LVMH enters Burgundy via Clos des Lambrays

clos des lambrays
LVMH, the luxury goods company whose portfolio ranges from Louis Vuitton handbags to Dom Pérignon champagne, has made their first acquisition in Burgundy. The group has purchased Domaine des Lambrays just outside of Morey-Saint-Denis with its 21.9 acres of vineyards, including the Clos des Lambrays grand cru as well as several premier cru sites. Although the Clos des Lambrays has produced wine since the 14th century, the sellers were the Freund family who have owned it since 1996. The price was not disclosed. Production is about 35,000 bottles with an average retail price of $165 according to LVMH. Thierry Brouin, the estate’s chief winemaker who has overseen the last 35 vintages, will stay with LVMH.

Even though the holding is relatively small for the publicly-traded LVMH–a bauble for owner Bernard Arnault–it does signal a possible shift to corporate ownership. Part of Burgundy’s appeal to wine enthusiasts is that, in contrast to an area of corporate ownership such as the Médoc, the owners actually live on the ground and make the wines. Whether this is the thin edge of the wedge of corporate ownership remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: LVMH is not a discounter, so don’t expect any price declines.
Read more…

Delectable: the only wine app you need

In my wine classes, people often ask me, “What’s the best wine app?” I’ve been using wine apps since the early days of the app store and have generally found that they try to do too much (“a million logically possible food-wine pairings”) or too little (only offer limited price comparisons). But now when I am asked, I have an answer: Delectable.

The main feature that makes Delectable the standout wine app is its incredible optical recognition. Out to dinner and enjoying a wine? You could simply snap a picture to remember, always a good a idea. But if you take that picture with the Delectable app, it will upload it to their servers, have all their minions pore over it, and then actually fill in all the relevant data. I tried beat the app with a few dimly-lit, hard-to-read labels or obscure micro-production wines and it nailed them all. Read more…

This week in vineyard photos: drones, buds, caterpillars

Vineyards and wineries can post some photos to social media that let us know what’s going on in their corner of the world. Here are a few worthwhile ones:

craggy range vineyard drone
Starting in the southern hemisphere, this one is a photo of the Craggy Range Te Muna Road vineyard in New Zealand. It’s taken by drone and, since you know our love of all things drone and wine related, we had to post it for you. Queried via DM, the folks at Craggy Range said the drone belonged to an employee and was used for fun, not in any particular vineyard application. Read more…

Spot the spoof

Some wine news these days seems beyond parody because the headlines read as if they were ripped from The Onion. In honor of April Fool’s Day, here’s a smattering of recent wine stories–see if you can spot the wine spoof in our bluff the reader challenge.

A. The Wine Advocate is set to release new “luxury lifestyle” magazine entitled “100 Points by Robert Parker.”

B. James Suckling has a crystal wine glass marketed as “100 points.”

C. A “Miracle Machine” was touted, which would turn water into wine in three days.

D. The French Senate debated a motion to declare wine part of the national heritage.

E. An organic grape farmer in France may be jailed and fined for not using pesticides.

F. Hail has ruined the vintage at Hong Kong’s only vineyard.

G. The SF Chronicle ran a piece about the “eco-friendly” next generation of vintners who love deer hunting and Porsche racing.

H. There really is a line of wines branded as Wine for Dummies.

Eataly wined and fined & the three-tier system

eataly wine2
Eataly Wine will close for six months and its owners, including celebrity chef Mario Batali, will also pay a $500,000 fine per an agreement with New York state authorities yesterday. No date has been set for the start of the closing. The settlement resulted from the State Liquor Authority’s enforcement of a ban on “interlocking interests.” The SLA also claimed that the shop’s owners suppressed that information.

The turn of events is somewhat puzzling. It was no secret that Joe Bastianich sold wines that he made at his winery in the north of Italy. Indeed, the shop’s web site trumpeted the fact that he “returned to his roots in northeast Italy” where he is “creating wines” in Friuli. (That wording has now been removed.)

Crain’s NY reports that the issue came up at the time of the shop’s license renewal in 2012. At first, the owners disputed the charge but later relented. The penalty also includes the removal of Lidia Bastianich from Eataly Wine’s license.

The issue is what the “three-tier system,” which prevent vertical integration in the wine and spirits industry. This means that producers must sell to licensed wholesalers who, in turn, sell to retailers. (While there may be some gray area around this, the only clearly legal bypassing of this is where a producer can sell directly to retailers in the same state.) Thomas Pinney writes in A History of Wine in America, that this system came into effect after Prohibition because of the “deep suspicion” of the liquor trade at the time; further, states were determined not to allow the producers to control retailers, as they had in the old saloon system.

While societal “suspicion” of the industry may have diminished, for better or for worse, the ban on vertical integration remains, as the penalties on Batali & Bastianich reflect (for their retail operation; it will be interesting to see if Illinois authorities take a similar view of the Eataly Chicago wine shop.). However, methinks they will not become a cause célèbre for the reform of the system. Read more…

I’m so cool!

im so cool Colman Andrews, the much-lauded writer who co-founded Saveur and made the world hungry for Catalan cuisine, has compiled a list of “The 60 (Plus) Coolest People in Food and Drink” over on the website he now edits, the Daily Meal. On it, he naturally includes such legends as Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Grant Achatz, Rick Bayless, Jim Clendenon, and also … me!

Um, did I miss something? I can’t believe I made anyone’s cool list, especially his with 59 (plus) amazing people. But it is an honor and shows that he is a man of discerning taste (but we already knew that from the way he spells his first name). Of course, nobody else on the list will mention it or post about it because they are all so cool, natch. But not me! I need to go wake the kids to let them know their dad is officially cool!

Check out the full list.

Batali and Bastianich group threatened with suspension

eataly wine
Can you imagine dining at Del Posto and not having a glass of vino?

That might be the case. The New York SLA (State Liquor Authority) has posted to their website a list of items on their March 25 meeting. On the agenda are several items relating to liquor licenses held by Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group, for Eataly, Del Posto and other of their restaurants.

The item for Eataly states two charges: (1.) Read more…

Chateau Latour prices 2004 vintage 328% higher

latour label Two years ago, Chateau Latour announced they were no longer going to sell their wine en primeur, instead releasing them “when the wines are ready to drink.” Owned by billionaire Francois Pinault, the first growth decided to not pre-sell the vintage two years before delivery. The en primeur system of pre-selling a vintage has been widely criticized for a variety of reasons ranging from crass commercialism to selling an embryonic wine, one that hasn’t completed secondary fermentation and is literally years away from having a completed final blend.

In strictly economic terms, en primeur is selling the bearskin before catching the bear. Yes, that really is economics, with a bit of hunting: apparently, hunters would sell pre-sell bearskins when they thought the price of bearskins would decline in the future, thus locking in the higher price. Since this is a declining marketing, this is why down markets came to be called bear markets, at least accruing to a recent piece on Marketplace. In the case of wine, pre-selling a wine may be because sellers are bracing for a decline in the future. But it also helps cash flow, again, since they sell the wine two years before delivering the wine (in any format you want!). Either way, Latour clearly thinks prices are going up and they aren’t in need of short-term capital.

So, yesterday, they sold a slice of 2004 from their cellars. The price is about $600, which is about the market price today. But it is a far cry from the 110 euros the wine was sold for en primeur in 2005. In other words, Latour is getting 328% more today than they did in 2005 for the same wine (the S&P 500 was up 62% for the period). Not a bad return for the past ten years . And it certainly covers their storage costs.

Find 2004 Chateau Latour at retail


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