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

Thursday, 31 January 2013

ExCellar Ltd: why Simon bailed out of the Paris shop

Rue des Écoles, Paris (Google maps)

Turnover in the ExCellar shop in Paris had been in decline for several years – down by a third over three or four years. Not helped by a lack of stock due to suppliers being owed money. I understand that some 35,000€ is currently owed to ExCellar's French suppliers. However, the situation became critical at the end of November/beginning of December 2012 when the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques - service des Impots des Entreprises blocked ExCellar's French bank account with HSBC using a l'inscription de privilege. The French authorities took this action as ExCellar Ltd owed them around 18 months of social security payments for their employees (believed to be in the region of 100,000€) and some six months of TVA (VAT). 

The effect of blocking the account meant that monies taken by the business would go to the French tax authorities until the outstanding debt was paid off, so no chance of a profitable Christmas trading period. As already posted Baile arrived at the shop with a truck on Friday 7th December, emptied the shop and drove back to the UK. The Paris stock was then sold through the UK branches. 

In an OLN news report (14th December 2012) Baile said of the closure of the French shop:  “Next year we will also make changes to our Fulham and Farringdon stores. I would have loved to stay in Paris, but in the end it was just too hard. You can keep digging but then you have to stop.”

Not entirely candid in the light of the freezing of the ExCellar bank account by the French Government! 


ExCellar Ltd in administration – a few more details emerging

 The Oddbins shop at Farringdon Street – 
bought by Baile's ExCellar and now in play once more 

A few more details on Simon Baile's ExCellar Ltd going into administration and the events leading up this are now emerging. 

It is believed that the administration order was granted by a court in Manchester. The debt owed to South West Trains, who brought a winding upon order against ExCellars for unpaid rent on the now closed Surbiton Station shop is around £25,000. ExCellar moved to a cheaper site at 18-20 Brighton Road, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 5PQ but the rent debt was not paid.

There are also rumours that a bid of £75,000 to buy the assets of ExCellars Ltd has been lodged with the administrator – Stephen Hunt of Griffins. Apparently the offer of £75,000 is described as being 'a true value of the assets of ExCellar Ltd'.  

It is possible that there may also be a bid from the current owners of Oddbins, who might decide that the large premises at Farringdon, one of the sites bought by Baile from the Oddbins' administrator, could serve as a useful distribution hub to serve their London shops. 

Trade creditors include Les Caves de Pyrene, who are owed around £100,000, and ABS Wine Agencies, who are believed to be in for a substantial amount. In the case of ABS this is off-set by some of the debt being historic from a delivery that was due to go to Oddbins at the time of the collapse that Baile then took on.

Also, hearing that administration was imminent, Mike Awin, a partner in ABS, was able on Sunday to retrieve their stock that was in the ExCellar's Fulham shop. Then on Monday he was able to negotiate with the administrators that ABS stock couldn't be moved from the Ashtead shop until retention of title can shown. Awin was bemused that it needed six people from the administrators to be present at the Ashtead shop to establish which wines had been supplied through ABS. One had travelled up from Exeter. 

I wonder how many administrators would be required to change a light bulb?                     

The shop at Farringdon Street: May 2011 during changeover from 

Jim's Loire understands from sources that on the evening of 7th December 2012 Simon Baile emptied the contents of his Paris shop at 25 Rue des Ecoles. All the stock – apparently worth around 17,000€ before tax, the fridges and display cabinets were loaded into a truck, which Baile drove back to the UK. As the wine was now due to be sold in the ExCellar UK shops in the lead up to Christmas and was not for his personal consumption, Baile doubtless declared the wine at the port of entry and paid any duty and vat due on the stock.  

Jim's Loire also understands that the employees Baile's ExCellar shop in Paris are in limbo as apparently Baile has not yet lodged the necessary paperwork – either a dépôt de bilan or a cessation de paiement –  to close the company down in France, so although the employees are not being paid they are not formally unemployed so can't receive benefits. There will be a hearing before the Conseil de prud'hommes on 6th February. One of the employees has worked for the company for 32 years – originally for Simon Baile's father Nick. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

'Retail genius' Simon Baile in administration again

The Farringdon Street Oddbins – one of five shops Baile took on 

Simon Baile's ExCellar Ltd went into administration yesterday. See Harpers report here. Apparently Baile's company was facing a winding up order brought by South Western Trains.

Following the collapse under Baile of Oddbins he bought five shops from the administrator. Some soon closed down – see here.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Millésime Bio: sweet Loires rare in 2012

2011 Quarts de Chaume, Grand Cru, Château de Plaisance
None made here in 2012 but the fine and beautifully balanced 2011 makes up for this.

 Guy Rochais, Château de Plaisance, with his 2011 Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru
(Unfortunately I misjudged the depth of field required to get clear view of label 
so took a close up of the bottle as well)

Had a good day at Millésime Bio yesterday and managed to see quite a number of the Loire producers present at the Salon. Unfortunately as I have to head back to London today I will have to try and catch up with as many of the rest as I can this coming weekend in Angers.

Naturally conversations often turned to discusssing what a pig of year 2012 was weatherwise, although there are some good wines from the vintage, so it shouldn't be written off. Volumes in many places are low to very low. It is clear that very little sweet wine was made in 2012 or should have been made. A number of producers including Patrick Baudouin, Philippe Delesvaux, Pierre Chauvin and Eddy Oosterlinck said that they hadn't made any due to the October downpour. 

Philippe Delesvaux: "The sugar content actually went backwards. I had grapes that were at 13% natural when the rains started that had dropped to 9% when the rain eventually stopped." Understandably Philippe decided it was impossible to try to leave the grapes in the hope it might eventually be possible to make any sweet wine in 2012.

A few basic Coteaux du Layon cuvées have been made but will be surprising if anyone has managed to make anything more prestigious where the appellation requires a higher level of natural sugar. Even making a generic Layon may well have required the assistance of additional bagged up sunshine! With the recent Quarts de Chaume décret requiring a minimum of 18% potential it will be amazing if anyone managed make any in 2012.

Fortunately there are some very fine sweet wines from the 2010 and 2011 vintages to enjoy. 


Monday, 28 January 2013

Ken Payton: Les Terroiristes du Languedoc – world première

Ready to start the screening

Ken Payton's second film is two hours and 20 minutes long and features 12 'pioneer' producers from Languedoc. It had its world première at the Diagonal cinema in Montpellier last evening.

Les douze vignerons qui figurent dans ce film documentaire sont :

John & Nicole Bojanowski (Le Clos du Gravillas, à St-Jean-de-Minervois)
John & Liz Bowen (Domaine Sainte Croix, à Fraïssé-Corbières)
Emmanuel Pageot & Karen Turner (Domaine Turner Pageot, à Gabian)
Virgile Joly (Domaine Virgile Joly, à Saint-Saturnin)
Cyril Bourgne (Domaine La Madura, à Saint-Chinian)
Brigitte Chevalier (Domaine de Cébène, à Caussiniojouls)
André Leenhardt (Château de Cazeneuve, à Lauret)
François Delhon (Domaine Bassac, à Puissalicon)
Eric & Vianney Fabre (Château d'Anglès, à St-Pierre-laMer)
Frédéric & Marie Chauffray (La Réserve d'O, à Arboras)
Jean-Pierre Vanel (Lacroix-Vanel, à Caux)

Each in turn has their 10 minutes of fame in front of Ken's lens talking about their philosophy of wine, why they chose the Languedoc, why they have chosen organic viticulture or in a few cases why they haven't. This part of the film was shot in the spring of 2012. In the film's last section, filmed during the vintage, each of the 12 vignerons give a short summary of how the 2012 harvest has been for them. Fortunately for both the producers and Ken's film 2012 in the Languedoc was a less difficult vintage than it was in many other parts of France. 

In the grand tradition of southern France the première started at 8.15 and not 7.45 as advertised.    

Ken Payton before the screening – just a slight whiff of anxiety? 

Part of the audience including Virgile Joly

 Jacques Gravegeal, long time president of the Pays d’Oc  

The loneliness of the long distance photographer!

Ken keen to get a last shot for the film ...!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Millésime Bio: dinner with four producers@La compagnie des comptoirs

 Thierry Jullien, président de l'Association Interprofessionnelle 
des Vins Biologiques du Languedoc-Rousillon (AIVB-LR) (above and below)

Last night I was kindly invited to join the first night dinner of the press trip to this edition of Millésime Bio at La Companie des Comptoirs. This year the invited journalists etc. are from North America and include Tim Teichgraeber (freelance writer), David Rosegarten, Sue Straight and Michael Apstein, whose other job is a liver specialist.

The four growers included Thierry Jullien of Mas de Janiny and who is the president of l'Association Interprofessionnelle des Vins Biologiques du Languedoc-Roussillon. Thierry told me that numbers for the Salon are slightly up on last year. "We could have accepted more," he said, "but we prefer to grow slowly and remain at a manageable size. We don't accept anyone unless they are certified organic. This includes natural wine producers – they, too, have to be certified." 

Every exhibitor at Millésime Bio has the same sized table, so there are no fancy stands. For Languedoc-Roussillon producers the price is 1300 euros for the three days and 1800 for producers from elsewhere. Thierry has fond memories of the first edition in 1993 when there were just a handful of producers present.  

 Mme Jullien

2009 Les Hauts de Laborie, Grés de Montpellier, Mas de Janiny 
Soft and well balanced

The other producers were Christian Leperchois of Domaine des Carabiniers making Tavel and Lirac. 

 Christian Leperchois – a wearer of interesting shirts and wine producer

2011 Tavel, Domaine des Carabiniers: full bodied rosé with the alcohol in balance

 2010 Lunar Apogé, Lirac, Domaine des Carabiniers: peppery, spicy black fruited Rhône

Christian's domaine usefully offers the opportunity for Terroirists to give themselves up!

Virgile Joly – says he is Nicolas' elder brother but I have my doubts!


2011 Joly Blanc – lives up to its name 
made mainly from Grenache Blanc with some Roussanne
Unfortunately Virgile's red was too warm for a fair comment

André Leenhardt, Château de Cazeneuve, Pic Saint Loup

André Leenhardt of Château de Cazeneuve, who I visited last year on the Sunday before Millésimé Bio, came with magnums of excellent three wines. The rich and concentrated 2010 white Coteaux du Languedoc – mainly Roussanne and Grenache Blanc plus Viognier, Rolle and Muscat. For me the wines of the evening.

2007 Le Roc des Mates, Pic Saint-Loup (100% old Syrah)

2005 Le Sang de Calvaire, Pic Saint-Loup (pure Mourvèdre): lovely texture and balance

 David Rosengarten looks to auction what is left of the 2007 Roc des Mates

Freelance writer Tim Teichgraeber

Arrival in Montpellier for Millésimé Bio

Crowds on Montpellier's Place de la Comedie – 
will they all be going to the first showing of Ken Payton's Les Terroiristes du Languedoc?

After a grey, cold, snowy week in London it was good to fly into Montpellier yesterday to bright sunshine and some warmer temperatures – around 9˚-10˚. I'm here for the 20th edition of Millésimé Bio, the annual organic wine fair.
 Place de la Comedie

 Grand Hotel du Midi
 Tattoo shop in the back streets with 'Baba Bing' model

Saturday, 26 January 2013

CRM in Patagonia

"Are you absolutely sure they said the vineyard was straight ahead – you can't miss it!?"

CRM, Jim's Loire's editor is away for three weeks in South America – mostly trekking in Patagonia:

"Just to prove I can still do it - here I am after a 4-hour long drag up. Another 3 hours to get back down. A hard day! Fantastic day and fantastic landscape." From Torres del Paine.