Thursday, November 24, 2011

Travel diary: China in November

Wednesday 9, Bordeaux-Paris-Guangzhou: I left Saint Emilion at 4 pm and arrived in Shenzhen at 8 pm on Thursday 10 with a 7 hour time difference (1 pm in Paris). Hôtel Crowne Plaza under 100 euros and 4 stars.
2nd day and 1st meeting set at 9:30 am which ended up taking place at 11:30 for there was another hotel with the same name in the city! I had a conversation and discussed our plans with Marco, who already lived a thousand lives, including that of great sportsman, a singer in a band, a manufacturer of slot machines in Macau and now in the wine industry. We had a good Chinese meal with his partners, clients of a large national company.
Following, we met at 3 pm sharp with one of our other customer for several years for a “normal” meeting: tasting of new wines from our portfolio he imports: my daughter’s property called Domaine Virginie Thunevin 2009; delicious wine, modern, stylish, aged in new barrels which provides a certain sweetness. We are currently getting very good barrels from our suppliers: which could contribute to the success of the 2009 vintage.

This very different Château de Carles 2006 is more classic with a true Bordeaux-like style. The 2009 vintage is a bit more austere as we use a very different method of vinification. Moving forward with Calandray 2010, Côtes Du Roussillon produced for us by the Cave de Maury, a great success for the past 10 years and an unbeatable quality-price-ratio, in the style of the Roussillon. It will never get good reviews from the RVF but it is well liked by 80% of our customers. This wine is so good that it is the proof that Roussillon can be easy to sell, granted you spend the energy promoting and selling the region and put the proper amount of attention in work and tastings. It reminds me the story of God telling a believer who complained of not winning the lottery, to buy a ticket at least! (Jewish story)

Following, we tasted Château Vieux Poirier 2010, organic, good, with a vegetal but noble nose, Followed by a wonderful Maro de Saint Amant 2008, a guaranteed success. Blanc de Valandraud N°2 2007, Virginie de Valandraud 2006, showing well right now, Valandraud 2011 opened 3 hours before; it will be very fine wine to drink in 10 years, Haut Brion 1986 and with our meal Clos Badon 2004 and a very good and young Léoville Poyferré 2004, Vive the Medoc… Especially when we like the producers. I went to bed at 12:30 am, the time difference working in my favor;
Saturday 12, morning meeting with the man who could become our biggest customer worldwide.

I had lunch at a popular restaurant for 2/3 euros per person, the paradox of China, where we had a meeting with a distributor and then left at 2 pm for a two hour drive on the highway to Foshan in the Guangdong province, and once again with millions of people. I stayed at a 4-star Intercontinental hotel for less than 100 euros per night; luxury hotels are adapted to the means of the country. Such a hotel would cost in France between 400 and 800 euros, service is a noble word here, and there are plenty of young and available people ready to work.
We went to the posh store of our customer who has a true passion for Bordeaux and the right bank: Château de Pressac, Château La Dominique, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Ausone, La Mondotte, La Conseillante, Petrus, Lafleur, Le Pin and even wines from the left bank such as Pape Clément or Latour. We then went to the restaurant district where we ate in a restaurant with 10 private rooms seating 20 in addition to the restaurant with 400 seats. Each room had a name: Rayas –Pétrus –Cheval Blanc – Ducru Beaucaillou ….
120 guests attended this meal where the following wines were served: Blanc de Valandraud N°2 2008, Valandraud 2004 -2007 and 3 double magnums of 1995 which I drank for the 1st time: great wine with fruit plus aging, almost perfect wine worthy of the program shown on M6! Large formats, starting with magnums are great for the aging of wine, perhaps due to the size and the ratio cork-wine-oxygen.

Sunday, we left at 10am for Guangzhou by car and then took a plane for Shanghai at 12:30 pm arriving at 2:45 pm: no time to visit this huge work in progress that is China. Every time our client or prospective client picked-us up at the airport or the hotel and took us back to the airport or hotel (this time a 4 star Howard Johnson boutique style), it is difficult to be more attentive.
So it was one more office visit, shop and warehouse of our new customers in Shanghai. In fact, we went there to celebrate his new place, a sort of house-warming party: 25 client friends gathered for the occasion in his office where there is a tasting area. Fine glasses and all the wines served at the correct temperature. Following, we had dinner in a Spanish restaurant where we drank Bel Air Lescours 2007 Saint Emilion AOC, which we produce from time to time when I buy a crop before harvesting and vinification. Very nice fruit and noble wood, which obviously makes it richer than many classified growths reluctant to buy new barrels, despite its sales price! Anyway, it is a very nice generic Saint Emilion.

Coucy 2005, château located in Montagne Saint Emilion which I managed for a few years. I am proud of this wine made with the children of the former owners. Again, it is a very good value for money. In addition, it was a damn good vintage! Then, I rediscovered a wine bought in 1999 and 2000: the Château le Bernat 1999, Puisseguin Saint Emilion, a wine with great qualities, power, tamed by the years, with fine tannins at the same level than a famous cru, unfortunately it’s not enough to be good, it is still necessary to be aware of it and promote it.

Then it was Château Bel Air Ouÿ 2004, showing well now, smooth despite this austere vintage, followed by our 1st vinification in Margaux, Chateau Bellevue de Tayac 2004 so good and much appreciated here by our Chinese customers who tend to like the Left Bank. Long live the 1855 classification and this prestigious appellation of Margaux with a famous cru bearing the same name, it helps the reputation of other properties featuring Margaux appellation which opens the doors to Bordeaux lovers. We finished with a quick and early dinner, which I appreciate in China for me who’s used to eat at 7 pm in Saint Emilion. Here in China, I don’t fell out of place.

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