The two-day sale from the Chicago-based auction house on 17-18 May was its largest Celebration of Burgundy auction to date, with more than half of lots exceeding their pre-sale high estimates.
Highlights included 73 vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) wines, dating back to 1942 and featuring all of the domaine’s Grand Cru vineyard sites, which fetched a total of $1.8m and claimed nine out of the top 10 lots by value.
A jeroboam of DRC Romanée Conti was sold for $95,000, against a pre-sale estimate of $60,000-90,000, while six bottles of 2014 Romanée-St-Vivant from Domaine Dujac netted $20,315, easily outstripping their pre-sale high estimate of $5,500.
The sale included 89 lots of Domaine Dujac, which beat their pre-sale high estimate in fetching nearly $400,000, and 87 lots from Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier, which sold for $377,058, versus a high estimate of $354,450.
Hart Davis Hart reported bidders from across the US, as well as from Hong Kong, Japan, China, Taiwan, Denmark, Switzerland and Brazil.
‘The saleroom bustled with determined collectors who competed vigorously with absentee and live bidders throughout the country and world,’ the company said.
Hart Davis Hart’s next sale will be held on the weekend of 22 June, featuring a host of European and New World wines.
Pio Boffa is the fourth-generation owner of the Pio Cesare estate. He and his relatives are the only winemaking family still based in Alba, the main town that divides the Barolo and Barbaresco zones. Many other wineries were established by growers close to their farms in the surrounding hills.
Pio Cesare: Factbox
Founded 1881 by Cesare Pio
Current owners Cesare’s great-grandson Pio Boffa runs the winery along with his cousin Augusto, his nephew Cesare, and his daughter Federica.
Vineyards The estate owns around 70ha in total, including 31.78ha in Barolo and 26.9ha in Barbaresco. The single-vineyard bottlings are made from 16ha in Ornato, Serralunga d’Alba, 9.7ha in Mosconi, Monforte d’Alba and 18ha in Il Bricco, Treiso.
Wines Pio Cesare produces the full gamut of Piedmont wines, from Langhe Chardonnay, Moscato d’Asti and Gavi, to Dolcetto, Barbera, Barolo and Barbaresco. The estate even produces a Barolo Chinato and a Vermouth from an original 1950s recipe.
A small number of potential bidders for the company’s 200 stores, including private equity firm OpCapita, a US-based investor and another turnaround firm, are in the running to acquire Majestic’s retail network, Sky News reports.
Majestic said today (21 May) that it was continuing ‘to explore methods of releasing capital from its Majestic Retail and Commercial business to accelerate the growth of Naked Wines, with this release of capital to be explored through a range of potential options’.
It added: ‘Following recent press speculation, the Group confirms that the sale of the Majestic branded retail business, including its related B2B operations … is one of the possible options being considered, and the Group has received a number of expressions of interest.’
More details are expected to be released soon, and certainly by 13 June, when Majestic is due to announce its full-year results and reveal full details of its transformation strategy.
Mention of a ‘booze cruise’ is a very 1990s concept in the UK. Excitement about the Channel Tunnel finally opening led to convoys of grey Volvo Estates heading across the English Channel to take advantage of lower taxes on mainly French wine.
It felt exciting and exotic to be physically linked to continental Europe.
But, the flow of Volvos eventually dried up with the rise of ‘New World’ varietal wines available at low prices in the UK supermarkets. Calais suffered as stores that once thronged with thirsty Brits had to close.
Fast-forward to the present day and it seems that, despite many Britons’ penchant for leaving the European Union, Brexit is being blamed for re-opening the road to Calais.
Millennials – many of whom voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, of course – are reportedly taking advantage of their last bit of free movement and stocking up before forecast price rises kick-in after Brexit.
So, is the booze cruise worth it?
We took the journey and, below, we’ve considered it based on two motivations for a day trip:
Stocking up for a special occasion, whether it’s a wedding or party
Wine lovers looking for something a bit different and not just a warehouse of brands
The party planner
On our trip, four of us set out at 05.45 from London to get an early crossing into Calais. With the roads clear, and no queues at Folkestone, we were in France before we knew it.
These stores aren’t set up for wine enthusiasts and certainly follow the model of pile ‘em high and flog ‘em cheap.
The tasting area of the Calais Wine Superstore has a distinct smell of bleach, suggesting an overly enthusiastic tasting party may have passed through early that day.
Having a look at the prices around these air hangars of branded wine, the Champagne prices were on par with Christmas discount sales in the UK supermarkets, so were an easy pass.
You might once have reached for a keenly priced Crémant, but these alternative French sparkling wines are becoming easier to find in the UK, so again it was a pass.
There were, however, some good deals. Porta 6, of Saturday Kitchen Fame, was showing a big saving at £3.30 a bottle in The Calais Wine Superstore and £3.79 in Majestic.
Top names such as Guigal and Whispering Angel seemed to be able to keep their prices a little higher and deals looked less attractive at the £10-a-bottle mark. However, many of the branded reds and whites below £10 showed good savings.
To make things a little easier to evaluate, here’s a little comparison table with savings:
Cost of Travel:
Petrol from London: £60
Wine Example: Côtes du Rhône, E. Guigal
The Calais Wine Superstore: £7.99
E. Leclerc: €8.50
Waitrose: £11.99 (£8.99 when 25% off sale is on)
Saving: £4-a-bottle when at full price in the UK, but only £1 when discounted
Wine Example: Porta 6
Majestic Calais: £3.79
Majestic UK: £8.99 (£7.99 as part of six)
Savings: £5.20-a-bottle at full price, but £4.20 discounted
To break even, you will need to buy 36 bottles or more, which is no problem for most weddings.
It’s still a great day out if you do need to cater for a mass of friends and family, and well worth the adventure if, after you’re done, you can nip in the car and drive along the coast.
For wine lovers
The Calais we’ve described above won’t cut it for wine aficionados.
But, step beyond Calais and there are some fantastic spots offering broader ranges. After a lot of driving driving around, we’ve whittled the stops down to offer a suggested itinerary for the day.
Head 25 minutes south-east of Calais to Ardres. This small, beautiful, French village feels a million miles from the wine warehouses of Calais. There’s a carpark in the centre, with a boulangerie that is great for breakfast if you took the early train.
Just a short walk from the centre we found Boursot’s – a wine store with a brilliantly interesting and curated selection.
The owner, Guy Boursot, is an Englishman who’s been in France several years and has a rich history in the wine trade.
Among the wines we picked out were Morrillon Blanc for £8.50, a Chardonnay from Languedoc-Roussillon that included a small percentage of Noble Rot-affected grapes blended in; think Ken Forrester’s FMC but a little sweeter.
We also found a lovely, light, biodynamic Pic-St-Loup at £6.50 and a St-Estèphe with 12 years of bottle age for £13.40.
After leaving with a number of wines under-arm in a mish-mash of cases, we stopped off for a coffee outside the beautiful Hotel de Ville – Ardres’ Town Hall – for a well-earned rest.
A drive due west across the beautiful Haut de France countryside for 35 minutes will bring you out at the busy seaside town of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
South-west of the town is a huge E. Leclerc, a French supermarket known for low prices. This isn’t the sort of place you’d expect to find real variety, but its huge wine section has a Bordeaux offering better than many fine wine stores in London. It is a mini-tour around France’s best known regions and names, which we thought was great for people on a day trip with limited time to shop around. You can also pick cheese to go with your selections, of course.
We picked out an aged Château d’Armailhac for under €40, a white Faugères and red Savigny-lès-Beaune for under €16.
Once happy with our haul, we took a short drive back to the centre of Boulogne-sur-Mer and found ourselves on the seafront.
Be careful here, because parking is hard to come by and the car park on the front, we were told, is permanently full.
Having navigated the parking challenge, we headed for lunch at the Michelin-starred La Matelote.
With an extremely reasonable set price set lunch at €28 and a bottle of Batailley 2006 at €60 to wash it down, everyone was feeling happy with life; not that our designated driver could enjoy the wine too much, of course.
Other recommendations for that area include Wimereux, another short drive along the coast and home to Michelin-standard restaurants. We passed that up for a walk on the beach and to watch the sun set at a local bar.
Sitting there, the group sipped beers and started to ask the question, ‘do you think we could change the train back and stay the night?’. A sign of not wanting to leave, and testament to a great day out.
‘An absolute no is to pair a full bodied red wine with salmon as this will kill both the wine and the fish’s flavours,’ said Dinnadge.
Salmon with herbs and cream sauces
‘Taste is a personal sensation and unique to each individual,’ said Wilfried Rique, beverage manager at Nobu Shoreditch. ‘However, I would say that there are a few essentials that are good to know.’
‘The minerality and herbaceous notes of a classic Sauvignon Blanc will match well with a salmon cooked with fine herbs and citrus,’ he said.
‘If the salmon is accompanied with butter and cream, you should go more for a Chardonnay with a bit of oak to highlight the fish.’
Nobu is known for its seafood and also its Japanese flavours, such as wasabi and teriyaki sauces, as well as spice combinations involving ginger and garlic, plus also South American influences, such as jalapeno.
‘We like to choose a Riesling from Germany or a Pinot Gris from Alsace to enhance the flavours of salmon cooked with some spices, and sweetness from the miso sauce, for example,’ said Rique.
From Christmas morning tradition to classic canapés and light summer lunches, quality smoked salmon has a timeless appeal.
‘For a classic smoked salmon dish with onion, capers and a slice of lemon, a Riesling will be great,’ said Dinnadge, who picked out Trimbach’s Cuvée Frédéric Émile 2011 vintage from the Corigan’s Mayfair wine list.
Others prefer sparkling wines, and particularly those made with Chardonnay in a blanc de blancs style.
Matthieu Longuère MS, of Le Cordon Bleu London, suggested a vintage English sparkling wine with smoked salmon canapés when writing on the subject for Decanter.com.
‘Thanks to its high acidity, it should also handle the saltiness of smoked salmon,’ he said.
‘For Chardonnay Champagne, smoked salmon on toast is best, with crème fraiche,’ said Thomas Laculle-Moutard, of Laculle and Moutard Champagne houses, speaking on the sidelines of Decanter’s Sparkling Exploration event in 2017.
Writing in Decanter in 2007, Fiona Beckett recommended manzanilla Sherry with smoked salmon.
‘[It’s] not the most usual combination with smoked salmon but the most reliably consistent one,’ she said. ‘It goes without saying that the Sherry should be served chilled from a freshly opened bottle.’
‘For sushi, as it is a small bite, I would recommend a crispy and citrusy wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay,’ said Rique.
Sauvignon from ‘Sancerre is a good go-to as It balances well with the acidity of the salmon but has enough strength to match with the bold note of the rice’.
The first American to work as a winemaker in Burgundy, Littorai’s founder Ted Lemon wanted to pursue old-world restraint and elegance in California when he returned to the USA, and so he and his wife Heidi identified the cool Sonoma and Mendocino Counties as the perfect locations to source grapes for their new project.
A brief history
Ted Lemon was born in 1958, but did not grow up in a wine-steeped environment. However, in 1981 he went to Dijon to study Enology and afterwards decided to stay in Burgundy and find a job as a cellar rat.
A phone call to Roz Seysses at Domaine Dujac proved timely, as her husband Jacques was flat on his back with sciatica. Ted spent that harvest taking tank samples to Seysses and then following his instructions. He followed this with spells of work at some of Burgundy’s other top domaines, including Georges Roumier and Bruno Clair.
A year later Ted returned to Burgundy to act as winemaker at Domaine Roulot, in Meursault, while Jean-Marc Roulot followed an acting career. Ted became the first American winemaker in Burgundy and stayed at Roulot for three years before returning home to the USA, where he spent time working in Napa Valley before founding Littorai in 1992.