I encourage you to ponder over the remarks made by Jacques Berthomeau on my last comment. For anyone interested in the various episodes of this regrettable story: the people in charge of our unions, INAO (the French organization charged with regulating the appellations), and other concerned parties, classified, not classified, journalists, judges, etc…
It seems to me that the solution proposed by Jacques Berthomeau would resolve a lot of problems, wouldn’t it?
Damn fools… It feels like the French state and its tribunals want to kill Saint Emilion’s classification. The Constitutional Court (can you believe) canceled Monday’s decision to reinstate 7 chateaux who were promoted, demoted then promoted again. How far will they go to ridicule Saint Emilion and its classification? Will the appeals court, which is supposed to give its judgment soon, be able to correct the injustice caused to these 7 crus? Injustice which is now costing a lot of money. In fact, will all the people responsible for this mess be liable for all the financial loss? Can you believe that the tax service criticizes my company for being cautious by making contingencies to weather the effects caused by the disputes of this classification! I am starting to believe that I was not pessimistic enough! If I had made contingencies for the financial mess caused directly, or indirectly, by the newly promoted, fortunately, I only bought a few cases of the wines demoted in 3006… Shouldn’t the whole appellation make contingencies for the loss of its image, credibility, damage and interest they are entitled to by all the “jerks” who caused this dismal affair.
As the saying goes in Audiard’s film: “les Tontons Flingueurs” (known as Crooks in Clover or Monsieur Gangster): “les cons ça ose tout, c’est même à ça qu’on les reconnait ! ” (Idiots dare everything and can even be recognized because of that).
Η μεσαιωνική πόλη του κρασιού Η Καθημερινή - 20 déc 2008 Χαρακτηριστική φυσιογνωμία του Saint Emilion, o Jean Luc Thunevin του «Chateau Valandraud», ο κύριος vin de garage, που την περασμένη δεκαετία οργάνωσε την ... Η Καθημερινή
I don’t speak Japanese but the picture says it all : La Dominique is top ! The Sapporo wine academy selected La Dominique 2004 as the best wine. What will they say when they taste 2006?
Bettane and Desseauve wrote a little piece in Sunday’s, December 25 wine section of Sud Ouest newspaper. What’s next?
For Christmas, we drank the first bottle of Pomerol from the property bought with Clément Fayat (ex Vieux Château Bourgneuf). The new Domaine Fayat-Thunevin 2006 is simply very good, too easy. Its soft texture, 100% Merlot, and hint of violet will certainly be challenged by traditionalists but appreciated by gourmands – Consumer price in France will be between 30 and 40 Euros, including VAT.
Tuesday, I received “good” news, regarding Monday’s note! In fact, I had the displeasure to receive a certified letter from the tax office opposing the contingency reserve we make for the rise or fall of the price of wine. These reserved where actually approved in my 2 last tax audits are now being challenged as the tax office wants to change the rules! Funny sort of process, especially considering the current situation, for even if my company is solid and profitable, these rules benefit to the entire industry. This will force some companies who are not solid and won’t be able to use theses contingency to close.
In the meantime, our politicians are saying the opposite and announce that companies have to be helped and hire more employees. Actually, yesterday I received my financial statement ending 08/31/2008. It was very positive and will allow me to weather these hard times. It is no time to slow down, fire employees, actually on the contrary. Everyday, we receive orders from every sector.
Yesterday, in the media, an article from Panos Kakaviatos was published in Decanter on the eternal debate on modern wine against classic and their aptitude to age.
In Bettane and Desseauve, Haut Carles got a special selection (out of 10 wines!), and I was included in the top 10 personalities of the year (for Bad Boy, the blog and my role as manager of Vignobles Fayat).
Later that day, between 6 and 6:30 pm, a television report will be broadcasted on LCI on the economic crisis and wine?
Why aren’t the people responsible for this worldwide financial fiasco brought to justice in The Hague’s international tribunal, especially as it is so easy to identify the bankers and professional speculators who created these infernal machines with the only goal to make more money on hot air. The bonuses and salaries of these crooks are still registered in the all the accounting statements of countries called normal as well as in tax havens.
Why did all these organisms of control, certification and audits are still free? What’s the use to have an auditor (mandatory) if his role is only to report me when I won’t be able to pay him?
In any case, it is absurd… and when you think that it will be the same people who will tell us how to recreate a “different” economy. While waiting for 2009 and millions of unemployed, where is the police? Why so few cases brought to court? Does a person steeling a chicken risks harder punishment that Mr Madoff?
Robert Vifian gave me this booked and told me “You will probably not like this book but it has plenty of humor.” In fact, it’s full of humor, lots of common sense and useful even if I don’t agree with everything in it. In any case I highly recommend it (published by Timée – Editions and written by Roland Lecarpentier).
Also, “L’Amateur de Bordeaux”, new edition. It contains plenty of information. Thibaut Leclerc (Bottin Gourmand), director of publishing must have enjoyed having Michel Bettane, Bernard Burtschy, Laure Gasparotto and many more famous writers for this December issue. Competition, who said competition?
In fact, with Bordeaux today and probably Terre de Vin , Gault et Millau, Revue du Vin de France, Carnets de dégustation from Jean Marc Quarin, Le Point, etc… It’s starting to be a lot!
Now that the 8 Saint Emilion properties were finally reinstated, lets not forget the tax deduction system for risk (D.P.A.), in this time when the Tax service wants to do the opposite!
Christmas brings gifts. Hopefully this one will not be taken back…
The news came this weekend: 8 chateaux in Saint Emilion were promoted, then demoted, finally promoted! Thanks to common sense… and probably our deputy Jean Paul Garraud who, along with Senator César, have lobbied to reach this agreement, which makes good sense. However, it is not over for the legal procedure is still under way and Bordeaux appeal court will give “another” judgment on January 29, 2009.
On Thursday, December 18 2008, the local newspaper Sud Ouest published an article on Virginie titled: “Saint Emilion: The Thunevin family, the rich story of garage wine created by Jean-Luc”. Rodolphe Wartel wrote an article with plenty of humor and made our story look good, even if it was actually true! The photos from Stéphane Klein are beautiful because Virginie, who usually never smiles (so she says), became a pro with “cheese”.
Yesterday evening – aperitif at L’Essentiel organized by Carlos to celebrate the end of the year, followed by dinner organized by a friend. Again, an evening with no diet. Today, we had our annual lunch at La Puce with all the employees of Thunevin Wine Product (Thunevin WP), the entity in charge of the vineyards, production cellars of my Bordeaux, and, of course the employees of Ets Thunevin, the entity in charge of sales, logistic, accounting of my wholesale business. In all, 42 people. This evening, Jean Edouard invited us for an aperitif at Château Mauvinon and his mother will prepare “tapas”.. Another Tanguy?
More notes: from Jean Marc Quarin on Bordeaux 2006, again, all the wines I am involved in received good notes except Marojallia. La Dominique is starting to regain its rank in Saint Emilion, Fleur Cardinale confirming one more time its consistent level of quality, Haut Carles its status of fine wine and Valandraud did pretty well with 17 points!
Following the arrival of a new wave of wine distributors, I had a conversation with one of the leaders from one of these new companies. He told me that the internet is going to become one of the major way to sell wine in the future and that mass merchants and wine stores are going to lose market share. I don’t have a crystal ball and thought that wine stores would be doomed because of mass merchants. Instead, new chains of stores are opening up, a few Lavinia are opening around the world, Nicolas, Le Repaire de Bacchus, V&B are all opening new stores and they are doing well. On the internet, Chateauonline, Merlaut, Dubecq compete with cdiscount, vin-malin and others, one-day-one-wine, direct sales to consumers and many more. Just from your home, you can find everything: at a good price, with good information on the wine and delivered in 24 hours. For example, I found a Pedro Jimenez 1927 for 24.5 Euros on vin-malin! All of Bernard Magrez wines are available on cdiscount, etc… Some of the wines are even sold for less than at the property. Buyers are sharp and able to buy a whole batch from an inheritance or bankruptcies. Competition has to be creative and this makes it hard for retailers asleep at the wheel. As for me, I try to work seriously with every segment with no a priori, always responding to people who talk about “good” distribution. As Lapalisse would say, a good distributor is a distributor who sells!
Back to my meals Yesterday evening, I had dinner with friends owners, négociants as well as Martine and Jean-Paul. The meal consisted of seasonal classics like truffles, beef rib grilled in the fireplace. Clos du paradis 2003, a table wine from Luxemburg, good, and blind Quinault l’Enclos 2000 and Soutard 2000. Everyone guessed the appellation and gave 2001 as the vintage. Soutard was a favorite for 6 out of 7 of our guests for the tannins are well integrated, pleasant, less show-off. It is in today’s trend. At least, both were good. Following, Léoville Las Cases 2000 and l’Interdit de Clos Badon 2000. Everyone said 2003 or 2005 for both wines which changed categories! Well, the most surprising, even for me (yes), was that l’Interdit de Clos Badon was favored by 7 out of 7, thanks to its impression of sweetness and softness. Las Cases was so young, a bit in the style of a Pauillac, a bit austere. Of course we drank everything and everyone guessed Right Bank and Left Bank. We finished on the perfect pairing: egg custard and Doisy Daene 2003, simply sumptuous, a light bitterness of bitter almonds, mandarin peals, apricots and this purity and lightness missing in some more well known crus. Life is rough when you’re a négociant!
It’s not only in the movies that a new wave replaces the old one! In Bordeaux, a new generation on wine sellers is already there. Every time I meet one of these young wolves hungry for work, performance and status that it makes me feel a bit to “cushy”, or even too established. I am lucky that they like me and accept to work with my wholesale business and properties. I am always paying attention to what’s going on here, you have to be; if not, you end up shrinking, and in Bordeaux, it is the kiss of death.
Just a few examples: Vinexpo used to be constantly put down when they started but since then they reinforced the image of Bordeaux, and no one is crying wolf! Another one is the privilege I have to sell Pingus (this Spanish cult wine) through my negoce, allows me also to sell some of the best Bordeaux to clients who ask about Pingus and Flor de Pingus. Again, another one, why let London or Geneva sell top Chateauneuf du Pape or Burgundies on the open market? Aren’t we professional enough to take care of it here in Bordeaux?
You got it, yesterday, I ate at home with 2 young representative from this new generation of wholesalers and brokers in Bordeaux. I won’t give names, only the menu and wines we drank! Pata Negra ham, scallops, roast beef with truffled mash potatoes à la Hervé Bizeul and egg custard. For the wines, the 1st bottle was corked – the cork maker was C.R.L. – and it was a Cheval Blanc 1999 (darn!), the 2nd one was between good and fair: Beauséjour Duffau 2005, in order to check if the bottle we drank in Maury was normal. The wine was good, but not enough considering the potential of this property who produced a marvelous 1990! Corton Charlemagne 2001 and Coche Dury a bit neutral for my taste, but I am not sure if the wines were properly stored. Blanc de Valandraud N° 1 2006 was not better. So when are we going to enjoy a good bottle? Bad Boy 2006, bottled just 5 days ago. we’ll see in 2 to 3 months. Finally, Valandraud 1998, my favorite wine in my properties, really a great wine. We ended with Yquem 2005, remarkable in purity, pleasure and light, not customary in Sauterne.
Monday was quiet for me, Gilles and Jean-Pierre are in Paris for “the” annual meeting with the buyers from a French mass-merchant chain. For the 1st time, I am not going with them for I was busy with my first photo session with my daughter Virginie. Stéphane Klein, a photographer for Sud Ouest newspaper was able, for the 1st time, I think, to take a photo where we were relaxed and especially smiling. Virginie would have preferred to be with her horses than with our bottles of wine, but Virginie de Valandraud is going to be featured in a big article in this regional newspaper… As long as newspapers will be able to write freely about wine, it won’t spoil our pleasure! I was even more pleased to see that when I searched in their archive for Valandraud or Thunevin this morning, I saw 52 articles written since 1991. When I think that I beleived they had not written enough about Valandraud, this is no small feat. It is true that I am never satisfied, always looking for more; again “jealous” people will, rightly, think that I am only interested in me, me, me, only me! Well, back to the Sud Ouest newspaper, one of the best articles written about Valandraud and me, was from Christian Seguin published on July 30, 2001. The one published in L’Express magazine by Mr. Dupuy triggered a series on TV reports in TF1, M6, Arte, etc… Hurrah for the media!
We are now in full holiday season with Christmas and the birthdays of Karl and Axelle, and in addition, dinners this evening, tomorrow evening an even Thursday evening, with nice truffles already bought by Jérôme… Hard to stay slim.
We left for Maury on Thursday evening right after a photo session in Bordeaux (in Astoria studio).
The trip was very important: in fact, David Schildknecht from Wine Advocate came to taste our 2005/2006/2007 vintages in our new cellar in Maury. I believe he was travelling throughout the Languedoc and Roussillon for 2 weeks, and this counts when you think about the importance around the world of the notes in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. We had already received good ratings for the past vintages and could expect better ones, especially considering the known quality of 2005 and especially 2007 – 2006 is still a bit “tight”. It gave Murielle, Marie and Jean-Roger and I the opportunity to properly taste 3 of our vintages with David in 3 categories, Dentelles, Hugo, 3 Marie and even Constance 2007. I am proud of the progress we’ve done since 2001. The purchase of vineyards in the town of Lesquerde provide us, in 2007, some high quality Syrah, thanks to granitic soil and elevation, higher than the ones in the Maury Valley.
Quick lunch in the in the 1 star Michelin restaurant Maison des Terroirs with its great entry menu for 28 Euros. It helped Marie and Jean-Roger distress (and who has no more nails to bite) ! The cellar is almost finished and provides a place to receive and sell directly to clients and tourists visiting the area, with very attractive prices for people who make the effort to come and visit or call (+33 4 68 51 05 57) to receive offers “directly from the property”. We are just missing plants to color the gardens around the cellar and a few billboards indicating that it is in fact a cellar and not a local government office or even crazier ideas, as it doesn’t look like any buildings currently built in this area. We had the opportunity to taste plenty of wines : for instance a disappointing series of Côte Rotie 2005 which I won’t name to be kind: corked wines – it happens, but it also had certain vegetal flavors, thin, with bretts smelling like stables. My good they were bad! Fortunately, we had a Porte du Ciel 2004 – Coteaux du Languedoc was delicious and helped us forget the previous wines. We also drank a Saint Emilion 2005 1st Grand Cru Classé B which was also defective (despite the good comments from Jean Marx Quarin). I will taste it again rapidly to see if it was a defective bottles of actually the batch? Every time we are in this region, we shop in Saint Paul de Fenouillèdes in Brosseau’s cookie shop where the owner is still working despite being 79 years old and always greets us with kindness.
While I think about it, it would be sensible for the press to cover the village of Maury which have attracted new winemakers from around the world, despite the crisis, in a few years and thanks to a dynamic mayor who has guided this village for its esthetical choices or Maison du Terroir which attracts more and more customers. The millions of Euros which have been invested in the past few years privately or by local governments are now visible when one takes the time to amble down the streets with trompe-l’œil paintings, its colorful facades and the nice vineyards surrounding it.
Bad Boys 2005 is sold-out… Welcome Bad Boy 2006 ! Still made with 100 % Merlot, but this time we blended this Bordeaux from 3 different properties I take care of from Bordeaux, Fronsac and Pomerol. This wine will be more civilized, a bit less powerful but more elegant: the characteristics of blending… I can’t wait to taste my first bottle, and as it will soon be bottled, the wines will be on time for Christmas.
I hope that the 70,000 bottles produced will be as successful as the 40,000 of 2005 which were sold faster than we expected.
Yesterday, I had a meeting at Vignobles Fayat with all the production managers and our accountants to analyze our costs, and try to understand why and where we are more expensive, or less, than our colleagues… Of course, the specificities of the right bank with small properties, don’t help us to be more competitive. Still, nothing prevents us to improve, with less and this is normal in this group – as in my own company!
Pressure to manage cost and the administrators should still allow for us to carry on improving our quality. Still, we need to go through the world financial crisis and I am afraid that I totally agree with the article published in the Nouvel Ops magazine where the journalist was able to do a rare interview with Mr. Jean François Moueix. My constant anguish comes from the renewal of my credit lines, loans, rates and choice of investments. The 2008 vintage, even if it is of great quality, won’t be easy to sell if the world economy doesn’t improve by the month of June.
The magazine Objetif Aquitaine released his list of 2008 “talents” and I was included and even received a special selection. Lets hope that this promotion won’t bring another tax audit or more solicitations from companies offering accounting services…
Back to the office for “normal” work, the harvest of our 4 rows of Cabernet Sauvignons picked like an “ice-wine” put Murielle in the spotlight: Article in Sud Ouest newspaper (2 times) and even an interview on local radio France Bleue Gironde.
I would also like to answer to a few comments recently published on this blog. To Fil who writes “I noticed that you often invite journalists… This seems to be an excellent investment ”: Of course it is an excellent investment and it helps me – us to save time. Don’t see it as a negative point, but these journalists who come to see me usually already have the intention to write a good article on me or my company. If not, they wouldn’t accept my invitations for a meal. To Bernard Ordonnac who wrote “ What an exciting life you have. A real star. You should start a literary carrier with your sharp sense of observation. And all your cultural references. Finally, you are the Paris Hilton of the bacchic world, going from interviews to hair salons. But tell us something, dear Jean-Luc, what’s your secret to stay so modest?”. My dear Bernard, I am not “so modest”, just a bit of self mockery… but still you have to know me more than through my blog… and it doesn’t hurt to like oneself, doesn’t it? I read – with a bit of difficulty – a book from Abraham Maslow on my last flight, he has the advantage to believe that man is naturally good, what’s your opinion? Other than that, Max didn’t take well being compared to Tinkerbell… As for me, I finally like Paris, especially since she called to vote for Obama.
Objectif Aquitaine – suite ( or, if I don’t say it, it must be true !)
I hope that Objectif Aquitaine is right to give special selections and other 2008 talents. I remember the story of this very big and famous negociant in the 80s who, after having just gotten a full story in Sud Ouest during Vinexpo (I think) went bankrupted, despite his talent. I always have this story in my head even if I am happy to be nominated.
The comment is actually not wrong as it starts the following way: “it is the story of a man who constantly doubts…” the funny part is the conclusion of their article: “… a character which allows him to claim with Murielle, that he would be able to start from scratch in case of failure. He is a star, not a diva, you can trust his word”.
My return to the office was calm, at least as far as work is concerned, but as for meals, it was another story… Once a year, a meal at Chateau La Couspaude is organized by the members of this very exclusive club. The goal is to share a great meal, to say the least, foie gras, thrush and woodcock roasted in the fireplace, truffles served on slices of bread, in egg cups with soft boiled eggs, in mash potatoes, in salad and brie… oysters, desert,… all this under the pretext of drinking good wine and have a good meal as it was done in the 19th Century.
Almost all the wines were served in magnums: The best cuvees from Deutz and Ruinart, La Couspaude 2001: a pure delight with truffles, Grand Pontet 1986 astonishingly young, Canon La Gaffelière 1988, one of the successes in the right bank for this forgotten vintage Ausone 1989, great wine with a classical balance and delightful Montrose 1986 probably drank too young La Landonne 2003: the new style of these great wines from Guigal, who formed my taste for southern wines. The magnificient and great wine of this day dedicated to Bacchus – nobody will be surprised – was: Mouton Rothschild 2003, a real success for this false great vintage, which had some great but also “dry” wine. Armagnac, Calvados, eau de vie de prune… We stayed at the table from 1 to 6pm. Friendship and sharing this day were up to par with the quality of the meal and time went too fast, especially when it was time to leave. The comedians who made us laugh deserved a standing ovation!
We did this again at home for dinner: Philippe and his family came to our house to share a nice piece of beef grilled in the fireplace and served with fresh cepes from Bordeaux picked in woods from the area. It is the first time in our life that we ate some so late in the season. Croix de Labrie 2001 and Gracia 1998 were the proper wines to serve with this great meal, especially for Murielle who loves cepes.
Saturday, we had lunch at home with a few guests from Israel, wine lovers and friends and the sons of the owner from Margalit: Valandraud kosher 2002 and non kosher served blind, as well as Nigl 2005 Riesling, delicious.
Wednesday, I visited in Seoul the chefs and directors of the Sheraton and especially the W. It has an exceptional view on the Han River which crosses this energetic megalopolis of 25 million inhabitants. It is a mix between thousands of years of Asian history and science fiction (a bit like Blade Runner!)
What a chance to be the “star” of garage wines, the Bad Boy wine icon; my distributor hired a room for an afternoon nap in this 6 star hotel and responded to any of my needs and wishes with kindness, all this attention for me to be in top form for the image and professionalism required from me. I decided to get my hair cut only during my trips to Asia! The last time I was in Hong Kong, it made me feel like I should open a chain of hair salons for men, Chinese style. This would be a good change from the hair salon in the shopping center in Libourne.
This place is beautiful and very chic, with house and garage music, proper attire required, the Parisian chic is surpassed by the chic style of Korean women in Seoul… The Seoul touch! My hair was impeccable, the silk pocket handkerchief added to my jeans/blazer outfit is chick, without being too formal for this country for a press conference with a dozen journalist (dailies, living, leisure, internet) and tasting of a few wines. The questions were for the most part very professional, the garage movement is well, even very well, understood here and a movie star like photo session followed, then a gala dinner organized for more than 50 people, some important to develop a good relationship with our partner who are greatly solicited…
More journalists and especially the sweet and radiant Korean TV star Ida Daussy who signed her last book the success story of this French woman in the land of peaceful mornings (and that I read cover to cover in the plane).
The meal was one of the best I experienced in my French life for so many people; the harmony with the wines, the Blanc de Valandraud N°1 2006 which impressed everyone. Virginie, 3 de Valandraud and Valandraud 2004, opened more than 6 hours before, were perfect and of course the 99 vintage. The 2006 vintage was too young, and still closed.
Time passed too fast with a fund raising event organized, drawing lots of presents and the traditional photo op given to guests. All there is to do is organize the next trip in Spring for the 2008 en primeur campaign?
Yesterday, the trip back from Seoul to Bordeaux was long, a big day; in addition, I had to deal with jetlag. The trip was good, our minister Bernard Kouchner was travelling in the same plane, which shows that even ministers don’t always take private jets.
I attended all sorts of tastings and meals, of good quality as usual, with staff and journalists, or wine professionals or business. We also visited SK’s show room dedicated to the group’s future telecom technologies.
Today is the big day, with a gala lunch. Surprisingly, the UGC (l’Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux) is just arriving in Seoul to attend the same kind of event.
I had an important meeting with our importer to sign an exclusive distribution agreement for some of my wines. It was followed by a meal to celebrate this event in a very fancy Japanese restaurant where we drank Blanc de Valandraud N°2 2006 and Bad Boy 2005.
Following, we did a presentation for more than 30 people including journalists, sommeliers and wine collectors, and talked about Garage, Micro-Cuvées, Parker, Terroirists, etc… The event took place in a building complex completely dedicated to wine: the PODO PLAZA, in Seoul.
The organization was good for this first event with our importer and it’s team.
We then had dinner at VIN GA, the restaurant of this incredible center with a nice young crowd, music, fancy atmosphere, quality food, nice SPIEGELAU glasses and for wine: BAD BOY 2005 and VIRGINIE 2006, then blind, a remarkable LASCOMBES 2005 and even a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé 1997, a bit tight in my opinion.
Following, we drank a surprising wine from Napa, still unknown: ONDA D’ORO 2005, made with ripe Cabernet Sauvignon which almost made you think it made from Syrah.
1st day in Seoul : I had a good meal in a trendy restaurant with a bad bottle of Aloxe Corton from a negociant I don’t even remember the name – for lack of being recognized. Fortunately, I had a very good Cheval Noir 2005, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru from a negociant who could be proud of his wine (Mahler Besse, co-owner of Palmer).
While waiting for next Monday to cure my sore throat, I went to a Korean, or Chinese, doctor – acupuncture and ginseng + massage - and business meetings with our importer.
The hotel is OK with big rooms and TV5 to help me fight jetlag. « Vive les voyages qui forment la jeunesse » (travelling makes you young)… as the French saying goes. In my case, travelling has been getting the best of my youth.
Once more, the journey via Helsinki on FINNAIR was more than an hour late. Murphy’s law I suppose.
2nd day (Sunday): very good business meeting. Many good Korean employees work on Sunday to catch-up and prepare the coming week. The 35 hour week is more like the 50 hour week.