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The French Cycling Bicycle Gourmet - French Country Travel Life Film Maker and Author. Your non-snobby Gourmet Guide to food, wine travel and Lifestyle Adventure!

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French Wine Courtesy Of China


French Wine Courtesy Of China. What, China is giving the World French Wine? Close, but no cigar. China is giving the World the opportunity to BUY the less expensive big name French Wines. How? Why? – Because it’s slurping up all the expensive ones.

This has put the (ever so subtle) pressure on the grand French Chateaus to keep their quality high for what in bordeaux they call the “second wine.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Epstein has the liquid details:

“Today they must be good because they are a true and authentic introduction to the estate,” says John Kolasa, managing director at both Château Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux and Château Canon in St. Emilion. “Your name is on the label.”

Historically, most second wines from the Médoc were sold in French supermarkets, according to Emmanuel Cruse, owner of Château d’Issan in Margaux, and few producers cared about their quality. Only a rare chateau would make a third wine; Latour, for example, introduced its third wine, labeled simply Pauillac, in 1990 to enhance the quality of its second wine, Les Forts de Latour.

But over the last decade, as the prices of the standard-bearer wines escalated, in large part due to demand from China, producers realized there was real money in promoting their second wines. The notion of sloppy seconds has vanished.

“Ten years ago, there were perhaps five to 10 (second wines) that merited attention. Now there are scores of them,” notes Christopher Shipley, former sommelier at the 21 Club in New York and currently U.S. sales director for Joanne, a large importer of Bordeaux.

The numbers are one reason why chateaus are smiling. At third-growth Chateau Palmer, annual production of its top wine fell from 15,000 to 20,000 cases to about 10,000 cases since the winery’s 1998 introduction of a second wine, Alter Ego de Palmer. But not only did the quality of the grand vin increase enormously – so did the price, from about $80 a bottle upon release for the 1996 to $350 for the 2009. The 2009 Alter Ego – about 6,000 cases – sells for $80 a bottle.

Although it’s not clear which chateau made the first second wine, the concept became entrenched when Chateau Latour introduced its second wine with the 1966 vintage. Now, most properties in the Médoc, Pessac-Léognan, on the Right Bank and even in Sauternes, make one.

Typically, second wines are made from younger vines or parts of an estate that historically made inferior wine. Young vines, which for Cruse are less than 18 years old, can make good wine. But, he points out, they can be inconsistent.

Initially, Bordeaux vintners made these seconds to bolster the quality of the first wine – in large part to win the race for critics’ scores and also to protect a chateau’s reputation. But Rauzan-Ségla, unhappy with its 1987 vintage, bottled its entire crop under its then second label, Château Lamouroux. (Today, Ségla is the label for their second wine.)

Choosing only the very best for top wines has become a virtual necessity as prices have spiraled.

“Selection is the key for making good wine,” says Marcel Ducasse, who before his retirement was largely responsible for the dramatic 1980s turnaround at St. Julien third-growth Chateau Lagrange.

When Ducasse took over at Lagrange, everything from the harvest, including press wine, went into the blend for just one wine. It was, he says, a “fosse commune” – everyone in the same grave.

Now, Lagrange makes at least three and sometimes four wines, with the grand vin representing less than half of total production. Its second wine, Les Fiefs de Lagrange, plus bulk wine and other discarded lots, comprise the other half. While improvements in the vineyard can take a decade, Ducasse points out, selection can improve a wine overnight.”

Bottom Line :  Will the Chinese become more influential than Robert Parker?

Read more HERE.


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39 Responses to “French Wine Courtesy Of China”

  1. milos kunder says:

    appreciate you keeping us up to date on the chinese “invasion” of the French Wine industy

  2. steven sugars says:

    hey milos….”invasion?”….come on….more like…..appreciation..dont ya think?

  3. annalee pettyflower says:

    I agree steven….and would add……”appreciation with very deep pockets! (lol!)

  4. homer winslow says:

    i’d lke to know what all this means for us who don’t have “deep pockets.”

  5. divina tresoranti says:

    Homer – it means : you need to make more money!

  6. charles baker says:

    staggering to imagine those wine makers consider 18 year old vines to be “young!”

  7. june laverne says:

    i certainly hope all this doesn’t result in “china bashing”….

  8. jan furness says:

    i agree june…..not all the chinese have “deep pockets!”

  9. garner jameseson says:

    As someone who’s done business(not wine) with the Chinese, I can tell you they are exceptionally warm and welcoming.

  10. arti moranti says:

    hey garner – wake up and smell the coffee! – who isn’t “warm and welcoming” when you’re giving them money?

  11. sherri timmins says:

    i think that people should stop focusing on nationalities…..it’s like you said in one of your posts (can’t remember which one, of course – LOL! ) “money is demoncratic. it doesn’t care if your black white, yellow or polka dot”

  12. jack larsen says:

    who’s robert parker?

  13. melanie ambrose says:

    jack….obviously you’re a beer drinker. robert parker is wine’s most influential(as in powerful) wine critic.

  14. yap vanderdamm says:

    hey melanie….what you didn’t mention (that maybe jack should know) is that many wineries make wine expressly to mr. parker’s taste…..so that they can get his ratings…and sell more.

  15. bob considine says:

    While this is informative…..it’s beyond the reach of most wine lovers, who like myself, enjoy a nice bottle several times a week.

  16. ed franklin says:

    i’m with ya there bob……maybe DA BG will give us the scoop on some “second wines” in the $10-20 range?

  17. trish everhard says:

    thanks for another great post!

  18. baker andersson says:

    maybe these winemakers need a lesson in economics? what about a 3rd wine? i’m thinbking about all the wine they think isn’t “good enough” to go into no. 2.

  19. carol gratin says:

    I hear ya Baker…hey – why not?

  20. les bannerton says:

    right on carol!…and hopefully that wine would be priced waaay under $80!

  21. harriet lester says:

    really appreciate the way you keep us up to date on all this stuff….never makes the paper over here!

  22. toma valesquez says:

    bro – this is some way cool info……..savin’ my coin for one o’ those “second wines!”

  23. travis berthner says:

    nothing like a little pressure to get people to do the right thing.

  24. alison prost says:

    like many of your other commentors, i’m hoping this strategy will (pun intended) “filter down” for wines below the $80 range. like WAY below!

  25. nadine summers says:

    love all your posts!..especially the ones anout wine. like this one!

  26. lance morrow says:

    for me – your wine posts are (as you would say?) “first among equals?”

  27. abagail demster says:

    Hey Lance, if I’m not mistaken – “first among equals” was first coined to describe the leader of the(then)Soviet Communist Party.

  28. innes hortez says:

    after reading this i’m hoping to take a trip to france to taste these “second wines.”

  29. mo holloway says:

    just tasting???

  30. carrie grassfal says:

    mo – depends on your wallet – dunnit?

  31. sandi brownster says:

    thanks for this…more great stuff!

  32. jerry taylor says:

    great post – hoping to see another video from DA BG next time!

  33. connie foster says:

    I love that line where he says “selection is the key to making a good wine.” isn’t that true for ANYTHING good?

  34. stan aiden says:

    right on connie!

  35. fanny estes says:

    i wondr how many people (without deep pockets) are really concerned with “good ” wine?

  36. twila twerps says:

    i hear you fanny! – for me if it the price is right, and it tastes good….for me that”s “good wine.”

  37. stanislas karmen says:

    inspiring to note that we plebs(below $100 a bottle……still have a choice§

  38. amy makepeace says:

    first time i’ve head the phrase “sloppy seconds” applied to wine! (lol!)

  39. barry winslow says:

    gee amy…….what is that phrse usually applied to? (lol!)

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