Through the years with Château Figeac

Going back to 1949, but looking forward to new cellars

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

17 June 2018

Some of the best wine experiences I can recall involve older vintages of Château Figeac. Take for example a dinner in Saint Emilion that did not happen: hail destroyed table settings just as participants were enjoying magnums of Dom Perignon 1988. We were then guided quickly into the cellar and away from the storm, where cheese and bread were served with magnums of older Saint Emilion. Among the wines, Château Figeac 1961: easily one of the best wines I have ever enjoyed. Two other greats are 1959 and the 1950, both of which I drank with utmost pleasure in Saint Emilion on previous visits.

The origins of Château Figeac date back to the 2nd century AD, when the Figeacus family gave the estate its name. Fast forward to the 19thcentury, and it encompassed some 200 hectares (490 acres) having once included the vines of today’s Château Cheval Blanc. This history explains several other “Figeac” wines in Saint Emilion: they once were a part of the original estate.

Special evening at Château Figeac

The golden era of great 20thcentury vintages began with the Manoncourt family, which acquired the estate in 1892 and is still running it today. Thierry Manoncourt in particular invested in the potential of Figeac’s unique terroir just after the Second World War and had urged his mother to hold on to the estate. In 1947, after graduating as an agricultural engineer, he improved wine-growing techniques at the château. His scientific approach won him the reputation of a respected innovator. In 1955, the estate became a “First Great Classified Growth”. Indeed, Manoncourt gave birth to the “traditional” Figeac blend of 30% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Read More

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Divine Alsace

Competitive wine prices and friendly faces

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

14 June 2018

It was an enjoyable wine evening earlier this month, Sunday 10 June, at Domaine Josmeyer in Wintzenheim. Lady winemakers who form the group DiVINes d’Alsace poured their wines.

Alsace is so rich in soil types and terroirs that the sheer number of grand cru designations is not enough. Some day, there may well be a premier cru category as well. Will that create clarity or confusion for customers? Atypical bottle shapes, complex names and (still unpredictable) residual sugar levels have not been the strongest selling points for Alsace, but Les DiVINes d’Alsace puts a feminine touch to #Alsace wine. With women winemakers, oenologists, competition organizers, wine merchants and sommeliers, Les DiVINes are committed to its success.

The 70 or so members regularly organize thematic tastings at their estates, visits to Alsace’s Vineyard Museum, pre-harvest technical meetings, and meetings just to get to know each other better. Their association joins a national circle of “Women of Wine” groupings alongside Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhone, Provence and the Languedoc among other regions.

Upcoming DiVINes events next month can be found on this page.

I do hope that they translate their page into English and organize DiVINes tasting events outside of Europe. Of course good wine can be made by women or men, but in this era of #MeToo, DiVINes tours could be an added selling point. Indeed, a few years back, I managed to combine my media relations work at the Council of Europe with my passion for wine, having invited DiVINes winemakers to the Council of Europe to pour wine and talk about discrimination they had faced as women in the wine world. Friend and journalist Javier Aguilar of the Spanish news agency EFE penned an article about the experience that was picked up by Spanish language outlets in both South America and in Spain. So we got news coverage, and drank some delicious wines. 😊

In any case, it was nice to catch up with Laure Adam, the 15th generation of the Adam family for the eponymous domain in Ammerschwihr, which gives you a sense of the festive ambiance at the DiVINes tasting. In the video below, I asked Laure about the marvelous nature of the 2014 vintage for Alsatian whites, as well as her thoughts about the DiVINes group.

About the tasting 

Another great thing about this tasting was catching up with fellow wine writers and pals I see at other events in other parts of the world. For example, it was so nice to see, among other friends in the wine writing world, Stefanie Köhler, Raoul Salama, Bernard Burtschy, Gavin Chen (who traveled all the way from Hong Kong), Yves Beck, Christer Byklum as well as Neil Beckett of The World of Fine Wine. In Vino Veritas? Indeed, we end up at nice places like Domaine Josmeyer. An added plus – a very important plus – about the fine wines of Alsace? Top wines here are not as ridiculously expensive as big names from Bordeaux or Burgundy or Champagne. For true #winelovers? Alsace is paradise.  Read More

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Mixed bag for en primeur Bdx17 sales

Interview with Sarah Phillips of 

13 June 2018

A wine market specialist explains the challenges of selling Bordeaux futures in this 2017 vintage campaign. Prices are the key issue of course: Is it worth your while to lock in hard-earned money on wine that you will not see as a final product for up to three years? What if back vintages of comparable quality are already available and cost less?

I just got off the telephone with Marielle Cazaux of the famous Château La Conseillante in Pomerol, whose wine was released today for €141 per bottle: a 20% drop in price from the futures offering last year.

The drop in price is welcome, but Cazaux said that the 2017 futures campaign is “complicated” ; she much prefers choosing harvest dates than choosing wine prices. Cazaux appreciates the work of Liv-Ex, which merchants use for trading, data and settlement services to help grow their wine businesses. Liv-ex’s global network helps people to trade safely and efficiently with other merchants worldwide. Its comprehensive data brings transparency to the market, and offers valuable insights to merchant members and their customers.

Interview with Sarah Phillips of 

In this interview Liv-Ex’s Sarah Phillips (photo above), explains that we journalists can be stuck between a rock and hard place (that’s awfully understanding of her!) and that secondary market activity for back vintages has reached near record highs in the last two weeks. She gives valuable insight to the ongoing en primeur campaign.

Why is the campaign so far a “mixed bag”?  Read More

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China’s Wine Future

Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann

As provided by ProWein: Specialist Article / June 2018

By Stuart Pigott & Paula Sidore

All photos in this posting: Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann

7 June 2018

While certainly few of us missed China’s rise to the position of a major economic power, that newly established prowess continues to fight the biased western preconception of wine and China. On the one hand we have the image of the Chinese wine drinker pouring cola in her Chilean Cabernet or ice cubes in his red Bordeaux, on the other the Chinese market is perceived as a wine utopia where every kind of wine –  the great, the good and the ugly – will be sold in huge quantities one day very soon. These dangerously outdated preconceptions, however, ignore the burgeoning truth: the steadily growing consumption and production of wine in China.

One visible example of these changing attitudes includes the success of Shanghai’s ProWine China. Since 2013, this event has been co-organized by Messe Düsseldorf — responsible for the world’s largest international wine trade fair, ProWein — and UBM World. The next ProWine China will take place from November 13 – 15, 2018, with 700 wine and spirit producers and approximately 15,000 visitors expected to attend.

Messe Düsseldorf/ctillmann

Year after year, China continues to grow in both numbers and experience as a producer of wine. In fact, few outside China realize that Changyu, based in Yantai in Shandong Province is the third largest wine brand in the world with annual sales of 135 million liters, exactly equal to the Californian E. & J. Gallo brand! Great Wall — owned by state-owned COFCO — is also one of the world’s ten largest wine brands with annual sales of 63 million liters.  Read More

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Château Margaux: 40 years on

Vertical opulence, with Thibault Pontallier: 1978-2014

By Panos Kakaviatos for

2 June 2018

Over dinner on 9 May this year, I was lucky to attend a vertical of this magnificent first growth from the Médoc: the highly acclaimed – à juste titre – Château Margaux.

Vintages included the first-ever under the Mentzelopoulos family, the 1978, which showed quite well. We also enjoyed stars like 1983, 1996 and 2010, among others.

The true star was none other than Thibault Pontallier, who had flown to Washington D.C. from Los Angeles that same day for this dinner, which was held in a Baroque style private room at the Spanish restaurant Taberna del Alabardero. I had organized a vertical dinner of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande at this restaurant late last year.

Opulence meets opulence: Private dining at Taberna del Alabardero in Washington D.C.

Thibault had been in Copenhagen, Denmark a few days before: promoting a super brand means traveling. Born in 1986 in Bordeaux, he is the son of Paul Pontallier, who had been making wine for the estate since his first vintage there of 1983.

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