Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte New Sculptor.

One of my very favorite Chateaux to visit at Bella Wine Tours is the magnificent Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in the Pessac Leognan area. It is definitely worth clicking on their link as there are very few websites that have U2 as backing music!!
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte is owned by the deeply charismatic and passionate Cathiard family. Daniel and Florence run the Chateau, whilst their daughters run the 5 star Hotel Les Sources de Caudalie which is based in the vineyards and also the hugely successful global Caudalie cosmetic brand.
The Cathiard family work extremely hard and they are evidently one of the movers and shakers in the Bordeaux wine world. However they were complete outsiders when they initially bought the slightly unkempt Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte back in 1990. The Chateau had been run by the negociant firm Louis Eschenauer for a few years and there had not been an enormous re investment. The subsequent vintages of 1991 (frost), 1992 (rain), 1993 (average) were a big lesson for Daniel and Florence Cathiard as they wanted to develop and invest in the vineyards and the property.
However now the Cathiard family are reaping the rewards for their years of passion, vision and investment. The Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is a truly stunning wine. The minerality and grapefruit zest character are in beautiful balance. Whilst the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge has progressed in leaps and bounds. Although I generally find it slightly lighter style it normally has a warming savory and spice which are reflective of the excellent quality of the grapes.

One aspect that is always evident when visiting the Chateau are the incredible sculptures that spring up around the vineyards. The 'leaping hare' (by Barry Flanagan) is a beautiful creation between the vines and the restaurant (apt?). The 'scrunched up wine tasting notes' sculpture is in the main lawn area, whilst the 'man with the birds pecking him' overlooks the vines. Some of the sculptures are slightly odd, some of them you have to decipher and work out. But it is fun, innovative and eccentric to have a vineyard and wine estate dotted with statements and feeling.

The latest sculpture by the English sculptor, Charles Hadcock, has been revealed by Jane Anson in Decanter magazine here.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Guest Spot: Alexander Hall, Vineyard Intelligence

If you have ever wanted to leave the rat race and buy a vineyard, or you simply want to try something different and invest in a Chateau and a few always need professional, reliable advice, backed up by someone who is aware of current deals, offers and market trends. It can be best to enter these kind of dream adventures with your eyes open! Sometimes you might also need to know more details such as the €€ per hectare of Pomerol versus Castillon or the €€ per hectare of Pauillac versus Puisseguin.
THE man to ask is Alexander Hall of Vineyard Intelligence. We are very pleased that he has answered a few questions here:

1. So Alex. tell me why you ended working with wine?

My stepfather, who is originally from New Zealand, bought some land in Marlborough and started a vineyard, which we have since sold to Jackson Estate. During a sabbatical in 2002 I headed down to Marlborough and ended up working for Ivan Sutherland at Dog Point Vineyard. I loved it and made up my mind before heading back to London that I was going to find a way into the wine business. I originally thought of buying my own vineyard but soon realised that this was out of reach financially. However, I quit my job, sold my house and moved to Bordeaux in 2004 and have been here ever since. I started working with Gavin and Angela Quinney at Château Bauduc, before moving to work with Thierry Valette at Clos Puy Arnaud in Cotes de Castillon and then with the Bécot family at Château Beau-Séjour Bécot in Saint-Emilion.

2. Did you have a specific person or mentor in wine?

No one specific but lots of people who have helped me along the way, including Ivan Sutherland, at Dog Point in Marlborough, for getting me started; Gavin Quinney at Château Bauduc, for offering me the chance to come and work in Bordeaux and for lots of subsequent advice and encouragement; Thierry Valette for introducing me to the craft of handmade wines; Wendy Narby of Insider Tasting for countless contacts and referrals and many more.

3. You started Vineyard Intelligence recently to advise people on buying and selling wine estates. You have a vast knowledge of vineyards all around France and New Zealand. In your opinion which area of vineyards or appellation in the World currently offers the best return on your investment?

That is a very tricky question to answer. The top appellations in Bordeaux have offered spectacular returns over the last decade due to a combination of rising wine prices and large increases in land values. However, with land prices running at 1.5 to 2 million Euros per hectare for the top appellations the return on capital is not what it used to be. That said, buying into these appellations will never be a poor investment as they are only likely to become more sought after. In many other areas land prices tend to fluctuate according to grape/wine prices. Marlborough New Zealand is a good example of this. I published a piece on my website in December 2010 comparing land prices in Marlborough, New Zealand and Bordeaux. As grape prices in Marlborough have decreased by approx. 50% so land prices have followed suit, falling from a peak of approx. NZD 300 000 per hectare to current levels of approx. NZD 150 000 per hectare. As always, some of the best returns are to be made by people spotting great terroir that has yet to be exploited. They might be able to buy the land cheaply but they take the risk as to how good the wines will be and, more importantly, how the market will take to them.

4. You have a great knowledge of Bordeaux and you are often chatting with key players in production and Chateau owners. With the 2011 vintage having just finished alcoholic fermentation what are your views on the 2011 harvest and growing season?

The 2011 vintage in Bordeaux was more difficult than many producers are letting on. The early season drought was extreme and was followed by a relatively cool and damp ripening season together with changeable weather during the harvest. The top terroirs will produce decent wines but many people ended up picking earlier than they would have liked, particularly for the Merlot. The dry whites should be reasonably good but this will not be a classic vintage, probably closest to 2002 of the more recent vintages i.e. average quality with some surprises and the best producers standing out.
5. Bordeaux seems to have polarised in price recently between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. In your opinion where are the best qpr wines being produced in all the Bordeaux appellations?

Dry white AOC Bordeaux form the Entre-Deux-Mers in particular and Cotes de Bordeaux reds from the best terroir/producers.

6.Why did you decide to start Vineyard Intelligence ?

From my own experience as an overseas buyer with relatively little knowledge of running a vineyard and making wine there seemed to be a gap in the market for someone who could provide these buyers with local knowledge, technical expertise and useful contacts. While some of the local real estate agents that specialise in vineyards can provide some of the above they are trying to act as advisor to both the buyer and the seller and they are also restricted to offering those properties for which they have a mandate and are therefore not able to offer the buyer full market coverage. Having seen the success of businesses such as Property Vision in the UK prime real estate market I decided to try and adapt this "buying agent" model to the French vineyard market.

Thanks Alex.
So, if you want to take the plunge and invest in a vineyard, or if you have friends who want to live the dream I can thoroughly recommend that you contact Alex Hall at Vineyard Intelligence.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Chateau Coupe Roses

Name of producer.......Chateau Coupe Roses
Owners: Pascal et Francoise Frissant Le Calvez

Hectares under Vine: 45 hectares.

Appellation: Minervois AOC. Small parcels located at the top of the hills. A dry and relatively cold climate. the soils are stony over a clay, limestone base.

Grape varieties:
Red: Syrah, Grenache Noir, Carignan, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Lledoner Pelut
Whites: Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Muscat Petit Grains and Grenache Blanc

Styles of wine produced: Very fruity, but with a strong structure and soft tannins. Well balanced.

Web Links:

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Chateau de la Riviere

We work with some fantastic quality wine producers from Bordeaux and the Languedoc. We will feature some of their details here from time to time:

Name of Producer….. : James GREGOIRE

How many hectares under vine…… : 60

Which appelation or area? Fronsac

Grape varieties planted……..80% Merlot ; 15% Cabernet Sauvignon ; 4% Cabernet Franc ; 1% Malbec

Soil types……… clay-limestone

Styles of wine produced…….Top (ARIA) and first (Ch de La Riviere) cuvees are produced in order to extract the best of our terroir : powerful, elegance.

Second wine (Les Sources du Ch de La Riviere) is an easy-to-drink wine, on the fruit, round.

Awards, Medals, Achievements? Gold or silver medal at Concours General de Paris every year.

Web links to your website/blog etc ?


FACEBOOK PAGE :!/pages/Ch%C3%A2teau-de-La-Rivi%C3%A8re/162089740523321

TWITTER : @ChdeLaRiviere

YOUTUBE : ChdeLaRiviere

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year 2012

Happy New Year to all readers of this blog. Wherever you are in the World I hope that 2012 brings happiness, health and prosperity.
2011 has been an interesting year on all fronts. business for Bella Wines has been solid and reliable in the UK market, whilst Bella Wine Tours has significantly increased the quantity of quality wine tours that we operate in Bordeaux and the south of France. Our largest group was 28 people in May 2011. This was a challenge for the logistics, but a thoroughly enjoyable tour. 14 people stayed in a 5 star Hotel and 14 people stayed in a 3 star Hotel. We managed all the transport, visits, tastings, lunches and some special extra meetings with Chateau owners and key people in Bordeaux.. We managed to visit and taste the wines at Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Pontet Canet, Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Chateau Yquem and many many more magnificent places.
The client was so happy that they have re booked for a larger tour in 2012.

We have benefited from 'word of mouth' marketing so far to generate virtually all of our business, apart from writing this blog and gradually increasing my Twitter usage (@hamishwm). We have also started a Facebook page dedicated to Bella Wine Tours. So please feel free to follow, like or contact me via any or all of these media outlets to keep abreast of what is going on.
Our goals for 2012 are quite clear for bella Wines. We want to expand our wine distribution for quality Languedoc and Bordeaux wines in to the USA, Canada, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brazil, India and Russia.
And the goals for Bella Wine Tours are also clear. We want to generate more partnerships with wine clubs and wine groups all around the world as we firmly believe that we offer an exceptional wine tour at Bella Wine Tours.
Our focus will remain on quality wines, quality people and quality service.
Please feel free to add comments on this blog, we appreciate all feedback.
Cheers and a Very Happy New Year.