Monday, January 30, 2012

From April 2 to 5

During the important futures tasting event organized in Bordeaux by the UGC, many places offer alternative tastings called “off”, including ours, which will be held in our house in Saint Emilion, where Valandraud was created in1991.

This year, the event will take place from Monday 2 to Thursday, April 5 only, as nothing much happens on Friday because industry professionals often travel to other places, even if in 2012 Vinitaly will be held before, March 25 to 28.

So we'll have the pleasure to welcome you in early April for you to taste our last production

Friday, January 27, 2012

Domaine Thunevin-Calvet on the road

You will be able to taste the wines from Domaine Thunevin-Calvet at:

Vinisud in Montpellier from February 20 to 22, 2012, stand# H11 D44

And at

ProWein in Düsseldorf from March 4 to 6, 2012, stand H5 D110

Please, stop by!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bel Air Ouÿ 2000

The last bottle of 2000 Chateau Bel Air Ouy are enjoyed in New York according to a friend from Saint-Emilion who said that an American star loves it

Drunk for lunch: Thunevin-Calvet Hugo 2006, another fruit bomb, ultra-fine tannins, the power of Grenache, with a roasted rack of lamb, it was the perfect match.

I leave for Moscow this afternoon and return Saturday: my luggage full of sweaters, fleece gloves and thick socks... -18° C (-4° f) was announced, it’s the nooorth!

Difficult Exercice

Recently, during a meal, I was floored by James Suckling who recognized blind Ornellaia 2008.
Blind tasting is a difficult exercise.

20 years ago, Murielle and I were pretty good, thanks to the help of Jacques Luxey and the diligent company of Philippe Gilbert and Michel Puzio. Our whole group was really able to do as good of a job as a recognized critic. In my case, I just became less efficient, time does not help performance, even in this area.

I was surprised by the talent of some of the professionals I met like Andreas Larsson and Hervé Pennequin; sommeliers are also knowledgeable on many areas of production. We were only good with the right bank, Saint Emilion, Pomerol, or even a bit on the Médoc.

Anyway, I will always remember two tastings I had not recognized my wine, one at home: Philippe had brought a bottle of 1991 Valandraud; I searched and ... didn’t find! But who could imagine tasting, in my home, my own wine brought for a blind tasting?! The other, most recently at the Bistro Champlain in Quebec: 1992 was very fresh, great, but couldn’t guess it either!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Blind tasting

A famous critic (and his collaborators) tasted a whole range of 2009 produced by us or exclusively selected by my company, as well as properties I am involved in as a consultant.

He was peacefully able to taste blind: Bellevue de Tayac, 3 de Valandraud, Clos Badon Thunevin, Virginie de Valandraud, Valandraud, Clos du Beau Père, Domaine des Sabines, Domaine Virginie Thunevin, Blanc de Valandraud N°1 et N°2, Clos Romanile and Galaxies 2 Romanile, Fleur Carrère, Claud la Chapelle, Haut mazeris, Haut Castenet, La Guilbonnerie, Bad Girl, Bad Boy/Mauvais Garcon, Baby Bad Boy, Carles, Haut Carles, Fleur Cardinale and Secret de Cardinale, Sansonnet, Franc Maillet Jean Baptiste and Clos des Moiselles.

The tasting took place between 6 and 7:30 pm and we were also able to taste before a dinner served for 12 guests (chateau owners as well as a well-known American wholesaler) and the following menu:
Truffle omelet (superb truffles)
Roast beef with truffle shavings and mashed potatoes
Cheese (Comté)
Saint Honore with rum

For aperitif: magnum of Champagne Bollinger Brut, Sansonnet 2010 and Fleur Cardinale 2005. Following, blind, served in 2 carafes and our Riedel glasses:
Ornellaia 2008, Valandraud 2008, 2 beautiful wines.
Nobody expected to start with a Super Toscan, except James Suckling who recognized it almost directly blind! My friends from Saint Emilion recognized and liked Valandraud 2008, then Valandraud 2003 and Lafite Rothschild 2003, it’s easy for me to put my wine blind against Lafite : if Lafite is better, that’s normal considering its notoriety and price in the Chinese market; you how it is to be a 1st growth; it has not only advantages… for if my wine tastes better, well? It should be tasted again as the bottle of Lafite was probably not opened at the right time

Jokes aside, I also have the right to be in blind tastings where Valandraud serves as a foil. Well-known and expensive wines rarely perform well in blind tastings, and as these wines are getting more expensive and known, it is increasingly difficult. And whatever the results, they are re-evaluated once the label is revealed. It is the strength of the brand and the reason why some chateaux can fetch such high prices in the world of luxury goods (Valandraud was preferred by 11 people over 12), and speaking of luxury, we were still thirsty and I served again this terrible blind tasting test with a magnum served in two different carafes, and again, the top of the magnum served on the right was preferred from the bottom of the magnum served on the left. Only one guest guessed it was a magnum while the other looked for different vintages, right bank, left bank, style etc. It was a magnum of 2001 Petrus, the majority thought it was the 2000 vintage, nice palates!
The dinner ended at 10:30 pm.

In the morning we had an audit for our ISO 9001 and 14001 certification: we are good, knowing that when one chooses to be “certified”, it is never over!


Visit at 11 am by a group of 16 Japanese, always happy to visit the garage of the “Cinderella Wine” and to taste Virginie de Valandraud 2006 and Valandraud 2006 which are tasting better and better.
Following, I hurried up home to greet another group for lunch, a total of 7 persons. We drank with our meal:
Compassant 2004 (selected for a specific pairing)
Domaine Virginie Thunevin 2006
3 De Valandraud 2009 (soft)
Domaine Fayat-Thunevin 2007 Lalande de Pomerol
Clos Badon Thunevin 2006
Château Bellevue de Tayac 2004
Bad Boy 2009
The dish of the day: soup from a Pot-au-Feu, rabbit with shallot and sautéed potatoes, Macaroon and rice pudding.
Back to L’Essentiel where a journalist tasted Clos du beau Père 2009 very good, what a vintage! Then Virginie de Valandraud 2010 and Valandraud 2010, both still aging in the barrel: their power has still not been tamed.

I recommend to read this comment (in French) on the price of Lafite, which dropped by 45%, this due to the large number of fakes available.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tough to be interviewed

Lunch with Pierre Le Hong and Eric Bernardin who are working on a book on Saint Emilion, similar to the already successful one on Médoc’s classified growths (over 3000 copies sold).

As usual, I had a load of questions and answers at the office and afterwards, I went home for lunch and practical work:
Virginie de Valandraud 1997, wine to drink, opened and pretty good for this vintage, especially since we are at the crossroad between a 2nd wine and an “Alter Ego”, a pretty name found by Château Palmer for their “second” wine. Then, Valandraud 1994, wine always surprising by its qualities and the fact that it is probably one of the wines of the vintage, a classic vintage in Bordeaux , which, in Bordeaux, means less sun providing less ripe grapes.

In any case, it is important to remember that the danger in Bordeaux, is over-ripeness, and as we are in an area with a reasonable climate, there are not many examples of wine affected by this over-ripeness - our Loch Ness monster - deserve all the signs of the cross to ward off Rolland-Parker-Bettane and others, if proof was necessary for all the prayers against those damn overripe wines, all of these exorcisms work


How can I say? Finally!

Finally Jean-Ro and his friends, who were our guests more than 2 years ago, came for lunch at our place on Monday 16. With four friends of our age with plenty of appetite and more particularly to please such prestigious guests, some originally “Pied-Noir” from Algeria, Morocco (and a good excuse for me), Murielle cooked a Lamb Tajine with spices brought by Daniel, who lives in Morocco.

Served with toast with black truffles of Perigord, a 2006 Pomerol from Fayat Thunevin and with the Tajine, Calvet-Thunevin Hugo 2008 (91 points on the Wine Advocate) which, if it had been noted by Robert Parker himself would have had at least 95 points.

This wine was incredibly soft, almost like a Maury, but very digestible because of its pH around 3.5 and serving at 17 degrees Celcius, cool enough, though, not to bring out the alcohol of this wine made with a very high amount of Grenache (60%) and 30% Syrah and 10% Carignan picked ripe. The spices from th Tajine were enveloped by the sweetness of this wine, worthy successor of the best wines from the hillsides of Mascara in the 1950s/1960s. There was enough Tajine for two meals, but our friends and I decided to finish everything, so had only three plates each!

And still to please our Bordeaux fans: Valandraud 2003 just before the Twelfth Night cake, there are better pairing.

In L’Essentiel, they wanted to taste the Fine Bordeaux, which was a good idea considering the cold weather. When I said that our friends were in good shape, they are trained to have meals until late at night, and helped by their heatlhy constitutions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wines drank this weekend

This weekend we drank at home or in the restaurant, with our meals a Côte de Castillon from a well-known terroir: Clos Puy Arnaud 2000, delicious, finesse, power and balanced, and a long finish.

In Lard et Bouchon: Monbousquet blanc 2007, opulent, fat, very different style than Fombrauge or Valandraud which are sharper and bright. Whites produced in Saint Emilion are succesful, eventhough the declassified in AOC Bordeaux for there are not (yet) a Saint Emilion AOC Blanc. Following, we had Châteauneuf du Pape Ferraton Père et Fils 2006 Le Parvis, all in finesse.

For dinner at home, Taluos 2008 Cabardès, from our friend Eric Soulat, a very good wine from this beautiful area close to Carcassonne which uses varietals from both Bordeaux and the South. Clos des Fées 2005 followed, a cult wine: This wine is superb and able to age, an obsession for fans of Bordeaux, which is proven here as the wine evolves slowly and with complexity.
Following, and to motivate our friends, Dentelles 2008 from Thunevin-Calvet, a very good wine as well, noted 92 by David Schildknecht for the Wine Advocate, but absent from the Revue du Vin de France.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Triple A

Friends’ owners of a wine bar in Bordeaux, BU, sent their best wishes to Murielle and wrote: “May you to keep your AAA for the coming year: vAlAndrAud”.

They’re not wrong considering all the trademark problems we’re currently experiencing in China and which are quite common for owners of Chateaux in Bordeaux.
Indeed, a malicious person registered our brand in China and we now have to file a law suit or pay to get our Valandraud name back, which everyone knows belongs to us, including this dishonest Chinese. This is probably due to Claude Lada’s guide on all the wines of Bordeaux which was translated into Chinese.
It looks like a Chinese person registered as many brands as possible; finding the process easy to do. I asked the CIVB if they could help us through a collective action with our Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé but I was told that it was not their job. They recommended I contact the office of Sopexa in Hong Kong which, unfortunately, is not useful.

Our elected officials, ministers, representatives, are not able to defend our private interests and our trademark issues, even if wine accounts for a good share of our trade balance and is an important creator of jobs directly or indirectly. But no... It’s a private sector issue, except that many chateaux in Bordeaux have to hire one or even several attorneys to look into legal loopholes in trademark registrations, similar to theft and counterfeits, we must manage on our own. Still everyone will be happy to say that the wine business is going well in China, thanks to them!
In my opinion, a phone call from the secretary of our Minister to the Secretary of the appropriate Chinese Minister could quickly resolve this issue and encourage him to stop these unscrupulous merchants.

Will Valandraud keep its triple A in China? Maybe, considering that we’ve asked a friend importer in China to file a suit. If nothing is done collectively, this issue will last 3-5 years?

We drank with our meal, actually with a Chinese lady who runs a château recently purchased by a large Chinese company, and our banking consultants Daniel & Michael: Compassant 2004 always good, Valandraud 2007 which is just starting to be expressive and our Maury Thunevin-Calvet 2007.
In Pomerol, I tasted many batches of our 2011, 2012 and even 2009.
First of all, the 2011 seemed to me to be fuller and more concentrated than we first tasted it when it was just devatted. The wine is improving during the aging process, even if the wood is too present at this stage.
2010 is the best produced by this property and will most likely place us in the top 20 best Pomerol. It’s ambitious but quite possible if the same quality I just tasted remains: aromas, harmony; goes to show, I compare it to the pleasure you get in 2009 which, for me, is the best vintage ever in Bordeaux, but who knows what it will be in 20 or 30 years!
In 2009, we are still searching for the style of this property we purchased in 2006. I feel that the fact that 2010 is what I was looking for, it was then quite a fast process. The property in Margaux we bought in 2006 also produced a nice 2010 cuvee, but it took quite a long time!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jacques Dupont

François Des Ligneris asked me if I had read Jacques Dupont’s book “Le Guide des Vins de Bordeaux”, published by Grasset which I didn’t, that this book does not interest me and that was not on the same wavelength as Jacques Dupont Even if I recognize his talent, he is not a fan of Valandraud and the “Garagist” movement.

Only fools never change their minds.

The other day, when I went to Saint Emilion’s bookstore for the signing of the book on Saint Emilion by Philippe Dufresnoy (Feret Editions), I picked up a copy of Jacques Dupont's book sitting on the shelf... I read the chapter concerning me and was – pleasantly – surprised by the portrait he wrote of me and Valandraud, humorous, smart, sarcastic, well informed and even almost speaking highly about our history, Murielle and my friends. The only problem is he does not like the “garagists”, concentrated wines and boring wines. Maybe we're not so different for, like me, he loves people and stories.

Well… I owe you a thousand excuses Mr. Jacques Dupont, I had taken at face value the words of your friends as well as some of mine who, sometimes, say stupid things
To be forgiven, or try, I will submit my wines to be reviewed. Well, too bad for him!

In his guide, every wine has a small presentation as well as notes already published in the magazine Le Point. The interesting part of this book as the portraits he wrote and which are a bit similar to Bernard Ginestet’s books on Bordeaux.

Here’s a small excerpt from his closing paragraph on Valandraud:
“Should he be included in a future classification, if it still exists, among the classified growths? Of course he should. Great wines are born of similar stories. In the nineteenth century, Ducasse grabbed a piece of Figeac which had fallen very low and that nobody wanted, but if it would have been Thunevin, it would have become Cheval Blanc.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Here we go again

It’s good start of the year for Valandraud Blanc No. 1 2009 with a very nice comment and a note on the website of the Wine Spectator. FYI, if Valandraud No. 1 is a bit expensive, the Blanc No. 2 (or Virginie Blanc, since 2010) is also very good and more “affordable”. Both have been successful with restaurant, when they are presented and they are available in many of our friend’s restaurants here in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux and also in Paris.

I’ve already done two trips since the beginning of the year, one to Nice (on Air France) with Sergei, where we expect to get orders very soon. In any case, landing in Nice with snow on the Alps is a pretty sight, especially when it is sunny. We had time to go to a meeting in Monaco, eat in the hills above Nice, and then return to Bordeaux via Paris. We took a taxi to go to Monaco and the friendly driver was a “Pied-Noir” (Blackfoot); this area of France has an important “Pied-Noir” community

The next day, I took the TGV for Paris to go to a famous private culinary school, especially abroad: Le Cordon Bleu. While its main focus is cooking, it recently created a wine curriculum. I met teachers enjoying their jobs and students just as happy to be there. They better enjoy their course considering the price of this prestigious school. I enjoyed the time spent with these 20 students from all around the world. We tasted Bad Boy 2009, Virginie de Valandraud 2007 and Valandraud 2004.

Sunday, we enjoyed drinking a Pomerol from Fayat-Thunevin 2006 tasting much younger than its age, which is a good sign. I read with great interest Jean Marc Quarin’s comments, especially his notes on the 2000 vintage and his thoughts on corked bottles which he finds too common (17%!)

Friday, January 6, 2012

December 28 at 9:57

Well, I missed this post written by François Mauss about the Reignac tasting with 1st growths.
I quote: “Out of 7 vintages of Bordeaux tasted by the European Grand Jury, first was Ausone, Pavie and Valandraud” - not bad for Valandraud  and especially very good for St. Emilion which shows the level, and still, several wines could have been added which are at the top of Bordeaux such as Angelus, etc...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Best wishes

I received a lot of text messages; an easy way to communicate for those who know how to use them, some were even included in group texting!

I lost my previous phone in New York and of course had not backed up my files, so, receiving messages from Jean Pierre, Annie ... I am unable to tell who they are from having no last name. Even better, some are being posted as anonymous as I lost any previous reference, one of them wanting to stay anonymous even wrote this comment: that's no problem. Wanting to stay anonymous can only reinforce the sincerity of these wishes: they therefore can remain anonymous, best to you! For the others, thank you for letting me know who you are and help me update my phone book

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year

Friendly dinner at home, three wines tasted to get our palate going: Côte Rôtie, New Zealand, Germany ... I forget the names

Following, we had the consistently good Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, a good Puligny Montrachet 2006 from Etienne Sauzet, 2004 Cheval Blanc still closed and for the form Valandraud 2009, just the opposite: too much, complex, excessive, exuberant, violet, black cherries, chocolate and ripe grapes.

Monday 2, lunch prepared for Russian friends, with soup and Pot-au-Feu:
Blanc de Valandraud No. 2, 2009, Château Valandraud 2009: we should hurry drinking it while we still have some... Hugo from Thunevin-Calvet 2008, big, quite powerful and elegant enough to follow Valandraud 2009, goes to show (on cheese) and Maury 2007 also from Thunevin-Calvet paired with the chocolate dessert from Lopez.
We finished with Fine Bordeaux opened a long time ago... Fortunately we were able to drink a bottle from L’Essentiel recently opened.