Paul Pontallier is a curious, open, and humble guy. All the more so since he is he managing director and winemaker at Chateau Margaux, where he has been for 30 years, crafting the sublime yet supremely expensive wines.
Pontallier was in New York City last week and he brought suitcase full of treats Read more…
I had a lot of fun a couple of weeks ago observing a bunch of business school students engage in competitive drinking. No, it wasn’t on-campus–it was the US qualifying round of the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup at the French Consulate on Fifth Avenue.
I post a gallery of photos below but my story is over on wine-searcher. Click through to find out who will represent the USA at Chateau Lafite this summer. One thing that struck me is how into wine the grad students were, with many having been in some aspect of the wine industry or thinking about giving up a career in finance to pursue the fruits of the vine more fully. It was a photo finish that evening: A cluster of teams finished very close. Read more…
A Russian businessman bought a fixer-upper chateau dating from the 18th Century among the vines of Bordeaux. He ordered some renovations, went out of town, and returned to find the entire chateau a pile of rubble.
Reports vary on the size of the fixer-upper, but the rental site for the chateau said you could have a couple hundred friends for a seated dinner.
Builders had been instructed to remove one of the outbuildings but instead razed the whole place.
Owner Dmitry Stroskin vows to rebuild the structure as it was before. He has already ordered one and a half million euros of stone from a local mason. And probably popped a few Advil.
Here’s a question that we have addressed over the years on this blog: what’s the best, most responsible way to teach kids about wine? We’ve talke about an American approach that treats wine like a drug and an Italian approach that has kids singing songs and drawing pictures of Chianti fiaschi.
You’d think that wine would part of everyday education in France since the country boasts a high per capita consumption rate and we’ve all seen that picture of the kid with a bottle of wine under each arm. But, in fact, the French education system has, along with much of French bureaucratic attitude toward wine, had a shift for the puritanical in the past couple of decades.
So it is terrific to see the Bordeaux wine trade council is offering classes about wine “heritage” to kids aged 6 – 10. It’s optional, and the piece on decanter.com notes that they won’t be pitching it to schools, so it is a far cry from being a mandatory class. But let’s hope some schools do partake; learning about making wine seems like a great idea in a wine-making region/country. And what kid doesn’t love a tractor ride?
The new, vintage 2012, St. Emilion classification was handed down from Paris last week. About the most unusual thing about it is that INAO actually put the materials on their website (Hooray! Even thought they show an unhealthy taste for pdfs and the media contacts still don’t have email addresses listed.)
There hasn’t been any controversy (though some did wonder what happened to Chateau Magdelaine, which Moueix merged into Bélair-Monange). The last update, in 2006, resulted in legal challenges and a court rendering the whole reordering invalid. Lat week, Chateaus Pavie and Angelus were promoted to the top, top tier, while some other modern-style wines also ascended. (Full list after the jump.) The new classification largely follows the market prices and Parker scores for the wines.
If the authorities wanted to do something bold, they could have promoted the excellent Chateau Figeac. It would have been a posthumous honor for Thierry Manoncourt who apparently always wanted to see the estate as a Premier Grand Cru Classé (A). Also, Parker has had a burr under his saddle about Figeac, giving only two of their wines scores over 90 points and going years without reviewing the wines, which are almost always under 13.5% alcohol. And forget quality, the last time around, Figeac was not promoted to the top, top tier because their prices were not high enough!)
Or the INAO could have classified vineyards instead of simply the chateaus themselves but that would be crazy talk! (On related note, Valandraud, which was promoted to the second tier, has expanded its modest vineyard holdings by a factor of 20 over the years.)
By rewarding many wineries that already receive high Parker scores and/or high prices, the classification is of little, stand-alone use to consumers and gives some producers the opportunity to raise prices further.
The other day, when Jeeves brought me the New York Times’ “Great Homes and Destinations” section on a silver platter in my wood-paneled drawing room, I poured a spot of claret and settled into my leather wingback chair to catch up on what’s been going on.
Lo and behold the Chinese have been buying properties in Bordeaux! Fully 20 of them in the last four years! That only leaves about 8,500 for them to buy. The story–quite detailed–reveals that Chinese buyers are attracted by property valuations that have fallen over the past decade, usually shop in the €5 million to €8 million range, and like a chateau on the land with a bit of history. One chap just picked up a 10-bedroom castle on 420 acres for €5.95 million! He’ll sell almost all the wine back in China. Also, with their domestic economy slowing, the Chinese have been looking to diversify their holdings and have even been buying wineries in the Hunter Valley and Napa. I wonder what kind of values they have found there.
If Jeeves hasn’t brought you the “Great Homes and Destinations” section, you can also read it with one of those computer things that I’ve heard about.
After the 2011 vintage Chateau Latour, owned by billionaire Francois Pinault, will not pre-sell their wine as futures. What do you think?
“That’s great. It’s good to see a billionaire doing the right thing for a change by not ripping off millionaires. Also, Salma Hayek is hot.”
-Mandy Street, Occupier
“I’m disappointed. Now when I boast on eBob that I bought all the (98-100)-point wines before the scores come out, it won’t include Latour.”
-Mark S. Quire, Systems Analyst
“Is Chateau Latour the one with the kangaroo on it?”
-Bruce Babcock, undergrad
Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate has started arriving in mailboxes and issue #199 aas published on their site late yesterday. The top scores are mind-numbing. If you thought his love of Chateauneuf du Pape’s 2007 vintage was the high-water mark for his scores, think again: Parker hands out 100-point scores to 18 red wines, with several others (including first growths, Mouton, Lafite and Margaux) getting a mere 99 points.
Underwhelmed by the list, commenters on wineberserkers reacted, saying “Smith Haut Laffite. Wow.” and “It’s only March 1st – not April 1st. Is this serious?!?” and “When will Mouton Cadet [$8] join the list?” and “Who cares about any of the 99-point crap?” Tim Atkin tweeted, “Where does RP go from there? Explode in a puff of ludicrous hyperbole? 2010 is a better vintage.”
It will be interesting to see if these push prices any higher (as will likely be the case for Fourtet and Smith Haut Lafitte, which were originally forecast to have scores of 98 maximum) or lower in the case of Lafite-Rothschild, which had been coveted by Asian auction bidders before slowing but is not on the list of those receiving perfect scores. Or if it will elicit as much of a yawn from buyers has it does from the online commentariat–after all, 20 wines had received scores as possible 100 pointers based on barrel tastings. In January, I suggested that rampant score inflation posed the biggest threat to the use of scores and eighteen 100s do not reverse my view. What’s your take?
Parker confronted the issue of “hype” and inflation head on, saying: Read more…