Time flew by too quickly!

Restaurant : this morning, when I saw the fleet of frozen-food trucks delivering their goods in the village, I felt that the restaurant industry, which is rightly requesting that the VAT be brought down from 19.6 to 5.5%, should create, at the same time, a similar label as bakeries: one for fresh food/ one for precooked ready-made frozen meals!
As for wine merchant: some distribute wines which sell. It’s a different business.

Why would mineral water sold in plastic bottles be considered bizarre or not as credible than a Grand Cru in a Bag-in-box?

I read in Le Parisien: 1500 pesticides have been banned. It is not too late to do a good deed. Still, we are far from the sensible targets set by environmentalists. In any case, lets not loose hope on our politicians.

Bellevue de Tayac 2006 is now bottled and Clos du Beau Père and Vignobles Fayat-Thunevin will be done this week. The late harvest has some benefits…

Below, pictures sent by Pascal Carrère, the architect of our cellar in Maury.

What is not shown in these pictures: Photo voltaic cells, Canadian well, safety standards, quality of the inertia, 900 tons of stones from the Gard, etc…
It is easy for you to come and visit if you are in the area.

I recommend to read, if you are interested, comments posted on Jacques Berthomeau’s blog (in French) regarding the Saint Emilion classification and his vision on what needs to be done (which I agree). You can also read his opinion on Chabalier and star-blues.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Maury : the paradise

Cèpes (the French fungi porcinis), sweet grapes, almonds, figs, honey from the garrigue… This is heaven.
We spent 3 days in Maury to check-out the new vinification and aging cellar. It is ready to receive today its first harvest (of whites for the store).
So much has happened since I bought my first parcel in 2000!
So much has changed in Maury, the valley and surroundings in this beautiful region of Roussillon.

The village of Maury is becoming more and more lively: private wineries, the Maison du Terroir and its excellent restaurant with its Michelin star and nice fixed menu for 25 Euros during the week.

Our apartments will be ready in 2 to 3 months. We will then organize a party and invite everyone who helped us: banks, craftsmen, journalists, neighbors, administration, architects, etc… (and gardeners?)
I had a very busy weekend. I sensed that my friends in Maury didn’t want me to amble around…

Our US importer and his team seemed to enjoy our wines and the new cellar.
Most wine produced here are mostly organic, thanks to the wind, the sun and the rocky soil. A dream region, although the draught is starting to hurt here. Too much water in Bordeaux, too much sun in the Roussillon. This is the way I like life, the glass always half full instead of the glass half empty.

Well, a great article written by Michel Bettane on Maury appeared in Le Monde (he initiated the buzz and is its godfather) and the nice note in the Wine Advocate. I watched a nice piece in “Terre du Sud” shot in Cap Béar. I hope they will take this opportunity to taste Jacques and Christine Montagné’s wines: Clos del Rey, Mas del Rey and Baby del Rey.
During our stay, a large blind tasting event of wines featured in recent guides took place. I am not being fallacious when I say that some tasters should also be rated (and treated). Thin, vegetal and dirty wine will never make good and pleasurable ones and a lower level of alcohol doesn’t mean that one cannot make, at least, a technically clean wine.

I still greatly regret that the Roussillon is still considered a second class region. I would love so much if a media savvy person would fall in love with this region… It is still not too late.
In the meantime, many investors are moving here. Business is, in this particular case, ahead of notoriety: British, Americans, Burgundian and people from Bordeaux are investing in Maury.

I would like to thank : our oenologist Claude Gros who did a big and great job with Marie and Jean-Roger Calvet. Each new vintage gets better than the previous one (the Maury, Syrah on granite). The Parker notes show that we are in the right track. After Jancis Robinson, we now have 2 supporters with no hang-ups. This proves that you can please 2 great professionals supposed to have different tastes…

I don’t forget that I was raised in a good catholic schools, but this weekend we could have been given the Nobel price of the greatest Jesuit in the wine world’s microcosm. The talent for the best balancing act is not given to every one. It should not be to difficult to find here, between the wines of Hervé Bizeul, ours and those of the ecological freshness.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Words... It’s not because you have nothing to say that you have to keep your mouth shut.

Useful to create (in French) a story to sell a « product »
It is certainly easier to have a true story or when fiction becomes reality (reality TV!)

Well, I’ve been trying but still haven’t succeeded…. Life is rough….

Maury is the perfect place, except that there are too many wild boars, and no wolves. Are these connected?

The butterfly effect ? Media coverage brings in customers in whatever trade. Am I not successful enough?!

When does it start ?

Scary ! promise, I will tidy my room ….

I just found the combination of « circle » and « right » is funny. At this morning’s meeting we were told that the membership fees need to be increased… Ouch

My postal box : 88

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Published in last Saturday’s supplement of Le Monde:-))

« A good looking Maury

It was one of the best culinary moments of the Summer: in order to astonish the great English wine writer Hugh Johnson, we had to pour something that would strike him in the deepest part of his culture. This Maury was the right choice. The sort of wine able to compete with the best vintage Port with even a bit more. A traditional esthete wine connoisseur such as Curnonsky would have called it “Saracen arch” to describe the astonishing tension of this wine on the palate. This mysterious vigor probably comes from the soil, the famous black schist of the Agly Valley. In any case, this wine does have the look of the area, wild, but harmonious, ideal to magnify the infamous pairing of dark chocolate and cherry, especially in the version of a dish easy to make: an iced soup. This success has nothing to do with luck. Technical mastery was obvious. Still, one has to be courageous or bold to use his best grapes to produce a product nobody wants! Shame on the great chefs of the Pays d’Oc for, involuntarily, hiding this treasure from their customers. Shame on snobbish gourmets who only swear by the Douro Valley!»
Bettane & Desseauve / Le Monde September 6 2008

Even though I already wrote about it in this blog, let me remind everyone that a fund raising event benefiting the Dominique Lapierre Foundation will take place during the Jurade


5 pm :
Exceptional Auction of Fine Wines from Saint Emilion to raise funds for the Dominique Lapierre Foundation “Action for Leprous children of Calcutta” – Salles des Dominicains
You will also be able to bet on the site www.interencheres.com

Monday, September 8, 2008

2005, notes

In the last issue of the Wine Advocate, the notes for good value Bordeaux 2005 were revised. Vive Fronsac where many wines were listed, including:
Château La Vieille Cure 93 points
Haut Carles 89+ points
Château Haut Mazeris 89+points
Château La Dauphine 90 points

Also included,
Lalande Borie 90 points
Bad Boy 88 points (Correction : The price is more around 25 to 30 dollars) – Not getting a good enough note !
Château Faizeau 90 points
Château Agassac 88 points
Château de Beaulieu 89 points
Château Laussac 89 points
….. etc…..

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you !

Wednesday, I was invited by the Guide Hachette to the Pavillon Dauphine in Paris for the special selection given to Valandraud 2005:
“After having worked for a bank, JL Thunevin had a spectacular success in the wine world for the past twenty years. Valandraud is his most well known wine and received several Special Selection in the past. His 2005 is back on the podium, succeeding Clos Badon last year. Everything is still a bit excessive in this wine today, but its potential is unquestionable and it will become a fabulous bottle to cellar. The nose, marked by toasted wood, still allows the expression of black fruits (cassis). Fat and rich, fruits are revealed in your palate, supported by solid tannins already melting. The Virginie de Valandraud 2005 cuvee (46 to 60 Euros) is a more feminine wine, expressing more elegance than power, even if it still needs some cellaring for the wood to melt. One star. Finally, Clos Badon Thunevin 2005 (23 to 30 Euros) with its interesting notes of truffles and its superb overall harmony, also received, two stars.”

Note the nice ratings and comments on wines I take care of, especially Clos Badon, Fleur Cardinale and Haut-Carles.
Calvet-Thunevin: just one star for Les Dentelles, we should encourage tasters to change and accept our rich and generous wines…
With the TGV, I am only 3 hours from Paris. It is quite practical.

Please, find below the comments from David Schildnecht (Wine Advocate) on Constance 2006:
Source : Wine Advocate # 178, Aug 2008
Reviewer : David Schildknecht
Rating :
Maturity : Drink -
Current (Release) Cost : $18 (18)

A blend of Grenache with 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan, Thunevin and Calvet’s old vines 2006 Cuvee Constance serves as their entry-level wine, which makes the quality on display here quite extraordinary. Of course, this wine’s elevage accords with entry-level status: all in tank. But when you get a whiff of the cherry and plum preserves, coconut, mint, dark chocolate, vanilla and exotic spices emanating from the glass, you may well ask what level of toast was used for the concrete! A creamy texture complements the nearly over-ripe fruit character and inner-mouth perfume and spice, and faintly bitter notes of coffee and dark chocolate and pungent smokiness, along with notes of stone and lead pencil, add counterpoint to a long finish.

Thursday, I had lunch at La Cadène to meet a œnologist from the Chamber of Agriculture and at 3 pm, I hosted a group of 10 people at Château La Dominique. They were sent by a colleague negociant (Barton & Guestier).

We had dinner at friends to celebrate their new house near Fronsac : in fact they took a house over. I have a hard time not to gain weight : Friday, I had another lunch, at home this time to taste the wines from the Roussillon. Back to my story, last night we went to our friends near Fronsac to celebrate their new house (modern, with a breathtaking view!). The wines were served blind, including a Feytit Clinet 2004 served quite cool.
Pape Clément 2003: The wine of the evening, refined, full of fruit, modern and classy – I didn’t say classic… The precision of the texture on the palate, the complex nose, at the level of a first growth. Angelus 2004: closed shut, to forget in a cellar for at least 10/15 years. I announced Eglise Clinet without naming a vintage, I should have said 2002! It was Cheval Blanc! Vive the Cabernet Franc which gives wine its airy, light, tasty side, a real pleasure!

As one of my very wealthy friends and great wine lover would say: well then, what are you drinking on Sunday?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

At random

Special Selection for Valandraud 2005 in the 2009 Guide Hachette :-)

Wikio : new site about wine, written by a well known Parisian sommelier : Emmanuel Delmas.
We are not the only ones (with Calvet in Maury) to open a new cellar this year : The Dupéré-Barrera are too.

Sometimes, I stretch a bit the truth (see on the Bis Repetita site – in French) but I need to remain true to my reputation… I must admit that I have a variable-geometry palate…

How and why translate all my messages when few can understand the wine world’s microcosm …

Ducru Beaucaillou is wine of the year in Bettane-Desseauve. I like that.

Palmer has a nice write-up on Quarin’s site (in French and by subscription), where it is compared to a great Italian wine, Ornellaia.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

François Mauss vs. the British

François, I know what your opinion is regarding blind tastings.

It is most likely that 1st growths received an additional point, but I will show you the results and you will see that these English tasters are quite good, as opposed to what’s being said… in any case, this tasting fits with idea this panel of representative of the English wine industry has of Bordeaux wine, ideal to their taste!
They’ve been organizing these tastings for many years, and while some well known critics were still giving good notes to very well known wine which had obvious defects, they labeled them “corked”.
For your information, this panel had such renowned critics such as Jancis Robinson, Neal Martin, etc… And wines known by everyone as lower in quality came out with bad notes.

The coherence of this jury, unfortunately kept confidential, should give ideas to Bordeaux negociants who have given up their power to taste and criticize to professional journalists-critics (or people claiming to be).
But, as one of my friends owner says ironically: negociants taste margins very well.

I would translate this to the Japanese as: if I make a good living selling this wine, I find it very good.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The English… Are English wholesalers a counter-balance ?

English wholesalers and a few English journalists organize every year a complete tasting of a specific vintage of Bordeaux. Earlier this year, they tasted, blind, Bordeaux 2004. In fact, it was done half-blind as each appellation was tasted together and each wine was compared to other wines from the same appellation, except for 1st growths and similar wines who were tasted separately.

I already spoke about this system called Luxey. I have one question though. which 1st growth, or similar wines, are included in the tasting? Petrus, obviously, but were Le Pin or other growths included?

Semi-blind tasting is a good formula, except when the notoriety of a specific village suffered from bad comments on the success of the appellation. For instance, Pomerol 2003 was a particularly difficult vintage (except for the top clayey terroir).

The Results: All this to say that 1st growths came out with the best notes, as it is the case each year – and it’s normal as they are noted together, then well known brands and the most renowned crus. It just goes to show that there are no more Chateaux which can only rely on their old notoriety.

However, 2 new crus appeared in the top 20, and it came as a surprise to me as Valandraud 2004 is not an easy wine as it is still so powerful that only time will be able to tame it. Blind, it seduced this very professional jury along with Le Dôme 2004 .

Even though it has no influence on the market, the results of this tasting are very important for me, as I remembered that the results of their first tasting where many wines I knew had defects (TCA, Brett, …) were turned down by this competent panel. Fortunately, these tastings were confidential at that time. Unfortunately, today as well.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lots of blog activities

It put me in good mood when I read the great comment Herve Bizeul wrote on August 8 2008 and called ”Garder le cap , (keep the course), read again Zenon (my god, I don’t know him!), keep on doubting”…
I’ve already been asking when will a real blind tasting take place between great wines from Languedoc and Roussillon and Chateauneuf du Pape and Priorat? A sort of review between quality and price.
Well, in any case, I will seriously check out Zénon d’Elée. Thanks Herve;
I also recommend the comments written on his blog, some are aggressive. Could it caused by the stress due to the harvest? Perhaps? I must point out that I have different kinds of friends and that I don’t seem to be able to ease their relationships (even though I’ve been a bit trying).

Friday evening, 4 of us had dinner at the fine restaurant of Hotel Régent in Bordeaux called: “Le Pressoir d’Argent” (+315 57 304 304). The staff was attentive, the sommelier knowledgeable, the prices for the wines on the list seemed alright. Still, many wines are missing from the list, but we could still find something to please us. For instance, a good Meursault Charmes 2004 from Michel Bonezeau and especially a 2004 Spanish wine from Bernard Magrez in the Torro appellation named Pacienca, rich and still easy to drink with pressed lobster.
We had a very good meal, maybe a bit too expensive due to the lobster from Brittany, which should be served for 2. Shouldn’t a good dish be served in small quantity? The Crabe Royal deserved its name and was remarkably cooked. It is worth choosing if you’re on a budget and can only eat an appetizer (48 Euros).
We finished with a good coffee (no desert) and the price for the meal was in line with the quality offered. Next time, I will probably take the “small” menu which costs (only) 120 Euros…

I watched on the Senat public channel a program on the “crisis” in the wine industry with guests such as Mr. Cobold, Marty, Desseauve… In any case, it is good publicity for the Bettane-Desseauve 2008 guide!

A politician present said that the Languedoc-Roussillon was the up-coming region and this is true. I hope that French and foreign consumers will also be convinced! In the meantime, our Calvet-Thunevin cellar in Maury is almost finished and will be ready to receive it’s first harvest. Next Monday, we will host our partner/distributor in the USA with his sales team. As Mr Desseauve rightly said, it is not a swearword to “make wine to please our clients”.


I read on La Passion du Vin : “One can be a label drinker and still be a bit demanding.”
How can this be compatible? I admit not understanding well as I am nor a great taster nor a famous winemaker.

Still, when I regularly read comments written on French forums (unfortunately, I can only understand and read French, and still…), I see many peremptory opinion and also realize that I, too, on my blog, tend to do the same. This is the drawback with blogs, forums, where no one takes the time to be more specific.

It is certain that one swallow doesn't make a summer, a bad bottle doesn’t make a bad winemaker or a bad vintage. But who has the possibility to taste and retaste outside of the producer and a few well known critics?

It is true that, whatever the price, one has the right to be demanding, but who can give their opinion without risking appearing “too arrogant”?

On Degustateur.com, I read a nice remark regarding stars taken from restaurants by a famous guide. Here it goes: “I always found amusing how stars were awarded: 10 years of relative mediocrity to lose a star, 1 year to get it back.”
Well, it is probably complicated… and can one always be perfect?

In any case, Saint Emilion should get their inspiration from the guides of RVF, BD, Parker and others, to clean up their own classification. But this is another story.

At least, the good weather is here.