Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy Wine Year 2020

Happy Wine Year 2020

In French, the number 20 (twentry) sounds like "vin", meaning "wine", so the French pronunciation of 2020 (twenty twenty) in French is "wine wine", so 


Let it be a good excuse to open more wine tonight and in the new year. 

Best wishes and all the best for the new year, 

Health, Happiness, Joy, and Success in all your projects! 

Here is a meme I did for you all!

Happy Wine Year 2020 ©ledomduvin 2019

Santé! Cheers!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noel)

Friday, December 27, 2019

LeDomduVin: Potentially Fake Petrus 1961

Petrus 1961 - Close up on labels ©LeDomduVin 2019
Petrus 1961 - Close up on labels ©LeDomduVin 2019

Potentially Fake Petrus 1961

A few days ago, my colleague and I cleaned up the wine cellar from all the empty bottles consumed within the company over the last few weeks (as we do monthly). 

And, as usual, I put some empty bottles of the oldest vintages and most expensive wines aside for 3 main reasons: 
  • First, because, even if empty, these old ladies deserve a second life as a trophy on a shelf in an office or in a cellar (or anywhere else), as, after all, they are pieces of history that have resisted the passage of time when they were corked and will continue even without their content. 
  • Secondly, because there is always a sense of pride for a Sommelier (like me) to keep old vintages of top-tears bottles around, more especially when I have had the pleasure to open, prepare, taste, decant (if necessary) and serve them (even drunk a part of them in some occasions), for memory's sake.    
  • Thirdly, and more importantly, it is very useful to keep them as they can contribute to constituting a library of references for genuine bottles and fake or counterfeit bottles. 
In fact, they can come in very handy for a Wine Quality Control Director (like me) when in doubt while doing an inspection or authentication of some bottles prior to purchasing them or receiving them at the warehouse to compare them and check/verify the authenticity of the bottles, labels, capsules, corks, etc...     

While putting these empty bottles aside, I noticed two magnums of Petrus 1961 (in the picture above), and I suddenly doubted the authenticity of these 2 mags, especially the magnum on the left-hand side of the picture. It presented too many obvious faults and defaults to my liking to be genuine. 

This prompted me to make a video about it (and logically, this post afterward) to try to explain the reasons why I believe it is not a genuine magnum of Petrus 1961 by comparing it to other bottles of Petrus 1961 I also kept in the cellar for that purpose.   

Here is the video and the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAiEz_gfaxY (if interested) 

Did you like the video? 

I tried to keep it simple and clear, but for those who did not get everything and may not want to watch it again to grasp some of the points they still have questions about, I will recap the main points discussed in the video further below in this post.  

However, before going into the details and reasons why I believe this is a fake magnum of Petrus 1961, let me tell you a little more about what I do and my roles and duties as a Wine Quality Control Director. A position that I have been occupying for the past 8 years now. 

What is a Wine Quality Control Director (QC)? 

To make it short, let's say that at my current job as a Wine Quality Control Director (for the Wine Division of a large corporate company), I'm in charge of the following:
  • Quality Control, 
  • Standard Operating Procedures (implementation and maintenance), 
  • Market Prices Analyses, 
  • Market Trend, 
  • Stock Valuation, 
  • Provenance, 
  • Authentication, 
  • Wine inspection prior to purchasing and at goods receiving, 
  • Supervising container unloading, 
  • Stock accuracy: inventory, stocktaking, cycle-counting
  • Wine warehouses and cellars QC operations (conditions, environment control and security), 
  • Prevention, 
  • Staff training, 
  • ERP System, 
  • Quality Management System, 
  • Compliance, 
  • Audits, 
  • etc...
(And even: Wine Classes, Wine Events, and Wine Promotion, as well as French tutoring, French Classes among other things).

I know it seems like a lot, but once managed as a daily routine, it is not that bad. 

Standard Operating Procedures

So, parts of my duties consist of creating and implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) within the various departments related to the wine division (Purchase and Sales, Cellars and Logistics, and Quality Control, etc...) in order to clearly define step by step, the official or usual way that people are expected to do particular things within the respective departments of the wine division (or, to some extent, even within the company or organization). 

Once created and implemented, and adjusted/amended/corrected if necessary, depending on the evolution of the business model and the evolution and changes of the department's daily operations, I need to make sure they are compliant. They conform to the rules (such as specifications, policies, standards, and/or laws). 

Within the wine division, these procedures are put in place to manage and control both the people and  the goods, as well as the environments, conditions, and security, and clearly describe: 
  • How are daily operations conducted and done, and by whom?  
    • who does what, when, and how (and even why)
  • How things are to be done (and in which order) to prevent from 
    • a mistake, accident, or incident to happen
    • security to be breached 
    • and/or even theft to occur 
  • And what needs to be done and how, if any of the above occurs

These SOPs are created and implemented for all the following respective daily main operations at the office(s) and at the various points of storage (warehouses/cellars):
  • Purchase Order / Wine Receiving 
  • Wine Inspection / Authentication
  • Wine Receipt in ERP System
  • Put Away
  • Wine Transfer
  • Sales Order
  • Wine Withdrawal
  • Wine Delivery  
  • Wine Pickup
  • Others (too many to list them all)

Once the daily operations system and related SOPs are done and implemented, and the staff has been trained, I can focus on the product: "the wine".

Wine Provenance, Inspection and Authentication

My role as Wine QC Director consists predominantly in

  • verifying and/or counterchecking 
    • the reliability and integrity of the wine merchants we are buying from
    • the origin, provenance, and conditions of the wines (history of the bottles, previous storage conditions, etc...)
    • the cost prices compared to the market 
  • Do the bottle's inspection and authentication (if needed) before buying the bottles, if possible at good receiving, to prevent fake or counterfeit bottles of wine from entering our warehouses and cellars. 

For example, when our Purchasing manager wants to purchase wines, a specific SOP tells us that the following main steps (SOPs are generally more detailed, this is just an example) have to be done prior to being able to purchase the wine: 

Wine Purchase Simplified Process ©LeDomduVin 2019
Wine Purchase Simplified Process ©LeDomduVin 2019

A. Wine Purchasing

  • The Purchasing Manager (PM) 
    • receives an offer or receives a specific request from a client (or from the boss) 
    • sources the wine from Négociants or trusted/reliable wine merchants, 
    • negotiates a reasonable price to generate a minimum profit based on the current market price and availability
    • asks for a quotation

  • The Wine Quality Control Director (QC) (based on the quotation)
    • verifies the reliability and integrity of the negociant or wine merchant: 
      • Reliable? or trustable? 
      • Did we work with them in the past? 
      • How is our relationship with them?
      • Are they in possession of the stocks or not?
      • If not, where are the stocks? And what are the current conditions of storage?
      • Are they buying the wines directly at the property? Or via a negociant or official agent? or via a third party?  
      • Are they able to guarantee the conditions and provenance of the wine?
    • Verifies the integrity of the source: 
      • Honest about the conditions and provenance of the wines? 
      • Practicing fair prices?
      • Are they flexible with the payment terms as well as the shipping/delivery terms? 
    • Does a Market Analysis to: 
      • Establish the fairness of the quoted prices compared to the current market 
      • and verify the potential Gross Profit Margin (GPM) compared with the average market prices   
    • Is it possible to inspect the wines prior to buying them? If possible and if locally sourced;
    • If not, ask for high-res quality pictures (if possible, and/or documents/proofs of origin if available) of the wines (cases or even bottles if available) to determine:
      • the quality
      • the conditions
      • the authenticity    
      • the provenance
    • inform PM if the supplier is reliable or too expensive, etc...   

  • The Cellars and Logistics Manager 
    • Liaises with shipping companies and gets quotations to compare and estimate 
      • The shipping cost (door-to-door, reefer container, plane or boat, etc...)
      • the time of the shipping (when, how long, etc...)
    • Choose the shipping company based on cost/efficiency/security/service/quality (the cheapest are not always the worst, and the more expensive are not always the best either)
    • Liaises with the negotiant or wine merchant to arrange for shipping/logistics details
    • Arrange for the ETD (Estimated Time of Departure) and ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) with both the negotiant or wine merchant and the shipping company
    • Inform and keep the warehouse team updated 

B. Wine Purchase Order Receiving

In most case scenarios, unless you buy directly at the property or from a Négociant or an official agent or a trusted wine merchant, it is going to be very difficult for you to get high-res pictures and/or documents/proofs of origin of the wines prior buying it. Let's say it's nearly impossible.

Same regarding the provenance and/or current (or even previous) storage conditions, there again, unless you buy directly at the property or from a Négociant or an official agent or a trusted wine merchant, you will never know if what they are telling you is the truth or not.

Yet, it is true that it may also happen with the Négociants, official agents, or "supposedly" trusted wine merchants. They may tell you that the wine comes directly from the property, while they may have bought it back from one of their clients or from a third-party seller. You'll never really know, in fact. You can only trust your guts, unfortunately.   

That's why it is very important to work with trusted wine merchants who can give some guarantee about the provenance or, if not, are willing to let you inspect the wines  (if sourced locally) and/or send you some high-res pictures of the wines for you to check them prior to buying them.

But because it is not always possible to check them prior to buying them (either physically or on pictures), even with the merchants you know and trust, that's where the role and job of Wine Quality Control is crucial, as he or she will have to inspect and/or even authenticate the wines at good receiving at the warehouse (or at the store or wherever they have been ship/deliver to) prior storing the wines, in order to immediately inform the vendor and sent the wines back, if not satisfied and/or if the conditions are not as described on the email, the catalog, the pictures or any other documents provided prior buying them.

The SOPs state that at good receiving:
  • The Cellars and Logistics Team
    • Arrange for delivery time at the warehouse
    • Unload the truck or container, weigh the pallets/cases, and mark them
    • Count the pallets, cases (and eventual loose bottles) based on the shipping documents and the purchase order delivery note 
    • Bring the wines to the inspection zone (usually an area prior to or within the storage area dedicated to inspecting the wines prior to being put away in the storage area)
  • The QC team 
    • Supervise/help with the unloading of the truck or container
    • Take pictures during the unloading to have proof of how the pallets/cases were when they were delivered and unloaded
    • Make sure that none of the wines have been put away in the storage area without being inspected first
    • Proceeds to the inspection prior to the Cellar and Logistics team putting the wines away

Wine Inspection - Authentication basic tools by ©LeDomduVin 2018
Wine Inspection - Authentication basic tools by ©LeDomduVin 2018

C. Wine Inspection

  • The QC team proceeds to the inspection case by case
    • A case of wine is put on the inspection table or bench
    • If the case is an unopened Original Wooden Case (OWC) or Orignal Carton Box (OCB):
      • the case/box is not opened
      • it is inspected carefully to check of any signs/traces of opening attempts 
        • If pristine, a sticker or security tape is put on it
        • If not pristine (meaning there are signs/traces of a previous opening), the case has to be opened  
      • the case is weighed to check if it has a correct weight
        • If correct, a sticker with the case weight is printed and put on the case
        • Then the case/box is banded with a band featuring the company logo for security reasons
        • If not correct, the case has to be opened to check its content 
    • If the case has been previously opened, then tape resealed or nail closed (no matter if OWC, OCB, or not) and or if the case/box has not been opened, but it is not an OWC/OCB and/or does not present any markings of any kind to indicate what is in the case/box, then it has to be opened to do the quantitative/qualitative inspection in order to check the quantity and quality (conditions) of its content.
    • QC staff should always come prepared for an inspection and have their tools at ready for inspection (here is a list with the most essential items to have for a wine inspection)
      • A portable LED flashlight (or light torch, however you call it) if it does blacklight even better 
      • A magnifier
      • A ruler
      • A cutter
      • Transparent tape
      • Tissue paper or wet tissue
      • A rollerball pen or a permanent marker
      • Small size Post It paper
      • A camera or smartphone to take pictures
    • During the inspection/authentication process, QC checks and takes pictures of the following (taking into consideration the vintage and origin of the wine, of course):
      • Overall bottle conditions
      • Label (pristine or damaged)
      • Capsule (pristine or damaged)
      • Level (correct, too high or too low)
      • Cork (depressed or protruding, check the vintage if possible for old and expensive bottles, and only if previously agreed with the vendor)
      • Color (correct, too young, too old) 
      • Sediments (present or not)
      • Bottle marks 
    • If all the bottles of wine in the same case pass the inspection: 
      • The bottles are carefully put back into the case/box, 
      • The case/box is turned resealed/closed
      • A piece of security tape or sticker is affixed on the case/box,
      • And/or the case/box is banded
      • The case/box can now be given back to the Cellar and Logistics team to be put away in the storage area
    • If some of the bottles of wine in the same case do not pass the inspection: 
      • The full case is put aside (either in the inspection area if secure or right behind the door at the storage area entrance, not to be put away yet and not to be mixed with other cases either).  
      • An email including details of the discrepancies/defaults + pictures is sent immediately to the vendor
      • Negotiations begin on getting something for the unsatisfactory bottles, either: 
        • a replacement
        • and/or a discount 
        • and/or send back the bottles and get partial or full reimbursement  
      • Depending on the negotiation's result, 
        • Bottles are replaced
        • A new invoice showing a discount is sent
        • The bottles are sent back and reimbursed

Although continuing on the subject might interest you, I will stop here regarding the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). Otherwise, you will be bored reading all these details. (if interested in the inspection's details, read my previous posts on the subject here)

However, the reason I wanted to share with you (parts of) these SOP details is to show you that we have an elaborate system in place to prevent fake and counterfeit wine bottles from infiltrating our warehouses and cellars in our various storage locations and that theoretically we should not have any suspicious bottles in our stocks (either fake or counterfeit or just in bad conditions) like this magnum of Petrus 1961.

Petrus 1961 - Close up on the suspicious label ©LeDomduVin 2019
Petrus 1961 - Close up on the suspicious label ©LeDomduVin 2019

Yet, this is not the case. The proof is that the suspicious magnum of Petrus 1961 (in the picture above) managed to get into our stock.     

💥Work in Progress - to be finished 💥

Cheers! Santé!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noel)

NB: Over the last few years, I wrote quite a few posts on or including fake and counterfeit wines (if interested read the 2 most detailed ones here and here)

#wine, #fake, #fakewine, #wineinspection, #ledomduvin, @ledomduvin, #fraudulentwine, #wineeducation, #wineknowledge, #wineauthentication, #couterfeit, #counterfeited, #vin, #vino, #wein, #petrus

Unless stated otherwise, all rights reserved ©LeDomduVin 2019, on all the contents above including, but not limited to, photos, pictures, drawings, illustrations, collages, visuals, maps, memes, posts, texts, writings, quotes, notes, tasting notes, descriptions, wine descriptions, definitions, recipes, graphs, tables, and even music and video (when and where applicable).

Monday, December 23, 2019

Happy New Year 2020 & Bonne Année Vin Vin

Happy New Year 2020 

& Bonne Année Vin Vin

Happy New Year 2020 & Bonne Année Vin Vin  by ©LeDomduVin 2019
Happy New Year 2020 & Bonne Année Vin Vin
by ©LeDomduVin 2019

I wish you all a Happy New Year & Bonne Année and best wishes for this coming year 2020. 

I just hope 2020 will be much better than 2019. This past year has been weird, violent, controversial and unprecedented at so many levels and in so many countries around the world. I do not want to enter any debates and spoil the end of the year spirit and festivities, so I will just say that I'm just hoping things will change for the better and people will come back to their senses to make this world a better place for everyone and the coming generations.     

Be nice to each other and take good care of each other. We can work this out if we are all willing to make a change and change our habits and behaviors. 

I wish you all a happy end of the year, hoping you will be surrounded by friends and/or family to celebrate it. I'm also thinking about all the people that will be alone these days, hoping they will be ok. I wish 2020 will be a better year bringing you health, love and happiness to you, your family and friends. 

In French, 2020 is written "Vingt Vingt" and pronounced "Deux Mille Vingt" (Two thousand twenty) but could also be read and pronounced "Vin Vin" (Wine Wine), hence this little illustration I made for this very special year. 

As for the Christmas card and post, I posted previously, I decided to write "Happy New Year" (ou "Bonne Année" in French) in various languages on the illustration as wine is universal and is the only product with food, which bring people from all horizons together to share a moment, share their cultures, their traditions, their opinions and talk about everything and anything seating around a table,  drinking and eating together, despite their colors, religions or political views or even social ranks.  

And I like this optimistic, utopian idea of having people together, united, reunited, in peace with each other, sharing moments with each other rather than argue or fight with each other. I respect all races, colors, religions and opinions, yet I'm one of those atheists who believe that the world would be a better place without money, religions and politics.   

I let you meditate on this, and once again, Happy New Year and best wishes to your family and friends. 

As this post may reach many different people in many different countries with many different languages, here are the various ways of saying "Happy New Year" written on the illustrations. I choose some of the most common languages spoken on our little earth. 

Sorry, no offence if you cannot find yours, I couldn't put all the translations, too many and not enough space on the illustration. Moreover, and no offence once again, I choose some of these languages for the uniqueness of their written characters, rather than personal preferences.      

English: Happy New Year

French: Bonne Année

Spanish: Feliz Año Nuevo

Italian: Felice Anno Nuovo

Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo

German: Frohes Neues Jahr

Chinese (Mandarin): 新年好 (xin nian hao)

Chinese (Cantonese): 新年快樂 (xin nian kuai le)

Japanese: あけまして おめでとう ございます (akemashite omedetô gozaimasu)

Korean: 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (seh heh bok mani bat uh seyo)

Russian: С Новым Годом (S novim godom)

Arabic: عام سعيد (aam saiid)

Hebrew: שנה טובה (shana tova)

Hindi: नव वर्ष की सुभकामना (nav varsh ki shubhkamnaye)

Greek: Καλή Χρονιά (kali chronia / kali xronia)

Polish: szczęśliwego nowego roku

Serbian: Срећна Нова година (Srećna Nova godina)

Thailand: สวัสดีปีใหม่ (sawatdii pimaï)

Voilà! Et encore une très belle année 2020 et tous mes voeux de bonheur, joie et de santé pour cette année a venir. 

Cheers! Santé! 

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noël)

#happynewyear #bonneannee #vinvin #twentytwenty #ledomduvin @ledomduvin #lesillustartionsadom #lesdessinsadom #lescreationsadom #bestwishes #meilleursvoeux #vin #wine #vino #wein #newyearcard #cartedebonneannee 


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noël

Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noël

Merry Christmas card with different languages by ©LeDomduVin 2019
Merry Christmas card with different languages by ©LeDomduVin 2019

Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noël to you all as well as your family and friends. And remember that Christmas is about sharing with others, having sympathy, empathy, compassion and consideration for others. So, be nice to each other and I wish you a lot of happiness and love for this end of the year holidays season. Take good care of each other.  

And as this blog reaches a lot of different people in many different countries speaking different languages, here is how you can wish "Merry Christmas" to someone in the most common languages spoken on our little earth. 

French: Joyeux Noël

Spanish: ¡Feliz Navidad

German: Frohe Weihnachten

Italian: Buon Natale

Portuguese: Feliz Natal

Chinese: 圣诞节快乐 (Shèngdàn jié kuàilè)

Japanese: メリークリスマス (Merīkurisumasu)

Korean: 메리 크리스마스 (meli keuliseumaseu)

Russian: С Рождеством (S-RazhdestvOm)

Arabic: عيد ميلاد مجيد (Aiyeed milad sayeed)

Cheers! Santé! 

LeDomduVin (a.k.a Dominique Noel) 

@ledomduvin #ledomduvin #lesillustrationsadom #lescreationsadom #lesdessinsadom #christmas #noel #joyeuxnoel #merrychristmas #chrismastwishes #christmascard #cartedenoel

Sunday, December 1, 2019

LeDomduVin: Lost Momentum

Lost Momentum by ©LeDomduVin 2019

Lost Momentum

In a way, a blogger is like a writer or even a journalist. All the posts are written based on the inspiration of the moment: a picture, an image, an idea, a thought, a fact, the news of the day, or even another article about a subject you would like to write about or whatever else could have triggered your interest and imagination to write that post, a movie or even a book, at this particular moment. 

As a writer, you usually go to sleep and wake up with at least one idea or more (it could also happen during the day, the evening or even at night). If at night before going to sleep, it might help to write it down so as not to forget it. 

Barely awake, with your idea in mind, you rush to your computer and start to write something. The words flow right through your mind like the rapids of a river where facts, ideas, thoughts, stories, souvenirs and other memories converge. 

With words mingling in your mind, the post or article is slowly taking shape and structure as the words appear to form phrases reflecting the idea, the inspiration and all other things you’re thinking about while typing them… 

For a brief moment, time stands still or does not even exist. Nothing counts anymore except writing. You are focusing hard on the idea, the words, the prose, etc.... Oblivious to what surrounds you and what could occur and anything else.  

You've been writing for a while now, but unfortunately, it's time to stop and move on to other things like preparing for work or attending to other tasks. This interruption breaks your inspirational flow, and you lose the momentum you have built up.

The facts, ideas, images, thoughts, stories, souvenirs and other memories you had a minute ago are now starting to vanish as your mind is occupied by other things you must think about to organise the rest of your day. 

So, even if unfinished, you publish your post anyway as you think that you wrote enough to trigger the interest of your followers and other potential readers. Thinking that you might return to it and finish it later or the next day. You even state in the post that it is still a “work in progress” and that it would “be finished soon”, evidently knowing that it is a white "lie", as this particular post might never be completed or finished, as you may never come back to it, and move on with other things to write about without ever having completed the previous one.   

If only you could have more time (and money) to be able to stay at home and write, or even go to other places to get the inspiration (a cafe, a bar, the park, the pier, the countryside, the beach, the mountain, etc…). But no, it is impossible as you have a daily job taking a large part of your day until late, every day, even on weekends. 

After work, it would be great to be able to go back to writing a few more paragraphs, but no, you also have your life with your family, wife and kids, and things to do with them and a multitude of other things that need to be taking care of, before being able to return to your bubble and write a little longer before going to sleep. 

A few days later, you realize that this great post or article you’ve started with so much excitement will be hard to complete and/or finish. You go back to it and start to revise it. Some new ideas start to flow. Yet nothing is as exciting as what you had in mind when you first started to write it. You wish you could have finished it on that day, when everything was in place in your mind and the writing pace was flawless and completely natural and didn’t require you to think as everything was there, clear and present in your head, and ready to be transcribed on the page… 

But this was a few days earlier already, and since, your train of thought has taken other directions. The inspiration of the moment has gone to make room for other thoughts. And the idea that was so great only a few days ago does not seem as appealing as it was anymore. 

Furthermore, other people beat you to it anyway, as they wrote about the same idea or subject in a more concise and straightforward manner, going straight to the point. Not like you, always trying to add more details and going more in-depth to finally produce articles left unread, as they are usually too long and as convoluted as your mind and thoughts.    

They beat you to it as thousands of articles and posts are posted daily on people’s blogs, newspaper websites, news sites and other media like social networks. So what’s the point of continuing writing, will you say, as at least 10 other people already wrote on the subject, finished and posted their articles on the day you started yours….. 

Does it ring the bell? It does to me, as it is pretty much the story of my blogger's life. 

How many times did I start to write a post and never finish it? Too many times. Countless times…. 

Maybe I’m trying too hard, or maybe I’m writing posts that are too long, too convoluted, too complex or too detailed sometimes... Maybe I should change my ways of writing and write simpler, more straightforward and more to-the-point posts and articles… I have tried many times, but it is difficult for a writer to change his/her writing style and patterns. It takes time, discipline and dedication. 

When I start writing, I'm always very excited. Yet, if I have to stop for diverse reasons, I usually lose the flow and lose interest in my articles.  When that happens, I always say to myself, "I lost the momentum."… 

I lost this internal force, driven by the inspiration, imagination and creativity that first sparked the idea in my mind but then vanished gradually in a couple days, as I could not finish the post/article on the same day I started it. On that day, everything was in place in my mind to write something that seemed good and interesting. A few days later, it went missing... Gone! Vanished! I just lost the momentum.

Sometimes I even say to myself: No one cares if you finish it or not! ...as no one reads blogs anymore, especially long articles like yours. And yet, my passion for writing and sharing my knowledge and experiences pushes me to continue posting most ideas, thoughts and other things that go through my head and mind daily, even if I lose the momentum and some of my posts will remain unfinished forever.    

This is my internal mea culpa to apologize for my blog's unfinished posts/articles. Like any writer, when the momentum is lost, there is no point in returning to it. Better move forward and write other things. 

Occasionally, it happens that I go back to and revisit an unfinished post or article. As I read through it, I add and delete, correct and refine my prose, and even may change things a little as my point of view on the matter may have changed or evolved. 

Sometimes, I rewrite entire paragraphs to make them flow better or just give them a different or more positive vibe. Sometimes, I have nothing to add as I have no inspiration or the subject has been covered by so many other people that it would be silly to believe that I can write something else that has not been written. So, I leave it as it is, unfinished... 

Sometimes, the inspiration comes just to rewrite some of the paragraphs, the ending or the conclusion, and it feels good to tell myself that I did not leave it unfinished… but usually, when the momentum is lost, it is definitely lost, so I usually move on and write on something else. 

A writer's life is filled with lost "momentum" that he or she can’t even avoid or prevent. The writing of a piece on a subject is never completely finished as the ideas and thoughts of the writer are always changing, growing or diminishing, vanishing or resurfacing, evolving, directly and/or indirectly, under the influence of so many factors and reactions, emotions and feelings, internal and/or external, interfering with his or her daily writing routine.

The most difficult part of writing is knowing how and when to end the story, post or article to consider it finished and not have to return to it. Not as easy as it may seem, I tell you.    

Most of the time, a piece of writing is just an expression of a specific idea, thought or moment that cannot be repeated and may never come back exactly the same way... 

And once it is gone, it's a lost momentum…. 

Thank you, 

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noel)

@ledomduvin #ledomduvin #lostmomentum #momentumlost #meaculpa #writer #writting

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

The difficulty of finding the right Wine's Average Market Price

The difficulty of finding the right 

Wine's Market Price

Trump 25% additional duties on wines
from France, Germany, Spain and the UK
by ©LeDomduVin 2019 

(Trump photoshopped credit to u/qda on reddit)

Like the stock prices, wine market prices always move up and down due to the fluctuations of supply and demand. Fortunately for us, they remain generally more consistent as the fluctuations for wines are not as wild and sudden. And to a certain extent we could even say that, as wines get older, for most high-end wines, prices tend to go up rather than down (especially with great vintages bottled in large formats). 

Yet, prices also go up and down due to the world economy (the major countries economy should I say) and, sometimes, also due to the decisions made by their leaders or governments. On that matter, for example, Trump decided a few days ago to add additional duties on some European Wines (for various reasons), and consequently, the market prices for these specific wines sold in the US market will rise. 

Taken aback by this decision, in this instance, I somehow felt the sudden need to write a post about wine's market prices, and the difficulty to find the right ones among the various major websites and apps offering them. As many of you (in the US mainly) might not be able to overcome the urge to check the prices of their habitual vino on their computer as soon as the duties are effective, I thought it would be a good time to write on this subject. 

Regarding the additional import duties, the official document titled “Section 301 Investigation – EU Large Civil Aircraft – Final list of products” has been written in response to an investigation stating that: “The U.S. Trade Representative has determined that the European Union (EU) and certain member States have denied U.S. rights under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement and have failed to implement WTO Dispute Settlement Body recommendations concerning certain subsidies to the EU large civil aircraft industry. The U.S. Trade Representative has determined to take action in the form of additional duties on products of certain member states of the EU.”

The paragraph “section 7.” of the document states that: “Wines from France, Germany, Spain and the UK will be subject to an additional 25% ad valorem import duties, for all wines other than Tokay (not carbonated), not over 14% alcohol, and in containers not over 2 liters, effective October 18th, 2019.” 

Basically, all wines (except Tokay and champagne/sparkling), containing 14% alcohol and lower, and coming in carton box or bottle of 2 liters and lower (which obviously includes magnum size) will be affected by the 25% additional import duties. Which understandably means that your usual bottle of wine from any of these 4 countries (sold in the US) will be slightly more expensive and might trigger you to look away for better values within the prices you use to pay for these bottles before. 

Those who have the financial means, might not mind the added import duties and will probably continue to buy their favourites, even if at higher prices. But those who don’t (meaning the rest of us) will surely mark a hesitation at the sight of the increased price for our regular bottle of vino. 

These additional import duties will surely and greatly affect the markets on both sides of the Atlantic. In the 4 stated countries (France, Germany, Spain and the UK), producers and wine merchants will see their order from the US decrease and thus volumes sold in the US diminish. And in the US, importers and distributors will have to pay an additional 25% on all wines they will receive after October 18th, a budget they surely did not anticipate when they bought/ordered their wines few months prior the announcement (especially wines bought "En Primeur" like Bordeaux). A bump to the cost prices, which will consequently be reflected on the shelf’s prices at your local retailers and affect most US customers drinking wine within $10-$15 more especially. 

Although we all surely would prefer to pay $10 or less for our regular bottle of wine, most of us usually pay within $15-$20, the typical “sweet spot” for everyday drinking. But on October 18th, the price for that same bottle will suddenly hike to $18.75-$25, and we will surely not look at it the same way, having promise ourselves rarely to exceed $20 normally. 

Some may say that it is only $3.75-$5 bucks more and that it is not a big deal!!! However, if you buy a bottle daily, or at least as regularly as 2 or 3 times a week, it will add quickly to roughly $50 more per month (or $600/year), the price of 2.5 bottles at the previous price per month, and unavoidably put a dent in your wallet and your monthly wine budget. 

Hence the importance of checking prices online (more attentively than usual) to find the right market price that suits your budget. But which website could you use to find a good reference market price? 

In a wine market constantly evolving, on a daily basis, with more online tools and Apps at anyone's disposal appearing, nearly every year, it has become (in my opinion) more and more difficult to choose among the various websites and define what is exactly the Average Market Price of a wine as a reference. 

Most of you will tell me: "Easy! Just go on Wine-Searcher and take the Average Market Price of the wine you're looking for as a reference!" And I will agree if it was that simple, yet, it isn't, and I will try to explain to you why. 

Let’s go back in time first. 

Prior to the mid-90s, there were barely any sites on the internet for regular consumers to compare retail or auction prices. At the time, wine retailers based their prices on cost, of course, some adding margins exceeding 50% (greed, located in remote areas, having the market monopole due to lack of immediate competition, having excess expenses, etc…), but most had to have savvy market knowledge to figure out their selling prices and remain competitive while still making decent margin closer to 30-35%. The later visited their competitors (or had somebody doing it for them) and/or attended the auctions and other wine events to remain aware of the market trends and prices. With no internet tools, listening to word-of-mouth was a given. Information was also conveyed through long discussions with the suppliers and distributors, taking on the role of informants depending on their relationships with the retailer, during on-site tastings or friendly visits. 

In 1995, the replacement of the old internet system (NSFNET – 1985-1995) by new networks operated by commercial service providers, brought the internet to the public on a much larger scale and opened it to commercial traffic. A virtual door to the world was now opened for new communication ways and commercial opportunities, which have since tremendously impacted our daily life, our culture and the way we see and look at the world. 

A couple of years later, websites started to mushroom everywhere on the web in all imaginable fields and subjects. Communication and information as we knew it via TV, radio and paper press, rapidly evolved into discussion forums, blogs, social networking and even online shopping. 

By 1997 and especially in 1998 and 1999, as technology advanced rapidly, this expanding network connecting people to the word gave birth to websites which became benchmarks in their respective industry, essential and indispensable professional tools easing the job to find and compare brands and prices. 

By early 2000s, algorithms became more powerful and thus more performant and could compute even more data than previously. At the time, the data were fed by either the algorithm's genitors and/or by the people entering and/or downloading the data (e.g. Wine-Searcher collected data, in the form of excel list of retailer's wines with retail prices, from participating retailers, which constituted the listing on their website).

And despite advance technology, even with AI helping, it is still the case nowadays. Sites like Wine-Searcher can only gather what has been given to them, meaning that the prices are not generated by computers. AI can anticipate and eventually predict on its own and even generate its own data to be fed on, yet most data like prices are still decided and generated by humans. Meaning that compared to computers, the human mind is influenced and twisted by many factors and strategic thoughts making most price listings on prices search engines like Wine-Searcher and Liv-Ex somewhat unreliable, more especially their Average Market Prices.    

Although other wine prices search engines websites existed prior the following ones (e.g. winery’s websites, retailer’s websites, etc…), in the wine industry, these pioneer websites were called: Wine-Searcher (1998), Wine Market Journal (1998), Liv-Ex (1999), Wine.com (1998), and back then (even still now) constituted the backbone of wine info, services and price tracking. It was rather simple and quite straight forward at the time. 

wine-searcher logo courtesy of wine-searcher.com

Founded 1998, in London, which was the world hub of wines back then, Wine-Searcher mainly focused on providing retailer’s prices, from local retailers at first, then expanding it gradually to the whole world (even featuring auction prices now). And although few knew about it and using it at first, within a couple of years after its birth, it rapidly became the essential market price tracking tool of all importers, distributors and more especially retailers in the early 2000s (especially in the US where consumers used to buy their wines on price rather than on quality, provenance, producer or brand). Wine retailers could now track and compare their prices against their peers and eventually adjust them to fit the image they try to convey (e.g. large retailers with less expensive and more commercial brands usually practising lower prices and discounts, while wine boutique stores focusing more rare bottles, limited production and less commercial, smaller, independent wineries and vintners). It was a breakthrough which revolutionized the market prices and the way retailers behaved toward one another. Nowadays wine-searcher.com is still the leading search engines for retailers and even pre-auction wine prices (personally, as a Wine Market Analyst, I use it every day).

Liv-Ex logo courtesy of liv-ex.com

Back then in the late 90s, I was working as a Head Sommelier and Wine Buyer in a restaurant in the British Capital, which was THE place to buy wines from all around the world. Wine was imported, exported, bought, sold, exchanged and shipped for restaurants, retails, auctions, private collections, and also for investments, a new emerging trend putting the wine at the same level as Art, Antiques and rare collectable luxury products. Wine was sold not anymore for its intrinsic taste, value and characteristics, but for the profits, it could generate. It became a product of speculation. And Liv-Ex was created in 1999 to track the price movements of the most traded fine wines on the market. It rapidly became the industry’s benchmark, providing info about the trading prices (like the stock exchange):

1. The buying price (understand how much people are ready to pay to buy a wine?), 

2. The selling price (understand how much people want for their wine for sale?)

3. And the market price (enabling traders to compare the buying and selling prices with the market price and define if it is a good deal or not. 

Personally, I use the offspring of Liv-Ex, called "Cellar Watch"

Wine Market Journal logo courtesy of winemarketjournal.com

Also in the late 90s, Wine Auctions becoming an unavoidable way to buy old vintages of famed Chateaux and Domaines as well as rare bottles of iconic wineries with limited production, the need for a website regrouping the auction’s results as well as informing about trade values and market prices became an evidence, and in 1997 Wine Market Journal was created.  WMJ has been collecting every single trade prices of every bottle of wine at every major auction house in the world ever since. It is the leading and most authoritative auction prices website, as its historical data are unmatched by any of its competitors. It is a great tool to find prices and market trends, especially for old and rare bottles scarce or unavailable on the market. 

Back then, these 3 websites constituted the core of wine searching and price browsing online for both consumers and professionals within Europe and the US. Pioneers in their own field, they have inspired the tsunami of wine search engines websites and (more recently) apps which followed and are now crowding the web, transforming the simple experience of searching wine prices online as a real nightmare and even to a certain extent questioning their reliability. 

wine.com logo courtesy of wine.com


On the other side of the Atlantic, back in 1998, as rules and procedures to wine shipping to other states within the US were relaxed a little (**), American wines competed with an increasing demand for European wines getting more recognition with American consumers. With rapidly growing imports of wine in the US from Europe, but also South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the need for a large online wine retailer to facilitate access to these wines became somewhat of a necessity, and wine.com was created.

Visually attractive and user-friendly, wine.com was created to revolutionize the way people discover, buy and enjoy wine. As per Wikipedia: "Wine.com is a San Francisco based online wine retailer that offers the largest selection of wines in the world. Wine.com sells over 2 million bottles per year, with a stock of more than 17,000 different bottles of wine, shipping throughout the United States."

But first and foremost, prior taking some examples, regarding the data fed super algorithms and AI, understand that no matter how good the algorithm or AI of your preferred wine website or app is, it will never be accurate nor reliable, as you cannot remove the human factors (errors, made intentionally or not) and the twisted mind of men out of the equation (greed, deception, lure, etc...).

As said above, prices are still generated by humans. And fortunately, you will tell me, and I would agree; but these human factors (errors and twisted minds) are what makes it so difficult to find the right websites with the most accurate market prices. 

And although I have been heavily using the four websites sited above over the last 16 years for wine search and price tracking, and highly recommend them for many reasons, their average market prices are far from being accurate for the most part due to these factors. Let me try to explain my point of view, as it may open your eyes on certain things about wine market prices on websites you’ve always trusted blindly. 

In my opinion, the Average Market Prices of all wine search engines online are not correct nor reliable, mainly because of the difference between the fishy lowest prices and the highest prices (sometimes astronomically high):

The Lowest Prices are usually for bottles that are (most likely):

  • In bad conditions (low level, damaged label/capsule, badly stored, etc...) 
  • From unreliable provenance (god knows where it comes from and in which conditions it was stored previously)
  • Potential counterfeits (the wine world is flooded with fakes and counterfeits at all level)
  • The sole and unique bottle available in that store (potentially presenting all the above)
  • Inexistent (i.e. despite the merchant or store promoting it, when you try to order online call or physically go there to check, the bottle is either not available or has been sold... such coincidence... 
    • Surely a lure to attract more people to their website or store 
    • and have the most novice wine buyers fall into the trap
  • Or, on last resort (and only if you are really lucky), the bottle(s) really exists, and the price is so low because:
    • The price was never changed according to the market trends, and in that case, you might get a real bargain reflecting the trends of a few years ago 
    • The merchant/store wants to get rid of that particular bottle (even sometimes at loss compared to its original cost, eventually for the reasons cited above)   

The Highest Prices are usually for bottles that are (in general): 

  • Super rare or even unavailable on the market (old vintages, big formats, limited production)
  • From top producers with limited production/allocations (e.g. DRC)
  • Received top scores from wine critics (100 points, best of the vintage, etc...)
  • Still too young and deserve a few more years (i.e. raising the prices very high dissuades buyers, prices might be readjusted according to market trend (or not) a few years later when the store/merchant is finally ready to sell them)   
  • Or, like for the lowest prices, 
    • a lure to attract more people to their website or store by promoting such a bottle at such price 
    • a good marketing stunt as even if people criticise such practice, they still talk about the store/merchant...   

Let’s take some visual examples.


💢Work in progress - to be continued soon💢

(*) If interested in the list of products subject to the additional duties, you go to this website and read or even download it here. And if you really want to read more details about "Section 301 - Large Civil Aircraft", you can go to the official website of the "Office of the United States Trade Representative" here.

(**) Which wineries and retailers will sell and ship wine directly to consumers varies from state to state, winery to winery and retailer to retailer. (Note that it is illegal for consumers to sell or ship wine without the assistance of a licensed third party.) In most states, consumers may have wine shipped to them directly from a winery, though most states prohibit consumers from ordering wine from an out-of-state retailer. Today it is illegal for a state to permit consumers to buy wine directly from an in-state winery but not from an out-of-state winery, but a state's right to regulate retailer shipping is less clear, and most states will allow consumers to have wine delivered from a local retailer, but not from one beyond the state's borders.
(source wine-spectator.com, read the full article here)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

AIWC - Asia International Wine Competition

AIWC - Asia International Wine Competition

AIWC - Asia International Wine Competition - Logo

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to participate, as one of the Wine Judges, in the AIWC 2019 (Asia International Wine Competition), held in Hong Kong. 

I had the chance to participate back in 2017 and 2018, and once again, Adam Levy (the creator of AIWC) and Beth Dorrough (Adam's "right arm" and co-organiser of the AIWC) kindly invited me to participate in the event this year too.

Royce Cellar in Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) Hong Kong
©LeDomduVin2019 (storefront)

The event was held at Royce Cellar in Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon), in Hong Kong. A modern wine boutique store and wine bar, where customers can browse a very eclectic selection from the Old World and the New, including some of the most prestigious Chateaux from Bordeaux as well as some of the iconic Domaines and Producers of Burgundy, Rhone and Champagne, mingling with some of the top wineries of Australia, New Zealand, USA and beyond.

Royce Cellar in Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) Hong Kong
©LeDomduVin2019 (inside)

From what I could see on their shelves and wine fridges, they can accommodate any customer's needs, offering a wide range of wines (white, red, rosé, sparkling, sweet, fortified) and even some spirits, as well as Saké, at both ends of the price spectrum and in various formats too.

Royce Cellar in Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) Hong Kong
©LeDomduVin2019 (shelves)

The old Sommelier and ex-wine-boutique-store manager in me were very pleased to see such an enticing display of great wines in such a modern, yet comfortable, bright and inviting environment. The bar at the back end of the store and the private salon at the basement floor create a cosy atmosphere, which further enhances the visual experience.      

Royce Cellar in Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) Hong Kong
©LeDomduVin2019 (the bar)

Although the competition started at 10am, I arrived about half an hour early, as I like to do, (in case they needed help and could make myself useful), only to discover that the store was already full of people. And that's when I realized that not only wines but also beers and spirits will be tasted that day. Amongst the people were the store's staffs of course, but also some helping-hands to assist and aid the AIWC team with the preparation of the bottles and glasses for the tastings, and of course, the judges, all veteran specialists in their own field (wine, beer and spirits), from different horizons and backgrounds.

A welcoming copious breakfast of Viennoiseries and mini-sandwiches, as well as coffee and tea, had been set up for those of us who might want to have a bite and something to drink prior getting started with the competition's tastings. And, although, I need to admit that, usually, I prefer not to eat or drink prior to a tasting as it normally decreases the sensitivity of my tastebuds, (tastebuds being fully functional and more sensitive in the morning, usually around 10-11am, especially when starving due to lack of food or liquid for a few hours), I could not resist the temptation to discreetly devour some of these goodies... too appetizing!!!

AIWC's Adam Levy giving the wine judges
a quick briefing prior to starting the tasting
Royce Cellar basement room ©LeDomduVin 2019

Once sated, Adam and Beth invited us to go to the room at the basement (where the wines will be tasted, while beers and spirits will be tasted upstairs within the store and at the bar on the ground floor), to have a quick briefing on the process and the rules of the competition, prior to starting the tasting.     

The AIWC is a truly interesting and eyes-opening wine competition where wines are basically tasted blind and judged based on their Quality-Price-Ratio (or QPR as commonly referred to in the wine trade). QPR is basically a conceptual measure of the perceived value of a wine, in this particular case, the judge's opinion of the wine's quality weighed against its price.

So basically, you have to put yourself in the shoes of a wine buyer, (i.e. one of your customers or clients or even yourself), and with your wine tasting skills and experience as well as your knowledge of the market and its eventual changing trends, decide whether the wine is good or not based on its quality-price-ratio and, at the end of the day, your willingness to buy it. 

In short, is the wine worth the price you will pay for it? And will you buy it?

The answer often falls into 4 main categories:

  • Good (or occasionally geat) value for money, I'll definitely buy this wine at this price... 
  • Hum... Not bad, I could definitely see myself sipping on that wine occasionally at this price...
  • Hem... This wine is ok (occasionally good), but not at this price... no thanks... 
  • Yuck... This wine is outrageous... Next!

The QPR Dilemma - Quality-Price-Ratio
by ©LeDomduVin 2019

To prevent from any biased answers, the wines are tasted by a minimum of 2 judges and brought in front of the judges by flights of 3-10 glasses of wine of the same grape variety (i.e. all Pinot Noir in the same flight), some from the same origin, but not always, usually coming from different regions or even countries (i.e. Pinot Noir from New Zealand and Oregon in the same flight), and not from the same vintage either. Yet, it also happens that some wines in the same flight may not be from the same grape variety either...

So, how can you judge them, will you say?

Well, the answer to that question is quite simple:

Each wine must be tasted for what it is and worth what you're willing to pay for it!!!

QPR = Quality vs Price by ©LeDomduvin 2019

Let me clarify by giving you the AIWC rules (*) as explained by Adam (you can also check the AIWC website here for more details on the rules)

  • AIWC (Asia International Wine Competition) medals are awarded on a merit basis by a majority vote. 
  • The judges are instructed to grant no awards or medals when, in their opinion, the wines are not ones they would import, distribute, buy or sell in their businesses based on product and price category. 
  • Judges are asked to evaluate the wines in silence until all panel members have finished their evaluation and then open a discussion to reach a consensus. 
  • Judge votes are recorded by an AIWC staff moderator. If there is a significant difference among the judges’ votes, panellists are encouraged to reach a consensus and, if needed, seek counsel from the Head Judge Adam Levy. 
  • Award levels are Double Gold, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. 
  • Double Gold: Phenomenal Product (Must be a unanimous decision by panellists) 
  • Gold: Buyers “Love” It 
  • Silver: Buyers “Like” It 
  • Bronze: Buyers would purchase it 
  • Double Gold award winners will be re-tasted by all panellists to establish which brands may be eligible to receive a ‘Best of Category’ endorsement in its pricing category

I think now you have a better understanding and a clearer idea of how this competition is conducted. 😊

So, now, let get on with the tasting, shall we?

Leigh-Ann Luckett, Director of Operations
at Madison Fine Wine Auction (MFWA) ©LeDomduVin 2019

After the quick briefing, they divided us into two panels of judges. Seating at one of the judge's tables, I was joined by my "partner-in-crime" for that day, Leigh-Ann Luckett, Director of Operations at Madison Fine Wine Auction (MFWA). Leigh-Ann also participated as a wine judge at the AIWC previously, so we were acquainted already and somewhat knew each other personality and palate, which immediately set a relaxed atmosphere for both of us. Understandably, it is easier to taste and reach a consensus with someone you know, appreciate and feel comfortable with, than with someone you don't. We were the panel number 2.

AIWC Asia International Wine Competition Tasting Session
©LeDomduVin 2019

While we were catching up on things since we last met, I glanced at the table set up with the usual suspects, the unavoidable tasting tools: a spittoon, a bottle of water, an empty glass for the water and a stack of tasting sheets on which the judges will be writing their notes and comments and eventual awards.

As this is a blind tasting, the tasting sheets bare nothing but a few numbers (Wine number, Wine ID and Wine Price), with only an indication on the type of wine mentioning the grape variety that will be tasted per flight (see below an example of AIWC tasting sheet **).

The first flight arrived on the table, the competition could start. Like in any wine tastings, the judges taste the wines, write their comments and establish, on their own, first, if the wine is worth an award or not. Leigh-Ann and I have rather similar palates and thus similar thoughts and tasting sensations, which eased the process to reach a consensus on the QPR of the wines and eventually led us to give some awards. 

Immediately as the flight arrives on the table, an AIWC moderator confirms the details already stated on the tasting sheet (flight number, grape variety, region or country of origin), and, also,  if a wine is missing, as it happens that, although originally planned to be tasted, some wines might be faulty, corked or oxidized, and therefore have been removed right before the tasting (thus after the tasting sheets were printed).   

The AIWC moderator also provides the vintages of the wines about to be tasted. It allows the judges to have a better idea on how to approach the wine, to process to the sensory examination and evaluation, in order to assess it's quality-price-ratio (QPR).

For example, if the moderator says "the first two wines of the flight are both Australian Cabernet Sauvignon from 2016 vintage", then the wine judge's mindset will be focusing on these particular details as he/she tastes and assesses the wine, by, carefully and methodically, examining the sensory qualities (visual aspect, aromas, texture and flavors). And if the moderator also provides the region of origin (i.e. Margaret river), then it is an extra bonus clue for the judges, who will further refine the focus of their mindset to taste, examine and evaluate the wine.

Sensory Examination & Evaluation of Wine
Graphic by ©LeDomduVin 2019

In most case scenarios, the mindset of a wine taster proceeding to the sensory examination and evaluation of wine during a tasting (a person's internal way of thinking and his/her primary opinions while tasting in silence first, prior to expressing his/her comments to others) works in the order indicated in the graphic above (clockwise):

If we take the example above, a 2016 vintage, Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River, Australia, then here is how and what the wine taster is thinking going through these 4 main steps, prior to finalize his/her sensory examination and evaluation of the wine.

1. Origin
  • Country: Australia - The wine taster is thinking: New World - Ripe Fruit - Bold Taste
  • Region: Margaret River - Western Australia - Thinking: Renown for its fine Cabernet Sauvignons - Classic
  • Climate: Warm, temperate, and although referenced as a Mediterranean climate, it is, in fact, more Bordeaux-like - Thinking: cooler climate than Southern Australia, therefore more freshness and elegance than Barossa (for example)
2. Wine Type / Grape Variety
  • Cabernet Sauvignon - grown in Margaret River - usual characteristics: red wine, medium to full-bodied, rich in flavors and quite complex, with a good tannic structure and good acidity too, yet more rounded and lighter on its feet (less heavy) than it's Barossa counterparts (for example) (Leeuwin Estate Cab is my personal reference and preference) 
3. Vintage

  • 2016.... in Margaret River for Cabernet Sauvignon... Well, hem... I'm a bit stuck here... help?!? And that's generally the main problem of most wine tasters during wine tastings, as, you may have very good overall knowledge about the region of origin, the climate, the terroir, type of wine and the grape variety, but you may lack the info about the vintage, more especially if you only have notions and never really read anything about it. Meaning that, personally, ask me about Bordeaux or Burgundy, and I will tell you everything I know about the vintage's specifics and variations of and within these two regions; yet, ask me about Margaret River vintages and, like in a cartoon during an awkward moment, you'll probably will hear the sound of an eagle flying in the sky (a red-tailed hawk actually, watch the reason why here 😉😁).    
  • So, I just read a few articles about the 2016 vintage in Margaret River, and, unfortunately, it was a difficult one (and it does not mean that all Margaret River wines in that specific vintage are bad by the way, some are surprisingly good...) Read what James Halliday says about it here (and in case you do not know who James Halliday is, do me a favor and get yourself educated here)  

4. Taste

So, with a mindset on the country, region and grape variety, and no clue about the quality of the vintage, the time has come to taste the wines. The judges of the panel have two ways to do it,

  • either by tasting and comment on the wines, one by one, tasting the first wine (in silence), writing their comments on the tasting sheet first, then consult the other judges of the panel for their comments, evaluate the QPR (i.e. Is it worth it at that price?) and reach a consensus to attribute an award (or not), then do the same for the 2nd wine, and so on 
  • or, by tasting all of the wines of the flight at once, and write their comments on the tasting sheet first, then talk about all the wines at once, and evaluate their QPR by comparing them (i.e. This wine is a much better buy at this price than the other one and deserves bronze? silver? gold? or double gold?), then reach a consensus to attribute an award (or not)
Leigh-Ann and I chose the first way, as it is somewhat easier to taste each wine individually and taste them for what they are, rather than comparing them as, in my opinion, it could influence your judgement on the quality of the wine and you may lower your rating or downgrade the award, or not give any award based on these differences, which, in my opinion, isn't fair.

Don't get me wrong, we eventually end up also comparing them a little at the end, even with the first way, of course, no choice, but I truly believe that we are less influenced when the wines are tasted individually.       

Meaning that, for example, if you taste an average Pinot Noir at $20 and compare it to a very good Pinot Noir at $35, you might be tempted to give no award for the one at $20 and give silver or gold to the one at $35. While, if you taste them individually, you might consider that the one at $20 is not that average (after all) within this kind of price range, and although the one at $35 is very good, it is kind of expensive and at the end of the day not necessarily worth paying $35 (it is all debatable, but this is just an example, after I let you judge the way you think is better 😊).

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that, in this type of competition where wines are tasted blind, it is better (in my opinion) to taste them individually to determine their QPR and evaluate what they really worth, rather than comparing them. 

Not sure if we were too strict, but Leigh-Ann and I did not give many awards, needless to say not much gold, and only one double gold. But that said when you reach our level of wine-buying experience, your palate pays more attention to the obvious flaws of the wines, and often become less tolerant, more uncompromising towards these flaws.

Flaws that are too often accepted, at a lesser professional level by the "wannabe-wine-professional-hipsters" and other "supposedly-posh-wine-connoisseurs", like being a distinct part of the character of the wines. Like excuses to convince themselves that the wine is good when actually it isn't, ring the bell?

Wine Hipster vs Connoisseur by ©LeDomduVin 2019

- "The horse manure and other faeces notes of this natural wine make it so enticing",
- "Well, what? Are you kidding? This wine smells like shit...?!?"
- "Yes, but it is a specific kind of shit, I can smell like... and some... and a hint of...."
- "Ok, spare me the details, this wine smells like shit and is probably bad, but obviously I can't convince you otherwise...(sigh)... Are you always that Hip with wines?"

Basically, the more experienced and professional you are, the more sharpened are your senses, and thus you'll end up being more restrictive on giving accolades and awards, and more difficult to please as with experience, especially when judging wines, flaws are not a "je ne sais quoi" which enhance the character of the wine, they are flaws! Full stop. 

Going back to the competition tasting, once done with these 4 steps, the judges can now discuss with each other and exchange their opinions on the quality of the wine and together assess the QPR of the wine based on its price. As, as the graph above clearly suggests it, no matter how good the wine is or how much you like it, or not, everything revolves around the price! As, in the end, what really matters is the price and your willingness to paying that price or not!

And, for most of the wines presented at the competition, the tasting conclusion ends up being (most of the time): "I like the wine, but not at that price... too expensive, and better wines are available in this price range or lower... I'll rather buy something else!". 

Yet, and fortunately, some of these wines received some awards as a reward for their intrinsic qualities, and more especially for their quality-price-ratio (QPR) for being exceptionally good values for money in their respective category (region, grape variety, wine type) and price range.

Once finished, the tasting sheets of all the judges/panels are collected by the AIWC team, which, in turn, compare the judge's notes, then verify and confirm the awards, which are available on AIWC website. (***) 

What a great day! And what a great competition to participate in, too. Thanks again to Adam Levy (the creator of AIWC) and Beth Dorrough (Adam's "right arm" and co-organiser of the AIWC) for inviting to participate for the 3rd year in a row. Thanks to Leigh-Ann Luckett for being my "partner-in-crime" for that day. A great experience! Highly recommended.

Adam Levy (creator/founder of the AIWC Asia International Wine Competition)
and Dominique Noel (a.k.a LeDomduVin) in Royce Cellar (TST)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Well, wait a minute, that's it, finished? and you didn't eat?!? (will you say...)

But of course, we did. Adam and Beth are taking very good care of their judges. We took a break to go to a nearby Chinese restaurant, called Tai Woo Restaurant (TST) (****), which was actually really good I must say. All the judges (wine, beer and spirits) sat together, which called for interesting subjects convivially discussed while enjoying dumplings and other Hong Kongese and Chinese delights paired with some of the gold and double gold awarded wines and beers from the morning session. 

Adam Levy and some of the AIWC team and judges
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST) ©LeDomduVin 2019

Beth Dorrough and some of the AIWC team and judges
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST) ©LeDomduVin 2019

Beth Dorrough and some of the AIWC team and judges
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST) ©LeDomduVin 2019 (2)

Some of the AIWC team and judges
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST) ©LeDomduVin 2019 (1)

Some of the AIWC team and judges
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST) ©LeDomduVin 2019 (2)

Love Craft beer (tasted at the AIWC competition)
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST) ©LeDomduVin 2019

Pasteur Street Brewing Company Passion Fruit
Wheat Beer (tasted at the AIWC competition)
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Master Gao Lunar Eclipse
British Style Imperial Stout Beer
(tasted at the AIWC competition)
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Some of the food, wines, beers and spirits
(tasted at the AIWC competition)
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Kevin O’Leary 2017
Pinot Noir Reserve Series
(tasted at the AIWC competition)
at Tai Woo Restaurant (TST)
©LeDomduVin 2019

What a great lunch! Good food, good company, good wines, beers and even some spirits, good atmosphere, what else to ask?

I would like to apologize to all the people in the pictures above and below for not mentioning all your names, first because we met for the first time that day and I'm very bad for remembering people names on the first day, and secondly because you were far too many for me to remember all of them. (*****)

After lunch, we went back to Royce Cellar to finish the afternoon session of the competition. Once finished and our testing sheets given back to AIWC team, we were authorised to enter the room with the samples to see the wines we tasted that day...

Wine Samples tasted at the AIWC 2019  (1)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Wine Samples tasted at the AIWC 2019  (2)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Wine Samples tasted at the AIWC 2019 (3)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Wine Samples tasted at the AIWC 2019 (4)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Wine Samples tasted at the AIWC 2019 (4)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Judges at AIWC 2019
and a happy couple about to get married soon (1)
©LeDomduVin 2019 

Judges at AIWC 2019
and a happy couple about to get married soon (2)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Judges at AIWC 2019
and colleagues in the real-life
©LeDomduVin 2019

Judges at AIWC 2019 in deep thoughts ;-)
tasting some of the samples afterwards
©LeDomduVin 2019

AIWC 2019 - The team and the Panel of Judges for Wine, Beer and Spirits
behind the bar at Royce Cellar (TST) ©LeDomduVin 2019

AIWC 2019 - The team and the Panel of Judges for Wine, Beer and Spirits
behind the bar at Royce Cellar (TST) ©LeDomduVin 2019 (black teeth smile)

I'm finishing this post on a high and happy note with these pictures of the joyful and smiley people who constituted the team and the judges for the wine, beer and spirits tasted that day for (respectively) the AIWC (Asia International Wine Competition), the AIBC (Asia International Beer Competition) and the AISC (Asia International Spirits Competition).

Talented and seasoned people, all expert in their own field, respectively wine, beer and spirits, for whom I have much respect. I really hope to see you all next year, if once again Adam Levy and Beth Dorrough kindly invite me to participate in the competition, which I will do with great interest and enthusiasm.

Thank you,

That's All Folks! for today, but stay tuned for more post like this one coming soon.

Santé! Cheers!

Dominique Noel (a.k.a. LeDomduVin)

(*) Rules fully or partly taken from the briefing as well as from the AIWC website here

(**) This AIWC tasting sheet example was created for the purpose of this post only and all original design of AIWC tasting sheets copyrights belong to AIWC (this is just a gimmick of the tasting sheet we had during the tasting used as a visual to complete the paragraph above the picture. 

(***) If interested you can find out which wines received the awards for the 2019 Competition on the AIWC website here

(****) The restaurant we went to for lunch is called "Tai Woo" Restaurant, located at 14-16 Hillwood Road, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon. Find more about it on their website here

(*****) If you recognize yourself in any of the pictures, please email me and I will add your name to the corresponding picture. (or remove the picture if you prefer...) Thank you 😅

More about AIWC - Asia international Wine Competition at  https://asiainternationalwinecompetition.com/

More about Royce Cellar at https://www.facebook.com/Roycecellarhk/

AIWC, Asia International Wine Competition, Tasting Events, Wine Competition, Wine Tasting, Wine Education, Wine Knowledge, Illustrations, #lesillustrationsadom, #ledomduvin, ©LeDomduVin, Wine Store, Wine Experience, Wine Judge