Château Suduiraut in China: when wine meets art

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I went to China in October  for an unusual and exceptional event.  I have had the feeling for a couple of years that the time was right for Chinese wine drinkers to discover the great wines of Sauternes. When I first started going to China at the end of the 90s, the wine market was in its infancy. I remember an early Union des Grands Crus tasting where very few people actually turned up. Fifteen years later when we put on an event of that sort in Shanghai or Beijing over one thousand knowledgeable people will be in attendance. The transformation of the scene in a relatively short space of time has been astonishing. But the primary focus has been on red wines, in particular the great Grand Cru wines of Bordeaux.

We decided therefore that it was time to launch the wine of Château Suduiraut in China, and after much reflection decided that an interesting and exciting way to do this would be to commission a work of art from a well known Chinese artist, that would be somehow inspired by Château Suduiraut and its wines and then in partnership with the artist launch both the wines of Château Suduiraut and the work of art, using art as a bridge between the two cultures of France and China.

After much research, we approached the distinguished artist Jiao Xingtao. He liked the idea and came out to Suduiraut.

Jiao Xingtao and myself at Suduiraut
Jiao Xingtao and myself at Suduiraut

He is an exceptional person, very likeable and a true free spirit and I liked him very much from the first. He enjoyed his visit to Suduiraut and a few months later came up with an outstanding piece of work inspired by Château Suduiraut and its wines.

 Jiao Xingtao with “The Golden Wine”, the sculpture he created inspired by the chateau and wines of Suduiraut
Jiao Xingtao with “The Golden Wine”, the sculpture he created inspired by the chateau and wines of Suduiraut

Inspired in turn by what he had done, we designed a special label for Château Suduiraut for its launch in China.  The label of Château Suduiraut uses the coat of arms of the Suduiraut family, which features two golden lions. Jiao had taken this and transformed the lions, modeled on the Chinese lions in the Beijing summer palace.

Close up of lions on the artwork made by Jiao Xingtao
Close up of lions on the artwork made by Jiao Xingtao

We liked this idea and used it on the Chinese label for Château Suduiraut, which is being produced as a limited edition for China in both 75 cl and Magnum format. The wine we chose for the launch was the outstanding 2009 vintage, which I consider to be one of the greatest vintages of Château Suduiraut ever, and so it seemed appropriate that it should be the wine to introduce Château Suduiraut to China.

Château Suduiraut 2009 limited edition label
Château Suduiraut 2009 limited edition label

Château Suduiraut 2009 limited edition box
Château Suduiraut 2009 limited edition box

Château Suduiraut 2009 limited edition magnum
Château Suduiraut 2009 limited edition magnum

We also had the name of Château Suduiraut translated into Mandarin.

 Château Suduiraut in Mandarin
Château Suduiraut in Mandarin

When spoken in Mandarin this sounds something like Suduiraut, but more importantly means Rising Sun (the first character) Golden (the second character) Château (the third character). I like this name very much. We are particularly keen to communicate in China around the idea that Château Suduiraut is a golden wine. It is exactly its colour, and in addition Gold has strong positive resonances in China as an imperial colour. Well, we can’t just let the red wines have it all their own way.

We had two launches, in Hong Kong and Shanghai, with a huge turnout of top journalists and wine and art collectors, including the great Henry Tang who has done so much for the world of wine in Hong Kong. I was slightly apprehensive about organizing these events as it was the first time we had done something like this, but it was a great success, very enjoyable, and I look forward to working with Jiao again in the future.

Jiao Xingtao and myself during the Hong Kong launch
Jiao Xingtao and myself during the Hong Kong launch

20 years at Quinta do Noval

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I arrived at Quinta do Noval as managing director on the 13th October 1993. For the past twenty years I have had the pleasure and privilege of looking after this wonderful place. So we decided to host a 20th anniversary party recently at Quinta do Noval on the weekend of 13th October.

The main feature was an extensive vertical tasting of Quinta do Noval Vintage and Vintage Nacional Ports, from 1955 through to the recently declared 2011s. It was the first time we have done such a tasting and as well as being a rather emotional experience for me, gave I thought a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable vision of the life of this great property over the past fifty years or so, as expressed in the wines that were produced during the different phases of Quinta do Noval’s history throughout this period.

A great range of decanters. Thanks to Andre Ribeirinho for this photo.
A great range of decanters. Picture credit: A.Ribeirinho.

We opened two bottles of each wine, and I felt that it was the least I could do to taste all of them before the tasting began.

Tasting wines before the tasting
Tasting wines before the tasting

I was thrilled by the number of distinguished journalists and sommeliers who turned up for this event. Tim Atkin was on line almost immediately with a great piece that writes more eloquently than I could about the wines:

What it takes to make great wine by Tim Atkin

Also Andre Ribeirinho via Instagram:

–          Quinta do Noval

–          Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994

–          Quinta do Noval Colheita 1971

–          Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1963

–          Quinta do Noval Vintage 1955

The occasion of the event was the 20th anniversary of my arrival, but as I made clear in the rather rambling speech I gave at lunch, just slightly influenced by the fact that I had tasted all of the wines at least three times that morning, it is also the 20th anniversary of my collaboration with António Agrellos, Quinta do Noval’s brilliant technical director and blender, who is of course the person principally responsible for the quality of the wines we have made together since 1994.

António Agrellos
António Agrellos

It also goes without saying that neither he nor I did it on our own: Quinta do Noval has a great team of dedicated people, many of whom have been with us right from the beginning, and some who have joined us since then.

It was a wonderful weekend, very relaxed and happy. Among the highlights for me were :

- Finding Jancis Robinson up and dressed and writing an article at 5 am as I came out of the kitchen with my morning pot of Assam and then drinking a cup of tea with her by the fire in Quinta do Noval’s drawing room before the rest of the world woke up;

- Running in the Douro a bit later that morning with Victoria Moore who wrote up an entirely fallacious account of the run in her blog which made me out to be some kind of heartless fitness freak;

- Caroline Furstoss decorating a director’s chair for me with a 20 years message;

The director’s chair decorated by Caroline Furstoss
The director’s chair decorated by Caroline Furstoss

Sitting on the chair. Picture Credits: Andre Ribeirinho
Sitting on the chair. Thanks to A. Ribeirinho for this photo.

- A kiss and some nice words from Ausenda, Quinta do Noval’s talented oenologist, who has been with us from the beginning, and with whom it is a daily pleasure to work;

- Maria Joao the cook at Quinta do Noval presenting me with a surprise 20th birthday cake;

- And finally a speech from António Agrellos at dinner on the final evening, in English, certainly the first time he has ever done such a thing and I guess I will have to wait for the thirtieth anniversary party before he does it again.

First impressions of the 2013 harvest at Domaine de L’Arlot

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The team of Domaine de l'Arlot
The team of Domaine de l'Arlot

A few weeks ago I reported from Domaine de l’Arlot where I tasted the wonderful 11s and 12s with Jacques Devauges, and shared a vineyard breakfast with the Arlot team on the first day of the harvest.

Here is a short film of Jacques giving us his very first impressions of the 2013 harvest, while they were still ongoing.

If you have trouble watching this video, view the web version here