Les 5 du Vin

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Looking back at 13 while getting ready to look forward to 14


2014 approaches…


My fellow blogger David has already set the scene with his list of wines that impressed and those that didn’t. However, rather than produce a second list I want to concentrate more on events both past and then take a look at forthcoming events next week.

There will be many producers in much of France and some in Germany, especially the Mosel, who will be relieved and delighted to see the end of 2013.

Certainly in the Loire this was the second difficult vintage in a row. Destructive hail in Vouvray on 17th June, a very late flowering and a considerable threat of mildew in July and then followed later by widespread rot during the harvest. Fortunately the rotten grapes didn’t appear to give the freshly pressed juice rotten flavours. It will certainly be very interesting to taste the nascent 2013s early in 2014.

Elsewhere the image of fine wine has been dealt a considerable blow by the trial of Rudy Kurniawan. Even if he acted alone, then Acker Merrall Condit, who accepted his fakes, appear to failed to carry out any significant due diligence before putting his wines up for sale. Ironically AMC are now the world’s largest fine wine auction house – hopefully their due diligence will have been tightened up.

The good news in 2013 was Heracles, the new name for 1855, going into administration. The change of name from 1855 to Heracles failed to save 1855, which by now had acquired a thoroughly deserved toxic reputation. It will be even better news if in 2014 Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon are hauled before the French courts, then incarcerated in today’s equivalent of La Bastille and to remain there until the very last case of Bordeaux en primeur ordered by clients of 1855 has been delivered. Somehow I can’t see this happening!

France is not alone with its fine wine scams. There are still far too many fly-by night wine investment scam companies continue to make brief appearances and then disappear with people’s life savings. Then there are the white knight companies who follow on promising to help out but are there only to thin people’s wallets further. Sometimes these white knights offer further wine investments but increasingly they offer to swop under-performing assets for the latest hot ‘investment’ – biofuels, carbon credits, diamonds or now graphene, which is supposed to ‘change the world’.

Boiler room boys will pressurise people who have already been stung to sell their cases of Château Lafite, which may well in time recover their value for a bargain deal on grapheme. Doubtless by the time the pigeon wants to sell the company will have long disappeared and they will discover that their graphene investment is worthless.

Although 2013 did see three people imprisoned for their roles in the Nouveau World Wine/Finbow scams, fraud remains a pretty risk-free career as it takes so much time and money to mount a fraud investigation and to carry that through to a trial that will usually last at least six weeks.

Here is an excellent resolution for 2014: never accept cold calls.  

Happy New Year – Mes meilleurs voeux pour 2014.        JIM 



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Bordeaux UK – the UK version of the 1855 story?

The Paris offices of 1855.com

This is certainly an intriguing and interesting question which was posed on Google Plus by Régis Chaigne, a Bordeaux vigneron based in St Laurent du Bois.

Régis’ question was prompted by my post last Friday on investdrinks that reported the ban on Ian Vanderhook from being a UK  company director for nine years. Vanderhook was the managing director of wine investment company – Bordeaux UK which ‘collapsed’ in November 2011 with debts of more than £10 million. At the time there was only £1.7 million worth of wine available.

According to the UK Insolvency Service, Bordeaux UK Ltd took over £23 million (27.16 m€) from investors between October 2008 and October 2011. However, only £4.6 million (5.44 €m) was used to buy wine. Of the remaining £19 million (22.45 €m) at least £2 million (2.36 €million) was trousered by Vanderhook, while £13 million is unaccounted for because of the lack of financial records. One has to wonder how far this was a deliberate policy to disguise what happened to the money and how far this was down to sheer incompetence.

I was at the creditors’ meeting for the appointment of the liquidator in November 2011. Vanderhook, a former lift engineer, was present. It was clear that despite apparently running a wine investment company for over nine years his knowledge of the fine wine market was limited. It would seem quite probable that he was a front man for someone else who may well have benefitted from some of the unaccounted £13 million.

Bordeaux UK started to operate back in 2002 soon after James Hewitt Associates Ltd, another wine investment company, was closed down in the public interest by the High Court in London. In turn James Hewitt Associates started to operate soon after Liquid Acquisitions Ltd, yet another wine investment company, was also closed in the public interest. Both James Hewitt Associates and Liquid Acquisitions were controlled by Andrew Dunne, formerly of the Bromley area in South London and now residing in Northern Cyprus.

At the creditors’ meeting Vanderhook was asked about whether Dunne was involved in Bordeaux UK. Vanderhook said that Dunne gave some occasional staff training. Given the past history it seems a very reasonable bet that Dunne’s involvement was actually far more significant even if it was a shadowy presence.

For those of you who have read this far, when you must be wondering am I going to get round to answering Regis’ question.

It is clear that both 1855 and Bordeaux UK have ripped off their clients to a very considerable degree. Bordeaux UK is outlined above, while 1855 and their associated companies have failed to fulfil a significant number of their clients’ orders, especially in relation to Bordeaux en primeur.

Although Bordeaux UK Ltd is now a dead company, the position in relation to 1855 and its associated companies is less clear. Héraclés, the new name for 1855, and ChateauOnline, also renamed – Ares, are both in administration (redressment judicaire). Shares in Heracles continue to trade on the Paris Bourse with shares now changing hands bat between 0.03€ and 0.05€ – six months ago they were at 0.12€. 1855 will remain initially in administration until 9th April 2014, while for ChateauOnline the period lasts until 22nd April 2014. As the administrator is busy collecting details of these companies’ debts I have to wonder whether once these have all been logged whether the 1855 group will have a viable future and that is before you consider the group’s toxic reputation.

The principal actors – Emeric Sauty de Chalon, Fabien Hyon and Ian Vanderhook – from both companies ought to be facing an appearance in a criminal court based on their consistent failure to supply their customers with wines ordered with payment made. See recent article LARVF suggesting that prison may await Chalon and Hyon.

There are some clear differences between the two companies. 1855 sold wine not investments unlike Bordeaux UK which sought to separate their clients from as much of their life savings as they could through high pressure sales tactics. As far as I know 1855 did not use cold calls replying instead on ‘attractive’ offers through their websites.

In contrast to Vanderhook, Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon know something of fine wine.

The two companies offered Bordeaux en primeur, which some of their customers did not receive. Bordeaux UK went one better than 1855 by selling 2009 Lafite in February 2010 a good three to four months before the château announced the price.

I find it staggering that the 1855 group lasted as long as it did give the avalanche of negative comment on the net and in the traditional press. Do potential customers not bother to check out a company before placing an order or do they enjoy the thrill of Russian roulette even though the odds are stacked against them receiving their wine? It is equally staggering that Bordeaux UK Ltd  managed to solicit over £23 million for wine investments from customers who probably knew little about the company with whom they were dealing.

It remains to be seen whether the 1855 scam be repeated but it is sure that there are already similar cases to Bordeaux UK Ltd and doubtless will be more in the future. Last week wine investment company The London Vines Ltd went into liquidation. From the many messages I have received it seems clear that a substantial number of investors have not received their wines.


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‘Groupe 1855 rebaptisé’ = 12 new very tough labours for Héraclès!


Charles Ponzi – an inspirational figure for 1855


Fabien Hyon, managing director of Groupe 1855. A physical resemblance to Charles Ponzi?

Internet ‘wine’ company 1855 is planning to change its name on 19th September at a meeting of shareholders. The 1855 moniker will be discarded and the group will henceforth be called Héraclès.

Clearly the reputation 1855 and all the companies within the 1855 group have become so poisonous and lethal that a name change is necessary. As Emeric Sauty de Chalon says it is ‘une nécessité’ an ‘une opportunité de dissocier’ from ‘leurs tensions opérationnelles’:

Press release from Group 1855:

Groupe 1855 rebaptisé "Héraclès"

3 Septembre 2013 – Groupe 1855 rebaptisé "Héraclès" – COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE
Groupe 1855 annonce aujourd’hui sa volonté de se rebaptiser en "Héraclès". "Ce changement de nom est à la fois une nécessité et une opportunité" déclare Emeric Sauty de Chalon, Président.

"Une nécessité, car le groupe possède aujourd’hui quatre marques distinctes – 1855, ChateauOnline, Cave Privée et les Caves de la Transat -, chacune avec ses racines, ses perspectives et son autonomie de fonctionnement, et il n’y avait pas de justification à ce que l’une des marques soit plus mise en avant que les autres au niveau de la dénomination du groupe".

"Ce changement est également une opportunité de dissocier la vie des marques – leurs produits, leurs clients, leurs tensions opérationnelles ponctuelles et leurs initiatives de développement – de la communication stratégique, financière et juridique d’un groupe coté en Bourse".

"Nous avons choisi comme nom "Héraclès", car ce héros grec a vécu un grand nombre d’aventures, de difficultés et d’exploits, et que ses voyages aux allures d’épopée raisonnent parfaitement avec celle que nous vivons dans l’univers du vin depuis la création de notre groupe en septembre 1995".

Pour acter ce changement de nom, le conseil d’administration a convoqué une assemblée générale qui se tiendra le 19 septembre 2013, à Paris.’

Assuming that the name change goes through poor Héraclès will be faced with 12 new labours – 12 new challenges in relation to ex-1855.con that will be far more difficult and testing than the original 12 he performed back in classical times:

Hercules’ classic labours:

First Labour: Nemean lion

Second Labour: Lernaean hydra

 Third Labour: Ceryneian Hind

 Fourth Labour: Erymanthian Boar

 Fifth Labour: Augean stables

 Sixth Labour: Stymphalian Birds

 Seventh Labour: Cretan Bull

 Eighth Labour: Mares of Diomedes

 Ninth Labour: Belt of Hippolyta

 Tenth Labour: Cattle of Geryon

 Eleventh Labour: Apples of the Hesperides

 Twelfth Labour: Cerberus



Héraclès armed with a big stick for dealing with fraudsters

Here are the 12 new labours of Héraclès in ascending order of difficulty:

1) Ensuring that the renamed company functioning as a legitimate business.

2) Sorting out the logistical and delivery problems – ensuring that customers receive their wine on time.

3) Making sure that the newly baptised company answers the phone.

4) Making sure that the newly baptised company answers customers’ emails.

5) Buying all the wines ordered en primeur by its customers, which were never purchased by 1855.

6) Paying the many fines and legal costs arising from a host of court cases involving 1855 and its associated companies.

7) Insisting that customers of the renamed company are told the truth and not the customary pack of lies.

8) Persuading quality French producers, who haven’t wanted to be associated with the 1855 scam, to now supply the rebaptised Héraclés group.

9) Forcing Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon to issue a sincere apology for the distress and inconvenience they have knowingly caused through their fraudulent management of the 1855 Group.

10) Rebuilding the reputation of Group 1855 while detoxing and laundering the reputation of the group’s senior management notably Emeric Sauty de Chalon, founder and president, and Fabien Hyon, managing director of the 1855 group.

Task 10 resembles the cleansing of the Augean stables but, of course, clearing up the shit (merde) created by Sauty de Chalon and Hyon will make the Augean Stables task like a vicar’s tea party.

11. Persuading the French government and regulatory bodies that enough is enough and this fraudulent enterprise should be closed down for failing to supply over many years some of its clients with the wines they ordered.

12. Persuading the Repression des Fraudes to prosecute Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon.

11 and 12 is easily the most difficult task but if Héraclés succeeds there will be many delighted clients around Europe as well as relieved producers in Bordeaux and other parts of France.

I understand that the Society for the Preservation of the good name of Hercules is most unhappy at this turn of events. Having no wish for Hercules to be in anyway associated with this bunch of shysters, they have contacted the CIVC (Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne for advice on how to protect Hercules’s reputation. The CIVC jealously guards Champagne’s reputation and has long experience of taking action to protect its good name. Indeed it is now considering taking Apple to court for daring to launch an iPhone with the colour – Champagne, apparently a recognized colour since 1915.


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What has the 1855 group got that Olivier Cousin hasn’t?


Olivier Cousin in London May 2011

On October 2nd Anjou vigneron, Olivier Cousin, will be before a court in Angers facing a case of fraud and bringing the appellation contrôlée system into disrepute. His crime? Putting ‘Anjou Pur Breton’ on a label for a vin de table. See here and here. Apparently Cousin could face a maximum fine of 37,500 euros and two years in prison.


The offending label.

Contrast the threat to Cousin with the apparent carte blanche given to 1855 and their associated companies ChateauOnline and Cave Privée to fleece a number of their customers, especially those who order Bordeaux en primeur as well ignoring many court judgments against them.

Here is just the latest account from one of the hundreds of clients ripped off by the companies run by Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon.

La Lettre de mon Jardin n°96 – juil 13

Bruno G. , un client Parisien nous communique:
"Pour info: je viens d’obtenir un jugement en ma faveur contre Chateau on Line qui ne m’avait pas livré mes Primeurs 2009.

Je les ai assignés directement à la juridiction de proximité du 9éme Arrdt de Paris ( leur SS), et le jour ou nous sommes passés il y avait 5 recours contre eux mais ils n’avaient pas daigné se déplacer.

Ils ont été condamnés à ce que j’avais demandé, à savoir le remboursement de la valeur actualisée des vins commandés majorée des intérêts de retard, plus les frais de justice.

J’ai fait délivrer par huissier la signification exécutoire du jugement et une saisie arrêt sur leur compte en banque qui est revenue impayée, faute de provision . Ils n’ont manifesté aucune réaction !

Je viens donc de lancer un commandement de payer par huissier et j’irai, bien entendu jusqu’à la cessation de paiement si nécessaire, d’autant plus qu’ils continuent à faire de la pub pour la campagne des Primeurs 2012. C’est une véritable « escroquerie en bande organisée », pour reprendre une expression à la mode. ?

Je viens également de les relancer, pour la livraison des Primeurs 2010 que j’avais également commandés, mais en vain. Je les assignerai de nouveau après les vacances judiciaires

Par contre je suis surpris que la Direction de la Concurrence et des Prix n’ait pas été saisie par les négociants de la place bordelaise !".

Si vous êtes dans son cas, il peut être intéressant de vous mettre en rapport avec cette personne victime d’agissements frauduleux…Donnez nous toute information, nous transmettrons.

Rappelons que "Chateau on line" appartient à la Sté 1855, elle aussi poursuivie par de nombreux clients non livrés, et qui a délocalisé cette année ses offres de Primeurs 2012 sur cette filiale…. Jolie ruse!

Pourquoi cette différence de traitement dans un État de droit?



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Et si on classait le classement de 1855?

Après les Villages de Champagne et les Climats de Bourgogne, c’est maintenant le classement de 1855 qui se met sur les rangs… du classement de l’Unesco. Le Président du Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855, Philippe Castéja, a annoncé à Vinexpo que son association allait faire acte de candidature.

Voila pour l’info.

Maintenant, mon petit commentaire. A quoi ça sert?

Qu’est ce que l’Humanité, de Beyrouth à Calcutta en passant par Zanzibar, peut bien avoir à foutre de vins réservés à une élite fortunée – et pas forcément meilleurs pour autant?

A moins, bien sûr, qu’il ne s’agisse de bétonner un peu plus ce tableau d’honneur d’un autre âge – réalisé, en s’en rappelle, sur base des cours des vins de l’époque.

Au fait, un "classement classé" à l’Unesco serait-il révisable?

D’ailleurs, a-t-on déjà vu des sites ou même du "patrimoine immatériel" être déclassés? Ou bien la distinction est-elle valable ad vitam aeternam?

Quelles contraintes les classés se voient-ils imposer, au juste, pour la préservation de ce patrimoine?  Dans le cas du classement de 1855, je me demande bien ce qu’on pourrait-on préserver? Un numéro du Journal Officiel? Une plaque en marbre?

Enfin, pour continuer dans ce mauvais esprit, je constate que la "protection" de l’UNESCO n’est pas toujours très efficace – voyez un peu comment les prescriptions urbanistiques de la "Zone protégée" sont appliquées à Saint Emilion, par exemple…


Un vrai chien de dégustateur

J’ai bien envie de proposer ce blog au classement. Juste pour rire.

Ou alors, la bande de Gaza. Au titre du patrimoine de la connerie humaine et de la misère institutionnalisée.

Ou alors, mon chien. Un vrai chien de dégustateur. Vous savez qu’il sait reconnaître une bouteillle de Léoville Las Cases bouchonnée entre mille flacons de vins surcotés?

Hervé (who else?)


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