Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Our 2011 sales statistics give a fairly accurate vision of our activities by country. The trend expected for this year 2012 is sharply higher due to the shipping of the 2009 vintage and our new challenges (Russia, Southern wines, etc.) which will significantly change the data in the table below.

France 36 %
USA 10 %
Japan 8%
Brazil 7 %
United Kingdom 7 %
Germany 6 %
China 6%
Canada 4%
Hong Kong 3%
Switzerland 3 %
Sweden 2%
Spain 1 %
The rest of the world 6% (Ukraine, Belgium, Denmark, Italy… 21 countries in all, the last being Greece)

3 toques in Gault et Millau

I received by mail a plaque with three toques from Gault et Millau to reward the meals we host in our house and Murielle’s talent as a chef, except that I do not know who was responsible for it (and who sent it)?

These three toques from Gault et Millau reminded me an experience I had more than 10 years ago when I was invited by one of our Chinese friends in his house in Hong Kong where the owner and staff cooked for his friends customers. This felt sort of “exclusive”, a private affair, and it was also at a time when it was possible to drink very fine bottles at a reasonable price – import duties were very high at that time - I particularly remember it because I thought that we were going to have a very special meal with snakes, scorpions and other animals good for your health but I dreaded to eat .

I recently drank with my meals a Leoville Barton 2003: what a beautiful bottle! What a good wine! Elegance is not a fault here; the wine is simply delicious, fresh, without any of the defects from 2003 often a bit “cooked” or “dry”. Following, we had Langoa Barton 1998, more classic.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Blind tasting 2008 Bordeaux

Following a tasting organized by English wine merchants, Jancis Robinson published her notes. Valandraud ends up amongst the best Bordeaux in 2008 in Saint Emilion, I also noted the confirmed success for Angelus, Cheval Blanc, Troplong Mondot which received the same rating

Ch Valandraud, Virginie de Valandraud 2008 St-Émilion 15.5 Drink 2016-2025
Dark crimson. Very Cabernet nose. Bit dry on the end but convincingly claret-like. A bit simple but well balanced. Lively finish.

Ch Valandraud 2008 St-Émilion 17.5 Drink 2017-2030
Blackish purple. Lightly toasty nose. Very dramatic and certainly tastes fully ripe. Rather beguilingly fruity, which is a rare tasting note for a 2008 St-Émilion. Not an attention-grabber but very respectable. Dense and rich with a confident savoury note on the finish.

Thank you Jancis, even though I am fully aware that this is a blind tasting where 1st growths are tasted together as well as appellations.
I also noticed that Pomerol was also the big winner with an incredible Fleur de Gay (18.5 out of 20 which was one of the wines that inspired Valandraud.

Meanwhile, demands for 2009 are coming in: following the notes from the Wine Spectator and betting taking place on those coming from the Wine Advocate.
We had calls for a few 2009 Cos d'Estournel, Angelus, Clos Fourtet, Beauséjour Duffau and Fleur Cardinale.

James Suckling and 2009 Bordeaux

It would be an understatement to say he liked the 2009 Bordeaux, at least for the wines my company produces, with a few rated below 90 points, such as Baby Bad Boy, Claud Chapel, Bellevue de Tayac and 3 Valandraud.

These wines averaged 89/100, which is not so bad, considering they received the same notes as 3 classified growths from St. Emilion such as the excellent Chateau Trianon.

9 wines received 100, 5 got 99/100, 8 98/100 and Valandraud with 97/100 and a good comment, not to mention being rated the same as Angelus, La Conseillante, Pichon Baron, etc. ... Included in the 94/100 series were le Secret de Cardinale and Virginie de Valandraud.
And the confirmation of our Mauvais Garcon from Bad Boy 2009 with 93/100, same as Fleur Cardinale, Franc Maillet Jean Baptiste, Sansonnet, Clos Romanile and Clos du Beau Pere.
Château de Carles, Haut-Mazeris, Vieux Brandard, Clos Badon Thunevin and Domaine des Sabines received 92/100.
91/100 for Domaine Virginie Thunevin, Galaxies 2 Romanile, Haut Carles, La Guilbonnerie. Some of these wines retail for less than 10 euros in France. Like him, I think 2009 is really an incredible vintage.

We drank for dinner with Gilles Berdin, who is still writing his book on us, a sample of Clos Badon 2010 before bottling and again an amazing vintage, even though, in my opinion, it was more difficult. Bellevue de Tayac 2009 to check James Suckling’s opinion who rated it 89/100 compared to 91/100 given by James Molesworth, the current Bordeaux reviewer for the Wine Spectator. I understand both notes, 2009 Bellevue de Tayac is a true wine from Margaux with its softness characteristic, a very nice nose, not powerful enough for me, or for James Suckling, but more balanced and elegant. I look forward to the taste it again in 5 or 6 months.

Following, we drank a special bottle, even if it is not easy for us to promote, a 2006 3 Marie, a very fine wine, but with Cotes du Roussillon on the label, which makes it almost impossible to sell. If we had written Chateauneuf du Pape on the label, and sold it for 100 euros, we would have been out of stock a long time ago. And for desert, we had our Maury 2004, which was in perfect harmony with the rice pudding with Tahitian vanilla.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Business is back

This cold weather makes our meals seem comforting, especially when they are shared with friends, and this Sunday, we organized a simple meal for 7 people and tasted wines blind!

Entrée: Iranian caviar and the perfect pairing with a bottle of Roederer Cristal 2000 I fortunately found in my cellar. The Russian vodka Beluga was also perfect in my opinion, but we are a bit fragile: wine with 13% versus vodka at 40%, the cold weather needs to be more severe

Paired with a roast chicken and mashed potatoes with truffles, we had a delicate Gevrey Chambertin 2005 Joseph Roty and a bottle hard to comprehend, Nuits Saint Georges 2005 Forey Père et Fils, closed, austere, almost like a “classic” left bank. To please our guests, Valandraud 1994 with still the potential to age for another 10 years, or even more, complete, powerful, a true Saint Emilion, with 94 points from Parker is one of the wines of the vintage, and Le Pin 1994 aromatic, very soft, very fine, with 91 points from Parker; it can prove that even after 18 years, finesse and elegance does not preclude a harmonious evolution.

With the chocolate dessert, two totally different wines, not tasted blind: 2009 Quinta Do Christo Porto very sweet and our Thunevin Calvet 2007 Maury not very sweet and yet with so much class. Long live Maury with chocolate.
Japan should be one our 1st market for Valentine's Day because it is customary to offer chocolate to celebrate love, and we should have run out of Maury!
Following my visit to Sweden, a lot of articles in newspapers and blogs were published. Also, an article by Fabian Cobb and course notes from Wine Spectator.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

3 girls and 1 boy

What a nice title for this group I met at the Cordon Bleu’s tasting school in Paris and who came to shoot a film - I did not really understand the exact theme.

In any case, it was a great opportunity to eat and drink with wine lovers who are not bored but are happy and joyful. They had the chance to see St. Emilion in the snow, which makes it even more beautiful if it was ever needed.

Saint Emilion seduces even the most jaded and our English friends promised to return during the futures tastings in Bordeaux organized by the UGC and many others including us.

Meanwhile the notes for the 2009 in the Wine Advocate and the Wine Spectator are available online to subscribers. James Molesworth tasted again and reviewed the notes of 2009 Bordeaux, nearly 1000 wines. Missing from James tasting are wines owners forgot to bring or send to the tasting location – around 200!

For my part, I'm quite proud of the wines made in 2009 and not worried about presenting them to well-known critics. In the event that my wine (or wines) received low scores or not appreciated enough, I will still try to prove otherwise by tasting my wines blind at the next opportunity. Concerning tastings, I am watching closely the one taking place in London by a group of wine merchants and a few journalists like Jancis Robinson and Neal Martin. This time the 2008 vintage was tasted by this British grand jury and what I find most interesting is to read (when I can) their notes, for some are totally allergic to modern wines. The average note is not the most important, but the opinion of these English merchants is certainly informative. Too bad that the same kind of event is not organized in Bordeaux. Are the English more curious? Courageous? Proud?
Well, the most important thing is that I know that one of my most loyal and important customer liked Valandraud 2008, for lack of what Valandraud needs in the UK to be distributed in restaurants and shops with Virginie de Valandraud, Bad Boy and other Thunevin-Calvet from the Roussillon.

Guide Hubert - Lalande de Pomerol

In the 2012 Guide Hubert, le Domaine des Sabines 2009 was given 4.5 glasses out of 5 by Hélène Durand!

Our property in Lalande de Pomerol has been very well received by critics who have given this cuvee some good notes, and especially with our clients, if I beleive the orders we received.
This is probably due to its good QPR.

Friday, February 10, 2012


It is cold and our country roads are dangerous for not haven’t been plowed, but that did not stop one of our loyal customers and his Japanese team to travel from the Medoc to Saint Emilion to taste, like every year, more than 30 reasonably priced wines and have dinner at l’Envers du Décor where we drank a bottle of Cahors Chambert Grand Cru 2007. They all slept at Valandraud in Saint Etienne de Lisse where the snowy landscape is beautiful.

On Tuesday afternoon we met with the heads of our long term cooper Seguin Moreau. They were the first ones to believe in us, and have been our exclusive supplier for over 10 years, and are still our main supplier of barrels and all of our wooden vats. We need to reorder new vats for the vines replanted at Valandraud.

We need to organize an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the bottling of Valandraud, 2010 being indeed the twentieth vintage, as 1990 was vinified at the Cooperative of the Producers of St. Emilion. This 20th anniversary will probably be celebrated with some of my friends who helped us during the first harvests, retired clients and friends of the Crédit Agricole of Dordogne, law students from Brittany, Mr. Michel Lebailly and his wife Liliane, who had a wine store at the time in Saint Avold in eastern France, Patrick Lelievre the Belgian wholesaler who was also one of the first to believe in Valandraud. Delia Baumgarten who, although she didn’t participate in the harvest, helped financed all our follies by purchasing our wine, Mr. Robin, from Seguin Moreau and colleagues, friends in Saint Emilion, who were always there to help.
Will this anniversary be celebrated during the 2012 harvest?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Swedish trip with our agent and Andreas Larsson

Departure for Stockholm on February 2 via Paris. I traveled the Bordeaux –Paris portion with Ronan Laborde from Château Clinet.
The purpose of the trip to Stocholm was to attend an event organized by our agent at the beautiful restaurant Operakällaren located in the center of the city. The place and service were of the level of a 2 star Michelin; all that with a staff of 150 full time personnel, 100 seasonal, a fine dining restaurant, a bistro and even a night club.

In addition, they had a nice wine list with a few gems sold at a good price.

120 bottles were served for 60 people. Here, they don’t joke around, it’s rock solid work. I entertained the guest with my story, who savored my wines, all translated with the help of Andreas Larsson.

12 bottles of each wine were opened between 6:30 pm and 11:30 pm, then we finished with Fine Bordeaux from Valandraud and champagne…. We tasted:
2009 Blanc de Valandraud N° 2 as aperitif and with the meal
2006 and 2008 Blanc de Valandraud N° 1
2004 and 2008 3 de Valandraud, followed by 2005 Virginie de Valandraud (magnum) and 2007 (delicious) and to finish Valandraud 1998, 2006 and 2002.

For lunch and in the same restaurant, for 12 people, a very good meal with journalists, Andreas Larsson and our agents : 3 de Valandraud 2009, Bad Boy 2009, Valandraud 2008 and 2009, Thunevin-Calvet Les Dentelles 2007, Blanc de Valandraud 2009. In the morning, before lunch, we tasted with Béatrice and our great client of Constance 2008, Dentelles 2007, Bad Boy 2008, Clos Badon 2008, Valandraud 2009

Friday, February 3, 2012


In the January/February issue of the German magazine Vinum, I read an article written by Barbara Schroeder and Rolf Bichsel on the 2009 futures with nice comments on Valandraud red and white.

For the first time, an article on me, written in German, was included ; I am certain that it was a good piece .

A video of the interview where I talked about my life and the current classification of Saint Emilion, taped at L’Essentiel, was also posted on YouTube.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


More than 30 Chinese students from the private business school COEP in Bordeaux (wine tourism course?) and accompanied by a French teacher, paid us a visit. This young group plus my staff and I proceeded to the garage, the historic conduit of my story. Following the usual photo op, we went to l’Essentiel for on hands-on practice and tasting along with a French couple looking for good wine at a good price.

For more than 3 years, we are able to offer private customers and tourist competitive prices, the proof being that many locals purchase wine regularly from us.
Meanwhile, a few Chinese customers rented two rooms at Chateau Valandraud in Saint Etienne de Lisse.

Also, today was a big day for the financial activities of my company, some bankers are more reactive than others and this time, BNP’s managers granted me a loan at a very good rate. Along with the Credit Lyonnais and Societe Generale, my banks believe that 2012 will be prosperous for my business, although, as always, cash flow to fund all these vineyards, stocks, etc... has been tight.

The day I won’t need banks, it will be a bad sign: it will mean that I won’t be so entrepreneurial and I don’t see it happen!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


In Moscou, we opened a lot of bottles: Blanc de Valandraud 2005 and 2006 and 2007 of the 2nd cuvee, 3 de Valandraud 2004 and 2009, Clos Margalaine 2007, Marojallia 2001, Valandraud 2001, Hugo Thunevin-Calvet 2008, our Maury 2007, Virginie de Valandraud 2007 and a corked bottle of Blanc de Valandraud 2005 (Cork supplier : Gabriel – it is rare to encounter a corked bottle of our white).

Yesterday, we had lunch at L’Envers du Décor and had a delicious Floranthis 2009 (Saint Emilion). The restaurant was packed, like in August!


Last week, I went to Moscow for a short 3 day trip: The goal was to bring back the level of business I was doing in Russia in 2005 during my last trip. In retrospect, I should have gone back sooner.

Moscow has really changed: the city is beautiful but unfortunately it was not designed for the number of cars present today. Difficult to travel without traffic jams despite the beautiful sunny and dry weather, and although the cold temperature was terrible for me (between minus 13 and minus 20 Celsius), fortunately we were not often outside, just the time to find a restaurant or go to the subway station.

The subway was a real surprise: it was packed, yet very clean, nothing to do with the one in Paris or New York. There were no rats, no graffiti, no aggression, fur coats can be worn safely!

I hope that our business meetings will be fruitful, but at least, we had a warm and attentive welcome: we were received everywhere with smiles, knowing that many women are in the world of wine. Women at work, limits aggressiveness even if corporate culture is geared towards performance, wine is popular and sommeliers in restaurants are curious and enthusiastic, able to simply say “I love it, it is very good” or “It’s not my style, too light”, so it was a pleasure to work during this visit in Moscow.

Thursday, I will be leaving for Stockholm, Sweden, returning Saturday. Long live the North.