Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The 1955 Classification of Saint-Emilion Wines - Will They ever get it right?

The 1955 Classification of Saint-Emilion Wines

Will They ever get it right? 

D: Prior to talking about the 1955 Classification, let's clarify a few important points about the classification of the wines of Saint-Emilion in general...

It is important to know that, since 1984, there are only 2 Appellations in Saint-Emilion
  1. AOC Saint-Emilion
  2. AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
The AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru is then divided as follow 
  1. Premiers Grands Crus Classés A
  2. Premiers Grands Crus Classés B
  3. Grands Crus Classés
  4. Grands Crus

J: Wait a minute... How come there are "Grands Crus Classés" and "Grands Crus", are they not the same thing? 

D: I know it is confusing for most people, and that is why I wanted to clarify this point. 

A Saint-Emilion Grand Cru is not necessarily a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé

The request to be part of classification is at the initiative of the Chateau owners/producers. To be part of the classification, they must file an official record for each vintage and the vineyard conditions and management must respond to very specific and strict mandatory criteria fixed by the INAO.

For example, to benefit the "Saint-Emilion Grand Cru" Appellation, the estate vineyard's yield must be at 40 hl/ha and the wine ageing 12 months minimum. (If you understand and read French, you can find all the specific details of "Cahier des Charges des vins de "Saint-Emilion" here). 

As the classification ranking is reviewed every 10 years, producers must submit these official records for all the previously graded vintages. That way, new producers can submit their files to enter the classification and existing producers continue their efforts to maintain (or retain) their rank.

D: For you to have a clearer idea, I made this Saint-Emilion Classification Pyramide (a visual is often better than words)... 

Saint-Emilion Classification Pyramide © LeDomduVin 2018

N: Ah, I see, definitely clearer now... so, what about the 1955 Classification? 

The first classification of Saint-Emilion Wines... and the following ones... 

The Classification of Saint-Emilion wines is a controversial and complicated subject that has been written about countless times by journalists, wine critics and wine columnists, since its creation back in 1955. 

N: Wait.. 1955? Are you sure? I thought it was created in 1954, wasn't it? 

J: Well, I thought it was 1958... so, not sure in fact... but everybody refers to it as "The 1955 Classification" ... 

D: Well, guys, let me try to explain it to you in the most simple way and tell you what really happened to put an end to the polemics about when it was created... ok? 

N: Thanks D, it would be good to know because it is quite confusing...

D: The history of this classification began in 1954... 

It all started when the "Syndicat de Défense de l’Appellation Saint-Émilion" (Syndicate of Defense of the Saint-Émilion Appellation) requested the "Institut National des Appellations d’Origine" (INAO) to proceed to the classification of the crus of this appellation, via the decree of October 7th, 1954. 

Created in 1935 and controlled by the government under the Ministry of Agriculture, food, and forestry, the role of the INAO is to ensure the recognition and protection of official signs identifying the quality and origin of agricultural, food and forestry.

The INAO (nowadays called "The Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualité") is the French organization in charge of regulating French agricultural products and implementing French policy on official signs of identification of the origin and quality of agricultural and food products, with Protected Designations of Origin such as: 
  • AOC: Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée 
  • AOP: Appellation d'Origine Protegée (PDO: Protected Designation of Origin), 
  • IGP: Indication Géographique Protégée (PGI: Protected Geographical Indication), 
  • STG: Spécialité Traditionnelle Garantie (TSG: Traditional Specialty Guaranteed), 
  • LR: Label Rouge 
  • AB: Agriculture Biologique (organic farming)

D: So, the INAO started the classification in 1954... 

N: Ah! You see J, I was right...

J: (sigh...)

D: Well, you were both right... As it started in 1954 and was officially recognized when it was first published in 1955, but it was not homologated until 1958... 

J: Ah! You see... well, that makes us even now N...

N: (sigh...)

D: In fact, the Classification was homologated with the Order of August 7th, 1958 supplemented by the Order of October 18th, 1958 approving the classification of the wines within the "Saint-Emilion" appellation contrôlée (published in the Official Journal of August 20th, 1958 and the Official Journal of October 31, 1958)

D: the 1st Article of the Order says: 

"The classification of the wines of the Saint-Emilion appellation is approved in accordance with the provisions of the decree of October 7, 1954, as amended by the decree of 18 October 1958."

1955 Classification of Saint-Emilion Timeline by ©LeDomduVin2018

The first Classification of 1955 included the following (by Alphabetical order)

2 Premiers Grands Crus Classés A
  • Château Ausone
  • Château Cheval Blanc

10 Premiers Grands Crus Classés B
  • Château Beauséjour (Dufau)
  • Château Beauséjour (Fagouet) 
  • Château Belair 
  • Château Canon 
  • Château Figeac 
  • Château La Gaffelière-Naudes 
  • Château Magdelaine 
  • Château Pavie 
  • Château Trottevieille 
  • Clos Fourtet

63 Grands Crus Classés

Château L’Arrosée, Château L’Angélus, Château Balestard la Tonnelle, Château Bellevue, Château Bergat, Château Cadet-Bon, Château Cadet Piola, Château Canon la Gaffelière, Château Cap de Mourlin, Château Chapelle de Madeleine, Château Chauvin, Château Corbin (Giraud), Château Corbin Michotte, Château Coutet, Château Croque Michotte, Château Curé Bon, Château Fonplégade, Château Fonroque, Château Franc Mayne, Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Fiegeac, Château Grand Corbin Despagne, Château Grand Corbin Pecresse, Château Grand Mayne, Château Grand Pontet, Château Grandes Murailles, Château Guadet Saint-Julien, Château Jean Faure, Château La Carte, Château La Clotte, Château La Clusière, Château La Couspaude, Château La Dominique, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Lamarzelle, Château Larmande, Château Laroze, Château La Serre, Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud), Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Moueix), Château La Tour Figeac, Château Le Châtelet, Château Le Couvent, Château Le Prieuré, Château Mauvezin, Château Moulin du Cadet, Château Pavie-Decesse, Château Pavie-Macquin, Château Pavillon-Cadet, Château Petit Faurie de Souchard, Château Petit-Faurie-de-Soutard, Château Ripeau, Château Sansonnet, Château St-Georges-Côte-Pavie, Château Soutard, Château Tertre Daugay, Château Trimoulet, Château Trois Moulins, Château Troplong-Mondot, Château Villemaurine, Château Yon-Figeac, Clos des Jacobins, Clos La Madeleine, Clos Saint-Martin

D: And that's about it really... Is it clearer now? 

N: Yes, I better understand now, started in 1954, first published in 1955, homologated in 1958

D: that's right...

J: But this classification has been revised a few times since then, so what happened after the first classification

D: Well,... the 1954 decree stated that the INAO must revise the classification every 10 years. 

Six classifications have been established since 1954:

Saint-Emilion 6 Classifications Timeline by ©LeDomduVin2018

1955, First Classification  (refer to details above and/or check the full list of the classified Chateaux here)

1969, 2nd Classification (see the full list of the classified Chateaux here)

The 2nd Classification, homologated by the Order of November 17th, 1969, included 
  • 2 Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (Unchanged from 1955 - still Ausone and Cheval Blanc)
  • 10 Premiers Grands Crus Classés B, including the following changes
    • Promotion of Château Beauséjour (Héritier Duffau-Lagarrosse) (formerly a part of Beauséjour (Fagouet), split 50/50 in between the 2 children of Chateau Beauséjour's Owner Pierre-Paulin Ducarpe.
  • 72 Grands Crus Classés, including the following changes (compared to 1955 Classification)
    • Promotion of Château Baleau, Château Dassault, Château Faurie de Souchard, Château Haut Corbin, Château Haut Sarpe, Château Laniote, Château Matras, Château l’Oratoire, Couvent des Jacobins
    • Division of Château Cap de Mourlin in 2 estates: Château Cap de Mourlin (R) and Château Cap de Mourlin (J)
    • Division of Château Corbin in 2 estates Château Corbin (Giraud) and Château Corbin (Michotte)
    • Division of Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Moueix) with Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Bélivier)
    • Demotion of Château Petit-Faurie-de-Soutard

1986, 3rd Classification (see the full list of the classified Chateaux here)

The 3rd Classification, homologated by the Decree of May 23rd, 1986 (approving the classification of the crus of the wines of appellation contrôlée "Saint-Emilion Grand Cru" and repealing the provisions of the Decree of 17 November 1969 (Official Journal of 27 May 1986)), included

  • 2 Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (Unchanged from 1955 - still Ausone and Cheval Blanc)
  • 9 Premiers Grands Crus Classés B, including the following changes
    • Demotion of Château Beauséjour (Fagouet) renamed Château Beau-Séjour Bécot
    • Château La Gaffelière-Naudes changed the name to Château La Gaffelière 
  • 63 Grands Crus Classés, including the following changes (compared to 1969 Classification)
    • Promotion of  Château Beau-Séjour Bécot (previously named Château Beauséjour (Fagouet)
    • Promotion of Château Berliquet, Clos de L'Oratoire
    • Château Cap de Mourlin (J) and (R) changed name to Château Cap de Mourlin
    • Château Curé Bon changed name to Château Curé Bon la Madeleine
    • Château Grand Corbin Pecresse changed name to Château Grand Corbin
    • Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Bélivier) changed name to Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud-Bélivier)
    • Demotion of Château Baleau, Château Cadet-Bon, Château Chapelle de Madeleine, Château Coutet, Château Grandes Murailles, Château Jean Faure, Château l’Oratoire, Château La Carte, Château La Couspaude, Château Trois Moulins

1996, 4th Classification (see the full list of Chateaux here)

The 4th Classification, homologated by the decree of November 8th, 1996, included

  • 2 Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (Unchanged from 1955 - still Ausone and Cheval Blanc)
  • 11 Premiers Grands Crus Classés B, including the following changes
    • Promotion of Château Angélus and Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 
  • 55 Grands Crus Classés, including the following changes (compared to 1986 Classification)
    • Promotion of Château Cadet Bon, Château La Couspaude, Château Laroque, Château Les Grandes Murailles
    • Château Curé Bon la Madeleine change its name to Château Curé Bon
    • Château Lamarzelle and Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac become Château La Marzelle
    • Demotion of Château Croque Michotte, Château Grand Corbin, Château Grand Corbin Despagne, Château Le Châtelet, Château Mauvezin, Château Pavillon Cadet, Château Sansonnet, Château Trimoulet and Clos La Madeleine

2006, 5th Classification (see the full list of Chateaux here)

In September 2006, the fifth classification was announced but was challenged by producers that had been demoted from "Grand Cru Classé" to "Grand Cru" only:  Château La Tour du Pin Figeac, Château Cadet Bon, Château Guadet and Château de la Marzelle. 

Legal actions were taken to dispute the 2006 Classification and at the end, it was declared invalid. The classification of 1996 was reinstated between 2006 and 2009, and a new classification was made after that, but it took another 3 years of backs and forths (indecision, delay, dispute, disagreement, etc..) prior the Classification of 2012.   

It included:

  • 2 Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (Unchanged from 1955 - still Ausone and Cheval Blanc)
  • 13 Premiers Grands Crus Classés B, including the following changes
    • Promotion of Château Pavie-Macquin and Château Troplong-Mondot
  • 46 Grands Crus Classés, including the following changes (compared to 1996 Classification)
    • Promotion of Château Bellefont-Belcier, Château Destieux, Château Fleur-Cardinale, Château Grand Corbin, Château Grand Corbin-Despagne, Château Monbousquet
    • Demotion of Château Bellevue, Château Cadet Bon, Château Curé Bon, Château Faurie de Souchard, Château Guadet Saint-Julien, Château La Clusière, Château La Marzelle, Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud-Bélivier), Château La Tour du Pin Figeac (J.M. Moueix), Château Petit Faurie de Soutard, Château Tertre Daugay, Château Villemaurine, Château Yon Figeac

2012, the 6th and latest Classification (see the full list of Chateaux here) 

The 6th Classification took much longer than expected to be finalized due to legal wrangling. It was published on September 6, 2012, and was homologated by the order of October 29th, 2012. It resulted from a new procedure, entirely under the authority of the INAO, with the assistance of the Ministries of Agriculture and Food.

It includes: 
  • 4 Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (including 2 promotions)
    • Château Angélus (promoted in 2012)
    • Château Ausone
    • Château Cheval Blanc
    • Château Pavie (promoted in 2012)
  • 14 Premiers Grands Crus Classés B (including 5 promotions)
    • Château Beauséjour (héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse)
    • Château Beau Séjour-Bécot
    • Château Bel Air-Monange (including Château Magdelaine) (*)
    • Château Canon
    • Château Canon la Gaffelière
    • Château Figeac
    • Clos Fourtet
    • Château la Gaffelière
    • Château Larcis Ducasse (promoted in 2012)
    • La Mondotte (promoted in 2012)
    • Château Pavie Macquin (promoted in 2006 then 2012)
    • Château Troplong Mondot (promoted in 2006 then 2012)
    • Château Trottevieille
    • Château Valandraud (promoted in 2012)

(*) Classified B since the first classification of 1955, Château Magdelaine was confirmed again and classified as Grand Cru Classé B, in 2012, by the INAO. However, the estate, acquired in 1952 by Mr. Jean-Pierre Moueix (a Bordeaux Négociant and wine merchant, founder of the Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix in Libourne), was merged with Château Bel Air-Monange, the other first contiguous Grand Cru Classé B, acquired by the Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix in 2008.

  • 64 Grands Crus Classés, including the following changes (compared to 2006 Classifiaction)
    • Promotion of Château Barde-Haut, Château Bellevue, Château Cadet-Bon, Château Clos de Sarpe, Château Côte de Baleau, Château de Ferrand, Château de Pressac, Château Faugères, Château Faurie de Souchard, Château Fleur Cardinale, Château Fombrauge, Château Guadet, Château Jean Faure, Château la Commanderie, Château La Fleur Morange Mathilde, Château la Marzelle, Château le Chatelet, Château Peby Faugères, Château Petit Faurie de Soutard, Château Quinault l’Enclos, Château Rochebelle, Château Sansonnet, Château Tertre Daugay, Château Villemaurine, Château Yon-Figeac, Clos la Madeleine
    • Demotion of Château Bergat, Château Cadet Piola, Château Corbin Michotte, Château Haut Corbin, Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Matras, 
    • Unchanged: Château Balestard la Tonnelle, Château Bellefont Belcier, Château Berliquet, Château Cap de Mourlin, Château Chauvin, Château Corbin, Château Dassault, Château Destieux, Château Fonplégade, Château Fonroque, Château Franc Mayne, Château Grand Corbin, Château Grand Corbin Despagne, Château Grand Mayne, Château Grand-Pontet, Château Haut-Sarpe, Château l’Arrosée, Château la Clotte, Château la Couspaude, Château la Dominique, Château la Serre, Château la Tour Figeac, Château Laniote, Château Larmande, Château Laroque, Château Laroze , Château Le Prieuré, Château les Grandes Murailles, Château Monbousquet, Château Moulin du Cadet, Château Pavie Decesse, Château Ripeau, Château Saint-Georges-Cote-Pavie, Château Soutard, Clos de l’Oratoire, Clos des Jacobins, Clos Saint-Martin, and Couvent des Jacobins

That's all folks! for today... I hope you enjoyed this post and I also hope the Saint-Emilion classifications feel clearer now (at least for some of you).... and if you enjoyed reading it, then stay tuned for posts like this one in the near future. 

Cheers! Santé!

Dominique Noël a.k.a. LeDomduVin 

Most info taken or partly taken from "Les Vins de Saint-Emilion" website at https://en.vins-saint-emilion.com/   and thank you to Mr. Franck Binard, General Director of "Les Vins de Saint-Emilion", for his cooperation (he will understand what I mean). 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Fake and counterfeit wines - Investigation series: Chateau L’Angélus 1970 and the "L' " of Angélus

Fake and counterfeit wines - Investigation series: Chateau L'Angélus 1970 and the "L" of Angélus 

Today, I would like to talk to you about fake Chateau L’Angélus and the "L' " of Angélus. This post was inspired by a post on Facebook posted by Fabien Pizzinat (*) on the Facebook page/group called "Wine Business", Saturday, September 2nd, 2018. 

Fabien Pizzinat posted the following picture...

Fabien Pizzinat picture of a rather peculiar Chateau l'Angélus 1970 
bottled by negociant Philippe Serrande & Co. 

.... then wrote the following below the picture: 

"Bonjour! J'ai récupéré des bouteilles de Chateau L’Angélus 1970 mise négoce Philippe Serrande. Quelqu'un connait-il ce négociant? Merci pour votre aide. Fabien" 

which literally can be translated by 

"Hello! I just got some bottles of Chateau L'Angélus 1970 bottled by a négociant called Philippe Serrande. Does anyone know this négociant? Thanks for your help. Fabien".

As you can see on this picture from Fabien's post, this is a rather peculiar label for Chateau L'Angélus 1970 (personally, it is the first time in my 27 years career in the wine business and trade, that I see such a label of Angélus). Yet, it is different as it is supposed to be a Négociant label.

For those of you who may not know what it is, a Négociant Label is a label that has not been designed, chosen and labeled by or at the property, but by the Négociant. In short, for the last 400 years, Négociants (French, English, Dutch, Belgian, Swiss, Irish, etc...) used to buy barrels directly at the property, then shipped the barrels to their warehouse (either in France or in their own respective country) to age, bottle and label the wines, prior selling them, often under their own label, rather than the Chateau label (if any).  

However, getting back to Fabien's post, the various comments to his posts were very interesting and some very pertinent, yet it seems that nobody had a clear answer. 

Fabien Pizzinat even said that he wrote to Chateau Angélus and received the following answer from Jean-Bernard Grenié, the cousin of Hubert de Boüard de Laforest (Angélus owner), who joined the company business in 1987, and knows Chateau Angélus as well as Hubert, saying: 

"Il s’agit d’une mise négoce. Je suis extrêmement surpris de ce millésime, car normalement à Saint Emilion la mise en bouteille au château est obligatoire depuis 1970. Je n’ai jamais entendu parlé de ce négociant. Donc prudence, nous n’avons aucune certitude sur ce qu’il y a dans la bouteille. En tous cas, ce vin n’a certainement rien à voir avec un Angélus d’aujourd’hui." - Jean-Bernard Grenié

which can be translated by 

"This has been bottled by a négociant. I am extremely surprised of this vintage, because normally in Saint-Emilion the bottling at the Chateau is mandatory since 1970. I have never heard of this merchant. So be careful, we have no certainty about what's in the bottle. In any case, this wine certainly has nothing to do with an Angélus of today." -Jean-Bernard Grenié 

My first reaction was that if Jean-Bernard Grenié says that he is surprised (as in the 70s Bordeaux Angélus wines were bottled at the Chateau) and that he never heard about this wine merchant, then what else to add? These are probably fake bottles and the case is closed. 

Yet, (and you know me by now), as a Wine Quality Control Director responsible for the wine inspection and authentication for the company I work for, I could not resist but to do my little investigation. 

After all, this is part of what I do for a living and I'm curious by nature, so why not? Moreover, when in doubt, I need to find answers (and this post will complement the other posts that I already wrote on fake and counterfeit wines and bottles that you can read here and here and here, etc...).

Time to investigate © LeDomduVin 2018

Time to investigate again.... and determine if these are fake or counterfeit bottles or if there is a slight chance that they might be real...

A. The Label

So, let's have a closer look at this rather strange looking label above and let's compare it to the original label of Chateau L'Angélus 1970 below.

Chateau L’Angélus 1970 Original Label © LeDomduVin 2018

As you can see there is a huge difference between the 2 labels (yet, as it supposed to be a Négociant label, anything is possible.... but if it is, then this particular Négociant really did a sloppy job on his own label) 

Let's enumerate all these differences: 

1. The label design is totally different from the original Chateau L’Angélus label. 

2. The color is white instead of the regular yellow

3. The color of the letters is mono-color while the letters of the words on the original label are written with multiple colors

4. The font of the letters is also drastically different

5. The "L' " is not in majuscule, like on the original label, but in minuscule (a detail of a certain importance... omitted by the Négociant)

6. The drawing looks like a village port with some boats... Could it be the "Quai des Chartrons" in Bordeaux? ...the pier along the Garonne river where Irish, English and Dutch wine merchants and négociants established their offices and warehouses as early as over four centuries ago... it does look like it, doesn't it? 

Drawing - Details of Fabien Pizzinat's picture of the rather peculiar bottles
of Chateau l'Angelus he just acquired (1/2) 

.....while on the original label the drawing represents respectively the arches of the collegiate cloister of Saint-Emilion..... (easily recognizable by its arches and double pillars like in the picture below)

Collegiate cloister of Saint-Emilion © LeDomduVin 2013

...and the bell tower ("Le Clocher" in French) of Saint-Emilion's church further in the background 

Saint-Emilion Church's Bell Tower (Le Clocher) © LeDomduVin 2013

7. The logo with a chateau above a river surmounted by a "wolf" (?) or a "lion" (?) and a crown above it has nothing to do with Chateau L’Angélus (yet, once again, it could just be a design by the Negociant for its own label).   

Logo - Details of Fabien Pizzinat's picture of the rather peculiar bottles
of Chateau l'Angelus he just acquired (2/2) 

... even this old picture of Chateau L'Angélus dating from the 1930s (below), courtesy of Wikipedia, shows that the logo of Chateau L'Angélus has always been a carillon bell... not some kind of "wolf" or "lion" atop of a Chateau with some kind of shape in the middle that could represent a bell.... (it does look like a wolf, doesn't it?) (so, even if it is a Négociant label, why designing a label so far from the original?...)

Old picture of Chateau L'Angélus dating from the 1930s, courtesy of Wikipedia

8. The Appellation is "Saint-Emilion", which is fine, yet, the "Grand Cru" classification is not mentioned on this Negociant's label, which is really surprising knowing the Chateau L'Angélus was classified as "Grand Cru" in the classification of the wines of Saint-Emilion in 1955 (*), and therefore, even if it is a supposedly Négociant label (which I have a really hard time to believe it is), it should mention "Grand Cru", but it does not.....  (...a major detail omitted by mistake by the Negociant? again?)

(*) Read more about the 1955 Classification of the wines of Saint-Emilion here

9. The name of the owner, which appear on the original label (pride of the "de Boüard de Laforest" family, owner of this land and Chateau for the past 8 generations since 1782) does not appear on the label. Ok, I admit that it usually does not necessarily appear on Negociant's labels (as you will realize when looking at some of the Negociant's label examples below). Yet, I find it weird, because even if it was bottled by a négociant, it happened, (and more specifically in this kind of case scenario, with such an illustrious and renown family name in Saint-Emilion), that, sometimes, the name of the owner appeared on the labels of the bottles bottled by Négociants (of course, it depends on the agreement between the Chateaux owner and the Négociant, but for Angélus and the "de Boüard de Laforest" family, I doubt they will have authorized a Négociant label not mentioning their name... but maybe, who knows...?)

You see, as previously mentioned, prior to 1967 (when bottling at the chateau became officially mandatory in Bordeaux), some négociants / wine merchants were still buying barrels from the Chateaux, aging the wines and bottling and labeling themselves in Bordeaux (or even elsewhere like UK, Belgium, Holland, etc...), and we can distinguish 2 types of Négociant's label.

1. The additional label: 

Some Négociants kept the original label and added their name either on an additional label or directly on the label. Here are 2 examples of an additional label below the main label.

Like this label of Chateau Latour 1945 aged and bottled by Louis Eschenauer (Bordeaux) a Negociant house established in 1821.

Chateau Latour 1945 aged and bottled by Louis Eschenauer (Bordeaux) © LeDomduVin 2016

Or like for this Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1947 with the additional label of "Sichel & Co." a family owned Bordeaux Négociant house established in 1883, and still in activity after six generations of the Sichel family succeeding to one another at the company’s helm.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1947
with the additional label of "Sichel & Co." © LeDomduVin2018

2. The Négociant own label

Some Négociants designed their own label, some drastically different than the original (as it is supposedly the case for this Angelus 1970) and the name of the owner or other details from the original label did not necessarily appear on the Negociant's label (which could be the case for this specific label of Angelus 1970, you never know...).

Here are 3 examples of Negociant's Label:

This label of Chateau L'Angelus 1966 aged and bottled by Maison A. de Luze & Fils, a Bordeaux based Negociant house, founded by Baron Alfred de Luze in 1820, specializing in the maturing of great Bordeaux wines.

Chateau L'Angelus 1966 aged and bottled by A. de Luze (Bordeaux)

Or this label of Chateau Pedesclaux 1957 aged and bottled by Grafé Lecocq (Belgium), a Belgium Négociant house established in 1879 by Henri Grafé and his wife Léontine Lecocq, specialized in aging themselves wines bought in bulk from French estate in Bordeaux (predominantly) but also from other regions.

Chateau Pedesclaux 1967 aged and bottled by Grafé Lecocq (Namur, Belgium) © LeDomduVin 2018

Or even this rare label of Chateau Petrus 1947 aged and bottled by J. Vandermeulen-Decanniere (Ostende, Belgium), a house that was really active for roughly about 60 years between the late 1890s to 1955, and specialized in buying barrels directly at the property, having access to the barrel cellars of some of the best Bordeaux-Châteaux and Burgundy domains, then shipping these barrels to Ostende to let the wines mature in their warehouse, sometimes for even longer than they will have been aged at the Chateaux (3-5 years), prior bottling and labeling the wines with their own labels.

Chateau Petrus 1947 aged and bottled by J. Vandermeulen-Decanniere (Ostende, Belgium) © LeDomduVin 2018

So, as you can see from these examples above, we could say that Fabien Pizzinat's bottles might be real after all, as the labels on his bottles could simply be the real labels from a Négociant called Philippe Serrande & Cie.

Yet, looking at this 1970 Angélus label again, it seems to me that they are too many awkward details to believe that these bottles are real. And if they are, the negociant who bottled and labeled them, supposedly called "Philippe Serrande & Cie." really did a poor job with this label. The work of an amateur I should say with no respect for the brand or the name of the owner (if this label is real that is).     

Historically speaking, although, bottling at the Chateau was pioneered by some highly regarded producers and Chateaux owners as early as the 1920s, (like Baron Philippe de Rothschild who decided in 1924 that all the wines of Chateau Mouton Rothschild should be bottled and labeled at the chateau and asked asks Jean Carlu to design the label for this specific vintage)...

Château Mouton Rothschild 1924 - Jean Carlu label © LeDomduVin 2018

...it only became mandatory for Bordeaux Chateaux to bottle their wine at the Chateau in 1967. Yet, it is interesting to know, as a fact, that up until the mid-70s (and even late 70s, early 80s), many Chateaux in Bordeaux did not have the mean, the will, the place or the space to do the bottling, corking, and labeling at the Chateau (even nowadays some Chateaux and small producers still don't). 

Most of them were (and some still are) doing it by hand, one bottle after another, filling up the bottles and corking each bottle with a wine bottle corker machine (more modern this day than the one below, fortunately for them) (my grandfather used one exactly the same as the one in this picture).

French Antique Wine Corker "La Meilleur",
Paris, early 20th century - photo courtesy of www.1stdibs.com 

Hand bottling and labeling were both time-consuming and tedious, and not all Chateaux could afford to have a bottling belt at the Chateau or the space to put it. Therefore, when not doing it by hand, they hired companies which own bottling belt mounted on the trailer of a truck, passing by, Chateau after Chateau, to bottle and/or cork (and even sometimes label) the bottles.

Bottling Belt © LeDomduVin 2013

Anyhow, let's go back to these Angélus 1970 labels..... now that we closely looked at all these details, the question remains: 

Could these bottles of Angélus 1970 be real or not?  

As the label could be a Négociant's label, it is very possible that they could be real, and I will give them the benefice of the doubt for lack of info and data on this particular Négociant, but deep inside,  I'm still very suspicious looking at these labels again...)

B. The Négociant

So, to further investigate, let's see what we can find about this so-called Négociant "Philippe Serrande & Cie". 

When googling "Philippe Serrande" nothing really interesting comes up except a Fine Jeweller in Canada. 

When googling "Philippe Serrande Wine" Vivino shows 2 results here, and for "Philippe Serrande & Cie", or even "Philippe Serrande & Cie wine" the pictures are more interesting showing various examples of well-known Bordeaux wines in old vintages ranging from the 50s to the 80s. 

Diverse Philippe Serrande & Cie Labels found on Google  - Collage by LeDomduVin 2016

So, it seems that Philippe Serrande & Cie. might have really existed and even was a Bordeaux based Négociant after all... yet, (as far as I could search and after asking the question to a few people), no historical data or any other info can be found on this Negociant House... 

And strangely enough, the first few websites offering these wines by Philippe Serrande & Cie are Chinese online auctions (like "ARTFOX" here and "en.51BidLive" here).... literally nothing in France... there is also an auction house called "DognyAuction" here (apparently, in Switzerland.... never heard of it in my life)

I'm cautious and suspicious by nature when it comes to wine... but that's normal for a Wine Quality Control Director like me..... so I looked a bit closer at some of these labels found on the internet, more especially this following one.... look at it closely.... (found on and courtesy of the Dogny Auction website)

Chateau l'Angélus 1964 - photo courtesy of www.dognyauction.ch

Now that's very interesting because, although it is "Chateau l'Angélus" at Pomerol, (the counterpart of the one at Saint-Emilion), this label is also very different from the original label of  Chateau l'Angélus Pomerol 1964 below (courtesy of www.cellartracker.com)... and strangely enough (or...but of course!!! should I say...) it is part of the wines labeled and shipped in bulk by ("expédié en cercles par..." ) Philippe Serrande & Cie.

"Expédié en cercles" is an old French expression which literally means "sent/shipped in bulk/in barrels" (still used by some people in the wine trade, like in Switzerland for example).

"En cercles" literally meaning "within circles" referring to the metallic rings of the barrels (maintaining the staves).

Isn't it strange? Or is it just me....

Chateau l'Angélus 1964 - photo courtesy of www.cellartracker.com 

I mean, look at both labels closely, they have nothing to do with one another.. because it is a Negociant's label I hear you say... well, maybe...  (Chateau l'Angelus at Pomerol is also a strange story... but this could be the subject of another post in the near future maybe....)

However, my point is that it seems that all the labels of the wines bottled, labeled and/or wine shipped in bulk ("Expédié en cercles") by Philippe Serrande & Cie are totally different from the original labels. And therefore, it is really difficult for me to define whether these rather peculiar labels are real or not, without more info on this Négociant (like at which period he used to exist and was in business?). 

But it still seems fishy to me, because it seems that all these wines are mainly sold via and/or through auction houses and that the only vintages that can be found are all between the 1950s and the 80s, meaning that they would be very easy to fake and counterfeit knowing all the uncertainty surrounding this rather unknown Négociant. Moreover, it makes these labels suspicious and therefore particularly prone to falsification.   

C. Conclusion

I will stop my investigation here for time constraint reasons and more especially for lack of information and historical facts about this Négociant and the type of business he was conducting and when. 

All I can say is that back in 1970, Chateau L'Angélus at Saint-Emilion produced, bottled and labeled all of its wines with the renown and easily recognizable yellow label that everybody knows. 

Whether some wines of Chateau L'Angelus were sold in bulk/barrels to this specific Négociant back in the 70s and whether he made is own specific label is not necessarily verifiable either, as even Jean-Bernard Grenié, the cousin of Hubert de Boüard de Laforest (Angélus owner), who joined the company business in 1987, and knows Chateau Angélus as well as Hubert, said that he never heard of this Négociant (and although he is in a good position to know these types of details, it does not mean that it did not happen....but it is still weird that Jean-Bernard does not know Philippe Serrande & Cie, at least by name....).  

Still, my guts are telling me that there is something fishy with these labels for all the reasons cited above... 

So, either, Philippe Serrande & Cie. is the spawn of a vile crook creating fake bottles to be sold by small batches and/or lots in unknown online Auction Houses in Switzerland and China (let's say, Asia,)... or he really existed, but did a sloppy job for the labels he created for all of the illustrious wines he was reselling with no regards nor respect for the reputation of the Chateaux and their respective owners.          

The market is still flooded with fakes and counterfeits bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, and it is up to the responsibility of people like me, dealing daily with wine inspection and authentication, to expose and denounce them, try to investigate to uncover the culprit if possible and if not, to at least point the finger at the imitations and free the markets from this abominations. 

The fight against fake and counterfeits wines continues.....

FYI: for those of you who might still wonder what is the difference between a fake and a counterfeit bottle of wine:

  • Fake wine bottle/label = a wine and/or a label that is not genuine; a forgery or sham, created to look alike or have similarities with other known wines from the same regions to deceive people into a scam (like the example above, which is potentially a fake wine, and more especially these 2 examples below wich are totally fake - seen in China)

Fake DRC Romanee Conti White 

DRC label imitation Chateau Lacaunette  Le Prince du Roi - Fake wine © LeDomduVin 2016

Pacurs instead of Petrus - Fake Wine

  • Counterfeit wine bottle/label = made as an exact imitation of a valuable bottle of wine with the intention to deceive or defraud someone (like the bottles and labels of Rudy Kurniawan below for example)

Rudy Kurniawan fake labels

Ah, and before I forget.... for the "L" of Chateau L'Angélus, it has always been on the label in majuscule (and not in minuscule like on this label of 1970 from Philippe Serrande) and has been removed back in 1990, as per Hubert de Boüard de Laforest (Angélus owner), to appear first on the alphabetical order listing of wines (wine reviews, wine critics, magazines, wine guides, wine tasting lists, etc....), purely by marketing strategy in fact, and it works...  

Once again, if anyone has any info or data on this Négociant, please send them to me. Until then, I will remain convinced that there is something fishy about these bottles... and seeing them mostly being available and/or sold on rather unknown auctions online does not make me feel that they are genuine either.... but you never know... prove me wrong if you can...

That's all folks for today... 

Hope you enjoyed this post... and if yes, stay tuned for more wine posts like this one (about real wine too sometimes :-)

If you are interested to read more about fake and counterfeit bottles, you can read previous posts I wrote on that subject here and here and hereetc...).

Cheers! Santé!

Dominique Noel a.k.a LeDomduVin 

(*) Fabien Pizzinat seems to work in close relation with a wine boutique store located in Switzerland, called "Yourwine Grands Vins et Vieux Millésimes"

Friday, August 31, 2018

A Sommelier Dream | A 1945 Vintage Horizontal

I first wrote this post 2 years ago, on July 3rd, 2016, shortly after the dinner where I opened, tasted, prepared, decanted, and tasted again (to make sure...), then served this horizontal of 1945 vintage. I wrote it in French at the time to trigger the interest of my fellow French-speaking wine lovers, while normally I write in English (not necessarily uncommon for a French-American guy like me, read the article in French here)

Yet, in front of the success of this post in French, I decided to re-visit and re-write it in English as my blog's audience, outside of France, basically encompasses the rest of the world (lots of readers in the US and across Europe and even Russia, and Asia too since I moved to Hong Kong). Basically, a very eclectic range of readers from all horizons, who, therefore, might better understand the English version of it (even if the translation is enabled on my blog).

A huge "Thank you" to all of you for your continued support and comments, much appreciated.

So without further delay, here it is, in English this time...

A Sommelier Dream | A 1945 Vintage Horizontal

1945 Vintage Horizontal | © LeDomduVin 2016 

For a Sommelier like me, opening such beautiful and rare bottles is a passion and a privilege. Spending some time with these ladies of a certain age is humbling and fills me with joy and happiness and pride. These historical bottles, legendary should I say, are rare gems you need to know how to pamper, preserve, admire and love.

2018 marks my 27th year working daily with high-end wines (and spirits) from all around the world and officially marks my 21st year as a certified Sommelier working in positions of head of purchasing and wine buyer in most places I worked for. And 21 years out of France.

I first worked for 6 years in Relais & Chateaux, top restaurants, trendy bars, and private catering, in various towns in France, including Bordeaux, Orleans, Bourges, Strasbourg and even a brief experience in Paris (1991-1997). 

Then I crossed the Channel and moved to London (UK), where I worked for 5 years in top restaurants, private Club, and private Casino, and also met my American girlfriend (1997-2002). 

Pushed by the desire to see new horizons and to concretize an old kid's dream, as well as following my girlfriend who was relocating to Manhattan, I crossed the Atlantic ocean this time and moved to New York, where I worked for 9 years as Wine Director, Wine Buyer and Store Manager for 2 prominent wine boutique stores (2002-2011). During that time I managed to get married to that same American girl I started dating in London a few years back and followed to NYC. 

After 9 years in the Big Apple, and although I loved New York and was really sad to leave, the taste for new adventures and opportunities caught me again. We (my wife and our 2 kids) decided to see the other side of the planet and moved to Hong Kong, where we are still currently living and working (2011 to present).

LeDomduVin around the world - Map courtesy of Google Map

During all these years, I had the chance to work for very rich people with very good taste and more especially a lot of money in the bank to be able to buy the best wines in the world, including some legendary bottles going back to the early 1800s. 

These rare and old gems were memories of the past, bought for investment or to be consumed or to be put aside to wait until perfectly aged and mature in order to fully capture all their complexities. They required to rest in ideal conditions, and they needed a seasoned and skilled Sommelier like me to provide all the care and attention these old ladies needed. And in 27 years, God only knows the number of these "vestiges" I had the pleasure and the privilege to open, taste, prepare, decant and serve.

As I never (or obviously "very rarely", should I say) opened such rare and expensive bottles for my personal consumption, having the chance to taste and prepare them was already a great treat and an opportunity to increase my knowledge as well as strengthen my skills and refined my palate.

Yet, in my 27 years career, I must admit that I never opened so many great, old and rare bottles prior working as the Wine Quality Control Director and personal Sommelier of the Chairman for the company I currently work for. The Chairman has one of the greatest collection of high end old and rare Bordeaux and Burgundy wines I have ever seen in my entire life.

And these bottles and I never get separated, I'm always there for them (😉). 

During the day, aside of the administrative part and other things I do (like Market Analysis, Stock Valuation, Wine Inspection and Authentication, writing the SOP-Standard Operating Procedures, etc...), an important part of my job is to take care of these bottles in the various cellars of the company's restaurants as well as the warehouses where we store them. Basically, I'm responsible for the stock and everything regarding the cellars and warehouses'  
  • Conditions (Temperature and Humidity level, Ventilation, Airflow, etc..), 
  • Environments (make sure the cellars and warehouses are clean and clear of anything that could damage the wines, like humidity problems generating mold or bad smell, etc...) 
  • Security (CCTV monitoring, fingerprints access doors, magnetic or electronic door locks, etc...) 
  • IN/OUT movements, inventory, stocktaking, etc...
  • Inspection of goods receiving and goods leaving the warehouse

These allow me to constantly be with these bottles, provide them with cares if needed and monitor their evolution and ageing. 

At night, I put on my black Sommelier outfit © LeDomduVin 2018

At night, like a Wine Justiciary, I put on my black Sommelier outfit when the Chairman requests my presence for the service and once again to open, taste, prepare, decant and serve these rare gems for his dinners. 

Although it happens that I serve wines for the Chairman as a Sommelier in one of the company's restaurants (Le Pan, Dynasty Garden or even Matsunichi), funnily enough, the Chairman usually requires my services to open, taste, prepare, decant and serve his wines (and food sometimes) at his private dinners (with both business partners and/or friends) either

  • when he invites very important Chinese and Hongkongese guests, as he knows I do not speak and barely understand Cantonese and even less Mandarin, so he is sure that I will not repeat a thing of what has been said around the table (😊). 
  • or, when he invites friends and/or very important foreigner guests (French, English, Europeans, Americans, Australians, etc..), as it is important for him to show them his "savoir-vivre" and "service quality" provided by a classically trained French-American Sommelier born in Bordeaux (moreover grandson of a winemaker from Bordeaux) as a Maitre D' and Sommelier to do the service for the night.

On June 21st, 2016, during one of these private dinners where I had (once again) to put on my Sommelier outfit for my boss, I had the chance to open, taste, prepare, decant and serve wines from 1957, 61, 62, 70, 82 and 89 ... it was truly memorable .... (read the post about this dinner here)...

However, despite how "Grand" these wines were on the 21st, they were definitely at a lower level compared to the wines I opened, tasted, prepared, decanted and served at another one of my boss' private dinners a few days later, on June 26th, 2016.

This particular dinner of June 26th was one of these singular magical experiences that only happens so rarely, if ever... It was a wine dinner that all Sommeliers would dream of doing at least once in their lives ...

I must admit that for the past 6 years working for the Chairman, I have only opened extraordinary wines, like an anthology of classic, rare and old Bordeaux and Burgundy wines... And clearly, I must be one of the luckiest Sommeliers in the world to take care of and have access to such historic bottles...

However, that dinner of June 26th, 2016, it was even more special than usual... It was Mythical...
I opened a horizontal of 4 of the top Bordeaux wines from the 1945 vintage ... and although I opened many 1945 vintage wines in my career, it was mostly 1 bottle at the time... this time was quite exceptional as in front of me stood 4 bottles of 1945... a horizontal line up of highly sought-after legendary wines as I rarely had the chance to see or had the opportunity to prepare and serve ever before side by side... It was amazing

The dinner took place in a private apartment overlooking Hong Kong ...   I let you enjoy the view.

Hong Kong view from mid-levels | © LeDomduVin 2016

So, here I was, in a high-standing apartment overlooking the skyscrapers of the ever crowded and busy city of Hong Kong, and about to open and serve 7 extraordinary bottles including 4 mythical wines in the 1945 vintage and one (not less mythical) in the vintage 1966.

  • Domaine de La Romanée Conti Montrachet 2004, Côte de Beaune, Burgundy 
  • Domaine de La Romanée Conti Romanée Conti 1966, Côte de Nuits, Burgundy 
  • Haut Brion 1945, Pauillac, Bordeaux 
  • Petrus 1945, Pomerol, Bordeaux 
  • Mouton Rothschild 1945, Pauillac, Bordeaux 
  • Latour 1945, Pauillac, Bordeaux 
  • Egon Muller-Scharzhof Scharzhofberber Auslese GK 2003, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany 

I could not keep my eyes away from these bottles, like mesmerized and fascinated at the same time. It was like a mirage in the desert, when you've got the impression of seeing something that in fact is not there... except that these bottles, these old ladies as I like to call them, were real and right in front of me. They were eye-candy for the child in me and precious darlings for the wine lover that I'm. I had to be smooth.

I slowly lifted their capsules... then gently and methodically inserted my Durand in their cork until I heard a faint, lascivious sigh, barely perceptible each time the blade of my Durand deepened inside... accompanied by a relief of pleasure to each of the cork that I removed by gentle and experienced back and forth ... they did not wait very long ... the desire being stronger than to restrain themselves ... they gave themselves up to the last drop ... at the end... my hand on their shoulders ... I stroked their curves ... intoxicated one last time by the volute of their perfumes ... while caressing their labels ... tonight my story with these ladies was troubled and troubling ... (with some sediments)... We went astray in our antics... Time had stopped... It was a night to remember... A Sommelier night...

"Woman in bottle" by © LeDomduVin 2018
A metaphor that came to my mind to illustrate the bottle opening paragraph I wrote above

WOW, that was a nice metaphorical way to describe the opening of these glamorous bottles... Are you still with me? As personally, for a moment, just the time to read the above paragraph, I was lost in my thoughts and far away, deep in my imagination, reading these "metaphors" I just wrote on my desktop... if you know what I mean... Did it happen to you too when you read those lines? 

Actually, my thoughts turned into that drawing, that I did on the spot while writing these rather intimate lines, and titled it "Woman in Bottle" to illustrate the metaphors of the paragraph above, as I think that reading this metaphorically written paragraph made me see and materialize Women in those bottles... (I'm sure you did too...)

Sometimes it is good to let your imagination take over... (😉)

Difficult to translate word for word, so here is the original French version I wrote 2 years ago and which I also find very expressive and metaphorical. 

"Et bien voilà... je l'avoue... j'ai encore passé une grande partie de la soirée avec de très grandes dames d'un certain âge... quel régal... mûres, distinguées, charmeuses, discrètes, exubérantes ou excentriques... ces vierges ne demandaient qu'à s'ouvrir après tant d'années de solitude... je leur soulevais la capsule... insérais délicatement et méthodiquement mon Durand jusqu'à entendre un léger soupir lascif à peine audible à chaque traversée... accompagné d'un soulagement à chacun des bouchons que je retirais tout en douceur par de légers à-coups et va-et-vient expérimentés ... elles ne se sont pas faites attendre très longtemps... le désir étant plus fort que de se restreindre... elles se livrèrent jusqu'à la dernière goutte... sur la fin.. ma main sur leurs épaules... je caressais leurs flancs... m'enivrais une dernière fois des volutes de leurs parfums... tout en leur caressant l'étiquette... ce soir mon histoire avec ses dames fut troublée et troublante... (avec quelques sédiments)... nous nous sommes égarés dans nos ébats... le temps s'était arrêté... It was a night to remember... A Sommelier night...." - © LeDomduVin 2016

Look at them, aren't they beautiful? What a line up!!!

The 7 bottles of the dinner | © LeDomduVin 2016 

Well, I must confess... I spent much of the evening with these classy ladies of a certain age ... and what a treat!!! ... mature, distinguished, charming, discreet, exuberant or eccentric ... these old and rare "virgins" only wanted some tenderness, love, and care... and to be opened after so many years of loneliness... So, I oblige them... What else could I do facing such an irresistible situation?... And let me tell you, it was an absolute blissful moment.... to say the least...

As mentioned above, the wines present at that dinner were not limited to the four 1945 horizontal, the other 3 wines were also prestigious and showed really well. 

Here they are in the order of service.  

DRC Montrachet 2004 | © LeDomduVin 2016

DRC Montrachet 2004

Young, too young maybe, yet generous, balanced, and structured, with high acidity, and notes of yellow fruits, apple, and citrus, lightly toasted, buttery, with mineral nuances on the nose and in the mouth. A coated palate, silky, round, long and rich on the finish ... sweet and tender. Superb!

(DN-LDDV | 26.06.2016 | Average Retail Price 7,390 USD | 58,000 HKD | 6,300 Euros)

DRC Romanee Conti 1966 | © LeDomduVin 2016

DRC Romanée Conti 1966

Wow !!! What a surprise. I was tasting this wine for the first time in my life. It was incredibly fresh and young, with a lot of cherries and other red berries freshly crushed aromas and flavors, really beautiful acidity, still a very nice balance, textured and structured finish, still quite complex and dynamic, beautiful freshness. An elegant wine, complex and full of charm. Thrilling.  

(DN-LDDV | 26.06.2016 | Average Retail Price 15,670 USD | 123,500 HKD | 13,450 Euros) 

Haut-Brion 1945 | © LeDomduVin 2016

Haut-Brion 1945

I thought that served right after the DRC RC, the contrast would be too big, but I was wrong. This Haut Brion 45 was a delicious wine on the cool and bright side, really fresh and lively. The nose had the same characteristics for which it is known: the earth, the smokey and gamey flavors mingling with nuances of undergrowth, spicy wood, figs, and mushrooms. The nose was so enticing that I could have stayed a very long time smelling and discerning all of its nuances (bad habit between me and Haut Brion). Surprisingly, the palate was still lively, full of red cherries and berries, as always with this peculiar yet attractive smoky touch mingled with earthy notes, again. What an incredible wine! Undoubtedly, the acidity is the secret key behind its young attitude. The finish is quite long and seductive. I loved it, even if a little light (but there is no harm here, as Haut Brion is my favorite wine). 

(DN-LDDV | 26.06.2016 | Average Retail Price 4,520 USD |  35,500 HKD | 3,875 Euros)

Petrus 1945 | © LeDomduVin 2016

Petrus 1945

Although I have tasted some really inconsistent bottles and tasted a lot of bottle variations and seen really well-crafted imitations of this illustrious wine in my career, Petrus remains one of my favorite wines and a unique experience each time I open a bottle. Moreover and fortunately for me, Petrus is also one of the most common wines found at my boss' dinners, so I get to open some quite frequently.

However, this bottle of Petrus 1945 was amazing ... rich, detailed, complete and complex, harmonious, textured, structured, balanced and developing in complexity over time during the dinner on the nose and on the palate ... What a fantastic wine, rich and lengthy. Still full of promises for a few more years to come. Both the nose and the palate were incredibly appealing and sexy. Surely the best of the selection of tonight's dinner.

(DN-LDDV | 26.06.2016 | Average Retail Price 11,650 USD |  91,460 HKD | 9,990 Euros)

Mouton Rothschild 1945 | © LeDomduVin 2016

Mouton Rothschild 1945

I've opened and tasted this wine in this particular vintage countless times in my career, and I've always been a big fan, despite a few bottle variations from time to time, maybe due to provenance and previous storage conditions. However, being served after the Petrus did not do it any favors as it was a little less complex and powerful than the king of the right bank, and therefore seemed overshadowed by Petrus. Nevertheless, it was also memorable. A pure expression of its Médocain roots and terroir, showing some "traits" of its age with aromas of spices, wood, undergrowth, mushrooms and game well marked on the nose and on the palate. Yet, it was not at its peak and was still full of life. Amazingly pleasing.

(DN-LDDV | 26.06.2016 | Average Retail Price 15,250 USD | 122,000 HKD | 13,100 Euros)

Latour 1945 | © LeDomduVin 2016

Latour 1945

I was expecting so much better from Latour 45 ... and was a little disappointed ... The level in the bottle was a bit low ... at low to bottom shoulder. The cork was not showing well, completely soaked, friable, fragile and crumbling when pressing the blades of the Durand. Those are usually signs that the wine may have suffered previously, maybe due to bad storage conditions prior we bought it. The cork was also covered with an earthy substance that turned out to be residues of wine sediments, that had infiltrated between the glass of the neck and the sides of the cork, here again probably due to previous bad storage condition in my opinion. On the nose, it seemed to me that the wine had reached its peak and suffered from a slight oxidation. Very dull and cloudy color due to a lot of thick sediments at the bottom of the bottle, which looked like mud. 

However, and despite the bad cork and the heavy sedimentation, the wine had not disappeared completely, meaning it wasn't gone. It even managed to surprise us after nearly 3 hours of opening. Finally, it opened out later. It was on the weak side but somehow still fighting to provide an interesting taste, yet still far from the quality we were expecting. But I do not want to blame the wine for it, as I still believe that this particular bottle had suffered. In fact, it had nothing to do with other bottles of Latour 1945 I previously opened and tasted on other occasions. Latour wines are solid wines that age very well; unfortunately, we are never safe from a bad bottle that has not aged properly or that has not been able to evolve correctly due to unsatisfactory storage conditions. Too bad. More especially as I know that this wine is normally still very good. 

(DN-LDDV | 26.06.2016 | Average Retail Price 4,700 USD | 36,900 HKD | 4,000 Euros)

Egon Muller-Scharzhof Scharzhofberber Auslese GK 2003 | © LeDomduVin 2016

Egon Muller-Schwarzhof Schwarzhofberber Auslese GK 2003

This wine was incredibly good ... sweet but not too sweet for an Auslese ... and balanced by incredible acidity, a creamy wine, racy and very fresh, it coats the entire palace in its path, very mineral, it is a rich, complex and sexy wine (once again), nicely exhibiting fruit and sweetness. 
So good, that if you are standing it will definitely make you fall back on your seat. I loved it. 
A bomb at this price ..... (compared to the other wines of the dinner of course).

(DN-LDDV | 26.06.2016 | Average Retail Price 291 USD |  2,290 HKD | 250 Euros)

What a night and what a dinner and what an incredible line up of illustrious wines.

And look at those corks...

The corks of the night | © LeDomduVin 2016

My favorite wines of the dinner (red only as I loved the two whites), starting from the best (in my true and honest opinion)...  also considering that they all had specific and unique features that make them wines of exception in any case...

1. Petrus 1945

2. DRC Romanée Conti 1966

3. Haut-Brion 1945

4. Mouton Rothschild 1945

5. Latour 1945

Another night, another dinner... and once again, it was a Sommelier's dream come true, especially for a seasoned Sommelier like me ...It was a rare and unforgettable opportunity to serve these wines side by side that almost never arises due to the lack of availability or extremely low quantities of these wines on the market ... a rare opportunity that may not represent itself anymore ….

Superb and unforgettable wines...   A Sommelier dream....

LeDomduVin Portrait with the bottles | © LeDomduVin 2016

I already can hear some of you  talking about money and prices, trying to figure out for how much was on the table? Well, it's easy. I wrote the Wine-Searcher Average Market Prices (as of today August 31st 2018) in HKD, USD and EUROS for all of these wines just below each tasting note for you to have a rough idea of each bottle price.

However, if we calculate the total amount based on these prices, we need to add the numbers as follow (in HKD for example as there are more digits, so it looks more impressive 😊)

  • DRC Montrachet 2004                     = 58,000 HKD
  • DRC RC 1966                                  = 123,500 HKD 
  • Haut Brion 1945                               = 35,500 HKD
  • Petrus 1945                                       = 91,460 HKD
  • Mouton Rothschild 1945                  = 122,000 HKD
  • Latour 1945                                      = 36,900 HKD
  • Egon Muller Scharzhofberber 2003 = 2,290 HKD
  • Grand Total                                       = 469,650 HKD 
Or roughly a total of 51,400 EUROS and/or 59,830 USD (as of today August, 31st, 2018)

Impressive, isn't it?

That's all folks! for today, I hope you liked it, and if so, then stay tuned for more posts like this one with more stories, photos and illustrations.

Oh, by the way, did you like my drawing of "Woman in Bottle"? I bet you did... (😊)

Cheers! Santé!

LeDomduVin a.k.a. Dominique Noël