Thursday, May 29, 2008

Good and bad

I read a comment on Bisrepetita on a wine that I also felt was right. I was disappointed though by this wine in 2001.
Too evolved? Drank too cold ? Drank alone?

I won’t stop repeating over and over that the atmosphere, the moment, the state of mind, our brain (yes), the entire environment around are as important as the quality of the wine (sad and tough reality to swallow for certain moral zealots ;-).

I learned by reading the price list of a colleague, that Nicolas T. is also owner of Chateau X (famous Bordeaux wine). From this perspective, I feel obliged to specify that I am only the manager of the Vignobles Fayat. Let’s not confuse this – even if the same price list was listing our wines. I am also co-owner with Clément Fayat of a property, so as T. and L. or L.C. who is also the co-owner of this famous Grand Cru.

This reminds me the time when selling the wine of a friend, I barely was allowed to say that he was the co-owner of a famous cru… Retailers who have to sell a wine, can often do with approximations.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wine by the glass

Our boutique/wine bar L’Essentiel just received a system allowing to serve wine by the glass and keep bottles opened for more than 20 days.
It should be operational by next week.

2007 Futures campaign

Wire from AFP from May 24 :

"Primeurs 2007: "difficult" vintage and "greedy" owners

BORDEAUX, May 24, 2008 (AFP) – Despite the 2007 vintage considered "difficult" or even "intermediary" by tasters, the price of Bordeaux classified growth sold during this futures campaign have barely gone down. Some of the buyers are calling chateau owners “greedy”.
“the quality of this vintage makes it a tricky year”, admits Francis Cruse, Director of the Union des maisons de Bordeaux, the trade representative for Bordeaux wine-merchants.
“the market is expecting more reasonable prices (than the previous years, note from the editor), but it is not the case” he ads, whilst the first prices of the 2007 vintage are starting to come out.

Victim of a gloomy Summer, offset by a nice month of September, mild and dry, the quality of the 2007 vintage surprised everyone being better than expected. Still, there is little chance that it will attract collectors or speculators who are an important part of futures sales.

Futures sales only concern the most prestigious crus and only represent 3 to 5% of total sales of Bordeaux wines.

Stock levels are low, volumes down 25 to 30% compared to 2006. Prices remained high following the stratospheric increase of 2005: “the market for the most prestigious top growths has never been so healthy. So some of the property owners are a bit greedy, as they don’t want to lower their prices”, adds François Lévêque, president of the regional trade organization for brokers of wine and spirit.
Indeed, the campaign just started and the price for the top crus will only come out at the beginning of June following Vinexpo, the largest international wine & spirit trade show, taking place in Hong Kong from May 27 to 29. It takes place every odd years in Bordeaux.

Jean-Luc Thunevin, wine-merchant and property owner in Saint Emilion, describes this vintage as “difficult”. He considers that “it is abnormal that 2007 prices are more expensive” than 2006, even if owners justify their price increase by the “important investments” made to improve the quality.

Even if prices went “down 5 or 7%, this is sadly not even a drop”, he ads, “we would have liked to see -15%”. He asks: “Why pay today wines that will be at the same price in 2009?”, when the futures will be bottled and shipped.
For example, Chateau Lagrange (Saint-Julien) was released by the property for 20 Euros Ex-VAT for a bottle of 75 cl (-4.76%), chateau Haut-Marbuzet (Saint-Estèphe) stayed at 20 Euros ex-VAT, Chateau Gruaud Larose (Saint-Julien), down 2.04%, was negotiated for 24 Euros ex-VAT.
At the same time, we noticed that a drop of 3 to 5% on “Strong brands, with consumer prices between 20 and 40 Euros”, are “very successful”, claims M. Lévêque. On the other end, “lesser known brands, have a hard time at -5%”.

“vintage to drink”, “pleasure wine”, Bordeaux 2007 also suffers, on a certain level, from the lack of interest from English or American customers, who mostly show-up for great speculative vintages. Customers who already are loaded with stock of 2005 and 2006 and are victim of an unfavorable exchange rate. For the broker, François Lévêque, “sales of 2007 will mainly come from mass merchants”. This trend was just confirmed by a colleague, Max de Lestapis: “Mass market will be active this year and will play a crucial role for weaker brands”.
Top names will always find buyers.

hdz/sw/ds "

Monday, May 26, 2008

Vinexpo Asia-Pacific

The work on the new cellar in Maury is progressing:
In the meantime, Jean-Roger, Xin and I are in Hong Kong for 3 days to present our wines at VINEXPO (stand AB31).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Revue du Vin de France

In the June 2008 issue of the Revue du Vin de France, Denis Saverot’s editorial writes about blind tastings. Page 13 features an article on pesticides (obviously a sensitive subject…) and page 22 a piece on China.
From page 31 to 36, terroir: phantasy or reality, etc…
And of course, the rest is on the 2007 vintage in France (and a special selection for Chateau Haut Mazeris 2007 and Dominio de Pingus 2005).

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Kafka, according to Wikipedia :

Franz Kafka, (3 July 1883 - 3 June 1924) was one of the major German-language fiction writers of the 20th century. He was born to a middle-class Jewish family in Prague, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic). His unique body of writing—much of which is incomplete and was published posthumously—is among the most influential in Western literature.[1]
His stories, such as The Metamorphosis (1915), and novels, including The Trial (1925) and The Castle (1926), concern troubled individuals in a nightmarishly impersonal and bureaucratic world.
Kafka’s work is seen as the symbol of the uprooted man in modern times. No one believes that his work is only an attempt, in an obvious battle with “superior forces”, to give the initiative back to the individual, who makes his own choice responsibly.

Below is a text I received from one of our friends who authorized me the post it on my blog. It refers to the interpretation of the Evin law, etc…

“Dear Jean-Luc,

Three months ago, we brought to your attention the publication of an order from Paris appeals court forbidding any forms of promotion and publicity of alcohol on the Internet, and particularly wine. We started a petition and received more that 4500 signatures. What we feared actually took place. The decision from the Paris court on the Heineken case and the confirmation of the Evin Law’s new interpretation produced their first concrete effect: Microsoft’s advertising sales division informed their customers in the wine industry (distributors, wine stores, wineries, etc.) that they will stop posting their adverts staring June 1 2008 noting that “the legislation states that the internet is not included in the mediums authorized to broadcast advertizing spots on alcohol (Article L3323-2). Therefore, Microsoft adCenter decided to ban adverts promoting and/or encouraging sales of alcohol.”
We have reached another stage as advertisers are now forbidding the promotion of wine on the internet. If Google and Yahoo follow Microsoft, how will winemakers and merchants be able to promote their wine on the internet?

An article posted on our blog ( presents in details Microsoft’s decision. We also updated the petition page, “support wine on the Internet”, in order to give a boost to signatures. I recall that several members of parliament accepted our petition and are working on a proposal for legislation.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Back to fundamentals

Yesterday, I did a phone interview with a journalist for Agence France Presse (A.F.P.) to talk about the 2007 futures campaign.

Hard to say that it is easy, but who would have thought? At the same time, it is hard to identify a specific problem.
Probably prices, but I believe it is not the only problem: Timing? Is it the right time to release a wine?
Payment terms are probably one of the touchy points. Properties could revised terms in order to help financially wine-merchants and their customers. Especially as this is not a speculative vintage. Marketplace, follow-through, distribution are the proper words in the current context.

Talbot, Giscours, which we distribute, are selling well as well as Beychevelle, according to my colleagues.

Back to fundamentals, to 100 brands, or 100 families, but this is another story.

A journalist from the Wall Street Journal asked me if vines were pulled and replaced by wheat or corn, which have seen their prices soar, like every raw material.
The price of wine won’t be soaring this year, maybe next year! (we still have some leftover from 2005).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Market Status

Monday, Xavier and I had a meeting in Bordeaux with one of our new customers. They have the potential to be one of our best clients by the end of the year, granted we can find wines they are looking for, which is a challenge (price, notoriety).

The futures campaign is exhausting and stressful. On the other side, wines from our regular stock are a pleasure to work with, which is essential for it concerns wines which I call “normal”, where the price/quality ratio is key.

The Swiss newspaper “le Temps” writes about the Grand Jury Européen’s journey to Japan with its dinners in Michelin star restaurants and wines tasted during the meals, including Valandraud, of course.
I will actually be in Japan from Friday, May 30 until June 3, after Vinexpo Hong Kong.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Paris : Busy schedule

Theatre :
We went to the Comédie de Paris and saw « Armelle » and in the Palais Royal « Toc Toc »

In Tan Dinh we tasted blind Valandraud 1997 with another very good wine, in addition to top white Burgundies. This restaurant - and friend – has probably one of the best selection of Pomerol and Burgundy in Paris.
In the brasserie of the Lutetia, we drank a very good bottle of Petite Syrah from Mexico: La Cetto. In the nice brasserie located on the left of the lavinia, we had an excellent wine from the Loire, which I forgot the name.

At our friends:
Richebourg 2003 Anne Gros, Romanée Saint Vivant DRC 2003 and a pirate wine 2003, extremely good.
Corton Charlemagne Bonneau du Martray 1999 and William Fèvre Bougros 1999, Corton Charlemagne 1997 from Prieur, nice label corked, and… and… I forgot to take notes.

Thursday, I attended an important event taking place at Lavinia. it was organized by the PR firm of Jean-Pierre Tuil for the magazine Challenges. A panel of crus was presented by a nice panel of top property owners. Murielle, Mr. Clément Fayat (also present), and I represented the wines from the Vignobles Fayat. I didn’t even have the time to talk to all my friends from the business who were attending! I had an interview with a top journalist covering “general-interest” subjects, then I attended the tasting for VIP clients of Lavinia and “hop”, I just had enough time to eat with Pierre Lurton (Yquem, Cheval Blanc) in the brasserie next door, then time for bed.

I’ll write about Friday’s meetings maybe later.
Saturday and Sunday, I participated in the big tasting organized by La Revue du Vin de France in the Palais Brongniart. Beautifully put together in this place which use to be the home of France’s financial market. Plenty of visitors, customers, readers of this blog, acquaintances, friends, wine lovers… Murielle didn’t have any time to catch her breath. I did a bit. We had more visitors this year than last and this gave the opportunity for Murielle to meet again and pour some Valandraud to Mr. Arditi.
Pierre Arditi is one of France’s most famous, respected and still popular actors. For us, he is one of the best ambassadors of the wine world. A real wine lover. We would love for him to visit us in Saint Emilion, but I am sure he gets his share of invitations!

Back with the TGV and full throttle in the futures campaign.

I would like to post again the comment from Bruno to enlighten, if needed, some of my colleagues winemakers with this comment on Bordeaux written by a Swiss wine professional:
Dear Jean-Luc
I read with great interest the various articles and comments posted on your blog. What comes out is that the system of distribution and positioning of “Wine” in the marketplace should be called into question. My first assessment is that one can easily question oneself when the wine from an average vintage is being released. This was not the case for 2003 and 2005 where the only objective was to take the maximum amount of “dough”. This is well but this dough should have also been used to finance a study, or a coherent and perennial sales policy, guaranteeing a long term success.
Bordelais like to flirt with a policy of luxury goods and claim all the privileges without ever giving themselves the proper means of a luxury policy. Luxury is in fashion but the benefactors are companies who have worked for a long time on the implementation of a rigorous and costly commercial strategy. Switzerland is a bit familiar with this environment… The other trend, more anglo-saxon, take advantage of commercial system a bit chaotic to sell through wines mainly for financial purposes with all the abuses it involves (speculative funds, profits…, indexes,… etc...). And we forget the essential part: THE CUSTOMER AND CONVIVIALITY. (Thank you François Mauss for your comment). The long-term customer and wine lover has not increased his “wine” budget. He only adapted his budget and stopped following the increase of the top Bordeaux. This allows him to still and always devote his true passion: share another good bottles with friends! One thing is certain is that there are more people who get together in the world than people who have a lot of money.

The real purpose of wine is to be a beverage, even as beautiful as it can be, like a house remains a living environment. All abuse can be costly. It is time that each wine determines a price range that fits and keeps it. Stronger that any note, be it from R. Parker, or any other branding, the set and constant price will establish customer loyalty. Changing the price (with such magnitude) is changing client and god knows that acquiring new customers in any business in the world can be a deadly exercise.

One last thing concerning this “new Asian clientele”. I suggest you spend 3 weeks in Asia, incognito, and observe people’s habits concerning wine consumption. Of course, outside of “vinophiles” and promotional events for top crus where the red carpet is being rolled out. You won’t enjoy not being greeted and highly regarded (this, of course, doesn’t put in question Asian hospitality). On the other hand, it will be very instructive!
Best regards. Bruno

I forgot to ad that there should be a lot of press on these 3 days in Paris. The magazine Le Point published a complete review of the Revue du Vin de France and the good work done which will help French wine lovers make their choices when purchasing fine wine amid this rather complicated year.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bordeaux 2007

Haut Marbuzet 2007 sold well and I bought a lot of Château La Pointe 2007 (Pomerol) which will be one of the best investments in Pomerol in 3 years, if the investments and the choice of star oenologist are confirmed.

Another sure investment is Château Lafont Rochet in Saint Estèphe.

The Médoc is slowly opening to us. Friends of friends have been helping and the dynamism of our wine merchant business is becoming stronger. Of course, it doesn’t mean that, in addition to Château Mouton Rothschild, I will be getting allocations from other 1st Grand Crus in the near future… Well, this doesn’t prevent me from buying and selling some.
Still, let’s not forget that I have great wines from the Right Bank as well as the famous Pingus!

The 2007 notes from Jacques Dupont have just been published in the magazine Le Point and we have been spoiled: Special choice for Clos Badon and the highest note for Valandraud in the Saint Emilion Grand Cru section!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bloody blog

The French seem to always know it all… Is freedom incompatible with wine?

This Beaumarchais saying “If censorship reigns, there cannot be sincere flattery”, and the slogan of France’s largest newspaper, “Le Figaro” (that’s fortunate!), is harder and harder to apply for journalists in the wine world. It is even harder for wine professionals who are only allowed to shut their mouth and keep their opinion for themselves.

If it is obvious for all of us that our freedom should not infringe on other’s freedom. However, it is difficult, today, to give our true opinion of a wine, even for me. I try to be as tactful as possible and my friend François Mauss won’t tell me to do otherwise.

When will the Guide for Good Manners be published exclusively for followers?
An oenologist is only allowed to say good things about the wines made by his colleagues. Otherwise, beware of the whip!

Stéphane Toutoundji (who I am not a client of) writes about it in his blog « Ras la bouteille » (“enough” – really appropriate in this case). I don’t know who he is writing about. I must have read it but forgot the part. He must have had to erase it. I simply hope that it is not about one of my friends who only wants good notes.
Actually, I don’t know of any cru from our area that everyone likes (except Mouton Rothschild 1945… but it is not a Saint Emilion).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vive the Roussillon

Back from Maury : We spent 3 days in a nice bed & breakfast and our weekend went by fast.
We spent the weekend with visits, lunches and dinner. Hard to resist and avoid gaining weight with all this wine!
We started with the fine restaurant of Pascal Borrell located in the Maison du Terroir. It largely deserves the Michelin star it recently received. We took this opportunity to drink a wonderful wine “De battre mon cœur s’est arrêté” (in other words “The Beat That My Heart Skipped) from our friend Hervé Bizeul, as well as a wine from the Cave Cooperative of Maury. It is now able to compete with many of the new private wineries which are opening every day in this region. The work on our new cellar and housing are going fast: work should be done before the 2008 harvest.

The en primeur campaign is still difficult. I bought 1500 bottles of Rouget 2007, Pomerol, and which has one of the best quality/price ration.
Fortunately, for wines available and in stock, business if rather good. We just received a very nice order from and broker on the behalf of a large wine merchant from Bordeaux.
Vive Bordeaux.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


… With Valandraud, La Dominique, Fleur Cardinale and Haut Carles for the Revue du Vin de France tasting event Saturday May 17 and Sunday 18 at the Palais Brongniart in Paris (invitation upon request)

With only La Dominique and Mr Clément Fayat, in Lavinia on May 15 – private party ?

Again La Dominique, May 17 and 18 : weekend of the Grands Amateurs in Bordeaux (Hangar 14, on the docks)

And at Vinexpo Hong Kong with all our wines May 27-28-29. I will then be in Japan from May 30 to June 3 included.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Is there a pilot available for Bordeaux 2007 ?

I don’t know what to say!
Already for a normal vintage, it is hard to predict the future, so for 2007: Intense fog, thick smoke, difficulties to be expected.
Nevertheless, more than 20 wines have been offered today. The rhythm is strong, business is calm.
Nice brands belonging to serious owners are offered at a less attractive price, if I analyze the reaction from our customers.

Is there an ounce of satisfaction for the wine merchants and their customers? Does the role brokers have as counselor still exists? Is the property deaf, blind, or is one more time right despite all the opposition?
We will know soon (maybe!)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Parker.... ("what else ?")

There it is. The notes from Parker for Bordeaux 2007 and 2005 are published for the whole world to see. In any case, at least for the wines Parker tasted and wanted to rate.
In fact, all the wines tasted by Parker (or by journalists, in general), have not been rated or commented. Some because he forgot, others waiting for a confirmation and lastly, because he felt they are of no interest for him or his readers, or even too bad or simply not presented.
I am disappointed about the 2005 vintage. I expected Parker to give “100 point” to more wines for this historical vintage: Only 2 wines received this note! (but 70 wines received more than 95).
In any case, we are far from Guigual’s record who received 100 19 times, or Chapoutier 13 times. Bordeaux is in the junior league… except Petrus (7 timesI should point out).

Other than that, I feel we should be happy with the notes for 2007 as they were not based on the value of the Dollar. Parker didn’t rate them as Suckling did! As for 2005, the notes for many good wines, not too expensive, were confirmed and this is positive.

I am disappointed, especially for my clients purchasing futures, about the notes given to La Dominique 2007, Haut Carles 2007 and 2005. I am happy for Fleur Cardinale 2007 and 2005, Haut Mazeris 2007 and 2005, Marojallia 2007 and 2005 and I am especially for the garagist – even the ones who only accept being called that when it is good for them or when Parker rates them (well).
The ratings for 2005 will help move some cases, as for 2007, I will wait and see. I am not so sure that in this case, the strength of the brand as well as the price be good values to get sales. Even if Parker sets the tone for this subject (for setting the price or notoriety of the brand).
We already sold a few cases of Sauterns and Vins Despagne (Mont Perat, etc…).

A little point to ponder on: There are large differences between Neal Martin and Robert Parker on many wines.

Also, on Mar Squires Bulletin Board, the notes for 2005 are commented more than 1000 times and have been viewed more than 63,000 times!
If one ads all the sites dedicated to wine, blogs and the industry, Parker certainly reaches a great number of people.

Friday, May 2, 2008

They're coming...

The notes of Robert Parker are now available in the membership section of his site.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Below, I posted the list of release dates En primeur of Château Valandraud as well as the number of bottles produced and the release prices for Bordeaux wine merchants.

Vintage -Release price - Quantity produced - Release dates
1991 - 13,72 € - 1 500 bottles - on 5.08.1992
1992 - 19,81 € - 4 500 bottles - on 16.07.1993
1993 - 24,39 € - 4 500 bottles - on 02.05.1994
1994 - 27,44 € - 9 600 bottles - on 16.05.1995
1995 - 36,58 € - 12 000 bottles - on 20.03.1996
1996 - 73,17 € - 7 200 bottles - on 03.03.1997
1997 - 91,46 € - 4 800 bottles - on 06.04.1998
1998 - 73,17 € - 12 000 bottles - on 20.01.1999
1999 - 121,95 € - 15 000 bottles - on 13.06.2000
2000 - 125,00 € - 15 000 bottles - on 09.04.2001
2001 - 100,00 € - 12 000 bottles - on 22.05.2002
2002 - 85,00 € - 12 000 bottles - on 07.05.2003
2003 - 140,00 € - 12 600 bottles - on 13.06.2004
2004 - 75,00 € - 20 000 bottles - on 01.04.2005
2005 - 165,00 € - 15 000 bottles - on 21.06.2006

1/ Important information : The wine was often released way before the notes of Parker or the Revue du Vin de France were out, and even regularly before Bordeaux 1st growths were released.
I am not particularly a follower, even if growing older and getting more experience, I am a bit more “prudent”.

2/ Useful information : volumes are voluntarily reduced to get the best quality while still get maximum quantity.

3/ Release prices were often higher that 1855 1st growths up to, and including, the 2003 vintage. Since then, without any high notes from Parker, released prices had to be adjusted as well as market prices.

4/ Speculation was important as early as the 1992 vintage until 1998, since then, no more speculation. This is mainly due to the lack of high notes from Parker and that the fact that Valandraud is not bought by speculative funds.

5/ Is it bad for the growth of the 1st wine called “Garage”? I have to admit that I owe part of the notoriety of Valandraud to the quality of the wine, and that the most of it from the important speculation at the beginning. At some point, Valandraud fetched even more than Petrus, Le Pin, Romané Conti and, of course, 1st growths.

6 / Today, nobody buys Valandraud for speculative purpose. Therefore, the wine can basically only be sold by Bordeaux wine merchants, who represent 70% of my customers, and then can finally be drank, which is actually going quite well.

7 / Can this change ? It doesn’t seems so. Brands have to be stronger and stronger and there isn’t space for everyone in the ultra luxurious niche. My colleagues became very effective and the selection process now achieved by first growths lead to a reduction of often half of the production for 1st wine compared to the 90s and this has increased pressure on the ratio offer/demand.

8/ Can the miracle of our story happen again? For us or another wine? Of course it can. No positions are established, whether conservatives like it or not.
Nature hates a void, and it is good that way.