Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin


4 Commentaires

1855.com – renewed investigation as new judge appointed + need for wider inquiry

 

A rather late news flash:
Unfortunately I missed this most recent development in the long-running 1855.com saga and am indebted to my Les 5 du Vin colleague, Hervé Lalau, for bringing this report by Jérôme Baudouin in the Revue du Vin de France back in early July 2017 to my attention.

On 6th June 2017 the President of the Chambre d’Instruction de la Cour d’Appel de Paris decided to fire the judge, who had been in charge of the enquiry, and to appoint a new one. The President was not impressed that after nearly two years the investigation appeared to be getting nowhere. Hopefully this second judge will be more effective and that there is a proper and thorough investigation into the scandal of 1855.com and its two principals – Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon. 

When 1855 was forced into liquidation it had debts of over 40 million euros and millions of bottles, many of them Grand Cru Bordeaux, that were never delivered to their clients.

There has long been a strong suspicion that Hyon and Sauty de Chalon have had protection in high places. It looks as though this may have continued. 

 First two paragraphs of the RVF Report:

Affaire 1855.com : le juge dessaisi,
l’enquête redémarre

Tournant décisif dans l’affaire 1855.com, le président de la Chambre d’Instruction de la Cour d’Appel de Paris a décidé de dessaisir de son enquête le juge enquêtant sur le site frauduleux depuis 2015 pour la confier à une nouvelle juge qui va reprendre l’enquête.

Alors que depuis deux ans, l’enquête semblait s’enliser dans les méandres de l’inertie judiciaire (voir La RVF n°613 de juin 2017), l’affaire a pris un tournant surprenant et décisif, le 6 juin dernier, lors d’une audience intense de la Chambre d’Instruction de la Cour d’Appel de Paris.

 

A more general enquiry needed

Arnaque

How come the 1855.com scandal was able continue for so long? It was known for years that the company was in trouble – failing to deliver its clients’ wines and building up debts. These problems dated back at least to 2006/7 when 1855 was caught out by the rapid increase in price of the 2005 Bordeaux vintage as many of their sales were en primeur and their ‘business model’ involved taking clients’ money during the en primeur campaign but only buying the wines when they were actually in bottle.

Furthermore with debts of over 40 million euros where did the 1855 clients’ money go? Into whose pockets?

Numerous complaints were made to La Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) with no apparent action taken.  In early August 2012 France 2 broadcast a programme about 1855 with the clear headline ‘Arnaque’ – fraud. Clearly they felt there was no risk of the company successfully suing them for libel.

Why was 1855.com allowed to continue until January 2015 to build up debts of over 40 million euros and with huge numbers of wine orders never delivered? There should be an inquiry into why this this allowed to happen. Did the two principals – Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon – have friends high up in the French state who provided protection? Why has the enquiry into the company made so little progress over the past two years that a new judge has had to be appointed?

Jim Budd

 


1 commentaire

La bise à Bize

Que faire en ce premier dimanche de Septembre ?

Si vous habitez le Sud ou si vous ne faites que le traverser, j’ai une halte rêvée pour vous. En gros, c’est entre Béziers et Carcassonne, à l’écart des autoroutes sans être perdu pour autant. Je vous propose de venir me faire la bise à Bize-Minervois, haut-lieu du vignoble languedocien pour deux saisons seulement, puisqu’on entre dans une sorte de Saint-Vincent tournante où, pour un cycle de deux ans, un village élu du Minervois est désigné pour accueillir les Tastes. Les Tastes en Minervois, puisque c’est le nom de la manifestation, est une sorte de festival autour du vin et de la gastronomie qui en est à sa 3 ème édition avec le ferme espoir de frôler le chiffre de presque dix mille visiteurs échelonnés en deux temps : le samedi soir pour festoyer et le dimanche, ce dimanche, pour prendre son plaisir en famille ou entre amis.

Attention, si vous me faîtes l’affront de me demander où se trouve le Minervois, je vous casse la gueule ! Ben oui, quoi. Vous êtes sur un site légendaire qui cause du vin et vous ne savez toujours pas que le Minervois et ses coteaux juste aux pieds de la Montagne Noire se trouvent dans le fameux triangle vineux qui va de Narbonne à Carcassonne avant le rejoindre Béziers, l’ex capitale pinardière devenue au fil des décennies pourvoyeuse de grands vins blancs, rosés et rouges ? Enfin, que ce triangle est traversé par le fameux Canal du Midi ?

Maintenant, pourquoi à votre avis je vous presse tant de vous rendre à Bize-Minervois ce dimanche, surtout, mais aussi ce samedi si vous le pouvez ? Pour plusieurs raisons, outre le fait que je serai de la partie, facilement reconnaissable par mon chapeau de paille plutôt authentique et élégant si on le compare aux imitations de panama et autre borsalino qui pullulent ces temps-ci. Plus sérieusement, je vous invite à venir découvrir un village qui sera non seulement investi dans la  promotion de ses productions locales (coopérative oléicole bien connue pour ses olives lucques, fromages de chèvre), mais aussi un village entièrement impliqué dans cette troisième édition.

Voulez-vous une liste de ce que vous y trouverez ou de ce que vous pourrez y faire ? Commencer par déguster, cela s’impose : une centaine de vignerons de l’appellation proposeront sur ces deux journées, dont une soirée, des vins sélectionnés en fonction des accords proposés par quatre chefs émérites de la région installés sur la placette, l’esplanade ou les ruelles de cette coquette bourgadee où 25 vignerons se relaieront à tour de rôle pour proposer la dégustation gratuite d’un de leurs vins estampillé Minervois. Et quoi d’autres, me direz-vous ? Un barista, spécialement venu de Toulouse, notre désormais capitale, sera là pour nous offrir ses cafés.

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le Domaine Luc Lapeyre sera bien représenté !

Bon, m’objecterez-vous, tout cela tournera autour du bio, inévitable de nos jours, du street food, du burger, de la world food et de toutes ces cochonneries dont on vous rebat les oreilles depuis des années afin de vous fourrer dans le crâne qu’il ne faut surtout pas devenir un has been. Vous n’aurez pas tort, et alors ? Quand je vous citerais quelques mini-plats proposés, maquereau à la flamme, farce fine de volaille sauce poulette, accra de crevettes, collier d’agneau confit, mozzarelle des Corbières (voisine d’en face), café au lait frappé en granité, baba au marc de muscat pour ne citer que ceux-là, je pense que vous viendrez volontiers me rejoindre. Sachant que cela ne vous coûtera que 15 € pour un un plateau équipé d’un vrai verre de dégustation et de quatre jetons pour cheminer dans un univers gourmand parsemé de vignerons qui vous attendent la bouteille à la main. Il y a également un espace pitchouns avec jeux et ateliers divers encadré par des professionnels diplômés, un repas aussi qui leur est préparé par le café du village, des promenades guidées et commentées dans les environs immédiats, des espaces soft drinks gratuits, des conférences… Un grand parking vous attend, ainsi que des dizaines d’agents de sécurité. Un site d’information sur le site du Minervois est consultable ici même.

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Profitez-en pour visiter non loin de là la belle cathédrale Saint-Nazaire de Béziers.

La raison pour laquelle je m’autorise à mettre en avant cette manifestation, c’est parce qu’elle est l’exemple de ce que devrait faire une appellation pour ne pas sombrer dans l’oubli. Avec ses nombreux bénévoles, sons sens festif et son organisation, elle fédère l’appellation tout en offrant au vigneron la possibilité de se faire connaître et de vendre son vin. C’est une bonne chose.

A demain donc, ou sinon à l’année prochaine, toujours à Bize !

Michel Smith

 

 

 

 


15 Commentaires

1855/Héraclès is finally bust but many, many questions remain to be answered!

Emeric Sauty de Chalon

Emeric Sauty de Chalon, founder and PPG of Héraclès

Fabien Hyon, managing director

Fabien Hyon, managing director

Last Friday’s final collapse into liquidation of Héraclès/1855 is good news as Hélène Poulou, the tenacious Bordeaux lawyer who has pursued this scam for a number of years, says.

Whether her nearly 400 clients will get much of the around €5 million, excluding damages, they are owed is another question. Poulou’s clients paid around €1.2 million for wine they never received. The figure of €5 million is based on the current value of the wine ordered as well as the various fines that were imposed on the Héraclès group due to their failure to deliver.
How much, if any, of the more than €40 million claimed by over 11,000 clients of this long-running scam will they ever see?
Two of a host of questions that the long-running scandal of 1855/Héraclès raises.  

Here are a few more:

1855’s failure to deliver wines, especially en primeur Bordeaux, date back at least to the 2002 vintage. Although the serious problems started following the 2005 vintage, when the prices shot up and Hyon and Chalon’s decision to sell short blew up in their faces – or strictly speaking in the faces of their unfortunate clients. Yet despite an ever increasing volume of complaints, legal action and coverage in the media – print, TV and on-line, Hyon and Chalon were permitted to continue to fleece their clients to the end of 2014. 

Why wasn’t this scam closed down much earlier?
Why no action from the Répression des Fraudes despite receiving complaints dating back years? 11,000 clients fleeced to the tune of over €40 million would seem to be reasonably significant…..
Héraclès/1855 went into administration in October 2013. Although it was clear that Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon were a pair of deliquents and not fit to run any business, the Tribunal de Commerce de Paris allowed them to continue to involved in running the company.

Did Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon enjoy hidden high-level protection from within the French establishment? Did having Jean-Pierre Meyers as a long time shareholder perhaps provide them with a shield?

Did this protection extend into the Tribunal de Commerce de Paris who inexplicably waved through the innumerate and clearly inadequate business recovery plan. The mysterious PLF1 group based in Luxembourg offered only a total of €2.5 million yet the claimed debts totalled over €40 million. The €2.5 million was to be paid in two tranches – €1 million and then a further €1.5 million once the recovery plan had been accepted. Many clients who had ordered Bordeaux Cru Classés were to be palmed off with bottles of 2012 Bordeaux Supérieur, while the larger creditors were to be repaid over 8 years with the repayments weighted towards the end of the repayment period. 
In September 2014 the Tribunal accepted the assurances of an apparent ‘representative’ of PLF1 that the promised funds would be forthcoming. Yet in early December 2014 PLF1 informed the Tribunal that the person who gave the court the assurances back in September did not work or speak for PLF1!
Little is known of the shadowy PLF1. Was this a desperate late ditch ruse by Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon? Or was it, perhaps, a life boat constructed by one or more of Chalon and Hyon’s well connected former shareholders?  
What of this comment on an article by La Revue du Vin Vin de France (25.10.13) detailing links with the Héraclès group?
‘Anonyme, le 17 novembre 2013 à 19:55
Cette affaire est pour le moins scandaleuse, après la mise en RJ de ses 2 filiales une société PLF1 s’est manifestée par le biais d’une assignation en justice (audience au TGI de bordeaux le 19 novembre à 9h) afin de prendre la main sur les stocks bloquées dans un entrepôt dans la banlieue de bordeaux alors que plusieurs centaines de clients n’ont jamais reçu les vins commandés et payés et de nombreux fournisseurs n’ont pas été règles de leurs créances. Quelques explications pour y voir plus claire: Domiciliée au Luxembourg PLF1 est une société d’investissement liée aux 6 sociétés du groupe 1855, Aphrodite elle même holding de tête en france, actionnaire majoritaire de sociétés héracles (anciennement 1855), Arès (Ex château online) Athena (centrale d’achat) Cave privée et les chais de la transat. L’ensemble des ces sociétés sont contrôlées par ses 2 dirigeants français. Intéressant également, une société elle-même basée à Londres Boost & Co intervient dans cette affaire, réclamant la propriété des stocks à travers un prétendu titre de gage sur les vins encore disponible. L’un de ses représentants s’était présenté en juillet dernier lors d’une vente aux enchères organisée à Bordeaux à la suite d’une importante saisie des stocks de 1855 pour, en vain tenter d’interrompre la vente.’
 
But if there were direct links between PLF1 and Héraclès why did PLF1 pull the plug on Héraclès at the beginning of December 2014?
What of the role of Boost & Co (http://www.boostandco.com) with offices in Paris and London?
BOOST & Co Paris office, 14 bis rue Daru, 75008 Paris +33 6 19 39 24 23; BOOST & Co London office – The Mews, 1A Birkenhead Street, London WC1H 8BA + 44 207 923 6231. A Google search shows that there are a number of companies based at 1A Birkenhead Street.
Despite all this why did the Tribunal de Commerce de Paris become complicit in this long-running scam when they gave Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon the green light to go on their merry ways and continue to fleece their unfortunate clients? 

Is the Tribunal de Commerce de Paris always this incompetent or was this a one off? There are suggestions that Emeric Sauty de Chalon is a freemason. Were there perhaps fellow masons on the Tribunal who didn’t want mon cher Emeric go to the wall?

Will French justice now at long last catch up with the two delinquents – Hyon and Sauty de Chalon? Will there now be a serious investigation into what happened to all the money paid to Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon’s companies for wine that was never bought or delivered? Did Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon simply just trouser large dollops of cash or was it spent on glamorous parties and launches?

A suivre! 

JIM BUDD

 

 

 

 


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Hopes & Expectations for 2013

What will 2013 bring?  Here are a few things that I would like to see happen during this year along with the odd stab at trying to guess what will happen.

Firstly I hope that 2013 will be kinder to wine producers in the northern half of France. Generally vignerons in Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire had a very tough time in 2012, although quality in some places is good, volume is generally well down. It will be very interesting to be able to start tasting some of the 2012 Loires now that many of them will have finished their alcoholic fermentation.

Vinexpo will be declared a huge success, although there will some complaints from non-European exhibitors that they were dealt a raw deal. Attendance at Prowein will continue to grow but this will be dismissed by the Vinexpo organisers as not a threat to the ‘most important wine and spirit fair in the world’.

It would be good to see the end of 1855 along with its associated companies Cave Privée and ChâteauOnline. However, I suspect that the apparently tortuous process of French justice will allow Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon to keep their‘arnaque’ afloat for another year despite Jean-Pierre Meyers bailing out.

I trust you all have Pancho Campo’s forthcoming marketing seminars in your diaries. Despite many setbacks – an unsuccessful tennis school with links to Nick Bollettieri, to forced to flee from Dubai, the short-lived CIE Marbella, and most recently the much-vaunted Future Economy Barcelona 2012 cancelled at the last minute, Campo is a feisty entrepreneur. On the plus-side he persuaded Robert Parker to speak in Rioja and Hong Kong for a substantial cheque. I’m sure his Marketing, Sales and Event Management for the Wine Industry courses in Madrid (8th and 9th February – 290.00 EUR) and Marbella (22nd-24th February – 675€) will be full of invaluable insights, especially if Campo can persuade his defrauded ex-partner Jackie Wartanian to do a session on organizing events.

  

2012: a vigne large in the Baumards’ section of the Quarts de Chaume

Some 13 bunches – a viticultural triumph in a year of very low yields

The yield under the new décret is set at 2.5 kilos per vine for les vignes larges

It would be excellent news if France’s Supreme Court threw out the Baumards’ challenge to the Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru. It would be equally good if the Baumards just withdrew their challenge. I would have more sympathy for the Baumards if firstly the other members of the Quarts de Chaume Syndicat had been unreasonable. Instead they tried hard to find a compromise giving the Baumards plenty of time to phase out cryoextraction or cryosélection as they prefer to call it. Secondly the Baumards have an obvious preference for a generous yield in their Quarts de Chaume vineyards as photos from both 2011 and 2012 indicate. In the summer 2011 they were ordered by the INAO to cut off some of their grapes because of excessive yields.

I have asked Florent Baumard for details of their Quarts de Chaume yields over the past ten years, which I believe are customarily close to the maximum permitted under the décret. This used to be 25 hl/ha and now under the new décret is 20 hl/ha. I have yet to receive these details but Florent is not alone here as I have also asked some other Quarts producers for the same data and am still waiting. To have a complete set of yields for all the producers in the Quarts de Chaume would be fascinating.

The valuation of the Elite Advisers Nobles Crus wine investment fund will probably continue to be questioned. It would seem unlikely that the recent Ernst & Young report into their valuation methods will still the doubts, especially as its findings are confidential.

Let’s hope that Natalie MacLean honors her promise to give proper attribution and that she gets permission to use writers’ tasting notes before putting them on her blog.

Lastly I’m supremely confident that Bordeaux will enjoy in 2013 another finest vintage of the third millennium.

Jim Budd


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Some memorable stories from 2011

Since this is my last post of 2011, it is time to glance back at some stories or themes that have held our attention this year.

Natural-Wine-Fairs

Natural wine

Natural wine is surely the only serious contender for the theme of year even though there is yet to be an agreed definition of the term. In the UK, May saw the three-day Natural Wine Fair held in London’s Borough Market. In capital there are now a number of wine bars whose focus is on natural wines.  Two books have explored the meaning of natural wine: Alice Feiring’s Naked Wine: Letting grapes do what comes naturally and Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop MW’s Authentic Wine.

If you define natural or authentic wine, as Goode and Harrop prefer, as reflecting place, site or its terroir it’s difficult to see how a wine lover could object, especially when contrasted with the type of brands designed specifically for supermarket discounting. Rather it is the level of non-intervention that can pose the problem. There is no point in hailing a wine as natural when it is so faulty that all authenticity of place has been obliterated. Apparently there was a popular French joke in the early part of the 19th century which ‘suggested that it took three to drink a bottle: one to hold the person, a second to pour it down his throat, and finally the victim himself.’ (James Simpson: Creating Wine – the emergence of a World Industry, 1840-1914).  A return to these days would hardly be progress!

I look forward to a more nuanced debate in 2012.

Loire: the remarkably mild spring and early flowering
Following a prolonged and very warm spring, some vines in the Loire started flowering in early May – remarkably early. On 9th May I was in Bourgueil and there were certainly signs of flowering – amazingly three weeks in advance even of an early year. Much talk of 2011 being the earliest harvest since 1893. In the end a wet and cool July delayed the harvest but even so a number of Loire producers completed two harvests within twelve months.

1855 – 1855.com

It will be amazing to discover that 1855 has delivered all the 2008 Bordeaux en primeur its customers ordered. It is equally remarkably that 1855 has been allowed to continue to ‘trade’ despite years of failing to deliver Bordeaux en primeurs ordered and paid for by their frustrated customers.

Unfortunately I expect this will continue into 2012 with further technical delays and promises of deliveries that aren’t kept. It would seem very likely that Jean-Pierre Meyers will continue to supply sufficient capital to keep the company afloat. Equally probably that Le FEVAD will admit them as full members. One new element may be the discovery that there are delays in the payments due to suppliers of châteauonline.

Pancho Campo MW – Campogate

Just before Christmas Campo surprised some people by revealing on Facebook that he was testing a new McLaren prototype as part of a new project. Surprised that the organiser of several Climate Conferences should flaunt such an ‘ungreen’ thing as this series of tweets from Robert Joseph indicates:

PCMcLarenRJ

Robert is only the latest of many who have taken Campo at his word only to realise that they have been taken in. All too often they forget that Campo is a promoter – a showman, whose commitment to the issues surrounding climate change was only as deep as was needed to sell the conference concept.

It may well be that Campo has recognised that his career in wine is now either over or, if it continues, will be far less lucrative and so is looking to move on again. I can’t imagine that Campo thought for a moment what Al Gore’s reaction  might be, even though it is believed that Gore gave Campo the names of a couple of American lawyers who might be able help him out over the Interpol wanted notice.

The only long-term conviction Campo holds is the one handed down in absentia in Dubai in early June 2003.

Jim