Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Full Planning

Meeting yesterday at 9 am with the sales people of a tractor Jaguar for our vineyards in our 3 properties in Pomerol, and despite serious negotiation, the price for such a special tractor high on its wheels is around 120,000 euros! The means needed to make wine today are certainly far from the ones needed when I started, when, without any money I was able to work well with the help of a few neighbors, friends who gave me time, lent me their tractors, dusters, plows that I couldn’t afford.
Well, in any case, back to our Jaguar, it is already our 3rd, which proves it is a good investment, as Xin Yan says: “to make a mistake once is normal, twice is possible, three times is perversity!” – actually, she was talking about marriage!

At 10 am, meeting with our attorney for the purchase of a small property in Pomerol and Lalande Pomerol: 3 lawyers, 2 consultants, 5 sales reps with complicated structures… a real miracle to reconcile, 6 months later the various interests sometimes quite divergent.
12:15 pm, A bit late to discuss the Chinese market with a journalist from the Wall Street Journal and 2nd meal at the Clos du Roy (perfect) with Cécile and Xin to talk about this market. We drank a great bottle of Clos Saint Martin 2000 ( RP: 96, worth even 98 today).
2:15 pm (15 minutes late), meeting with a journalist from the RVI, and it was her who arrived late at her next meeting of 3:30 pm!
At the end of the day and this morning early, review on the work done by Christian and Xavier on the American market which is becoming one of our top sales priority.
In the evening, dinner with Ghislaine and Michel Puzio (Croix de Labrie) on the pretext of eating a big truffle bought by Michel in the Saint Alvère market in Dordogne. We drank an average Champagne Rosé and one of Murielle’s favorite wines: Trotanoy 1998, delicious. In addition, a old Maury from the Cooperative.
Tough, tough… no time to get bored.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Austria suite

Still, in Austria … where wines taste better, maybe due to the altitude (1800m -5900ft) and the air is cold and dry?
We tasted:
Monbousquet 1999, very good
Valandraud 1995 , maybe our best bottle in this vintage!
Clos de Sarpe 1966, old Bordeaux style and 2001, good wine.
A series of Providence (New Zeeland) from Mr Jim Vuletic, 2004 / 1998 /1999/ 2000/2001/ 2002 (good wines) and 2003
Neumeister 2005 Sauvignon
A 100% Malbec (from Mendoza, Argentine) very very good 1977 : Cuvée Estrella de Weinert
Kollwentz 2002 cuvée Point, Burgenland varietal, good
a fantastic Nigl 2005 Riesling, to drink and drink again… (I will buy some!)
Back in Saint Emilion, We drank 2 good wines: Ermitage Pavillon from Chapoutier 1998 and Balthus 2004

Oh, I forgot to say thank you for a foie gras received by Murielle, foie gras cooked with spices and dried fruits, from the favorite cook of Geoffroy and Thibaut Sciard (Château Faurie de Souchard)…. It didn’t last long !

Saint Emilion under the snow

I let you admire the sceneries we discovered last Thursday morning.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Arlberg Hospiz Saint Christoph

We just returned from the Arlberg Hospiz Saint Christoph, in Austria, where we were invited to participate to a tasting event with our wines for more than 120 people and for the prize-giving ceremony for the title of Best Maître d’Hôtel given by Falstaff to Mr. Mino Zaccaria from the Mörwald Ambassador in Vienna.
We tasted Valandraud 1999, 2002 et 2003, Virginie de Valandraud 1999, 2002 and 2003 and Clos Badon Thunevin 2001, 2002 and 2004.
The perfect organization and the pleasure people had in drinking our wines confirmed once more that there are no “American Parker taste” label given to our wines, but a “European Parker taste” label, given to wines produced with ripe fruits.
The wine cellar from this 5 stars hotel with a quality restaurant, in this beautiful “exclusive” ski resort, is mostly known for having one of the best collection of large formats of 12 liters of top wines (Cheval Blanc, etc…)
At the table, I could see customers drink such bottles, served in carafes of course.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Thursday, Laurent Barbier called our customer and friend in Hong Kong to talk about his project : a quality winery in China. Laurent already has some experience in this area as we tried to produce a good wine in China 3 years ago.
After, tasting in Château de Carles of the 2005 and 2006 (the Haut Carles cuvée is particularly successful).
In the afternoon, visit of 13 oenologists and agronomists who were at Château La Conseillante in the morning.
Today, I travel with Christine Dupart to one of the companies of the Groupe Fayat: Castel et Fromager and Sunday, I leave for Austria to participate in the contest of the best sommelier of Austria organized by the paper Falstaff.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Yesterday morning, tasting of the 2005 with the people in charge of châteaux Prieurs de la Commanderie, Commanderie de Mazeyres, Closerie de Mazeyres, La Dominique and Saint Paul de Dominique.
All the batches showed again that the quality of the wines and the good work done in the properties will help us face future challenges.
In the afternoon, meeting with our bank officer at the BNP who proposed a smart way to finance our barrels.
Following, Caroline Shinohara and I received our friend and customer, Mr. Tokuoka to coordinate an important trip to Japan from February 5 until 15. An great number of sommeliers, professionals, journalists and customers are expecting us and our agenda will not allow us to take a moment to breathe. In the evening, dinner in our house with Mr Tokuoka, Caroline, Léo and Lucas Shinohara, Alain, Murielle and I. Again conversations around work and watched the film “Qui l’eût cru?” (who would have believed it?). We opened a bottle of Clos de Tart 1995 and 2 bottles (both corked and ending up in the sink) of the Cuvée du Papet 1995 du Mont Olivet, followed by a good Côte Rotie 2000 Domaine Jamet, a bit austere but pure. After, Valandraud 2004 to see how it tasted with food, and to finish, our Maury 2004 Calvet-Thunevin which impressed everyone.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

La Regalona

The new chef and owner of the Clos du Roy reopened yesterday.
We were invited by Mr. Escourrou and his partner, owners of La Régalona in Cabardès (One of Jean-Marc Quarin’s favorite restaurant), and discovered the changes they made: Stylish decoration. We were able to taste a new menu at 28 Euros (only served for lunch). Perfect meal, the way I like it: modern cuisine but tasty. Still missing (in my opinion, as usual a bit critical), Riedel style glasses (what are their sales reps doing?) to show off our wines, wouldn't it be useful for Saint Emilion?
The wine list is the same as the previous owners, I am sure it will evolve…
During the meal, we drank a Château Pipeau 2000 (35 Euros), delicious.
To sum up, I wonder if taking this lunch menu out of the evening selection and offering an average 40 Euros price for a tourist is a bit discriminatory.
The February issue of Revue du Vin de France just came out. I read an article on second wines from classified growth, so Virginie was not included. It is unfortunate, this is probably the same journalist, who wasn't aware that I had presented Valandraud for the classification, who made the selection.
Chapelle d’Ausone finished first, in front of Petit Cheval and Carillon de l’Angélus.
Also, an interesting article comparing Roussillon and Priorat with nice places for the wines of our friends: Domaine de Serrelongues, Domaine Eternel, Clos des Fées and us with Hugo and a comment discribing these wines with full mouth, creamy, sweet (with “what a pity”, when you think that our wines are really dry and stable, a sensation I would like so much to have in Saint Emilion, is being criticized in Maury).
Thanks again to this RVF to honor Fronsac. You know how much I regret that our entire business (including myself) is incapable of promoting these incredible values. The best ratings included: Canon de Brem, La Dauphine, Fontenil, Moulin Haut Laroque and Haut Mazeris. Missing (maybe for not being tasted) is Château de Carles.
In Castillon, Aiguilhe, Domaine de l’A and Veyry share 1st place.
To conclude, nice spot for L’Essentiel in the section Bistrots à Vins where Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Yquem and Valandraud are served by the glass.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tasting and reviews

Yesterday at 2 :30 pm, I tasted batches of 2005 in the middle of aging with 3 of my colleagues. Seeing the pleasure on their faces, I wonder who is going to dare acting indifferent? We followed with 2006 batches which seemed good, but far, quite far from the historical bottles.

For dinner, we ate a paella and drank, with pleasure, a very good Chassagne Montrachet red 1er cru from Jean Marc Pillot, from this wonderful vintage in Burgundy: 1999. This wine, while considered refined, was perfectly balanced, neat, bright and incredibly good. A real wine to appreciate with pleasure (not like those bombs made for contests that I like, but I am learning).
Before, we opened a bottle of Claude Dugat 2004 Bourgogne, unfiltered, there was no need to write it on the label… Problem bottle I suppose, seeing the quality of the signature which offers, I suppose, even in a simple appellation, quality wines. I looked for reviews on sites like La Passion du Vin (by Ganesh for instance) and on dé, but unfortunately, couldn’t find anything (why?)
In any case, back to the news: what is today’s price for truffles? It looks like it is going to be a good year.
No connection, but I like the following comments from Bertrand Le Guern: “We can say that you were lucky”, talking about the 1959 vintage.
On the same site of la Passion du Vin, this time regarding Valandraud 1999, tasted during an event organized by Bettane and Desseauve, William preferred Virginie 1999 to Valandraud 1999. What can I say other than each person has his own taste which is a good thing. Valandraud 1999 is actually part of the 10 best wines of this vintage and the one that I show the most as it is easy to drink without any fuss. I serve it at my table almost every week!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Quiet weekend

Like every Saturday and Sunday, we visited our vineyards and cellars. Yesterday, Murielle and I went to see the progress on the roofing of Virginie’s cellar in her Lalande de Fronsac property. We had a long chat with Auguste, an 80 year old ex sheep herder from the Pyrénées, who was taking a walk with his dog. He told us that he kept 200 ewe on the property for their organic fertilizer. The owners of this property were from Paris and used to come in August, way before seaside resorts became popular. They installed running water for the whole village (in 1880). They had a tennis court, guest houses and before WWII, organized parties in the little oak forest (nicknamed “Bois de Boulogne”!) which the old people still remembered.
In the meantime, this property has to be entirely rebuilt, the vineyards of white and red grapes (20 hectares – around 40.5 acres) and the meadows are still in bad shape, but we will see the difference in a couple of years.
Yesterday for lunch we drank a Chapelle Chambertin 2002 from Rossignol-Trapet. Thanks to Patrick, I had the pleasure to meet the owner, in tune with organic agriculture and I liked the wines I tasted from the barrels. This wine, which without any doubt is very good, is not powerful enough, modern for our taste… Still the two of us almost drank the whole bottle, which is usually a good sign.
I read that the wine of the Pays de France is finally coming. Well it is not too late. I am part of those who think that this will be a good thing. The Spanish example, once again ahead of France, will have forced our leader to think.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Wednesday, busy day in the Médoc

We left at 9 am for Clément Pichon for a tasting planned for 10 with Patrick Daney, who is in charge of the property and Guillaume Quéron. We tasted 2005, with each batch kept separately: the Merlots, good, the Cabernets Sauvignons, superb and the Cabernets Francs a bit less (they will go in the second wine). These wines are developing well and this reinforces my opinion of this great 2005 vintage.
Patrick is planning to do the bottling in June, but Guillaume and I will recommend to do it 3 months earlier to preserve all these beautiful fruit.
The 2006 batches prove that the work put into it is already paying off: for instance, the Cabernets Francs are excellent (certainly low yields, but a with a 1st wine as a reward) and even the other batches we ran some of the juice off (or saignée) to get more concentration are good. I think that blending we will do in March will not be to difficult. The unusual concentration in the ripe Cabernets Sauvignons will be the backbone of this Cru Bourgeois Supérieur.
The upgrade of the cellar and the new reception room are done. Christine Dupart and Laetitia just need to reopen it for business. I am not worried, especially if Jean-Pierre Wagner succeeds in his trial period.

After this visit of Clément Pichon, we went to Saint Estèphe to start a new challenge. We had a nice meal at Château Pomy (nice place) and studious atmosphere with Guillaume and a future great Saint Estèphe, if god is with us.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Second Wine

For those who didn’t read the thread on the forum of La Passion du Vin, here is the comment I posted regarding second wines.

Virginie 1996, old style was the true 2nd wine of Valandraud and in my opinion should have already been drunk. Light, like any good 2nd wine. Since the 1997 vintage, it became a 2nd brand. The high price it reached in the marketplace pushed me to create a 3rd wine which actually became the 2nd wine of Valandraud (and Virginie). I only copied Latour with its Fort de Latour (which has no longer been the second wine for quite a long time, in my opinion) and its 3rd wine, the Pauillac de Latour.
I know that this concept is a bit complicated, but this is the way it is… I could still change my opinion in the future. This depends on the market, my clients and my objectives (financial, image, etc.). One needs to understand that, regardless what the owners say, a second wine is made with lesser lots, grapes from younger vines… The only difference with me is that I age them luxuriously in 80% - 100% new barrels.
Other than that, yesterday was my “médocaine” day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Passion for wine

Regarding the long aging for Valandraud 2004 and in response to the statements of Vincent Lucien, Bertrand Le Guern, Pinard and Mauss:
In fact, refining without drying out is the difficulty. Of course, I could have thought about stopping the extractions process during the vinification, but it is too late… So it is a matter of looking for the polymerization of aggressive tannins by a smooth and patient aging process. Michel Rolland already recommended this long aging process for the 1994 vintage which worked well as Valandraud 1994 was quite a success in the context of this vintage.
2004 is of course a much better vintage, and to answer Vincent Lucien, I will only know if my choices were right when my customers will taste the first bottles.
In Mr Pinard’s words, who had the kindness of saying good things about l’Interdit de Valandraud 2000 and who had especially the good idea to carafe this wine in order to get its full potential…Well we come back to Jean Marc Quarin’s statement (which I take at face value): each bottle is different and everything is important, the moment, the place, the company, the glasses, the temperature, the ventilation and our frame of mind.
Of course, regarding the price of my wines, everyone knows even without being well informed, that they are in the luxury category, and this, for more than 15 years!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Back to work and objectives

Again, regarding the wines tasted Sunday during our meals :
Château de Marsannay, Champs Perdrix 2002 : A wine we enjoy, ripe Chardonnay, opulent, perfect with small shrimps bought alive and cooked in Italian olive oil (we have 2 suppliers who spoil us!), followed by a great bottle of Porte du Ciel 2001 which should receive a 95/98, note it well deserves for a Côteaux du Languedoc, if it was to be compared to a few great wines from Châteauneuf, Spain or even California. As for this region, will it ever get the recognition it deserves from the press, stores and clients?

Yesterday for lunch and dinner we tasted: Pavie 2003, Chassagne Montrachet Vieilles Vignes from Amiot, Flor de Pingus 2003, Egregore from Mr Bernard Magrez 2003 and an unknown Médoc.

Despite a spring-like weather, Saint Emilion is gearing up for Winter. Almost all the stores are closed and some are in full renovation (Hostellerie de Plaisance), others change ownership and style (Clos du Roy): This is why we decided yesterday to eat in the 2nd trucker stop (after La Puce aux Bigaroux) in Saint Pey d’Armens: with a 11.50 Euros menu more than decent! (the restaurant was full)
In the office, I bought more 2005 futures, as prices don’t seem to level off. This vintage, while waiting for Mr. Parker’s updated notes, is still highly regarded by the whole profession.
Catherine Manuaud is traveling through Belgium and Luxemburg, Xavier Serin is leaving for the US at the end of the week, we will be soon in Austria, then Singapore and Japan.
The new year is starting well, orders after the holidays are filling our workplace.
This year’s target: revenues between 13 and 15 millions Euros, or more than 1.2 Million bottles.

Monday, January 8, 2007

New year celebration in our house

Sunday lunch was our first meal with some of our gourmet friends who arrived early to help us prepare dinner (us, the Pinauds, the Bizeuls)
1 Blanc de Bret brothers 2003, appellation Viré Clessé La Verchère, a gift from Patrick to perfect, it seems, my education… We followed by a Clos Vougeot 1992 from Leroy, quite tired when we opened it, then after 5 minutes, by a miracle, it opened up in the glasses. It is quite a good wine, especially when you think about this vintage. I still have 5 bottles which I will most likely sell for they will fetch between 180 and 200 Euros. This will allow me to buy a number of good bottles. We brilliantly ended this lunch with a bottle of Latour 1955 from Pomerol which is what is best in Pomerol in this great vintage (year of birth of Martine and Murielle). The wine started to weaken after 20 minutes, but what a wine! It is obvious that the bottle had only traveled between the previous owner and us.

Sunday evening, Everybody was present except 2 couples friends, therefore, we were 10 (with the Ambayracs and the Quérons).
1 magnum of champagne Duval le Roy 1998 Chardonnay Blanc very good, 2 half bottles d’Yquem 1997: Il love this wine (as well as everyone else), ripe, opulent without being heavy
1 Meursault Bouches-Chères 2004 from Buisson Charles which allowed us to go from Yquem to Petrus (sorry for so little !).
1 Petrus 1990 to silence people wanting to bad mouth this icon: The wine was perfect, great maturity. At this level, the only thing we regretted is not to have gone a bit wild, but it is not our style… Our love (Murielle and I) for great wines started with a Petrus 1955, we drank in 1982 in Montpon Ménestrol in the Petit Prince, this will always be a special wine for us!
We followed by l’Eglise Clinet 1990, perfect, still a bit young, very different wine than the first one, lighter, spicier, certainly the Cabernet Francs give the elegance to this wine.

After, THE bottle of the evening: 1 Latour 1982 which was remarkable all around: Pauillac at the beginning of maturity… a magnum would have been necessary. The oven roasted grass-fed lamb with Herbes de Provence and garlic transformed this wine into an absolute delight. Well, I am not going to promote Latour (who doesn’t need me for that).
1 Le Pin 2004 not to compete with Latour 1982 and to please, in thought, our friend Alain and treat our gourmet family. This wine makes you love wine, even for someone who has never tasted it (and it is my inspiration to make Valandraud), drank quickly and with greediness, a sexy wine par excellence.

After midnight, the first bottle of Maury 2004 served with chocolates and the Basques cakes from Lopez, which, after so many incredible wines, held up correctly its new place and makes me think that our 500 cases of 6 won’t have any problems converting amateurs who don’t know the Maury appellation. There you are for our New Years eve dinner, with as it is customary, oysters, foie gras, salmon, gambas, leg of lamb with baby vegetables, Brie with truffle, desert, etc.. All of that without being sick or too tired.
Vive home cooking and great wines!

For lunch on Monday, before our last 3 hard core guests couples left (Bizeul, Pinaud, Ambayrac):
1 Meursault les Chevalières from Bernard Boisson Vadot : good, ripe, balanced, a bit closed
1 Sancerre d’Alphonse Mello Edmond 2001, superb
1 Chochu, Japanese alcool made with rice, aged in our Valandraud barrels, superb with salmon (too bad we didn’t have caviar)
Followed by Flor de Pingus 2003 as a thought to Peter Sisseck
And at least, a wine from the house: Valandraud 1998, which is actually our favorite wine.