Wednesday, September 22, 2010

China, suite

Beijing: another dinner at Boulud in Beijing with an exceptional setting (former U.S. embassy, I think), friendly service, caring and pro, the wines served in different glasses, an idea from the sommelier. The food equivalent to a two Michelin stars and very competitive prices.
French architects are popular in China, the National Theatre is beautiful thanks to Mr. Paul Andreu’s talent, our wines are available in one of the restaurants here, thanks to the talent of our distributor.

Shanghai World Expo and figures to make your head spin: 300 to 500 000 visitors / day, 60 million Chinese and 10 million tourists!
Bsides, in the French Quarter of Shanghai, the plane trees in the streets give an air of Provence in these old neighborhoods, art nouveau and trendy boutiques coexist well.
Visit of Jean Georges restaurant, sumptuous and vertical Valandraud (it irritates some great colleagues).

Guangzhou, the monsoon rains wash the sky, deserts made with forbidden - durian (strong odor!).
Blind, Branaire Ducru 2002 a modern style I liked, very good wine.
Still in Guangzhou, wine presentation and magic tricks in the office of our importer, who is also a distributor of rare teas therefore, tea tasting in the style of Japanese tea ceremonies, a feast

Everywhere meals at all hours, the Chinese are worse than the French: barely out of the table, they are already salivating at the thought of the next meal ...

The harvest of white, 2nd sorting, expected to take place this week. The reds next week for the young vines in the plain.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A week in China, and I'm back in Saint Emilion just on time for September 18th evening, celebrating the night of Heritage: animation in the streets and fireworks over the city that lends itself well to the show.
A very popular party where between 25,000 and 30,000 people attend, according to the Gendarmerie!

The next day, the “ban des vendanges” (the launch of the harvest) by the Jurade de Saint Emilion, and many induction of St. Emilion Jurats who become new ambassadors of our appellation: lots of friends who we wondered, after the fact, why they are not yet “Jurat”, and especially the joy of seeing Mrs. Florence Decoster (Fleur Cardinale) inducted as a Jurat.
Beautiful ceremony with its group of inductees, some more or less famous, including the young singer Gregory. At dinner, nearly 638 people attended, many good wines were served, some fine speeches and a great privilege to be participating.

Trip to China with three cities visited (by plane) Canton, Shanghai and Beijing and two cities by car (God knows I love that), late in bed, up early, and especially a lot of events: meals, tastings in this country that is changing rapidly.
There are, of course, Lafite and Carruades, but already the 1st and 2nd wines and a few brands like Beychevelle, Angélus and even some mid range, even if the lowest sells for 1.5 Euros, millions of bottles are sold and some educated wine-lovers are emerging and appreciate higher end wines.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Top wines

Excerpt from Lorre White’s blog “the guru of luxury”

10 Of The Top Wines

There's more to wine than two-dollar Night Train. In the mid-'80s, billionaire Malcolm Forbes paid approximately $155,000 at auction for a bottle of wine. The bottle, which was believed to have come from Thomas Jefferson's own collection and dated back to 1787, was then put on display under strong lights and at the wrong angle. These conditions eventually made the cork fall into the bottle, and the wine lost its value and was thrown away.Yes, it's true that you don't have to pay a fortune for a bottle of wine, but keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for. If you really want to impress that special lady, show her your cellar of fine wines -- or at least display your knowledge of them. Read on to discover the ten most expensive wines available on the market. Note that all prices are in US dollars and were evaluated on the basis of a 750 ml bottle from a retailer.

Number 10

Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac 1996 - app. $287

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. In the mid-18th century, a French politician was about to be shipped off overseas, but not before visiting a physician. The doctor prescribed him some Lafite wine as a tonic. This politician enjoyed it so much that he offered some bottles to King Louis XV, and before long this wine became the star of Versailles and was dubbed "the King's wine." Remarkably dark, it sports mineral aromas of mint and black currant. Flavorful, its texture is silky and lingers in the mouth.

Number 9

Chateau Margaux 1995 - app. $402

Its color is almost black, yet it couldn't taste farther from ink. Containing passionate fragrances of blackberry and cassis, this smooth and racy vintage is powerful but still manages to be compact in its fruit structure. This vineyard goes back a thousand years and it has definitely mastered the art. The 1995 vintage recalls the 1986 for its complexity but it's also a good reminder of the 1990 for its elegance. The 1994 version is also quite expensive.

Number 8

Chateau Haut Brion Pessac-Lognan 1982 - app. $528

What distinguishes Haut Brion is the fact that it produced the oldest Bordeaux in the world. Founded in 1550, Jean de Pontac built everything from the ground up for the sole purpose of winemaking. Soon after, he opened a tavern in London to serve his wine exclusively. It was an undeniable success. This red 1982 vintage is still youthful and quite spectacular, holding its own against the best wines in the world. It has matured well with time but isn't expected to improve in years to come. So drink it soon!

Number 7

Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac 1986 - app. $592

Remember the Lafite Rothschild? The Chateau Mouton originated from the English branch of the same family in the mid-19th century. They were the first to launch special labels designed by famous artists such as Chagall, Picasso and Warhol after World War II. Selected as one of the top ten wines of 1986 by Wine Spectator magazine, this Chateau Mouton will recall memories of chocolate, raspberries and spices. This palatable vintage leaves an incredibly elongated aftertaste.

Number 6

Chateau La Mondotte Saint-Emilion 1996 - app. $608

La Mondotte was purchased by the Neipperg family at the same time that they bought Chateau Canon-La-Gaffelire and Clos de l'Oratoire. Therefore, this tiny vineyard of little more than 11 acres was condemned to play second fiddle for a number of years. But in 1996, La Mondotte reached maturity and exploded on the wine scene. Fairly fruity and exotic, this vintage is lavish and has a lengthy finish. It is often compared to Le Pin.Wait, have another glass.

Number 5

Chateau Valandraud Saint-Emilion 1995 - app. $668

This vineyard is one of the most important of the garage wines. Basically, it is to wine what microbreweries are to beer. Like La Mondotte, it occupies a small patch of land and its owners pour their artistic hearts into it. Valandraud comprises approximately 10 small parcels of land totaling 35 acres. This wine has been made with care and is quite rare, hence the price. Firm tannins define its rich and spicy structure; it is bolder than later vintages.

Number 4

Chateau Latour Pauillac 1990 - app. $774

Chateau Latour is one of the most reliable vineyards in France and produces one of the best three Pauillac on the market. This reliable wine draws its power from the rich soil on which the grapes grow. Among the raciest wines of the Medoc region, Wine Spectator selected it as the single best wine of 1993, bestowing on it a perfect score. An everlasting finale is the masterstroke of this vintage, which favors caramel, chocolate, licorice, dark cherry, and roasted fruits. The mouth is opulent and wholly composed. The 1994 vintage is also highly sought after.

Number 3

Chateau Le Pin Pomerol 1999 - app. $908

The Thienpont family's Chteau Le Pin venture is another garage wine. In an average year, they produce about 6,000 bottles of this fine Pomerol on five acres of land. It is truly one of the most illustrious wines to come out of Bordeaux. Its fullness comes from the downy levels of mocha, black cherry and currant flavors. It's a favorite of serious wine collectors.

Number 2

Petrus Pomerol 1998 - app. $1,459

This Merlot was one of the favorite wines at the White House during the Kennedy years. The official name is Chateau Petrus but even its label refers to it as simply "Petrus." The grapes are usually harvested early and left to mature slowly. Extremely fruity, suggestions of berries, vanilla, mocha, and oak emanate from its rich purple robe. The finish is something to wait for as it caresses the palate. A truly exquisite vintage, it should reach maturity after the year 2012.

Number 1

Dom. Romane Conti 1997 - app. $1,540

This French red Burgundy smells of berries spices and leather. Dark in color, it hints at flavors of soy sauce, flowers and licorice. The aroma is rich and penetrating without being too profound. The Romane Conti is a rare wine that has carved a niche for itself along the years. At over fifteen hundred dollars a bottle, it no longer has anything to prove. Consistently, the Romane Conti fetches prices around the thousand dollar mark no matter the vintage.

ps: prices

You should take note that the wine market has many intermediaries that have a direct effect on prices. Importers, wholesalers and retailers are all out to make a profit, so prices may vary depending on the level at which you get involved. Also, auctions often get out of hand and may entail heavier prices.

Bellevue de Tayac, Margaux

Dylan Roche sent me this picture :
The store opened to receive tourists wine lovers visiting chateaux in the Medoc.
Located just before the restaurant Le Lion d’Or in Arcins, my property in Margaux is positioned at the edge of the appellation (it’s a habit for me!) and should have the facilities to receive customers in order to be accepted as Cru Bourgeois.
Perfect timing, it’s now done.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Affordable luxury

Haut Carles 2006, after having spent a great deal of time praising this wine to retailer in Saint Emilion, both competitors as well as friends, I had to try it for myself...
So Murielle and I simply opened a bottle for pleasure: Haut Carles 2006, a very fine bottle of wine of the highest quality.
A great wine, powerful and elegant, and God knows how these 2 words are rarely used together. The nose is remarkably pure, of course, aging in luxurious Taransaud barrels, which are largely responsible for the quality of the wood tannins, with the taste of ripe grapes, a difficult task in this cold vintage and particularly on clayey limestone terroir.
Tasted blind, in many vintages, this wine arrives in the top places of great wines of Bordeaux, and retails between 20 and 30 Euros including VAT!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I read on the blog of Grand Jury Européen (in French): Saint Emilion, a reform to follow.

François Mauss gives his opinion on one of the points addressed in the new version of the rules established for the next classification of St. Emilion crus in 2011.
I certainly agree with his opinion. The benefits clearly outweigh the disadvantages, the "normal" brand has everything to gain by being able to offer enough volume to be visible, and nothing prevents those who want to remain rare, with limited quantities and micro cuvees, to stay the same.

Nature hates a vacuum, our classification systems need to be understandable for customers as well as for us too.
Critics will not disappear, but not to change the old rules would open the door to future challenges, etc ....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

That’s what blogs are for

The harvest has begun for my friends bloggers and they seemed to be happy with the first cuvees.
Check out Dupéré-Barrera’s blog (in French) and its relevant questions on the Guide Hachette.
Hervé Bizeul (also in French) takes you completely into his story, I can taste the grapes, smell the vats and my back hurts just imagining his days.
Toutoundji (in French), the enologist, is already busy with our whites, and his consulting job is starting to be recognized.
As for us, we will have to wait until next week for the Murielle’s 1st pictures : 1st part of the harvest for the whites on Tuesday.

Friday, September 10, 2010

It keeps going on...

The rain that that we had waited and desired for so long has finally arrived. This should help greatly the ripening in our vineyards. The next chapter will be the first harvest of red grapes in two weeks.

It’s still going on, even if some bids show, as usual, a bit of retreat from the highest price as in the stock exchange there are corrections.
There are still sales for 2009, major brands were still in demand in September and the qualities of the 2008 or the upcoming 2010 won’t probably have any negative effect on the 2009 prices, no offense to Cassandra and other oracles who can read in coffee beans, brood and only dream of disenchanted futures.
Around 100 2009 wines sold will remain expensive. Maybe lower profit will be to expect but trees don’t grow all the way to heaven.
In the meantime, thousands of bottles of 2009 Bordeaux are for sale for less than 5 Euros!

Yesterday visit of our Ukrainian distributors, with, of course, a visit of the “historical Valandraud” in the village: the birth of garage wine, and then, trip to Saint Etienne de Lisse to see the vineyards, the cellar, the house and, as usual, introduce our neighbors Fleur Cardinale, Rol Valentin and take the road past the chateaux of Pressac and Faugères.
Following, we drove passed all the famous crus located on the hillsides of Saint Emilion to show Clos Badon Thunevin before having lunch at our house :
Deviled eggs, sirloin, French fries and mushrooms, cheese and seasonal desert : candied figs served with vanilla ice-cream.
Blanc de Valandraud 2006, Clos Badon Thunevin 2007, Bad Boy 2007, Bellevue de Tayac 2005, Valandraud 2004 and 1999, our fine Bordeaux and coffee. Hurrah for promoting wines !
Fortunately, Florian was available to translate for our Ukranian guests, able to eat everything (they travel on bicycles!) and all of this with good spirits.
Next time, meeting in Ukraine in 2011?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Walking pass the town hall of Saint Emilion, I asked myself : why the colors red white and blue of the French flag?
I learned the meaning in school but today... nothing. The revolution, the color of France?
Hurrah for the internet…:
Red for the blood spilled to free the world
Blue for the city of Paris
White for the royalty.

It reminded me of an anecdote with Mr Thierry Manoncourt from Figeac. I had drove him home from Bordeaux to St. Emilion, after a television show in Bordeaux and he asked me where I lived “in the center of the village Mr Manoncourt next to Mr Simon’s garage across the Tour du Roy”, he corrected me and said: “dear friend, St. Emilion is a city, not a village. Besides there is a town hall!”

I do not know what makes the difference between a village and a city, especially if a city has fewer than 200 inhabitants within its walls. Perhaps the mayor will he happy to know that he is the mayor of a city not a village, which is at least able of receiving over one million visitors this year!
Huge amount of visitors and great reputation for Saint Emilion which is in part undoubtedly due to the promotional work done by people like Mr Thierry Manoncourt.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beginning of the week

A new wine bar opened in Saint Emilion, 3 Place du Marché à Bois : L’Absolu, just across the famous restaurant La Cadène. Created by Mr Nanchian, I was invited yesterday... I will go this week.

A bit of rain this morning, at least it washed the leaves and brought a bit of freshness.

Technical check up yesterday… for my car. Mercedes offers great quality service. Is it the brand’s policy or the garage in Libourne?

A Dutch couple visited us, they were interested in wine: a second or third chosen life, charming and with a good sense of humor.

The cleanup work and whitewashing in Pomerol is moving forward and this changes the surrounding atmosphere, which becomes more pure…

And yesterday, September 6, we received a nice order for Bad Boy 2007, the confirmation of a pre order for our 2006 Pomerol. Our fiscal year, which ended on August 8 2010, is keeping our accountants busy and forces us to control our stock, the main charge in my business of traditional wholesaler, negociant (with inventory from 1999 to 2008)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


We had a sunny weekend, waiting for the rain, which is rare in our region this year, the drought is more severe than in 2003, but the vines are suffering less, without a doubt the roots get their water deeper, and cool nights gave the plants a break, ideal weather but a little rain would help the ripening process, we'll see ...

Saturday at 10 am, meeting with Denis M. He has a blog (in French), is a school teacher, likes wine, order, disorder, and is very close to Laurent Barbier and Catherine Manuaud – this is to put him in context, then, it’s a bit more complicated, he likes too much, idealizes too much the wine world, those who produce it, but the word too much is too much, for why not be more “reasonable” in this world. Am I also too much the archetype of the too permanent?

Denis exhausted me, why this and why that, and so forth and so ... No time to breathe (just a short 15 minutes nap, and again!). In fact it was a very good moment, youth recharges my batteries. And the paradox: both sides had nothing to sell, except seeking mutual respect. I purposely use big words: for the google translation

After lunch, I took a walk in the vineyards, the cellars, the office, meeting with friends from Saint Emilion, famous in the wine world, lunch at home, of course, prepared by Murielle and we served 2 wines: Compassant 2004, still so good and such a superb value (in my opinion), and blind: Griffe de Cap d’Or 1998, produced by us at that time. I love this wine, 100% Merlot, coming from a great terroir in Saint Georges Saint Emilion, Denis 1998 right bank. He is surprised, us as well… in addition, he has talent. Or luck?

In the afternoon, Jean-Jacques and Michèle Faucon, winers of the contest organized by the magazine Terre de Vins for our Saint Etienne de Lisse association made of Pressac, Faugères, Rol Valentin, Fleur Cardinale and Valandraud.

They had never played and won their first game. Luck, in addition, they live in Le Pizou, where my parents had a beautiful property (the castle, yes, yes). I picked them up at the house of Rol Valentin: coffee, macaroons and Cannelés (life is tough) and then we went through the vineyards of Valandraud and Fleur Cardinale: tasting grapes, the terroir, varietals, red, white, short visit of the cellar and the house, then went to see Bambi, the donkeys, the goat, and it's already time for dinner with Denis, Jean Jacques and Michele and as amuse-bouche, a few memorable figs (great vintage!).

Some ceps bought at the market in Libourne, a good sirloin, a mirabelle tart good enough to damn a saint, fine Bordeaux from Valandraud, Calvet-Thunevin Dentelles 2002 unfortunately not in top shape, and Valandraud. They just had to guess the vintage and Denis (again, the beginner’s luck, or just his talent?) guest it : 2004 ! It is starting to show well, I just wanted to be sure before taking some in my suitcase for my next trip to China (Canton, Shanghai, Beijing in 7 days).
Before, we drank Blanc N°1 2006 vintage, still so good (modest Mumu). Everybody left at 10:30 pm, phew!
Jean Jacques is a train driver and Michèle cook and pied-noir, it brings our lives closer, our parallel lives !
I do not know if I'll do this every day, but the day passed too quickly. It is good sign for me, but the freaking problem I have with the weather does not get resolved

Sunday, visit of the vineyards in Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol with the enologist we already work with as consultant in the Roussillon, Claude Gros who has a few clients here in Bordeaux such as, I believe, Fleur Morange, Domaine du Bouscat, and in the South La Négly, etc..
Lots of parcels, lost of terroir, all this needs a bit of rain: The drought is quite noticeable.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Wine Cellar Insider

Picture of Murielle taken by Jeff Leve.

When I am not in Saint Emilion, Murielle takes the relay to receive clients, friends, collectors, wine lovers, critics, journalists, etc…

Jeff Leve, American collector from Los Angeles, crazy about music, good food and wine he likes to share here or at his home, created his own site, as he has already been very active on Mark Squire’s bulletin board hosted by Robert Parker’s site.
You can read about all the wines he drank, the food he ate and the people he met.
I don’t speak English, but for those who can, here are a few links about our wines:
Chateau Valandraud, Clos Badon Thunevin or Bad Boy (Mauvais Garçon)

Friday, September 3, 2010


Yesterday, serge posted a comment on future vintages :
“according to the person in charge of a great chateau in Libourne the harvest promises to be of exceptional quality: Will it means that it will be the best vintage since Jesus Christ and are we going to have enough hyperbole for 2011 which already looks fabulous now, for 2012 I am hesitating between extravagant or atomic? What do you recommend?”

Serge, you mention Jesus-Christ, perhaps because you hope for a miracle ?
Jokes aside, it is looking like it will be a good vintage, but we still have to wait another 15 to 45 days as the weather can change.
In any case, it is certainly hot; close to the 2003 drought, but the vines look better than in 2003, so patience.
Why shouldn’t we be happy to have another good vintage?! And it will most likely be cheaper for the consumer!
Napa Valley in California produces 9 good vintages out of 10, thanks to consistently good climate. A long time ago, Bordeaux had 1 or 2 out of 10, so I prefer the 6 or 8 great years out 10 option, but I am an optimist. Anguished, stressed but optimist.
Hurrah for global warming in Bordeaux vineyards, even if a bit of water would be welcome.
And hurrah for rain too

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Terre de Vins vs. Parker : another battle ?

I recommend to read, one of the most upsetting comments I've read recently by searching on wine and news in Google.
On the Terre de Vins site, in the news and society column :
“Loved or despised, the Guide Parker des Vins de France is now available on phones. While the CIVB will launch its own application on Bordeaux wines for Smartphones-Apple’s star, this American lawyers and wine critic Robert Parker is also arriving in Apple Stores ...
Loved or despised in the world of Bordeaux wine for having standardized wines, the Parker Guide des Vins de France arrives in your pocket ...
The parkerised iPhone?

Wines "in his notes for foreign destinations, the almost systematic use of new oak to give a note vanilla wine or micro-oxygenation " should have the spotlight ... As for all wine guides, wine lovers under 17 years are prohibited from downloading and will not be able to find the notes and comments of 10,000 wines listed.”

That’s some news ! but it's a shame that there is no signature from this great and talented journalist highly critical of Robert Parker and his "American" taste.

In any case I’m writing about it just to have a name, so I know in advance, if I meet him, what he believes in as it will save me from wasting time ...
It is a pity because on the same site, there is also a nice interview (in French) of Thierry Desseauve on the press, wine connoisseur and the need for “independent” experts.


I read on the web version of Terre de Vins (in French) an article about the first drug that cures alcoholism (Bacoflene) and about Dr. Ameisen’s book, as well as the reasons for the resistance of the medical establishment for this drug doesn’t generate enough revenues (even with the potential to save lives ...)
After the broadcast, yesterday, of a good film “Le dernier pour la route” (one for the road) based on Mr. Herve Chabalier’s book, I prefer the book by Dr. Ameisen and his hopeful side.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2 visits and a lunch with a small group gathered for the occasion, two journalists, from Russia and France, and a few friends, amateurs of vintage cars.

Gentleman Classic Car (in French) was founded by a vintage car lover, Bruno Richet, who decided to turn his passion into his carrier: renting vintage cars and organize visits of chateaux with the help of Serge Tchekov.
Check-out his site to see the cars he rents as well as his prices which don’t seem to be too expensive, considering the pleasure and privilege to drive one of these cars, which, certainly have a story to tell.
In any case, is there anything more obvious than pairing the Gentleman Classic Car to garage wine?
This gives our (real) garage in Saint Emilion the opportunity to have a second life and for us to received potential customers who like and buy our wines.