Introduce Yourself

Snooth User: Goebone

1947 Chateau Lafleur

Posted by Goebone, May 1, 2012.

I suppose yet again another post by someone who has stumbled upon a bottle of fine wine that surpasses their abilities to appreciate and wishes to know how best to dispose of it....

 

Years ago my father was gifted the above named wine when he retired from ABC TV in Chicago. How he stored this bottle I do not know. 

Years ago he gave it to me and I have cellared it but I do not know if it is still good. The cork is bulging a bit, the wine level is down a few centimeters below the neck. Otherwise, nothing seems afoul.

i would prefer to sell it and give him whatever it would bring. If anything?

 

Please advise...

Replies

41
2971
Reply by outthere, May 2, 2012.

That's quite the bottle you have there especially if it is still in good condition. Single bottles generally are sold through places like Wine Bid or Benchmark Wine but provenance or lack of history of such may prove difficult with any auction house.

Benchmark Wine Group

WineBid.com

 

Any pictures?

20
6581
Reply by dmcker, May 2, 2012.

Are we talking just 'Lafleur' or ____Lafleur, or Lafleur____ (e.g. Lafleur Petrus)? Please do post a photo. I'm not dissing plain-vanilla Lafleur, just clarifying. Far from it, actually , for its 1947 occupies nearly as hallowed a place in Bordeaux mythology for that vintage as Cheval Blanc, which garnered a ridiculous price of $300k approx. 18 months ago for an Imperial at a Christie's auction in Geneva. Not an 'ordinary' bottle, that one--not only is that eight ordinary bottles worth of volume (also ensuring slower aging and greater healthy longevity) but production of that size is extremely rare, adding further value. Still, no matter how you look at it, a huge payout from some private individual. We're talking about the cost of a very nice house in most parts of the world for that one rather large bottle.

The 1947 vintage was a great one in Bordeaux. I've personally had a few bottles from the left side of the river running through Bordeaux, but by all accounts the right side where Lafleur is located also had a most superb year. The issue now is the provenance of that bottle, and thus its condition.

The level sounds not unreasonable, but the bulging cork sounds worrisome. Any seepage from under the capsule? Again, (refrain) 'post a photo', please.

Any further info (in as much detail as possible) about its storage will be useful, as will any additional backstory you can dig up about the how the bottle came into your dad's hands--this kind of touch always adds an additonal something when passing it on to a new owner. Plus, when we're talking about potential four to five figure numbers (veeery maybe; more likely low to middle four, depending on the condition--and don't forget middlemen will be taking cuts from whatever total, too), people start getting very careful.

Will look forward to hearing more from you!

 

0
6
Reply by Goebone, May 2, 2012.

Thanks for the speedy response. Sorry for the sideways pictures...on my way to work and was running behind.

0
6
Reply by Goebone, May 2, 2012.

And the cork.

0
6
Reply by Goebone, May 2, 2012.

Ok, now here is the cork. Thanks for your valued expert suggestions.

20
6581
Reply by dmcker, May 2, 2012.

The photos help a lot. Thanks.

The bottle appears to have suffered imperfect storage all these decades. The label is soiled, with numerous nicks and tears (even if nowhere near as bad as many I've seen). The foil capsule covering the cork is also torn. The cork appears to extrude more than would be desirable. And the level of the wine looks to be down near the very bottom of the shoulder. None of these help the value of the bottle, and they all raise further questions about the likely condition of its contents.

It is a very good chateau from an excellent vintage that is fast disapearing into the mythic mists of wine history. Too bad the bottle's not in better condition, but you should be able to get some chunk of change for it. The question is how, through whom. Start with outthere's reccs, and you might also contact BPWine, who are nearby competitors of Benchmark's in Napa.

Where are you located? If you're (still?) in Chicago you might also contact HartDavisHart for advice on how to move the bottle....

 

A few footnotes, from an article on Lafleur by Jancis Robinson, which bears reading not least because of the interesting story of the owners and their care for the vines. The winemaking appears to have been historically under the guidance of the Moueix family, negociants/growers/winemakers extraordinaire of Pomerol, Napa and elsewhere fame.

  • Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners, Britain’s biggest fine wine trader: “The greatest wine I ever had was a magnum of Lafleur 1947 from John Avery’s private cellar, even though it was served alongside the famous Cheval Blanc 1947.”
  • Because only about 1,000 cases of Ch Lafleur are made each year, it is too rare and expensive for many wine lovers to have even tasted it, and although there is no shortage of demand, the story of the property itself is shrouded in obscurity.
  • I have been lucky enough to taste most of the Guinaudeau vintages, some of the wines made in the late 1970s and the early 1980s - and all too few of the legendary wines of the mid 20th century. The wines are indeed hugely concentrated and exotic but to my palate entirely in their own fashion, not in the current exaggerated and too often manipulated mode. This is terroir transmitted into bottle, the luscious opulence of the nose followed in general by a much stiffer – some say Médocain – structure on the palate. Lafleur has more complex flavours and demands much longer ageing than many Pomerols, perhaps partly because of its unusually high proportion of aromatic Cabernet Franc vines (50 per cent on the ground, typically 40 per cent in the finished wine) with the more usual luscious Merlot.

 

 

20
2876
Reply by Richard Foxall, May 2, 2012.

Take off the foil very carefully by pulling up in your fist (there's a video of GdP doing this in the "decanting" rant) and remove the cork very carefully with a cork puller, not a corkscrew.  Pour the wine into a glass or carafe with the label up or wrapped in a towel so you don't have stains on the labels from wine dripping down from the neck.  Try a bit of the wine.  If it's good, drink the rest.  If not, pour it down the sink. 

Then find a counterfeiter who will pay you more for the cork, foil and bottle that appears to have a worn label but not to have leaked or (telltale sign!) been consumed and replaced  than you can get for the full bottle in this condition, given the fairly decent odds that the wine has been compromised by oxidation,  evaporation and heat.  (Usual cause of a cork being pushed up like that is air pressure in the bottle from heat or possibly secondary fermentation.  Neither bodes well for the wine.)

Not actually endorsing counterfeiting.  Really.  But that is how it was done in many instances.  And this is a prime specimen.  The counterfeiter can invent the provenance or even include it in a lot with something of known provenance, or swap out a real 1947 in a vertical or lot to juice some profits.  What are the odds a collector/investor will drink this? Especially in a grouping. Refill it with Moueix's "generic" Pomerol and he's off to market.

This is a sad but spot on example of why giving classic wines to someone for an occasion so often backfires.  The recipient wants to save it for ANOTHER occasion because it's special, or it just "needs more time," but they aren't themselves cellaring wine, so they don't have a good place to put it, and, so many years later, this (allegedly) extraordinary wine is just a casualty of time. 

Sorry to be so dour.  But, hey, you'll be able to say you have tasted 1947 Lafleur (esp since you are not going to let your name out there on the sale--better to say something about it coming from the "cellar of a prominent Dr. in New Orleans who collects Bordo" or something) and still pocket some money.

20
6581
Reply by dmcker, May 2, 2012.

So Fox, would you've been giving seminars on how to swap out and sell bogus holy relics in the Middle Ages?   ;-)

20
2876
Reply by Richard Foxall, May 3, 2012.

That's such a hypothetical question, D, I couldn't begin to answer.  ;-)

0
6
Reply by Goebone, May 6, 2012.

Thank you gentlemen for the informative replies-- though I think I'll skip on the counterfeiting.

 I did indeed contact Benchmark wines who, in turn, forwarded me to their sister company Brentwood and received this response from Matthew:

 

Hi Jonathan,

I've looked over the photos and the posts on Snooth regarding your bottle.  The concerns expressed about the condition of the bottle by dmcker I have as well.  He or she however neglected to mention something else very important about this bottle.

The wine you have was not bottled by the Chateau but instead by a negotiant, J. Vandermeulen.  Back in the day negotiants would go to these Bordeaux wineries and purchase a few barrels of the wine produced by the Chateaus.  This would mean that the wine, while still inside the barrel, was transported to the location where the negotiant would do their bottling.  While the wine inside is certainly from Chateau Lafleur, it doesn't bring the same price that this same wine bottled by the Chateau would bring.

This itself wouldn't be enough to deter us from being interested in your bottle, however there are 2 things that we see that have made our decision to pass on offering on this wine.  The first is indeed the low fill level, the position of the cork and condition of the capsule.  The other is actually how the vintage appears on the label, being a completely different text type and color than any other words on the label.  It may in fact be fine as perhaps J. Vandermeulen bought multiple years of Lafleur barrels and had many labels prepared and later stamped or printed with the new vintage each year.  We however don't know this for a certainty and the way this looks combined with all the other factors is too much for us to feel good about purchasing this bottle.

Your best bet is to find a local company that deals in older vintage Bordeaux such as this that can physically examine your bottle in person.

 

Best Regards,

Matthew,

Lead Acquisition Specialist

Brentwood Wine Co.

 

 

I did some research on Jay Vandermeulen and found this link.

 

http://vandermeulen-decanniere.com/

 

This shows the exact type of bottle I have, some with inferior labels and with bulging corks. The printed 1947 is the same. It does appear this wine is special and the authenticity and history confirmed.

i emailed Matthew the link and await his response.

 

Comments?

thanks for your help.

 

Jon

 

 

0
6
Reply by Goebone, May 6, 2012.

I have found a number websites that sell Vandermeulen Lafleurs so I am vexed by his skepticism about the label. 

20
2876
Reply by Richard Foxall, May 6, 2012.

Almost seems like the Vandermeulens would be less subject to counterfeiting and therefore more likely to be original.(I don't want anyone to think I actually condone counterfeiting.  I was being purely facetious.) But the quality issues here are abundant. 

I knew that negociants were a much bigger presence at the top chateaux far back--although the Jefferson bottles that Koch et al wound up with are almost certainly fakes, we do know from his own diaries that Jefferson purchased a good deal of wine from what would become the 1st growths and others through negociants--but when the practice stopped, I don't know.  (Sounds like a topic for GregT.) The vast majority of wineries sold the wine not in bottles but in casks for a long time, and people rinsed and re-used bottles.  Lots of obvious reasons you would do this before automated bottling and all, but then the world markets opened up and chateaux needed to insure that their product was handled correctly--after all, what's the point of topping your barrels if the middleman lets them sit untopped while he sells it?

Loved the pix at the link.  The Vandermeulen carried the best, it appears--I saw a Richebourg in there. Wonder what that would fetch with good provenance.

I can understand a little more concern with the provenance just because it's harder to explain to the incurious customers and creates one extra step in verifying that someone did not drink the Vandermeulen and then refill a long time ago. 

In any case, thanks for introducing us to this bit of history.  Let us know how it goes.

20
2876
Reply by Richard Foxall, May 6, 2012.

Found a site with the Vandermeulen 1947 Ch Margaux for 795 Euros, but better fill and capsule.

20
6581
Reply by dmcker, May 6, 2012.

I am a bit surprised that the acquisition specialist at the Benchmark affilliate wasn't all that familiar with Vandermeulen, including how they stamped their vintages. Wine production and distribution were way different back then, and negociants had a much greater role to play even with the famous Bordeaux chateaux. As you and Fox have found, there are more than a few of the Vandermeulen bottles floating around. I don't see how bottles from them would be easier (maybe even more difficult, as Fox alludes, because of fewer clear photographs or real samples circulating of bottle and label particulars) to counterfeit than those from any chateau itself (and on a separate note, in the Lafleur case there isn't really any 'chateau' there anyway!).  I can only guess that Benchmark, which is doing a large business in cellar purchases in the States, isn't doing that much outside of the States (as in Europe), and those collectors it deals with in the States must only offer up bottles from the past two to three decades. I remember a BPWine offer a couple of years back with plenty of Napa bottles from the '60s and '70s but I haven't even seen those years from Benchmark.

Considering the potential value of the bottle, you should keep plugging away. Contact BP and HDH, too. Even when you run across someone who's interested, you shouldn't immediately stop there. It's always good to have more than one option.

The famous big auction houses out of London with lots of European experience like Christie's and Sotheby's likely can't be fussed about a single bottle. I don't have any personal experience with Zachys, but they'd be the next likely candidate I'd look to if nothing was happening at the places outthere and I originally mentioned.

One reason why is Zachys seem to be making a big push into China these days--at least as aggressively as the older houses, if not more so. Flashy, classic names (the brand rather than the wine content) seem to work well in China at the moment. The depth and sophistication of knowledge and demand on the consumer/collector side there is less than in Europe or North America, though certain segments of the economy from which the collectors come have plenty of discretionary cash to throw around. Even if the wine in your bottle might be questionable, the label and its origin are one of the 20th Century's classics from the right bank of Bordeaux. Plus there's the advantage that Lafleur's not one of the First Growths from the left bank, the popularity of which is waning a bit from oversaturation in China. Collectors who've been there and done it, and waved First Growth bottles from famous years at their guests already, can now move on to a second level of sophistication by waving this type of bottle instead. Who knows, whoever sells this wine over there might even luck into someone who needs an appropriate bottle for the recipient's birthyear.  ;-)

And thanks for bringing your question, and bottle, to this Forum. You're providing an education for a bunch of people while getting one yourself! Please do keep us posted on how your search proceeds....

20
2876
Reply by Richard Foxall, May 7, 2012.

The best threads on here are the ones where no one quite has the perfect answer at their fingertips and we have to go educate ourselves.  This is one of those, for sure.  When I have the time, I am going to find some more info on the weaning of negociants from the bottling of 1st growths and the like. 

This is obviously a question of degree in other areas--eleveurs are still a big part of the business in the Rhone, but a long process of migration to estate bottling is continuing.  Funny, in California with the selling of estate grapes to others (see:  Gary and Gary in SLH, who bottle their own, sell to each other, and sell to scads of others under different contracts, just for one), farmers in the purely growing business selling either by the acre or the ton (a la Beckstoffer), and the input into growing practices by people like Adam Lee who don't own vineyards, there are a whole different set of rules.

20
6581
Reply by dmcker, May 8, 2012.

If you want to see a really bad label on a 1947, Wally's down in LA has a Chateau Magdeleine on sale for $880. The label's a disaster, but the fill and closure condition are considerably better than your Lafleur, thus pointing to the likelihood of the wine being in better shape....

 

And if you need to look further than those candidate purchasers mentioned above, you can add Wally's to the list, it would seem....

20
2876
Reply by Richard Foxall, May 9, 2012.

Still looks dodgy to me at $880, but my first reaction was simply:

Wow.

20
6581
Reply by dmcker, May 9, 2012.

OK, Fox, advise us on how you'd fake a label like this!  ;-)

75
2747
Reply by JonDerry, May 9, 2012.

Really, fascinating stuff.

20
2876
Reply by Richard Foxall, May 9, 2012.

Stumped.  Besides, it's the contents you have to fake.  The bottle you just use over and over.  Bigger problem is getting a capsule that you can re-use, and getting the corks out and in without them disintegrating. 

If I did get a stain on the label, I'd say it came from another bottle nearby--after all, something that went through hell like that must have been around a few broken ones, too.

Again, for the record:  I do not condone counterfeiting and I have never engaged in it.   But I am fascinated by it. 

 


Back to Categories

Top Contributors This Month

1498622 Snooth User: Really Big Al
1498622Really Big Al
78 posts
125836 Snooth User: dmcker
125836dmcker
71 posts
847804 Snooth User: EMark
847804EMark
66 posts

Categories

View All




Snooth Media Network