While reading Peter M. F. Sichel‘s book, The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy, I learned a lot about a lot… His Chapter 29, Becoming a Bordeaux Vintner was very important to me. I’ve been inspired by Millesima, a négociant company based in Bordeaux since 1983, to learn more about Bordeaux wines. Author Peter Sichel rejoined his family’s company in the 1960s, and returned to Bordeaux. It’s from his observations that I’ve been enriched with more knowledge about Bordeaux… little nuggets that I’ve yet to learn, now through Peter’s memoirs.

[IMAGE borrowed from the Website of Château Fourcas Hosten, which was once in Peter and his partners’ possession. Today, it’s owned by brothers Peter and Laurent Mommeja, partners in Hermès, who fell in love with the property.]

From Chapter 26, I want to quote Peter: “I started to spend more time in Bordeaux, to get a feel for the wines and the culture of Bordeaux. Knowing the wines was not the same thing as getting to know a complex society.” The wine industry is a very complex society… That is for certain. learning about wine is not enough to fit in comfortably.

Here Are the Top 10 Things I Learned from Peter Sichel Regarding Bordeaux

  1. Some new French terms
    • The trading of négociant companies for wines is simply called a négoce.
    • A trading house that ages and finished wine is called a négociant élevéur.
    • Grand Crus translated = Great growths (If you don’t pay attention to Bordeaux wines, as simple as this sounds, it’s just never having translated beyond the self explanatory “Grand.”
  2. In 1855 the classification of Grand Crus was established.
  3. Chateaux of Grand Crus offer limited quantities of their wine to a limited number of négociant companies.
  4. Négociant companies either manage the wine of resell “futures.”
  5. The region of Bordeaux has about the same acreage as Germany.
  6. Not only does Bordeaux have sweet wines called Sauternes, but it also has Barsac and Bommes sweet wines.
    • Barsac is one of the communes of the Sauternes appellation, along with Bommes.
  7. French Wine Society Commanderie de Bordeaux: From their Website:
    • The Commanderie de Bordeaux aux États-Unis d’Amérique was organized in 1957 by a small group of lovers of Bordeaux wines and became a New York corporation in 1959.
    • Since, it has grown to include 30 chapters and some 1100 members located in different cities around the United States.
    • It is also affiliated with a worldwide network of 75 Commanderies in 26 countries under the overall patronage of the Bordeaux-based Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux (GCVB).
  8. France has had its wine rogues, just as the US has.
    • US: Tangled Vines, Greed, Murder, Obsession, Arson, by Frances Dinkelspiel. Brilliantly written, Frances stuck with the story for two years and chronicled not only Mark Anderson’s dealings in wine, but also his dark side.
    • BORDEAUX: Chapter 29, Becoming a Bordeaux Vintner, Peter elaborates on another con man named Arnuad de Trabuc. Trabuc established a small importing company in New York, and was handing his uncle’s wines. He, too, was a popular figure and had a very charming wife. They lived as fixtures in the New York City social scene. “Things went smoothly for a number of years,” but in due time, things really fell apart, much like what happened with Mark Anderson’s story. Although this one didn’t end in fire, people still got very burned. (Good story; read Peter’s book The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy for full details.)
  9. Important Bordeaux enologiest
    • Emile Peynaud was his group’s enologist, before he retired. When he retired, he gave his job to Jacques Boissenot.
    • Jacques Boissenot ~ according to Jancis Robinson’s story of his talent:
    • Jacques Boissenot’s son Eric Boissenot is also very credible in Bordeaux.
  10. The year 1959 is a great vintage year for Bordeaux, as well as most of Europe’s other wine districts, due to great, warm weather.