Friday, April 28, 2023

LeDomduVin: Black Silver & Gold Bordeaux Labels


Black Silver & Gold Bordeaux Labels 

While some Chateaux in Bordeaux, like Mouton Rothschild, are known for altering parts of their labels each year, most Bordeaux labels and bottles have remained relatively unchanged for over 40 years. And, despite the recent trend towards minimalistic or modern designs, most Chateaux labels have maintained a consistent visual aspect. 

As I wrote in one of my recent posts (read it here), among the most illustrious, the label of Chateau Lafite Rothschild is an excellent example as it has only ever-so-slightly evolved. 

Resisting change is a trait recognizable in most Classified Growths, on both left and right banks, long established and anchored in the aristocratic Bordeaux attitude, culture, and traditions, with a dash of Dutch demeanour and British phlegm. 

Chateau Palmer is another great example of consistency, boasting the absolute "pitch blue" label (NB: it is not black; it is called "Palmer Blue" and is also the colour of perfectly ripened grapes) since 1869 (apparently). 

And yet, the past two decades have witnessed some chateaux making bold decisions to modify or create a different label either to revamp them or to commemorate significant events linked with the history of the Chateaux or the owners, allowing their bottles to stand out from the ocean of other Bordeaux wines proudly.  

In my opinion, the dark ("pitch blue") and gold label of Chateau Palmer is the quintessential definition of sophistication, class, elegance and refinement, with a "je ne sais quoi" of, if not royal, at least, aristocratic flair. 

Globally, black, silver and gold have always been symbols of elegance, refinement and luxury. 

Black is a matte colour emanating a sophisticated, elegant, classy, powerful, mysterious, timeless aura. 

Silver is a refined and distinguished colour. As a noble metal, often the symbol of wealth and success throughout history, it represents brilliance, grace, innovation, refinement, sophistication, and glamour. 

Gold is the colour of wealth and luxury, particularly when paired with black. It is a precious, revered, coveted metal, often linked with love, wisdom, and magic. 

No wonder other chateaux have used these colours to mark the importance and significance of certain vintages.  

The examples presented in my collage and below are just a few of the many Bordeaux wine labels that share similar characteristics. These examples showcase some of the most outstanding and complex Black, Silver & Gold Labels that Bordeaux has to offer.

Nice lineup, isn't it? 

Yet, before explaining these labels briefly, let's step back with a little "aparté" about...

Some Bordeaux history (+ personal views and opinions)    

Bordeaux Grands Crus Classés are known for their adherence to longstanding aristocratic codes, values, culture, and traditions that have developed over the past two centuries. This is especially true when it comes to the classification of their wines.

Live in Bordeaux for a little while, visit the Chateaux and talk with the people, and you'll realize how difficult it is to break the old codes and habits and shake things a little in the world's wine capital. 

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007, Bordeaux (and its surrounding Chateaux) looks resplendent in its 18th-century grandeur and splendour. Yet some Chateaux owners' mentality and attitude have not changed much since the "Siecle des Lumières". Bordeaux is still ruled by the money and power of long-established families and traditions.    

For the 1855 "Exposition Universelle de Paris", Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for the best Bordeaux wines that would be presented at the exposition for the world to see. To do so, wine brokers and merchants established a list and ranked the wines according to the château's reputation and trading price, directly related to quality at that time. 

Only 3 minor changes have occurred ever since. The addition of Chateau Cantemerle, as a Fifth Growth, in 1856. The rank elevation of Château Mouton Rothschild from second-growth to first-growth, in 1973, after decades of intense lobbying by its owner Philippe de Rothschild. And the removal of Château Dubignon, a third-growth from Margaux that was absorbed into Château Malescot St. Exupéry.

Understandably, over the last nearly 170 years, the reputation, trading price and, more importantly, the quality of some of these Chateaux have significantly changed as ownership and history underwent dramatic changes, notably during and in between WWI and WWII, then more noticeably after the wars. 

Starting in the 50s, the 3rd industrial revolution saw the rapid progress of technology, machinery and innovation, moving from mechanical and analogue electronics to digital electronics. Yet, it also started the prominent use of plastics and chemicals in the 70S and GMOs in the 80s, which have increased exponentially, considerably affecting the vineyard's soils, subsoils and environment, and consequently, the wines.     

Also, during the 60s and 70s, the focus was on mass production instead of prioritizing quality. Technics used in the vineyards and cellars led to numerous experiences and methods, good and bad, some now long abandoned, some that have lasted or evolved for the better, and some not. 

Despite the changes happening in the wine industry at that time, both the chateaux that embraced them and those that held on to traditional methods failed to improve their approach to winemaking. The former increased production and the use of chemicals, while the latter resisted change, resulting in wines of lower quality on both sides. 

Apart from a few exceptions, like 1961 and 1964, and 1975, most Bordeaux wines from the 60s and especially the 70s were mediocre to really bad (**).   

In the 80s and 90s, vineyards and cellars underwent significant changes (both good and bad). Chemicals continued to be heavily used to protect vineyards from pests and diseases. Wine critics and flying winemakers emerged during this period, along with the implementation of 100-point ratings, like those used in the US. As a result, Bordeaux began making wines that catered to the American palate, and those with high ratings became subject to price speculation.

Starting in the early 2000s, there was a renewed interest in winemaking practices that were more natural and sustainable, such as "Lutte Raisonnée", "Biologique" (Organic), and Biodynamic. These methods aimed to create better quality wines while also considering the environment. However, some individuals remained resistant to change and continued to cling to outdated and polluting methods.

In the last 10-15 years, the Bordeaux bashing, the rise of Burgundy, the power of social media and the ever-increasing competition from the rest of the world have significantly influenced Bordeaux growers and chateaux owners to change their methods, adopt more natural processes, pay more attention to how they interact with the environment and nature in general, and more importantly increase the quality of their wines.     

In recent years, open-minded and innovative growers, owners, and new generations have played an important role in renovating their brands, wines, bottles, and labels. They have adapted to new methods of approaching their customers, improving both the image of Bordeaux and theirs at the same time. This has been achieved by concentrating on quality, marketing, and interactive oenotourism activities to attract new customers.

Over the past 20-25 years, the quality of Bordeaux wine has greatly improved thanks to advancements in technology, machinery, science, methodology and knowledge. Undoubtedly, climate change and pollution have also played a significant role in this improvement. To maintain the quality of their vines, owners and winemakers have had to devote more time to the vineyards to prevent weather hazards such as frost, hail, heat, drought, and flood. Additionally, they have reduced or eliminated the use of chemicals in favour of more natural methods and products, paying closer attention to the environment.  

And despite those who remain with a foot in the past, reluctant to change and adapt, overall, mentalities are changing in Bordeaux, and great improvements have been made, recently inspired by small groups of alternative owners and winemakers such as  "Bordeaux Pirate" and "All you need is wine". 

Bordeaux is known for offering some of the best quality-price ratios, and it's been said that making bad wines there is almost impossible now. 

On that note, it's important to remember that Bordeaux is not limited to the Top 300 most renowned and expensive Chateaux, which only make up about 4% of the 7500 Chateaux and vineyards.

There are around 9000 wines produced in Bordeaux, including a vast amount of small Chateaux for under 15 Euros (or USD16.5) that are delicious and definitely worth trying. These wines provide excellent value compared to other wines in the same price range from around the world.

Now, if we only focus on the classified growth, the same situation occurs. Some owners and winemakers are still locked in the old days and Bordeaux's "traditional" style. Yet, some have made drastic changes and tremendously improved. Surpassing the "expected" quality of their rank and thus rivalling or outpassing their higher-ranked and more expensive neighbours. Questioning the credibility of the classification. Is the 1855 classification still representative of the Chateau's reputation, quality and price?   

The "En Primeurs" tasting provides a unique opportunity to discern the disparities in quality between neighbouring Chateaux that share the same rank, appellation, and/or similar prices. Despite my annual anticipation that I'll be amazed by some changes and improvements, I'm consistently let down as I come to the realization that the winemakers who consistently produce lesser wines in good years and bad years remain unchanged.

Meaning that every year, prior to going to the "En Primeurs" tasting, I reset the button of my "preconceived notions" to free my mind from any biased thoughts, hoping to finally be surprised by the new wine of the Chateaux I previously had less interest in due to the lesser quality of their wine. And unfortunately, it never fails! The good ones are good to great. And the bad ones are mediocre to bad, as usual... disappointing, especially when you know the price some of these Chateaux ask for.  

I'm not the only one to say it or think that way. Thus, it is not "just" my palate or my opinion. 

Proving that the bad ones have not changed or even improved over the years. Demonstrating the veracity of the fact that they are still stuck in the past, making a supposedly "traditional" style of Bordeaux (usually dusty, dry, tight, tannic, austere, underripe or overripe, often unbalanced and inhomogeneous) that has not evolved for decades and only exists to satisfy an ageing crowd of amateurs and nostalgics.  

I find it surprising that despite receiving negative feedback and low scores from experts, journalists, and critics over the years, some winemakers still refuse to make improvements. They argue that their wine's taste is a product of their terroir, traditions, methods, and vision, even if it falls short of its potential. 

From their perspective, understandably, they are content with their wine's quality, but is it worth its high price?

While writing these lines, many examples come to my mind, but I will not cite anyone or further detail my opinions on the subject, as tasting is very subjective. Yet, some of you will understand what I'm trying to say.     

To sum up, while Chateaux owners and winemakers insist on producing top-notch wines that align with their status and classification, it's perplexing to note that some Chateaux continue to charge exorbitant prices based on their rank, even though their wines are of inferior quality compared to lower-ranked wines that are better in quality and less expensive. 

For all the reasons cited above and after decades of countless debates about whether to review the 1855 Classification, you would think that the Bordelais would have opted for a revision like they did with the appellation of St. Emilion, where the Classification is reviewed every ten years. 

But NO! The 1855 Classification is immutable and set in stone forever. All attempts at change were a failure so as not to hurt anyone's ego and to avoid pointing fingers or saying out loud what many are thinking in a whisper. 

Ultimately, it is undoubtedly better if the 1855 Classification remains untouched, especially when you see the "fiasco" of the recent revisions in other appellations like Saint-Emilion and all the problems this has caused.

Bordeaux is a world where the establishment, family names, traditions and money hold power and determine what is considered socially acceptable. It is a place where people often appear friendly in public but may betray each other privately. This environment fosters a strong, often unhealthy sense of competition and exacerbates jealousy (typically French), especially observable in lesser vintages.

Fortunately, most of the top-tier Chateaux in Bordeaux make excellent wines, which balance things out in each appellation. And fortunately for the Bordelais, each decade, they benefit from about 5-6 good to great vintages (**) to fall back on their feet, save their image and justify their attitudes and ever-increasing prices.

Yet, who am I to judge? After all, everything about tasting and liking wine is so subjective that it is difficult to be objective or rational.  


The topic has been ongoing for decades and is way too long to be discussed in only one post. So I will stop here for now. 

Regular followers know I am not ranting or venting. I'm just a very "vocal" and opinionated French-American man who likes to freely express his opinions and discuss topics others tend to avoid. 😇😁👍🍷

However, let's move on, as once again, I digressed from the main topic (one of my many recurring bad habits 😅). 

Where were we? Ah, yes, I was about to talk about the Classification of Saint-Emilion and the first 2 labels on the left of my collage above.  

The rollercoaster of the Classification of Saint-Emilion 

As described above, once established, Classifications are difficult to revise. And any attempt at revision or update usually generates controversy, debate and complaints. 

Despite what seemed to be a fair vote, the recent classifications of Saint-Emilion proved that it can be biased when parts of the jury are Chateaux owners who might have a personal interest in seeing their Chateaux promoted. And like for any other votes or listing establishment, there are always people to disagree with and contest it, especially if their chateaux get demoted.  

Many articles have been written on the subject at the time, so I won't extend much on it. Yet, for those of you who may not have followed what happened, here is a brief résumé: 

The classification of Saint-Emilion wines was first thought of in 1930, but it remained an idea until 1954, when the INAO agreed to handle the list. It was first published on June 16, 1955, and was amended on August 7 and October 18, 1958. 

Following the initial classification, which included 12 Premier Grands crus classés and 63 Grands crus classés, the list was updated in 1969, 1986, 1996, 2006, and 2012. "However, the 2006 classification was declared invalid following a series of legal actions. The 1996 version of the classification has been reinstated for the vintages from 2006 to 2009." - Wikipedia 

To prevent the situation of the 2006 Classification, the INAO decided that the 2012 Classification would be done by an independent group of people with no involvement in St.-Emilion Wine Syndicate and the Bordeaux wine trade. But instead, wine professionals from Burgundy, the Rhône Valley, Champagne, the Loire Valley, and Provence made up a seven-person commission.

However, despite a different method and new handling, complaints and disagreement for the 2012 classification proved inevitable, leading to an even worst situation for the 2022 Classification. Three out of four of the Chateaux Classés "A" (the two original ones, Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc, and one of the two promoted in 2012, Chateau Angelus) withdrew their application for the 2022 ranking.  

Although each of the 3 chateaux acted individually, without consulting one another, their reasons for withdrawing from the 2022 classification were very similar, with Chateau Cheval Blanc stating in a letter sent to Bordeaux Negociants and courtiers "a profound change in the philosophy of the classification, especially regarding new criteria that amount to “marketing drift”, such as the importance of product placement, how often an estate appears in media, including PR and in social media, along with wine tourism infrastructure."

It is understandable that being judged on their "Social Media" and "Oenotourism" impact, rather than their respective terroir, viticulture, and the quality and ability to age of their wines, based on an "evaluation system" not taking into consideration the "notion of identity and typicity, as if the culture of wine, its ageing capacity over several decades, and knowledge of the appellation were unnecessary for evaluating the estates", does not seem to be either fair, reasonable, right or just.  

It better explains why the 1855 classification has never (and probably will never be) touched.  


Ok, I think that, once again, I got carried away with my thoughts and opinions. I have been writing way too much for what was supposed to be a short post. 

So, let's jump into the labels.   

The Black, Silver & Gold Labels

After decades of reign on the Rank "B" of the Classification, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie were promoted to Grand Cru Classé "A" status in the 2012 Classification of St. Emilion wines, joining Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc.   

Chateau Angelus 2012

In 2012, Chateau Angélus achieved significant milestones, including being elevated to Premier Grand Cru Classé "A" status and welcoming a new member of the family's eighth generation to the estate's Directorate.

Additionally, it marked the 230th anniversary of the Boüard de Laforest family's arrival in Saint-Emilion. The estate underwent extensive expansion and improvement work, creating a level of quality that had never been seen before. A unique bottle was designed to commemorate the historic vintage, featuring the family crest on the capsule and an engraved gold inscription and embellishments highlighting the iconic Angélus bell.

Chateau Pavie 2012 

Chateau Pavie commemorated its upgrade from "B" to "A" classification for the 2012 vintage by showcasing a fresh black label embellished with gold print. 

In 2013, while working at a property in Pomerol (*) (that the company I worked for back then had recently acquired), I received an invitation from Chateau Pavie to attend their dinner celebrating their new status as "Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé A". The dinner was held in a spacious room above their newly built cellar, which offered a stunning view of their vineyards. The attendees included "Le Gratin Bordelais", negociants, courtiers, owners, winemakers, and other distinguished guests. The dinner was exceptional, with delicious food and exquisite wines, and it concluded with a spectacular firework display. The event was organized by Chantal and Gerard Perse, proud owners of Chateau Pavie. It was a beautiful evening to remember.

It's worth noting that in the 2022 Saint-Emilion Classification, Chateau Pavie maintained its "A" status, while Chateau Figeac was promoted from "B" to "A". Interestingly, Pavie is the only one out of the four Chateau Grand Cru Classe A in 2012 that remained in the 2022 classification.

Chateau Margaux 2015

Château Margaux released its 2015 vintage in a limited edition bottle to commemorate Paul Pontallier, who served as the Managing Director of the estate for more than 20 years.

Paul Pontalier joined Margaux in 1983 and became the Managing Director in 1990. In partnership with the estate owner, he is credited for significantly improving the wine and the estate throughout his career. Unfortunately, he passed away in March 2016, one week before the "En Primeur" week began for the highly acclaimed 2015 vintage.

The bottle has been engraved with a unique design of the estate with surrounding texts in gold and a representation of the "Nouveau Chai" (New Cellar) in Silver in the background. It is the first time Chateau Margaux has commissioned a one-of-a-kind design for the label of its grand vin. 

Corinne Mentzelopoulos, the owner of Chateau Margaux, created this bottle to honour and pay tribute to Pontallier while also celebrating the 200th anniversary of Chateaux Margaux and the "Nouveau Chai" that was commissioned in 2009 and completed in 2015.

In the early 19th century, La Colonilla, owner of the Chateau at the time, approached Louis Combes, a fashionable Bordeaux architect, to build the Chateau and the farm buildings we admire today. Combes realised the masterpiece of his life. Often nicknamed the “Versailles of the Médoc”, Chateau Margaux is a work of art and a rare example of the neo-palladian style in France. Constructions started in 1810 and were completed in 1815.  

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2000


Chateau Mouton Rothschild is notorious for commissioning leading artists and painters to illustrate each vintage the label of its Grand Vin. It all started when the cubistic painter "Carlu" was asked to design the 1924 label, to commemorate the first vintage bottled exclusively at the château.

The label design underwent several small changes until 1945 when Baron Philippe de Rothschild commissioned Philippe Jullian to create a new illustration for the label. It featured a "V", symbolizing the Allied victory and the end of World War II.

For the vintage 2000, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild did not commission a painter. Instead, she found a glass manufacturer, B.S.N., able to engrave the bottle with a new technique of enamelling in relief.

The bottle boasts a shining gold and enamel representation of the "Augsburg Ram", a chased silver-gilt silver vessel created around 1590 by German master goldsmith Jacob Schenauer, part of the collection displayed at the Museum of "Wine in Art" at the Chateau.

This beautifully engraved bottle, specifically created to celebrate the new millennium (and the new century), instantly became a collector item. As proof of authenticity, the Château Mouton Rothschild's name is engraved in the base.

Chateau Palmer 

Chateau Palmer's label is so classy and distinguished that I would not be surprised if it has inspired the other Chateaux mentioned in this post to use the Black, Silver and Gold colours for their one-off label designs.  

Even though the label for this particular Chateaux wasn't designed to honour any specific historical event related to either the estate or its owners, I decided to include it on this list. This is because the "Pitch Blue" colour used on their label, also known as "Palmer Blue", dates back to 1869, making it probably the first Bordeaux estates to use a combination of Dark, Silver, and Gold colours.

Chateau Smith Haut Lafite 2015

In 1990, Florence and Daniel Cathiard fell in love with Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. They restored it and brought it back to its splendour to perpetuate its tradition of excellence. After 3 years of renovating the estate, they moved into the 18th-century Chartreuse, and the rest is history. 

For the 2015 vintage, the Cathiards designed a special label and capsule, displaying writings and logos and a chateau representation embossed in Silver and Gold on black to commemorate their 25th harvest and the 650th anniversary of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. This chateau has been around since 1365, making it a truly historic landmark

Both their whites and red wines constantly receive accolades and good scores from the critics, the press and the professionals. The restaurant, hotel and spa, conveniently located at the Chateau, form a haven of peace and are highly recommended.    

Their two daughters followed their parent's steps creating businesses to further enhance the reputation of the Chateau and extend its image throughout the country and even the world.  

Alice Tourbier-Cathiard and her husband, Jérôme, run two hotel facilities, "Les Sources de Caudalie", a luxury hotel in the middle of the vines at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, and "Les Sources de Cheverny" in the Loire Valley.

Mathilde Thomas-Cathiard and her husband, Bertrand, founded the "Caudalie" company, which creates and sells exclusive beauty care products from grape seeds and vine cuttings worldwide.

Chateau Cos d'Estournel 2020

Displaying an Indian-inspired architecture nuanced with oriental style and pagodas guarded by elephants, Chateau Cos d'Estournel magnificently thrones atop its hill like a majestic Indian palace. This creates a singularity amongst the common 17-19th architectural style of most Chateaux and houses in Bordeaux, hard to be missed when you leave Pauillac to enter Saint-Estephe.     

In 1811, Louis Gaspard d'Estournel purchased a few hectares of vineyards near a hill called "Cos", meaning "hill of pebbles" in Gascon. He then travelled worldwide to promote his wines, including the East Indies, where the maharajas were fond of them, earning him the nickname "Maharajah of Saint-Estèphe". The construction of the Château began in 1830, featuring unique Indian/Far East-inspired architecture, including pagodas and elephant statues.

In 2000, entrepreneur Michel Reybier bought the estate from Domaine Prats. Numerous technical upgrades have been implemented in the vineyard and the cellar since to consistently strive for greater excellence and precision.

The 2020 vintage marks two significant milestones - the 200th anniversary of Cos's existence and the 20th anniversary of Michel Reybier's ownership. The bottle has been given a stunning makeover to commemorate this special occasion. The black bottle now showcases a beautiful gold engraving of the chateau and lettering, making it truly exceptional.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou - Croix de Beaucaillou 2010

La Croix de Beaucaillou is the second wine of Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. Typically, a second wine is produced using young vines and grapes unsuitable for the "Grand Vin". However, since 2005, Croix de Beaucaillou has been made using its own vines from parcels of Ducru-Beaucaillou vineyards. As a result, it has become more of a second label than a second wine.

Ducru's owner Bruno Borie wanted to change the perception that second wines are inferior and only bought by people who can't afford the first wines. To achieve this, he asked British jewellery designer Jade Jagger (Mick Jagger's daughter) to create a new label for Croix de Beaucaillou, making it a second label rather than a second wine, distinguishing it from the grand vin.

Initially released as a limited edition for the 2009 vintage, the new black and gold label became a permanent feature starting from the 2010 vintage. It's worth noting that the label's design changed slightly in 2015 and was completely redesigned in 2018.

A 3rd label called "La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou Cuvée Colbert", also featuring a black and gold/copper design, was produced each vintage from 2013 to 2019.

As a bonus, I wanted to mention two more Chateaux that I couldn't fit in my collage due to limited space but are still noteworthy for this post on Black, Silver & Gold Bordeaux Labels.

Chateau Talbot 2018

Désiré Cordier acquired Château Talbot, a highly esteemed winery in Saint-Julien, in 1918. For the 2018 vintage, the Bignon-Cordier family, who continue to manage the estate, commemorated the 100th anniversary by releasing a unique black bottle screen-printed with Silver design and lettering for the entire production in 75 cl.

NB: The other formats (half-bottles, magnums, double magnums, etc.) had a particular label reflecting the aesthetics of the 75-cl bottle.

The main barrel cellar at Talbot is an impressive display of technical and aesthetic expertise, featuring sturdy concrete pillars that resemble a forest opening up to the sky. Symbolizing the vines, trees, and roots embedded in the terroir, Nancy Bignon-Cordier chose these pillars to commemorate her family's 100th vintage at Talbot.

Elegant and distinguished, the label is faithful to the profile of the great wines of Château Talbot.

Chateau Sociandot Mallet 2018

Jean Gautreau, born in April 1927 in the small town of Lesparre in the Medoc, was not from a family involved in the wine industry. He worked for the brokerage firm of Miailhe until 1950, when he became an independent broker. Recognizing the rising cost of Bordeaux wines as an opportunity to create a profitable business, he established his own négociant firm in January 1957.

In 1969, Jean Gautreau came across Sociando-Mallet in Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne while searching for a wine estate to purchase for a Belgian client. Despite the property's poor condition, Jean was enamoured with it from the start due to its exceptional terroir and stunning view of the Gironde Estuary. He ultimately decided to buy it for himself.

At that time, there were only 5 hectares of vineyards. Additionally, the buildings needed repairs and improvements, and there was no barrel cellar, just a small vat room and garage. Fortunately, with guidance from Gérard Cler, a former employee at the château, Jean Gautreau was able to produce an acceptable first vintage, a superb second one, and many better ones after that.

Over time, Jean Gautreau purchased vines from his neighbours to expand his vineyard. He took steps to ensure top-notch quality by updating the estate's buildings, constructing a barrel cellar, and gradually improving the choice of grape varieties, matching the appropriate ones to each vineyard plot.

Today, Château Sociando-Mallet is a property of 83 hectares that produces almost 450,000 bottles yearly, including its second wine, Demoiselle de Sociando-Mallet. Its owner, Jean Gautreau, sold his négociant business in 2000 and now concentrates solely on managing the wine estate.

Sociando-Mallet 2018 is a tribute to Jean Gautreau, who took over the property 50 years ago and elevated it to its current quality and fame. The wine features a one-off black label, with silver and gold design and lettering, dedicated to Gautreau, a visionary who created a unique identity for this highly estimated property, which is "neither cru bourgeois, nor classified growth."

Voilà! That's all, folks! 

Stay tuned for more posts, and in the meantime, take good care of yourself and your loved ones.  

Cheers! Santé! 


(*) Back in 2013, I was sent for 5 months in France with one of my directors to oversee the transition of ownership of Chateau Le Bon Pasteur, recently acquired by the company I worked for at the time.  

(**) If interested, you can read my post on my "Theory of the decades for Bordeaux vintages" part 1 here and part 2 here ).  

Collage by @ledomduvin 2023 

#bordeaux #wine #vin #vino #wein #label #labels #black #silver #gold #ledomduvin @ledomduvin #lescollagesadom #lescreationsadom #bordeauxlabels

Unless stated otherwise, all right reserved ©LeDomduVin 2023, on all the contents above including, but not limited to, photos, pictures, drawings, illustrations, 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).

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

LeDomduVin: Champagne Jacques Selosse V.O. (Version Originale) Collection Verticale


Champagne Jacques Selosse V.O. 

(Version Originale) Collection Verticale

Recently, I stumbled across a case of Jacques Selosse Champagne, one of the most sought-after Champagne producers. 

Created after WWII, the champagne house "Jacques Selosse", located in Avize, has been run since 1974 by Anselme (Jacques' son) with the help of his son Guillaume. 

Their champagnes are among the most beautiful references in the region, reaching a rare perfection. They are thus extremely popular with amateurs and acclaimed by critics. The estate's eight hectares of vines produce less than 60,000 bottles annually. 

This is different from your usual case of 6 bottles of Selosse. It is a limited edition containing a "Verticale" of the Cuvée V. O. (Version Originale) disgorged in 6 consecutive years: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. 

V.O. is a cuvée "Blanc de Blancs", 100% Chardonnay, from vineyards planted on slopes facing north, south and east around the villages of Avize, Cramant and Oger. 

The year's wine is blended with "reserve" wines from the two preceding vintages. Combining them in such a manner allows for consistency, focusing the taste on its original character and limiting the effect of variable climatic conditions. 

The resulting wine is then aged 6-7 years on lees and dosed as an "Extra Brut" (between 0 & 1.3 g/l depending on the vintage). The higher level of residual sugar in "Brut", "Extra Dry", and "Dry" affects the taste and sweetness of the Champagne, whereas, conversely, "Extra Brut", which has a lower level, contributes to preserving the Champagne's natural character, freshness and harmony and allows winemakers to reveal the quality of the various terroirs they work with. 

Unlike Jacques Selosse's "Lieux Dits" Collection, undoubtedly the purest expressions of the 6 top vineyard sites they work with, V.O. may not reveal as perfectly and precisely the real identity of the terroirs it comes from, yet, it still delivers charm, character, intensity and concentration, with great finesse and beautiful minerality. 

Give it two or three years resting in your cellar to be a great companion to any occasion. 

Cheers! Santé! 


@ledomduvin @caveslegrand @domainejacquesselosse #ledomduvin #caveslegrand #domainejacquesselosse #champagne #extrabrut #france #selosse #versionoriginale #wine #vin #vino #wein #lesphotosadom 

Unless stated otherwise, all right reserved ©LeDomduVin 2023, on all the contents above including, but not limited to, photos, pictures, drawings, illustrations, 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).

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

LeDomduVin: Bollinger RD 2008 - HK Launch Lunch

Bollinger RD 2008
Hong Kong Launch

Hosted by @jebsenwinesandspirits 

Great lunch today, organised by Jensen Wines and Spirits, in a magnificent house on top of a hill overlooking the bay, for the launch of @champagne_bollinger  RD 2008. 

A beautiful champagne, light, mineral, and fresh, with razor-sharp acidity, outstanding balance and complexity, rich, refined, elegant, sophisticated, with a long finish. Loved it. Highly recommended. 

We tasted it in 3 different bottle formats: bottle, magnum and jeroboam, which I thought very interesting. And, to my end of the table, we all agreed the best expression of it came from the magnum format, which sublimed and enhanced this beautiful RD 2008, in ways both the bottle and the jeroboam didn’t. 

Although it was the same champagne, and the 3 of them tasted delicious, the bottle format was really good, but the magnum seemed more open, more expressive, complex and richer. In contrast, the Jeroboam seemed slightly tight and shy, as if he needed more time to fully express himself. 

We finished with the Special Cuvée NV in magnum, also a great treat. 

It was an excellent opportunity to meet @cyrildelarue from the Bollinger family, who gave many explanations and details and answered our questions. I was glad to spend some time with him discussing at the end of the lunch. Thank you, Cyril, to your family and you, for your Champagnes. 

It was also an excellent opportunity to catch up with the Jebsen team again. Thank you to Melody, who invited me and insisted on me coming while I was hesitant. Yet, it would have been a shame to miss such a lovely lunch. Thank you to the Jebsen team: Melody, Ivy, Kay, David and Louis, and to Mr Jebsen himself, of course. 

Cheers! Santé! 


@ledomduvin #ledomduvin @jebsenwinesandspirits #jebsen @champagne_bollinger #bollinger #champagne #bubbles #bollingerrd2008 #hklaunch #lunch

Unless stated otherwise, all right reserved ©LeDomduVin 2023, on all the contents above including, but not limited to, photos, pictures, drawings, illustrations, 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, April 17, 2023

LeDomduVin: My early Birthday present... The Complete Bordeaux Vintage Guide by Neal Martin

Guess what arrived today? 

The Complete Bordeaux Vintage Guide 

by Neal Martin

I ordered it as a present for myself for my birthday next month, and I couldn’t resist opening it. 

As a Bordeaux native and grandson of a winemaker, who used to tell me stories about the various Bordeaux vintages and their conditions when he was younger, I had to buy this beautiful, fun and very informative book. 

Highly recommended. 

Thank you, and kudos to you, Neal. Great work! 😁👍🍷🍷🍷

Cheers! Santé! 


@ledomduvin #ledomduvin #nealmartin #winebook #book #thecompletebordeauxvintageguide #wine #vin #vino #wein #bordeaux #wineregion #france

Unless stated otherwise, all right reserved ©LeDomduVin 2023, on all the contents above including, but not limited to, photos, pictures, drawings, illustrations, 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).

Saturday, April 15, 2023

LeDomduVin: Lafite Rothschild is all about the details!


Lafite Rothschild is all about the details!

Unlike Chateau Mouton Rothschild and a few other Chateaux in Bordeaux, which are notorious for changing the visual aspect of their labels each vintage, and despite the recent trend of revamping Bordeaux labels in a rather minimalistic or more modern way, most Bordeaux labels (and bottles) have not changed much over the past 40+ years.

Among the most illustrious, the best example is Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s label, which has only ever-so-slightly evolved.

Maybe for good reasons, as, although grand and majestic, Lafite Rothschild has always conveyed the image of a rather old, austere, closed, and immovable Chateau, long established and anchored in the aristocratic Bordeaux attitude, culture, and traditions, with a dash of British phlegm. (*)

Despite efforts to make a more open and approachable wine in recent vintages, Lafite Rothschild is often closed, shy, dry, tannic, and austere in its youth and may take up to 10-15 years to reach its opening window of drinkability and start to open. The Bordelais call that “classic” Bordeaux style, an expected common trait from a wine of this pedigree.  

Yet, don’t get me wrong, after a few long years in the bottle, when its shyness and austerity come to pass, this old and grumpy aristocrat grows its confidence to reveal all its might, with layers, complexity, concentration, and depth, rewarding the most patient of us with the elegance, finesse, charm, manners, nobility, and sophistication of its privileged superior class. 

And, yet again, despite giving this dusty impression of being frozen in time, Lafite made some changes! Over the years, small and subtle yet significant changes that most people may have yet to notice or pay attention to confirm that Lafite Rothschild is all about the details. 

I'm not talking about the changes in winemaking techniques and cellar or vineyard management that may have occurred over the past decades. I'm talking about the details on the bottles, capsules and even labels that have changed and evolved over the last 40 years. 

Saying that "Lafite Rothschild is all about the details" makes sense as these inconspicuous details perfectly reflect both Lafite’s attitude and behaviour, of not being in your face, showing off everything at once, upfront, but somewhat discreetly, offering clues, pieces of evidence of their quiet, yet profound personality and ability to make changes and adapt without losing their traditional image.

Cleverly concealed in plain sight, often embossed, printed, or painted on the bottle, for whoever would be curious enough to look at them and appreciate their meaning, these details, or symbols, were mainly attributed to noteworthy vintages regarding events meaningful for the Chateau or more on a global scale.    

As an image is worth a thousand words (more especially for those of you who may have no clue about what I’m talking about), I have created the illustration/collage above (header of this post) to show you (at one glance) these details added to the visual aspect of the bottles, capsules and even label of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, only for specific vintages, over the last 40 years. 

Below I put some close-up pictures of these details embossed and/or etched on the bottles, with a brief explanation of their meanings for you to better understand them.  

1945 – End of World War II – Lafite Rothschild embossed the vintage 1945, in an oval, on the bottle to commemorate and honour the war's end. The capsule is red and short on the neck, with only "Mis en Bouteille au Chateau" embossed on it and no drawing of the Chateau.  

1946 – The capsule is red and short on the neck, with a drawing of the Chateau and the writing "Mis en bouteilles au Chateau" in black ink. 

1984 – Between 1946 and 1984, the capsule slightly changed to become longer on the neck and presented the famous Logo "Domaine Barons de Rothschild Lafite" and a drawing of the Chateau in black ink. There is no embossing on the bottles from 1946 to 1984 vintages.  

1985 – Halley's Comet – A representation of the Comet Halley, which last passed by earth in 1986, when the 1985 vintage was peacefully ageing in the barrels, was embossed with "1985" on the bottle. It was the first embossing since the 1945 vintage (TBC, but I think it is correct, as per my experience). 1985 vintage also marks the capsule's first use with the chateau's drawing in black and white ink, which has remained the same in design amid a few changes in the depth of the red colour used for the background.    

1995 – No embossing on the bottles from 1986 to 1995 vintages. 1995 was the last vintage with no embossing on the bottle. All the bottles of the subsequent vintages have been embossed. 

1996 - First use of the logo showing Domaines Barons de Rothschild's five arrows emblem, with the name "Lafite" in the middle, used for 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007 vintages. Chateau Lafite Rothschild has embossed all its bottles since the 1996 vintage. 

1999 – Eclipse - Chateau Lafite embossed “1999” (without the five arrows) on the bottle along with a painted eclipse underneath (depicting a smiling moon the like of early 1900s Georges Méliès moon style, covering the sun) to mark the event of 11th August 1999, a total solar eclipse widely seen across Europe, as it was the last total solar eclipse of the millennium.

2000 - The 2000 vintage was embossed inside the logo (Domaines Barons de Rothschild's arrows emblem) to mark both the turn of the century and the millennium. The subsequent vintages 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020 were also embossed inside the logo.

2005 – Balance - The 2005 vintage was considered one of the best of the decade, along with 2009. Some producers and wine critics even described it as a legendary Bordeaux vintage. It resulted from nearly perfect conditions during the growing season, allowing for a successful budburst and flowering. The ideal weather balance of the 2005 vintage was a combination of continuous sunshine, dry air, hot temperatures, cold night, and little rain, bringing just enough moisture to prevent drought. On that note, Lafite Rothschild painted a pair of scales depicting a cloud and rain (on the left side) and a big bright sun (on the right side) below the embossed “2005” vintage (without the five arrows) to reflect the balance of the vintage.

2008 – Number 8 - Chateau Lafite Rothschild painted the Chinese symbol for the number eight (8), below the embossed "2008" vintage (without the five arrows), in celebration of the First Growth's new vineyard venture in China, "Long Dai", located in the Qiu Shan Valley (Shandong Province). The symbol (and number 8) is considered especially auspicious in China, creating colossal demands and rapidly increasing prices. 

2016 – Hourglass - Château Lafite Rothschild 2016 features a small hourglass etched below the embossed "2016" vintage (without the five arrows) on the bottle as a symbol of time, or more precisely, "waiting for the right time or the right timing", as they quote on their website: "An hourglass has been etched onto our 2016 bottles symbolising a vintage that played hide and seek with us until the last moment." 

2018 – 150th Anniversary - The 2018 vintage marked the 150th anniversary of Château Lafite Rothschild, purchased by Baron James de Rothschild on August 8th, 1868.

The year "1868" and "2018" are embossed on the bottle, with the letters "CL" in red etched right underneath. A small hot air balloon has been added to the label too.

In 1868, hot air balloons represented modernity and progression. They were made notably famous by the giant hot air balloon known as "Le Geant de Nadar" when it flew over Paris, resulting in Nadar's stereographs shot of the "Champs de Mars" and the "Arc de Triomphe" on October 4th, 1868. Nowadays, hot air balloons are commonly used for recreational purposes. They symbolise flying in silence, drifting cross-country, above ground, with peace and serenity.

As for the letters "CL", they have two meanings. First, "CL" is the Roman numeral representation for the number "150", and they are also the initials for "Château Lafite". 


That’s all, folks!

Thank you for reading my post. I hope you liked it and may have learned something new about Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Stay tuned for more posts coming soon.  In the meantime, take good care of yourself and your loved ones.   

Cheers! Santé!


NB: I was a Wine Quality Control Director for nine years, doing all the bottle inspections and authentications in my previous job (provenance, conditions, authenticity, etc..). Consequently, I understandably did not mention or disclose other details to prevent from helping counterfeiters.    

(*) No offence, but it is the Bordeaux native, grandson of a winemaker, and Sommelier / Wine Buyer, with 30+ years of career in the wine industry, growing up in Bordeaux and buying Lafite Rothschild since the early 90s, talking.  Ask the people of my generation working in the wine industry, and they will most likely tell you the same thing …or, maybe not, as they might not speak as openly as I do about such an illustrious Chateau/producers, as they might deem that unappropriated or put themselves in a wrong position with the Chateau… Oh, well… Here I said it, and I’m not the only one to think that way.    

For more details about Chateau Lafite Rothschild, go to their website at


@ledomduvin #ledomduvin #wine #vin #vino #wein #chateaulafiterothschild #lafiterothschild #pauillac #bordeaux #france #firstgrowth #bottledetails #labeldetails #capsuledetails

Unless stated otherwise, all right reserved ©LeDomduVin 2023, on all the contents above including, but not limited to, photos, pictures, drawings, illustrations, 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).