Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Drank this weekend with our meals

We drank a bunch of wines during our meals including an incredible Pingus 2007; this wine was alive and had amazing changes, shut tight at the beginning, a bit like a Bordeaux aristocrat, then after 45 minutes, old roses, ripe black cherry fruit... This wine drunk between 3 people would have been better in… a magnum! At the end, we had some Fine Bordeaux from Valandraud, the bottle already opened 3 or 4 months, smooth.

For Lunch, Meursault Buisson Charles 2008 with huge lobster, it was good, but even better as an aperitif in the evening. Following, we had a delicious, excellent, very modern, we all loved: Corton Charlemagne 2006 from Vincent Girardin.
Following, a serie from the Right Bank : Gracia 2006, La Clotte 2008, Quinault L’Enclos 1997, Petit Gravet Ainé 2003 and the best was Croix de Labrie 2004, a pleasure to drink, even for our guests who are used to drink high-end wine. We finished, for a toast to René Renou, with Bonnezeaux 1997 Cuvée Zénith, old style and the other wine in the competition and given by Pascal Carrère, Tokay Aszu 5 Puttenyos Henye : apricot, pineapple, a real treat with fresh mango.

We also had in a small group Valandraud 1997, 2007 and 2009, Blancs de Valandraud 2009, 1st and 2nd cuvees.

Chance, concordance, synchronicity

Marc Dworkin, consultant winemaker in various countries including China told me that 200 millimeters of rain fell just before the harvest. This confirms my belief that we’ve been lucky in the past few years with the good climate we’ve experienced in Bordeaux. Once more: 2011 is looking to be a very good vintage.

Marc Dworkin was the first one who, at the time when he was in charge of Chateau Larmande, introduced me to ripe cabernet sauvignon and franc, without this flavor of green pepper, which seemed to be typical at that time.

Aromas of candied orange were a revelation for me as one of the components of ripe Cabernet and stayed etched in my memory for a long time. I know that some prefer green pepper in their cabernet, but for me, I prefer to eat green peppers in my salad, everybody has their own taste.

Chance and the synchronicity of events made that Jacques Salle, a former bio-dynamic winemaker in Quincy and boss of a wine magazine (Vintage International) called me this evening. Marc Dworkin Introduced us a long time ago in the restaurant “Le Bord d’Eau” in Fronsac.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Travel diary: China in November - continued

Monday 14
Visit of the new offices and warehouse of our French partner FTI who started in Shanghai several years ago. Then had lunch with the local branch of one of our French bank in Bordeaux, the BNP. We went to a good Vietnamese restaurant located in a nice area: fashion boutiques and restaurants located in an old neighborhood with narrow & picturesque streets.

Following, we visited to a major internet retailer, shot a small video clip about Bad Boy and my story, played a short game of foosball (I lost 2 to 1) and ran to catch the high-speed train (300 kms/hr) to Changzhou for a dinner organized by one of our distributors who has over 30 shops and restaurants. A brand new Days and Suites Hotel, with 4 star comfort for less than 50 euros.

Dinner was of very high standard: we were 9 and had a very good and filling meal. The main guest had a great sense of humor and has been a wine lover for over 20 years. He was born in 1951, like me, but looked much younger ... genetics! Well, this traditional meal with its multitude dishes was served by two waitresses and a sommelier, to make sure that nothing was missing at any time: the glasses are filled with a small amount of wine for the countless "cheers" where it is customary to finish your glass!

Vegetables, soups, dishes?, Chicken, beef, crab and pork dim sum, black mushrooms, fresh water fish, shrimp, small and large, game, turtle, shark fin soup, a large crab from a local river prepared for me because there are no crab tongs and everything is done either by hand with gloves to avoid getting dirty or... with teeth.

Salad and noodles, I must have forgotten a few dishes... The wine we drank with pleasure were Bad Boy 2006 which is imported exclusively by my distributor, 3 de Valandraud 2003, Virginie de Valandraud 2006 and a very good Valandraud 1997 (4800 bottles produced) still young, fat and even a hint of green pepper and vegetal. Still, this wine should have no problem to reach the top 3 when tasted blind with other famous wines in this difficult vintage.

I went back to the hotel with a box of rare Chinese tea and a 30 year old bottle of Moutai, one of the rarest and most expensive Chinese spirits (€2000), the level of some of the rarest cuvees of Cognac. (Our guests received from our client the usual gifts of Valandraud and Virginie).

Tuesday 15
We left with the HRC, the local TGV for the city of Kunshan. I am happily surprised by the quality and punctuality of the high-speed train, comfortable and on time! We had an appointment with a potential client, a state company with important means and potential. This city is the capital of manufacturing for the internet, iPods, cameras, computers, a wealthy city...

We tasted Valandraud 2006 followed by a lunch on the water by a lake. It is the season for local crabs which are supposed to be better than the neighboring region. In any case, they already have an experimental vineyard, a cellar and plans for agro-tourism. On the road signs were posted to promote a colleague in Bordeaux, Castel, using all means of communication, with lafite and a portfolio of small Bordeaux and Torres from Spain: they open the doors to Wines: their own and then ours, different and necessary for them and for us... Diversity is our strength.


I took a walk in Pomerol, Jean-Francois and his team took advantage of good weather to replace dead stock from old age or illness by young ones, a young vine Cabernet Franc with red leaves like a Carmenère.

Our neighbor Jean-Marie Bouldy, Château Bellegrave, who makes a good wine produced and practices organic farming, built a new cellar for his barrels: his loyal customers restaurants need older wines, so you have create enough room to store several vintages.

Pomerol is on the move, Le Pin’s cellar is finished and the one from Petrus is advancing, la Conseillante has to have some work done, this beautiful and prestigious appellation seems to catch-up time.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Peter Morrell

During our recent trip to the Wine Spectator’s Wine Experience, an employee from Peter Morrell, a well-known wine merchant in New York, who tasted Valandraud 2006, asked me to take a picture in the vineyards, so on November 22, I took this picture while there was still leaves on the vine, 20 degrees Celsius, wild cranes just starting to migrate towards Africa, and the malolactic fermentation being easily done probably helped by good weather and relatively a low amount of malics.

The Kosher cuvee of Virginie 2011 already finished its Malolactics and started aging in new oak barrels.
Pruning has started and a bit of cold weather would drop the leaves, you cannot have everything, don’t you?

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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I would rather not

Waiting in planes and airports gives me the opportunity to read. This time in Courrier International, a short resume of several articles published in the press around the world, including one initially featured in The New Republic “A Patron Saint for Occupy Wall Street”.

Bartleby, written by Herman Melville in 1853 was already talking about civil disobedience, long before the famous Mahatma Gandhi. This article draws a parallel with disenfranchised Americans in Occupy Wall Street. I'm sure Bartleby ... would rather not!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Decanter and the Wine Spectator

In the December issue of Decanter, Le Clos des Fees is featured on pages 8 and 9 and in the Best of France 2011, Fleur Cardinale 2008 is ranked 13th out of 289 French wines and 3rd in Saint Emilion. Bravo.

In the Best of 2008 Pomerol, Clos du Beau Père reached 5th place close to La Conseillante, La Fleur de Plince ranked 11th!

There is also a nice picture of Reine Sammut illustrating her restaurant La Fenière in Lourmarin and where I’ve had to go for the past 20 years! Guy, if you read me

On October 27, the website of the Wine Spectator mentioned the sales of the historical building of the Cordeliers in Saint Emilion, and a few days before James Molesworth listed 20 Bordeaux 2009 he particularly liked including Domaine de l’A (92 points $30), Jean Faux (91 points $30), Rollan de By et Tour Seran ( 91 points $37), La Clare (90 points $25) et Clos des Menuts (90 points).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On the road again!

Gone again for a 10 day trip to China : Canton, Shanghai, Beijing, etc... different city almost every day, travel broadens the mind!

Friday, November 4, 2011


With the team of Château Fleur Cardinale, Bob, Jean Philippe Fort, I tasted samples from 15 vats of Fleur Cardinale 2011, all had the same quality, with a gleaming black color, intense, soft tannins and ripe fruit, soft and silky mouth feel, we didn’t get tired enjoying all these batches with dense Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a luscious texture rarely seen. It was hard not to drink even before malolactic. It's a good sign.

Valandraud 2011: we tasted the last batches of Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, all very black and very dense but we have to wait until the malolactic are done, which are always late at our place. The devatting ended last Wednesday.

As the weekend approaches, I recommend checking out the site of Saint Emilion’s Tourist office where you will find lots of ideas for walks, discoveries and tips: free visits, discounts, etc...


For subscribers of, Neal Martin posted his tasting notes following the tasting in January 2011 properly organized for many years by English merchants. They tasted blind Bordeaux wines they sell.

Virginie de Valandraud 2007 got a nice comment and noted 89. Valandraud was not noted for being a bit too over-ripe. In general, we try to be better for the 1st wine than the second, but for sure, over-ripeness in 2007 was not easy!

2007 Virginie de Valandraud 89
Tasted blind at the 2007 Bordeaux horizontal in Southwold. The Virginie 2007 has a very fine bouquet with fresh blueberry, cassis and macerated dark cherries with well integrated vanillary oak. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, good structure with hints of liquorice and black olive. Very poised on the finish. Classy. Tasted January 2011.

2007 Chateau Valandraud ?
Tasted blind at the 2007 Bordeaux horizontal in Southwold. A strange showing of Valandraud, coming across as extraordinarily ripe on the nose, very exotic with signs of sur-maturité towards the finish. This sample does not seem to correlate to wine I tasted at primeur so I will seek to re-taste this. Tasted January 2011.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Figaro weekend

I didn’t read it, but friends told me that Le Figaro included in the October 28 issue, Clément Pichon 2009 among good wines. Sure it's a good wine with a competitive QPR.

Thank you Isabelle Bunisset, except that I am no longer the manager of the Vignobles Fayat for the past 2 years. Although the talented team that made the 2006 - 2007 - 2008 under my stewardship is still there and I am still involved with them on a property in Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol, and consult for them from time to time, there is now a different manager called Yannick Evenou.

Sansonnet 2011

This is a property to reckon with this year. I tasted 5 batches already poured in new barrels and before malolactic and it is already promising. Its terroir is as good a 1st growth and the personnel and equipment invested of the same level. We’ll just see if the March tastings will prove my point?

I drank during a meal with a friend an astonishing wine I discovered during Bettane & Desseauve’s tasting at the Carrousel du Louvre, thanks to Hervé Bizeul and François Mauss: Mariasole Lacrima di Morro d’Alba 2007 from Domaines Lucchetti. With 16.5%, this wine will not please everyone’s palate. The power of the fruit opens up in the glass after a few minutes and brings out aromas of dark red roses which are both heady and spicy making me want to drink some more. Thank you for the recommendation François. I would love to plant some here but this varietal is not authorized by our appellation  and my nursery has not been able to find any.
The vinification of this wine is also special with a long maceration and short aging, if I believe the internet the price of this bottle seems to be quite cheap.

I drank with my family a bottle of Griffe de Cap d’Or 1998 we produced in the beautiful terroir of this small appellation of Saint Georges Saint Emilion, south facing hillside, clayey-limestone, a dream terroir. My father-in-law was still helping us harvest at that time and this 100% Merlot matured nicely. A fine wine, in the style of a Pomerol with truffles, spices and ripe grapes. This wine was already very good at that time, 1998 being a great vintage on the right bank, rated 89 by Robert Parker and the other vintages 87/88, with similar notes in the Wine Spectator, it was ranked No 1 during the Satellite Crus Cup organized in 1998-1999-2000. I still have the nice carafe I received during the event and which astonished everyone. Goes to show that there are no “bad terroir”, but only under-utilized terroir which is still relevant today.

Also still valid today is the focus on only noble appellations, forgetting that just in the right bank you also have Fronsac, Lussac Saint Emilion and Montagne, Puisseguin Saint Emilion and the cuvee produced by their cooperative, even Côtes de Francs and Castillon, Bourg, Blaye and even some Bordeaux...