Thursday, January 29, 2009

The evolution of my wholesale business

I pulled Virginie de Valandraud 2006 from the open market, even though it represented 70% of sales since 1992. I did keep a few colleagues and friends wholesalers via brokers who sell through specific distribution networks.

I am doing the same with Valandraud 2008: pull it from the open market and setup distribution through a few colleagues wholesalers, some who already have signed sales contracts thanks to inspired brokers (indeed) by this business opportunity.

Bordeaux market place plays a great role when demand is strong, but I am concerned that when times are a bit more challenging, they have a hard time promoting and sell wines.

The open market is a fantastic tool, but in Valandraud’s case, why would a colleague put all his effort in distributing a wine when a competing wholesaler also carries it? For, if in my case I followed the unwritten rules, by selling my wine at a higher price than my colleagues, most haven’t even asked themselves if it was worth investing in my wine. Valandraud, which was sold by 70% of Bordeaux wholesalers for more than 15 years, fell to 50% for 2007 and without being a prophet, I believe it will be less than 30% for the 2008 vintage. Therefore, why stay in this open market distribution system and instead sign formal distribution agreements where each client will be protected in his region?

My company is becoming more and more commercially independent. Speculative turbulences are already being diversified and being spread between 3 sorts of wines: some produced by us, those sold exclusively, and those sold by Bordeaux market place.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wines I recently tasted

A rich wine, powerful, almost like an Amarone, given to me by Pascal Carrère : Villany Gere Attila Solus 2004, made from Hungarian Merlot – perfect for anyone obsessed by the risk of over-ripeness in Bordeaux.
Gracia 1997 : no flavors of vegetal, still young and rich. This proves that even in a lesser vintage, work pays off (garage or not).

Cheval Blanc 1998, noted between 93 and 98 points by Parker, 97or 98 by Neal Martin, 98 by the Wine Spectator and 16 by Jancis Robinson. This wine was youthful, the Cabernet Franc was first a bit shy, but then expressed it’s full capacity. A very fine wine, one of the best from the vintage – Valandraud, of course, more decadent, evolved. It would be a good idea to taste them side by side today and in 10 years!

Cornélie 2006, a good and serious Medoc, still a bit closed.

3 de Valandraud 2002, modern, easy to drink, almost a wine to quench your thirst !

Virginie de Valandraud 2004, very good to drink now despite the vintage which was a bit austere in Valandraud. We only have 44 magnums left!

Quinault L’Enclos 2006, very good wine produced by our friend Alain Raynaud. The quality-price ratio is very good, as François Mauss would say

Good Yquem 1986, old style Yquem, I find the last vintages lighter and purer. Question of taste.

Our 2008 will be superb. The ripeness of the fruit is almost decadent, with freshness from the vintage as counter-point. In the following years, we will know how and why the quality is present in a vintage which had such a difficult start. This will certainly challenge the preconceived notions of what constitutes a good vintage in Bordeaux. Will it be the year where smart amateurs will finally be able to buy a great Bordeaux vintage without ruining themselves? Will we rediscover the joy of making good deals? We will know in a few months…

Little business info : Chic rose for this Summer : Malartic Lagravière rosé 2008, available from March 2009 from us and all good wine stores, retail price in France 8.25 Euros (including VAT).

Chateau La Dominique in the USA

According to what Laurent told me, the tastings have been very well attended and the notoriety of Château La Dominique is certainly felt. As he noticed, this chateau is well known in the US, as it used to be one of the first “modern” Bordeaux”, made with ripe Merlot in the style of Pomerol more than Saint Emilion.

It is also true that La Dominique was one of Michel Rolland’s first client as consultant at a period when competition was not so intense.

Thanks again to Union des Grands Crus (UGC) for doing this promotional work for such a long time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Various activities...

I am working on a few “secret” projects, different sorts of investments, buildings, properties for me or as a consultant, new challenges, new contracts, etc…

Problems with brands, lawyers, what to do? Another court procedure? A transaction? an agreement?

Tasting with a property owner wanting to sell me his wine, I can only buy what I can sell…

Bankers and interest rates, how to finance, when and for how many years. Should I keep growing?

Tax audit, tax lawyer, accountants… In the meantime, the government is spending all its money!

I attended a meal at a 1st growth – VIP treatment. What a fun job!

A few nice properties are currently being sold. Goes to show that our business has a few risk takers!

China passed from the year of the rat to the buffalo. We will be there soon to celebrate F.T.I.’s first anniversary in Shanghai.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Busy end of the week

Thursday, I went to Bordeaux with Patricia and Murielle to Metro, Ikea then various furniture shops in Libourne to buy 2 additional beds for the guest rooms of Clément Pichon and our guest house at Valandraud. And did a bit of work in the office.

Friday at 9am, I participated in the annual meeting of Groupe Fayat which took place at Clément Pichon. This company is increasingly looking like a multinational. The 2008 numbers are good, but they are being realistic on the effects of the crisis on their order sheet. If, in wine we can, and even have to, build inventory to weather a crisis, it is another story for the world of industries. In any case, I am fortunate to work for this family business and I am certain that we are on the right track. The wines regained their high quality level and all we need now is for critics and the market to give us the seal of approval. If Vignobles Fayat represent a small part of revenues for this group, the passion, heart of these vineyards puts it is a very privilege place.

At 2:30pm: 17 people, free students from O.I.V. (International Organisation of Vine and Wine) came to L’Essentiel and stayed until 4:30 pm to talk about garage, accepted wines, Parker’s taste, my story and my activities.
At 5:40pm, the American critic was tasting our 2006-2007.

Saturday, a storm blew over the South West of France, like in 1999 – fortunately, we were in London at that time for Stephen Browett’s birthday.
This storm was quite serious with power outages, uprooted trees, tiles blown-off from roofs, etc… We didn’t experience so much damage. Still we will check out our roofs, electrical systems, etc…
Fortunately, vineyards can handle a storm during this season.
In Bel Air Ouÿ, the last Sequoia was pulled-up. We plan to create a garden around the eco-friendly pool, and plant trees and smaller bushes!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kinette and her very private table

Thoughts: If I had a chef at home…
The hardest thing to do when you have talent is for people to know it. In fact, as Jacques Luxey used to say: “having knowledge without sharing pleasure is a pity!”
Then, you must make yourself available to your clients, which is difficult, and even put yourself in their places. What do they expect from me or my product?

Quality without atmosphere or atmosphere without quality – something would be missing. Too much personality can only please strong people. People hesitating, weak will run away and in the worst case bad mouth you. How can we make ourselves bearable to others, even attract empathy?

Having a theme for an event always works, but it needs to succeed to be able to do it again. The price requested and paid for should be forgotten, therefore there should be no surprise or ambiguity.

Kinette and her very private table shouldn’t be perceived as Kinette and her “too” private table.
Her address? Kinette and Michel Gautier, 91 cours le Rouzic 33100 Bordeaux – tel 05 56 86 11 39

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thanks boss !

You never tell someone you work with that you’re please with them, that you like them, that you are proud of them, same with the family, your children, friends. As if saying that you are pleased or happy is like swearing.

The reason for this post is that I received a card containing words which made me happy. I will show it to Murielle and her father. It simply said: “I want to tell you again how happy I am with our collaboration”.

Happy meal

Usual meal, prepared with love by Murielle along with Reignac 2000 tasted blind (Pomerol, Saint Emilion 1999/1998), very good, on the level of a classified growth or equivalent. This show how the tastings from the Grand Jury European are not so crazy!
Vieux Fortin 1999, very good – certainly on the level of a classified growth,. 2003 was disappointing. Probably a problem with the cork.
Quintessence de la Coume del Mas 2001 in Banyuls, totally delicious…sinful.


I am going to start travelling to China, Japan, the Emirates, Tahiti and maybe Russia.

I will certainly go to Korea where I hope to stay at the W hotel in Seoul, next to the Sheraton, and is worth every one of its 5 stars. In Asia, they don’t cut corners.

The meal I had and the room they provided me at the Sheraton to rest before my presentation made me want to go back. It is the same story for the Raffles or the Oriental in Bangkok.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bad boys

I am not well-versed enough to search on the internet anything concerning my company, my wines, or the wines I distribute.
So, thanks to Google, I was able to find many comments written last December on Bad Boy and published on Dé (in French).
I like clear-cut opinion, including negative. I prefer them than loose consensus, such as “interesting”. I would love for all wine connoisseurs to taste blind wines they don’t like along some they like…
Other than that, here a little thought: If you don’t like vanilla ice-cream, why buy some instead of lemon sherbet?
This sort of behavior always surprised me!

“I like wine”, a shop owner told me… “I like 20%!”! This play on words can easily be translated: It is another way to rate wine: after Parker’s Buyer’s Guide, Guide Hachette, etc… it’s often the good quality/price ratio which fuels our distributors.

The (very) private table of Kinette Gautier

The internet link is a sign: label – la belle (the pretty one in French) !
A mix of elegance, the hat woman has the extravagance of the Queen of England regarding her hats and the energy of Gilbert Becaud.
Her husband cooks in this very private place for clients invited by word of mouth, more than by the media, which in any case gives no time to things out of the norm.
The ideal group consist of 8 to 12 persons and a budget equivalent to a one Michelin star restaurant, where guests can drink great wines they can all bring.
I attended yesterday evening and had a good and fun time, with, of course, fine food: Scallops, foie gras, oysters in aspic, cake with spices and Veuve Cliquot brut, an excellent Silex 2002 from Daguenau and Chateau Sansonnet 2004 at the level of some of the best classified growths from Saint Emilion (is there still a classification?)

Kinette will start a blog and I hope that she will speak her mind. She should also join Facebook.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Barack Obama

Good luck and courage for this new American president. I’m being told that he likes wine.
Laurent Barbier, who is going to represent Chateau La Dominique, will be the first one in my company to experience this new breath of life during his tour of some major American cities with the Union des Grands Crus (UGC), starting January 23 in San Francisco.

Eco-friendly swimming pools and Facebook

I would like to build an eco-friendly swimming pool to finish the infrastructure of our Chateau Valandraud which will be available for rental starting March (?)
In this case, as soon as it is eco-friendly, the price is doubled, even though I believe it would be normal to be the opposite. The system is simple but as I am not handy, I have to ask professionals to do it!

Facebook: I am making friends rapidly. Unfortunately, how can I give it enough time? I already have 85 friends, some I don’t even know!


It’s amazing the number of offer I get to buy ads and where prices are being discounted 50 to 60% immediately due to the crisis.
I did receive a journalist from a German media who just wanted to take 10 Euros per millimeter per column to include my picture in an article, even though I didn’t ask for anything!
Directories and reference sites located in Spain, or elsewhere, are very lucrative little businesses.


We tasted 4 vintages of a second wine from Medoc, as we have too few reasonably priced chateaux from the Left Bank. Fortunately, we tasted a little 2008 Bordeaux which we enjoyed… Tough to be a wine merchant when you have to taste 30 wines and can only find 1 or 2. Still all these wines are sold… Fortunately for my clients, not by me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

La Maison des millésimes in Paris

Almost our entire range is available (or can be ordered) at La Maison des Millésimes, 137 boulevard Saint Germain, 75006 Paris (tel 01 40 46 80 01). The young owner loves his job and our wines.


I had a Muscadet sur lie from Domaine du Grand Mouton cuvée Prat-Ar-Coum Louis Métaireau 2007. Delicious, a touch bubbly, slightly acid, fresh and voluptuous drank with curried rice and pieces of monkfish.
Jean Paul, who gave me this bottle, told me that the bottles were immersed at 15 m (around 39 ft) in the sea in Brittany for a period of time, in other words, under 10° C (50° F).
I don’t if this method makes this wine so delicious, but in any case, it is good and not too expensive. In addition, this wine is good with more than just oysters from Brittany.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Union des Grands Crus (UGC) in the U.S.A.

Union des Grands Crus, which I am part of with Château La Dominique will be touring the USA presenting more than 80 chateaux :
23 January in San Francisco
24 January in Los Angeles
26 January in New York
28 January in Chicago
29 January in Dallas

Laurent Barbier will be representing Château La Dominique 2006, the first vintage I produced as manager.

Revenues : a yoyo
Usually, I am not afraid to talk about numbers, even less during this time of crisis. I mean about the turnover of my company to see where me and my team are going.
Revenues as of 08/31/2008 16,267,222 euro
Revenues as of 08/31/2007 10,395,607 euro
Revenues as of 08/31/2006 13,383,658 euro
Revenues as of 08/31/2005 7,507,565 euro

Goal for 2009: between 13 and 15 (despite the crisis ?), for we have already reached 6 millions for the first 4 months of our fiscal year… This represents a good number of bottles sold and to be sold!

Here are a few bottles we drank recently :
Champagne Delamotte 1999 Blanc de blanc, very good, in my opinion
Château Lucia 2001 and Fleur Pétrus 1995 very very good – both with truffles
Château La Commanderie de Mazeyres 2006, balanced and silky. A well deserved note from Wine Spectator ! We drank the rest of the bottle the following day and it was as good (it’s a good sign)
Château Beauregard 1998, a quality Pomerol
Château Mangot 2005, cuvée Quintessence, definitely deserves its name. This property, located in the area of Saint Etienne de Lisse, regularly produces good wines.

Wine Spectator: Thank you !

La Commanderie de Mazeyres 2006 was given 90 points on Wine Spectator’s website.

What is even more remarkable is the quality-price ratio of this Pomerol, appellation which is usually expensive, especially as we were noted on the same level as well known and expensive crus!

Friday, January 16, 2009


Following Michel Bettane’s comment on our Maury 2004 from Domaine Calvet-Thunevin, another fantastic comment was published in Thuriès Gastronomie : “successful partnership where Jean-Luc Thunevin (Château Valandraud in Saint Emilion) shows his passion for wines from the Roussillon and Maury. With 80 years old vines and very low yields, the talented duo is offering a 2004 vintage (no fining, no filtering) with incredible depth. Starting with a fresh and strong robe, without a trace of evolution. The nose reveals a terroir of schist and subtle notes of hot stones underlined by ripe and fleshy fruits. Fine fragrances of soft spices make this elegant ensemble more complex. Full palate while still remaining light. Deliciously balanced liqueur, pulpy texture and firm at the same time, fruity and long retro olfaction. It is a total success. Excellent aging prospects. Enthusiastic special selection.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009


We tasted with Peter a few batches of Blanc de Valandraud 2008 from different barrels. Philippe Fezas from the cooperage firm Seguin Moreau was with us: they should be good.
Murielle is upset for the day before, a very important journalist seemed to prefer N°2 to N°1 of the 2006 vintage… We will see what will be written in a few weeks…

Yesterday morning, a broker from Bordeaux, who is in charge of Grand Cru for one of Bordeaux most important wine merchant, visited Valandraud, La Dominique and tasted La Dominique 2006 – 2007 -2008, Valandraud 1998 -2008 and Clos du Beau Père 2006.
I spent part of the afternoon with the team of a friend wine merchant and tasted the whole series of 2004 wines from the Roussillon: Dentelles, Hugo, Constance and 3 Marie from Calvet –Thunevin, Bad Boy 2006, Présidial 2006, Fayat-Thunevin Pomerol 2006 and we planned a trip in Mars to prospect in a new country.
Today, I am in Médoc at Clément Pichon and in Saint Estèphe to visit Phélan Ségur, which I enjoy selling, and I will be at La Dominique this afternoon for a meeting with Mr. Clément Fayat.

Diner at home with Peter – continued

Tuesday evening, dinner for 4 with high quality wines: Pontet Canet 2003, Pauillac, always very good, followed by Chambolles Musigny 1er cru Aux Beaux Bruns from Denis Mortet, also a gem from my cellar, and a great Cognac Fine Champagne 1858 private reserve, a friend’s gift.

Bad Boy: it must not always fun at home…

Finally, I read on the internet (in a very limited publication popular in the 90s) a very bad comment on Bad Boy 05 sold 15 Euros in a store in France.
With such comments, no need to go to school to understand that Mister didn’t like it. He doesn’t like anything “seductive, eye-catching, vulgar” (in fact, it rhymes – in French – like sad and constrain rhyme with class?).
It is certainly true, too extracted, too much wood… Maybe this store has customers who like this sort of wine. In any case, some of our buyers like this wine and our “vulgar-seductive-eye-catching” clients have been buying it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Feasts, friendship, esoterism

Yesterday I had a meeting with friends in Blaye from 7 pm to 10 pm followed by a simple dinner eaten quickly before going home.
For this occasion, I provided the wines which were greatly enjoyed: Compassant 2004, great quality/price ratio, and a double magnum of Haut Mazeris 2005, also very good.

In the meantime, at home, Murielle prepared a very good meal for our friend Peter Sisseck (Pingus) and a couple of friends:
Big and fresh black truffle from Dordogne served on toast, big farm chicken roasted with celery, Belgium endives from my father-in-law’s garden, cheese and fruits.
For this dinner, I served wines of a different level: Krug brut grande cuvée, Valandraud 1998 and Mouton Rothschild 1998, La Mondotte 2000 (very very good, according to Peter and Murielle) and Dominus 1994, unfortunately corked!

Today is the 13.
This number gives me good luck and is a good sign, for I have a hard time with esoterim, but regarding the number 13, I accept all its positive signs for I believe it is a good number for me. Vive the 13!

Below, I included a short message from Jacques Berthomeau:
Sorry for this hello but as this blog is well read, I wanted to take this opportunity to pass this information, thanks Jean-Luc.

Dear members from Bordeaux and this beautiful region.

January 13 at 8:30 pm, I will host a lecture with the following guests: Erik Thévenod-Mottet (Agridea, Suisse), Filippo Randelli, economist in Florence and Raphaël Schirmer (Bordeaux 3 MA geographer) :

Café géo which will take place at Café Castan, 2 quai de la Douane (next to Place de la Bourse, same tram stop).

Theme: “Wine in the 21st Century, a look at modernity (Switzerland, Italy, France)”

Hope to see you. Bring your friends, girlfriends, boss, mother-in-law, whoever you want as we will make a toast and remake the world…

In the meantime, Chateau Bel Air Ouÿ was starring on Japanese TV:

EDF, professional service !

Yesterday morning we experienced a power failure. We tried to get some information and almost felt like we had to read the manual… In addition, the phone call was charged! All of that to end up being transferred from voice mail to voice mail. After being put on hold for 8 minutes, we were finally able to reach a person, who actually only confirmed the message from the voice mail: power will be reinstated at 1pm!
All my employees came and left: half a day lost at my expense. Isn’t this a high ransom to pay? Despite competition, I am not sure that operators from another provider would be able to guarantee the proper electrical power needed by all of us!
Despite my business rates, will I be able to receive a discount, a compensation from EDF?

Friday, January 9, 2009

A bit of promotion for an employment agency !

« Exchange a sales director as charismatic as a red fish for a blonde with full breasts personality …

I don’t know how to make wine, but employment is my business, wine is my passion. Therefore, I am specialized in hiring for jobs in the wine industry.

You can join my on 06 75 79 80 31.

Best wishes to you and your family for this new year.

Best regards

Guillaume Michel

Member of Sum Wine Consult

Immeuble Pont d'Aquitaine
Rue Cantelaudette

Tél. 05 56 38 49 35 »

I received this email following my post, which I answered via blog :
Thank you for your offer, but I was only kidding mixing actual events taking place in various companies: a friend leaving for retirement, a difficult colleague being replaced or a good looking female blonde starting. The large breasts and red fish were only added as a joke.

As for Facebook, I now have 11 friends.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Facebook : desperately looking for friends

Well, I still don’t understand the use of Facebook, still, I registered ;-))
As for my blog, it is obvious that it was a good idea to listen to my friend’s recommendation in the Spring of 2005.
Actually, since the launch of the French version on April 19, 2005, and if I can trust over-blog’s statistics, 1,487,358 pages were read and it received 405,492 visits.
Today, because of the crisis, or less controversial comments – if not less interesting - our daily visits have come down from 500/600 visits to between 350 and 380.
However, there are 160 “hard core” French readers, attentive to my little stories. If you take in consideration the number of readers visiting the English, Japanese and Chinese versions, we probably reach 1000 connections per day. It’s amazing the impact it has on the wines I write about.

Other than that, cold weather make one say… stupid things, or the truth:

Desperately looking for someone to run a wine merchant company able to do miracles and sell my 2008 Bordeaux, very good and inexpensive!...

Exchange a sales director as charismatic as a red fish for a blonde with full breasts personality…

Frustrated, he would do anything to reach his goal, even kill his father and mother… Unfortunately, he is already orphan…

No matter the questions, as long as one has the answers

Better to get a good note from Parker than a bad one from Wine Spectator

His wine smells bad… I finally understood that he doesn’t have a sense of smell!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

While waiting for the green harvest

This picture of the friendly team of Cdiscount at l’Essentiel was taken after a morning spent in the vineyards for an initiation to pruning techniques on Merlot stock from Valandraud, under the supervision of Murielle.
Following, we tasted in l’Essentiel: Valandraud 2008, 2007, 2001, Blanc de Valandraud N° 2 2006, Bad Boy 2006 and many more with a little snack to thank them for being such good partners for selling some of our wines on the internet.

When will some of our colleagues wine merchant, owners or distributors be obliged to prune some Cabernet Francs…
Don’t exaggerate if you can!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Snow contains nitrogen, a economical and natural fertilizer ("snow is the poor mans fertilizer", "snow in February is better than manure")... in addition, it is nicer to look at and quite rare in Saint Emilion!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Selective sorting

I received many good wishes by sms and have to recognize that despite all the means of communications available to me, except for the blog, I still operate like in the middle-ages.

As for drinking wine, the beginning of the year started slowly: Flor de Pingus 2003 always good and the last sample of Hugo 2007 prepared for David Schildknecht (as my friend Bernard Vandendriessche would say: “Excuse me for my name!” – for it is difficult to pronounce).
This Hugo 2007 was remarkable and made me realize the work accomplished since the first vintages. Today, the wine is still rich and powerful, but fresher, thanks to stricter manual selection to eliminate candied and overripe grapes. Even here, sorting grapes, other than Bordeaux, can provide good results.

Here, we bought a machine called Tribaie, in Maury, sorting is done manually on a moving sorting table. Wednesday, a new optical sorting table will be presented at La Couspaude.
Progress won’t be stopped.

Friday, January 2, 2009

End of the year

We drank a few wines during these year end holidays. Meursault 1er cru Le Poruzot dessus 1999 from Rémi Jobard, simply deliciously decadent and Meursault goutte d’or 2002 from Buison Charles, very good but unfortunately drank too young, Roederer Brut which never deceives. Fleur Cardinale 2003 easily drank despite being concentrated. 2003 was a success, thanks to its clayey limestone terroir. And one of the best bottles drank this year: Pingus 2005, an anthology of fruit and spices, obviously a very fine wine and this, despite its young age, a magnum would have done the trick.

Regularly, the population of France is being counted. The last census reported 63 million inhabitants. We can do better!
Terms of payment shortened. Who will finance the stock as it won’t be anymore the responsibility of the supplier. Maybe the buyer will get the necessary financing from their bank to pay for the stock. Our lawmakers have probably thought about it and given the proper directives to banks. It remains to be seen?