April 1st - the Flight Over

by Chuck Hayward

Hors d’oeuvre: Assortment of seafood featuring shrimp and smoked salmon accompanied by crudités – served with a glass of 2000 Mailly Grand Cru Cuvee le Feu Champagne. Not bad…fairly delicate but decent power that is typical in Pinot Noir based Champagnes.

Main course: Grilled tournedos of beef served with potatoes au gratin with wild mushrooms and buttered French green beans – served with a glass…or two of a red Bordeaux from the Medoc, 2003 Chateau de Saint Christoly. Mostly Cab with some Merlot…really not a shabby wine…fruity, yes, but some finesse and body to go with it…beats the heck out most other reds I have been served on a plane.

Next came a selection of three cheeses. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I did not get the names of the cheeses…but they were actually a bit disappointing. The blue cheese, which was certainly not from Roquefort, was almost tasteless. Well presented though…

By the time dessert came around I was fast asleep, dreaming away about the days ahead.

I am now sitting at my hotel, La Tremoille, a few blocks of the Champs Elysee in the 8th arrondissement. My WineCommune collegue, Jon, is snoring away, as his trip was a bit more of a drag…he flew coach…in the middle seat…poor guy.

At 10:30 tonight we’ll be eating at l’Amis Louis on the recommendation of my friend Mark. It’s an old bistro famous for its roast chicken, fois gras and potato cakes. Report to follow…

In the meantime, here are some random thoughts and questions that I will be looking to find answers to in the coming week:

Will the ’05 Bordeaux wines be worth the money? Little question about the quality of the vintage…that much is clear just reading the comments from James Suckling and Robert Parker. The hype and the demand are already taking shape and it’s unprecedented in size. There will be something like 5000 representatives of the trade in Bordeaux this week.

Then there’s the US dollar which is hovering around 1.2 euros - considered relatively weak, although stronger than the past 3 vintages, but much weaker than when the 2000 vintage was offered en primeur. Of course, a weak dollar means higher prices for US customers. However, many consider the US Federal Reserve to be nearing the end of the tightening cycle (perhaps just one more raise of interest rates this year) while the European banks are considered to be in the early stages of their tightening. This might mean that the dollar could potentially get slightly weaker versus the Euro if that scenario unfolds. In that case, Bordeaux wines will be even more expensive, so buying the ’05 futures now may prove to be prudent.

If prices turn out to be high for the ‘05s, will a 100 point wine from 2005 be a better value than a 100 point wine from a previous vintage, say 1990, 1996, or 2000? Is it a fair comparison? Will previous vintages go up in price or will there remain a price gap? Time will tell, but ultimately it’s all about demand and supply.

Obviously we will be purchasing all of the top growths, but the real question is going to be more about finding the properties that will provide the most value in a vintage that is high in quality, price, and demand.In addition, we will be meeting and negotiating with key people in order to secure the absolute best pricing. At the end of the day, we’ll be buying around 150-200 different wines (of the 4-500 or so that we’ll be tasting this week)…we’re going to have some choices. This is why we’re here: taste the wines and talk to the people involved in every part of the process – from chateau owners to winemakers to negociants to distributors. In the coming weeks, we will put together a report of the all the wines that we will be purchasing in order to hopefully make your buying decision a bit easier.

Allright…I think it’s time wake up Jon. Can’t spend our only day in Paris cooped up in the hotel room…