Tasting Alert: Best Whites from Pessac Léognan

Monday the 22nd of July the Magazine Terre de Vins is organising a unique tasting of the best white wines from the Pessac-Léognan appelation of Bordeaux.  Not only is there a killer line-up, but the group has selected one of the poshest venues in Bordeaux to showcase the wines -the terrace of St-James Hotel.

Place is limited so get on the ball and sign up!!  I will be in attendance, so please let me know if you come – I would love to hear who you think produces the best white wine from this star region.

A Bit of British Perspective

Benjamin Jones, who runs the Grand Cru selection and European sales at the Negociant MT Vins gave Bordeaux Insider a bit of insight on the British Market, the 2011 En Primeur campaign, and what the Bordelais may be missing out on in UK pubs.

How is it working as a foreigner in France, is it easier or harder being British in your job?

Working as a foreigner in France is fine, many of our clients are from the UK and Hong Kong. There are different attitudes between the countries. Some people find that the French are aggressive or bit arrogant.  I don’t think the French are arrogant, but for people that don’t know them it can come off that way sometimes. It really is cultural misunderstanding; however sometime in French business I’m a bit taken aback by their frankness.                                                                                                                                   

What changes have you seen in the UK market for wine in general and for Bordeaux wine specifically?

I think the biggest change that I have seen in the last five years would be exchange rates to be honest. It was 1.5 euros to the pound when I started and the market at one point was as low as one euro to the pound. Times like that the British have virtually no purchasing power.

Many British consumers are out for bargains. Generally the wines I sell come in at ten pounds so they are not the ‘bargain wines’ however there does seem to be a bit more interest in Crus Bourgeois. As prices have gone up with Grand cru in the last few years they are becoming too expensive to drink. What Bordeaux can’t do so well is entry-level market wines just because of pricing. We can’t compete with Chilean wines, but there is always interest for Bordeaux. If you look at Decanter they are absolutely Bordeaux obsessed. I’ve heard they do that because that’s what their readers want.

Historically there is an important link between Bordeaux and the United Kingdom; do you think that relationship is still strong in the wine market?

In the sense that there are still allot of historical allocations with British merchants, but in the psyche of the average British person the historical links are not there. However in the psyche of the educated British wine drinker yes. If you’re working with Bordeaux that’s who you’ve got to aim for, you’re aiming at someone who is a bit of wine geek.

Is there a place for Bordeaux wines in pubs?

It depends on your clients; my clients are selling to gastro pubs. I speak with my mum and she says they ask for Pinot Grigio in pubs. I think that Bordeaux has missed something with Sauvignon Blanc a bit. Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc is very interesting and many people don’t realize that Sauvignon Blancs are being produced in Bordeaux, you return to the labeling issue.

What are your thoughts on this year’s futures campaign?

Catastrophe really. We don’t do much on en primeur, but speaking to my British counterparts they did about 25% compared to 2010. 

My clients said if 2011 is going to work you need to come out at 2008 prices, but the producers didn’t. A lot of 2009 hasn’t been sold outside of Bordeaux and there is still allot of 2010 in stock in Bordeaux. The fact that they haven’t sold allot this year will make it hard for next year.

one of our HK clients who took 23 cases of Pontet Canet 2010 took none of the 2011

What is important is the absence of the Chinese in this campaign. We have seen that with our clients. One of our Hong Kong clients who took 23 cases of Pontet Canet 2010 off us last year didn’t buy any of their 2011 vintage, and that is a wine that worked this year. He said “We are not happy because we did not taste the honey with the 2010 campaign,” meaning they thought they would make money and didn’t. When Hong Kong dropped their excise a few years back people were making money just clicking their fingers. Now it has flattened out and people have been burnt.

Who is the British Bordeaux drinker today, who do you think it will be in five years from now?

The Bordeaux wine drinker is someone quite educated who is interested in wine and perhaps has gone on holiday in France. In the future I wonder if people will want Bordeaux the way they want sparking wines, for special occasions and to celebrate. The problem is that Champagne is easy to find and easy to understand, with Bordeaux you have 50 appellations – its so complicated, but again that’s what makes in interesting.

Another Brit’s perspective on French Wine……

Bordeaux Wine Trip: The Newest Tourism Application for Bordeaux Wines

As the gates of Bordeaux Fête le Vin open today, a new wine tourism application will be going online.  The result of many months of hard work by the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux) in collaboration with hundreds of Chateaus around the region, the new smart phone application “Bordeaux Wine Trip” will allow visitors to plan and organize their visit to Bordeaux before even arriving.

Available on smart phones, tablets and online at , the new free application offers a range of tools for visitors.  Traditional information on Chateaus and their tourism offerings are available, however it is the geolocation option that is interesting, allowing the user to find Chateaus, restaurants and hotels around the user or in a specific area.  You can then create an itinerary and access it later. Knowing that many of the user’s may be from another country (ie they will not have 3G coverage in France) the application also indicates a map of WIFI locations.  Following a model similar to TripAdvisor users can also rate and comment on their experience at a winery or locale.

Bordeaux Wine Trip works in tandum with another CIVB application Smart Bordeaux transferring the user directly to the Smart Bordeaux page on the winery.

The application is useful if you are looking to plan a trip to Bordeaux – or just looking to dream a bit while at work – but I would recommend it to those living in Bordeaux.  The WIFI option as well as the list of wine bars and restaurants is very thorough.  I am curious to see how some of my favorite addresses are rated.

The free application can be downloaded on iTunes or you can play with the application on its website.

Well that’s all for now… I’m headed off to see Bordeaux Fete le Vin for myself!

Bordeaux Fête le Vin: What you need to know

Tomorrow Bordeaux will kick off the celebrations for Bordeaux Fete le Vin.  The enormous wine festival held every other year, alternating with the city’s Bordeaux Fête le Fleuve, is aimed at giving the general public an opportunity to taste wines from 80 appellations around the Bordeaux region.

This year the festival will be bigger and better than ever.  If you are in town and able to attend, here is everything you need to know.

Where:  Along the banks of the Garonne river in the center of the city                          When: 28th of June to July 1st  : from 11am-midnight                                                    How Much: Tasting passes sold at the entrance will be 18€ (15€ in advance), Vineyard excursions and concerts will range in price.  Click here to get more on prices.


Wine Trail: Producers from around the region will be lined up along the wine trail that will stretch two kilometers along the Garonne in the center of Bordeaux.   Negociants will also be on hand to speak about their wines at the “Vintage Pavilions”.

Wine School: The CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux) will be offering tasting workshops on “The Art of Tasting”, food and wine pairing and this year’s first Bordeaux Cocktail Challenge. Sign up and find out more at the Ecole du Vin tent.

A Visit to the Vineyard: Each day tours will be organized to visit several chateaus with different themes. Click here for prices and more information.

Artistic Light Show: A unique light show named “Bordeaux loves the world, and the world loves Bordeaux” will focus on Bordeaux wines around the world.  The show will be projected onto the walls of Place de la Bourse, a natural stone screen measuring over 3,000 m² each night at 11pm.

Concert Line Up: For those looking to take a break from tasting the festival will be hosting a long line up of musical guests ranging from rock to jazz. Concerts will be held in Place Quinconces.  Tickets can be purchased in advance.

Fireworks from Around the World

One of the highlights of Bordeaux Fete le Vin are the fireworks.  This year for the first time the festival has invited three countries to perform their own original fireworks show (the US on June 28th, Australia on June 29th, and Spain on June 30th).  Guests can vote for their favorite show on the festival’s website.  At the closing ceremony the festival will unleash a grand finale show symbolizing the passion for wine.

Focus on Hong Kong: Following this year’s VinExpo Asia Hong Kong is the festival’s guest of honor.  There will be a pavilion introducing guests to the culture of Hong Kong including performances and special events.

To find out more visit the Bordeaux Fete le Vin website.


Address of the Week: Bordeaux Magnum

 Bordeaux’s central boutique that offers wines both ‘Big’ and ‘Small’

Bordeaux Magnum has a reputation that precedes itself.  Located near to La Maison du Tourism (Bordeaux’s Tourism Office) in the center of the city, this wine boutique is a favorite for many to stop in, sample wines and hear the latest gossip from owner Maxime Hamma.

As its name might suggest, Bordeaux Magnum has an ample selection of large format magnum wine bottles, and while the store also offers a generous array of grand cru wines, Bordeaux Magnum is focusing more and more on smaller Chateaus in the region.

“There are so many beautiful wines to taste in Bordeaux,” owner Maxime Hamma explains, “We want people to see the full range of what the region has to offer.” And offer they do.  The boutique has over 300 references, the majority being ‘petit vins’ of Bordeaux priced from 5€-25€.

Current Coup de Coeur wines (favorite selections) include:


Château Ronan 2009 by Clinet: 9,50 €

Château Penen Blanc 2011: Bordeaux Supérieur 10,90€

Château l’Etampe 2009: Saint Emilion: 14,90€


Bordeaux Magnum is also known for its excellent wine events offered each month.  One of my favorites was a special tasting with the famous French wine critic Jean-Marc Quarin: Click here to read my article on the event.

The first Thursday of each month (plus additional special events) Bordeaux Magnum highlights a Château or a unique theme.  Often the owners or the winemakers themselves attend to present their wines.  Each event also includes a spread of gourmet appetizers to pair with what is being poured.

Bordeaux Magnum’s next event will be a Champagne and Fashion Soirée on Wednesday the 13thof June beginning at 7pm. To reserve your spot and to find out more details I recommend calling the boutique directly. Tell them Bordeaux Insider sent you!

BORDEAUX MAGNUM                                3, rue Gobineau                                                  + 33 (0)5 56 48 00 06



Wine Data System- New Technology is Saving Time and Money for Bordeaux Negociants

Wine Data System, an award winning company started by two young entrepreneurs has just launched this month in Bordeaux. Currently targeting Bordeaux Negociants, the group aims to facilitate the flow of product information between producers, negociants and their clients through an innovative data-sharing platform.

“I’m amazed that nothing like this has been developed earlier,” explained the group’s General Director Aymeric Fournier at a recent meeting in Bordeaux, “Most Negociants lose a lot of time with this, and time is money.”

So what is this amazing new system? To put it simply, Wine Data Systems takes the basic, but often overwhelming task of creating and sharing wine tasting sheets.  It then allows its users to access and share the totality of their information through their online data platform.

Old School

Imagine having to create a wine tasting sheet for hundreds of thousands of wines – each vintage, in several languages.  This is a task assumed by all Negociants who need the information for their clients.  Often the large task falls into the laps of young interns, but at times even the work of the commercial teams is needed, creating additional costs and complications for the business.

A need for an efficient system that could provide reliable information was recognized by both Clovis Durand-Moldawan (now President of WDS) and Aymeric Fournier (now the Director of WDS). The two began working together in 2011 and this May Wine Data System officially launched its services to eager clients.

How does it work?

Wine Data Systems offers two mutually supportive services.

WineData “On Demand”: This service is the creation of wine tasting sheets for the wines in a Negociant’s porfolio. Each sheet is uniform in style and the information is tailored to the needs of the client (technical information, visuals, press notes, tasting notes, etc), in both French and in English.

Wine Data Manager: This is the group’s online platform that allows its users to securely access the totality of their account information.  Using the technology PIM (Product Information Management) users can access, update and share their database of information either on their computers or tablets such as iPads.  With this technology sales agents can easily communicate valuable information to buyers while on the road.

Next steps:

Wine Data System has already received an overwhelming response from Bordeaux’s most prestigious wine traders.  Many of Bordeaux’s top names signed up before the service was even available.

For the moment Wine Data System is focusing on Bordeaux negociants, but new markets for the technology are never far behind – importers, distributors and even large retail outlets around the world could benefit from uniform and reliable product information.

This is only the beginning — it will be interesting to see where this small Bordeaux Start-Up shows up next.

To learn more and to follow these savvy entrepreneurs check out their website: or on Facebook and Twitter.

The Telephone App ‘Smart Bordeaux’ is about to Get Smarter

With more than 50,000 downloads and 100,000 updates in 82 countries, ‘Smart Bordeaux’ is quickly becoming one of the most popular wine applications for the Bordeaux region — and this is only the beginning.   A newer, more modern version with additional sharing options will launched at this year’s Bordeaux Fête le Vin in June.  Here’s what you need to know.

The Angle:

Smart Bordeaux was developed by the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux) with the goal of making Bordeaux more approachable, easier to understand and more modern.  As a growing number of consumers are finding their wine information online, it only seemed natural to create a smart phone application that would provide these wine lovers with all of the information they are craving. Working with over 16,400 Châteaus and brands, the CIVB has amassed an extensive database of information accessible through Smart Bordeaux online or via the telephone application. The information is regularly updated and is available in twelve languages.

The Application:

Smart Bordeaux works very similarly to a Flash Code reader.  With a smartphone (Blackberry, Android, iPhone) the user “scans” the label, the bar code or the flashcode of a Bordeaux wine bottle.

The application then transfers the user directly to the wine’s Smart Bordeaux page.  Each page includes information on the wine and its producer (wine description, blend, soil type, serving recommendations, food pairings…)  The application also provides contact information as well as pertinent tourism information if you are looking to stop by the winery to getter a closer taste.

The application also saves a record of the wines you have scanned.  This comes in handy when you are at a wine store and are looking to buy a wine you recently tasted. If you are looking to bone up on your Bordeaux trivia there is also a section on the history, geography wine production and current news in the region.

Bigger, Better and Smarter

A newer version of Smart Bordeaux will soon be available.  In addition to a more modern design, the second version will also facilitate sharing and opportunities to interact with other wine lovers.  After scanning a wine, users will have the option to post the wine on their Facebook or Twitter accounts as well as sharing via email.

The new application will also have Push Notifications.  Christophe Chateau of the CIVB explains, “For example if there is a tasting of Château Lafite Rothschild in Hong Kong we can send out a notification to the Smart Bordeaux users in that region, this allows us to directly interact with targeted consumers.”

The new version will also facilitate users looking to pay a visit to Bordeaux with a list of tourist destinations in and around Bordeaux – including wineries, restaurants and hotels.  The CIVB will also soon be launching an oenotourism application named “Wine Visit” that will help visitors plan their itinerary before arriving to Bordeaux – I will write more on this app in the coming weeks.

Where to get it?

The current version of Smart Bordeaux is available to be downloaded on application websites such as iTunes and Blackberry App World.  For the online version visit the website

The new version of Smart Bordeaux will be launched at this year’s Bordeaux Fête le Vin on June 28th along with the new tourism application ‘Wine Visit’ — more to come soon!

What are your favorite wine applications and why?

Highlights from the 2012 Weekend des Grands Crus

The Grand Tasting at  Hangar 14 on May 12th

In Bordeaux, the Union des Grands Crus is a bit of an insider’s club.  Made up of 132 Grands Crus Estates, the Union participates in high-end events and private dinners around the world.  Once a year however the Union organizes a special weekend of tastings that allows the curious outsider to get a taste from the inside – here are some of my highlights.

The main event of the Weekend is the Grand Tasting.  Now I have heard that if you were to view each work of art at the Louvre for 30 seconds it would take you over 24 days to make the full round – this is how I felt at this tasting.  The quantity of legendary wines all in one room was overwhelming to say the least; it was hard to know where to start.   I did finally calm down though and here are some of my favorites.


Château Carbonnieux 2008/09 – Pessac Léognan Both their 2008 and 2009 vintages are excellent.  Both vintages offer a crisp attack with fresh fruit and a balanced finish.  The reason I love these wines is that the oak doesn’t dominate; rather it gives the wines an enjoyable toasted finish.

Château Larrivet Haut-Brion 2004/09 – Pessac Léognan                                                                 My favorite whites of the day.  Again the wood is very well integrated with both vintages. 2004 is a bit better balanced than the 2009 with a slight toasted coconut nose. The two vintages are quite different as the blend of Sauvignon Blanc to Semillon varies largely between the two.  Emilie Gervoson from the Château explained that the 2009 – known more as a red wine vintage-  required more Sauvignon Blanc to create the best balance.


Château Léoville Poyferré 2009 – Saint Julien                       

This wine was the favorite for many tasting on Saturday, agreeing with Parker’s 100 points. The nose offers forest fruit with a nutty, toasted character.  Although the tannins are still very present the complex pallet is made up of with rich fruit and a dark chocolate touch on the end.  I hope to have the privilege of tasting it again in a few years.


Château Angélus 2007/09– Saint Emilion

These wines live up to the legend. The 2007 vintage offers a rich nose of black fruit with earthy and smoky aromas. The black fruit returns on the pallet and the finish goes on and on.  The 2009 vintage is well balanced with a sharp attack.  Its easy to see the promise with both wines, I was tempted to put my wine in a vile and see what happens in 15 years.

Château La Tour Figeac 2001 – Saint Emilion

This was a treat as we were offered wine from a Magnum of their 2001 vintage. The nose was extremely rich and oaky with notes of cassis and blackberry.  The mouth offered a mix of black fruit with an interesting touch of grilled red pepper.

Château Clinet 2009 – Pomerol

This wine still needs to lie in a cellar for some time, but its rich black cherry and spice character will make it worth the wait.

Château Batailley 2009 – Pauillac

This delicious Pauillac stood out for its amazing value; the 2009 is currently sold between 35-40 Euros.

The weekend didn’t stop there.  We had to wake up early on Sunday morning to get ready to start tasting again.  After pouring their wines at the Grand Tasting the members of the Union open their Châteaus to allow visitors to peek behind cellar doors and to see where all the magic is made.  Here are some pictures from our visits.

A big MERCI to the whole team at Union des Grand Cru and all of the members who were generous to share their wines, I know I will be back again next year to continue my tour of the Louvre.

Next year’s Weekend des Grand Crus will be held on the 18th and the 19th of May. To start planning your itinerary visit their website.

Address of the Week: The Perfect Wine Terrace – Le Bô Bar

After three weeks straight of pouring rain, the sun is finally beginning to peek its head out – as are the Bordelais.

Le Bô Bar                                                                                                                          Où: 8 place Saint-Pierre. Tramway: Place de la Bourse                                              Quand: Open every day in the summer from 10-2am                                              Sélection de Vins: A large number of French wines – mostly outside of Bordeaux as well as an interesting collection of international wines

The time for outdoor sipping has begun

During the past few weeks Spring has slowly crept up on Bordeaux. The explosion of green has stretched from the city to the vineyards, and just like the white Lilac trees that line the Gironde River, the terraces of Bordeaux are in full bloom.

Since the end of the rainy season the small cobblestone plazas of the city have been transformed into bustling cafes with eager locals enjoying the warmer weather. One of my favorite squares that has recently transformed is Place Saint-Pierre. Home to countless wine bars, bistros and even a church, the plaza offers something for everyone.

A standout among these locales is Le Bô Bar, with its combination of wine selection, good food and outside terrace.

The selection of wine rotates regularly

Although the inside seating may be limited, Le Bô Bar makes up for its lack of tables with its diversity of original wines. Filling the tiny space from floor to ceiling, the wine selection is composed of mostly French labels, and mostly non-Bordeaux.  For by-the-glass selections the bar has an interesting “blind taste” method in which you choose the style of wine you would like and then allowing the waiter to selects a wine for you.  At the end of your glass they will let you know what you have been sipping and can steer you to another selection if you are eager to continue exploring.

                La salade végétarienne

As with many wine bars in Bordeaux, the Bô Bar is required to serve food with its wine and as a result they request that you have a nosh with your vino – this can range from a tiny charcuterie plate to one of their many dishes.

Le Bô Bar is easily overlooked in the winter as it’s inside seating is always full, but it should not be forgotten now that that the sun is shining and the terrace is open for business.

Le Bô Bar              05 56 79 38 20

What are your favorite spots to enjoy a glass outside in Bordeaux?

Wine Bars: Three Ideal Spots to Sip, Swirl and Savor in Bordeaux

As you might imagine Bordeaux is filled to the brim with wine bars – and trust me there is one for every personality, budget and palate.  Here are three of my favorites to start with.  I will continue to post new hotspots every week and will soon include a wine map for those looking to visit – and taste in Bordeaux.

(click on the map to see a video of the three bars- view in full screen for best results)


Où: 19 Rue des Bahutiers. Tramway Place de la Bourse                                              Quand: Open Tuesday to Saturday, from 12:00- 2:00pm and 6:30pm to midnight                              Sélection de Vins: 260+ wines from around the world with a large offering from Italy

Owned by two charming Italians, this wine bar is an excellent location to enjoy a glass on an outdoor terrace.

Perhaps one of the reasons why I love this place so much is the people who run it.  The first time I met the owner Giancarlo, a Venetian native, he asked me where I was from.  When I responded ‘Arizona’ he came towards me and gave me a big bear hug – not a common occurrence in France.  Turns out the Italian realized his childhood fantasy of being a cowboy at an authentic Dude Ranch in my home state – and he is still smiling about it to this day.

But beyond bear hugs and good Italian charm, this wine bar has a lot to offer.  Located in the center of town near Place St Pierre winego-ers can enjoy the terrace and a selection of over 260 wines from all over the world.  Many of their bottles are sourced from France, but there is also a sizable selection from the two owners’– Giancarlo and Emmanuel – home country of Italy.

The Italian Cowboy

Due to its liquor license the bar is required to serve food with its selection of wines. A nice spread of Italian cheeses, fois gras, magret de canard and regional delicacies- as well as a to-die-for dessert menu accompany the wine list.

The cozy interior can be enjoyed in the winter months, but Le Wine Bar is a great spot once the sun starts shining in Bordeaux (it will come back…. I hope…) and outside seating becomes prime Real Estate.



BAR A VIN DU CIVB                                                                                                           

Où: 3, Cours du XXX Juillet. Tramway: Grand-Théâtre / Quinconce                            Quand: Monday to Saturday, 11am – 10pm                                                            Sélection de Vins: Large selection of Bordeaux wines that rotates regularly

This is the place to come if you want to learn about Bordeaux wines – that is the whole idea behind the bar.  Opened in 2006 by the CIVB (Conseil Interprofession de Vins de Bordeaux — aka  ‘The Bordeaux Wine Council’) the bar serves as a base to educate curious consumers.

The menu –updated every several weeks- includes a generous selection of Bordeaux reds, dry and sweet whites, rosés, clairets and sparkling wines served by the glass.  Each wine is served with its own explanation card by gracious sommeliers.  The prices are quite friendly as well.

The Bar à Vin is located on the ground floor of the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux, the headquarters of the CIVB in the 18th Century building, known as the Hôtel Gobineau. The bar has several elegant seating areas designed by architect Françoise Bousquet and is adorned with beautiful stain glass windows and a small outdoor patio in the summer. As the goal is education and not to gather a crowd there is a seating-only policy — try to arrive early or you will wait in line.

A tip:  If you ask to have a ‘flight’ of your wine selection – they will give you a half pour.  This is a great way to try several selections on the menu.

Click here for a Visual Tour


Où: 23 rue du Couvent. Tramway: CAPC/ Paul Doumer                                              Quand: Open for lunch Wed-Fri from 12-14 and Tues-Sat starting at 7pm             Sélection de Vins: Selection of 250+ French and International wines

You don’t usually place ‘Wine Bar’ and ‘Funk’ in the same sentence, but that is the combination that Wine & Soul pulls off in style.

Wine & Soul offers free concerts monthly

This wine bar located in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux is a good place to go for a glass of wine after work.  The groovy, unpretentious atmosphere is refreshing as is their copious wine list of French and International selections.

I have yet to eat lunch or dinner here, but the aromas coming from the kitchen during my last visit will bring me back shortly to this somewhat hidden locale. I am also intrigued by the kitchen’s ‘Surprise Menu’, which includes a ‘Mis-en-Bouch’, main dish and dessert (Chef’s Choice) for 25 Euros.

Living up to its name, Wine & Soul also offers free concerts once a month hosting rock, jazz, soul and French music.

Their next concert will be held on May 18th featuring Sambatudo, an Afrobrésilienne group.

Click here to see upcoming concerts.