Friday, July 29, 2011

The price of wine

A bottle of Château d’Yquem 1811 was sold to a French restaurant owner in Bali for 85,000 euros! The last record was set by an imperial of Cheval Blanc 1947 for 223,967 euros (in other words, a bit less than 28,000 euros for an equivalent 750 ml)

In 1998 in Sotheby’s, Valandraud also broke a few records. Below a little reminder and comparison during the glorious years for Valandraud (prices listed are in Francs for a bottle except for the 1994)
1991 : Château Valandraud 3534 F/ Château Margaux 322 F / Chateau Lafite Rothschild 232 F
1992 : Château Valandraud 1146 F/ Château Lafite Rothschild 431 F / château Latour 320 F
1993 : Château Valandraud 1445 F / Château Haut Brion 283 F / Château Lafite Rothschild 315 F
1994 : Château Valandraud Imperiale 7416 F / Château L’Evangile 4137 F
1995 : Château Valandraud 1204 F /Château Haut Brion 817 F / Château Lafite Rothschild 763 F
During the same period, friends who had just returned from Japan told me that Valandraud was one of the most expensive wines they saw and that it sold in stores and restaurant for the same price as icons such as Romanée Conti and Pétrus for around 10,000 F.

In 1991 and 2000, Parker felt that Valandraud was too expensive. I don’t know what he thinks of the current price of Valandraud which has, since 2006, dropped off from the peaks and sells at a similar price as super seconds with a small quantity produced: 15,000 bottles in average, compared to Cos d’Estournel, nothing to say. Sold at the same price as Pavie or Angelus, Valandraud still has a “social” status, inherited from the base established by the 1855 classification in Medoc where the price was the reference and explains the whole fuss around the en primeur campaign, a sort of “butterfly” effect coming from the base of the whole classification in Bordeaux (and elsewhere).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The battle of Castillon

Saturday, July 23, 2011, from 10:30 pm to 1 am, I attended the beautiful enactment of the Battle of Castillon taking place on seven hectares (17 acres) by over 450 volunteer actors and 50 horsemen. This famous battle between the English and French took place in 1453 and marks the end of the 100 years’ War.

It was a nice popular show (22 euros), meant in the noblest sense, with all this audience and volunteers to experience this beautiful spectacle, the cold night did not even stop me thinking that the show was too short. It made me think that it would be a great idea to recreate a similar event in Saint Emilion during the Heritage Night?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Aphorisms, adages, sayings, maxims, moral

In the letter of the brokerage firm Les Grands Crus, this quote from William Arthur Ward was included:
“The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change;
the realist adjusts the sails.”
This explains the interest of some in our profession for sailboats. The Bay of Arcachon, Cap Ferret, La Rochelle, the Basque Country are not far but this quote could have been more complete with: and Pull-along (motor boats) don’t care about the wind.

Well, now it’s everybody’s guess, what do these quotes have in common with Bordeaux wine trade? The current En Primeur campaign has rather been the perfect illustration: given that many here tend to go where the wind blows, even at the risk of crashing against the rocks; let's go, provided they’re not alone!

Meanwhile, the fact that “normal” wines sell rather well is proof that they are consumed and that Bordeaux, with the last 3 great vintages, is able to produce competitive wines, even in mature markets such as Germany, Switzerland or the U.S., and for being considered "has-been" they are rather “in”.

Our wines, bottled in our chateaux, sold at retail between 5 and 10 euros have never been so good; I hope 2011 will be another good vintage.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thank you Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Below is the comment written by David Schildknecht in the # 195 issue of the Wine Advocate, about our cuvee Constance, 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Thanks to the varietals planted in the property, including Syrah and Mourvèdres.

Thunevin-Calvet Constance 2010 90-91+ Review by David Schildknecht
As for the 2010s, knock wood (since, to be sure, it's early days for these), but if the 2010 Cotes du Roussillon Villages Constance that I tasted from tank is any indication, then Thunevin and Calvet might well achieve this year a sense of levity, fresh fruit juiciness, and interactive complexity that surpasses previous vintages at this address. That's not to suggest that the fruit - abundant black raspberry and blackberry - isn't sweetly ripe; in fact it's nearly liqueur-like. But here, my animal appetite as well as my intellectual curiosity (not just professional duty) sends me in search of a second sip. Scrubby suggestions of juniper and arbor vitae; resinous mint and marjoram; and saliva-inducing salinity that seems linked to a more intriguing sense of mineral impingement vie for attention and contribute to a sense of vibrancy which let's hope (but I am pretty confident) will be preserved in bottle, from which this ought then to be worth revisiting for at least 3-4 years. The 2008 offered a welcome sense of dynamic, but this 2010 outdoes it in that department; and as for sheer sense of schist-typical expression of stone and smoke, this surpasses the 2007 Constance in that respect. In a sign of the times, incidentally, this year the share of Carignan exceeds that of Grenache.

To settle a trademark dispute, the former Domaine Calvet-Thunevin is now "Thunevin-Calvet," but there were no corresponding changes in company structure or team members. Where there has been change - and for more about how Jean-Roger Calvet and Jean-Luc Thunevin entered into this collaboration and its evolution consult my report in issue 183 - is in the line-up of wines and their elevage. New wood, like ultra-ripe fruit, is still prominent, but barriques have increasingly given way to demi-muids and foudres, while the talk is of enhancing freshness and minerality, an aim reflected not only in the rigorous exclusion via table de trie of any overripe berries and in the approach to fermentation and elevage, but also in a decision to plant additional Carignan which, like Mourvedre, Calvet sees as having a more important role in the domaine's future. Most of the wines I tasted on this occasion were in the 15-15.5% alcohol range but seldom did I apprehend any significant heat. (Changes in the individual cuvee make-ups are detailed in my tasting notes.) The 2008 vintage was noteworthy for the length of its ripening period, notes Calvet, with his harvest not having concluded until the end of the first week in October. The 2009 harvest was finished two weeks sooner and even then required stringent sorting to remove overripe berries in Grenache as well as Syrah.

Importers include M. S. Walker, Somerville, MA; tel. (617) 776-6700 and Monsieur Touton Selection, New York, NY; tel. (212) 255-0674


1 / Read François Mauss’ last comment titled “An American problem has started in China”. The issues brought up convinced me to take Valandraud out of the open market, I'm still not quite sure if it was the right decision, but there is certainly a problem with the margins of distributors!

2/ To call a wine “shit” is considered freedom of expression, according to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This concerns a Hungarian journalist who clearly did not like a local wine. Using this kind of language is certainly not nice... François Mauss, if you read me...

3/ Le Guide Hachette will be available in bookstores on Aug. 31, a useful guide for inexpensive wines, 6-7 euro max. Unfortunately it has little influence on the top 300 brands in Bordeaux (1st wine, 2nd wine, red, white). At the beginning of Valandraud, I was happy; to be included in the special selection and even earned a medal at the Paris agricultural show.

4/ Will a student in sociology, in economy write his (or her) theses on the massive changes in the relationships between properties, wholesalers, clients, journalists during the last two en primeur vintages in Bordeaux? Are some properties playing a dangerous game being more generous to the large negociants?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bed and Breakfast

We recently stayed in a Bed & Breakfast in the Brenne, Domaine de la Crapaudine (36300 Rosnay). Beautiful environment, peaceful, tastefully decorated, a beautiful garden and a great breakfast, and in addition, warm welcoming, go visit their site ...

It was a good opportunity to talk about the latest achievement in the Médoc of Serge Chekhov and his partner: 1 2 3 chemin du bord de l’eau, 33460 Macau, and also announce that we will begin to rent the rooms of our Chateau in Valandraud, with Magali Vouillat in charge, and who will respond very quickly to any request, even if this season will be learning a new trade.

This will also give us the opportunity to attract people in the area of Saint Etienne de Lisse and near the properties of our friends: Mangot, Faugères, Pressac, Rol Valentin and Fleur Cardinale.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The vineyards had a very hard time. Some of the vines have bunches burned by the sun and heat, especially those exposed to the west. The few periods of rain these past days gave some relief, but the amount of rain was not sufficient to damp the soil under the foliage, so it remains to be seen...

The Futures campaign is coming to an end with the latest acquisitions, sold at market prices. Transactions are confined to the 5 or 6 icons, and given the price of each bottle; it ends up being some serious money.

The town of Saint Emilion is buzzing with people due to the overcast weather and wine shops are quite busy, which is great for our 3 stores.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Will this hot weather give us again another 2003-style in Bordeaux? Will rain storms help the veraison begin? I hope so.

High quality properties are selling well. I thought that Lascombes, which has proven its potential since 2001 and knowing nothing about the dossier, would have interested one of my friends for up to 180 million, has been sold for 200 million. Congratulations to the buyer, an insurance company, who will continue the work done by Colony and make Lascombes one of the best second crus of the 1855 classification.

Tertre Daugay was also sold – to the company that owns Haut Brion and Matras from Chateau Canon, consolidation... Top brands are able to spread, the reasons to sell are just as numerous today than yesterday: ownership, inheritance, conflicts, retirement, opportunity...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Futures in Japan and in Hong Kong

5 years ago, I proposed to organize futures tastings in Japan to colleagues wholesalers and it keeps improving every year.

I just got back from a week of travel to present the 2010 vintage with one of my clients in Tokyo, Osaka and Hong Kong. Probably more than 1,000 people were contacted, tastings, seminars, meals, and each time the wines were well received, even for those who tasted for the first time wine out of the barrel and in the middle of the aging process.
It was a pleasure for me to taste wine peacefully and the opportunity to talk with Delphine, quality manager for Chateau Lascombes who made a remarkable 2010. I also spent some time with Jean Guillaume Prats of Chateau Cos d'Estournel, who has been working so hard to promote this famous property and who produced a great 2010 even after the 2009.

The whites all showed well and Chateau Guiraud, who was the only Sauternes, had great success.

Among the many meals we attended, one was organized by the Commanderie de Bordeaux in Tokyo, another in the restaurant of our importer in Osaka, where we were once more very well received, then 3 meals in Hong Kong: The 1st organized around varietals, with great French cuisine, at the level of a two Michelin stars and a wine list able to impressed the most jaded and with prices close to "wholesale". We had a very nice meal at Hong Kong’s American Club with only Chinese guests and even another corked bottle of Valandraud 2000 out of 4 - thank you Amorim - and to finish a meal at the Grand Hyatt’s Pool House in Hong Kong, a magical place, where, again, only Chinese guests attended and where we tasted Valandraud 1998 that showed so well as well as an amazing champagne served as aperitif: Armand de Brignac Gold NV, which I enjoyed very much.

Each time the wines were served in beautiful glasses, at the right temperature with sommeliers who love their craft.

Results of trip: I met a lot of people, sold some wine and did some promotion, at least for the 2 wines that concern me (Sansonnet and Fleur Cardinale), which showed really well indeed, much better than in Bordeaux during the futures tastings: the trip did not alter these wines and is further proof of the qualities of Bordeaux.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

L'Amateur de Bordeaux

The 118 issue of "L’Amateur de Bordeaux", sold for 5.9 Euros, is a beautiful magazine, well written, covering different topics as well as comments on the 2010 futures from Bernard Burtschy, with a special recommendation for Valandraud Blanc.

This beautiful commentary can only make us want to do even better:
"If Valandraud red is particularly a success in this vintage, the white, with its pale robe, is more secretive. Murielle Thunevin's work displays a complex nose that exceeds, by far, the simplicity of the Sauvignon. The palate starts with a dense attack. The mid-palate is tight, long and the finish has an impressive complexity. A marvel born on the right bank of the Gironde, another nice surprise." 16.5/20

Also in this issue, a large and beautiful piece written by Jean Moses Baritberg on Saint Emilion and its quarries, caves and underground church.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Green Harvest

Green harvest for the whites and the reds

The veraison of white grapes indicates that the harvest will begin around August 15 with the Sauvignon Gris, and end with the Sauvignon and Semillon.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wine Advocate

The notes from the Wine Advocate do not concern only Bordeaux; the region covered in the latest issue is, among others, Spain with our friend Peter Sisseck who still gets high scores: 2009 Amelia 96-99, Flor de Pingus 2009 95-98 and Pingus 2009 97-100!
The Roussillon (and Languedoc) was also covered and received good notes and comments from David Schildknecht who favors wines reasonably priced and fresh, but who is not allergic to our wines (as the Revue du Vin France and its journalist). This does not prevent him to like different wines: modern, classic, old and young.

Note a nice 97 for Gauby’s La Muntada, and our wines from Thunevin-Calvet: Constance (the least expensive in our range, sold in the US at retail for $ 17) 2008 is rated 90, 2009 89 and 2010 90-91!

Dentelles 2008 received 92 and 2009 89-90 +, etc...

Friday, July 1, 2011


Even as remaining icons are being released en primeur, let’s not forget the 2009! While the 2009 were sold at a high price, the 1st bottle I tasted after just being bottled confirm that it is a great vintage and the word that comes to mind is opulence.
There are plenty of good surprises, even with wines sold at retail for 5 euros, as for famous classified growths, there’s spot on.

I tasted some of my 2009 right after bottling with Jeff Leve, just before dinner - it should never be done with a client, journalist, press. These 2009 were, therefore, totally bottle-shocked from the bottling: 2009 Bad Boy, rich and showy, will be the best since 2005. 2009 Bellevue de Tayac has finesse, a fine modern Margaux that should appeal even to those who do not like my wines on principle ;)

Clos Badon Thunevin 2009 is powerful with huge concentration. I never tried to make this wine more than a good wine in the style and quality of a Saint Emilion Cru Classe. Here we are closer to the style of a Garage wine. Virginie de Valandraud 2009 exceeds the 2005 even though it was already at an amazing level (as some of the best classified growths of Saint Emilion), balance and power, harmony of merlot and cabernet franc, it may also please those who dislike my wines.

Valandraud 2009: it’s a no brainer, if this wine is sold by us for a high price; I think it will be hard to complain about its qualities: complex, opulent, long, fine and powerful, this wine borders on perfection. I cannot wait to find out blind in 2 or 3 months with a few icons from Bordeaux or other parts of the world. This is probably the first time I don’t have any doubts about one of my babies, it is made by Murielle and our team, Remi, Christophe, our employees and with the help of our two consultants Jean-Philippe for the cellar and Paul-Marie for the vineyards.

Drunk with our meal: a very good Pape Clément Blanc 2006 and also tasted blind, guessed by an energetic Jeff: the color, appellation, vintage and type of soil and its category, it was Beauséjour Duffau Lagarrosse 2005 which was really a beautiful bottle, and sold at a very attractive price at that time....