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In France – Dancing On Tables and Lalande de Pomerol Wine

August 15, 2017

First, my latest Forbes article on Lalande de Pomerol wines is here, and other Forbes recent pieces are here.

Next is a story about coming to live in France.

Here is how it began.

At the end of March of 2009, I took a break from studying in England and visited Bordeaux in France, where I rented a small Peugeot 200 car.

Bordeaux city in the evening…beautiful!

Cathedral of Saint André, Bordeaux

The first night I stayed at a bed and breakfast named the Jardin-du-Sequoia, or Sequoia Garden, on Rue St. Genes. It was so named because—oddly—there was a massive sequoia tree growing in the garden out back. I sat in the garden, opened a bottle of Saint-Emilion Château Milens red wine and sliced up cheese and a baguette before walking to the street corner where I found a bar named Nieux Amsterdam. Two energetic Dutch brothers ran this lively but offbeat jewel.

After many beers, people started dancing on tables.

Really.

I took photos.

Then the police raided the bar. Truly. They entered and blew a whistle. It was comical but alarming.

A lovely woman seated at the bar looked at me. She crooked her finger as an instruction to follow her, which I certainly did. We slipped out a side door with a few others.

Someone drove us to her apartment, where the party continued.

I got back to the rest house sometime after 4.00 am.

I loved Bordeaux!

Though I lost touch with the woman, I am grateful she helped our escape from the Police Municipale!

 

 

My Rescuer-Hostess

The next day I drove to Sauternes and Saint-Émilion and then to some place I’d never heard of named Blaye—pronounced Blye.

The owner of the Villa Saint Simon Guest House, a South African named Les, sat me in the kitchen with his friend Frank, and opened a bottle of wine. I presumed these two men were a happy gay couple (turns out they were not) and we chatted. Another pop, another bottle. More chat. A retired lawyer and previous London restaurant owner, Les operated a winery tour business in this lesser known portion of Bordeaux known as Blaye.

The next day we squeezed into a Citroën deux chevaux car and visited a winemaking couple named Valerie and Jerome at their Château near the small village of Saint Palais and then ate a stellar lunch at a country restaurant (filled with animated locals) named Chez Olga.

Fish, pasta, duck breast. More pops, more wine.

Life was in full flow.

Before leaving the next day, I remembered I had to choose a project/thesis to complete my MBA course in England. Les had a nearby farm that grew kiwi fruit where he wanted to build an eco-village. I suggested that I prepare his marketing plan. He photocopied an architectural concept drawing and handed it over. He then said if I returned he would supply me more information and all the wine I could drink.

Well…

Okay.

Countryside around Saint-Émilion wine country

Les at his Kiwi Farm near Blaye

While other students studied financial derivatives and modeled statistical analyses of market fluctuations, I spent weekends that summer drinking Bordeaux red wine and asking people to fill out questionnaires about why they wanted to visit wine country and what they thought about building an eco-village.

For that thesis? I won a prize: ‘Most original.’

Most fun, too.

Looking out from Valerie and Jerome’s château.

Sometimes you never know when folks will dance on tables or the police will raid or the woman will take you home or the deux chevaux will cart you off for an amazing spin with colorful characters in an unknown countryside with superb, affordable wine and unexpectedly ambient local restaurants while a fresh breeze slaps your smiling face and reminds you to wake up and appreciate the moment!

It was fun.

So much fun that I visited a few more times, then bought an apartment and moved here.

Life is brief.

No regrets.

Home.

For now.

Our local park and 17th century citadelle

^^^

Next, our own 2015 Etalon Rouge wine has been bottled and labeled.

It’s a winner. Well made, well blended. Friends from the U.K, Luxembourg and Colorado have already placed their orders. Thank you!

Finally,

Thanks to Wine Social for choosing my book Vino Voices as their book of the week. I am flattered and appreciative….merci beaucoup!

Thanks again for checking in.

Lesser Known, Vibrant Italy: Southern Piemonte’s Life and Wine

August 1, 2017

First, my latest Forbes posts are here, and include pieces about the new high-speed Paris/Bordeaux train, a book about Lisbon wines and a summer festival you have never heard of.

Second, I have a confession.

I have been doing business with Russians.

You can’t blame me.

For the dozens of wineries located in 18 countries who contributed recipes for my forthcoming book The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion—these two ladies below are finding the correct publishing house for that book. Also, we are discussing alternative publishing strategies with a new publishing imprint that Forbes acquired less than a year ago.

Sonya, Elena and Friday afternoon glasses of Pessac-Leognan white wine.

Sonya Marchand (on the left) is a neighbor who took a cruise to Bordeaux, said goodbye to her roots in Moscow and Siberia, and moved here to the countryside. She produced the promotional video for my book The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion, and has her own video production company—STA Marchand.

Elena Malgina (on the right) is also Russian and now lives in Lugano in Switzerland (where I also once lived many years ago). While not working as a financial controller, she is a bibliophile with her own literary agency and is representing my book to various renowned publishers in the U.S. It was Elena who had the idea to produce the promotional video. (She also seriously scolded me for not having ever read books by Bulgakov.)

These charming and intelligent women are helping to ensure that The Winemakers’s Cooking Companion finds a secure publishing home that produces long-lasting, appreciated books. The photograph is from days ago when we spent time together here in Blaye.

Gateway to summertime in Italy

Third, I recently visited the southern portion of the Piedmont wine country in Italy. Aspects of that trip that relate to Dolcetto wine covered in my recently written Forbes piece.

Below are practical tips for visiting this region.

First, a little background about the geography of the Piedmont region.

Italy, including its southern isle of Sicily, is generally shaped like a tilted J. The top left portion of the upper horizontal bar is mostly the region of Piedmont (the lower strip of that bar being Liguria, along the coast). The Italians call this not Piedmont, but Piemonte. Because this rolls off the tongue smoothly, I shall do alike. It means, literally, the foot of the mountains.

Piemonte is a hilly land, once so cloaked in forests that medieval dukes from Austria visited its hilltop castles so they could spend days hunting.

Fountain at the Castle of Cremolino

This is a varied countryside. It’s a hilly land of sunflowers, winding roads, cobbled alleyways and road signs that warn of jumping deer. It’s filled with birdsong and tenutas (mansions), corn stalks and crenellated hilltop towers. There are raw rock buttes, ivy covered taverns and the Ligurian Apennine peaks. Unlike the more expensive haunts of Asti, Alba and Barolo to the west and north, southern Piemonte includes rugged roads and summer gatherings that include the Suckling Pig Festival of Toleto, or the Wild Boar Festival of Rocca Grimalda.

As with most locations in Italy, the language is musical. This is a land where conversation is sport, discourse is theater and a simple discussion about where to locate the water meter sounds like a poetry recitation.

View from Cremolino Castle

‘Stereo2’ band from Genoa plays at the ‘suckling pig festival’ in Toleto

An ancient fortress in the hills

Motor scooter by roadside, with village of Carpeneto in the distance

The food and wines here are truly special. Seriously, even the bottled water is the best I’ve tasted in years. There’s filleto baciato salami, porcini mushrooms, succulent blackcurrants, nougat, distinct Marroni chestnuts, and Amaretti di Acqui cookies. I can’t even recall any of the number of cheeses. And, yes, truffles.

In the southern portion of Piemonte, the wines include red Dolcetto and Barbera, and whites include Gavi. These are generally affordable, easy drinking wines.

Here is a little recollection.

At a hilltop societa’ a tavern in the Madonna della Villa village in the hills, we drank glasses of negroni before the owner and his wife agreed to rustle up amazing dishes of pasta al pesto di Pra at nine in the evening for a group of us (this is a Genovese dish; the mild, small-leaved basil should be grown on the windy, sunny slopes of Pra near Cristoforo Colombo airport). With this we uncorked a bottle and enjoyed glasses of chocolate, truffle and green pepper flavored Barbera wine, which also paired well with the bunet chocolate and amaretti dessert—a custard made from chocolate and amarone and served in ramekins.

Barbera d’Asti wine

Pasta al Pesto di Pra

Another wine produced in this region is white Gavi, which is also the name of a sizable town.

On a wall in Gavi, a plaque commemorates a legend about the name.

The city of Gavi, legend tells, was named after a sixth century princess—Gavia. The daughter of a Frankish king and a mother who descended from the king of Burgundians, she married against her family’s desires and then fled to the Lemme Valley. When her father’s soldiers found her, she was protected by the Queen of the Goths—Amalasuntha, who granted her power over a territory. The grateful inhabitants of this land later named their town after her, and named the local white wine grape after a characteristic of their ruler Gavia: Cortese, or courteous.

Salami store in Gavi

Alleyway in Ovada

Here is practical advice for visiting the south and east portions of Piemonte wine country.

  1. If you are visiting Piemonte for the first time, do stop by Barolo and Barbaresco wine producing regions, as well as such towns as Alba and Asti. Save the lesser known region of southeast Piemonte until after spending days in the more popular regions. They are renowned for a reason.
  2. Towns have posters telling of upcoming sagras, or festivals. Try visiting one. These will provide insight into local culture and history you cannot get from a guidebook or tour. If the festival includes food (and wine) all the better. Arrive with an open mind and a curious attitude and don’t be shy to strike up a conversation. Those who speak a little English will love the practice.
  3. Consider staying at an agriturismo. These are guest houses that are also working farms. They are all rural, have individual characteristics, and often serve their own homeade food and wine. Here is a good article about them.
  4. A frazione is even smaller than a village. If you see a sign for a festival there, expect few people and a more intimate experience.
  5. If you want to learn some Italian before visiting, I highly recommend Pimsleur language lessons. These involve a lot of repetition and practice, and you will find that years after taking a course you remember phrases and understand the gist of what people are saying. If you want to complement this with a grip on grammar, choose the Babbel series. You can subscribe online (about $6 to $9 a month) and the interactive courses are excellent. Remember—understanding grammar is great, but you have to practice speaking phrases in order to communicate.
  6. Carry small money notes. If you pull out a 50 Euro bill (or a 20, at times) in even a medium sized town, many people will wave it away because they lack change. Remember also that they may not take credit cards.
  7. Ask for local food at restaurants. I visited one restaurant that served 45 types of pizzas, but also dozens of local pasta dishes—which are more intriguing. Different towns often have their own specialties.
  8. For red wines, Barbera and Dolcetto go well with most foods. Barolo and Barbaresco match heftier beef dishes. White Moscato is a bubbly, low alcohol wine good anytime of the day.
  9. Stop at a tourist office (marked with the symbol) to pick up maps and literature regarding local events.
  10. Consider flying into Genova’s Cristoforo Colombo airport instead of Milan.
  11. Rent a car. Unless you are taking a train or bus between large towns or cities, public transportation in rural areas can be a dodgy proposition.
  12. If you go in winter (I did once; bare but beautiful) make sure you get all-weather tires: many hills are steep.
  13. Never ask for cappuccino after noon. This is a form of sacrilege.

Flags in the town of Acqui Terme

A special Thank You to my guide (and long time friend) Domitilla Zerbone, who introduced me to the wine and foods (and suckling pig festival) of this region, navigating her incredible Panda vehicle across winding roads. Thanks also to her friend and author Sylvia Padoa who took us to a poolside at the Agriturismo Villa Pallavicini in Gavi wine country, then introduced us to cones of stracciatella e nocciola gelato (chocolate and hazelnut ice cream) in Gavi.

Hot sun and cold wine at Villa Pallavicini in the Gavi wine region

Incredible hosts – Domitilla (right) and Sylvia (left)

Finally, at a fruit store in the city of Gavi, this is written across one wall.

It is a quote from the 20th century Milanese writer named Leo Longanesi. La natura ha strane leggi ma lei almeno le rispetta. 

Translated, these words of wisdom mean:

‘Nature has strange laws, but at least she respects them.’

That’s an insight to ponder.

Once again, thanks for tuning in.

 

^^^

My book Vino Voices has gone through a few iterations in the past years.

I just re-published the illustrated version (with dozens of original photographs) as an online ebook, which can be found here.

I will be happy to email a free copy of the ebook to the first three people who let me know they want one.

 

 

Before Roman Wine? A Land Called Etruria…

July 11, 2017

First…

My latest Forbes pieces are here and concern women winemakers embracing offbeat thinking, an Australian changing Bordeaux’s wine scene, and the mother/daughter winemaker story mentioned below.

I also wrote two other pieces concerning the Romans for Forbes: about a huge villa funded by the wine trade, and how the Romans enjoyed luxury in western France.

Now…

About those ancient Italian winemakers.

Romans worked about seven hours a day during summers, and about six hours per day during winters. They also believed that wine was a daily necessity for all.

Grapevines at dusk in Abruzzo

Clever culture.

The western culture has changed from that of these denizens of antiquity.

We appreciate pain killers at the dentist, antibiotics from doctors, flipping a switch rather than tending a flame to provide light, and not being surrounded by the ubiquitous smell of horse poop from the prevalent Roman mode of transportation. We switch on dishwashers instead of commanding slaves to scrub pots and would prefer to watch Russel Crowe flash a sword blade in a Ridley Scott gladiator movie than to watch humans actually butcher limbs within hot stone coliseums.

The Italians still appreciate excellent food

Yet Roman attitudes toward work and wine had admirable traits (slavery aside).

Rome was the epicenter for the Roman Empire (consider: this society built sturdy roads in England centuries before local tribes even tried to emulate their engineering). The city of Rome was also a subsequent focus for the Renaissance. This ‘rebirth’ took a sleeping medieval continent, which then disdained the concept of bathing, and reminded it of valued culture from the ‘old days,’ including the joy and benefits of soaking in hot baths.

And the Romans loved their wine.

When Roman society was in full swing, an unparalleled, structured, full-bodied wine named Amineum (according to Pliny) came from Greece, while a rosé from the Nomenta grape north of Rome was also favored. International trade brought other grapevines, and wines, from Spain and Bordeaux (Biturica).

But their vines and winemaking techniques likely originated elsewhere: from the north, and before that from the east.

In a post three years ago I explained how the roots of Roman wine come from the ancient society of what is now Italy’s Tuscany—that of the Etruscan people. It hinges on an article in the Smithsonian Magazine.

Before Rome, there was Etruria—populated by people called Etruscans (today, these are the people of Tuscany).

The Etruscans loved dinner parties where men and women reclined together on couches after feasts of, say, fresh caught trout stuffed with rosemary and dabbed with honey, and drank their wine—to which they added spices or even grated cheese. And some of their grapevines, like the Etruscan people, likely originated in the eastern Mediterranean millennia ago.

Sunshine, vines, 6 hour work days? Those Romans were resourceful.

Etrurian wine making techniques migrated not only to Rome, but around 500 BCE, to France.

The legacy of winemaking remains rich on the Italian peninsula; today there are some 300 plus wine grape varieties in the country.

In a recent Forbes piece I described how two of the three most grown grape varieties in Italy are being propelled into popularity, and given respect, by a dynamic mother/daughter team from Abruzzo.

After Spain, Italy exports the highest volume of wine in the world (though in wine value, France remains first).

Which means the descendants of Etruria, and Rome, still value an international outlook.

And appreciation for life.

And coliseums, no longer filled with butchering gladiators.

Thanks for tuning in.

Wine & Celebration—The Faces of Vinexpo

June 27, 2017

This post includes little writing.

If you want to read about Vinexpo, check out my Forbes pieces about the event—Women In Wine Embracing The Offbeat, or read about an unusually attractive garden dinner setting to launch Uruguay’s icon wine.

First, some photos from Vinexpo – with descriptions of colorful characters.

Then, some photos from that Uruguayan dinner mentioned above.

Mother daughter team—Lisa (left) and Roberta Borghese from Ronchi di Manzano winery in Friuli, Italy.

 

Rachel Hubert—biodynamic winemaker from Blaye/Bourg, as well as affable neighbor.

 

Phillip and Andre Zull of Zull Wines from Austria—delicious and affordable Grüner Veltliner!

 

Menymeny provided a tasting of Chinese Ningxia wines—with a truly rich and intriguing dark fruit taste.

 

Daniel Brunier of renowned Vieux Télégraphe, Châteauneuf-de-Pape, Rhone Valley

 

Winemaker Valentina Buoso of Pascal Jolivet…beautiful Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.

 

Once again, Aurore Monot-Devillard pours beautiful Burgundies from the family owned Le Domaine du Château de Chamirey.

 

Silvana Bento (left) and Penauille Anaïck serve Portuguese wines, including whites made from the Antão Vaz grape. No, I’d never heard of it before either. Sort of like Pinot Gris.

 

Pauline Guiset (left) and Emilie Flchr and rivers of bubbly from Collet.

 

Monsieur Ferran of Château Ferran serves his white Pessac Leognan from Bordeaux at lunch. Tres Bien!

 

Marjorie Amphoux Bertin convinces her audience of the value of Languedoc Roussillon wines.

 

Pauline Dufour of Château Simon demonstrates that Graves whites can be very affordable.

 

An emissary for Shtoff insists that it’s never too early to sip.

 

Natalia Pinho of Tsallin Wines from Switzerland—she showed me photos of a ‘helicopter harvest’ on steep slopes. Ah, those Swiss!

 

Ms. Haruka Takeuchi introduced many of us to spellbinding sake.

 

Now, a few photos from the dinner at Château de Lantic, prepared by renowned Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann. We sampled the new icon wine Balasto from Bodegas Garzón. Wonderful.

A sample of Uruguayan/Argentinian/Italian hospitality…

 

 

Summer White Wines From The Azores And Japan

June 13, 2017

Three Topics This Week:

  • Book
  • Azores Islands in the mid-Atlantic
  • Denis Dubourdieu memorial wine tasting (Japanese, Spanish, French and Italian wines featured)

The Cookbook – 

The draft of The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion is ready and I’m communicating with a few publishers in the U.S. Our book agent in Europe is also in touch with several publishers (and reminding me to be patient). It takes time to find the right ‘home.’ I shall keep contributors informed.

Below is a photo taken months ago of preparing salmon cured with fennel and citrus. This recipe was sent by Kimberley Judd of Greywacke Winery in New Zealand, compliments of Chef Hornby of Arbour Restaurant (Greywacke wine is produced by Kimberley’s husband Kevin Judd, the winemaker who brought renown to Marlborough with his Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc).

Azores Islands –

Below are a few photographs from my second visit to the Azores islands, taken a few weeks ago. You can read more – either from my blog post from many years ago, or the Forbes piece I wrote in May. Both articles tell about the local wine and its growing popularity. Additionally, I previously wrote an article about Azorean ‘espece’ cookies which are challenging to craft, but delicious.

Eight years ago, during a visit, I was convinced that it would be eminently wise to invest there – and that the wine would become popular worldwide. Well, the market for property has exploded in the past three years and the quantity of grapevines has doubled in the past two years.

Ah, perhaps I should follow my intuition for where to invest! I visited New Zealand in the 1980’s and said the same. At least where I now live—Blaye, in France—is greatly on the uptick (compared to the sleepy and somewhat unkempt town first visited eight years ago).

The Azores were once famed for whaling—hence the image of the whale on one of the wine labels below (both of these whites are excellent, by the way).

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Denis Dubourdieu Wine Tasting

On June 1st, thanks to an invitation from friend and wine author Gilles Berdin, I had the privilege to be invited to the Institute of the Science of Vines and Wines in Bordeaux city to attend an event of the Duad’s Club, which includes their alumni members. DUAD stands for Diplôme Universitaire d’Aptitude à la Dégustation (University Diploma in Wine-Tasting Expertise). This group meets every few weeks to sample specific types of wine. DUAD was created in 1974 by Emile Peynaud, and includes twice weekly lectures.

I entered a massive, bright lit, white university classroom/laboratory. There at least 50 seats faced a blackboard and each desk included a built-in spittoon as well as a flat panel of glass on which two wine glasses rested.

The attendees were all adult professionals involved with the trade—winemakers, winery owners, wine brokers, cellar masters, enologists and journalists.

The two professionals providing the lecture with the background about the wines at this event were Dr. Axel Marchal (a professor/researcher at the Institute), and Christophe Ollivier, a professional associate of the late enologist Denis Dubourdieu who passed away last year (hence this gathering was a tribute to him; Dubourdieu was also the enologist for our own Etalon Rouge wine label).

We sampled ten wines, each of which had been made under the guidance of Mr. Dubourdieu.

There were seven whites (a Japanese, two Spanish, and four French) and three reds (a Barolo from Italy, a Bordeaux and a Rhone). All were excellent, and using a 100 point scale, I would rate 9 out of 10 of these wines with a score of 90 or greater. The tasting notes follow.

[Skip the following tasting notes, if that’s not what interests you]

Individual wines were poured simultaneously to each ‘student,’ after which two wine specialists told us about the vintages.

The first wine was excellent—a Japanese Shizen 2013—made with in the Yamanashi Prefecture using the Koshu grape. The beautifully balanced and lively white wine has the scent of white flowers and a smooth taste spiked with grapefruit.

Two other superlative whites included a 2014 Chivite Collección 125 from the Navarre region of Spain, and a 2013 Château Couhins Lurton from Pessac Leognan of Bordeaux. On the nose this second wine smelt somewhat like a bouquet of fresh flowers and in the mouth it balanced rich cream with tanginess.

The other white wines—all excellent—included a 2015 Valenciso Rioja, a 2015 Reynon from Bordeaux, a 2015 Clos Floridene from Graves in Bordeaux and a 2014 Chateau Carbonnieux from Pessac Leognan.

All three reds were excellent. These included a 2008 Pio Cesare Barolo from Alba, Italy. The taste included the characteristic ammonia tang of the Nebbiolo grape as well as a silky taste that blended straw, cherries and blackberries. The 2006 Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle tasted beautifully of soft red fruit, while the 2008 Haut Bailly from Pessac Leognan had a smooth taste blending rich cherries with a pinch of tobacco.

[Corrections: Dr. Axel Marchal of the Institute of The Science of Vines and Wine at the University of Bordeaux had the courtesy to inform me that in my original post, my understanding of the DUAD acronym was incorrect; I have since replaced it with the correct meaning. He also informed me that the tasting described above was not a lecture of DUAD, but an event of DUAD’s Club—which is comprised of alumni. Finally, I have included the names of both presenters at this event—who did an excellent job providing a comprehensive background and describing the wines tasted: Dr. Marchal himself (who is also the head of DUAD) and Christophe Ollivier, a former associate of the late Mr. Dubourdieu.]

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That’s all for now from our semi-cloudy, sometimes sun-splashed home in Blaye, France. There will be plenty to tell of after Vinexpo Bordeaux next week.

If you want to read other recent Forbes pieces about golf and wine vacations, or Vinexpo, click here. Thanks for tuning in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOUBLE ISSUE: Wealth, Wine And Possible New App

May 16, 2017

 

Vineyards in upper Rioja, Spain

I had the good fortune to meet and speak with Baroness de Rothschild last week, and found her energetic, colorful, determined and endlessly curious. Earlier I had made notes on words of wisdom from this woman who tirelessly travels the world. Born in El Salvador, she lived in Columbia, spent time in Senegal in Africa and now tirelessly manages a foundation responsible for thousands of employees and over $100 billion of assets. She is a bright, though warm and approachable woman. In building wine businesses, her two watchwords are ‘discipline and quality.’

Traveling south of Rioja to San Sebastian, Spain

Some wise words about life and wine from this bright woman are below.

“You can work a lot but if you never party I don’t see the point in working. It’s important to celebrate.”

“We’re only one of the families in the world that does banking as much as we do winemaking. For me it’s an economic model that really has worked. Why? As a finance person—asset diversification. That’s one. Two, to be very rooted in the earth. Banking tends to be often times very abstract and so it’s a very healthy exercise to be reconnected with basics. It’s very difficult, by the way, to earn money when you are subject to weather. But it’s a very good reminder. For me it’s a model. It’s balance.”

“I think we build more by heart and conviction rather than by business.”

“There is a strong market for terroir projects that are related to a specific region.”

“I don’t have hierarchies. I manage with a flat structure. Because I think small businesses are just as much work as big businesses.”

“A lot of people have a static view of what Rothschild is, so this is something to discuss: the difference between myth and reality. They myth exists as long as you keep keeping it. You could say living off just Lafite [wine] could be nice. For me it’s not very satisfactory. With a name such as ours it’s really interesting to keep building because it’s what I like to call legacy transformation. When you inherit, is it an end in itself? I think if my life was just to inherit it would be a very sad life. You can’t just one day just inherit and sit on a pile of dividends and make your life just that. It’s important to take risks, to have strong roots, strong opinions, and go for it.”

Bottles of Macán wine – Tempranillo from Rioja

“The wines I like drinking? There are times you drink excellent wines you are just not into. Sometimes they just don’t work. That’s my personal experience. Sometimes you don’t expect anything and you drink and wine and you say—’Wow! Absolutely amazing.’ I always have a hard time with people having a linear view of wines because I think it depends on how you feel, and it’s not always the company. Sometimes you taste wine, sometimes you don’t. I think there are obviously amazing wines in Bordeaux. To be very precise my very favorite is Lafite ’59. Absolute superstar. Why? Because every time you have the same experience of power. I think it’s a memorable wine. Cheval Blanc—I think it’s an exceptional wine. Many vintages are exceptional. And Burgundy? Very interesting wines. I have the extreme luxury to have a very old cellar. I really like just picking a bottle. Especially I would say hanging our in the garden in Bordeaux is the experience. Sometimes you have amazing surprises without the filter of the hype. Sometimes you say, ‘is that it?’ ”

Disciplined vineyards near the Sierra Cantabria in Rioja, Spain

Sage words.

By the way, their new Rioja wine Macán? It’s beautiful. Truly. Read more about it in my Forbes piece here.

Madame Rothschild, who received an MBA in New York, mentioned the economic concept of ‘elasticity’ and ‘inelasticity’ with regard to the price of wine. Which relates, tangentially, to a possible new app.

Basically (very basically) if the price of something increases, and that does not proportionally impact your decision to buy it—that product displays ‘inelasticity.’ Imagine you have to drink bottled water instead of tap water. If someone increases the price, you still buy about the same amount of water. Why? Because you need it to survive. ‘Economic inelasticity’ means that someone can increase a price, and that ends up also increasing their overall revenue.  (The opposite holds true for ‘elasticity.’)

Is wine an elastic or inelastic commodity? Ah, it depends. If the price of a mediocre wine doubles, are you going to drink half as much? If the price of an excellent wine halves, will you drink twice as much?

I’ll not discuss that uncertain realm of economics.

However…

If we take a few dozen wines, discern those of acceptable quality, and then compare their quality to price, we can deduce which of those wines are the best value to buy. Evaluating that is not quite so simple, because at certain points the quality of some wines is high enough that you will be willing to spend a bit more than for mediocre wines. These are points at which degrees of elasticity change.

This is considered in the Vino Value algorithm I developed, and have mentioned here before. Tomorrow I’ll have the second Skype call with an IOS software specialist interested in developing this algorithm into an interactive app that would allow users to rate their own wines alone or, in groups. (Investors are welcome.)

I’ll keep you posted.

Given a range of wines from the same region, each priced differently and having—according to your own taste—different levels of quality, this algorithm eliminates wines not worth considering and highlights three best levels of value.

This past weekend was the Portes Ouverts—’open doors’—wine tasting in the nearby Côtes de Bourg wine region of Bordeaux (which I’ve written about before here). What is news?

The new owners of Clos du Notaire, a young couple, have already sold out their entire stock. I was fortunate to taste from their final bottle and found it delicious…I am confident their future wines will equal and perhaps surpass what were already good wines coming from this château. Also, the top cuvée from Château Sirac, 2015, is a beauty worth watching.

Helpful service from Naomi at Château Puy ‘dAmour

 

Taking the motor for a spin out of Château Tayac

 

During two leisurely days I visited 14 chateaux—both alone and in a group of five. Lunch on both days at different châteaux was a pleasure … grilled duck, foie gras and glasses of hearty red blends of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec wines.

Wandering the vineyards of Château Gros Moulin

The table below rates wines for overall value, not just quality.

Finally, if you have been under the impression that Bordeaux wines are generally expensive, look at the prices.

Vino Value™ Scoring of Selected Wines – Côtes de Bourg Open Doors 2017
Winery Wine Retail Price – Euros Retail Price – US dollars equivalent Value Score
Château Sauman Secret de Sauman Rosé 2016 € 6.80 $7.41 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Puy d’Amour Rosé € 4.80 $5.23 Good Value ♫
Clos du Notaire Clos de Notaire 2012 (red) € 9.80 $10.68 Good Value ♫
Clos du Notaire L’usu Fruit 2016 (red) € 5.90 $6.43 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château La Croix-Davids Le Paradis 2014 (red) € 7.00 $7.63 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château La Croix-Davids Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2014 (red) € 9.00 $9.81 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château La Croix-Davids Louis Meneuvrier Bouteille 2014 (red) € 15.00 $16.35 Good Value ♫
Château Brûlesécaille Blanc de Brulesecaille 2015 (white) € 8.50 $9.27 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Brûlesécaille Château La Gravière 2012 (red) € 8.00 $8.72 Good Value ♫
Château Mercier Cuvée Prestige 2014 (red) € 9.95 $10.85 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Mercier Clos de Piat 2014 (red) € 12.80 $13.95 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château de Rousselet Traditionnel 2012 (red) € 4.10 $4.47 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Vieux Nodeau Tradition 2012 (red) € 12.00 $13.08 Good Value ♫
Château de la Grave Grain Fins 2015 (white) € 10.50 $11.45 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château de la Grave Classic 2015 (red) € 8.00 $8.72 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château de la Grave Nectar 2014 (red) € 15.00 $16.35 Good Value ♫
Château Gros Moulin Les Lys du Moulin 2016 (white) € 6.00 $6.54 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Gros Moulin Gros Moulin 2015 (red) € 7.30 $7.96 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Gros Moulin Per Vitem ad Vitam 2014 (red) € 14.00 $15.26 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Gros Moulin Heritage 2014 (red) € 20.00 $21.80 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Tayac Cuvée Océane 2015 (white) € 7.20 $7.85 Good Value ♫
Château Tayac Cuvée Réservée 2009 (red) € 11.50 $12.54 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Tour des Graves Tour des Graves 2014 (white) € 7.00 $7.63 Good Value ♫
Château Tour des Graves Tour des Graves Fût de Chêne (red) € 7.00 $7.63 Good Value ♫
Château Puybarbe Cuvée Le Main 2014 (red) € 5.40 $5.89 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Puybarbe Cuvée Tradition 2014 (red) € 7.00 $7.63 Good Value ♫
Château Sirac Cuvée Especial 2015 (red) € 19.00 $20.71 Excellent Value ♫♫

You may want to check out these sites…

This wine blog is run by an American friend, Alex Rychlewski, who has spent years living in Bordeaux.

This food and lifestyle site is run by a charming young lady, Marion Flipo, who leads tours in Paris.

Here are various articles, many in the New York Times, written by a freelance American writer, Sara Lieberman, who is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Paris.

 

Here are also a few wonderful, colorful, lively Instagram sites (from an international team of women I recently met in Paris) that highlight food, drinks and trips:

Elizabeth from the Shetland Islands…

Kavita Favelle of London…

Sarah from Birmingham…

Ida from Norway…

 

Revamped Food, Wine And Cocktails In Paris

May 2, 2017

First, the big news is that devastating frost severely impacted grapes across not only France, but throughout many countries in Europe. Between 50 and 100 percent of many vines were knocked out. I wrote a brief piece about this tragedy for Forbes, which is here.

Another Forbes piece regarding a strategy for visiting Paris is here.

But weather aside, a two-day trip to Paris last week highlighted how the charm of this city is inversely proportional to the amount you must drive, while directly related to how much you can walk the streets.

A real buzz of this visit was when the mayor of Paris—Anne Hidalgo—spent a morning presenting awards to 100 chefs within the city within the seriously opulent Hotel de Ville (city hall) building, the size of a city block with stain glass windows, decadent chandeliers and ornate ceiling tapestries. You are thinking Parisian chefs and French cuisine? Au contraire—not so.

The awards targeted chefs of every nationality and ethnic background, as long as their eateries (regardless the size) measured up to metrics that included affordability, use of locally sourced ingredients and (of course!) diversity in the wine list. Bistros and restaurants awarded included Les Cartes Postales, which has provided Japanese elegance in cuisine for 39 years; Yard: a British chef highlighting his produce in a New York style warehouse; Noste – where a young Basque man spit-roasts beef; Korean ‘melting pot’ cuisine at Pierre Sang; Mexican cuisine from Coretta; Tempero, a restaurant fusing French, Brazilian and Vietnamese cuisine, and Amarante—with ‘faultless French cuisine’ that includes ‘good fat—generous and rare’ (according to those who hosted the ceremony). Awards were also given to cuisine from diverse parts of France, including Brittany, Normandy, Touraine and Auvergne.

Chef Alain Ducasse spoke, saying, “We are working in historical and contemporary locations, intent on defending gastronomy.”

This was soon proved when, after the awards, we attended a buffet that included beef Bourguignon, cassoulet, creme caramel and rice pudding. Excellent food.

Coincidentally, I recently wrote a book review about the new Paris food, wine and culture scene for Forbes.

Elsewhere in Paris, at the little bistro named Le Refectoire—an excellent lunch was matched with an easy drinking, light and fruity wine: a Pic Saint Loup from Château Valflaunès in the Languedoc. This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes. Pic Saint Loup wine is produced from grapes grown around a mountain massif of the same name in the south-east of France.

At a cooking class at L’Atelier des Sens (the workshop of senses) a group of us made eclairs, with a bit less efficiency than the chef.

At the restaurant Anicia (named after the mountain of that name in the Auvergne region of France) the chef matched filet of dorado fish and parsley butter with a Loire Valley white wine from the Cheverny appellation. Beautiful

The gist of the this food and wine fest was to highlight the truth that ‘Parisian cuisine’ has altered form in the past decade. No longer are restaurants over-priced and somewhat stuffy bastions of Michelin starred exclusivity. The economic crisis shifted that paradigm, and affordable, top quality, no frill restaurants and bistros (embracing the ‘bistronomy’ movement that was first kick started by a rebellious Parisian chef 25 years ago) are legion in this ever-changing city on the Seine.

And if wine is not enough for you? There are cocktails galore…

I always suspect that the romantic Paris of the past will have vanished by the next time I visit…yet it never does. The city always reinvents itself in a way that maintains pride in how it fuses art with food, and blends live music with intimately small but comfortable locales. The new proliferation of international cuisine and affordable food in unadorned venues helps keeps the unpredictable and always surprising pulse of this city beating with gusto.

 

 

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