To Striptease or not to Striptease?

Well, any opportunity to keep a beedy eye on a fabulous piece of work by Amedeo Clemente Modigliani, is worth the next few lines in my opinion, apologies to those with other opinions on the matter of nudity and art. And also already apologies if I offend anyone over US strip labels, storage conditions, south American wine dealers or the like. I am really just a wine educator trying my best to simplify what is already an over complicated life, and trying my best to educate, that’s all.

Now, the benefit of this blurb is that some of my fellow south American wine dealers, friends, who constantly, and with glee, tell me that my prices on our stocks of Chateau Petrus (as they call it?) are too high for them to buy from me, and that they can always buy it cheaper elsewhere, than what I can offer to them. So they go elsewhere, of course. Good luck with that.

1985 PetrusWhen they finally receive their precious bottles, and I am not sure why they want to promote this, but they do, and they also like to send me a photograph of what has been delivered and seem very pleased with themselves indeed. Probably, as a result of having saved themselves between 100 to 500 U$D per bottle, depending. Nine times out of ten the Chateau Petrus (as they still call it?) that they have purchased, has an American strip label on the bottle (normally to be found under the Petrus wine label). This, by US law, and has to be applied before wines are shipped to the States, for purposes of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or simply the ATF. It contains the importers name. It also means that the wines have either been shipped to San Fransisco or New York for example, from Bordeaux or wherever, where the customs are not in a rush to move the pallets of wine imported from the various docks/berths, as it is simply another importation. And sometimes these cases can stay outside on the deck under extreme heat for a while. Today, for example in California the temperature is 42 degrees celsius and will continue to be so for a few days, maybe next week it will drop to 29 or 30 degrees, who knows. Now, do you really want your Chateau Petrus (as they like to call it?)  or any other wine for that matter, warmed up like this?  When I explain this to our dear wine dealer friends, the information seems to fall on deaf ears. So I am going to use this space to clarify two things, I hope!!

Firstly, ‘please listen’. Petrus is NOT a chateau, okay? (work it out on your own) .. but stop calling dear old Petrus, one of the world’s most famous red wines, made from predominantly Merlot on a special soil, in the lovely Bordelais village of Pomerol, CHATEAU Petrus. It is not a chateau, Okay! And as we are on the case, there is also NO Chateau Le Pin (same village), no Chateau de Chevalier (it’s a Domaine in the Graves) and to really put the cat amongst the pigeons, yes! Trotanoy, Lafite & Mouton-Rothschild are all Chateaux (plural), so why not use the prefix as you are so keen to use it on the properties that do not carry the prefix. Chateau Trotanoy is correct, Lafite is Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, as is Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, and so on, and so on.

1973 PetrusSecondly, the US import strip labels on the various Petrus’s you buy, correspond in price to the possibility that you maybe be buying wine that has travelled a considerable distance already and may by chance have been warmed up on it’s journey. Petrus (not chateau!) that has not only swum across ‘the pond’ (or is Spanish ‘el charco’ for my friends) but then has to ‘rest’ in some dam blazing heat, having taken this uncomfortable journey already, somewhere to the port of destination. Yes, indeed, you are paying, a discount, for this privilege. I have never in my life sold a bottle of strip labelled Petrus to a collector, or a drinker for that matter, as they just do not want them. I have spent the last 15/20years trying to educate potential wine collectors to the benefits of buying good stock, down here. No US stock that is, and I don’t mean ‘do not buy it’ I am am just out the difference that’ all. And yes there is one. If local dealers want to mess that up then that is your business (or shooting yourselves in the foot), but please keep in my mind that market prices for Petrus, always correspond with the level, capsule, label condition and of course wether it is European stock or from EEUU (Estados Unidos, North America, United Mistakes of America or New Trumpland).

If my clients are prepared to pay U$5.000 plus for a bottle of Petrus, pretty much direct from Petrus itself, why pay U$4.500-U$4.995 for a bottle that has been messed up in ransit, needless to say, the Port Authority tramite to boot.

As an after thought. If their palates, the locals, are so accustomed to drinking Fernet Branca as children, and high alcohol Malbec from Mendoza, as adults, then quite frankly you cannot taste the difference anyway. Just keep at what you are doing and miss the point. (made later about surprise) Let me tell you that Petrus (warmed up) has an awful vegetabalic flavor and is not worth a coin. It is awful. You are just buying and selling it for trophy/label selling. Or to be seen at home or at dinner with a bottle of Petrus on the table. YaaaaWn! Petrus purchased direct from London (C&B, BB&R etc or even WWC SA), or direct from Bordeaux and Europe (geographically) makes all the difference between a very very good bottle of Pomerol and a not good bottle of Pomerol. Again, please go fathom.


Now to rub a little more salt into the wound. I think most of us wine drinkers and collectors share one thing in common. One of the great enjoyments we have of our wines, over the years, is that we can experience the benefit of ‘surprise’ (a positive one, only, I hope). In this world of homogenous flavours, and stereo typical happiness, what can be better than the ‘ahhhh’ effect, upon opening a bottle of wine and thoroughly enjoying the contents in that moment. Alone or not.

A few years ago, and staying on our Petrus theme. December 1984 to be more precise.  An even younger Robert Parker junior, who had tasted the 1973 vintage of Petrus, in 1978, and gave the wine 87/100 points. In those days this was a good score as there were few wines back then to ever to receive 90-95 points. And 95-100 points was definitely as rare as rocking horse pooh. (how times have changed eh!). It was declared the wine of the vintage and best for immediate consumption. His words “given the prolific yield in 1973 and the diluted, thinnish quality of many wines, the Petrus is sensationally concentrated, rich supple, fat and so, so flavorful. Ready to drink, it will keep for at least another 5-6 years”

So when, nearly forty years later, a bottle was served blind in London, last month. The chaps on board were completely thrown, in a blind tasting/dinner, to discover that the red wine they had in their glasses, that was absolutely delicious, sip for sip, and they could not work out what it was. Alas, it was a bottle of (non strip labelled) 1973 Petrus. And in the words of a ‘wine expert’ present (I hate this phrase but I know our south American readers will understand a bit more if I use it. As it means someone who is not a sommelier. (More on this problem another day) “it completely threw me, making a mockery of myself and vintage reputations. Every sip a pleasure. As I’ve said many times, never dismiss any bottle, especially from written off growing seasons”

Well, we have some in stock, and will now send an order downstairs to bring up a bottle (no striptease here thank goodness) for us to try. I am excited! and will let you know how it is, once the dust has settled.

Keep well, keep surprised!