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!)