Our man at VinExpo
Author: Max Lalondrelle
Just back from a few days in Bordeaux where, every two years in June, it is home to the drinks industry’s Olympic equivalent, VINEXPO. Around 50,000 visitors from around the world descend for five days to meet 2,500 exhibitors. Products range from spirits to liquors and alcohopops but the main emphasis is on wines from around the world. The mood this year was very good despite visitor number being down by around 25% and most exhibitors managed to do some good business, as visitors who made the effort to come had “purchasing” in mind. A few of the top Bordeaux estates take this opportunity to throw big dinners and parties for their best customers and friends. Ch. Haut Brion and Ch. La Mission were the first to kick start the show with (I have been told, as I arrived on Tuesday) a great party for 300 guests. After a warm-up dinner on Tuesday night with a good negotiant friend (1966 Ch. Palmer- 1954 Ch. Haut Brion- imperial of 1995 Ch. Latour, amongst others) and a day full of meetings at VINEXPO, I attended what was hailed as the dinner of the year at Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou (see above). A total of 600 guests were expected – the walk on the red carpet on arrival gave us hint of things to come. The Creme de la Creme of the wine industry was there in black tie and evening dresses, all in admiration in front of the Crystal Palace look-a-like marquee. The rustic French food kept coming together with waves of Magnums of 2000 – 2005 – 1970 – 1961 Ducru-Beaucaillou (1961 Brilliant and still has 30 years to go – 1970 very good too but drying on the finish – 2000 and 2005 will be legends). The evening finished on a high with fantastic pyrotechnics giving the impression that the Chateau was on fire (see James Suckling’s Blog).
After a succession of quick meetings in the morning I found myself in a helicopter (right) with James Suckling flying above Bordeaux to meet our host Christophe Reboul Salze, owner of Chateau Gigault in Blaye, who had organised a lunch to introduce Jacques-Olivier Gratiot, owner of one of St Emilion’s top and up-and-coming estates Larcis Ducasse. We tasted some delicious vintages from 2005 all the way to 1959. This estate is now managed by two of the most successful consultants in St Emilion – Nicolas Thienpont, main consultant at Ch. Pavie Macquin, and consultant Stephane Derenoncourt. Both the quality of the terroir and the hard work is starting to pay serious dividends, more coming soon on our list (available on bbr.com). The same evening, I was invited together with 1,500 guests to the magnificent Chateau D’Issan in Margaux. The dinner was held as the grand finale ceremony for VINEXPO week (below left)… The evening started, as always, with the induction of a few guests into the “Commanderie du Bontemps” (a club of influential Bordeaux players and their friends), this year I was lucky enough to be made a member, along with Neil Martin from The Wine Advocate – a great honour indeed. The guests of honour were actors Christophe Lambert and Sophie Marceau (my favourite actress ever) and the dinner was prepared and served with an army of people under the watchful eye of Michel Guerard (one France’s best chefs). For me, the best wines of the evening were 2001 Ch. Lagrange and 2003 Ch. Haut Bailly, the Lagrange was perfectly smooth and maturing nicely hitting the spot on the night (but with five to 10 years in it). Haut Bailly was delicious too but needs another 10 years before even considering drinking it, one of the best 2003 in Bordeaux.
I was back home in Hampshire the following day, still astonished at how much in denial the Bordeaux world is in this economic down turn…but also how good they have been in making their ‘brand’ one of the strongest in the world (with help from the British) which is why they are still surfing the wave…