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Christophe Salin on Carruades de Lafite

Date: Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I spoke to Lafite director Christophe Salin yesterday about the history of Carruades and its growth in recent years, as a follow up to the Decanter article from a few days ago. Here is what he said:

'A second wine called Carruades has been made at Lafite for decades, but was called Moulin des Carruades until the early 1990s, when we changed the name to Carruades de Lafite.'

'At the same time, we decided to work much more closely on its quality. At first, it had very much been seen as a second wine, whose only real function was to better the quality of Lafite, but since the early 1990s we introduced a third wine, Pauillac, which has meant we could further improve the quality of Carruades.'

'But we want it still to remain an affordable wine. This means that we are also technically looking to make this affordable – putting in a higher proportion of Merlot, for example, and using second year barrels that have come from our first wine, but of course with exactly the same team as with Lafite.'

'Commercially, we have been pricing it very low, and plan to continue to do so. I am personally convinced that it is a second wine, and I want it to be a wine that I can afford to buy in a restaurant, to be an affordable good step towards Lafite.'

'We are still opening at 30 euros, and it is sold entirely through negociants, through the en primeur system. We use the same negociants for both, but I know that some also buy it up from the Place afterwards and do further trading. This is part of the success of the product, it is a free trade, if there is a demand it can be fulfilled by the market.' (incidentally, as an aside from me at this point, a few negociants have said to me that it is only Carruades de Lafite that is keeping them going at the moment).

‘It is very much a Chinese phenomenon. I have been visiting China for around 20 years, and they have been very quick to adapt to the French luxury market, and consider the top wines to be part of that art de vivre. Lafite resonates well with the luxury world, as does the Rothschild name. It has a good story, it’s easy to pronounce, and they like the label because it reflects their idea about France. We keep both labels very simple, they are not designed from marketing consultants, just intended to be clear and easy to read.'

'In terms of quantity, we split in thirds between Lafite, Carruades and Pauillac – but both Lafite and Pauillac are very small thirds, and Carruades is a much larger third.' (this translates into approx 25,000 cases for Lafite, and around 30,000 cases for Carruades, although of course this is not exact every year).


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The 2009 Vintage at Chateau Palmer

Date: Tue, Sep 22, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Thomas Duroux at Chateau Palmer gave some very interesting thoughts on how the 2009 vintage is shaping up in the Margaux area:

‘Alcohol levels are getting high. Merlot is particularly high, up to 14-15%. This is the classic situation in a warm vintage – and classic in Mediterranean climates for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. I know about it from my Italian experience (Thomas worked at Ornellaia for a number of years).

'Is is is a concern? It's always a concern to a certain extent, although we can mitigate the problems. First of all, it is certainly easier to ferment at 13 than 15 degrees, because things can get stuck at high temperatures, and it is difficult for the yeasts, but we know how to manage those situations and I am not worried. The other thing to worry about is balance of the wines. We need to ensure enough acidity and tannins. So far, acidity levels are still quite good. We have low malic acid, but total acidity is quite good.

'I think the tannin extraction will be the key of the vintage. Grape skins are quite thick at the moment, with lots of tannins, but at the moment will not be easy to extract because skin is a little too hard, a little too thick. First, we have to wait a little more time to see if those skins will become a little more gentle - and the rain this weekend will have helped. And then we will have to adapt our extraction to make sure we get the amount of tannin that we need to balance the alcohol, while being very careful not to extract bad tannins.

'We know we have a huge potential in 09, but key will be selecting the right time to harvest to get good tannins and soft skins, and then to extract those tannins in a smart way – perhaps at the beginning of the fermentation, and then becoming very careful once the alcohol levels rise. At Palmer, we got 12mm of rain this past weekend (nothing compared to Pomerol and St Emilion), which was just perfect, we think it will help the vines to complete their growth cycle - and are just beginning with our young vines this week, but waiting to give the water a few days to get to the grapes. We are very confident. Won’t really start until next Monday, 28th – we will see how the next few weeks go.

'It’s a strange vintage, not super easy like 05, huge potential but it will be quite technical. In 03, the berries were cooked, a lot were just completely over-ripe. This year, they are not cooked, just high alcohol, and we need to look for the right balance – and then we will have incredible wines. Get the balance wrong, and the potential will be wasted.'


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The Rise and Rise of Carruades de Lafite

Date: Mon, Sep 21, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I hear today that the 2003 Carruades de Lafite is currently breaking through the £2000 barrier in London.

I wrote a story for Decanter last week on this phenomenon - the 2004 is already trading at higher than the 2004 Mouton Rothschild (although I know which one I'd rather drink, no matter how good Carruades is).

Full story here - http://www.decanter.com/news/289291.html - and below, with a few extra thoughts behind it. And I am hopefully speaking to Christophe Salin at Lafite on Wednesday morning to get their take on this.

Chateau Lafite and its second wine, Carruades de Lafite, continue to defy the fine wine market, with prices of both continuing to rise week on week.

Lafite 2008 is currently trading at around £3,800 per case, rising in price by around £90 per week, even though it is not due to bottled until next year. Margaux 2008, in contrast, is trading at just over £2000. Carruades 2008 is still at around £1,000, but it is predicted to keep climbing closer to the other first growths once in bottle.

Gary Boom, managing director of Bordeaux Index, explained, ‘Today a case of Carruades 2004 would set you back £1800, which is considerably more than the £1650 you would pay for a case of Mouton 2004. And this for a wine that cost around £280 at initial release. The 2008 may not climb as high as the firsts, but it is already looking higher than Cos and the other Super Seconds.’

The September Liv-ex report also looks at the phenomenon of the ‘seemingly unstoppable Brand Lafite’, reporting that Carruades has bucked the trend of price drops during the financial crisis, and that on average, recent vintages are now 22% more expensive than they were at the peak of the market in June last year.

‘Asia has made up its mind on this brand,’ says Boom, ‘and completely ignores either vintage effect, or Parker scores. The other second wines are trading at a third to a quarter of the price of Carruades, and even the other firsts, apart from Lafite, are very much score-led in terms of the price. And I’m not sure this will slow down - before the wine is bottled, trading takes place in Europe, but once in bottle, it heads over to Asia, and then goes out of circulation, so pushing the price even higher.’

Why has it happened? Boom suggests: 'It really is just an Asian phenomenon; I suspect it’s a brand that everyone is comfortable with, the Lafite name is a very powerful name as is the Rothschilds. So the next one is Mouton, because it also has a Rothschild attached.

'Also the Carraudes label is a dead ringer for the first growth, which is a very smart move.'


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Bordeaux vs Burgundy: a winemakers view

Date: Thu, Sep 17, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

Just had a great interview with Eduard Labruyère, owner of Domaines Jacques Prieure in Burgundy and Chateau Rouget in Pomerol. I won't be able to use all the material in the article, and it was so fascinating, that I thought I would reproduce it all here.

I was asking about the differences in attitude and philosophy between Bordeaux and Burgundy, and here are his thoughts:

‘We are originally from Macon, and have had a family estate in Beaujolais since the 18C; Clos du Moulin à Vent, the only monopole in the Moulin à Vent appellation. In 1988, we invested in Domaines Jacques Prieure in Burgundy, and have since 2008 owned 75%. It seemed a natural next step for my father to buy in Bordeaux – he was then making wine in Beaujolais and Burgundy, in two excellent quality properties, and he felt that, as a true wine lover, a place in Bordeaux would complete the picture.’

‘We chose Pomerol because it is the most Burgundian appellation in Bordeaux – full of small properties, working on a small scale – we felt our background in Burgundy could be a help, and it wasn’t too much of a culture shock. It was a great challenge, as the family who owned Rouget before us had all the wine made by JP Moueix, so when we bought it in 1992, there was a lot of work to be done to establish it in its own right. We bottled our first vintage ourselves in 1994. My father’s background was in supermarkets, and he wanted the challenge of improving and creating something. From the beginning, we wanted to introduce Burgundy methods and philosophy into a Pomerol estate. I see the main difference between the two places is in their viticultural methods. Burgundians cultivate the vineyards like gardens, because we have small plots and small parcels – and Pomerol is very much like that, so we felt at home. We are not strictly organic, but follow sustainable agriculture to make sure we are not restricted by the label, but are still caring for the environment.

‘Our Burgundian vineyard manager came over when we bought the estate to help us understand the soil and how to make it the best it could be, and he initially helped the team in Pomerol. Even now our Bordeaux team has a Burgundy focus; it is all about great grapes, taking good care of each individual bunch. Our budget for chemical treatments is a quarter of what it was five years ago. And we were among the first to introduce horses for cultivation in Pomerol, which we still just use today.
We also simplified the blend – when we arrived Rouget was using cabernet franc and merlot, but also cabernet sauvignon and petiti verdot. We took it down to just the first two, because we felt an overly elaborate blend would mask the terroir.

For vinification, we love pigeage because we are from Burgundy, and follow exactly the same method of standing over an open vat pushing the cap down into the juice. Personally I think remontage is quite harsh, so we do a balance between the two. We have introduced a few other Burgundian ideas – we hold the alcoholic fermentation at 28 degrees for a few days to extract just the good tannins without going too hot. And we also let the malolactic fermentation start naturally, with no inoculation. Rouget is a gentle wine, it takes its time. We are not afraid if malo has not started by April – which makes its tough for Rouget at the primeur time, and at first we certainly found that a tough approach to making wine, putting yourself under all that pressure, but we have not changed our approach. Some years malo is still going on during the en primeurs, but that is the way we work.

People in Burgundy have a lot of ideas of how to approach winemaking, without knowing scientifically why they do it. In Bordeaux, there is more scientific experience, and research in universties as to why they do things. Burgundy is more about feeling that you should do things a certain way, while in Bordeaux you know that you have to do it because the university researchers have told you. So in Bordeaux, winemakers understand precisely what they have to extract in any given year for producing the best vintage they can, whereas in Burgundy there is still more variation between the years because any interventions are less precise.

There is also a greater pressure on individual properties in Borkdeaux – there is the challenge of making the best wine because you are often working as a big team, and there is the idea of the ‘en primeur ‘competition’ every year, whereas in Burgundy winemakers tend to be more philosophical – if it’s not a good year, it’s just the way it is. The pressure of the market for me is less intense in Burgundy.’

I divide my time fairly evenly during the two, except during harvest when I am full time in one then the next. But my usual week is Monday to Wednesday in Burgundy, and Thursay to Fridayi in Pomerol. I live in Lyon, and have my Twingo parked in Merignac in a permanent parking space, and take the Easyjet flight between the two!

I studied originally at SciencePo in Paris, and my dream was to be an ambassador, but that didn’t work out. When I knew I wasn’t going to go on to do that, I wanted to go to wine, my other passion. I didn’t want to go back to Burgundy,,as I grew up in Beaune and wanted to do something different, so moved to Bordeaux and became a courtier for five years, specialising in the Right Bank, which was a great introduction , until 2006, when my father asked if wanted to take over.

‘Having one foot in Burgundy and one in Bordeaux is quite difficult. You have to resist your natural tendency to apply the same techniques, and to keep the specificities of each region. If you try to import too much, it’s difficult, and people have difficulty understanding. I tried, for example, to import some Bordelais techniques to Domaine Jacques Prieure – to ensure they knew the exact kilograms of grapes to put in each vat, how to strictly control temperatures, how to write down everything that we observe during vinification and ageing. It was a struggle at first, but now they do it, and are happy with it. Without losing their philosophy, they understand more precisely what they do and why they do it, which then gives them more confidence in what they are doing. Now the vineyard manager and cellar master in Burgundy are going twice a year to Rouget, and vice versa for Pomerol team back to Burgundy. It’s important to see how people in other regions work.’

We were the first family to have a property in both regions, and are still one of the very few. It aas tough at first to be accepted by the Bordelais, who were suspicious of a Burgundy family coming over to make wine. And we found it tough to understand how Bordeaux works, and why they didn’t feel the need to know their customers. But we quickly realised that if you want to be recognised as a good Bordeaux wine, you have to be sold through negociants on the Place, so that’s where we are. To be understood by the Bordeaux marketplace when you are a small property is very tough, but I work closely with my negociants, and do follow through to know my clients. On promotional tirps, it can be difficult to talk about the three estates in Beaujolais, Burgundy and Bordeaux, and only be responsible for selling two of them, but that’s the Bordeaux works, and I wouldn’t change it. Each region has its own specificities and I am not going to be the guy to change hundreds of years of experience!’

http://www.prieur.com (100,000 bottles)
www.chateau-rouget.com (80,000 bottles)
Clos du Moulin a Vent (60,000 bottles)


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Le Festin Blanc

Date: Tue, Sep 15, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

'Call me from 12 onwards and you will receive instructions on where to meet up. And do keep on trying if it's engaged, because it's going to be fairly busy.'

Last Saturday, September 4, saw an annual event take place that has been going on in Paris for over a decade (possibly two?) and started up in Bordeaux in 2006.


The idea is for a large group of people to meet up in a public space for a picnic where everyone is wearing white, and brings along a folding table, folding white chairs, a linen tablecloth, silver cutlery, white dinner service, candles, and a three course dinner. The week before was spent procuring all these items... with my personal favourite find being white glasses from Guy Degrenne.

When I finally got through, at about 3pm on Saturday, we were given a meeting point of the church square car park in Leognan at around 7.15 that night, where we would be met by a coach to take us to our final destination. The last time I had an evening like this was going to a rave somewhere near Stoke in northern England...

This year the picnic had managed to procure the services of Pessac Leognan chateaux, so we didn't have to bring along wine. From the car park, a number of coaches pulled up to transport the 700 assembled people. We all loaded our picnic things into the side - with serious picnic hamper envy by the point - and were driven a short distance to Chateau Haut Bergey, just next to Domaine du Chevalier. For us firt-timers this was wonderful, but there were mutterings among the faithful that it was more 'authentic' in a true public space. Apparently in 2006 it was held on the beach in Arcachon, with just 200 guests. The following year it was on Quay des Queyries in central Bordeaux-Bastide, then last year it was in Moulon, a small village near to Pyla again in the Arcachon area.


On arrival, you have to find your group - every table is grouped together with others into a series of long tables that fan out from around a central serving table of wine. We were with the organiser of the event, Pierre de Furlac, who showed us to our spot, where we started setting up. A jazz band provided entertainment - followed at the end of the evening by a Michael Jackson impersonator (now I imagine the busiest man in showbiz).


It was just a great idea, a really fun evening, and something totally different.


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Pierre Lurton inaugurates new winery

Date: Fri, Sep 11, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

The new chais of Pierre Lurton - director of Chateau Yquem and Cheval Blanc - were inaugurated yesterday. This particular chateau, Marjosse, is a family estate in Entre deux Mers and rather less illustrious that those of his day job, but his name was clearly sufficient draw to get vast crowds of the great and the good along to cheer him on.


It wasn't the easiest job in the world finding the chais. It had been tough enough to get to Chateau Marjosse (no GPS coordinates!! How soft-bellied we have become...), but I arrived there to find two dogs, a chicken, a few farm vehicles, and not much else. ‘Oh, the chais aren’t next to the chateau’ I was told on the phone.

When i finally arrived, they were very impressive. Large and modern-looking, like something you might find in Argentina (and not unlike his uncle Andre's new winery at Rochemorin in terms of simple but striking architecture). For some reason, we were only given the 2008 to taste (in white and red). The red was good, smooth tannins and rich firm fruits, although it didn’t lift itself completely out of its appellation. Still, an enjoyable wine to drink at under 10 euros (probably between 7 and 9 depending on where you are buying it from), and clearly very well made. One that I would buy to drink at home. the white was a classic Bordeaux; less gooseberry, more cut grass. It was very good, but I didn't feel it stood out in the same way.

Chateau Marjosse covers 80 hectares and makes 40,000 bottles per year. And judging by the number of big name negociants who were there yesterday, he clearly doesn't have much difficulty selling it. I really liked the winery building, designed by architect Guy Tropres and covering 2,400 m2 of clean lines, exposed wood and smooth walls.

The chais are also open to the public, by appointment, and I recommend going to have a look. Although I'm not totally convinced by the press release, where they locate Marjosse and the winery as 'equidistant between Yquem and Cheval Blanc' so as to get some reflected magic of their two names!!

Chateau Marjosse, 33420 Grezillac
05 57 55 57 80


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Chateau Canon, 10-year vertical

Date: Sun, Sep 6, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I had a very interesting tasting on Friday morning at Chateau Canon, Premier Grand Cru Classe B in Saint Emilion.


Owned by the Wertheimer's of Rauzan Segla (and a little known fashion house called Chanel), Chateau Canon has been the subject of serious renovations and investments since their purchase in 1996, but especially concentrated over the past five years. Covering 22 hectares with 19.5 in production, at a 35 hl/h yield, on the clay-limestone plateau (the really attractive bit of Saint Emilion where there are high stone walls along every road and you just know that driving fast is a very bad idea). Planted to 75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc (fairly high % cab franc for classified St Emilion, along with Angelus, Figeac, and of course Cheval Blanc). Between 5,500 and 6,500 vines per hectare, average age 25 years.

2008 – Bright purple in colour, although not as deep as some from this vintage. A rich, full-bodied nose of crisp red fruits, loganberries and raspberries, and some smoky oak. Creamy, sweet vanilla oak on the palate (80% new oak, from eight tonnelleries), and insistent but well rounded tannins. This is very smooth, but with good texture, velvet rather than satin, and a good length. I like this. 75% merlot, 25% cabernet franc. (50% first wine). 93-94.

2007 – Slightly lighter in colour than the 2008. But same 75/25 for the grape mix, and 75% of the production ended up in the first wine this year. There is real smokiness to this wine – perhaps because the fruit was less luscious and firm, so the barrel toasting is more apparent?? But that is not unattractive, and in fact works quite well to give some interest on the palate if the fruit isn’t quite there – and they only used 50% new oak in this vintage, so were clearly aware of the danger. Still good freshness, and has charm. 90.

2006 – Already the nose is beginning to round out. This vintage had a cool and wet August, but other than that one month, conditions in Saint Emilion were pretty good, and harvest began on September 19 (2008, in contrast, started on October 1). Lovely soft, red fruits nose, very gentle and welcoming. 80% merlot, 20% cabernet franc. Again on the palate this is very creamy, almost slippery, but could do with more bite (has 60% new aok, had three pumping overs per day, vinified between 28 and 32 degrees). This is a pleasure wine, insouciant is the word that comes to mind... 92-93.

2005 – Began the harvest here on September 16 for the young plants, so the earliest in the years tasted so far. 80% merlot, 20% cabernet franc. No need to say that this was a particularly good vintage! 70% of the production ended up in Chateau Canon. Rich, red loganberries and cranberries, with an unbelievably tangy follow-up, gorgeous seam of acidity that comes in with an almost lemon-lime twist. It’s lovely. The smoky wood which is a definite mark of Canon in recent years is here a sweet sandalwood, or roasted sarmants over a barbeque. Very, very good indeed – just when you think the 2005 isn’t really going to stand out so much, it always does! 95-97.

2004 – Still very firm and ripe in colour. The nose is less expressive here, even though we are back up to 25% Cabernet Franc, a grape that in theory should have more perfume than the Merlot. This has far less obvious structure. The wine is there, but it has suffered in this line-up from going after the 2005. 70% again went into the first wine. It’s got structure, and tannins and acidty, but you are ticking them off a list, rather than experiencing them. You can tell it’s a quality wine, but it’s not singing. 90.

2003 – Harvest started on September 9, due to the heatwave across the whole of France. Temperatures climbed over 40 degrees in August. They put a whopping 75% into the Chateau Canon in this year, and did just two pumping over per day as opposed to the usual three, as there was a high danger of over-extraction. I am often suspicious of 2003s, but I have to say that is very good. Enjoyably fat. Yes, acidity is a bit too low, but again the smoky oak saves things but giving some interest to the sweetness of the fruit. You could easily drink this now. Just 50% new oak in this year, surprising as a lot of people went higher because of the power of the fruit. 75/25 merlot/cab franc. 92.

2002 – Back to a more normal harvest date of third week September – 24th for the young vines. Not the hottest of summers here, but the harvest conditions were perfect. Again two pumping over per day (interesting – does this indicate a change of style recently that they have upped this to three times from the 2004 vintge? Here 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc. For me, this is the least successful so far, the fruit has a pinched quality that is completely absent in the other years. However I have to say (although have not changed the score) that this wine was tasted over lunch and it was really excellent, tasted against a flaky-pastry seafood tart. Which just goes to show how unfair judging wines can be!! 89.

2001 – Wet and warm winter, cool spring but from May very good weather all the way through – indicating again that the main thing wrong with this vintage was that it followed on from 2000. 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc, and 65% of the production ended up in the first wine. There are some very attractive tertiary qualities coming through here – gentle white pepper and nutmeg, although still some very pleasant autumn fruits of blackberries and redcurrants. A good length and pleasurable to drink now, while the fruit is still hanging onto the structure. This clearly still has time ahead of it, and quite a bit of it, but for me I love this stage of a wine’s evolution, when you can see how it’s going to continue evolving, but there’s still lovely freshness and youth to it too. 93-94.

2000 – The millennium vintage, and a similar fanfare to the 2005. Rainy April, and the rain continued through much of May, but June became hot and dry, and a rainy July was followed by a hot and dry August and September, all the way through harvest. So – the weather tells you that part of the glory surrounding this vintage is millennium hype... but the grapes were of sufficient quality to allow 25 days of maceration (2007 was kept to around 20 days), and there’s no doubt that the results were big and bold. Lovely rich colour and a very attractive open, if slightly dusty, nose. Classic older vintage mix of fruit and tertiary cigar, sandalwood and mushrooms aromas. This is very nice. Good grip still, but really lovely complexity going on here, rich almost plumy fruits, chocolate and mocha, and the beginning hints of an autumnal mix. 93.

1999 – The weather over in St Emilion was pretty good for this vintage right up to early September, when a large hail storm fell over Saint Emilion, and grapes had to be brought in to save them. This meant that the cabernet franc, which is a later ripener, hadn't reached full phenolic ripeness, and so just 5% was used in the final blend, and only 30% of the production went into Ch Canon. Only 55% new oak used. Even with this very severe selection, a lot of the fruit has fallen away here. There is still some sweetness left, even some tightness to the structure which is pleasant, but very little depth or length. 89.

1998 – Another classically good Right Bank vintage. The spring was rainy and colder than usual, but the summer was warm and sunny, and the good weather lasted through til harvest. 70% new oak barrels, 80% merlot, 20% cab franc, and 43% of the total production ended up in Chateau Canon. And what a great one to end on – still amazing amount of power, concentration and depth of fruit, and still so young. This has a grip and punch that would never let you know it has over a decade behind it – although the finish, while being long and powerful, does have spice rather than fruit, giving a hint of age, and of what is to come. But this is great, full-bodied, dark fruits, some sweet roasted sandalwood, very good quality. 94.

Incidentally, 5mm of rain fell over the past few days in St Emilion, but it was needed up to a point. Over 15mm they have to start worrying. They expect to start harvesting around the 18-20 September (last year was Oct 1), and so far perfect health for the grapes.

Château Canon
BP 22
333330 Saint-Emilion


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Problems at Domaine de La Passion Haut Brion

Date: Wed, Sep 2, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I wrote this story for Decanter today, but thought I would reproduce it here, with a little more background.


Louis Fournier, director of Domaine de la Passion Haut Brion died over the summer, leaving a question mark over the future of the property.

Fournier, who was vineyard director of Chateau Dillon in Blanquefort (a teaching establishment) for over 40 years, had taken on the role of managing La Passion Haut Brion in 2007, as 94-year old owner Michel Allary lives full time in Paris.

From 1954 to 1978, the property bottled under its own name, but for the past 30 years, the grapes – located adjacent to the vines of Haut Brion and planted to 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon – have been leased for Haut Brion wines. Following a legal dispute, the vines were once again available for Allery’s sole use.

Fournier had been overseeing the construction of a new winery, that is still some way from completion, as well as taking care of the viticulture and winemaking. He was working alongside consultant Stepane Derenencourt.

A close observer of the situation, who did not wish to be named, said, ‘Allery relied on Fournier to keep things going in Bordeaux, and this throws the future into question. The last two years produced very little quantity because of mildew affecting the vines, and now this will be a further set-back.’

Allary’s grandson is understood to live in Bordeaux, but is still studying, and until now had not been working in a full-time capacity at the estate.

Fournier died following a heart attack on August 13, 2009.'


I sincerely hope that they work out a good and quick succession for the property, but have been doing a lot of background reading into the whole thing over the past few days. I think Louis Fournier was a very dynamic, warm and talented man (I certainly found him like this in any dealings I had with him - mainly in the earlier story I wrote for Decanter when the property decided to once again go it alone). The - alleged - story behind it is that the owner of La Passion Haut Brion had received a certain amount of money per hectolitre for his vines for years, payable at the rate of a hectolitre of Haut Brion. He began to ask for a higher sum per hectolitre, which Haut Brion declined to pay. This then went to court, and he lost, so the price per hectolitre reverted to a simple Pessac Leognan price. As soon as was possible under the terms of the agreement, Mr Allary then (sensibly no doubt), took the wine back under his control.

Mr Fournier was the one with the expertise in winemaking - but of course with Stephane Derencourt as consultant there is no lack of that, and the grandson is (again allegedly - please do contact me if you know him!) studying viticulture currently. I saw the vines this week, and they are adjacent to a plot of young vines from Haut Brion. It is no doubt a jewel worth holding on to...


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Bordeaux harvest starts under sunny conditions

Date: Sat, Aug 29, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I wrote a piece for Decanter yesterday on the first grapes being brought in at Chateau Carbonnieux in Pessac Leognan (www.decanter.com).

I wanted to add here some more indepth weather statistics that show - at least for the moment, which means for white grapes being brought in now - that 2009 has enjoyed excellent growing conditions.

According to statistics from Meteo France in Merignac, Bordeaux, the 2009 vintage has been above average so far in both sunshine and temperature.

May 253 hours of sunshine, against 30 year average of 220 hours
June 300 hours of sun against 30 year average of 225 hours
July, 263 hours of sunshine against a 30-year average of 243 hours
In August, up to 28th of the month already at 220 hours, with average for whole 31 days usually 240 hours, so at very least will be average, probably slightly above average.

May 17.3°C against a 30-year average of 15.4°C
June 20.3°C against a 30-year average of 18.3°C
July 21.5°C against a 30-year average of 20.8°C.
With four days still remaining in August, the average temperature has been 22.6°C, against a 30 year average of 20.9°C.

May 78mm, against 30 year average of 84mm
June 75mm against 30 year average of 64mm (but this fell in storms, so affected isolated areas in short bursts).
July 46mm, against 30 year average of 54mm.
Rainfall in August has so far (up to Aug 28) been just 20mm, against a 30 year average of 60mm.


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Wealthy in France? Buy a vineyard...

Date: Fri, Aug 28, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

The local Sud Ouest newspaper (from journalist Cesar Compadre) ran an interesting piece yesterday revealing that of France’s 500 wealthiest citizens, more than 50 own vineyards.

Based on a survey run by Challenge magazine, the owners largely fall into two groups. The first of these made their fortune in wine (such as Pierre Castel with Castel Wines, born in Blaye, Bordeaux, and now owner of Castel Wines, the second biggest French wine group after Les Grands Chais de France), and Bernard Magrez (82nd wealthiest in France, and made his money first with a whisky, but then wine). Others – and this is more typical, known as ‘neo-vignerons’ – made their money elsewhere (in property, finance, other industries) and then bought into wine. Some have made their purchases very public, others remained very discreet.

Among the business men (no women seem to have been mentioned, besides Florence Cathiard and that is with her husband - surely there are some successful women who want to follow suit?) mentioned were:
Bernard Arnaut (2nd wealthiest), owner of LVMH and therefore Krug, Moet & Chandon, Hennessy, Chateau Yquem and Cheval Blanc. According to sources in the newspaper, he is rarely seen in either Champagne or Bordeaux, which suggests wine is an investment, rather than a hands-on passion.

Francois Pinault of course also gets a mention, owner of Chateau Latour – that he bought in 1993 for 600 million francs (around £600,000) and is probably now worth closer to 600 million euros, so not the worst investment ever!

Others on the way up in power and prestige in the wine world include Dassault (number 7) owners of Saint Emilion Cru Classe (Dassault), the Wertheimer family of Chanel (10th) owners of Chateau Canon in Saint Emilion and Rauzan Segla in Margaux. And the Bouyges (21), owner of Chateau Montrose in Saint Estephe, then the Ricards (24th) who of course made their fortune with pastis but now also own vineyards in France, Australia and Argentina, as well as Mumm champagne and Martell cognac.

Further down the list, at 26, the Peugeot family part own Guiraud in Sauternes, and at 36 Clement Fayat owner of La Dominique in St Emilion and Clement Pichon in Haut Medoc. Owner of Cos d’Estournel, Michel Raybier, makes an appearance as 75th wealthiest person in France – something that will no doubt have helped him invest a reputed 30 million euros in the new winery.

The Frey family, of Chateau La Lagune in Haut Medoc, made their money in property, and come in at number 90 on the rich list. Other wealthy Bordelais owners include Perrodo, who made money in petrol and now own Labegorce in Margaux, the Picard family (frozen foods) who own Chateau Jean Faure in Saint Emilion, the Cuveliers of Chateau Clos Fourtet in St Emilion and Poujeaux in Moulis and whose money came from the sale of a large stationary company. More recently, Jacky Lorenseti, founder of Foncia, recently bought Lilian Ladouys in St Estephe and Pesesclaux in Pauillac.

Among the most high profile in Bordeaux are Gerard Perse of Chateau Pavie (361st wealthiest) and the Cathiards (336th) of Smith Haut Lafitte.


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Michelin Wine Guide: recommendations

Date: Wed, Aug 26, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I am just this week putting the final changes into the Michelin Green Guide to the Wine Regions of France. This has been a huge project, around 480 pages that was last updated in 2007, and covers fourteen wine regions across France, from the big ones like Bordeaux and Burgundy to the lesser known such as Savoie and Bugey, and the vineyards of Corsica.

There are so many wonderful estates in the book, but here are a few that I either added in this time, or discovered through the book, that I find particularly exciting.

Domaine du Tunnel, Saint Joseph
Located in the Rhone Valley, Stephane and Sandrine Robert have 3 hectares of Cornas, 2.5 Saint Jospeh, and 2 of Saint Peray. Young husband and wife team who are increasingly sought after in France and overseas, and their small production sells out very fast - but really worth tracking down.
04 75 80 04 66, 20 rue de la Republique, 07130, St Peray domaine-du-tunnel@wanadoo.fr - and in Bordeaux, they are stocked in CashVin.

Domaine Champalou, Vouvray
Didier and Catherine Champalou in the Loire set up their domaine in Vouvray in 1984, and twenty five years later are well established as producing some of the best wines of the region.
02 47 52 64 49, Le Portail, 37210 Vouvray

Domaine Canet Valette, Saint Chinian
Domaine Canet Valette is run by Marc and Sophie Valette. In 1998 Marc built his own winery and cellar, where winemaking takes place by gravity. The domain now covers 18 hectares just outside the village of Cessenon. Try their traditional blend of five local grapes – the romantically-named Une et Mille Nuits
34370 Cazouls-Les Béziers 04 67 93 60 84 www.canetvalette.com

Domaine du Mas Blanc, Banyuls
One of Banyuls' leading estates, run by Jean-Michel Parcé.
66650 Banyuls-sur-Mer, 04 68 88 32 12, www.domainedumasblanc.com

Chateau Léoube, Cotes de Provence
Romain Ott, formerly of legendary Domaine d'Ott in Provence, has now opened his own chateau, since Roederer bought the family estate. Always interesting to follow excellence of course, and I tried their red Chateau Leoube last night, a blend of the classic varities of the area Syrah, Mouvedre, Grance, Carignan and Cinsualt. They have done the incredible and kept this southern blend at 12.5%ABV, and I absolutely loved it; so full of flavour, punching with fruit, but also truly drinkable because of the fresher alcohol levels. A great bottle, and looking forward to discovering the rest of the range. The location of the chateau is gorgeous also.
2387, route de Léoube - 83230 Bormes-les-Mimosas, 04 94 64 80 03, www.chateauleoube.com

Domaine de l'Hortus, Pic Saint Loup
Recommended to me by the excellent http://rougeblancbulles.blogspot.com/2009/04/le-domaine-de-lhortus.html . The Orliac family are quietly making better and better wine at this estate, set in a really magical location.
34270 Valflaunès, Pic Saint Loup, www.vignobles-orliac.com


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Harvest progress at Lafite and Latour

Date: Thu, Aug 20, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

I have been following the first growths this year as the 2009 vintage progresses, taking videos for decanter.com, and David Bolomey at Bordoverview has kindly put up info about them on his blog today.


He did an excellent synthesis of what appears in the Chevallier video, which I hope he doesn't mind my repeating here:
- The start of the growing season in April was in good conditions; there was no frost. To compare: in 2008, there was the Graves region was hit by spring frost, which - more or less - diminished the crop.
- Pauillac was not affected by the hailstorms that hit large parts of Bordeaux in early May. Damage, sometimes severe, was recorded in Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, Entre-Deux-Mers, Graves and the Southern Médoc including Margaux - the affected properties are likely to produce less Bordeaux 2009. Lafite's crop however is of normal size, slightly bigger than last year's crop.
- In May and early June the weather was less ideal: there were substantial fluctuations in temperature between the one week and the other, and at times it was quite wet. As a result it was necessary to spray against diseases.
- From mid-June onwards the weather is good again.

Good link to the video itself also on Lafite.com

And from last Friday, a look at how Latour is doing with their quality-control expert, Penelope Godefroy.


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Wine and the Mascaret Wave; Inaugral Event

Date: Wed, Aug 19, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

It's that time of year again when the Mascaret wave starts heading down the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, and young and old Bordelaise get their surfboards ready.

Chateau de la Vieille Chapelle has decided to organise a Vin et Vagues (Wine and Waves) event on August 22nd, to celebrate this fact, where you can watch the wave and have something to eat and drink at the same time. Apparantly this is one of the dates when the wave is at its height, and it will attract the highest number of surfers.

logo chato

This attractive wine estate has a chapel that dates from the 12th century, and is (handily in this case) located on the banks of the Dordogne river.

Programme of the Day:
12-4pm: Exhibition of the Mascaret phenomenon by photographer Frédéric Dupuy, and films by Olivier Desagnat.
Plus visit of Château de la Vieille Chapelle, and light lunch and wine tasting.
4pm - Talk and explanation about the Dordogne and the Mascaret, its history, why it happens etc, from R. Marcel
5.50 : The Wave and its Surfers!
And after the wave, more wine, the sunset, music and roasted chestnuts...

Entry is free - and it definitely sounds like an event worth going to.

More info:
Château de la Vieille Chapelle. Lugon & L’Ile du Carney (33240).
Fabienne or Sandrine : 05 57 84 48 65, www.chateau-de-la-vieille-chapelle.com


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The Best Wine Will Be From Scotland...

Date: Mon, Aug 17, 2009 Wine Tasting Wine Business

A good article in the Telegraph newspaper today...


A group of chefs, sommeliers and chateaux has issued a call to action, urging the country to secure ambitious targets in the months ahead to limit global warming.
President Nicolas Sarkozy was posed a stark choice: save French wine by clinching a deal at the international climate conference in Copenhagen in December, or see generations of viticulture slowly die out as vineyards cross the Channel and head north.

"As flagships of our common cultural heritage, elegant and refined, French wines are today in danger," 50 leading names from the world of French wine and food wrote in an open letter. "Marked by higher alcohol levels, over-sunned aromatic ranges and denser textures, our wines could lose their unique soul."

Among the signatories were Marc Veyrat, a chef with three Michelin stars, Mauro Colagreco, the award-winning chef, and Franck Thomas, who was voted the best sommelier in the world. The message was also supported by a host of domains from Champagne to Languedoc-Roussillon.
Climate change has been blamed for degrading French vineyards, with heatwaves, giant summer hailstorms in Bordeaux and new plant diseases.

The signatories said that if global temperatures rose by more than two per cent before the end of the century, "our soil will not survive" and "wine will travel 1,000 kilometres beyond its traditional limits".

"We will have new wine-producing regions in zones where one doesn't normally cultivate vineyards like in Brittany and Normandy," said Jean-Pierre Chaban, a climatologist at France's National Institute for Scientific Research, in an accompanying online film. "It will spread to Great Britain. One can imagine vineyards in southern Sweden and Scotland."

The signatories want the government to push for a global deal to cut industrialised countries' greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 and set up "solid aid mechanisms" for developing countries.

According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, there are now 416 vineyards in England and there are 2,732 acres of vines under cultivation – an increase of 45 per cent in the past four years.

Julie Trustram Eve, from English Wine Producers, said: "There are as far as we know no vines yet in Scotland, although there have been rumours. It's gradually creeping up. It depends how accurate the predictions are for the long term, but some say by 2080 it will be too hot to grow grapes in southern England."

However, Roxanne Canvan Schayk, who runs a traditional fruit and flower wine shop at Lambholm in the Orkney islands, said the French had nothing to fear from where she was standing. "It's far too windy for a start," she said.


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