Tag Archives: Sayuri Aoyama

The Decanter World Wine Awards 2017

 

Many congratulations to Chateaus Grandis and Domaine de la Confrérie for their silver medals at the Decenter World Wine Awards 2017.
The Decanter World Wine Awards is the world’s largest wine competition with more than 17,200 wines entered in 2017. The 219 expert judges, including 65 Masters of Wines and 20 Master Sommeliers, rewarded examples of excellence. The silver medal identifies “a very accomplished wine with impressive complexity”. We are very pleased and proud of our producers. Congratulations again!

 

FAIR WINES is the PR/Sales agent for French artisan wine producers aiming to establish distribution channels in the UK and Japan. Our intention is to foster a symbiotic business relationship between importers and producers so that the importers enjoy value for money, and the artisan producers establish a stable distribution channel. At FAIR WINES, quality and integrity are respected as much as profit.

 

Here are the winning wines:

 

Chanteau Grandis 2012

 

Château Grandis is a family owned petit chateau located in Haut-Médoc in the Bordeaux region and produces around 50,000 bottles per year. The chateau has been classified as Cru Bourgeois.

 

The quality of Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux wines has leapt over the last decade. Today, with what the estates know about their vineyards, and the drive to produce the best level of wine possible, the wines have never been better, and they continue to remain affordable alternatives to the more expensive Classified Growths in the Médoc. Chateau Grandis is no exception and has been producing better and better wine, in particular since the ownership was handed down to Brice Vergez from his father 10 years ago.

 

The wine is well balanced and elegant, and also has intensity of flavour. It could be cellared up to15yrs.

 

 

Bourgogne 2014 from Domaine de la Confrérie

 

Domaine de la Confrérie is situated at the heart of Hautes-Côtes de Beaune in Burgundy. It is a relatively small family producer with a cultivated area of 10 hectares. The wine-making philosophy of the owner, Christopher Pauchard is to work with the grapes, carefully letting heir personally emerge. His wines are balanced, light but complex, can impress by their elegance and fine flavour rather than sheer power.

 

Bourgogne is made from the vineyard adjacent to Meursault. No wonder it has a general Bourgogne classification with Meursault quality.

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No one wants a great vintage

by Aymeric de Clouet

(This article was originally published in French.)

Every year the Primeurs campaign in Bordeaux is the opportunity for a nuptial parade from the producers in front of critics and journalists. Every year is an opportunity to explain why the vintage is even better than the previous one, which was already fantastic, the opportunity to widen one’s vocabulary in order to express it all. But the truth is, the last thing that producers, journalists and professionals want is a great vintage.

The good old times are past, when people knew how to handle a great wine, cellar it for 30 or 40 years with infinite patience. The times when it did not matter if a wine was completely undrinkable for 10 to 15 years. There are fewer old cellars, because of new buildings, robberies, and lack of finance.

The times are over when a small vintage was an economical nightmare for the producer and a long punishment for the consumer. All grands crus are at least drinkable and the last horrible vintage in Bordeaux dates back to 1992. Even 2007, a wine with little future, can be enjoyed in 2017.

The times are over when producers forced the vineyard to produces huge quantities of red, and with smaller yield came a better quality, steady demand and better margin.

The more you look into it, the more the wine industry is moving towards Champagne’s strategy: the same taste every year, to the utmost joy of restaurants, while even investors and owners are happy, because the speculation and price variations are limited but safe. Even producers are happier with a good vintage rather than a great one: it means steady price increase, instead of up and downs. 2010 was a difficult vintage to sell, to explain, and in the end made a loss for investors, despite the quality. In times of mediocrity, one needs to adapt.

We have to thank our predecessors who made 1928, 1947, 1959 and 1961 that we enjoy so much today, wines with genius instead of wine with skills. And even if I only mentioned reds here, I could say as much about whites, when 1964s are fresher than 2002s.

Value lies in aesthetics, whether it is with food or wine, not in the product quality. Patience lacks, and education, to appreciate great vintages. Will 2005 be the last real one? We can only hope that new trends will help to make great wines again, with the return of concrete vats, the end of overheated casks or excessive macerations, etc. The hope in balance between tannins, acidity and alcohol in wine.

Overstressed Wine Industry Can’t Believe Their Eyes.

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As sole judicial wine expert appointed by a high court, one of Aymeric de Clouet’s jobs is to authenticate wines, mostly on a confidential basis. Some cases are like international detective stories which have to be unravelled, and sometimes de Clouet enlists the help of other judicial experts from different fields of expertise. In France, the Paris High Court has appointed such a group of experts. They contribute to each other’s inquiry in their respective fields when necessary. The team includes a world papyrus expert and a former head of the Musée du Louvre. De Clouet is the wine expert.

Here is an article about de Clouet’s experience and his opinion regarding wine fraud. You may find it interesting.

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Last year, I was approached by a Singaporean wine merchant desperate to know about a bottle of Romanée-Conti 1929 that he considered fake, because its label was printed with pixels which didn’t exist at that time.

I asked them to bring the bottle back to France for me to examine. The pictures on my computer definitely showing pixels, which is fairly natural, on a screen. We then examined it together, and the whole bottle seemed to me to conform perfectly to what it was supposed to be. Old used foil, old glass, old label.

It was apparently not enough for my client, who kept insisting on the pixel-like printing. “Can’t you see, can’t you see, it’s obvious, it’s pixels”. I did not see, the whole label seemed fairly typical of the time period. So we asked for the assistance of a judicial expert in old paper since all other elements were now cleared. She confirmed that the quality of paper, the printing technique and all details were at least 70-80 years old. At the end of the day, not a single element of the bottle had given any reason for suspecting fraud, but a lot of fuss had been made.

It reminds me of a story told to me at one of the greatest estates in Bordeaux about a self- appointed wine expert who likes to have fake bottles destroyed, which would be ok if not for the fact that she does make people destroy perfectly good bottles, simply because she does not know what older bottles look like. In the post-war France, not all bottles looked alike, even within the same estate, and even in the same case of wine. At that time, nobody envisaged that someday wines would make such high prices, and that a single bottle could be worth a month’s salary or more. Châteaux did not pay the attention to detail that they do today. And let us not speak about Burgundy. They started to print corks in the 90’s!

The current wave of newspaper articles and TV reports, plus on-line articles does raise the level of fear regarding counterfeiting. Rightly so: after Kurniawan’s scandal, and some others that are not to be discussed (I am sworn to secrecy on the cases where I was consulted as an expert), it is true that the level of fake bottles has risen. It is only natural, since the value of wine has never been so high, as well as the ignorance of buyers, who collect wines as a sign of status.

Most fakes remain easy enough to spot. Others need a bit of knowledge. The infamous Kurniawan could sell Romanée-Conti 1945 jeroboams without raising an eyebrow in the US, while everyone knows that only 600 bottles (75 cl) were produced. Some years ago, a big international auction house listed a 1947 from the same estate – which was never produced. Recently, another auction house in the UK listed cognacs from different years and various producers, all with the same cork and foil; another listed magnums of Cheval-Blanc ’53, with neutral foil, never used there.

As so-called specialists let many fakes through, one still needs to be careful. But this is not a good reason enough to believe that there are no real treasures still to be had, provided they are bought from reliable sources and appropriately vetted

Decanting old wines

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I recently lost my nerve on a social media following a post regarding decanting and old wines, and I sure should not have. The post was published by a sommelier who considered that 1990 was an old vintage, proving that he did not even know what he was talking about !

I only got upset because I feel in pain for all those wines, all those producers who work hard, all those merchants who select and keep the wines with care, to find them slaughtered by an ignorant consumer after 30 years of cellaring! Yes, an old wine needs decanting, even more so than a young wine.

The reason may be difficult to explain, but the experience is easy to have: open two bottles, decant one two hours in advance, the other just when dinner begins. I mean any Bordeaux, except 1978 (please do not ask why: 100% of 78s that I drank were worn out after 15 minutes, not even decanted). Any wine ! 1928, 1945, 1990… Any area: Médoc, Saint-Emilion, Pessac and of course Sauternes… Sometimes, even poor vintages like 1973 can better in a decanter (they cannot get worse anyway).

I unfortunately cannot count anymore the number of old wines that I opened, but it is well over 3,000… The number of wines that I regretted to have opened too early is exactly four, all of them 1978, and I can recall each one : Duhart-Milon, Haut-Batailley, La Lagune, Pichon-Comtesse. Very good wines, but not over 15 minutes after opening.

I am not here to solve the 78 mystery but I want to try and prevent the old wines’ massacre with this message: do not listen to Cassandras and try for yourselves. The rule is to put a bottle standing at least four hours before decanting (best the day before), and to open it two hours before dinner time. Decant immediately, which you can do with a candle or an electric light, it is not as traditional but virtually the same.

If the cork is hard to extract, and you could not do it without a lot of crumbs in the wine, ideally filter with silk. Unfortunately, silk filters are not produced any longer, I guess I have two of the few remaining in the world. A paper coffee filter will do, but it is so unfortunate to let so much wine be absorbed! Then you can either but a glass stopper to the decanter or not, it is not essential, as long as the wine surface in contact with air is wide enough. Serve after two hours: the wine is clean, the nose is fresh, the mouth is well balanced… Nothing you can get from a freshly open bottled.

We always recommend decanting any wine, in particular old wines, to get the most of them. You might be surprised at how the taste and flavour could marvellously change if properly decanted.

Lastly here comes a short video showing how to decant old wines. You might be surprised at how simply it can be done. What you need is just a decanter, a flat candle, and… a bottle of wine! To watch the video, please click here. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

2015: year of the decade, but only because it started in 2011!

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Unfortunately, my numerous activities did not allow me to spend more than three days tasting the Primeurs, and there are a lot of important wines that I would have liked to taste. Still, I can share some hints about the harvest past and the bottling to come.

Despite difficult conditions with an extra dry summer and a rainy august, everyone seems enthusiastic about the end result. I am not. There are some very good wines, but some failures too. With my five-star ranking system (since I still refuse to score on a hundred point scale and will continue to do so), five meaning exceptional, there is no wine with them. Although Petrus was close.

Without further delay, here are my recommendations:

-Best areas : Graves (Pessac-Léognan) and Saint-Emilion

– Disappointments : Saint-Estèphe and Pauillac

I could not taste the Premiers (including Haut-Brion, Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Mouton) and the “Super-Seconds” which prefer to have tasters at their place. So my selection cannot include them! It is unfortunate that not more châteaux bring their wines to the common tasting, although some still do. So here my selection of my year’s favourites:

Petrus
Cheval-Blanc
Léoville Poyferré
Gruaud-Larose
Quinault L’Enclos
Lafon-Rochet

And my greatest disappointments:

Lynch-Bages
Les Carmes Haut-Brion
Beauregard

Why those three? Because I love them (usually), and you cannot be disappointed by something you do not like! But I was also not happy about other wines, the list you can find on my spreadsheet.

Nevertheless, it is a very good year in general, and I especially recommend you to buy the following very good value wines:

Gruaud-Larose, Quinault L’Enclos, Lafon-Rochet, Bouscaut (white & red), Olivier (red), La Tour Martillac (white & red), Petit-Village, Dassault, Cap de Mourlin, Balestard-La-Tonnelle, Siran, Dauzac, Brane-Cantenac, Kirwan, Branaire-Ducru, Clerc-Milon.

Domaine de Chevalier and Château Malescot-St-Exupéry, Léoville-Poyferré, Pichon-Lalande, Petrus, Cheval-Blanc are also very good, but the price might be a little bit steeper!

In the end, it is a vintage with exceptionnally smooth tannins, which might combine everyone’s dream: easy to drink in its youth, with a good ageing potential. The right bank is far above the left, with Saint-Emilion outstanding. Go for good prices, avoid gold diggers!

 

 

 

 

 

London Kimono Fashion Show

One of our services is to create and organise wine-related events for corporates. Sometimes we work with non-profit organisations and charities whose good causes we are proud to support.

Recently Fair Wines participated in the London Kimono Fashion Show which took place at Burgh House in Hampstead. The show was part of a project led by a NGO to promote Japanese Kimonos to be recognised as a World Heritage at the UNESCO.

Before the fashion show itself, the event included a talk about the tradition of Kimono and an actual demonstration of how to put the Obi on (i.e. the sash). Violin play and opera singing added grace to this special Sunday afternoon amongst flowers and champagne. The entire event was filled with the Omotenashi spirit.

Omotenashi defines the spirit of Japanese hospitality, though the meaning goes way deeper than providing hospitality. “Omotenashi” means “to entertain a guest wholeheartedly” as every encounter is single and unique.

It was a truly magical moment surrounded by the beauty and tradition of the Kimono world. Let us share some pictures of the day.

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All set in the beautiful location of Burgh House in Hampstead.

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More than 100 glasses were prepared for the champagne reception which followed the Kimono fashion show.

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Welcome speech from graceful Chieri Ikea, the organiser of the show.

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Soprano solo Masami Suzuki and Violin solo Haru Ushigusa were a real treat to listen to.

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The audience was fascinated by the quotation of a famous Japanese poet, in essence saying that if you look beautiful from the back, you will look beautiful from the front… Until told the quotation was actually made up. Obi joke!

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Let the London Kimono Fashion Show begin! Here is Miss Kimono on a cat walk. A good kimono is made out of silk and is hand-printed and/or dyed. It is a true art of craftsmanship, and is often passed on from generation to generation as a family asset.

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A Kimono with long sleeves is meant for young and unmarried ladies so that they could warm and embrace many potential suitors! In fact there are countless Kimono dress codes specific to ladies.

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At the Champagne & Sushi reception which followed by the fashion show, here is the team from Wasokan, the first Kimono shop in London (located in Notting Hill). A well-deserved celebration after such a large contribution.

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Little helpers were busy offering Japanese cookies to the guests. Thank you my darlings!

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Guests and all the Kimono models. You might spot me amongst the Kimono models. Thank you everyone for such an unforgettable day!

It would be great if you could share this and help the Kimono world receiving greater recognition!

 

3 things you must know about old vintage wines

 

In our opinion, many bad habits have developed over the recent years due to both poor services prevailing in most restaurants and traditional savoir-faire no longer passing down through generations. Let us review some simple facts:

 
1) Serving temperature

It is commonly known that red wines should be served at room temperature. But is it really so? What is known as ‘room temperature’ dates back to the time when dining rooms were (not much) heated at 16 or 17° C. Many restaurants today serve wines at 25° C, but no wine should be served above 20° C. Of course, white wines should be served between 8 and 10° C, while sweet whites can be chilled at 6° C. The wines will rise in temperature in the glass anyway.

2) Decanting

So many clueless theories are heard about decanting that we have to weigh in with strong affirmations. Contrary to common belief, old vintage wines should be decanted even longer than young wines. It is a way to get rid of their ester aromas caused by their ageing, but which contributed to form their complexity. Two hours is a good minimum. The risk of having wines fading does exist, but it is rare and far less dangerous than not decanting it sufficiently. I know only one exception: all wines from the 1978 vintage will pass after twenty minutes.

You can decant all sorts of wines; even white wines and champagne will be better if decanted, but as for champagne you need to be very careful to avoid an excessive disappearance of bubbles.

Before decanting, you need to put the bottle up for at least one hour to let the sediments fall to the bottom. Otherwise your decanted wine will look like mud.

The basic rules for decanting are: put a light on a table (electric or candle), take a decanter in one hand, the bottle in the other, and incline slowly the wine bottle over the light and pour delicately into the decanter. When sediments appear in the light, stop. That’s it!

3) Glasses

Again, there are lots of theories about glasses, but only one answer is good: a beautiful glass is always more pleasant. A fine crystal glass with a large bottom and a somewhat restricted opening is ideal, especially with young wines, while a larger opening is more suited for older vintages (20 years and above). Please forget about flutes for Champagne, and use tulip shaped glasses instead. The flutes are just a clever invention to make more glasses from one bottle!