Silvio Denz Purchases Sauternes First Growth Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey

lafaurie dSilvio Denz; perfume designer, owner of the Lalique crystal company and of two wine merchants in Zurich, as well as Switzerland’s largest wine auctioneers, has added to his portfolio of chateaux with the purchase of the Sauternes First Growth Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey. The estate was sold by the GDF SUEZ Group, who had owned it since 1984. Denz’s wine estates include Chateaux Faugeres and Peby Faugeres in Saint Emilion, both of which attained Grand Cru Classé status for the first time in the 2012 Saint Emilion Classification. This was quite an accomplishment and certainly well deserved. His other properlafaurie aties are Chateaux Cap de Faugeres (Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux), de Chambrun (Pomerol), Rocheyron (Saint Emilion) and Domaine Pingus (Ribera del Duero) – both in partnership with Peter Sisseck, Clos d’Agon (Catalonia) and Montepeloso (Tuscany).

Denz said that “Sauternes is underrated and yet there are beautiful wines made here – both sweet and dry whites.” He has some fantastic plans for the property and follows in the footsteps of in a line of Bordeaux chateaux owners producing red wines who have invested in producing white Sauternes. These include:lp

d’Yquem (LVMH, who also own Cheval Blanc, Saint Emilion)

Guiraud (owned by Robert Peugeot, Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier, Stephan von Neipperg of Canon La Gaffeliere, Saint Emilion and Xavier Planty)lafaurie t

Rieussec (Rothschilds, who also own Lafite, Pauillac)

Suduiraut (Axa, who also own Pichon Baron, Paulliac)

Clos Haut Peyraguey (Bernard Magrez, owner of Pape Clement, Pessac Leognan and Fombrauge, Saint Emilion)

Some have seen this investment coupled with the development of dry white wines as a boost for the region; a second wind for Sauternes if you like.

lafaurie peyraguey aDenz has four aims with regard to Lafaurie Peyraguey. He intends to focus the production of the Grand Vin on the historic vineyard plots at the heart of the property, named L’Enclos and Les Maisons Rouges (which lies on the remains of a Roman camp), which have the best terroir. He intends to increase the dry white production of the estate by launching a high quality dry white, similar to Olivier Bernard’s (Domaine de Chevalier) Clos des Lunes. Denz also wishes to develop wine tourism in Sauternes, which he says lacks places to stay. Lafaurie Peyraguey is not only a beautiful chateau but it has 13 bedrooms and Denz plans to use it as a luxury hotel for guests and events. He would also like to create a common history with Lalique which includes a project to make a line of glasses and decanters for Lafaurie Peyraguey (René Lalique created two lines of decanters and glasses for ‘Yquem’ in 1934 and ‘Barsac’ in 1939).lafaurie peyraguey

Lafaurie Peyraguey certainly has an impressive pedigree – it was ranked a First Growth in the 1855 Sauternes and Barsac Classification and lies in the village of Bommes. The stunning chateau was a Benedictine Priory in the 10th century, a hospital run by the Brothers of St Anthony (Antonines) in 1310 and once used as a medieval fort. It’s first recorded owner was Raymond Peyraguey in 1618. Under the ownership of Baron Pichard (one time owner of Chateaux Lafite and Coutet (in Barsac) the estate was known as Chateau Pichard Peyraguey. Holafaurie bwever after Baron Pichard was guillotined in 1794 the estate was bought by Lafaurie in 1796. It’s reported that the wine was a favourite of King Alphonso XII of Spain.

Over time the chateau became known as Lafaurie Peyraguey and currently it produces 3 wines, the Grand Vin (approx 5,500 cases a year), the Second Wine La Chapelle de Lafaurie and a dry white wine, Le Brut de Lafaurie. The vineyards are planted with 93% Semillon, 6% Sauvignon Blanc and 1% Muscadelle, covering 89 acres (36 hectares). Denz plans to keep technical director Eric Larramona in place.

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China’s Ningxia Introduces Bordeaux Style 1855 Classification System

NingxiaLiz Tach writing for Wine Spectator has reported that the wine producing region of Ningxia in China has introduced a classification system modelled on the Bordeaux 1855 Classification. Ningxia lies in north west China, just south of Inner Mongolia and the Yellow River passes through the region. Its terrain ranges from mountains and desert to vast plains. Ningxia is also a favourite film location for filming Chinese historical epics – it’s said that Genghis Khan himself died there, after being mortally wounded in battle.

gThe Ningxia Classification will evaluate the wineries every 2 years and therefore has more in common with the Saint Emilion Classification as it allows movement up and down the ranks. The 1855 Classification however is static and has not changed since its birth in the 19th century.

The Saint Emilion Classification is usually revised every 10 years. It has 3 categories Premier Grand Cru Classé A, Premier Grand Cru Classé B and Grand Cru Classé. This ensures that recognized châteaux maintain standards on pain of declassification and it incites the others to make the improvements required to earn the distinction. Furthermore, it guarantees the consumer an authentic quality product.

The Ningxia Classification however will rank wineries in 5 levels as does the 1855 Classification (from 5th Growth to First Growth).

china 2Wine Spectator write that the organizers of the Ningxia Classification hope the system will recognize and encourage Ningxia wineries that consistently produce high-quality wine and assist consumers in making an informed selection.

The panel that oversaw the Ningxia Classification were a group of international wine experts including viticulture specialists and educators and participating wineries were judged by quality of wine, quality of vineyards and quality of tourist activities at the winery, including restaurants and lodging. The judges selected 10 wineries as Fifth Growths:

Xixia King
Chateaux Yuanshi
Helan Qingxuexixia
Changyu Moser XV

changyuIn 2015 wineries will be evaluated again and some may be promoted to Fourth Growth and in 2017 some may be able to earn the rank of Third Growth and so on. If quality does not remain consistent then a winery can also be demoted. It is hoped that in 8 years there could be wineries classified in all five levels.

Wine Spectator say that:

“In order to be considered, wineries must make at least 4,166 cases and farm at least 13 acres of vineyards. In addition, they must adhere to Ningxia winemaking regulations, which state that at least 75 percent of grapes must come from the region and 85 percent must be of the same variety and from the same vintage listed on the bottle.”

china 1Ningxia has been developing its wine industry rapidly and Moet Hennessy, owned by French luxury group LVMH, have partnered with Xixia King Winery to produce sparkling wine there under their Chandon brand. Pernod Ricard also produces Domaine Helan Mountain in a joint venture in the area. Ningxia government officials have reported that they have planted roughly 58,000 acres of vines, with more in the works. Several large Chinese wine companies including Changyu and Dynasty Wine have begun development in the western region of the province and together they now own 20,000 acres of land. About 100 winery leases have been granted so far but Ningxia officials have plans to expand this to more than 1,000.

It will be interesting to see how the Ningxia Classification pans out and whether other Chinese wine regions will adopt the scheme.

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Reinventing the Wine Bottle in Bordeaux

larose trintaudonCreative young designers have ‘reinvented the wine bottle’ in a stunning collection of work titled ‘Vini, Vindi, Vinci‘ which is to be shown at the Centre d’Architecture in Bordeaux until Sunday Match 2nd. The talented youngsters are graduates of the Bordeaux School of Fine Arts (EBABX), the National School of Architecture and Landscape Bordeaux (L’ENSAP) and the School of Design, University of Milan. Their designs are reflections on the world of wine from the vineyard to the table and include bottles, labels, wine racks and spittoons. Tdesign du tertre ahe students were asked to think about the objects, their uses and to rethink their forms. Chateaux Giscours and du Tertre (both owned by Eric Albada Jelgersma in Margaux) and Larose Trintaudon (owned by AGF-Allianz Insurance in Haut Medoc) partnered the project.

The designs are quite spectacular and before embarking on their work the students visited vineyards, chateaux and businesses in Bordeaux, learning about the culture, history and techniques of wine making. They were guided by the teachers of the 3 schools whose fields covered architecture, design, landscaping and art. I think its a great idea to showcase the innovative work of the students and hopefully it will breathe some fresh air (and ideas) into Bordeaux wine labelling and design. I really liked the reworking of Chateau du Tertre’s label (depicted right)!  It was designed by Julie Regazzacci for the project titled ‘Alchimie’ (Alchemy) and she has also designed labels for Bernard Magrez as part of the project ‘Gamme’ (Range).  Her website is and is well worth a visit!

design beaucaillouBottle shape and labelling are part of a brand’s identity and it’s easy to understand why established brands don’t want to move away from what makes them recognisable. The well known shape of the high shouldered Bordeaux bottle has been in existence since the early 19th century and Bordeaux labels have typically depicted an engraved picture of the chateau and scripted typefaces for decades.

Tdesign rauzanhe are exceptions to the rule; Chateau Mouton Rothschild commissions contemporary artists to create their labels every year. There are also the one off designer labels produced for Chateau Rauzan Segla’s 350th birthday in 2009 by Karl Lagerfield and a label for Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou’s Second Wine La Croix de Beaucaillou by Jade Jagger.

design bad boyThere are changes afoot – some labels have opted for colourful backgrounds and some brave souls have departed from the norm. Jean Luc Thunevin’s wine Bad Boy always makes me smile (Jean Luc was affectionately christened the bad boy of Saint Emilion and a black sheep by critic Robert Parker. This was because Thunevin famously pioneered Garagiste wines, which ruffled some of the Saint Emilion establishment’s feathers. He emerged victorious – his Chateau Valandraud was promoted to Premier Cru Classé B in 2012).

design bbThe embossed bottle design by the younger designers (depicted left) particularly caught my eye as it reminded me of the seals embossed in the glass shoulders of Chateaux Giscours, Lafite and Haut Brion. These shoulder seals are rarely done nowadays in Bordeaux but in times past they served the purpose of a label and added provenance to the wine. Shoulder seals were in use from the early 17th century through to about the 1870s. They were inscribed with a crest, a name or initials, sometimes a date or an address and occasionally a bunch of grapes or giscours a

In the past it was common for Bordeaux wine producers to ship wine to England in barrel and have it bottled over here. However this lead to mischief as the wines could be tampered with by unscrupulous merchants (adding water to increase the quantities bottled etc). To get around this problem many producers would supply bodesign giscoursttles bearing the shoulder seals of the chateau, and only enough bottles to accommodate the amount of wine shipped. As these bottles tended to be reused the wine producers came up with the idea of adding a date to the shoulder seal to prevent them being used again.

There were twdesign lafiteo methods of creating the shoulder seal, one was with a mould and simple embossing and the other was done by adding a blob of molten glass to the cooling wine bottle. Whilst the blob was soft a crest was pressed on to it leaving behind an impression. Today these rare old bottles are highly sought after by collectors.

The collection of student’s work at ‘Vini, Vindi, Vinci’ is a fantastic idea and I hope that these talented young people bring inspiration to Bordeaux; it would be great to see some of their concepts utilised in the future. If you’d like to see the collection for yourself it is at Centre d’Architecture, CAPC, 7 Rue Ferrère, Bordeaux

Photo Credits Sud Ouest, Nino Laisné, EBABX

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The Dutch Connection – How The Dutch Changed The Face of Bordeaux and Its Wine

dutch school painting wine guildThe Dutch were a major influence in the production of Bordeaux wines back in the 17th and 18th centuries and their legacy still lives on. They helped to establish vineyards, chateaux, negotiants (wine merchants) and trade. More importantly they are known for draining the Medoc and in doing so they instigated the birth of the appellations that Bordeaux is famous for today.

The Medoc was once salt marsh lying near the estuary and Graves was the major producer of Bordeaux wines at this time. The Dutch applied their expertise in land drainage to create dry land in the Medoc and the reclaimed land revealed gravel outcrops, ideal for growing vines. This allowed large estates to form along the Gironde Estuary and the wine producing regions of Pauillac, Saint Estephe, Marmedoc marshgaux and Saint Julien took shape. You could argue that without the Dutch influence the First Growths Chateaux Lafite, Latour, Mouton and Margaux would have not come into being. (Lafite was actually owned by Dutch merchants from 1797 to 1818).

What I find most interesting is that the Dutch were also responsible for changes in the style and type of wine that Bordeaux produced . . .

DurinBordeaux AOCsg the 17th century the Dutch fleet was the most powerful navy in the world and they dominated trade between the European and Baltic countries, shipping wines from Bordeaux all over the world. In the past the red wines produced by Bordeaux had been made to drink quickly (not a problem when they were shipped across the Channel to Britain but a different story when they were tossed around on long sea voyages). To help preserve the wines the Dutch merchants developed techniques to better age the wines.

Their introduction of Allumettes Hollandaise or ‘Dutch Matches’ was ground breaking. It involved burning a match or candle dipped in sulphur in empty barrels due to be filled with fresh wine and it stopped the wine spoiling. Sulphur acts as an antibacterial agent. So, it can be said that the Dutch helped to improve the quality and ageing potential of Bordeaux red wines.

Artist:  Georg Flegel 1566 – 1638

Artist: Georg Flegel 1566 – 1638

Artist:  Franz Lactanz Firmian 1709 - 1786

Artist: Franz Lactanz Firmian 1709 – 1786

Being fond of more powerful, tannic and colourful red wines from Northern Spain the Dutch also encouraged a darker, stronger red wine wine style in Bordeaux. Grapes were macerated for longer and the style of Bordeaux red wines developed from the deep rose ‘Clairet’ to the dark red that we recognise today. (If you look at old paintings you can see the colour of red wine is much lighter in the 1600s).

The Dutch also established the vineyards of Sauternes and Barsac and created a market for Bordeaux white wine. The Dutch trade along the River Rhine had lead to a taste for sweet white wines made from late harvested grapes and they saw an opportunity to produce these wines in Bordeaux. White wine making techniques from Germany were2nd cd of iiw images 008 introduced and vineyards rapidly switched from growing red grapes to white. White grape varieties were also introduced by the Dutch (Melon de Bourgogne was planted in the Loire). They identified the Sauternes and Barsac areas in Bordeaux as those best suited to white wine production and techniques were improved in order to make the wines sweeter using sulphur (which stops fermentation and thus maintains residual sugar) and late harvesting (in November). Chateau de Malle says that the oldest evidence of sweet white wine produced at de Malle is from the vintage year 1666.

sauternes yWe are not sure if these sweet (Liquoreux) and semi sweet (Moelleux) wines were made using Noble Rot at this time but there are records from the 17th century that state that Noble Rot was affecting the Semillon grapes by October. Some people believe that Noble Rot was a well kept secret, hence the lack of early records as to its use. Either way a hundred years later the practice of using Noble Rot was well known and the reputation of Sauternes and Barsac eclipsed their rival German and Hungarian dessert wines. Such was their fame they were among the most expensive wines of Bordeaux and were sought after by royalty (and presidents – both Jefferson and Washington enjoyed First Growth Chateau d’Yquem) across the globe.

netherlands franceThe Dutch still have a presence in Bordeaux, you’ll find that quite a few Petit Chateaux and negotiants are under Franco-Dutch ownership. The Negotiant House of Beyerman was founded in 1620 by Dutchman Jean-Simon Beyerman (and remained in the same family until 1973). In the 19th century several well known chateaux came under Dutch ownership: in 1825 Jean Henri Beyerman (Jean-Simon’s grandson) bought First Growth Chateau Haut Brion in partnership with Louis Nicolas Comynet and his descendant bought Chateau Cantermerle in 1892. Chateau Marquis d’Alesme Becker was acquired in 1809 by Dutch merchant Bekker Terlink. Moving up to the more recent past Dutchman Eric Albada Jelgersma acquired Chateau du Tertre (5th Growth Margaux) and Giscours (3rd Growth Margaux) and Chateau Palmer (3rd Growth Margaux) was acquired by Franco-Dutch negotiants Mahler-Besse!

I hope you found this blog as interesting as I did researching it. Makes me wonder if Bordeaux Wines had something to do with the expression ‘Dutch Courage’.

Posted in Bordeaux - The Appellations, Bordeaux News, Bordeaux Rosés and Clairets, Bordeaux Whites, Bottles and Barrels, Sweet Bordeaux | Leave a comment

Saint Emilion versus Saint Emilion – United We Stand, Divided We Fall

sat eFor all its iconic history Saint Emilion is probably one of the most modern and dynamic appellations in Bordeaux. Unlike the rest of Bordeaux it reclassifies its chateaux every 10 years, it saw the Garagiste movement take off and it has its share of rebels, innovators and visionaries. It’s an eclectic mix of old and new. Countless tourists, wine lovers amongst them, visit the town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and tour the chateaux’s tasting rooms (around 103 chateaux are open to the public and the remainder can be visited by appointment). However there is more to Saint Emilion than first meets the eye. There is another ‘Saint Emilion’, one less known.

emilionBeyond the medieval town that rests on its Roman remains and picturesque patchwork of vineyards stretching away in the distance lie the outlying satellites – appellations in their own right that can append the name of Saint Emilion. Originally there were 6 but over time they have amalgamated into 4: Montagne St Emilion, Puisseguin St Emilion, Lussac St Emilion and Saint Georges St Emilion. (Parsac St Emilion and Sables St Emilion are the 2 that were absorbed).

Before 1936 these satellites were part of the Saint Emilion vineyards and their wines were sold under the Saint Emilion AOC. However thanks to concerns over quality (and more so its reputation) Saint Emilion excluded them from the AOC. The satellites fought back and won the right to add Saint Emilion to their names.

sat geoThe satellites are all situated to the north and north east of Saint Emilion itself. They have an ancient past and, like Saint Emilion, they have Roman roots. What’s more, being country estates they can also boast some stunning chateaux. The smallest satellite is Saint Georges St Emilion and its chateaux can optionally (and are increasingly doing so) use Montagne St Emilion on their labels if they prefer. The reason behind this is that Saint Georges St Emilion is so tiny that it’s easier for marketing purposes to label under Montagne St Emilion – which incidentally is the largest amongst the satellites. Montagne St Emilion’s name translates as ‘mountain’ but it actually comes from the Latin for “hill”.

sat aExcavations at the Chateau St Georges in 1843 unearthed a Roman villa complete with the remains of mosaics, a statue of Hercules and parts of musical instruments. It’s said that the hamlet is named after Saint George (famed for slaying the dragon) who was an officer in the Roman army. Chateau Saint Andre Corbin also lies in Saint Georges above the site of a Roman villa. The statues of Venus and Diana discovered there are now held at the Museum of Aquitaine in Bordeaux. Some think that Saint Andre Corbin could be the original villa of Ausonius, Poet and Prefect of Gaul – the other contender being First Growth Chateau Ausone in Saint Emilion itself.

sat pPuisseguin St Emilion combines in its name the word ‘Puy’ which means ‘hill’ and ‘Seguin,’ who was a lieutenant under Charlemagne who settled there around the year 800. Puisseguin too boasts a Roman treasure trove: 17 finely worked silver spoons, marked with the named Pompeianus and a monogram of Christ. Lussac St Emilion is named after the Roman villa of Lucius (Luccius) and thanks to the standing stone, the Menhir Picampeau, near Chateau Haut Piquat, legend has it that the Druids sacrificed there.

sat lussWines from these Saint Emilion satellites are less expensive than those from the Saint Emilion AOC itself and are sometimes referred to as rustic. This is unfair, there are good wines to be found but you need to know where to look. Some well known wine making dynasties have a foot in the satellites – Andre Lurton’s Chateau de Barbe Blanche lies in Lussac and Chateau Quinault L’Enclos (now owned by Bernard Arnault and Albert Freres, co-owners of First Growths Chateaux Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem) lies in what used to be Sables Saint Emilion. It seems that the satellites have suffered from being overshadowed by Saint Emilion and, as with most lesser known appellations, they lack decent marketing budgets and strategies.

sat montThings are changing slowly. As chateaux struggle to increase production and land is limited – and expensive – owners wishing to expand are looking beyond their neighbours and into their backyards for vineyards with potential. Will we see more expansion into the satellites in the future? At grass roots level the cooperatives are working together and its just been announced that the cooperatives of Montagne St Emilion, Lussac St Emilion, Puisseguin St Emilion and the Union of Producers of Saint Émilion (UDPSE) are to merge.

Alain Naulet, director of UDPSE, has said that the merger is not dictated by financial concerns – all of the cooperatives are doing well – but to cope with land prices, inheritance and, importantly, to expand the range of wines. The new entity will produce more than 102,000 hl (over a million bottles) and have a turnover of 42 million euros. It’s a case of ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. The merger will ensure that the cooperatives will have a strong presence in the market (60% of the wine produced is sold in France) so they will be looking to increase their exports. The issue of marketing has not been fully discussed as yet so it will be interesting to see how their plans unfold. If successful, we might see more wines from these areas becoming more available over here.

If you’d like to discover more about the Saint Emilion satellites you can check out their websites listed below:

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Bordeaux En Primeur 2013 – The Gloves Are Off, Let Battle Commence

ep 13Love it or hate it Bordeaux En Primeur isn’t going to disappear. Why would it? If nothing else it is a marvellous marketing opportunity. Where else do the world’s wine press, critics and merchants descend in such numbers at a set point in time to taste the produce of a season? The downside of En Primeur is that it can be speculative and risky – not just for the merchants intending to buy but for the chateaux owners themselves. Will the vintage be panned? (It depends). Will the price be right? (The price is never right in the eyes of the wine merchant). However this year Bordeaux 2013 is in for a kicking.

To be honest you do see negative press about En Primeur (usually about pricing) every year. Normally this is nothing more than the posturing of interested parties but the 2013 vintage has been dogged by particularly bad luck . . . and the bad press has taken an ominous turn. The gloves are off with calls to cancel the 2013 En Primeur Campaign and critics suggesting that they won’t attend the Tastings (held at the end of March/beginning of April in Bordeaux). What follows are my frank thoughts on the subject, the reasons that the 2013 vintage has a battle on its hands and why it shouldn’t be written off without a chance.

1. The growing season in 2013 was horrendous hail yand many chateaux had a much smaller grape harvest than normal thanks to severe weather (including golf ball sized hail) and poor growing conditions. This means that they have struggled and produced significantly less wine. In some cases the grapes were devastated and the yield so low that certain chateaux have only produced a tiny amount of wine. A few will not be producing any at all. Wealthy chateaux such as the top ranking Grands Crus Classés (GCC) can weather the storm but my heart goes out to the smaller and mid range producers who are facing real financial hardship thanks to the appalling year.

LWB21g2. Worryingly, people are forecasting that the 2013 wines will not be that good either. There has been banter about 2013 being a ‘bad’ vintage. That, my friends, is an exaggeration – at least as far as the GCC are concerned. Wine making techniques are so advanced amongst the GCC that making a ‘bad’ wine is out of the question. Generally, the 2013 GCCs will be what’s known as a ‘drinking vintage’ (i.e. one to be consumed quickly rather than tucked away in a collector’s cellar). From a connoisseur’s point of view there is little reason to buy the 2013 for investment or laying down and there will be calls that the price should reflect this. Much as I’d love there to be one, I can not see a price drop here. The GCC will release tiny amounts at high prices. And their market will fall flat on its face. Again. You will also see some Gchance 3CC decide not to release a wine at all rather than risk a poor rating which will devalue their brand. This is nothing new – some Sauternes did not release a wine for the En Primeur 2012 due to poor growing conditions eg Chateaux d’Yquem and Rieussec – but we may see a lot more chateaux take that path this year.

It is a different story for the mid range and petit chateaux that don’t have the benefits of buoyant bank accounts, cutting edge equipment or a guaranteed market share. Here too, some wine makers have the tough choice of whether to make a 2013 or not. But Bordeaux is a large region and not every vineyard suffered from the weather – some were spared, some were lucky and some will have saved the day. There will be good wines to be had. It’s my job to search them out and that is one of the most enjoyable tasks I have at En Primeur.

robert parker (2)3. Robert Parker has delayed publishing his report on the 2013 wines until the end of June which has really put the GCC owners in a fix. Usually the report is out at the end of April and the GCC owners use his scores to help them price the wines. Obviously a wine is priced more highly if it receives a great review from Parker. Normally the En Primeur campaign is over and done with by the summer but if the chateaux decide to wait on Parker’s report this will clash with the summer holidays when few buyers are about.

There is also a danger that the campaign will lose its impetus if they wait. The En Primeur tastings generate a mass of articles, blogs and reports which are eagerly devoured by merchants and connoisseurs alike who are keen to see which wines are the best bet to spend their money on. The pricing soon follows and ‘bang, we’re off!’ the buying frenzy begins. Will the chateaux risk a lack lustre campaign by waiting till June to price the wines? I doubt it. The GCC will push forward a few chateaux who will release their prices, like lambs to the slaughter . . . and then watch to see what happens. This will lead to a prolonged Campaign, as having tested the water, they will then dither as to what price to set themselves.

health 24. There have been calls to cancel the 2013 En Primeur Campaign and suggestions that some wine critics won’t even bother to attend the Tastings. Let’s be realistic here. There is no way the 2013 En Primeur Campaign will be called off. The notion that some critics might not attend the Tastings annoys me. Don’t they have a job to do? Will they be judging the entire 2013 vintage on the backs of others without even bothering to taste a single drop of it in situ themselves? I’m glad to see some critics have declared that they will attend, well done!

ep 13 aAnd shouldn’t the 2013 vintage be given the opportunity to show what its made of? I do not believe that it should be written off without a chance – after all some of the greatest wines were made in adversity. Who knows what gem may lie undiscovered if the 2013 is passed over? My flights are booked and my itinerary is taking shape nicely. As for the 2013 . . . I have decided to find out for myself. And I am looking forward to it.

Posted in Bordeaux News, En Primeur 2013 | 4 Comments

The Chinese New Year – 2014 The Year of the Green Wood Horse

horse 3The Chinese New Year 2014 begins on 31st January 2014 and is the Year of the Horse. According to Chinese astrology, the associated element is Wood and the colour connected with Wood is green, so 2014 is the Year of the Green Wood Horse. What’s more the Chinese Lantern Festival (observed on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year and known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day) also falls on the same dhorseay as Saint Valentine’s Day on February 14th this year. As you can imagine businesses have been quick to take advantage of marketing goods to celebrate the year of the Horse, including wine producers. . .

Haywire - 2013 RedOkanagen Crush Pad in British Columbia have released just under 700 bottles of the 2012 Haywire Pinot Noir bearing a limited edition label depicting the symbols of the Horse and good fortune (plus a handy Asian food and wine pairing guide).

The Horse is the 7th sign in the Chinese zodiac and is looked upon with favour by many Chinese who equate the sign with grace, power, perseverance, nobility, strength and freedom. However whether 2014 will be a lucky year is not so certain – the number 4 is considered to be unlucky by the Chinese because it is similar to the word horse 2‘death’. This is taken quite seriously, – some lifts in Chinese buildings omit the the number 4 (there is no 4th floor!) and certain operators of public transport in Singapore omit the number 4 on their registration plates.

In the wine trade we usually see Grand Cru Classé being snapped up in the New Year as part of the Chinese custom of gift giving and the obvious choice for the Year of the Horse would have to be the Saint Emilion First Growth Chateau Cheval Blanc (Chateau of the White Horse) and their Second Wine Le Petit Chevcheval blanc 1al (The Little Horse). Owned by Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury goods group LVMH, and Belgian businessman Albert Frère, Cheval Blanc has a good distribution network in Asia thanks to LVMH.

The story behind Cheval Blanc’s name is that the chateau was built on an old inn which was named Cheval Blanc. King Henry IV (1553 1610) once stayed at the inn, having ridden there on his famous white steed. The French still have a joke which goes De quelle couleur est le cheval blanc de Henri Quatre? (What colour was Henry IV’s white horse?)

horse 7Unusually, Saint Emilion, boasts two more chateaux named after horses. Chateau Cheval Noir (Chateau of the Black Horse) is one of the top wines from Mahler Besse, who have owned the property since 1937. Hubert de Bouard, owner of Chateau Angelus, has acted as consultant there since 2011. The chateau was named in 1895 after a legendary sleek and powerful black horse that toiled in the vineyards.

horse 5Chateau Cheval Brun (Chateau of the Brown Horse) also lies in Saint Emilion and is one of several chateaux owned by the Rivière family, who have been wine producers and negotiants since 1875. The family have some of the best monolithic cellars in which to age their wines in the limestone rocks under the town of Saint Emilion. Sadly there is no record of how the chateau acquired its name – if anyone knows, please get in touch!

Cheval Noir and Cheval Brun may not be as famous as their neighbour Cheval Blanc but you would be surprised to learn how switched-on their producers are. Both these wines are sold abroad in Asia. A clever punt on their part perhaps? I wonder whether Saint Emilion will be on a winning streak this year thanks to the Chinese Year of the Horse? Stranger things have happened.albran 222

If Saint Emilion is too far away for you and you are looking for something closer to home and not in the price bracket of Cheval Blanc you may wish to consider our Chateau Chevalier d’Albran which has a horse on its label?

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Chateau Chevalier D’Albran 2009 Special Offer

12 bottles of Claret or the price of 10!

chevalier d'albran

This Claret from the great 2009 vintage is the perfect partner for suppers on cold, dark nights such as stews, casseroles and roasts. This is a delicious winter wine with notes of blackberry, vanilla, strawberry and ripe plum so enjoy receiving two free bottles in your case of 12 at only £107.50 including free delivery.

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Bordeaux Wines – The Rare and Unconventional

bel 6Bordeaux never ceases to amaze me as somewhere in the quiet backwaters of this great wine region there is always someone creating something surprising. Making wine instils passion in those dedicating their lives and livelihoods to it and I believe that the wines represent something of the personality of these people. Not far from Saint Emilion, in the lieu dit of Malbatit, Olivier Cazenave makes a rather special wine.

bel 7Cazenave bought Chateau de Bel on the banks of the River Dordogne in 2003 after working in the wine trade as a Negotiant for many years. The vineyard contained old vines of Merlot and Cabernet Franc – his favourite grape variety. Making his own wines was the realisation of a long held ambition and Cazenave wanted to make with with a difference. Alongside his more traditional, award winning Chateau de Bel (Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superieur), Montagne Saint Emilion, Rosé, La Capitane and Le Clos du Canton des Ormeaux (Pomerol) Cazenave makes the unconventional Le Cuvée Franc de Bel.

belLe Cuvée Franc de Bel is a wine made from a single grape variety, it’s 100% Cabernet Franc. However it is revolutionary in that it is made from not one vintage but 3! Historically vitners used to reserve some of their best wines from their best vineyard plots and in Champagne a certain amount of this ‘reserved’ wine is used for blending with wine of the current vintage to make Reserve Champagne. It seems that Cazenave taken the idea one step further with outstanding results. Le Cuvée Franc de Bel is the result of careful blending of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages and has met with high acclaim for both its unique character and its quality.

Ever the innovator, Cazenave is considering the future and is considering planting Malbec and Chenin Blanc. He is definitely a talented winemaker to watch and I can’t wait to see what he creates next.

blaye carreau 3If you travel the River Dordogne towards its meeting point with the Garonne you’ll see the bastille town of Bourg and the surrounding vineyards of the Côtes de Bourg. Here the Carreau and Jourdan families run Vignobles Blaye Carreau.

blaye carreau 2Settling in the area in 1900, five generations of this wine making family have expanded their properties to 5 chateaux: Landreau, Eyquem, Pardaillan, Barbé and La Carelle, making wine under the Côtes de Bourg and Blaye appellations. Today they have a wide portfolio of wines which also include a sparkling Cremant de Bordeaux. But it is their Rosé Moelleux that caught my attention. This is a rare find.

You don’t often see Bordeaux Moelleux outside France (I have a lovely white Moelleux at Bordeaux-Undiscovered). The AOC Bordeaux Moelleux is difficult to pin down as its meaning has become somewhat lost in translation. When used in reference to wine the French term Moelleux describes the sensation of the wine as well as its taste: ‘soft, smooth, velvety, lush, mellow’. These types of wines are quite exceptional – slightly sweet, rounded and supple with mouth quenching acidity and superb balance. balye carreau 4

It’s a crime that we miss out on them here in the UK. I have never encountered a Rosé Moelleux from Bordeaux before so Vignobles Blaye Carreau’s Domaine de Fombertou Rosé Moelleux is a first for me. I will try and hunt it down when I am in Bordeaux for the En Primeurs!

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Chateau Dassault Acquires Chateau Faurie de Souchard

faurie 3News from Bordeaux reports that Laurent Dassault has purchased Chateau Faurie de Souchard in Saint Emilion. Faurie de Souchard neighbours Chateaux Dassault and La Fleur which the family have owned respectively since 1955 and 2002). Faurie de Souchard was sold by the Sciard family who had been in possession of the chateau for 80 years. Geoffroy Sciard told Sud Ouest that despite regaining the rank of Grand Cru Classé (after the debacle in 2006 where the chateau was amongst those which were demoted and then promoted again) the decision to sell had been influenced by a difficult market and the severe hail in 2009.faurie

Faurie de Souchard’s origins lie back in 1851 when two plots were sold off from Chateau Soutard, creating Faurie de Souchard and Petit Faurie de Soutard. The name Faurie is taken from Jean Combret de Faurie (1762) who built Chateau Soutard. Faurie was one of the 6 noble families of Saint Emilion and the original vineyard was the scene of a battle during thfaurie 2e Hundred Years War. The name Souchard originates from Jean-Baptiste de Souchard who bought what was to become Faurie de Souchard in 1851. The estate spans 34 acres (14 hectares) and the grapes planted are 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The average production is 60,000 bottles per year.

Although the 3 Dassault estates lie in close proximity to each other there are no plans to merge the vineyards as the intention is to keep all 3 as separate entities.

The Dassault Group also owns shares, amounting to 5%, ofaurie 5f Saint Emilion First Growth Chateau Cheval Blanc and the Argentinean vineyards Casa Los Dassos and Flechas de los Andes having invested in them in 1998, with Benjamin de Rothschild. In 2001 they signed a ‘joint venture’ with Guillermo Luksic, chairman of Quinenco (one of Chile’s largest business conglomerates that owns Vina San Pedro, the third largest winery in Chile) to create a New World wine called Altair.

The connection with the Rothschilds goes deeper than their joint involvement in Argentina. In 2010 I reported that the Dfaurie kassault Group made an approach to purchase both Chateau La Croix de Gay and La Fleur de Gay in Pomerol from Dr Alain Raynaud. Nothing appeared to come of it but in 2012 I noticed that during the 2011 En Primeur campaign allocations of Chateau Lafite Rothschild were being offered to some merchants only if they committed to buying Chateaux L’Evangile and Dassault. It seemed an odd combination at the time but thanks to Chris Kissack (Wine Doctor) the link is now explained.

Apparently Alain Raynaud sold his 15 acre (6 hectares) share in the Croix de Gay and Fleur de Gay properties to the Rothschild family, leaving just 9faurie h acres (4 hectares) in the hands of his sister. The 15 acres acquired by the Rothschilds were absorbed into their Pomerol estate Chateau L’Evangile. However it seems that as Dassault was also after the estate the Rothschilds did a deal so that he gained a 5% stake in L’Evangile and Rieussec – which explains the allocation bundling at En Primeur.

The Rothschilds also acted as financial advisers in connection with the sale of Faurie de Souchard.

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