Friday, February 25, 2011

RVF : change, evolution ? Who knows...

In this month’s issue of Revue du Vin de France (RVF) 2 properties and 2 wines makers from the Roussillon are finally featured.

Hervé Bizeul, Le Clos des Fées, with 4 pages dedicated to him and some controversial questions with his no nonsense answers...

Philippe Gard, Coume del Mas, with also 4 pages article.

Also included were 2 pages on our friends from Troplong Mondot and a vertical tasting of 20 vintages of this Saint Emilion 1st growth.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quarin : notes and more notes for 2009, and especially 2008

In his last column to date, he announces that Cheval Blanc 2008 as well as Eglise Clinet are exceptional, which, with 19/20 notes will be the 2 best wines from the 2008 vintage – tasting so good and so quickly overshadowed by 2009 and soon 2010!

A love note, normal after Valentine's Day, was also published about our friend Paul-Marie Morillon’s wine “A nos amours” Château Lafont Fourcat. I am sure that Jean Marc Quarin’s influence in Switzerland, will also convince our transalpine distributor to carry this wine
The words describing this wine make you want to drink it, even though I have everything I need these days!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bottles we drank

Last Wednesday, we had lunch at home with one of our good bankers as well as Philippe, Eric, Gilles, Murielle and I.
Blanc N°1 2008, Baby Bad Boy 2009 and then we went to serious things : Taluos 2008 Cabardes, an hedonistic wine with so much fruit, soft but with depth, a very good wine sold at retail for less than 20 Euros. At the same time, our Calvet Thunevin 2005 Dentelles, more like a classic southern wine, with more vivacity for a wine aging gracefully.
Following, Chateauneuf du Pape Tardieu Laurent 2007 Vieilles Vignes and Jamet Côte Rôtie 2000. 2 very different wines, Jamet having more freshness, acidity.

Then we had warm potatoes with truffles (such a good year), rabbit with morels and desert, rice pudding with Tahitian vanilla. Astralis from Clarendon Hills 2001 (Australian shiraz), rated 99 by Robert Parker, a cult wine offered by a friend wholesaler in Bordeaux who imports it.
Certainly a fine wine, still missing this hint of craziness, the funkiness found in European wines, but we did not taste blind. In any case, a fine wine.

During Sainte Bernadette, don't worry, everything’s gonna be alright

Thursday, from 10 am to noon, I had a meeting with the heads of my accounting firm, KPMG, to plan the strategy to prepare my company for that damn St. Emilion classification which imposes strict rules regarding the plots, the operation, etc...

For the lunch we had at my house, we served Goulée 2008 and Commanderie de Mazeyres 2006, both very good. Atmosphere, transcends wine. We also tasted our Fine de Bordeaux. Simple and excellent meal.

At 2:30 pm, INAO meeting at our trade organization’s office regarding the last issues before signing off the new rules for the Saint Emilion classification. The atmosphere was not as tense as I imagined, with almost every questions being answered. I was a bit surprised not to see the usual contrarians getting involved and the grand crus affected and yet notoriously opposed. Anyway, it was a productive meeting, even if I am surprised by the consensus which seemed to prevail?

We had dinner with our Brazilian friends and distributor as well as a famous Spanish producer Raul Perez with his Ultreia 2008 -2009-2007 Bierzo made with the varietal called Mencia. As starter and during the meal: Champagne, Bad Girl 2008 very good, Fleur Cardinale 2004 and 2007, great to drink now, Fayat Thunevin Pomerol 2007, soft, Clos Romanile 2008 with the fine and silky texture of an aristocratic wine, Virginie de Valandraud 2005 found in my cellar (my last bottle… I must buy more), what a beautiful vintage, and Valandraud 2002 which is starting to taste good. This was also the opportunity to check following a disappointing tasting done in Miami at one of my clients.

Goes to show that is not easy to determine when and how a wine is at its best... As the famous last words state “there are no great wines, only great bottles.” Again, and to end, Fine de Bordeaux straight from the barrel...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Advance election campaign

Will there be a new classification in Saint Emilion?
A meeting took place this afternoon at the Saint Emilion trade organization’s office between the head of INAO and our leaders to discuss the new rules defined for the next classification.
I already wrote about it, as well as with many people affected: my colleagues owners, wine merchants, consultants and of course journalists.

As of today, a small number of those considering to apply for this classification are opposed to these new rules being proposed, especially those giving a greater part to wine tasting (quality of the wine) and also choosing a "foreign" committee rather that a committee consisting of wholesalers and industry members from Bordeaux. Another group of opponents would rather keep the same system, jesuitically claiming that it would help avoid new conflicts! Saint Emilion’s priest may have a lot of work hearing confessions of all these sinners (from activities, thoughts, omission, selfishness) reluctant to share this beautiful gift from self-promotion to recognition, which is often opposed here to the Medoc classification, frozen since 1855!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2 meals and 1 argument

On Tuesday, February 14, I attended a lunch organized by a friend of mine, Jean Claude Aubert from Château La Couspaude, for 18 guests around the theme: friendship, truffles and wine. Every time it is a success, this marriage works well, all the guest take a break from their busy work load. Work began at noon with Champagne Brut Roederer and scallops with truffles, mash potatoes with truffles, woodcock and thrushes and woodcock, brie with truffle and desert without truffles, phew!
The truffles from Dordogne were ripe, almost in a decadent way, with aromas close to the white truffle from Alba.
The wines (and I must have forgotten some) were serve by 2 bottles or magnums. La Couspaude 1994, delicious, with the fine and suave texture of a good Chambertin. La Couspaude 1996, very young, followed by 1999, opulent. 2001 La Couspaude, still a baby, followed by a delicate Corbin Manuel 2006, then Valandraud 2005 still tight and powerful. Fortunately, to soften our palate, we had a Clos des Papes 2005, Chateauneuf du Pape, perfectly balanced and still with 15% alcohol, goes to show that it is always the same story: class, balance, talent in vinification make you forget the 15%.
We left the table at around 5:30 pm and for dinner at our house with Jean Dutruilh (Château La Croix Figeac) and the owner of Château Grand Destieu. We served: Grand Destieu 2008, Compassant 2004, Virginie de Valandraud 2003 to check if it tastes better than at the last tasting. I believe that the environment and atmospheric pressure play a great role in appreciating a wine and without being too esoteric, if a participant doesn’t like a wine, everyone will have a hard time with this wine. Jean really liked this Valandraud 2003 which will remain one of the best 2003 in Bordeaux in the next 4 to 5 years.
Nice day though, when it ends it starts again… for lunch (I will write about it).

I took some time to read on the site of the Grand Jury European a comment posted by François Mauss on the Lascombe 2005 affair which, having ended 1st in a tasted created a controversy.

A well-known wine merchant who takes himself a bit for a lost journalist, although friendly in life - well, that's what I thought - said that garage wines and Valandraud are worth less than a soufflé. At least, it is written. I knew that he didn’t like my wines, but I find him rather stupid to defend the 1st growths from 1855 when his friend Jacques Dupont, who is a well-known and committed journalist and who does not particularly like garage wines, like Patrick Dussert Gerber, tasted, at my house, blind, my wines with other crus (1st, classic, garage) and gave good notes to the "old " vintages of Valandraud.
It’s true that it was blind, it's true that there were other great professionals, some unconvinced by garage wines, it’s true that there was an article about this tasting in the Amateur de Bordeaux, and it is also true that not having been able to prove that Valandraud was not good after 10 years of age, the number of years necessary to see these soufflés of garage wines collapse, the conclusion was: "we'll see in 20 years.”
Well, I expect that this great store owner organizes this sort of blind tasting with Valandraud and 1st growths over the past 20 years. And as he will organize this tasting, finance it, no one will challenge the result, as is the case for the Grand Jury European tasting sponsored by the owners of Lascombes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine’s Day

Or how to mix work and pleasure

February 14 is Valentine's Day, I'm sure to remember the anniversary of my marriage to Muriel: It was the day we had chosen in 1976.

Yesterday, we received a group of Chinese wine lovers and friends of one of our good clients from this big country. This group was invited to Valandraud for dinner and to spend the night. Our friend Catherine Pere-Verge from Chateau La Violette, Le Gay, Montviel and her vineyards in Argentina, was also there.
One of the Chinese couple present was also married on February 14.

Bad Girl 2008, Baby Bad Boy 2009, Bad Boy 2007, Virginie de Valandraud 2004 in magnum, quite good as well as Valandraud 1999 in magnum, very young. Hurrah for magnums!
At the end, we served our Fine de Bordeaux.
(Fortunately I only had an apple and an orange for lunch!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Good news

Château de Viaud in Lalande de Pomerol was sold to COFCO, a Chinese group, owners of Great Wall with whom I tried to setup a joint venture in 2000. This will give Lalande de Pomerol and its wines great visibility in China and that’s good for our Domaine des Sabines (lalande de Pomerol) and our colleagues as it will help promote our wines.

We hire a new agent to promote our wines in Bordeaux and on the Arcachon basin, who’s motivated and a wine-lover. What else can I say, except thank you to all the restaurants and stores who will feature our wines.

We will participate with Terre de Lisse (Fleur Cardinale, Pressac, Faugères, Rol Valentin and Valandraud) at the RVF show in Palais Brongniart May 14 and 15.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Thursday morning, a photographer and 2 assistants came to shoot the pictures for an upcoming article for a great American magazine The Wine Spectator.
Each photographer, and God knows how many I met since the begining of our story (garage-Valandraud), each photographer has a different vision, a sharp eye and empathy, as if they were journalists. This one had a beautiful smile like Michel Delpech in the 70s.

Just before, it was the advertising director for a group of major French media (Le Monde, L’Express, etc.). The day before, it was those of Gault et Millau. There is a lot of people in this world, not easy…

I had lunch with a friend to talk about Saint Emilion classification. We ate at home and again, drank a bottle of Sansonnet 2008

Friday morning, I was offered a consulting project in South Africa then the rest of the day was busy preparing for a very busy week to come.


For lunch, we drank:
Bad Girl 2008 served cool. It’s beginning to taste good, with fine bubbles and a nice palate.
Baby Bad Boy 2009 superb fruit, very aromatic, soft, the stress from bottling has been absorbed and this wines is bound to be successful. Merlot and Grenache work well together, especially when our consultant is talented.
Sansonnet 2008 : superb elegance with fine tannins and concentration, a difficult task, it will be one of the wines I will defend this year as I have no doubt that the 2010 will appeal to critics as well as customers.

The role of consultant can be misunderstood, even by people in the trade, broker, dealer, and even owner. The consultant, whatever their role, cannot perform miracles, turning a donkey into a racehorse, do the opposite of what is requested by the owner who pays and is entitled to get what he requests (or hopes).

The consultant I work with is from the Laboratoire Michel Rolland, Jean Philippe Fort. Our Valandraud doesn’t taste like Bellevue de Tayac, Virginie de Valandraud has the power that Bel Air Ouÿ lacks, etc…
In addition to Jean Philippe Fort for our reds in Saint Emilion, I hired Claude Gros for our wines in Lalande de Pomerol and Pomerol, he had been already working on our wines from the Roussillon and his talent has already been used by La Fleur Morange or Le Bouscat. The wines produced, of course, show the different terroir and techniques used.

For our whites, we asked Athanase Fakorellis to help us and both Murielle and I are happy with the result, even if we haven’t yet convinced some journalists. When our clients taste them, they love them and that’s what counts.
To finish with our team of consultants, Paul-Marie Morillon is helping us with the treatment of soils and vineyards, increasingly using eco-friendly treatments, it’s the least we can do for the hypochondriac that I am and our ISO 9001 and 14001 norms!
And that’s not all: I have two attorneys, a notary (lawyer), an accountant, auditor, and even a banker, who work as consultants.

Why all this spiel on consultants?
It’s to point out that even if I “consult” for a property, it is difficult to know what my exact role is, considering that it is different for Fleur Cardinale, Chateau de Carles, Marojallia or Sansonnet or even for the properties of the Fayat family.

Some properties only hire me to present their wines to the media, or to get my opinion on wholesalers, brokers, consultants, knowing that I mainly work with the Laboratoire Rolland, and often with Alain Raynaud, and that I like the work of Toutoundji, Dubourdieu, etc…

Where I “fail” is that if I am hired as consultant, this does not mean that the wines will have 100 points from Parker, Wine Spectator and other media. But maybe this is the fault of the other consultants…

Where I'm not good, is that where I work, I cannot always make concentrated wines (that is supposed to be my trademark), those who think it did not properly taste Valandraud

Saturday, February 12, 2011

USA, suite

Tasting with the sales reps of some of my best distributors in New York and Boston, and field work with Christian Dalbavie: the famous restaurants or bistros we vistited bought 2 or 3 of the 6/7 wines shown, proof that Bordeaux is hip again, that our wines are appreciated.

Amongst the brasseries we visited, some serving 300 meals for lunch and 500 for dinner, were Pastis or the very exclusive 21 Club, Corton, Keens Steakhouse, The Lion (with paintings of Basquiat on the wall of the dining room) in New York, and in Boston Harvest, Bistro du Midi and other clients amateurs-fans of “Thunevin” wines.

Sales following the financial crisis fell really low and we are now experiencing the same dynamism as before this crisis. Work and joy of working, of course prices have been revised downwards, less show-off, value for money more in line with Europe’s with service as an added value. The method of remuneration is largely responsible for this energy.

The A-380 aircraft I took on the trip over was really quiet. I don’t understand why Air France doesn’t provide seats with 180 degree recline in business class, the seats can barely recline 160 degrees?
Impeccable return trip from Boston, quality service and we even landed early in Paris. The long-term parking bus in Bordeaux was on time. Goes to show, anything can happen.


A tasting was organized at my home for the Swedish magazine: Livets Goda, with Mr Anders Enquist ( it reminds me successful books), his photographer and Andreas Larsson.

Theme : 2008 in Bordeaux
Valandraud, Virginie de Valandraud, Bel Air Ouÿ, Clos du Beau Père, Domaine des Sabines, Bellevue de Tayac, Bad Boy, Domaine Virginie Thunevin, Fleur Cardinale, La Dominique, Sansonnet, Beau Soleil.
2008 are the great values today in Bordeaux: great wines sold at a decent price, except for the 20 or 30 icons.
The wines taste good now, even if, like La Dominique, they are still closed following their bottling. La Dominique 2006 and 2007 had, in the same period, similar characteristics being shut and today, they are delicious. Leave time make its magic, which we don’t have today, especially for Bordeaux who are made to be good for a long time.

With our meal, we drank Bad Girl (2008) and Jacquesson 731, the Blancs de Valandraud 1 and 2 and following, blind:
Pingus 2007 and Valandraud 2007
Latricière Chambertin from Dominique Laurent 1999 and Valandraud 1999
Harlan 1998 and Valandraud 1998
At the end, we had our Fine Bordeaux which was inspired by Andreas Larsson.

Another journalist: Mario Scheuermann wrote a good comment on Bellevue La Randée 2009 and our German distributor. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A week in the USA

The original plan was to honor the invitation of Alan Frishman for a classy dinner event organized by the New York chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux on Monday, January 31 for 60 guests at The Modern, the famous restaurant of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa). The theme was on the Terroiristes, with Valandraud and La Mondotte – cult wines, presented by Mr and Mrs von Niepperg, and myself with the help of my translator and friend Christian Dalbavie.
I want to thank all the guests, the Commandeurs, Maitre Emerite, Maitre and regent for the great meal, and to drink all our wines:

Les Vins

Champagne, Vicomte de Castellane, NV, Brut Rosé
Château de Fieuzal, 2001
Château Blanc de Valandraud N°1, 2007
Bordeaux blanc

Château La Mondotte, 2001

Château Valandraud, 1998

Château La Mondotte, 1996

Château Valandraud, 2003

Special Thanks to :
Stephan von Neipperg - Château La Mondotte
Jean-Luc Thunevin - Château Valandraud

The menu :
Hors d'Oeuvres

Pâté de Foie Maison avec Moutarde à l'Ancienne
Tartare de Saumon au Sésame et à l'Oignon Vert sur une Petite Gauffre de Pomme de Terre
Fritte de Pois Chiche à l'Oseille
Croquette de Poulet au Cassis et à la Sauge
Souris d'Agneau au Cumin, aux Dattes de Madjool et Pois Chiches

La Matière

Panna Cotta de Céleri aux Truffes Noires de Petits Oignons

Tartare de Boeuf Wagu au Liseron d'Eau
Filet de Veau Poché, Marmelade de Truffes et Topinambour
Pot-au-Feu "Modern" et Nage aux Truffes Noires
Selection de Fromages Affinés
Petits Fours et Chocolats

Executive Chef : Gabriel Kreuther
Wine Director : Belinda Chang
Director Special Events : Heather Whitney
Special Events Coordinator : Michelle Starrs
Private Dining Room Maitre 'D : Emiliano Turrini

Seeing friends like Mr and Mrs Colin Ferenbach from Château La Vieille Cure in Fronsac, Alan Frishman involvement and Donald Zilkha (who speaks remarkably well French) who organized a private dinner the night before at his home with a group of friends who brought the following bottles :
La Mondotte 1995, Valandraud 1992 and 1995, Trotanoy 1992, Belair 1992, Lafleur 1995, Angélus 1995, La Conseillante 1995, Lafleur Gazin 1982, La Conseillante 1990, La Mondotte 1998, Valandraud 1998, Yquem 1986
Also present, a talented chef (Christian Delouvier from the restaurant La Mangeoire in New York) helped me deal with my jetlag.
Thank you for all and hope to see all these new friends in Saint Emilion.
Vive Facebook and my American friends like Brent in New York

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bottles I recently drank

Clos Badon 1999 in magnum, simply great, with fruit, youthful. I will check if this is due to this Magnum or if the 2 others left are the same !

Bad Girl (2008) which is almost over the stress cause by adding the dosage of liqueur. Looking good for Valentine's day !

Valandraud 1997 in magnum : it keeps its "classical" Bordeaux style, which is not my cup of tea, but, fortunately, many of my friends like that.

Valandraud blanc 2005 : unpleasant phase or end of its life, the great vintages in red are rarely great in white but I remember the forgotten Plantiers Haut Brion 1974 which, more than 10/15 years later was excellent, goes to show...

Valandraud 2000, too bad I don't have any magnums left...
Really good, even if it is not concentrated enough, very elegant, balanced. To drink now.

In addition :

Sassicaïa 2007 , a bit "light"

Pingus 2005 great, a very fine wine

Valandraud 2005 decanted, it holds up, mix of tradition and modernity

Valandraud blanc 2007, always so good

Ruinart blanc de blanc, never disappointed

Trois Marie 2004 served a bit cool, able to wake up the dead, this wine has remarkable energy

And to finish Fine Bordeaux de Valandraud for us to wake up…

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Valandraud 1992

I read the following comments on the blog :

"1992 Chateau Valandraud, St Emilion (from imperial, as all good wine should be)

This wine ashamed me. I’ve slagged off Valandraud in the past (over-priced Parkerised fruitjuice) despite never having tasted it. But it’s second vintage (and it had a difficult start in 91, 92, 93 & 94), made in perhaps the trickiest year in recent history, was just lovely. Energetic fruit, a buzz that the modern style of St Emilion shows. Highly impressive. Jean-Luc Thunevin apparently can’t remember how many imps he bottled – somewhere between three and six – and they were done by hand on his kitchen table. Unpriceable class. And I am a fool."

Thank you Joss!


Gaz de schistes (gas from Shale): miracle or curse for the Roussillon ?

Will our independence in energy have to go in this direction?
The future of our great terroirs would be rarefied and the destruction of nature, so far preserved by our farmers, so important to our country.
The myth of the "Americans" from Maury pre-war (winemakers who became very rich from the strong demand on their wine), will perhaps succeed JR from Dallas, Texas!

Calvet-Thunevin Hugo 2004

Following Patrick Essa’s comments, I opened a bottle of Hugo 2004 from Calvet-Thunevin to see if my friends and I would experience the same feelings for our wine.

Present were our friend lawyer and great Bordeaux lover, as well as our wines from the Roussillon, 2 famous winemakers, not fans of southern style wines, so different from Bordeaux, and us, lovers of southern wines, including Spain.
Comments from my friends: Wine with refined tannins, which is a good compliment, some volatile present in the nose, but this mostly due to the naturally high level of alcohol (don’t forget those of the famous Cheval Blanc 1947 and the remarks of Jacques Luxey on wines made between 1900 and 1980, who spoke of volatile carrier of aromas!)
In any case, our comments were no match to Patrick’s precision and poetry in those posted Wednesday, 26.
Before, we tasted Goulé 2007, Medoc made by Cos d’Estournel, Gracia 2004 and at the end Bad Girl (2008).