Could a US$100 Bordeaux Fine Wine be sold at the Pump? Famous Bordeaux Winemaker Domaine de Chevalier plans to do so...

(This editorial is the executive summary of an exclusive VitaBella report)(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Wine market in China is growing very fast and specialized wine retail shops still need to develop all over the country. For that reason, new opportunities are considered by wineries willing to gain rapid market shares and brand awareness. An acclaimed Bordeaux Chateau, Domaine de Chevalier, understood this situation very well and decided to move forward. In a recent article, Wall Street Journal wrote that "the premium winemaker has an agreement with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. to peddle its Bordeaux in 110 stores across China, according a report by Shenzhen Special Zone Newsletter." (you can read the full article in VitaBella Wine Gossip, Edition December 15th)

Can this move be a success in a short term? in the long term? With a strong distribution network throughout China, Sinopec is a big player in the oil industry. So partnering with them and leveraging on a large daily traffic at the pump could make sense for any company that wants to develop sales rapidly in a huge market. Moreover, with the increasing problem of counterfeit wines, Domaine de Chevalier can propose its bottles in some "reliable" shops that chinese fine wine lovers are looking for. In terms of brand image, success will be guaranteed if Domaine de chevalier makes sure that labels are effectively seen and promoted nicely. The impact will not be the same if wine cases stay between oil bottles and car washing products, or if they are displayed in a nice way that would immediately attract eyeballs.

A concern for Domaine de Chevalier may be the professional qualifications of the people working in the gas stations. Does this workforce know about wine or do they need to be trained to talk about wine and more particularly about Domaine de Chevalier? Or do we consider that buying a bottle of Domaine de Chevalier can become an "impulse buy". Knowing that we talk here about wines that cost in the range of 600 yuan to 700 yuan (US$90 to $105), I am not sure that the "impulse buy" effect has much to do in this category level but the Chinese market is so unpredictable...In fact, as Wall Street Journal mentions it, this won’t be the first wine sold at Sinopec. Their gas stations have already displayed and sold Great Wall wines, one of the country’s leading labels.

As a conclusion, this new venture for Sinopec (they have been selling products other than fuel for two years now), seems to develop well. And going high end is a way to answer demands from a chinese market that develops rapidly in fine wines. If, on a long term, Domaine de Chevalier should be aware that its wines may be referred as "the gas station wine" (in fact, this may have a negative impact if communication is not properly handled), selecting a limited number of gas stations (110 stores in China) is a first good step for the wine estate. This may open new opportunities in the future, with a broader distribution. It will also give time to both partners to know each other better. And if today only 15% of Sinopec's 95,000 stations sell nonfuel products, such as wine, we can easily figure out the huge potential for such a deal if China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. decided to implement this approach throughout their network. China is full of opportunities for fine wines and Olivier Bernard, owner of Domaine de Chevalier, understood it very well at an early stage.(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Luxury wine: Piper Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck on Sale...After Remy Cointreau, could a chinese company be the next owner of both Champagne brands?

For wine professionals, this is not breaking news: Remy Cointreau, world's second-largest producer of cognac behind the Hennessy brand of French luxury products group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has put its Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck Champagne brands up for sale in a deal which could raise as much as €450m. According to the UK wine magazine Decanter: "The news has provoked intense speculation over who will acquire the brands, with Diageo and Pernod Ricard named as possible bidders – although analysts believe a private equity group is the most likely buyer." What should we think about these speculations and what other names could be evoked? With the current strong interest for wine in Hong Kong, a big chinese name could make the deal.

Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidsieck are on sale. Right but what should the buyer be aware of?

1) On the financial side: Sales dropped to 6.9m bottles in the year to March 2010 (of which Piper accounted for 5.6m and Charles 0.8m bottles). Bottom line: It is understood that Piper has never been profitable in the 20 years that Rémy Cointreau has owned it.

2) On the Human Resources side: Cost-cutting measures have included the announcement of 45 job losses (one quarter of the workforce) in February 2010, which prompted strike action at the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Reims. Full measures were not applied.

3) Distribution: Buyer's major objective will be to develop sales internationally. Distribution of Charles and Piper Heidsieck was supported by the strong experience of Remy Cointreau group. The buyer will ideally have its own distribution network or would have tied up strong relationships with distributors in strategic places in the world.

4) Grape resources: Charles and Piper have good long-term contracts with vine growers. The buyer should make sure to pursue these long term contracts by strengthening relationships with vine growers. Then it will guarantee the buyer to maintain quality and volume achieved in the past.

5) Brand assets: Experts praise quality of Charles Heidsieck champagnes. From Brut Non Vintage to Blanc des Millénaires, the quality is very high but low volume makes it a little known brand worldwide compared to Piper Heidsieck. With over 5 million bottles and a new delicious top cuvee called Rare, Piper is a strong brand. But a major issue arises when it comes to branding: Confusing names. In fact, Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidsieck are two labels along with the Heidsieck Monopole. If the name confuses the champagne connoisseur a little, most of occasional champagne buyers may be confused. This could unfortunatley have direct impact on brand image.

So Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidsieck are now on sale. But who could buy them?

We can hear and read some rumors. Recently in Dow Jones : "Laurent-Perrier is "watching closely" Remy Cointreau's champagne unit sale process, Etienne Auriau, Laurent-Perrier's Chief Financial Officer said Wednesday. Even though Laurent-Perrier may not be interested for all the assets put on for sale, the company might be interested in the contracts to supply the wine producers, Auriau added."

Ok, very good point! But, in that sense, we can easily imagine that some other champagne brands might be interested in these contracts. So, next! A private equity group? It would make sense in fact but Champagne is a very specific industry and this fund must have a good experience in the Champagne industry. Or this private equity group would partner with a renowned champagne name to make this deal successful. An american company? With euro-dollar parity and economic uncertainty, it may not be the right timing for a US based company to make such an investment. Pernod Ricard? They currently make a great work to develop internationally Mumm and Perrier Jouet and enhance both brand images. So at this period, they are on hard work and they may not think about investing in new brands...

I may suggest 3 other directions. None is french!
First, the spanish Freixenet group: they already know about the champagne market (they own Abele) and have a strong and efficient distribution network. Freixenet is one of the most renowned and largest cava houses in Spain, similar in size and importance to France's Moet & Chandon. Going high-end may be an interesting strategy for them.
Second, the german Henkell & Co: One of the leading sparkling wine, they export to more than 70 countries worldwide. The Group is represented by owned subsidiaries in twelve countries. It has leader position for sparkling wine in seven countries and boasts a turnover of €628.6 million. Moreover they know about the specificities of the champagne market as they own Alfred Gratien and they built up a nice brand.
Finally, with the strong interest for chinese in wine, a chinese company could be interested in acquiring these 2 brands. Many names could come up and I won't make the full list but I would suggest one name: AS Watson. Watson's Wine Cellar opened its first store in Central Hong Kong and is now the largest specialist wine store chain in the region with 15 stores. A distinctive feature of each Cellar is the Fine Wine Room containing over 300 different vintages ranging from the top Chateaux from Bordeaux to emerging New World Classics from around the world. Watson's Wine Wholesale has grown significantly since its launch in 2000 and is now one of the top suppliers of wine to the food and beverage industry in Hong Kong. With a history dating back to 1828, the A.S. Watson Group has evolved into an international retail and manufacturing business with operations in 34 markets worldwide. Today, the Group operates over 8,900 retail stores running the gamut from health & beauty, luxury perfumeries & cosmetics to food, electronics, fine wine and airport retail arms. Also an established player in the beverage industry, ASW provides a full range of beverages from bottled water, fruit juices, soft drinks and tea products to the world's finest wine labels via its international wine wholesaler and distributor. ASW employs 87,000 staff and is a member of the world renowned Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Limited, which has five core businesses (ports and related services; property and hotels; retail; energy, infrastructure, investments and others; and telecommunications) in 54 countries. So this HK based group is in the fine wine business, in the Manufacturing business with Water, fruit juices and soft drink, and also in the retailing. Moreover 350 - 450 million euros is an "affordable amount" for this giant company. In fact they would just need to sell Marionnaud business (perfume retailing) to get this money and invest it in Champagne!


Should you sell your bottles of Chateau Lafite Now as the top China economist Andy Xie would advise?

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Luxury wine and Lafite prices...If there is one article to read over the week-end, that may be the well documented post that Andy Xie - an economist who left Morgan Stanley after writing an email that described Singapore as a money-laundering hub - wrote in his blog. His conclusion is unambiguous: Sell your bottles of Chateau Lafite, Now. After reading this interesting analysis, I give here some comments on a few points he makes before giving his personal conclusion.

1) "Like other assets, the force for the bubble is the low interest rate environment. Bernanke is a bigger reason for the fine wine price than 1.3 billion Chinese." Andy Xie is certainly right on a short term but on a longer term, we can imagine the Chinese market becoming a huge population of wine consumers (and not only of fine wines).

2) "In the 2000 internet bubble, a lot of companies were worthless but were trading at billions of dollars of market capitalization. Some were really good companies but were priced several times higher than their intrinsic worth. Lafite is like the later." At the time of the internet bubble, share prices for all companies (all and not only a selection of them) were skyrocketing. This is in fact what explained the burst of this bubble in 2000. Today, if there is a bubble on wine prices, it is strictly limited to a very few wines which are in fact of very high quality. For wine - which makes the comparision with internet companies a bit biased - quality is still a major focus when it comes to investment.

3) "The crash happens when the US treasury market crashes, which forces the Fed to tighten monetary policy. That is probably in 2012. Still, now is the right time to sell your Lafite." Right but in this disastrous scenario, we can easily understand that not only Lafite or luxury wines will be concerned. In fact, all assets in general will be more or less impacted by this situation.

4) "By weight Lafite is more expensive than silver even for a bad vintage, and almost ten times as expensive for a great vintage like 1982." This is a very good point and shows how Chateau Lafite created its own bubble in the luxury wine market.

5) "Wine drinkers become hoarders.(...)The top Bordeaux chateaus behave like internet companies in 2000. They sell a small proportion for each release. The shortage triggers market frenzy." At such a high price, you think twice (or even more) before opening a bottle and prefer to keep it for a very special occasion if you do not sell it. So at the end, less bottles may be drunk than in the past, even if it said that these wines are made for entertaining business relationships.

So Bubble? Yes. Burst? we do not know. In fact, due to its rapid and impressive growth, China is facing inflation problem. A fivefold increase in China's M2 supply in the past decade is part of the problem. Raising interest rate will immediately impact investment strategies. And fine wines are more or more acquired to make an investment. In that sense, Lafite prices and prices of some other top wine estates will be affected. But China is a growing market of wine consumers. When you get back to history, you always find good reasons for a specific market to have developped a large population of wine consumers. In China, a broad communication around wine has been made particularly thanks to exclusive and very expensive wines. Chinese read and learn about wine through the stories of the most famous estates and the prices of their wines. So will this bubble burst or not? Only future can tell. But what history will tell is that thanks to this huge hype around top wines, China has discovered a taste for wine and this market will develop nicely in the future to become an important business destination for any wine estate. Without this big hype around Lafite, the aspiration of a large chinese population to discover the great world of wines would have certainly developped much more slowly.(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Luxury Wine and Second Wine: Do You remember the Bordeaux Prices of September?

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) When I look these days at the prices of second wines of Bordeaux First growths, it reminds me of a music from Earth Wind and Fire which said "Do You remember...the Bordeaux prices... of September?". In fact, most of the time we read about the big hype around Bordeaux prices, comments are made on 2009 En Primeur Bordeaux First Growths. And the best example is the bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild which was proposed at the price of 1000 euros and which now trades around 1800 euros.

In fact, what could be even more spectacular is what happens now on the second wines of Bordeaux first growths. Do You remember the Bordeaux prices of September? Le Clarence de Haut Brion 2007, second wine of Chateau Haut Brion, priced now at 135 euros when it was 65 euros in September. September again with Pavillon Rouge 2007, second wine of Chateau Margaux, at 50 euros. Now 180 euros. Petit Mouton 2007, second wine of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, now 150 euros while it was 60 euros in...September. In a discussion about these prices with wine merchant Benjamin Gabin, from La Maison Gabin based in Bordeaux, he mentionned that most of those wines were now heading to Asia. "China puts more pressure on Lafite Rothschild prices - and the rest of the production of the entire group - than on any other famous estate like Chateau Latour or Margaux. Two particular trends can be noticed. First, pressure on the 2008s with the "Number 8 effect": Lafite 2008 launched at 180 euros and now available at 1600 euros. For the same vintage, Chateau Latour looks ridiculously cheap at 450 euros... And the second trend is the price pressure on "less generous vintages" such as 1972, 1973, 1974 or 1979, 1980 and 1981. One year and a half ago, Lafite bottles were priced at 200 euros for these vintages and now trade around 700 euros."

Bordeaux First growths' prices are skyrocketing...Prices of their second wines are exploding...Where are these prices going to in a near term? On a longer term? In fact the positive trend looks very strong for those wines. But we should also remember that Caruades de Lafite which traded at 130 euros before 2008 crisis went down to 60 euros during the toughest period of the depression. Then it went up again and prices are now reaching their pick since September. Oh Yes September...Ba Ba Ba de Ya say do you remember...Ba de Ya pricing in september...Ba de Ya Golden dreams were shiny days...(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


"The name of your mission is Wine and you must rescue Soldier Australian"

Name of the Mission: Wine
Name of the soldier: Australian
All the information you require is on www.allforonewine.com and will self destruct on the day after Australia Day. This may sound like a James Bond scenario which happens in beautiful Australia but this happens now for real. Pure Reality. As you can read today in VitaBella Wine Gossip, Giovanni Morelli commented in Irish Medical Times about the situation in Australia: "Australian wine has come under a lot of pressure since the great days of the 1980s and ’90s. Oddbins was a great advertisement for Australian wine, and the taste for oaked Chardonnay was undoubtedly initiated on many palates by such wines as Rosemount. Now all is not well. According to Harvey Steinman and Tyson Stelzer in the Wine Spectator in September, a number of large Australian wine producers are in receivership and face bankruptcy. I presume this is a result of overproduction of wine in Australia, competition from South America and the world economic depression."

So Stephen Pannell, Award-winning Australian wine maker, decided to launch a great initiative in Australia to rescue wineries: a new website which asks Aussies to drink only Australian wines from January 1st until Australia Day. In fact, the scenario in Australia can not get worse: the value of Australian wine imports has risen again, as Australians continue to favour foreign varieties. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the September quarter show wine imports increased in value by 4.5 per cent during the last year. New Zealand continues to dominate imports, sales of French wine also grew...So will this initiative supported by more than 500 winemakers help? At least it is a very smart communication initiative. It will also mobilize Australians (and maybe even more particularly those living abroad, and they are numerous!). But this "rescue mission" should also bring on the table some key questions such as "What kind of wine do Australians want to drink in 2010?". Discussions with my australian friends regularly come back to (please add the australian accent to the following sentences): "I am fed up with strong alcohol", "I do not appreciate anymore too powerful red wines", "I need a balanced wine, not too strong". In fact, there are many wines adapted to this new taste in Australia. But we need more.

So YES, I will participate to this initiative and drink australian wines during this period of time. Maybe more than usual thanks to this very clever communication. But I will be very selective also and this unfortunately won't help the huge load of australian wines on the market now. Will the soldier Australian be rescued? I sincerely hope so but, like in any rescue mission, there are always huge risks of casualties on the ground...(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Celebrities at "Les Vendanges de l'Avenue Montaigne", the most glamorous and luxurious Harvest in the World

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Prada...Chateau Gruaud Larose, Antinori, Champagne Roederer, Chateau Latour...One night every two years, these luxury brands meet and make the most delicious show on one of the most beautiful avenue in Paris: L'Avenue Montaigne.

Luxury, Glamour, Art, Lifestyle...You name it. "Les Vendanges de L'Avenue Montaigne" that will take place today in Paris is one of the sexyiest event which brings together Haute Couture, Fashion, Haute Joaillerie and Fine Wine. Don't let you mislead by the word "Vendanges" which means Harvest in French: you won't find harvesters dressed as they were going to pick grapes in Champagne, Bordeaux or Tuscany vineyards. For the dress code, you would better rely on the rest of the name of this event organized by Comite Montaigne: "de L'Avenue Montaigne". Which means nice women with their newest and sexiest dresses together with men dressed in a very classic and chic way. All these people have received in advance private invitations to enter the party. They will be served luxury wines and will celebrate this 2010' harvest with older vintages from renowned estates. A good opportunity to celebrate 2010 which, in fact, appears to be a nice to very nice vintage depending on the regions. Nearly one week after the popular celebration of Beaujolais Nouveau, this unique event gives to luxury wines a great exposition to luxury brands' lovers and medias in Paris.

For this 20th edition, "Les Vendanges de l'Avenue Montaigne" will certainly be a great success, again. So what should be the next step to make it even more succesful? Why not make this event a worldwide celebration to Fine wines and Haute Couture/ Haute Joaillerie brand names. Why not having this event in New Delhi, Shanghai and other places in the world where luxury brands become more and more popular. Chateau Gruaud Larose, Antinori, Champagne Roederer, Chateau Latour...These wines are now available all over th world like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton or Prada are. I am sure I am not the only one to dream about it at the time when I am putting on my Dior suit, Armani shirt and Gucci tie before heading to the harvest...(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


The Fabulous Destiny (or DesTeany) of Hospices de Beaune Sale and Great Burgundy Wines

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Beaune, 8 o'clock on this saturday morning, streets start to live again. You already feel the agitation that will come in the next few hours brought by the long expected Week end of the Hospice de Beaune Sale. It's cold outside and the only drink you dream about now is a great tea. A delicate and unique tea that will remind you of the rare and great bottles tasted last night. Yes, Burgundy is right when they started communicating recently that great Burgundy wines are like great teas from China, Japan, India or other fabulous tea regions in the world.

I dream about this wonderful Wu Yi Rougui tasted a few years ago with two old men who were taking care of their tea plantations like Roumier or other great "vignerons" would take care of their estate vineyard. They were complaining about the incredible extension of this "appellation" in Northern Fujian of China over the last 20 years. Demand is high for this oolong tea which is highly regarded thanks to great names such as Bai Ji Guan, Tie Luo Han, Shui Jin Gui and of course the famous Da Hong Pao. Red fruits and floral notes of this tea immediately evoke a great wine from "Cotes de Nuits". The Nose is very elegant and delicate like a great red Burgundy wine with a reasonable ageing would exhibit. Then these two old guys talk about "fermentation" and say that the best "rock teas", as we name these Wu Yi teas coming from rocky mountains, are 30-40% fermented. They explain this is a "real expression" of the teas from this region and that other ways of processing the tea leaves would not make a "perfect Wu Yi Rougui". In fact, it immediately reminded me of the long discussions with great winemakers in Burgundy talking about their way to make their own wines...

Then I continue walking in these streets of a wonderful city of Beaune and I ask myself if I would not prefer, right now, an expressive and exhuberant Bi luo chun...Is it for its incredible fragrance of for its history that I would like to have it now? I don't know but this tea named Imperial Tribute Tea by the Qing Emperor has something that immediatly reminds me of the traditions and history behind Hospices de Beaune and Burgundy wines. This tea originating from the Jiang Su Province reminds me of a delicious white Chassagne Montrachet with a great refreshing palate that makes this cup (or glass) so exciting. In fact immediately you want to drink another cup and talk about it for hours. So many questions come to your mind: where are the tea plantations located? What kind of soil is it? What process did they use to make this tea so wonderful? All the questions you may ask to winemakers this week if you have the great chance to participate to one of the most fabulous week-end around wine in the world. Even if it is cold outside. Even if it rains. In fact, this will give you a good reason to enter a small bar in city center and have the choice between a terrible Earl Grey tea or a lovely white Burgundy...(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Philantropy and Fine Wines: Build a Wine Story with a Big Heart

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Let's imagine a day when a percentage of the Roederer or Lanson Champagne bottle's recommended selling price is given to a charity. You could do the same with each bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild sold en primeur or with bottles of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau sold on the third thursday of November. This time could come soon as we saw more and more successful initiatives during the last few years.

Some examples? In the USA, the Bump family recently released Darms Lane Linda's Hillside Vineyard cabernet sauvignon. This wine is named in honor of Darms Lane vineyard co-owner Linda Bump, who died of ovarian cancer in 2007, and one-third of the bottle's recommended selling price of $75 is given to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Another example in the US comes from Gallo Family Vineyards: you can mail in a cork from any of the company's wines between now and December 31 and the winery will donate $5 to the Meals On Wheels Association of America, for a total of $25,000 (The Meals on Wheels Association of America provides meals to senior citizens and families in need). And these operations are not only taking place in the USA. A great initiative on an international level comes fom Macallan Scotch Whisky. The Macallan Scotch Whisky's oldest and rarest whisky ever bottled, a 64-year-old single malt, has traveled the world in a Lalique decanter. According to Business Week, "tiny tastes of about 3 ounces have been auctioned off with proceeds benefiting charity. A high point was $41,000 raised in Taipei. Since the tour began in April 2010, The Macallan and Lalique have raised about $145,000 for the nonprofit group charity: water, which works to provide safe drinking water to developing nations. The tour ends with a final auction of the Lalique decanter filled with 1.5 liters of the 64-year-old liquid on Nov. 15 at Sotheby's New York".

Let's hope more and more famous names in the fine wine industry will get involved in charity initiatives. Of course chateaux and wine estates will benefit positively from these initiatives in terms of image. But more important is the impact they will have on research and charities in the future. The point here is not to recommend wine estates to do exactly the same as Ehlers Estate's owners in the Napa Valley, who decided that 100 percent of proceeds from wine sales would go to support the nonprofit Leducq Foundation in Paris dedicated to funding international cardiovascular research. The point is just to recommend wine estates to contribute to extraordinary efforts made by charities. If positive communication could pair with making a better world for everyone, then it would make wine stories even more extrordinary. (if you want to help, here are the links related to this story: http://www.everycorkcounts.com; http://www.darmslanewine.com; http://www.themacallan.com; http://www.ehlersestate.com)(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Can Burgundy wines be the next Bordeaux in China? Yes, but like shares, Premium is always for Liquidity and not Scarcity.

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Every year, during the 3rd week-end of November, the Hospices de Beaune auction takes place in a beautiful historical city. It is an important event in the wine-world calendar which attracts not only wine merchants' eyeballs but also an increasingly large audience of wine lovers internationally. The 150th sale will take place on November 21, 2010 and will be the central event of Burgundy’s most spectacular annual celebration, known as the Trois Glorieuses. With the chinese film star Liu Ye co-hosting the auction this year and the fact that after Bordeaux 09 Burgundy may seem a bargain to Chinese, a question could be raised: Can Burgundy wines be the next Bordeaux in China?

1) History of Burgundy wines: Chinese are very much attached to such strong "historical ties". Just consider the beauty of the Hôtel Dieu in Beaune which was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy (1419-1467), and you would understand what I mean by "historical ties".
2) The clever communication made around the burgundy wines in China. The comparison with the aromas and subtlety of the best fine teas from China (Longjin, Oolong...) is something I discovered in 1994 during my first visit in China. Every year, when I go tasting the most exclusive chinese teas from the new harvest, I feel the comparison is very evident.
3) Chateau Latour is now owner of a vineyard in Burgundy and promotes its Vosne Romanee based wine estate, Domaine Eugenie, in Hong Kong and other big chinese cities. With such a big name from Bordeaux, the image of Burgundy wines can only take benefits from this promotion.
4) Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the Hong Kong government to fortify the partnership between Hong Kong and Burgundy in wine- related businesses. It will provide a good anchor for Burgundy to showcase its fine wines to Asian consumers, particularly those from Chinese mainland.
5) The taste of asian wine lovers for reds is more and more oriented towards delicate and elegantly perfumed wines. The greatest red burgundy wines can offer this excitement and can pair magnificiently with the food served in the best restaurants in China.

All those points are very positive and will help burgundy wines in general (and not only those from the small parcels of Grands Crus) to succeed in a very promising market. So if the question is "Can Burgundy wines be the next Bordeaux in China?", the answer would be "Yes" at this point. But my last point may make this answer changed for a more adequate "Yes, but..."

Last point: Scarcity. Those who invest in Hong Kong and other places in China are more and more willing to pay incredibly high prices for rare fine wines. In fact what we see now is very similar to what happened in the rare tea auctions where some chinese buyers were not reluctant to spend tens of thousands of dollars for 500 grams of a 60 years'old Pu Erh teas. But thinking of a Burgundy market, with skyrocketing prices as we have seen with Bordeaux first growths, makes me skeptical. In fact, if you take a closer look to what happened in Hong Kong over the last 12 months, you find that a lot of chinese buyers are investing for a collection and are hopeful they will sell these wines at a much higher price in the future. This is exactly what happens every day with shares on stockmarkets. But as most investors are aware of, there is a premium on stockmarkets for liquidity and not scarcity. And the particularity of Burgundy Grands Crus is the rarity of the most delicious bottles. The extremely "fragmented" nature of Burgundy is a fact and makes this region very appealing. In that sense, Bordeaux First Growths are much more attractive for investors who want to make sure there is a liquid "secondary market" to cash in rapidly and not an "unliquid grey market" where high volatility and unpredictability are extremely negative points. This last point could explain a continuous premium for Bordeaux First Growths when compared to Burgundy Grands Crus.(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Aussie Cult wines go through a turbulent period and the emergence of social media age may not help to restore the good image built over 30 years

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) I was recently reading a discussion between wine professionals on a social media website. In fact, networking is great on those social media sites and information you can pick may be very useful. The story started with a message posted a few days ago: "The Fine Wine Bank has a special inventory of Rare & Fine Wine thats storage at London City Bond is about to expire. We are looking for buyers for these 90+ scored wines please enquire for the list."
Then started a discussion and potential buyers (mainly from US) were showing strong interest and wanted to receive the whole list. A first major issue was rapidly raised: individuals in the US will have to pay to have it shipped & imported including taxes and this will greatly change the prices of the wines. But this did not discourage most of them as passion comes first.
Then potential buyers started receiving the list by e-mail and discovered that "the offer is all Australian wines" as one mentioned on the forum. "Prices with logistics make these wines totally uninteresting in the US. Aussie cult wines are in the dumper and can be snatched up very affordably (read CHEAPLY) all over the place." was written on the wall.
But at this stage my view had not changed: Passion comes first and Wine, more particularly exceptional wines (or cult wines if you prefer this wording) is a beautiful world full of emotions and passions. And as was mentioned by the person who initiated this discussion in the forum: "Great wine is still great wine and this wine list is about cult autralian wines."

In fact, each visit in Australia is a great opportunity to taste excellent wines. Red or white, great australian wines can show power and elegance with a lovely balance you would not expect if you still think about the big, powerful and mouthful Barossa Valley style you were served, most of the time, 20 years ago. Add to this, lovely and exhuberant aromas and it makes me call some of these wines unique. But Australia is going through a terrible crisis and its cult wines may suffer from this period. Fast replies and short texts make Social medias very severe in the way they send a message. On the same discussion forum, a wine professional replied to the preceding message: "Great wine is indeed great wine - but current pricing structures on given products that result from over supply and lack of demand in any open market are neither deniable nor are they reliant on a critics opinion. I wish it were not so & that Aussie cults were still worth their purchase prices from pre-Oct 2008 - but they are simply not in this market." In fact, Aussie cult wines are suffering from a general crisis in Australia where over supply is a major problem. At their best, some of the Aussie cult wines were compared to First Growth Bordeaux and prices were in accordance with this ranking. Now Prices for top Bordeaux wines have outreached, by far, those of the top Aussie wines. This is what we could call the short-term impact. But, to avoid the long-term impact, Aussie cult wines should be careful in the way they will communicate in the future. Why? Because, in the long-run, they may lose their lure and destroy 30 years of hard work to be among the most sought-after luxury wines in the world. (More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


The day when top restaurants will propose an impressive wine list, a unique food experience and Grand Cru Coffees...

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Having lunch and dinners with fine wine merchants, I am always amazed when we are served a poor coffee after having tasted first growth Bordeaux wines and Grand cru Burgundies. The experience is even more difficult after having spent 4 years as president of the Cafeology Academy of coffee, an academy that delivers prizes to the best coffees in the world.

Most of the time, between wine experts, we like to share experiences we had recently with some wines. At the restaurant, it is not uncommon you share these ideas with sommeliers who are in charge of making proposals for the wine you will be served with your food as well as preparing it (tasting, decanting...). It is a great enjoyment for wine lovers to share with these people as their knowledge is broad and updated. Sommeliers have the chance to taste on a regular basis a large range of wines from all over the world, to discuss with vintners, to visit properties and understand why the wine tastes differently here than in any other property.

After having made a tough choice between a large offer of wines (wine experts are always long to make a choice in restaurants, they do not agree about the vintage and so on...), you start tasting and sommeliers come to your table to give you some more information. They talk about the taste and move to terroir expressions, the fact that soils are very important and give a unique taste to the wine depending on which location the vineyard is. They explain that, plot by plot, the grapes can express different aromas and show a more or less intense minerality.

And then, after this lovely food and wine pairing experience, all this should end up with the proposal of having a "Ethiopia or Guatemala?" coffee. At this level of knowledge and understanding (from both side, sommeliers and wine lovers), you would expect more than "here is your coffee from Guatemala" sentence. No word about the terroir, no word about the producer, no word about the area and nothing about the vintage. Could we imagine today, in a top restaurant, being served a wine without knowing anything else than the country it comes from?

A team from the francogerman TV channel Arte came yesterday to Paris for a brilliant Coffee Grand Cru Tasting to which I attended. We tasted impressive coffees from Panama: one obtained 1st Growth level ranking according to the academy's criteria and another the 2nd Growth level. Like great wines, great coffees do not come cheap. The prices for these coffees go up to 300US$ per kilo directly from producers. And after tasting these coffees, the whole TV team was keeping asking: What are top restaurants waiting for to serve these coffees? (More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Should we believe Bordeaux Vintners when they will call 2010 a great vintage?

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Most of you may remember the strong interest shown by international wine merchants in the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux. Most of the superlatives have been used by journalists to describe this vintage. In french, in english, in chinese and in thousand other languages.. It would be difficult to find new words if another great vintage comes to the market. In fact, this vintage could come very soon as we have to admit that, at a very early stage, 2010 appears to reveal a great to outstanding potential. It is not a matter of overstating but it looks like, after a tasting of "in process" wines, 2010 shows an extremely good potential. Too dry, difficult flowering, millerandage...All this does not sound like a great vintage. When compared to last year conditions, it is certainly different as Mother Nature gave the best of herself in 2009 with a "no worry" effect on vintners. This is not the case at all for 2010 but the tasting of grapes on vines, the look at analytical reports as well as the tasting of "in process" wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet franc) at some different stages show today a spectacular result. Lower yields compared to last year, very concentrated grapes and high levels of alcohol and acidity: this could be a short description of what happened in Bordeaux on 2010. In terms of colour, wines look great and do not show any weakness at this level. In terms of perfumes, grapes develop at the moment the delicious aromas they could offer during fermentation. In terms of tannins, we can see their high presence on an analytical level as well as we can feel them on the palate. The role of the winemaker here is to not overextract. In terms of alcohol, it is undeniably high and figures may show unprecedented levels for some parcels in chateaux. In terms of acidity, the level is higher compared to 2009 which could be a very positive point for making elegant wines. So as a conclusion, grapes are offering at this period of time an excellent potential for future great 2010 wines in Bordeaux. As usual, the role of the winemaker will be decisive as high potential of alcohol and tannins in 2010 may lead to unbalanced wines. But the "raw material" is definitely of a high level of quality and is giving vintners a potential to make great wines. So next time you meet Bordeaux vintners, don't be too sceptical about their view on the 2010 vintage. Yes believe them if they call it a great vintage. And then make your own opinion next year if you get the chance to taste them en Primeurs.(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Speculation or Diversification? The Truth about Funds that invest in Fine Wine

(This editorial is the executive summary of an exclusive VitaBella report)(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr). According to the newly released monthly poll BofA Merrill Lynch, investors mark their preference for liquidities and are overall slightly positive on the stock Market. They do not all agree about the direction the economic situation will take for the next few months but are all very skeptical about a strong and fast recovery scenario. Some even mention a a double dip recession. But at the same time, these fund managers also need to find new opportunities to invest their money in some ways including bonds, gold, etc. And wine is sometimes a "liquid asset" in which funds are interested to invest. And then come discussions among wine merchants and wine lovers who feel threatened by this new money coming into the luxury wine business and more particularly into Bordeaux 1st growths and the recent 2009' En primeurs' campaign. The same topics come back: Does it create a bubble that will explode sooner or later? What will happen when these wines will come back into the market on wine auctions? Do you know in which wines do these funds invest?

It is not breaking news to say that Finance and fine wines are strongly related. But as the word of Finance is often related for many to speculation and short-term objectives, wine merchants and wine lovers may be scared by the new flow of cash coming into the luxury wine business. As it may appear vague for some of us and in order to illustrate the comments made here, the reader will find, at the end of this article, a part of a portfolio that invested in wines as an example. It is just a portion of the entire wine holdings in this portfolio but informations such as names, vintages and valuations (recorded by the fund at the end of December 2009) could be found.

Some points to reassure wine merchants and wine lovers:

- Funds disclose their information to the public. So, nothing is hidden, and wine lovers can find out which fund invested in what wine. It is just a question of taking time to make researches.
- Investment funds are looking for new "safe" investments during a troubled economy. Wine seems to be the right vehicle as the track record for top wines has been quite impressive over the last 20 years. Moreover, they are actually interested in "concrete" assets such as gold, top quality properties and fine wine is considered "Red gold" by some.
- Investment funds are not overinvesting in wines but only take a very small part of their portfolio to invest in luxury wines. Asset allocation is strictly measured in order to lower the overall risk taken by the fund. So either a fund is 100% wine oriented or only a very small percentage is allocated to fine wines.
- Wine is such a beautiful thing that if investors do not make money out of this investment over the next 10 years, they will have the great pleasure to enjoy these bottles with their beloved friends.(Some funds propose to pay back the money invested by individuals with bottles instead of cash).

Of course, some negative points could be discussed:

- Investment funds can be huge and just investing a very small portion of their assets is already a lot of money.
- If investment funds all share the same traditional investment approach called "flight to quality", their investments would be only focused on the top 1% of the wines produced in the world (1% is an approximation as it may certainly be much lower than that).
- Much bigger than investment funds, Pension funds could have a big impact on prices of some very well identified names if they decide to invest heavily.
(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr).

List below
: As an example, here is a portion of a portfolio that invested in wines (valuations at end of december 2009) and which recently made its holdings public.

Wine/ Producer/ Year/ Format /Nb.bott. /Tot. val.EUR


Ausone/ Ausone/ 1961/ (MG)/ 6/ 17,137.50
Ausone/ Ausone/ 1964/ (BT)/ 12/ 5,256
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2000/ (BT)/ 2/ 3,544.50
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2003/ (BT)/ 3/ 4,610
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2005/ (BT)/ 171/ 361,551
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2006/ (En-Pr)/ 21/ 21,115.50
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2006/ (MG)/ 6/ 16,600
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2007/ (BT)/ 6/ 3,546
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2007/ (MG)/ 3/ 4,110
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2007/ (En-Pr)/ 36/ 21,276
Ausone/ Ausone/ 2008/ (En-Pr)/ 30/ 25,050
Caisse Prestige Bordeaux 1°/ Caisse Prestige/ 1998/ (CW)/ 1/ 8,500
Calon Ségur/ Calon-Ségur/ 1945/ (BT)/ 2/ 1,192
Calon Ségur/ Calon-Ségur/ 1949/ (BT)/ 20/ 13,560
Carruades de Lafite/ Lafite-Rothschild/ 2005/ (BT)/ 24/ 4,284
Carruades de Lafite/ Lafite-Rothschild/ 2007/ (En-Pr)/ 360/ 45,360
Carruades de Lafite/ Lafite-Rothschild/ 2007/ (En-Pr)/ 12/ 3,024
Carruades de Lafite/ Lafite-Rothschild/ 2008 (En-Pr)/ 1200/ 152,400
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 1947/ (BT)/ 1/ 5,497
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 1948/ (BT)/ 4 7,372
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 1961/ (BT)/ 1 1,351
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 1982/ (BT)/ 30 24,480
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 1990/ (HB)/ 12 5,484
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 2000/ (BT)/ 61 59,627.50
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 2000/ (DMG)/ 1 3,578.50
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 2005/ (BT)/ 7 4,726.75
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 2006/ (En-Pr)/ 36 23,220
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 2006/ (BT)/ 120 77,400
Cheval Blanc/ Cheval Blanc/ 2007/ (En-Pr)/ 72 31,464
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 1949/ (BT)/ 6/ 9,342
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 1952/ (BT)/ 8/ 5,088
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 1953/ (BT)/ 6/ 5,766
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 1964/ (MG)/ 3/ 1,817
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 1989/ (BT)/ 8/ 8,432
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 2000/ (BT)/ 12/ 6,188
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 2005/ (BT)/ 4/ 2,286.67
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 2006/ (BT)/ 48/ 27,264
Haut Brion/ Haut-Brion/ 2006/ (En-Pr)/ 12/ 6,816
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1948/ (BT) /1/ 3,923.50
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1961/ (DMG)/ 2/ 160,043
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1961/ (MG)/ 1/ 18,395.67
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1970/ (MG) /1/ 3,547
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1971/ (BT)/ 4/ 6,717.33
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1978/ (BT)/ 8/ 7,244
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1982/ (BT)/ 1/ 4,658.50
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1982/ (IMP)/ 1/ 60,000
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1982/ (MG)/ 3/ 26,475
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1983/ (BT)/ 14/ 13,699
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1986/ (BT)/ 1/ 1,343.50
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1989/ (MG)/ 1/ 6,963.50
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1990/ (BT)/ 12/ 41,994
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1995/ (BT)/ 5/ 6,166.25
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1995/ (BT)/ 12/ 14,799
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1998/ (BT)/ 11/ 26,826.25
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 1998/ (DMG)/ 1/ 17,000
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 2000/ (BT)/ 8/ 26,126
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 2000/ (MG)/ 1/ 7,211.50
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 2005/ (BT)/ 19/ 67,570.33
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 2005/ (MG)/ 1/ 10,117
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 2005/ (BT)/ 6/ 21,338
Pétrus/ Petrus/ 2006/ (En-Pr)/ 12/ 23,004
Yquem/ Yquem/ 1900/ (BT)/ 1/ 5,245
Yquem/ Yquem/ 1921 (BT) 13 102,730.33
Yquem/ Yquem/ 1937 (BT) 1 3,175.50
Yquem/ Yquem/ 1938 (BT) 1 1,171
Yquem/ Yquem/ 1945 (BT) 2 5,994
Yquem/ Yquem 1959 (BT) 1 1,593.25
Yquem/ Yquem 1966 (BT) 2 689
Yquem/ Yquem 1967 (BT) 46 59,581.50
Yquem Yquem 1967 (MG) 2 7,600
Yquem Yquem 1983 (BT) 6 2,506
Yquem Yquem 1996 (BT) 120 31,240
Yquem Yquem 1996 (HB) 240 26,040
Yquem Yquem 1996 (IMP) 4 8,060
Yquem Yquem 1996 (MG) 24 17,988
Yquem Yquem 1997 (BT) 96 32,352
Yquem Yquem 1997 (HB) 240 46,560
Yquem Yquem 1997 (IMP) 6 15,346
Yquem Yquem 1997 (MG) 48 29,688
Yquem Yquem 2000 (BT) 12 5,202
Yquem Yquem 2001 (BT) 1 468
Yquem Yquem 2005 (BT) 28 17,220
Yquem Yquem 2006 (En-Pr) 12 6,036
Yquem Yquem 2007 (En-Pr) 180 105,600


Bâtard Montrachet/ Leflaive/ 2000/ (BT)/ 12/ 3,312
Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet/ Leflaive/ 1999/ (BT)/ 12/ 2,076
Bonnes Mares Grand Cru/ Comte de Vogue/ 2005/ (BT)/ 6/ 3,912
Chambertin/ Leroy/ 1996/ (BT)/ 6/ 9,684
Chambertin/ Armand Rousseau/ 1990/ (BT)/ 2/ 2,242
Chambertin/ Armand Rousseau/ 2003/ (BT)/ 3/ 1,212
Chambertin/ Armand Rousseau/ 2005/ (BT)/ 18/ 15,705
Chambertin Armand Rousseau 2005 (MG) 1 3,187
Chambertin Clos de Bèze/ Armand Rousseau/ 1999/ (BT)/ 5/ 2,762.50
Chambertin Clos de Bèze/ Armand Rousseau/ 1999/ (MG)/ 1/ 1,105
Chambertin Clos de Bèze/ Armand Rousseau/ 2005/ (BT)/ 12/ 12,868
Clos de la Roche/ Ponsot/ 2005/ (BT)/ 6/ 5,432
Corton Charlemagne/ Coche-Dury/ 1990/ (BT)/ 12/ 30,912
Corton Charlemagne/ Coche-Dury/ 1997/ (BT)/ 5/ 5,075
Corton Charlemagne/ Coche-Dury/ 1998/ (BT)/ 3/ 2,494.50
Corton Charlemagne/ Coche-Dury/ 1999/ (BT)/ 1/ 2,205
Corton Charlemagne/ Coche-Dury/ 2003/ (BT)/ 2/ 1,544
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 1990 (CW) 2 66,641.33
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 3RSV / 1GE / 2E) DRC 1993 (CW) 1 11,300
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 1RSV / 2GE / 3E) DRC 1996 (CW) 1 15,348.25
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 1GE / 3E) DRC 1997 (CW) 1 13,450
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 3RSV / 1 GE / 2E) DRC 1998 (CW) 3 37,800
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 4RSV / 2E) DRC 1998 (CW) 1 12,600
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 2LT / 3R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 1999 (CW) 1 33,250
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 1R / 3RSV / 2G3 / 2E) DRC 1999 (CW) 1 33,250
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 1999 (CW) 4 133,000
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 1GE / 2E) DRC 2000 (CW) 1 14,610
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 2000 (CW) 2 29,220
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 2001 (CW) 5 68,965
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 2002 (CW) 2 28,818
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 2003 (CW) 2 37,681
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 2004 (CW) 4 88,000
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 2LT / 3R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 2004 (CW) 2 44,000
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2 GE / 2E) DRC 2005 (CW) 4 111,980
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 2RSV / 2GE / 2E) DRC 2006 (CW) 15 219,420
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 3RSV / 1GE / 2E) DRC 2006 (CW) 1 14,628
DRC (Assortment) (1RC / 3LT / 2R / 4RSV / 2E) DRC 2006 (CW) 1 14,628
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer/ 1978/ (BT)/ 3/ 17,502
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1978 (MG) 1 12,971.25
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1980 (BT) 1 2,288
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1984 (BT) 2 3,896
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1985 (BT) 12 68,052
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1986 (BT) 3 7,405.50
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1987 (BT) 3 7,125
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1988 (BT) 28 61,600
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1989 (BT) 22 58,190
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1989 (MG) 1 7,935
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1990 (MG) 1 8,791.50
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1991 (BT) 18 44,469
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1992 (BT) 9 13,536
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1993 (BT) 12 26,748
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1994 (BT) 12 15,528
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 1995 (BT) 3 7,081.50
Echézeaux/ Henri Jayer 2001 (BT) 13 17,563
Griottes Chambertin/ Claude Dugat/ 1990/ (BT)/ 3/ 4,966.50
Griottes Chambertin/ Ponsot/ 2005/ (BT)/ 3/ 1,180.50
La Romanée/ Leroy/ 1962/ (BT)/ 12/ 20,172
Montrachet/ Comte Lafon/ 1992/ (BT)/ 2/ 3,494
Montrachet/ Comte Lafon/ 1993/ (BT)/ 1/ 1,250.50
Montrachet/ Comte Lafon/ 2003/ (BT)/ 1/ 745
Montrachet/ Comte Lafon/ 2005/ (BT)/ 12/ 19,692
Montrachet/ DRC 1968 (BT) 2 6,000
Montrachet/ DRC 1969 (BT) 3 6,816
Montrachet/ DRC 1973 (BT) 13 64,389
Montrachet/ DRC 1976 (BT) 2 7,573
Montrachet/ DRC 1978 (BT) 4 30,480
Montrachet/ DRC 1982 (MG) 1 9,000
Montrachet/ DRC 1988 (BT) 1 2,545
Montrachet/ DRC 1989 (BT) 7 23,863
Montrachet/ DRC 1990 (BT) 1 2,500
Montrachet/ DRC 1991 (JERO) 1 14,127
Montrachet/ DRC 1996 (MTH) 1 35,307
Montrachet/ DRC 1997 (BT) 5 10,133.33
Montrachet/ DRC 1999 (BT) 3 5,635.50
Montrachet/ DRC 1999 (MG) 1 4,191
Montrachet/ DRC 2000 (BT) 2 4,520
Montrachet/ DRC 2001 (BT) 1 2,258.67
Montrachet/ DRC 2002 (BT) 1 2,645
Montrachet/ DRC 2003 (BT) 2 6,151
Montrachet/ DRC 2003 (JERO) 1 11,100
Montrachet/ DRC 2003 (MG) 3 18,165
Montrachet/ DRC 2004 (BT) 6 13,881
Montrachet/ DRC 2004 (MG) 1 5,783.75
Montrachet/ DRC 2005 (BT) 37 173,604
Montrachet/ DRC 2006 (BT) 3 5,899.50
Montrachet/ Leflaive 1998 (BT) 3 7,161
Montrachet/ Leflaive 2003 (BT) 1 1,500
Montrachet/ Leroy 1969 (BT) 9 11,322
Montrachet/ Ramonet 1990 (MG) 1 4,250.67
Montrachet/ Sauzet 2003 (BT) 1 287
Musigny Grand Cru/ Comte de Vogue 2005 (BT) 6 5,229
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1980 (BT) 15 62,250
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1988 (BT) 1 3,757.50
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1988 (MG) 1 9,393.75
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1989 (BT) 2 10,273
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1990 (BT) 1 7,834
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1990 (MG) 5 71,457.50
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1993 (MG) 2 15,009.50
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1994 (BT) 2 3,354
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1996 (BT) 13 43,368
Vosne Romanée/ Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1997 (BT) 8 14,628
Vosne-Romanée/ Henri Jayer 1992 (BT) 2 2,329
Vosne-Romanée/ Henri Jayer 1993 (BT) 2 2,355


Clos d'Ambonnay/ Krug/ 1996/ (BT)/ 12/ 23,598
Clos du Mesnil/ Krug/ 1996/ (MG)/ 1/ 2,017
Cristal/ Roederer/ 1990/ (BT)/ 24/ 7,712
Cristal/ Roederer/ 1990/ (MG)/ 1/ 1,438.50
Dom Perignon/ Moet & Chandon/ 1964/ (MG)/ 4/ 5,020
Dom Pérignon/ OEnothèque Dom Perignon/ 1959/ (BT)/ 2/ 4,000


Chateauneuf du Pape/ Réserve des Célestins/ Henri Bonneau/ 1978/ (BT)/ 10/ 9,100
Hermitage La Chapelle/ Jaboulet/ 1961/ (BT)/ 2/ 18,693
Hermitage Rouge/ Chave/ 1990/ (BT)/ 2/ 1,094
Hermitage Rouge/ Chave/ 1999/ (BT)/ 3/ 664.50
Hommage à Jacques Perrin/ Beaucastel/ 1999/ (BT)/ 10/ 2,640



Barolo Brunate R. Voerzio/ Roberto Voerzio/ 1998/ (BT)/ 24/ 2,724
Barolo Cannubi Sandrone/ Sandrone/ 1998/ (BT)/ 108/ 12,636
Barolo Cerequio R. Voerzio/ Roberto Voerzio/ 1998/ (BT)/ 54/ 5,724
Barolo Ciabot Ginestra D. Clerico/ Domenico Clerico/ 1998/ (BT)/ 18/ 1,971
Barolo Gran Bussia A.Conterno/ Aldo Conterno/ 1996/ (BT)/ 54/ 6,750
Barolo La Serra R. Voerzio/ Roberto Voerzio/ 1998/ (BT)/ 18/ 1,728
Barolo Le Vigne Sandrone/ Sandrone/ 1998/ (BT)/ 108/ 17,010
Barolo Rocche Annunziata Ris./ Scavino/ 1996/ (BT)/ 300/ 39,600
Barolo Rocche Annunziata Ris./Scavino/ 1997/ (BT)/ 300/ 68,400
Barolo Rocche Annunziata Ris./Scavino/ 1998/ (BT)/ 300/ 33,300
Gaja Sperss/ Gaja/ 1990/ (BT)/ 6/ 954
Gaja Sperss/ Gaja/ 1997/ (BT)/ 60/ 16,650
Massetto/ Tenuta dell'Ornellaia/ 1990/ (MG)/ 1/ 1,437.50
Massetto/ Tenuta dell'Ornellaia/ 1992/ (MG)/ 1/ 575
Massetto/ Tenuta dell'Ornellaia/ 1995/ (DMG)/ 1/ 1,604
Massetto/ Tenuta dell'Ornellaia/ 2004/ (BT)/ 36/ 14,364
Massetto/ Tenuta dell'Ornellaia/ 2004/ (DMG)/ 3/ 6,417
Massetto/ Tenuta dell'Ornellaia/ 2004/ (MG)/ 1/ 1,128
Ornellaia Edition Special 20 ans/ Tenuta dell'Omellaia/ 2005/ (DMG)/ 1 932
Ornellaia Edition Special 20 ans/ Tenuta dell'Omellaia/ 2005/ (MG)/ 2 633
Sassicaia/ Tenuta San Guido/ 1970/ (BT)/ 2/ 2,398
Sassicaia/ Tenuta San Guido/ 1985/ (BT)/ 6/ 8,946
Sassicaia/ Tenuta San Guido/ 1985/ (MG)/ 8/ 34,589.33
Sassicaia/ Tenuta San Guido/ 1990/ (MG)/ 3/ 4,497


L'Ermita Alvaro Palacios/ Alvaro Palacios/ 1996/ (JERO)/ 1/ 1,391.50
Vega Sicilia Unico/ Vega Sicilia/ 1962/ (BT)/ 12/ 6,268
Vega Sicilia Unico/ Vega Sicilia/ 1970/ (BT)/ 12/ 6,366
Vega Sicilia Unico/ Vega Sicilia/ 1970/ (MG)/ 1/ 1,583.33

United States

Cabernet Sauvignon/ Caymus/ 1995/ (MG)/ 2/ 976.89


Luxury Wine Auctions and Cultural aspects to consider for marketing Wines globally

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) At the time when the fine wine auctions' season starts in New York, London, Paris, Geneva, Chicago and Hong Kong, it is a great opportunity to consider an aspect of wine marketing: selling a luxury wine internationally does imply that communication is differientated according to the economic situation and to the cultural aspects of the different regions (Europe, America or Asia).

In the coming weeks, more than $15 million worth of first-growth Bordeaux and Burgundies will be going under the hammers. Zachy's began the auction season during the weekend in Hong Kong with more than 900 lots on offer, including 1990 La Tache Domaine de la Romanee Conti, which sold for $50,262, and cases of 1989, '90 and '95 Chateau Petrus which fetched $40,837, $40,837 and $23,560 respectively. In fact Hong Kong, again this year, will be the hottest place for luxury wines. Acker Merrall & Condit will offer a six-pack of magnums of 1971 Romanee Conti, three cases of 1982 Chateau Petrus and three cases of 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Christie's will also be offering lots in Hong Kong which include more than 80 cases of Lafite-Rothschild with high-end estimates of $11,000 to $24,500 depending on the vintage. Also in Hong Kong, Sotheby's will offer a massive collection of Chateau Lafite dating back to 1869 (one bottle of 1869 with an estimate of $8,000). Of course, these are about the most glamourous lots but there will be many more and not only in Hong Kong but everywhere in the world. How will collectors react? Will all the wine auctions in the world be as successful as the ones in Hong Kong? At this point, two major points could be considered to understand the success of some auctions:

1) Depending on the region, buyers are not in the same mood and will make acquisitions according to their expectations in a near future. In the US, the consumer mood is biased toward lower price points and increased talk of a double dip recession does not inspire confidence. In Asia (excl. Japan), the market seems to be the least price sensitive in the world and the booming economy gives buyers a very positive mood to acquire the best wines at any price. In Europe and Japan, the market is somewhere in between.

2) Depending on the region and the cultural aspects, buyers won't make their decisions for the same reasons. Of course, all of these wines need credibility to be offered and acquired at high prices but, again, depending on the region, wine lovers/collectors do not share the same behaviours. European and japanese collectors are very much attached to the history of the wine estates and the success they gained through decades or even centuries. On the contrary, the need for credibility through established reputation is less of an impediment in the US. Having some good history is merely icing on the cake. Americans are much more concerned with style, quality and performance. Finally asian collectors are right in the middle but tend to favour an other aspect when they are in the process of acquiring luxury wines: the "social status impact".

Having briefly considered these two points, I wish all the best to all the bidders who may either make a good investment for their future pension or enjoy with wine lovers some of the best wines Nature could have ever made in this world...(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Aspirational Consumers and Asia, the next two Challenges for Luxury Wines.

(This editorial is the executive summary of an exclusive VitaBella report)(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr). Recently, the luxury industry showed figures for the first six months of 2010 which were looking quite good. This rebound is mainly due to increased consumer demand and restocking by wholesalers and retailers. The question now is whether it can continue for the rest of the year and into 2011.
- Firstly, if the first six months of last year was the weaker half of 2009 for luxury, further slowdown is likely as comparables will get tougher.
- Secondly, it seems luxury consumers have traded down to less prestigious wines.
- Thirdly, the real problem in the near future is the "aspirational consumer" behaviour. Aspirational consumers are people who do not usually buy luxury wines but would like to do so. And during the recession, many consumers who would trade up to luxury previously simply pulled out of the luxury market.
The future performance for luxury wine estates will depend on two major points:
- Get back these aspirational consumers into the market. They played a key role in the western countries in accelerating the growth since the 90's and in that sense would help again. The challenge is difficult as increased talk of a double dip recession does not inspire consumer confidence.
- Develop sales in Asia. Over the last few years, we saw an increased demand for luxury wines from China and some other countries. Deeper penetration of new, large luxury goods markets is likely to bring a new wave of consumers in the future.
These are the two big challenges that the management of luxury wine estates is facing. Success will depend on how and how fast wine estates will adapt to these new demographics.(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr).


Paris Biennale des antiquaires: Could Luxury Wines join Haute Joaillerie and take part to this prestigious fair?

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) The 25th Paris Biennale des Antiquaires will take place from September 15th to 22nd in the Grand Palais, one of the most beautiful place in Paris. Some jewellery houses including Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier or Harry Winston will display their finest wares alongside antiques. To this new edition, Vuitton (a newcomer to the haute joaillerie) will take part for the first year as well as Piaget. For some it may appear strange that these brands are now setting up shops at the Grand Palais in Paris while we would expect to see only fine antiques and arts, and not high jewellery. So why are these brands interested in participating to this event alongside tapestries or porcelain. In fact, jewellers want to reach a larger population than the strictly limited population they could reach through their shops. And at the same time they want to associate their names to other areas of creativity. Cartier understood it immediately and has been present since the first biennale. Over the last decade, the dramatic price increase for haute joaillerie and the internationalisation of the clientele changed the game rules. And being present at a fair full of wealthy and erudit international collectors now become a necessary privilege. Jacques Perrin, a member of both the executive committe at Syndicat National des Antiquaires and of the Biennale des Antiquaires recently said to the Financial Times: "Some people say to me 'why do you invite jewellers such as Harry Winston to the Biennale?' Because they pay for their booth is my reply. They too have rich customers and they sell luxury things." So why not luxury wine estates in a near future as the wine business also penetrated this luxury segment.With the reputation for producing the priciest and rarest wines in the world, the presence of some wine estates may be as natural sa some jewellers. Presenting wines in a prestigious fair which shows the most exceptional objects to a large public (it is in fact open to the public) and with a population of international connaisseurs would be a great opportunity for wine estates. Making contacts with existing and new clients and follow up with them when the wines will be presented in the home country of the collectors could be an advantage. Great wines are about art, craftmanship, excellence and brand's status. And in that sense, I would expect in the future to see some of them in this exceptional Biennale I would never miss.(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Harvest in Europe: First indications from the Best Winemakers

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr) Europe is now scrutinizing its vines to check maturity and find the best period to pick grapes. White grape varieties' harvest already started in some part of this region but most grapes still have to get picked and then will follow the natural process that will change them into wine. I was discussing with some great winemakers in Europe and they all were excited about this new harvest. Spain, Portugal, France...It is always surprising to find that Europe, with all its beautiful wine regions, have plenty of different stories to tell when it comes to climate effect. I was talking with Cristiano Van Zeller, the winemaker at Quinta Vale Dona Maria who is producing white wines and red wines including Ports, and his first indications were quite enthusiastic: "We already started harvesting white grapes last friday. 2010 was a good year, with quite heavy rains until end of june, and hot during the summer with cool nights. In terms of volume, it seems that volume produced will be among the highest reported in Douro. At today, degrees are still low which is quite rare in our region. Red grapes' harvest should start soon but we do not rush for harvest as phenolic maturity is not yet obtained." During this discussion, we also talked with Cristiano Van Zeller about Spain as he is also producing a beautiful wine in Toro. "Toro suffered from hot temperatures during this summer. It was hot during the day and still warm at night. Harvest will take place earlier this year with a splendid quality and mature grapes. Old vines particularly will produce a good quantity of wine with a beautiful balance. This year, I am particularly impressed by the expression of ripe fruits that grapes will deliver."
Further North in Europe, I was then talking with Christine Vernay who is producing spectacular Condrieu and Cote Rotie at Domaine Georges Vernay: "Right now we are just having the right weather to complete the maturity for our white and red grapes. A bit of rain which was necessary and then a cool weather. I am very excited about this harvest and I walk everyday in the parcels to check the maturity and the taste of the grapes. It is always exciting to define the best day to pick the grapes and get them at their best potential." In September and October, more stories from winemakers in Europe will be reported everyday on www.vitabella.fr.


Three Lessons from the world’s second-biggest luxury goods group that Luxury Wine Estates should learn.

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr). Richemont, the world’s second-biggest luxury goods group, announced yesterday higher sales in the first five months of the year, but warned that momentum might not be maintained for the full year.The maker of Cartier jewellery and Montblanc pens said sales had jumped 37 per cent in the five months to the end of August, compared with the same period last year.By product, Richemont’s specialist watch brands, led by upmarket Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre, proved strongest, with unadjusted sales up 40 per cent. Jewellery, including the Van Cleef & Arpels brand, rose 32 per cent. These are the facts and let's now analyze it through the lenses of a luxury wine estate owner. Three major lessons could be learnt and could benefit to the success of luxury wine estates in the future.

1) Sustainability of the economic recovery
If sales were satifying during the first 6 months, luxury wine estates should be very cautious about their estimates for the end of the year. Richemont pointed out that the strong growth was achieved on the back of low comparisons and that the second half will be a tougher period. Expensive wines may suffer from a lower demand in restaurants or wine shops if this recovery is not sustainable.

2) A strong distribution network in Asia
Richemont demonstrated that they were very successful by expanding in Asia to offset a slowdown in the U.S. and Europe. Asia proved particularly buoyant, with sales up 51 per cent in the period (36 per cent adjusted for currencies and the acquisition). At the same period, Europe and the Americas were very resilient. In fact, Hong Kong has become the biggest market for Swiss watches as shoppers from mainland China buy timepieces there to avoid luxury tax. Wealthy Chinese consumers own 4.4 luxury watches on average, according to the Hurun Wealth Report, which estimates there are 875,000 people in the country who have assets of more than 10 million renminbi ($1.47 million). The same trend is happening for luxury wines (and more particularly for French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy) and therefore estates must build stronger relationships with this part of the world. A strong distribution network in Asia is now key for wine estates if they want to develop sales and increase margins.

3) An online strategy for luxury goods
Selling luxury wines online? An idea that still sounds crazy for many luxury wine estates. In fact, even if the wine business is tied to strict regional rules with strong restrictions on selling bottles on the internet, the recent acquisition of U.K.-based fashion retailer Net-A-Porter.com by Richemont shows the luxury market is going online very rapidly. Richemont announced that Net-a-Porter, the luxury goods market website they bought in April, will soon expand internationally (they currently sell to customers in the Americas, Europe and the Middle East) which is a strong sign about their confidence in this business. This online business is a way to reach people who do not live in places where Richemont brands are sold and who can afford buying expensive items. This argument could also be used for luxury wines but estates are sometimes still reluctant to go further into this online business.(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr).


The vintage which could make Robert Parker even more influential on Luxury Rhone Valley Wines

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr). It has been traditionally considered that the famous american wine critic Robert Parker was essentially influential on Bordeaux wines and more specifically on first growths. His current visit in Rhone Valley, for mainly tasting the 2009s, may build a stronger image of his name in a near future not only as a Bordeaux specialist but also as a Rhone Valley specialist.
Currently in Rhone Valley to taste the 2009s, Robert Parker is preparing a future review of this beautiful vintage. What may result from his tastings could impact on US sales and abroad as it already happened for 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape, which he considered in his reviews as the greatest vintage he ever tasted in this region. Well, wine professionals and consumers as well should be prepared to such an announcement for the 2009s he is tasting now. Let's guess his choice will be more on the reds than on the whites (which sometimes have a lack of acidity and nervosity) but considering Rhone Valley wines from the northern part (Cornas, Saint Joseph, Hermitage, Cote Rotie), he may review this vintage as The best he ever tasted in Northern Rhone Valley and could compare it to some great old vintages ending in 9. If this is the case, after the 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape, this new strong opinion on Rhone Valley wines would be marketed worldwide and his recommandations would take even more value in a region where some of the greatest luxury wines are produced. If wine professionals should go even further, they should guess about which appellation would be highlighted by Robert Parker in 2009. If it is Hermitage, it will have a strong and powerful marketing effect on these wines which are produced in a very limited area and which still deserve a bigger recognition in many parts of the world. And then the last guess would be: who would be the top performer in Hermitage for this 2009 vintage? Maybe Chapoutier, which is always producing great Hermitage wines that Robert Parker appreciates much ("L'Ermite" and other small parcels). Chave, whose production for whites or reds is always of extremely high level. But let's guess the one who could much more benefit from this Robert Parker's effect (just because his flagship wine has been underperforming in terms of wine critics' scores over the last few years) would be a famous producer which makes the most renowned name in the Hermitage Appellation. Did you get it? I give you a hint: his wine (red or white) is called after a religious building and it is particularly admired for the 1961 vintage. All this story is just a guess but I love to guess...(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr).


Medoc Marathon: when Sport and Luxury Wine make the perfect blend.

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr). I was recently attending a wine tasting in Dublin and an irish lady came to me and asked me if I would attend this year the famous Medoc Marathon. I said I would not be able to take part to it and that I was rally sad because this marathon is a beautiful sport event as well as a magnificent human experience. She said she would never miss it because she never felt like making extraordinary efforts when she was running in such a beautiful scenery. Then she started to talk about the most beautiful chateaux, the first growths and all the most renowned names that Medoc could boast.In fact, when you have experienced former editions yourself and have a quick look at the program this year on www.marathondumedoc.com, you are pretty impressed by the great adventure it is. Shared by 8,500 people coming from all over the world, this adventure shows that the passion for both sport and wine can go together very well. And I am convinced that this human experience would not be as successful if it was not also about great wines. Also, behind this adventure, you can discover the most efficient communication tool that was invented up to now to build a stronger image of Bordeaux wines in the world. In fact, as I said to this charming irish lady, if we would rate this blend, it would be the perfect note: 100 points or 100/100. In that sense, as more and more people want to experience, one day, a 100 points' blend, the success of this Marathon seems unlimited. Now, being obliged to miss this edition, I have a great thought to all my friends running this marathon and all the joggers who will attend this event. And, of course, I will raise a glass of fine wine to them, right at 9.20 am on saturday 11 September when the Handi-race start will be announced. (More wine news on www.vitabella.fr).


The fabulous Love Story between Wine and China

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr). On June 19, a Maotai bottle (the traditional chinese wine) produced in 1959 sold for 1.03 million yuan (around $150,000) during a wine auction. At the same time, Lafite Rothschild was announcing its historical most expensive En Primeur Price for the 2009' vintage and, among explanations, comments were that this price was fuelled by a strong demand from the chinese market. In fact, China often comes back as a major subject when talking about wine in general because this country shows strong capabilities on the production side, the investment side and the consumption side at the same time.
- On the consumption side, most has been written about realities and potential. On the high-end market, the strong demand on Chateau Lafite Rothschild and its wide range of wines with the "five arrows" logo shows the power of this market.
- On the investment side, Chinese wine companies are interested in expanding their wine portfolio. They intend to sell more in China but also to produce more in some other parts of the world where harvest seasons are different from China. The last rumor came recently when, immediately right after Foster's announced the split of its wine and beer operations, the Shanghai-based Bright Food company was considered as eyeing the Hunter Valley operations focused on the Rosemount brand. On its part, the sino-French listed Dynasty Fine Wine Group announced at Vinexpo Hong Kong they may buy vineyards in Australia, New Zealand, Chile and France. Over the next few years, Chinese companies will invest more and more in the global wine industry.
- On the production side, the objectives of chinese wine companies could be summarized by a comment recently made by Bai Zhisheng, chairman of Dynasty Fine Wine Group, in an interview to Bloomberg: "I want the best quality of the old world vintages and the production scale of the new world wines." Chinese companies develop their own production (Chinese wine production is about 1 million metric tons a year) and at the same time want to go up-market. Visitors in China can not ignore about Great Wall or premium brands Château Junding, Changyu, Dynasty and Dragon Seal. But there are many other brands now focusing on high quality such as Silver Heights produced by the female winemaker Emma Gao up in the Helan Mountain region of Ningxia province. Or Grace Vineyard, a successful producer of Chinese red and white wine based in Shanxi province. In fact, quality is improving dramatically and these wines are showing to the world that delicious wines are produced in China. And this is not a coincidence if the successful wine producer Torres decided to include these two chinese estates in their distribution network throughout China....(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)


Are 2009' Bordeaux First Growths overpriced?

(This editorial is the executive summary of an exclusive VitaBella report)(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr).
Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild announced their 2009 primeur prices to negociants: €450 per bottle. Then negociants will add their margins before selling to wine merchants who will also add margins. In fact as negociants did not get a lot of wine in the first tranche of their 2009 en primeur (the amount of wine released in a tranche is a fraction of the actual production), they have to wait for the second and maybe the third tranche (prices will increase at each level) and then the price of €450 per bottle will be an old story. Already at this level of €450, Lafite is up by more than 300% compared to last year and around 50% compared to 2005' En Primeur price. Lafite not only repositioned itself in terms of price but also in terms of leadership, being the first with Mouton Rothschild among first growths to announce its EP price. If We often read and hear that the chinese market is sending prices to the roof, we may wonder if these 2009' Bordeaux First Growths are not overpriced and if chateaux are not creating a speculative bubble that will soon explode. In fact, another conclusion could be that first growths are not overpriced but that some other Bordeaux wines truly are as the luxury wines' market is facing a new environment. In the VitaBella report entitled "Are 2009' Bordeaux First Growths overpriced?", some examples of overpriced 2009' En primeur Bordeaux wines are given and some details are highlighting the facts that 2009 First growths may not be overpriced but some other En Primeur Chateaux Prices may be much too high. This report actually mentions three important points:
- The first growths are a strictly limited number of chateaux which produce long ageing wines with a unique taste. Every wine lover in the world dreams about having, one day, the experience of tasting one of them. In this wine lovers' community which expands globally, some people are ready to get this experience at a high price or at any price... So if the question is "Who will drink these highly-priced bottles?", the answer would be "Some of us and certainly a new clientele compared to the one who bought first growths over the last 20 years ago".
- Demand is changing: First, for price reasons, French Hypermarkets are not buying 2009s as heavily as they did in the past. This has a minor down effect on the speculation bubble on first growths but may impact strongly other Bordeaux wines which decided to increase dramatically their prices in 2009. Secondly, the market is pickier: the economy is still convalescent and the reputation for conservatism of first growths helps as buyers move away from the "showy" wines of upstart brands.Thirdly, a new clientele is coming in with a "Flying to quality" approach which makes the prices for 2009 first growths very high. This did not happen for 2007 and 2008 as "quality standards" were not met according to this new clientele.
- The impact of the increased liquidity on the secondary market is strong on the prices of First Growths Bordeaux wines.For sure, investors are attracted by good returns but liquidity is a major indicator they consider in their investment decision process. And over the last few years, the secondary market has never been as liquid as it is (transparency also increased thanks to a better and faster information). Recent wine auctions and new online trading platforms (such as the coming platform Berry Bros’ BBX, the Berrys’ Broking Exchange launching in July) are also showing positive signs to buyers of en primeurs first growths. But investors will mainly focus on the top wines which are regularly traded and not at other Bordeaux wines. Even if these wines got excellent scores and were priced at a very high price at an early stage of their life which we call En Primeur...


LVMH and Cheval Blanc...Welcome to the new world of luxury wines' brand extension

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). LVMH, the luxury goods company, recently announced they would enter the five-star hotel management business, initially through a partnership with Egypt's Orascom Development Holdings, to build two resorts in the Middle East. These first two hotels are scheduled to open in 2012 in Egypt and Oman. The hotels will be branded Cheval Blanc, after the Michelin-starred resort based in Courchevel opened in 2006 by Group Arnault. The hotels will also showcase some of LVMH's other brands - the Cheval Blanc resort already has Louis Vuitton and Dior shopping outlets as well as a Givenchy spa.
Even if a number of fashion and luxury brands have already diversified into hotels (Armani, Bulgari, Versace...), this is the first time the name of a luxury wine is put upfront as a hotel brand. In fact, LVMH is showing to the major actors in the luxury wine business that brand extension has to be integrated to the full strategy of a major estate. And as LVMH explained, it is a "natural extension of activities in luxury hospitality". For sure, not all estates will be able to enter the luxury hotel business. But as LVMH is doing, estates should consider, at first, opportunities which will commit no capital expenditures and have no management risk. In fact, there are plenty of opportunities and we will discover them over the next few years. But Luxury wine estates should get prepared now if they want to be successful in this brand extension strategy.(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).


Hermes and its new brand « Shang Xia »: a good lesson for luxury wines

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). Hermes launches a new brand, called Shang Xia (meaning “topsy-turvy” in Mandarin), in the lucrative Chinese market. Shang Xia will include ready-to-wear and decorative arts inspired by Chinese culture and traditions of craftsmanship. They will be made using Chinese raw materials and artisanal know-how, Hermes said. Shang Xia’s creative director is Qiong-Er Jiang, daughter of a noted Chinese architect. The new brand will be tailored for the Chinese market where Hermes lags behind its competitors. The brand will also be distributed in Paris in one of the large department store. As some would think at first, this move is not a matter of producing and offering cheaper products to the chinese markets. China's tradition is anchored into a long history of talented artists who are appreciated by the entire nation. In fact, these artists are part of the education of children at school and this art culture is deep in their roots. For centuries, it shaped their way of seeing differently the world and, among it, the luxury world. Hermes demonstrates its strength in taking the high risk of going into that direction and being the first in the luxury sector to do so (in fact, Tang is another luxury brand which could be comparable). Hermes shows that it understood the chinese market should be marketed with its specific language (so a specific chinese name for the new brand), specific culture (so a specific range of products with a chinese creative director)...Hermes does not adapt to a specific country. Hermes creates a chinese brand. Hermes does not intend to create a low cost brand in China. They create a luxury brand in China. Shang Xia is not a brand for the chinese market. ShangXia is a brand for the chinese community based all over the world.

How is it related to the luxury wine business? For luxury wines, selling globally is essential and having your wine brand marketed internationally is key. This is the Global approach. In the wine business, the "Glocal" approach (global and local) is impossible as it is difficult to replicate your soil, your estate and all the rest in any other place in the world. But the "Shang Xia" approach is possible. We already saw it, over the last 20 years, with the acquisitions of estates or with the entire creations of estates by "old world" wineries in order to have their own production of "New World" wines. But it was a false "Shang Xia" approach as most of the time only "non autochtonuous" grapes were planted to try to replicate what was done in the Old World. "False" does not mean these wines are bad (some of them get excellent scores from renowned international experts) but "false" means that the cultural local approach was not fully completed as, most of the time, wineries did not care much about autochtonuous grapes or specific local winemaking techniques. Being in the luxury sector obliges to respect some cultural codes but also to set trends. Using autochtonuous grapes, something wine experts are considering more and more now when they try to discover fine wines, and making a wine with a typical and unique great taste could be the "Shang Xia" approach for luxury wines. In this approach, most of the time wineries would consider the help of local winemakers with a strong knowledge of a specific autochtonuous grape (as Gulfi did in Sicily with Salvo Foti, the world renowned winemaker for Nero d'Avola). It will need a long education to make this approach famous among a large public but already wine lovers know about it. Pinotage and a luxury wine in South Africa? Kanoncop is going that way. Nerello Mascalese on Etna? Great wines show the potential. The "Shang Xia" approach is already making progress in the world of fine wines. (Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).


Château Gruaud Larose, first Second Growth to offer its 2009 as futures

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). There is always some suspens around the announcement of top Bordeaux wines' futures. Sometimes this suspens is unbearable for wine merchants and collectors. This was the case in the past for great vintages and it certainly is the case for 2009, a vintage many wine experts rated as the best vintage ever. This suspens makes the waiting time even longer and many stories are told during that period, including that one: prices for top Châteaux will be insane. Consequently, the great vintage and the strong demand particularly from China have brought a lot of attention internationally on the futures prices of these Châteaux. Finally Château Gruaud Larose was the first Second growth to announce 2009 Futures yesterday. For a Second Cru Classé from the Saint Julien appellation, the price of £35.95 exc VAT per bottle which is proposed by a UK wine merchant on internet seems fair. And not insane as it was expected. Sold below $50 as futures, this proposal for a second growth seems attractive, and more particularly for a wine which “is the finest Gruaud Larose since the 1990" according to Robert Parker and which should "last for 30-40".With a 94-97 score in Wine Spectator, this "big wine" seems a good opportunity for wine lovers. Will this announcement from Château Gruaud Larose give a clear indication for the whole market of 2009 top Bordeaux Futures? Yes and this clear indication is that everything is unclear...Thinking about En Primeur prices reminds us of the definition given by most experts of the quality of this 09 vintage: heterogeneity. 2009 Futures Prices like quality will be heterogeneous. And this is a fact now, 2009 Château Gruaud Larose EP price (a mere 12% increase compared to 2005 future for this wine) shows that some châteaux at top level will stay reasonable. Now let's see first growths which should release their futures over the month. And let's see how speculation could impact some of these wines which, without having announced yet EP prices, are already proposed by some wine merchants to collectors... (Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).


Romanee Conti, a luxury wine in a vineyard comparable to rare tea plantations in China...

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). Most of the wine lovers have heard recently about a frightening story in Burgundy at the world-renowned Domaine de la Romanee Conti. Aubert de Villaine, co-director of the Domaine, received a few months ago a letter which threatened to poison all the vines of his vineyards if he did not respond positively to a blackmail scheme. At a retail price of over Eur 8,000 for a bottle of DRC's Romanée-Conti (only 4.4 acres), the extortionist decided to focus on a specific estate which is highly regarded internationally. Even if the man was arrested, this story makes security issues for luxury wines a new topic to investigate. In China, the same kind of issue has been adressed in a specific domain: rare tea trees. Far from the lovely villages in Burgundy, luxury tea producers took a measure in order to protect their unique expensive production: hire guards.In the Wuyi Shan chain of mountains, located in the northern part of the Fujian province, is a natural reserve with pure water, deep hills and some unique tea plantations. The "yan cha", as they called it in Chinese, is a wulong variety planted on extremely steep hills. In these beautiful mountains, you can still find specific tea plants from the best "grands crus". Da Hong Pao, Tie Luo Han or Shui Jing Gui are some names that come to mind and which are still alive in this place. Protected by guards, night and day, this small reserve of first generation tea plants only produce a few hundreds of grams sold at extremely high price. Rare, expensive like Domaine de la Romanee Conti is. But protected 24 hours a day, unlike Romanée Conti...(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).


Acker Merrall’s luxury wine auction or the new battle between First Growth Bordeaux in China

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). On last 28 & 29 May, “The Imperial Cellar” (owned by entrepreneur Eric Greenberg) sale achieved a record HK$152 million at Hong Kong auction. Top lot of Henri Jayer Vosne Romanée Cros Parantoux 1999 set a New World Auction record. But even more important, a new world record was set for a Château Margaux lot sold at auction. At a time when Château Lafite Rothschild is taking a big slice of the chinese cake, it is very important for Château Margaux to make this kind of appearance in order to develop brand image and increase market share in China. After a few years of craziness on Lafite, First Growth Bordeaux are now aware of the huge potential of the chinese market and understand they should develop brand awareness by attracting chinese eyeballs. This game is particularly attractive if you consider how successful Lafite is today in China, Hong Kong and Macau: Château Lafite Rothschild's sales should be added to some other wines such as Carruades de Lafite and other wines branded under the same logo. In order to achieve its goal, Château Margaux needs to develop a communication strategy, promote its luxury brand wine in China and also, among others, introduce Pavillon Rouge (second wine). In this strategy, having Château Margaux wines at the largest ever wine auction to be held in Asia and the second biggest wine auction of all time worldwide was essential. In fact, this auction was a unique occasion for Château Margaux to get the attention of Asia’s most serious wine collectors and bidders from around the world. So in addition to the "Imperial Cellar" sale, five unique lots consigned directly by Château Margaux, were sold with net proceeds being donated to the Great Wall Society of China to assist with the preservation of this United Nations Cultural World Heritage site. And this superlot of 360 bottles (1979-2007) from Château Margaux Private Cellar has set a New World Auction Record for any Château Margaux lot ever sold anywhere in the world. Now let's see if Château Margaux will be as successful as Lafite is in China within a few years...(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).


Wine: Robert Parker, Primeur 2OO9 and eRobertParker.com

(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr). WINE: From today, you will have to pay to get access to Robert Parker's wine discussion forum. Some of you may have received this e-mail: "On April 27, the entire Mark Squires' Bulletin Board on eRobertParker.com will become a subscriber-only forum, open only to subscribers of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate or eRobertParker.com."
eRobertParker.com decided to make it that way instead of continuing and developping a two-tier system with, on one side, a free subscription forum and, on the other side, a paid subscription to a forum with complementary offers and informations. Some kind of offers we find in Bordeaux with a Premier Grand Vin and a second wine, not free but much more affordable, which gives consumers an opportunity to get a feeling of what happens there. In fact, by making this announcement, Robert Parker creates a members-only club of wine lovers who pay to get a place (here a virtual place on erobertparker.com) and where people can meet and discuss with other club members. Building a club membership business rather than a community or, in other words, building a luxury community. A club where people will exchange about the best wines in the world. A bit like sharing a discussion between members at the bar of the select Saint Andrews Golf Club in Scotland or at the Kee Club restaurant in Shanghai. I have to admit I love these places.
As mentioned in the e-mail, the amount of work required to supervise "the huge volume of posts has become increasingly time consuming and expensive". In fact, since November 2001 when it was launched, "the board became rapidly the Internet's premier forum for wine discussion". This position of international leading forum on wine topics gives erobertparker.com the opportunity to ask for a subscription. People will have to take the full package: they subscribe to Wine Advocate or to eRobertParker.com and they are allowed to get in the discussion forum. The internet media business showed the way in this paid subscription model. Wall Street Journal decided to do so quite early but they also decided to keep some information free (a very limited amount in fact) to attract some internet users' eyeballs who may in the future decide to get a subscription.
Robert Parker is Robert Parker. The internet is full of pages filled with wine critics but Robert Parker became a reference in that field. In that sense, very early, people agreed to pay for articles. Now eRobertParker.com has enough credibility to be the first to announce a paid subscription forum access. It may give others the idea to follow that business model.
Moreover, Robert Parker is not Robert Parker only. In fact eRobertparker.com is not only about Robert Parker but also about Antonio Galloni, Neal Martin, Jay Miller, Lisa Perrotti Brown, David Schildknecht, Mark Squire and others. They all give their point of view and this created a sphere of wine critics whose opinion is today highly regarded. Paying to get access to their articles is now relevant for most wine lovers and for any person working in the international wine business. The Wine hub is creating its own luxury environment with expensive wines, glamour and now a paid subscription forum access. Some privileged like us are lucky enough to get access to the best wines and to taste the most expensive ones. Some may get access to eRobertParker's wine forum, exchange with wine lovers about their passion and comment on their recent tasting experience of a spectacular 1840 Chateau Gruaud Larose. Some may not. Twenty years ago, it would have been difficult for wine lovers to understand such a change. But the global demand has dramatically changed the wine sphere and has expanded its "luxury part" up to a point where now even wine discussion forums are not free anymore. Times change so quickly...(Find some more news on www.vitabella.fr).