Saturday, March 29, 2014

Antonio Galloni

The United States were in the place of honor yesterday with us. After the visit, a tasting of a few wines by our group centered around one of our oldest american customers, visit of our historical winery and a meal at home with Virginie de Valandraud 2009 and Valandraud 2004 to accompany an asparagus soup, sirloin with fries, comté and strawberries with raspberries flavored with vanilla from Tahiti followed by macaroons from Fermigier.
Valandraud 2004 is finally starting to reach a level of maturity. Just at the beginning of this level, this wine is made to last a long time.

Then a tour and tasting of our wines by Antonio Galloni. We were pleased to see him tasting with interest and passion. I took the opportunity to follow his lead and although I am nearly always anxious, this helped me to relax.
A rare thing indeed was that we then took the time to leave the house at Saint-Emilion and visit Valandraud together at Saint Etienne de Lisse to see our vines, the winery and to visit our good friends Fleur Cardinale, Rol Valentin, Pressac, Faugères and Mangot. I can't wait to read his comments on our wines but also on the other Bordeaux 2013s!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Primeurs 2013!..

And so it begins with Château Pontet Canet with lower quantities and a price that hasn't changed.

Visits and dinners, with journalists of course, but also with importers who have come to find out what the vintage is worth and to taste our other vintages already available. There are still excellent 2011s and 2012s for those wanting to skip the 2013 Bordeaux. 

2013 looks like an excellent vintage in the Roussillon. 


A week long trip to Brazil for media and business events organised by and for our clients, the pictures posted on Facebook really show that the working atmosphere is full of smiles, happy, that business partnerships change over the years into friendships. Wine helps all of this.
The trip went through Lisbon and the TAP. Bordeaux-Lisbon then direct to Belo-Horizonte with the return from Sao-Paulo-Lisbon with more than a day's delay. The passage with the TAP was probably not the best choice although the staff were very kind.

I know Belo Horizonte well but I went to Rio de Janeiro for the first time, staying at the Sol Ipanema hotel just off of the beach with a superbe view. Unfortunately I didn't have the chance to put on my swimming costume and try out the sand and the water.

We were here to work, two dinners, one invited to a restaurant at the golf course with an excellent decor, tropcial temperatures, to meet with a future investor in our own Bordeaux wineyards and the evening at a restaurant, which was really nice for tasting our Bordeaux wines already distributed in Rio as is the wine of our friends Fleur Cardinale which goes through another distributor.

Then on to Sao Paulo for three days with an event organised at the Brazilian Sommeliers Association, the ABS, with an exceptional tasting of our Valandraud 2012 which is still in the barrel and our range of wines available in Brazil. 

Good mediawork with the excellent Adega wine bar boasting a Enomatic machine dedicated to our products, a meeting with Ed Motta, the jazz-soul star and of course lots of Brazilians that we have met before here and in Saint Emilion.


The World Cup, for your information, isn't everybody's cup of tea here...

Friday, March 7, 2014


First Vinipro salon, the next is planned for in two years time, as a sort of alternative to Vinexpo, except that only wines from the South West are represented.

The first day was a bit hard; with the weather, the rain, the storms, with the normal difficulties accessing Bordeaux Lac... I have been told that next year the tram should go all the way to Bordeaux Lac which is a good thing because at the moment it is difficult and the surrounding areas are less than clean and the roads full of (big) potholes!

There were a lot of people on Tuesday and they included good contacts, because of course we have a lot of good friends, students and suppliers who stop by but the aim is to find new customers and I think that we did better than at Prowein 2013.

I came to make Xavier Planty happy, one of the organisers, and he did well to convince me to come. For info, there are a lot of sweet wines at this salon.

There was a nice article published in the glamour magasine Lui, an icon from the 60s, written by Frédéric Beigbeder about our Virginie de Valandraud 1998 drunk at the L'Ami Louis restaurant. Merci, merci!

Friday, February 28, 2014

SOS UK and Belgium!!!

With Grappe, our software system, we are able to do a lot of analysing and as we have just finished with our latest balance sheet (very nicely balanced) I tend to check to see with which countries we are doing the most business.

Once again this year, France is in first place with 36% of our turnover however the numbers for the UK (2%), Belgium (1%) and Russia (1%) leave a lot to be desired.

Otherwise, the countries where we are doing 'well' are USA, Japan, Brasil, Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Switzerland and Thailand, although both Thailand and the Ukraine are suffering at the moment.

Next week we shall be at the first edition of Vinipro in Bordeaux with many other wineries, please come and see us!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Neal Martin and the 2010s

Neal Martin has just published his ratings and comments on the 2010s on the Wine Advocate's website. Concerning Saint-Emilion:

..."Saint Emilion might be slightly over-shadowed by the peaks of Pomerol, but the appellation conjured outstanding wines in 2010. What I find fascinating in conducting a blind tasting is to contrast the performance of the newcomers, the garagistes (such a quaint term nowadays) compared to its long-term residents. So whilst Pierre Lurton hit the ball out of the park with a sensational Château Cheval Blanc, so did Jean-Luc Thunevin with a sublime Château Valandraud.
Modern vs. traditional.
Who cares? They are both just great wines.".....
"2010 Château Valandraud 96
Tasted blind at the Southwold Bordeaux 2010 tasting. Jean-Luc Thunevin has hit the ball out of the park with the 2010 Valandraud. It has an alluring, beautifully defined bouquet with mineral rich black and red fruit,: great tension, poise and focus. The palate is well balanced and succulent in the mouth with extremely well judged acidity. Somehow understated at first, but complex and sophisticated, the Valandraud is beautifully focused with a long tender finish with perfect equilibrium between dryness and sweetness. Tasted January 2014."
Merci ! :)

Dégustation Primeurs...

This years futures tasting organised by the Union des Grands Crus à Bordeaux from the 31st March to the 3rd April should bring in the crowds yet again; journalists, importers etc., even though we are going through a difficult economic period with 2013 vintage already put down by many people.
But still many people should come, and not only for the dinners, the visits, the tastings and good food but to buy these 2013 wines and to look more closely at the 2011 and 2012 which are still available.
In my house and our historical winery that is Valandraud, in Rue Vergnaud in Saint-Emilion, we have organised our own futures tastings since 1998 when I was one of the first to do so though I was not a member of the UGC. A few friends, colleagues and stars such as Pingus came to join us with our amaterish organisational skills but we are friendly and we smile! 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Declassifying wines?..

In this period just before the Futures tastings and the Bordeaux 2013 vintage being put on the market, the vintage so difficult considering the climate has given us such a large range of failures and successes (successes to be put between brackets of course). We are not talking about a success on the same scale as 2010 but a good wine in the eyes of the winemaker and also the wine critics, the importers, the distributers and the customers.

So what should one think of these chateaux that declassify their entire production following the advice of the head winemaker, the owner, or the consultant? 

Everyone has their own opinion and mine is made following my experience as a consultant, merchant and owner and so as far as I am concerned; no declassification, if possible never, because if I fell in love with big wines before becoming a part of this world, it was through these small vintages. When I say small, I mean thanks to these difficult vintages sold relatively cheaply (at that time), these 1973, 1974 from Mouton Rothschild, Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Figeac, the 1980 Pétrus, the 1987 Clos Fourtet, all of these wines and others which gave us so much pleasure over dinner. You can ask Michel, Philippe and Murielle, they will tell you the same.

So isn't declassifying everything a bit too severe? Which wine lover would complain about drinking these premier crus, these grands crus that are not as polished as they could be, if they are sold for what they are worth? Isn't that what a second wine is for, or even a third wine for the more famous chateaux? (The Saint Emilion from Cheval Blanc, the Pauillac from Latour, our own 3 de Valandraud?)
I don't have enough stocks of my third wines, they always seem to be sold out so it seems they are good value for money!

Isn't there a bit too much pride to want to constantly do better than the conditions of a vintage? We are in Bordeaux, where we can still make good wine in poor years. The proof is in the tasting; Fleur Cardinale, Sansonnet, Vieille Cure, Valandraud as good as possible and of course we have run out of our second and third wines... So what? That's our problem. The choices made here concern only those that made them; I like the quote from Olivier Bernard, current head of the UGC: 2013 a jealous vintage!

To end, I would like to repeat that in memory of great bottles drunk with friends in the 80s, Chateau Latour 1958 was quite simply incredible. We enjoyed it better than good vintages. Latour in Pomerol 1967, so delicious, bought for a small price at L'Intendant Moueix, we drunk cases and cases of it and it is still the memory of this wine which made us love Latour in Pomerol.

Long live difficult years in Bordeaux... because we don't really have the choice either way!

Monday 17th Feb 2014

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bel Air Ouy 2011 - 3 Marie 2009

For dinner last Sunday after drinking a Valandraud Blanc 2011, the bottle of Bel Air Ouy 2011 was quite simply delicious; a confirmation that we understood this vintage: a complex nose of black cherries and vanilla, a soft and smooth mouth, nice length and balance, light and not overly powerful. Not enough for a 100 point rating but perfect to satisfy modern, Right Bank Bordeaux drinkers with their dinner.

The 3 Marie 2009 of Thunevin Calvet, rated 92-93 in June 2011 for the Wine Advocate by David Schildknecht with the following comment:

“Thunevin and Calvet’s 2011 Cotes du Roussillon Villages Les Trois Marie follows the path blazed by its 2010 predecessor, with its Grenache unaccompanied and raised in foudre. Hints of caramelized resin and coconut are evident as a result of the newness of oak, though this dovetails nicely with the sweet, seamless sense of seamless ripeness – rather reminiscent of the corresponding 2009, as is the surprising degree of lift engendered in a sappily-sustained finish. Hints of mint and white pepper add interest to a wine that may well – in contrast with its stable mates – prove marginally less-impressive than its 2010 counterpart, though it is still going to richly repay return visits through at least 2022.

Jean-Roger Calvet and off-site partner Jean-Luc Thunevin (for more about whose collaboration and its evolution consult my reports in issue 183 and 195) continue a trend toward gentle pumping-over rather than pumping-down. Maturation is increasingly in demi-muids – supplemented, as always by tanks – and a third foudre was recently added, barriques having meantime slipped to third if not fourth-place among vinificatory vessels (and with a change in tonnelier that I can only welcome, too). The result, predictably, is wines with more vivid fruit and nuance without sacrificing the least bit of richness, demonstrating that they had nothing to lose but a certain superficial tanninity and caramelization of oak resin. Another trend to which Calvet readily testifies: more emphasis on showcasing Carignan and Grenache, with Mourvedre getting its own less-expensive cuvee and Syrah appearing primarily in a supporting role, specifically in “Hugo.” (New pure Macabeu and pure Grenache Gris whites speak to an analogous trend toward showcasing individual autochthones.) A final trend toward earlier harvest in 2008-2010 has, as Calvet points out, been driven by drought conditions and heat, whereas 2011 offered greater flexibility. Still, even about 2011 he remarks apropos Carignan “better to pick it a day early than a day late.” Calvet compares 2011 to the even ripening, generous fruit and harmony achieved in 2007, except with significantly higher yields, though at 40 hectoliters per hectare on his most productive young vines, these are hardly what growers in most of the world would call “high.” Picking was early and handling including vinification especially gentle in 2012 – encompassing a significant share of whole-berry but stem-free vatting, notably for Carignan – to compensate for the effects of the hail that hit Maury especially hard. “It wasn’t a vintage for seeking a lot of extraction,” he opines, “though our Mourvedre was an exception insofar as it was less-impacted by the hail.”

Opened on the 28th January then put in the fridge with it's cork and drunk on the 2nd February was so powerful and unbelievably sharp and as has been said before, deserves, like Hervé Bozeul's La Petite Sibérie, ratings above 95/100!

Controversy: just to make a quick comparaison, the journalist (businessman) Jean Emmanuel Simond, head of the Languedoc and the Roussillon, made our wine disappear, though it was previously selected by Bettane and Desseauve, from the top wineries selected by the RVF and their guide. Fortunately, Bettane and Desseauve's wine guide of France has given us 'three glasses', just like Gauby or Bizeul, Abbé Rous, Coume del Mas, Gardiés, Tour Vieille, Roc des Anges, Rectorie, Fagayra! I can only invite you to read the comments for our 3 Marie or our Maury for yourselves.

Thursday 7th Feb 2014


A friend and wine importer from Munich and his colleague came to taste a few wines at the Essentiel today among which were Bad Boy 2011 and 2012, the organic Chateau Vieux Poirier 2011, Domaine des Sabines 2011, Clos du Beau Père 2011, Les Dentelles 2007, Virginie de Valandraud Blanc 2011 and Bad Girl 2009.

A visit of our vines at Valandraud and the winery where we are currently putting Valandraud 2011 in bottles. A taste of the wine being bottled, from the tank and just a quick taste to gage the 2013 vintage (These guys are professionals), a taste before the malolactic fermentation from the barrel: Virginie de Valandraud 2013, pressed cabernet sauvignon, followed by a barrel of merlot - It was superb. Then a taste from the tanks of a selection for our 3rd wine, not as sexy at the moment but all of our knowledge and our goodwill with these nice new barrels and some time will see it right. If not then it will be 'declassified' as even our 3rd wines, sold at the same price as some crus classés, need to be on par.
A meal at home with just a drop of our new Bad Boy Gold 2004 opened the day before, followed by a very nice Trotanoy 2005 with truffles then sirloin and potatoes. Dessert was the usual, Gateau Basque from Lopez and coffee.

Thursday 6 Feb 2014

Bordeaux 2011- Quarin

At the beginning of the week, a tasting with Jean Marc Quarin including a few wines from 2011, certain of it being a good vintage. Apart from 2 or 3, all of the wines were complete, ripe and more or less full bodied. I personally liked Chateau Bellevue La Randée, Domaine Virginie Thunevin and Chateau Vieux Poirier (organic). The prices for these three are respectively 6,00 , 10,00 and 7,00 euros!

In a more ambitious and more expensive selection were the excellent A Nos Amours, Clos Badon and Clos Romanile. For the whites Virginie de Valandraud is tasting very nicely.

The first comments of Jean Marc Quarin's 7 vintage tasting of Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Angelus and Pavie in Switzerland are available on his website.

Wednesday 5 Feb 2014

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Clos du Beau Père 2010

This bottle was opened last week for Andrew Jefford on Tuesday, closed with a Pulltex cap and finished on Thursday. It was quite simply very, very good, perfectly drinkable as would wish any modern wine consumer tired of powerful, 'body-builded' wines!
I like powerful wines. I liked them in the past and will always like them in the future but still I am able to appreciate different wines, like the ones we produce in Lalande de Pomerol and Pomerol. 
During the tasting on Tuesday, it was surprising to have a Valandraud 2010, our best wine yet; full bodied, fresh, a perfect balance between sweet and dry, (This wine should have been rated 100) and the almost salty flavours of Clos du Beau Père (even though it is not grown on chalky soil!)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Roussillon, could do better!

David Schildknecht rates nearly 500 wines from the Roussillon for Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Our Cuvée Constance Thunevin-Calvet 2011 which was given 91, and the 2012 recieved 90+ with some nice comments, will now be easier to sell in New York or Berlin with its value/rating/price ratio being very favourable. (18 dollars in the US)
The other wines, without doubt too full-bodied, ambitious and more expensive were rated between 90 and 93 by David. If they had been rated at the same time as some Priorat or Californian wines, I have no doubt that they would have recieved ratings between 95 and 100 and completely different comments.

Friday 31/01/2014 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Andrew Jefford

It is with great pleasure that we spent a few hours with Andrew Jefford on Tuesday, writer and journalist, to answer a few of his questions about ''terroir'' .

Although he lives in France, down towards Montpellier, I hadn't welcomed him to Saint Emilion for a few years and this is a shame as he is one of the English wine critics that backed our story from the early days. Something that wasn't too common for the English at the time, all too happy to bash the Garagiste liked by the 'uncultivated Americans'. 20 years ago, the English were still the gatekeepers of the good taste of Bordeaux wines.

A meal and wine tasting with a red Burgundy whose name I don't recall, Valandraud 2010, 3 Marie 2009 (because when one talks about ''terroir'', the Roussillon generally has something important to say), Clos du Beau Père 2010 and Virginie de Valandraud Blanc 2012.

A quick visit of our red and white vines at Valandraud with a tasting of Valandraud 2011 from the tank. It will be put in bottles with our own machines next week.

Time has flown too quickly.

Wednesday 29/01/2014

Influences... (part two)

Part two because after my desire to create a UGC Sud de France, my implication for the first time (as far as I am aware) in a film which came out in French cinemas on the 22nd January where Valandraud 2009 plays a part in the scenario, I had the pleasure to watch this great film with its splendid actors and I keep a close eye on the film's Facebook page to see what is being said, what is happening and I read and watch all the hard work these guys are doing even after the film has been produced. It has to be said that they are really putting their backs into it.

 I can't help but see the similarities with our own work. It is one thing to make a wine, even if it is Valandraud, one must follow up and provide a service before and after selling it. It's a secret for no one in the small world of wine, that the success of Lynch Bages, Haut Marabuzet, Figeac, Angélus and so many others that are reknowned today owe their notoriety to the hard work undertaken by those who are in charge, as well as the quality of the wine of course.

So the subject of influence. Have I, through my blog, twitter and Facebook accounts, influenced any of my 'friends' to go and see this film, knowing that in a few months it will be broadcast on the major French TV channels?
How many out of the 5000/10000 people that read my comments and tweets are French, and how many have seen the film? I've had only three friends write to tell me that they've seen it, and enjoyed it. So there it is; three people!.. That's not a lot!

How many TV and radio programs, newspapers and magasines, and blogs have or are going to talk about this film? It probably adds up to millions of French people hearing this information. How many of them will go and see the film? How do we measure the influence of the media against good old fashioned word of mouth: the best way to influence someone?

Tuesday 28/01/2014


It's the question I've been asking myself often these past few days. Who has influence? Who is able to make things happen, apart from Closer, Médiapart or Twitter? Recently it seems to me that the media, newspapers, blogs and Facebook have seemed to lose their power of influence, if I take for example the idea that one has of the Bordeaux wine scene and the 2011, 2012, 2013 vintages (not that great) or our preconceptions about wines from the Languedoc and the Roussillon (alcohol and small wines).

Our, friends in Bordeaux having invested time, money and their knowledge in the South, still see these beautiful wineries treated as 'outsiders' and expect to see them treated this way for a long time to come. Although those who were treated as 'outsiders' when they first arrived in Bordeaux are now very much integrated. The ex-investors, the ex-bankers, the ex-Pied Noirs, are all in Bordeaux and now seem so very Bordelais to their very own 'outsiders'.

One has to therefore bet that that will be the case in the South in a few years. Proof of this it the idea that we all share the need for a common communication tool; a UGC Sud de France, to promote the great wines of the Languedoc and the Roussillon. Who can ignore what the Union des Grands Crus of Bordeaux has done, to be able to bring in crowds of people from the whole world, to create such a remarkable event that even though this year looks difficult, lots of people are coming to Bordeaux for the primeurs, tastings and events organised by the négoce and the chateaux?

So will there be a similar organisation in the South, a sort of UGC? Why can't 50, 100, 150 chateaux in the South put some ressources together especially if we take into consideration the ambitious political undertakings in the South already which could help finance such an organisation?

Voilà, it's said. If one day sees the creation of such a project, the 'bordelais' would without a doubt be happy to have their small place.

Monday 27/01/2014

Harlan Estate


One of my collaborators asked me the price for a few cases of Harlan Estate, a cult wine from California with had the help of Michel Rolland from its very first vintage, 1991... like Valandraud.

This wine served blind at home was greatly enjoyed - I was lucky enough to distribute this wine for a few years and therefore I've been able to drink quite a bit of it. This wine has never been the subject of big controversies, being able to stand up to many a big, modern Bordeaux and its price of 500 euros a bottle puts it in the same league as the1st growths of Bordeaux.

Friday 24/01/2014