Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Friday, 30 November 2012

1855 – shares plunge to 0.02€ + value cut to 10.66€M

29.11.2012: 1855 shares close@0.02€

Yesterday shares in 1855 closed down at 0.02€ a share on the Paris Bourse. Down by 0.01€ on the opening price. The share price has been oscillating between 0.03€ and 0.02€, although it is fairly rare for the shares to close at 0.02€ as they often scrape back up to 0.03€ at the close. 

Today the shares are again mainly trading at 0.02€, although there are some transactions at 0.03€. The drop in share price naturally lowers the value of 1855 now down to 10.66€ million compared to over 15€ million if the shares trade at 0.03€.

Perhaps the steady stream of negative news and court judgments against 1855 are getting to their investors. How long before Emeric Sauty de Chalon has to tap up his 'fairy godfather' – Jean-Pierre Meyers – for some more capital to keep this 'arnaque' going?    

Portes Ouvertes: Ludovic Chanson, Cave de Châteaumeillant +

Ludovic Chanson 

Ludovic Chanson (fine young producer in Montlouis) is holding a Portes Ouvertes this weekend (1st and 2nd December) at his cellars: 3 chemin creux, Montlouis-sur-Loire. Doors open at 10.00 and close at 19.00 on both days.

Ludovic will be joined by Gregory Leclerc and d'Autour de l'Anne.


Also this weekend: Saturday 1st December and Sunday 2nd December Portes Ouvertes at the Caves des Vins de Châteaumeillant. Doors open at 9.30 and close at 17.30.

Caves des Vins de Châteaumeillant


En Joue Connection@Rablay: 15th and 16th December

Like last year the En Joue Connection will be holding their annual tasting in Rablay-sur-Layon on Saturday 15th December (14-20) Sunday 16th December (10.30-19) in the Espace du Mail. 

Vignerons present:
La Grange aux Belles, Nicolas Bertin, Damien Bureau, Philippe Delmée, Thomas Boutin, La Ferme du Montbenault (Stéphane Rocher), Clos des Sables (Olivier Picherit ), Sebastien Fleuret, Kenji Hogdson et Mai Sato, Les Pierres Sèches, Cédric Garreau, Cave Beclair, Jerôme Lambert, Arnaud Crasnier (Ferme des Caudalies, Charlotte Battais, Clement Baraut, Loïc Mahé (Le Gué d'Orger), Le Clos de L'Elu

+  1 vigneron invité : Xavier Marchais

+ petite restauration + produits des jardins "l'échappée belle"

The Layon@Rablay

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Some initial thoughts on Wine Investment Association (WIA) launch

The Wine Investment Association

The four founder members: L-R; Adrian Lenagan (Provenance Fine Wines Ltd),
David Jackson (Albany Portfolio Management Ltd), Hugo Rose MW (Culver Street Ltd), Peter Shakeshaft (Vin-X Ltd)

The Wine Investment Association is a welcome development, especially if the current proposals are, as we were told, a start and not the finished article. The chief proposal seeks to ensure that investors receive their wine and have good, solid title to it but very unfortunately the WIA fails to ban its members from cold calling. 

If the WIA is to succeed it has to offer credible and robust protection to investors and enjoy broad support amongst the fine wine sector. 

I'm pleased to see that the management and policing of the WIA is independent of the members of the association. Companies wishing to join the WIA will have to pass an audit carried out by Mazars. The purpose of the audit will be to establish that the company supplies the wine that its clients’ order. There will then be an annual audit for members and, in addition an independent complaints procedure. I understand that the annual membership fee will be around £1500, although this may not be the final figure. It will include the cost of the annual audit.

Independent Adjudication Panel 

Stephen Eames, partner at Mazars

The auditors may also, as Stephen Eames of Mazars explained to me, be able to get a feel for the ethos of the company and its probity but this will be very much down the skill and expertise of the auditor. 

Companies with a turnover of £20 million and above are regarded as a lower potential risk and will be allowed to self-certify their compliance. It remains to be seen if investors will find this reassuring. 
Clearly delivery is a very important aspect of wine investment and there are a number of companies, who have failed to buy wines that their customers' ordered. Examples of these fraudulent companies include the Bordeaux Wine Trading Company Ltd, International Wine Commodities Ltd and Templar Vintners. Next year there will be the trial of some of those involved in running Finbow Fine Wines Ltd/Nouveaux World Wines face a fraud trial for allegedly failing to supply wine to their investors. If the WIA can help to reduce the number of scam companies that trouser their clients' money with no intention of buying the wine, then this will be good news.

I’m also pleased to see that members ‘will not publish any statement or advice concerning the tax status of wine collections and/or wine disposals, except where the statement or advice has already been published by a relevant regulatory or statutory body, such as HM Revenue & Customs’. So we should be seeing no claims on WIA’ members websites' claiming that profits from wine investment are always  ‘tax-free’.    

It is very disappointing and, perhaps a fatal flaw, that the WIA is allowing their members, under certain conditions, to cold call under the conditions set out in the Privacy and Electronic (EC Directive) regulations 2003. The WIA is against high pressure sales and all sales calls will be recorded, so that if there is a complaint this can be investigated. Members are not allowed to 'advise, suggest or otherwise encourage a Customer or a potential Customer to dispose of any regulated product in order to purchase wine as an investment.'     

The use of cold calls and the associated high-pressure sales have blighted wine investment. The vast majority of the many people over the last 15 years who have either been defrauded or pressured into buying unsuitable or over-priced wine investments have been recruited through cold calls. I have seen all too many examples of where elderly and vulnerable people have sunk all or a substantial part of their life savings into wine investment. Almost invariably this has started with a cold call and the victim has been persuaded to trust a stranger at the other end of the line. Then the process of milking their savings begins.

I note that of the four founders and their companies only Albany Portfolio Management Ltd has publicly stated that they do not cold call.    

It is my conviction that any serious and legitimate wine investment company or wine investment association will not use or permit cold calls. Wine funds, which come under the aegis of FSA, are not allowed to cold call. The FSA bans companies from touting for mortgage business using cold calls. If ever, buying individual cases of wine for investment were to come under the remit of the FSA or its successor body, then I'm certain that cold calling would be banned.

There will be a consultation period on the WIA proposals, which will run until 20th January 2013 and then the WIA code of practice will be adopted at the WIA’s inaugural meeting on 14th February 2013. I hope the WIA proposals will prompt plenty of feedback from many sectors including the fine wine trade, investors and journalists.  

who provided advice in setting up the WIA

The real acid test for these proposals is whether companies, such as Goldman Williams and Liquid Acquisitions Ltd, which were closed down in the High Court in the public interest would have passed the WIA audit. I suspect that Goldman Williams Ltd would have passed the audit as whatever else Goldman Williams did they did supply the wines their customers ordered, although they were often horrendously over-priced. If I’m correct then the WIA has not set the bar for membership high enough. 

If the bar is too low then it will be tempting for dubious investment companies to apply to become members of the WIA and use their membership as a trojan horse to provide false reassurance to their existing and potential customers. This would also discourage companies who do trade professionally and use best practice from joining the WIA.         


Other points that could be added to the Code of Conduct:

The use of real names: The WIA should insist that telesales staff use their own names.  

Real trading addresses: In addition to the company's registered office, the company's actual trading address should be clearly visible on correspondence, websites etc. If a company actually trades from a serviced office this would be acceptable but not if it is used as a virtual office and the company actually trades from another undisclosed address.  

Valuations: The WIA should be stressing the importance of a robust, credible and independent valuation. This might well be based on Liv-ex’s mid-price or the market price.

Cooling off period: The WIA offer a seven day cooling off period, which ‘In the case of normal purchases this will usually be the point at which a sale is agreed (normally the issuing of an invoice including applicable terms and conditions) and prior to the contract being formed.  

In the case of distance sales the WIA proposal would appear to be well short of their customers’ statutory rights. The Distance Selling Regulations (section 11) allows a seven working day cancellation period from the day after the date of delivery not the date of invoice. This seven-day period is extended by a further three months if the customer is not informed of their rights or is given wrong information. When wine is stored in a bonded warehouse, the delivery date should be the time when the wine arrives clearly identified in either client reserves or into the client's own personal account. En primeur sales are clearly an exception and an anomaly – a situation that the EU has yet to clarify. Here perhaps the seven working day cooling off period should start from the day after the date the customer's funds have been cleared and received into the WIA member's bank/credit card account. 

The WSTA (The Wine & Spirit Trade Association) has confirmed that their view, based on legal advice received, is that wine in bond is subject to the Distance Selling Regulations and that the cancellation period (seven working days) starts from the day after delivery. I gather that the directive will shortly be revised and that the cancellation period will be extended to 14 days and is likely to come into operation in November 2014. The position of the right of cancellation regarding en primeur will at long last be clarified.       

Storage options, including the possibility of investors having their own private accounts, should be clearly explained.
Wine a minor part of a portfolio: The WIA website should advise that wine investments ought to only make up a small percentage of a savings portfolio.

Amending the Code of Conduct: The process of amending the Code of Conduct needs to be explained as well as how any such changes of made public. 

Other alternative investments: If WIA member companies (or their subsidiaries) offer other alternative investments, this should be declared on their company website. 

WIA website: Rules of Conduct – Under Consultation 

Unfortunately the WIA's website, which went live today, is not yet fully operational as some of the crucial elements such as the code of conduct are listed as under consultation. Hopefully the site will rapidly be fully operational so people can comment on the proposals within the consultation period.  

It now appears that you will have to contact for a consultation pack. Regrettably this is likely to reduce the number of responses to the proposals. It would be much better and more transparent if the proposed code of conduct was up on the WIA site.  

30.11.12: Pleased to see section on cold calling quoted in the Financial Times here – an artlcle by Geordie Clarke. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Wine Investment Association (WIA) – reflections before today's launch

Entrance to Château Léoville Las Cases

Update: 19.50 – The WIA site is now live: unfortunately a number of crucial elements of the site are not yet live including all important the Code of Conduct. I hope that as full a version of the site as possible is up with the minimum of delay. I will shortly be posting my initial reactions to the launch of the WIA.   

The Wine Investment Association will be launched in London this afternoon. Here are some pre-launch thoughts about the initiative that were first posted on Les 5 du Vin yesterday.

'This new initiative will be launched on Wednesday afternoon at the offices of Mazars, who specialise in audit, tax and advisory services.  It will be interesting to see not only the proposals from this new association but also to see how it will be run and to what level of independence the new body will have from its founders. Will the founder companies Vin-X, Culver Street, Provenance Wines and Albany Portfolio Management have to apply to an independent body for admission to the WIA or, as founders, is membership automatic?

Will cold calls be permitted by the WIA and what about upfront commissions? If investors and other fine wine companies are to have confidence in the initiative, which is potentially welcome and could be very useful for investors, then the WIA should set its face against both practices. There may be a place for a portfolio management fee providing investors are paying extra for something of value and the fee is properly explained and transparent but not if it is a disguised up front commission. This initiative moves wine investment towards regulation, albeit self-regulation. If all wine investment rather than just wine funds were to come under the remit of the FSA, then I am sure that cold-calling would be banned as it is for wine funds (classified as a collective investment) and for the selling of mortgages.

One of the most unpleasant aspects of the wine investment scams has been the hounding of elderly and vulnerable people by commission driven spivs only interested in maximising their wages to spend on flash cars, clothes etc.. Cold calling is part of that culture. I know that Albany Portfolio Management, for one, does not use cold calling as they believe that the practice is self-defeating. Surely all companies concerned about their reputations ought to come to the same conclusion?

The advice given or stance taken about storage, performance claims made, valuations, tax liabilities will also be crucial as will any proposals for policing the association.

The WIA proposals will be out for consultation until some time in January. Will they be joined by other companies? What is sure is that a group of recently formed companies have certainly thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the UK's fine wine brokers and companies. It would have been better if this could have come from more established fine wine companies but they have hitherto be reluctant to put something like this in place.'

Loire: two dates for your diary: Bruno Curassier and Les Loges de la Folie

Bruno Curassier's Domaine de la Grange (Bléré – AC Touraine) will be holding their Caves Ouvertes this Saturday and Sunday (1st and 2nd December) from 10.00 - 19.00.

Bruno will be welcoming Mrs and Mr Guinoiseau, the new owners of the hotel restaurant Le Cheval Blanc in Bléré along with their chef Damien Litaudon, who will be matching food with the domaine's wines. 


 Valérye Mordelet (Les Loges de la Folie)

Les Loges de laFolie (Montlouis): Portes ouvertes d’hiver

Samedi 15 décembre 2012, de 11 h à 19 h ET dimanche 16 décembre de 11h à 18 heures, nous ouvrons les portes de nos caves pour nos traditionnelles portes ouvertes d'hiver.

Dégustation de nos vins, cela va sans dire, accompagnés, pour le plaisir des papilles, de sucré et salé.

Dimanche dès 12h30, la cave fait bistrot. Venez vous restaurer d'huitres, saumon fumé, foie gras, terrine de poissons, fromages et autres folies. PENSEZ A RÉSERVER !!!

Renseignements et réservations au 02 47 45 18 30

 Jean-Daniel Kloecklé (Les Loges de la Folie)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

#EWBC: Istanbul – the silvery Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara

Views over the Sea of Marmara from our hotel (above and below)

At the northern end of the Bosphorus

Road bridge over the Bosphorus in evening light

The Silvery Bosphorus 

Sunlight, the Bosphorus and a mosque

Les 5 du Vin: Vinance plc, Wine Investment Association (WIA) and Nobles Crus

Château Pichon-Longueville, Pauillac

My post this week on Les 5 du Vin covers three wine investment topics: Vinance plc – now in administration, The Wine Investment Association – to be launched on Wednesday, and the elephant in the Nobles Crus' room. 


Monday, 26 November 2012

Il Mosnel and Château de Petit Thouars

Pas Dosé, Il Mosnel, Franciacorta

Faced with a substantial family incursion yesterday, it seemed sensible to cook something that could be prepared in advance, so I opted for cooking a whole chicken in a sort of coq au vin style. I say sort of coq au vin style as it a variation on a theme rather than a classic French coq au vin as it included hot and sweet paprika, cumin and fenugreek seeds and a little lime pickle to give bite. It did, however, have lardons, onion and mushroom. 

As an apéro we dug out the last two bottles of the Pas Dosé Franciacorta from Il Mosnel. Franciacorta hosted the EWBC conference last year in Brescia. The creamy Pas Dosé showed well with attractive fruit and not aggressive despite it being a brut zéro.    

2005 Château du Petit Thouars 

With the chicken I went for an old faithful: the 2005 Château du Petit Thouars, AC Touraine. 100% Cabernet Franc this had plenty of weight to stand up to the rich and spicy chicken and its sauce. Petit Thouars and a few other estates at the western extremity of Indre-et-Loire will soon be joining the Chinon appellation – well deserved.     

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Loire: Louis Métaireau's Muscadet and a Côte Roannaise

2010 Cuvée One, Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine  

During the vintage we dropped in briefly to see Marie-Luce and Jean-François at Louis Métaireau's Domaine Grand Mouton (Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine). Before we departed Marie-Luce kindly gave us some samples, which we have been working our way through.   

I still remember going to see Louis Métaireau on my first visit to the Pays Nantais back in January 1989. Louis and his wines made a strong impression then and they continue to do so. Louis was always rightly ambitious for his Muscadets: to make a fine wine far from an anonymous  bottle of dry white. I haven't seen Louis in years now as he has long retired and now lives in Corsica. Instead his daughter and her husband run the estate.  

In Louis' absence the wines haven't changed – they remain fine, elegant Muscadet with a classy packaging in match.

2011 Louis Métaireau: Grand Mouton, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie
Crisp, lemony but with a depth vibrant fruit. Good length. Would be good with grilled fish.

2011 Cuvée One, Louis Métaireau Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie
This is the estate's top cuvée and only released in good years. Expressive lemony, citric nose. Lovely vibrant palate with some weight, long lemony finish. Brilliantly vibrant wine. Excellent with grilled sea bass - two for £8 from Billings our local fishmonger and butcher in Sydenham. Got the fishmonger to split them like a kipper, so I could just stick them under the hot grill. Gave them 7 minutes, which timed it pretty well. Ideal or would 6.30 or 6.45 have been better?

2010 Cuvée One Louis Métaireau Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie
Weight, citric, floral, touch of almond, weight and lovely balance. Works as an apéro but really deserves to be served with a fine fish dish, delicate but persistent acidity with the typical prickle in the finish – a signature of a sur lie. Fine and age worthy.


Jacques Plasse 2011 Boutheran Côte Roannaise

This is another of the batch of wines sent to me from the Côtes de Forez and Côte Roannaise. Overall they have been very impressive and this is 2011 Boutheran, a single vineyard, from Jacques Plasse no exception. Mid-plum colour with lovely juicy fruit. It isn't complex but it's a delight to drink – just delicious Gamay! Very soft but with enough acidity to give the fruit enough bite to encourage you to take another swig. 

London: photos from a bright Sunday

The restored bandstand in the Horniman Park and the remaining autumn colours 

After a wet and windy Saturday followed by a wild Sunday night, the weather has calmed down during Sunday with some good, sharp light during the morning. 

The Millennium (O2 stadium) Dome with its cocktail sticks  

From East Dulwich to the Square Mile 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

London: Forest Hill on way up – Aga's Little Deli – a welcome new feature

Aga's Little Deli and Café in September before the sign was painted

AGA's Little Deli and Café opened on Sunday 16th September just a day after the soft opening of the wonderful restored Forest Hill Pools and Gym. They have excellent bread – the rye is especially good. There are also cheeses from Neal's Yard and a good selection of olives. The Queen green olives are particularly fleshy and succulent and it also possible to enjoy an expresso there.  

Delicious rye bread and succulent olives 

Aga's December opening hours:
We going to be open on Mondays in December
Monday to Thursday - 10am - 6pm
Friday 10am- 8pm
Saturday,Sunday - 10am- 6pm
Monday 24.12.12 - 10am- 4pm
Tuesday 25.12.12, Wednesday 26.12.12 and Thursday 27.12.12 - closed
Friday 28.12.12 - 10am - 6pm
Saturday 29.12.12 - 10am- 6pm
Sunday 30.12.12 - 10am- 6pm
Monday 31.12.12 - 10am- 4pm
Tuesday 01.01.2013 – closed

Friday 7th of December - wine, cheese and chocolate tasting. From 5pm till 10pm at the shop.

Tel: 07889-760915

With Aga's and the new pool complex, Forest Hill, London SE23 continues to move up with new welcome developments. This has also included back in May 2010 the opening of the Overground rail service to Forest Hill and beyond to Crystal Palace and West Croydon, which has made a big difference to the travel options from here to other parts of London.   

 The Forest Hill Pools and Fitness Complex