Chateau Palmer, Domaine Leroy…Farce and Deception at Fauchon Paris

When a wine expert at Fauchon recommends a 500 euros wine, should you trust him? This is the conclusion we could draw from the documentary "The trouble with experts " that will screen on CBC in Canada on Thursday 29. I only watched the 2mn presentation but I can figure out the full content for one simple reason: I was part of this group on that night at Fauchon. (click here to watch the presentation)

This documentary from Josh Freed will show that "experts" can not tell the difference between a wine at 30 euros and another at 500 euros. Being the only person in the group to have constantly repeated that the wines we were served did not correspond to the label they were showing us, I would like to clarify a few points about this tasting held at Fauchon a few months ago.

1) Fauchon invited us in Paris (place de la Madeleine) to enjoy some great wines including a first growth classified Bordeaux wine. We never saw a first growth being poured into our glasses.

2) Camera, sound ... Everything is recorded, the team makes us sign a document to get the full image rights.

3) Fewer people than expected showed up, so we had to sit closer to each other. Some people from Fauchon were called at the last moment to fill empty spaces. No renowned wine expert at sight: wine professionals (but that does not make you necessarily a wine expert), wine lovers and people who were keen on discovering this wonderful world.

4) An explanation of the tasting was given by a wine expert (Frederic Brochet) from Fauchon. Two glasses will be served: the first will be a 30 euros wine and the second will be a 500 euros wine. So a first glass of red Burgundy was proposed. This expert (in fact he was presented as an expert and might be the only wine expert from the group) introduced shortly this wine. Rapidly we were invited to taste it. Immediately, the Canadian reporter asked us : "So What do you think? ". I replied that, of course, it was good, elegant, delicate, it was the kind of red Burgundy I really appreciate. Then came the second glass and the expert from Fauchon continued: "Here is a great red Burgundy from Leroy that comes from a highly reputed area and has an exceptional ...". This speech continued for several minutes to explain the uniqueness of this wine. And then immediately at the first sip, the second glass had much less elegance, complexity and refinement than the first one. This second wine was good but did not show the same complexity. The camera focused on some of us, including me: "So which one do you prefer?". "Both are good" I replied, and indeed I explained what I considered good in each of these two wines. But I also explained to the reporter and my neighbors that I felt the two wines had been swapped. Indeed, as seen in the short presentation for the documentary, the wine expert from Fauchon had poured the Mercurey into an expensive bottle from the famous wine estate, Leroy. The reporter replied to me that what I was saying was really weird and that we should not waste too much time and should continue to taste other wines.

5) After tasting the next two wines (a chateau Palmer bottle was filled with an unknown red bordeaux wine), the deception was clear and it was easy to understand that the 2 new wines were also swapped. My neighbor, who was discovering great wines, told me she preferred again the first wine and we started a long conversation about this. We were reported to lower our voice as maybe the reporter was feeling that around us people started to have some doubts. The reporter continued: "What wine do you prefer? The first one or the second? "At this point, how can we imagine a single individual in a group of ten people that he/she does not know at all - and which fully trusts the wine expert from Fauchon - to speak in front of the camera and say: "Well the 500 euros wine is not the one you served in the second glass! "The wine lover must have a real courage to speak up and say these words in a group who has been told "This 500 euros wine is unique and exceptional for such and such reason".

Till the end of the evening, I told the reporter that the wines had been swapped. I got no answer and, for me, it was a real deception. But I realized with the short video of the documentary that there are two deceptions actually. The first one is that it was organized at Fauchon, a renowned place for gastronomy and wines. The second is about the title "The trouble with experts" because real wine experts were absent on that night...

After having contacted the head of communication at Fauchon, it appears that they are the first victim of this farce. The wine expert, Frederic Brochet, who conducted this farce is not working at Fauchon anymore. But the image of Fauchon may be tarnished by this documentary which shows bottles that are being swapped and also shows regular Fauchon customers being trapped in this ridiculous farce.


Bordeaux-based négociants start delivering their 2009 Bordeaux. And also Hommage à Jacques Perrin 2009 from Chateau de Beaucastel.

On James Molesworth's blog, the Bordeaux and Rhone Valley wine specialist from the U.S. magazine Wine Spectator, we recently discovered a big news: "Château de Beaucastel's Hommage à Jacques Perrin Grande Cuvée Cracks the Place de Bordeaux: The Rhône wine becomes the first non-Bordeaux French wine to be offered by Bordeaux-based négociants."

This is a very important news in a market place that was generally closed to only wines from Bordeaux. In fact, if it is the first time for a French but non Bordeaux wine, this is not the case for some other great international wines in recent years : Chile's Viña Almaviva and Opus One from California, both joint ventures of Château Mouton-Rothschild or both super Tuscans Masseto and Solaia are already offered by the same pool of negociants.

In fact, if Hommage à Jacques Perrin can not, in any way, deny its noble and great origins from Chateauneuf du Pape, it is true that the famous Chateau de Beaucastel has much in common with Bordeaux greatest Chateaus. Its history dating back to 1697, the uniqueness of its terroir located at the northern limit of the appellation, the quality and fabulous ageing potential of its wines... all these remind us of the essential qualities of Bordeaux greatest wines. We should also note that Robert Parker has been covering Beaucastel for many years and gives the best scores as he does for Bordeaux most coveted wines.

As James Molesworth puts it, "The system typically favors the biggest names with the longest histories and tends to insulate the top châteaus from the rigors of working the marketplace themselves." It is in fact part of the answers given by the Perrin Family: "The main reason we decided to put some Hommage on the place is because we are always saying 'no' to people who are asking to buy Hommage, as demand for the wine is always much more than we have," said Marc Perrin. "The place de Bordeaux's job is to allocate wines, so it frees us from that. Instead of spending time on the phone saying 'no' to people, we can concentrate on the vineyards and wines."

With 6000 bottles produced - only in great vintages - Hommage à Jacques Perrin is a much coveted wine
. As a conclusion, James Molesworth mentions the words of Perrin on the secondary market: "Also, on Hommage there has historically been a secondary market as some people don't drink the wine, but sell it again. This is very unorganized and provenance becomes an issue, which can be damaging for the reputation of the wine and for customers. The place has a way of cleaning that up."