Too Cool for School: What You Don’t Know About Ice

Posted on | April 30, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Shine a bright light in the eyes of an accomplished mixologist and he or she will eventually admit that ice is perhaps the most important ingredient in cocktails. It impacts every aspect of mixed drinks and does so with little cost and no marketing or packaging. In a time when success behind the bar is measured one drink at a time, outfitting your bar with the most advantageous type of ice is essential.

Its contribution goes beyond lowering the temperature of a cocktail to its proper serving temperature of around 37-38˚F. While only the genuinely obsessed would stick a thermometer into a drink to ensure it’s sufficiently chilled, the fact remains that cocktails rapidly increase in temperature moments after hitting the glass. Ice plays a crucial role in postponing the inevitable.

“Equally important, ice introduces water into a drink. It helps to balance the blend and allows the various ingredients to meld and harmonize,” says Debbi Peek, portfolio mixologist for Bacardi USA. “The water also softens the biting edge of spirits, and accentuates their flavor.”

According to consultant Jonathan Pogash, aka The Cocktail Guru, the relative hardness of ice is an often overlooked attribute. “A hard cube, lump cube or block of ice will dilute a drink at a much slower rate than your run-of-the-mill ice machine ice cube. If ice isn’t hard enough it will melt too quickly and overdilute the cocktail. A ‘wet’ ice cube is one that has been tarnished with excess water on its surface, thus allowing it to melt at a much quicker rate than desired,” says Pogash.

Another consideration is the nature of the water used to make ice, the quality of which will affect the taste of the finished drink. For that reason it’s advisable to use ice made from spring or mineral water.

Celebrated chef and mixologist Kathy Casey thinks ice made with soft water produces better ice for drink making. “Many operators fail to factor in the type of water they use to make their ice. While spring or mineral waters are preferable, they’re not necessarily a practical option at a bar. However, installing a water softener is relatively inexpensive. And because the water is also filtered, the ice comes out free of haze or clouding. Crystal clear ice is more aesthetically pleasing.”

Size Matters

The size and shape of the ice you use play a key role in how drinks taste. “Small ice cubes tend to melt faster than larger cubes and will therefore more quickly dilute mixed drinks,” contends Mixologist Debbi Peek, of Southern Wine & Spirits. “A drink made with small cubes will taste best when it’s first served, but becomes watery and less flavorful in short order. Larger ice cubes melt slower and release less water into a drink. That means the first sip will taste as good as the last.”

Ryan Magarian—mixologist and creator of Aviation Gin—thinks large-format ice looks a whole lot sexier than standard bar ice, especially when stacked in a highball glass. “More importantly, using fewer, large-format cubes presents less surface area and results in slower dilution,” he says. “I recommend making drinks with 1.25-inch cubes, especially those from Kold-Draft or Hoshizaki machines. They’re produced to be dense and slow-melting.”

Casey also prefers working with larger ice. “I think the square cubes from Kold-Draft are superior. They’re perfectly clear, uniformly shaped, and because of their density, they melt slower and cool faster.”

Long a staple in Japan, ice balls are gaining popularity behind American bars. ice balls are seemingly the perfect marriage of form and function. Made on-premise in molds or carved individually, they look like crystal clear spheres between 3-5 inches in diameter. Their singular shape allows them to melt at a slower rate, thus reducing dilution.

Journalist Yuri Kato, author of the book Japanese Cocktails, says, “In Japan, we carve ice balls out of mineral water using an ice pick or knife. In fact, to become a member of the National Bartenders Association of Japan, a bartender must be able to quickly carve a perfect ice ball. Japanese people appreciate the ice ball when sipping whisky. It keeps the whisky at a steady temperature about an hour.”

Retro Chillers

Back in the day, cocktails were prepared with chipped, cracked or crushed ice. Even as late as the 1970s bars typically carried both cubed and crushed ice in the bartender’s station. But as juleps, frappes and smashes slipped from the limelight, so did the need for stocking crushed ice behind the bar. The Tiki revival underway has changed that.

“Tiki drinks are those popularized after Repeal through the 1950s and ’60s,” says Jonathan Pogash. “Luminaries such as ‘Trader Vic’ Bergeron knew that crushed ice created a massively cold drink and that people in the tropical South Pacific needed more help beating the heat than anyone else.” Its cooling abilities results from having more surface area than any other form of ice, second only to shaved ice. Adds Magarian, “Crushed ice is perfect for making Tiki drinks. Not only does it make them cold, but they’re potent drinks, so the extra dilution is an advantage.”

While the cocktail may reign supreme, ice appears to be the power behind the throne. As Pogash says, “You’ve walked into a place that cares about their drinks when you see the proper ice being plopped, dropped, chipped or cracked into your glass.”

Martin Scott Holds Artisanal Spirits Tasting

Posted on | April 30, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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On March 18th, Martin Scott Wines held an Artisanal Spirits Portfolio Tasting at Webster Hall. Over 100 spirits samples were on offer, as well as a selection of cocktails. Three Master Classes also took place, offering education and discussion on Cachaça, Agave-based spirits and Brandy.

Bastille French Whisky Ramps Up With Palm Bay & Celeb Ambassador

Posted on | April 30, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Recently, Charles Daucourt, nephew of distiller Jean Marc Daucourt, was in New York to strategize with Palm Bay International on Daucourt-distilled Bastille 1789 French Whisky, which is aged in a variety of wood, including French Limousin oak. Daucourt introduced celebrity brand ambassador Holt McCallany, known for Gangster Squad, Fight Club and Three Kings.

Georgi Vodka Sponsors FDNY Charity Boxing Event

Posted on | April 30, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Boxing and Vodka were both centers of attention in March at Webster Hall in New York City when the FDNY’s Bravest Boxers battled Dublin, Ireland’s Finest Police Boxers to benefit “Building Homes For Heroes,” a charity that helps severely wounded veterans and their families. The world-renowned Georgi Girls were honorary ring girls and VIP hostesses for the event. The FDNY team will be heading to Dublin in October for another event. The FDNY Bravest Boxing team has donated over $50,000 to military-related charities in recent years.

BNP Distributing Company & Joanne Bordeaux USA Hold Grand Portfolio Tasting

Posted on | April 30, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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On March 10th, BNP Distributing Company & Joanne Bordeaux USA held their Annual Grand Portfolio Tasting at Rouge Tomate. Among the Bordeaux highlights: a bevy of wines wholesaling for $320/case or under, particularly wines from the “Cotes” of Bordeaux. The tasting also marked the NY debut of an exciting new Champagne marque specialized in Premier Cru: Frerejean Frères, created by the Frerejean-Taittinger brothers. They were pouring a Premier Cru Brut, and their Cuvée des Hussards 2005 Blanc de Blancs. Both wines will be available in NY/NJ in June.

Baron Francois Presents 10th Annual Spring Tasting

Posted on | April 29, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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On March 4th, Baron Francois held its 10th Annual Portfolio Tasting at the Midtown Loft & Terrace. 52 suppliers were represented, pouring over 215 wines and spirits for 250 attendees. Paris Gourmet supplied a buffet for industry guests and a raffle presented the chance to win one of four gifts: A Coffret Decouverte Laubade; a magnum of Champagne Duval-Leroy; a 3L bottle of Valduero; and a trip to France.

Eat & Drink (RED) & Save Lives

Posted on | April 29, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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(RED) is reaching out to the culinary community, to restaurants, bars, mixologists and chefs to help raise awareness and money to #86AIDS.

Mario Batali, Pat LaFrieda are helping lead the cause with (RED), asking interested parties to createa (RED) inspired dish or cocktail and pledge a portion of the proceeds from sales to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS. LaFrieda is also offering participating restaurants 50% off three cuts of meat. Learn more at

Belvedere Global Head of Mixology Claire Smith has created (RED) inspired cocktails exclusively for bars and restaurants supporting the Eat (RED). Drink (RED). Save Lives.

Gin Reimagined

Posted on | April 28, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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According to conventional wisdom, and to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, gin is a distilled spirit with its main flavor derived from juniper berries. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Just ask Frank Cisneros, partner at Manhattan’s Gin Palace, which boasts over 75 incarnations of the spirit. “It’s actually a carefully curated list, where the flavor profile of each gin is distinctive,” explains Cisneros, pointing out that now is the best of times for the Prohibition-era darling. “Just five years ago this would not have been possible. But we now have access to great variety—traditional styles like Old Tom gin, new gins in the American style, as well as classic London Dry.”


For most of the modern era, London Dry has been the prevailing style of gin. Think of classic, juniper-forward brands like Tanqueray, Bombay Dry and its premium sibling Bombay Sapphire, and Beefeater. With a potent punch of juniper and ABV that exceeds the minimum 80 proof, Cisneros says these gins have the necessary backbone to stand up in cocktails like a Negroni. Detractors, and those weaned on vodka, however, sometimes liken their flavor to that of a Christmas tree, recognizing the juniper berry’s evergreen origins.

Acknowledging that one gin does not suit all comers, many of these flagship brands have added line extensions, adjusting flavors, adding botanicals and sometimes lowering proof. Bacardi’s Sapphire East, introduced in 2012, is a recent example. “Sapphire is a big, bold, classic among London Dry gins,” says Gary Hayward, house of Bombay brand ambassador. “However, we recognize that is not for everyone, and so we looked at the latest trends and modern flavors, consulting with bartenders to develop Sapphire East, with its additions of lemongrass and Vietnamese black pepper.” With a more modest 84 proof, compared to Sapphire’s 94, Hayward says that Sapphire East will help ease the entry to gin, especially among vodka drinkers.

Sapphire East’s flavor sits firmly in the London Dry tradition, while offering consumers something extra. Cisneros observes this is a popular extension strategy among benchmark brands. “These are iconic gin brands, so I see their super-premium gins as a reward to their faithful fans and to the Master Distiller, offering something extra special.” Created by Desmond Payne, the Master Distiller in charge of stewarding the 180-year-old Beefeater brand, Beefeater 24 includes a unique blend of Chinese green and rare Japanese Sencha teas to complement, rather than reinvent, the Beefeater style, bottled at 90 proof.

Tanquerary No. Ten, among the first to market in what Angus Winchester, Tanqueray global brand ambassador, refers to as the “ginnovation” of the 21st century, recently received a package makeover that reaffirms its super-premium status, with a faceted bottle cast in green glass that is more vibrant than the traditional Tanqueray. “Number Ten does everything that classic London Dry gin can do, but also shows how gins can play wherever other white spirits do these days, as most came after gin. It’s a simple but great step up in flavor for a customer who typically drinks vodka martinis,” explains Winchester.

Lest you think London Dry Gin remains the domain solely of big brands, Fifty Pounds is a gin made in the heart of London from a recipe dating to the first half of the 18th century. Crafted in batches of less than 1,000 bottles, Fifty Pounds is a boutique product that embraces the traditional London Dry profile.


A few London Dry style gins have long prided themselves on a more subtle juniper note, notably Boodles, which deviates from the pack with its understated juniper flavor and a range of botanicals that favors savory herbs and spices over citrus. However, no one really knew just how far gin could roam from its juniper roots until Hendrick’s Gin launched in 1999.

While William Grant & Sons’ Hendrick’s does include juniper, Bulgarian rose and cucumber are its hallmark aromas that captured the imagination of consumers and opened the gin category for experimentation. Some purists question whether some of the new entries are really gin, or merely botanical spirits, but following The Wall Street Journal’s anointment of Hendrick’s as the “Best Gin in the World” in 2003, there has been a steady stream of gins that pride themselves on a few proprietary botanicals, often emphasizing citrus, floral and other flavors over juniper.

Call them Contemporary Western Dry Gin, or perhaps Modern London Dry; by any name, many of these products are far removed from grandmother’s gin, with Bulldog Gin, launched in 2006, a good example. “We have juniper, but it is dialed back a bit, so that you can taste all the other botanicals,” explains Bob Beleson, managing director. “Suddenly you are tasting lotus leaf, white poppy and Dragon Eye, a Chinese fruit that is similar to lychee. We find people value a more complex and interesting balance of flavors.”

Bulldog Gin’s brand positioning and marketing also stray from the traditional, with advertisements projected in public spaces, urban sidewalk stenciling and New York taxi commercials. Bulldog certainly got the attention of Campari America, which as of January 1st partnered to distribute the brand nationally.

The Nolet family, notable for their creation of Ketel One Vodka, offers an eponymous gin in the contemporary style: Nolet’s Silver, an exquisite gin whose delicate floral notes belie its 95.2 proof.  In addition to Turkish rose, Nolet’s Silver includes peach and raspberry as signature botanicals, but make no mistake, this is not a flavored product or one that exudes overt fruitiness. While the $50 MSRP puts Nolet’s Silver firmly in the super-premium realm, Nolet’s Reserve—with its saffron and verbena and $700 price tag—has smashed the ceiling on gin price.

Other modern gins embrace current culinary trends in their recipes, like Caorunn, which hold a distinct regional identity derived from botanicals native to the Scottish Highlands. “Foraged within a hand’s reach of the distillery, the Celtic botanicals infused in Caorunn provide a sense of place,” says Caorunn’s Simon Buley, referring to the gin’s wild rowan berry, Coul Blush apple, dandelion, myrtle and Scottish heather. Of course, Caorunn does include the requisite juniper, but it is more of a footnote. “There is an ever-sophisticated consumer who is actively looking for unpredictable drink experiences that deliver nuanced flavor, over one-noted profiles from heavy juniper gin styles,” asserts Buley.

A sub-category all to itself, Monkey 47 is German gin based on the recipe of Wing Commander Montgomery “Monty” Collins of the Royal Air Force, who repurposed the juniper used to cure black forest hams for concocting gin in the region sometime in the 1950s. Revived by Germany’s Black Forest Distillers, Monkey 47 is newly imported by Sidney Frank Importing Company.


While Western Europe has taken decades to slowly migrate away from London Dry traditions, in the U.S. the revolution is fast and furious, as craft distillers tinker with not just the botanicals, but every element of gin, sometimes even working on unusual base spirits. “The contemporary gin boom has primarily focused on unique botanical infusions. At 1911 Spirits, we took it one step further, distilling our gin from apples, which creates undertones of vanilla and caramel which delicately complement our botanicals,” says Stephen Brennan, co-owner and director of sales. Distilled in Upstate New York, 1911 Gin features only about half the juniper found in a typical London Dry.

In contrast, Seattle-based Big Gin, introduced in 2011, embraces gin’s piney pedigree. “We are using a pot still and include gobs of juniper as well as botanicals sourced from around the world, because we want to compete on a world scene,” says distiller Ben Capdevielle. However, Big Gin shows its American roots with a base distilled from corn, as well as a “Bourbon Barreled” rendition. While top-selling domestic brand Seagram’s Dry Gin has long boasted barrel-aging as a point of differentiation, Big Gin Bourbon Barreled has an unmistakable wood influence, perceptible in its golden-cast and rounded taste. “New oak is a detriment because it kills aromas and we really wanted the juniper to stand out. So it occurred to me that many premium spirits are aged in used bourbon barrels,” says Capdevielle, who currently distributes Big Gin in a dozen states.

Given the large number of ingredients in many gins, organic-certified offerings are few. Farmer’s Gin, however, tackles that task by using organic botanicals and organic grains, free of chemical pesticides, chemical fertilizers and GMOs. Farmer’s achieves a balanced style with subdued juniper balanced with floral notes of elderflower and citrusy lemongrass.


Gin is a darling of the craft distiller set precisely because it does not require aging. Cisneros, who features the local gins of New York Distilling Company and Greenhook Ginsmiths, both from Brooklyn, in his cocktails, says he is especially excited about the rapid proliferation of craft gins. “It’s an analog to what happened with beer, and how craft beer consumers take their choice very seriously. Gin is the perfect vehicle for creativity by distillers. You can distill it today and sell it tomorrow,” says Cisneros.

As mixologists delve into the history books and encounter myriad recipes using obscure gins, styles rarely seen since Prohibition have returned to the back bar. Old Tom gin, of which Hayman’s Old Tom, launched in 2007 is the best known, is slightly fuller-bodied and sweeter than London Dry. Tanqueray Malacca has been likened to Old Tom in style by some bartenders, who are especially excited about its recent return as a limited-edition bottling. “It’s certainly closer to Old Tom–style gins, a softer and richer variant than London Dry,” says Winchester, who notes the marque has been a bit of a “unicorn” for bartenders and is being positioned primarily as an on-premise draw.

Dutch Genever, which Jaron Berkhemer, marketing director for Lucas Bols USA, is quick to point out is not gin, can’t help but be mentioned in the same sentence. “Although Genever shares a characteristic with gin—juniper—it really is a category of its own and actually gave birth to a juniper-based spin-off known as gin,” says Berkhemer with pride. By combining a base of malt wine with several distillates, Bols Genever is malty, full, rounded and complex, quite at home in a variety of 19th and 20th century cocktails.

At New York Distilling Company, owner Allen Katz crafts Chief Gowanus from a recipe he discovered for an early American version of “Holland gin,” based on flavored rye whiskey which is then aged in barrel for three months, clarifying it is indeed “a kissing cousin to Dutch Gin.”

Katz also offers Dorothy Parker as his American-styled gin and has revived navy strength gin Perry’s Tot, bottled at a traditional 57% ABV. Plymouth, a bartender darling and companion to Pernod Ricard’s Beefeater, is one of the few other distillers to offer a navy strength gin, which despite its potency retains the palatable Plymouth flavor profile. “As a style, Plymouth Gin is less dry than a London Dry,” says Juli Falkoff, brand director. “Back in the 1750s, the ports of Liverpool, Bristol and Plymouth created their own versions of London Dry Gin, a more aromatic and fruity gin. Today only Plymouth Gin survives.”

Cisneros may have to add another page to his gin list if the excitement continues, but he’s not complaining. “It’s a great time for gin, with the American craft distillers and revival of gins most of us have only read about,” he says. “At the same time, I don’t think brands like Beefeater or Tanqueray are going away. We have all these gins for a reason. They are each special.” 


When Macro Goes Micro

Posted on | April 28, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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In their food, and in their beverages, today’s savviest consumers value authenticity and artisanal production. This group, which helped fuel the boom in microbrew beer and the craft distilling movement, are often the frontline of acceptance.

For some, the small scale and hands-on approach that defines craft spirits might seem at odds with a U.S. spirits and wine industry leader the size of Pernod Ricard USA. After all, the company includes behemoths like Absolut, Chivas Regal, Beefeater and Jameson, each a leader in its class. Yet, Pernod Ricard points out that each of these flagships enjoys the company of one or more smaller compatriots in their category. It’s a big-picture view, where micro-brands complement, rather than compete with, their larger siblings, while also benefiting from the distribution and awareness a larger spirits company brings.

Absolut Handmade

Absolut has always been an innovator—with packaging, advertising and flavor extensions. With Absolut Elyx, the brand gets back to its origins of small, site-oriented distilling, by using single-estate wheat, distilled in a copper rectification still known as Column 51. “We are using technology from 1921, all manually controlled. It is really going back to the roots of what we’ve done, to utilize human supervision over every detail and offer something more for consumers who discern quality,” says Nick Guastaferro, Brand Director for Absolut.

Unlike Absolut’s previous super-premium entry, Level, which seemed to distance itself from the Absolut name, Absolut Elyx embraces the power of its well-known brand while telling a highly credible story of craftsmanship. “We think this is a new category, not a super-premium but a luxury vodka,” adds Guastaferro. Elyx currently has a strong focus on the on-premise, where bartenders value the vodka’s unique taste properties and silky texture.

Curating Canada

Canadian whisky has long been the sleeping giant of the whiskey world, remaining generally sluggish in terms of growth and lacking the small-batch mystique that boosted American bourbon. Without a bourbon in the portfolio, Pernod Ricard looked to their Canadian partner, Corby Spirit and Wine Limited, for authentically North American whiskey. The result: Pike Creek and Lot 40.

Like many of the best handcrafted spirits, both of these whiskies come from a visionary master distiller, Don Livermore, who puts his PhD in wood science to good use in refining the maturation of these northern whiskies. “He is a mad scientist when it comes to many types of wood and how they react,” says Paul Di Vito, VP Irish & North American whiskey. “With Pike Creek, we talk about the cool climate and the swings in temperature affecting the maturation. It’s also finished in a Port barrel for 6 months, so it offers the kind of complexity a connoisseur can fall in love with.” Lot 40 is similarly unique among New World whiskies, made with 10% rye and aged in 100% virgin oak.

All in the Family

While Jameson remains the largest and most dynamic story in the fast-growing Irish whiskey segment, Pernod Ricard demonstrates leadership with small marques that show the diversity of style and price that are available within Irish whiskey. “We control 86% of the Irish whisky category, and most people here know Jameson and maybe Powers, but the key thing driving the explosion is the appetite for discovery and exploration,” says Di Vito.

The single pot still Redbreast 12 Year Old has been growing organically for the last decade, according to Di Vito. It’s a divine spirit, well-loved by connoisseurs, but when courting fans of the exclusive, small and unique, innovation is paramount. So, Pernod Ricard has introduced Redbreast 21 Year Old, limited to just 20 cases for the U.S. Connoisseurs can also look for Green Spot, which has entered the U.S. market with similar cheers from Irish lovers. “We are building a diverse category, and the truth is if we were not Jameson, it would be very tough to justify launching Green Spot, so that bigger brand strength is a real asset,” says Di Vito.

Midleton Very Rare is another example of an Irish whiskey that is truly handcrafted, and one that varies with each vintage. “Billy Leighton does that blend while Brian Nation handles the distilling personally,” says Di Vito. “These are genuinely tiny brands and the only thing that separates them from craft distillers for me is that these guys have been doing it longer.”

Greenhouse Effect

Laurent Cutier, Brand Director, Scotch & Single Malt, draws a comparison to smaller brands as being like young seedlings, that demand nurturing and care until they are firmly rooted: “What we do well at Pernod Ricard USA is greenhousing small brands and giving them time to grow. A brand like Plymouth Gin is a perfect example of that attitude,” says Cutier, pointing to the historic brand that Pernod Ricard has successfully championed right alongside benchmark Beefeater.

The approach is similar with Aberlour, a single malt Scotch that remains the boutique companion to the much larger Glenlivet, which is in itself small by some comparisons. (The Glenlivet sold 385,000 9L cases in 2013, big by Scotch standards, yet dwarfed by many leading vodka brands.)

The emphasis at Aberlour is on the people and their craft. “We have a rare continuity of workers at the distillery,” notes Cutier. “The people that make the whisky today are the same ones that made the whisky 18 years ago. They have seen that whisky from creation to maturation. Aberlour is further distinguished by the use of hand-selected ex-Sherry casks.

Cutier says these are exciting times for whiskey, and he welcomes the newer entries that are making the category so dynamic, while continuing to educate on the differences afforded a century-old boutique producer. “Some of these newer entries are well done; some others will improve their craft with time,” says Cutier. “Crafted and small batch don’t always guarantee quality. Know-how and a hundred years of expertise distilling and aging whiskey make a difference.”

Brand Profile: Quality + Value = Castel

Posted on | April 24, 2014   Bookmark and Share
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Castel is the largest wine producer in all of France (actually in all of Europe), yet in the U.S. its portfolio has flown under the radar. Back around the year 2000, the family-owned Castel Group gained some momentum with their Nicolas brand of wines, but a subsequent backlash against French products was a major setback. With a renewed focus on quality offerings from its Châteaux & Estates properties, Castel Group is poised to make its mark.

Michel Haury, President of Luneau USA, which imports Castel wines into the U.S., says, “The Castel Group is the compilation of many small to medium properties, each managed as if it was independently owned, but taking advantage of the strength of a strong organization.” While there has been success in the value sector with brands like Nicolas and Ed Hardy in the U.S. market, the Castel Group is working to showcase the quality of its French estate vineyards in Bordeaux and Provence. Haury says, “The idea is to promote and present the châteaux as their quality is increasing. We have all these properties with great terroir, and by putting in the right talent and management, these wines are better than ever.”

All in the Family

Castel was founded in 1949 by nine brothers and sisters, and family members continue to have an outsize role. Haury notes how the second, third and fourth generations of the Castel family have assumed leadership positions. Philippe Castel (second generation) is in charge of monitoring oenological and technical aspects of the vineyards, and he lives at Cru de la Maqueline, which makes a lively red Bordeaux that Haury says is “the quintessence of what a Bordeaux wine should be.” Since it’s located in the Margaux lowlands, it cannot be classified as AOC Margaux, but that means the wine can be offered at a great value. At Château Cavalier in the heart of Provence, the younger generation decided to hire a former director from Domaines Ott for its rosé production. Sophie Palatsi-Castel (third generation) is Director of Quality for Castel Group, and she has done similar work at Domaine de la Clapière in Languedoc.

Alexis Raoux (third generation) is in charge of The Castel Group’s sustainable development and is leading the charge with some other young members of the clan to make some of the properties more sustainable, even organic.

At the same time, the family knows when to defer to outside expertise. They have utilized consultants including Alain Raynaud, known for consulting on Chateau Pavie and Clos l’Eglise; and Eric Boissenot, sought widely in the Médoc for his expert palate, to assist the winemaking teams already in place at the estates.
Value Spotlight

Haury acknowledges that “the U.S. is perceived as a mature market where quality has to make the difference.” Castel is dedicating time and resources to that end. “We could be taking all the wines to make blends to compete with large California estates, but we have a core belief in the importance of terroir and typicity in our wines,” Haury says.

Prices for the French estate wines vary, but are generally in the $20-$60 range. For instance, suggested retail price for Château Barreyres is $24, but “Château Beychevelle is sold en primeur, therefore the price can vary a lot depending on the fame of the vintage,” says Haury. Overwhelmingly, feedback Haury and the Luneau USA team receive is that the wines offer consistent quality for amazing prices.

The timing couldn’t be better. Americans are ready to re-embrace Bordeaux wines, and well-priced offerings from appellation-adjacent châteaux like many of The Castel Group’s properties drive sales. Haury notes, “American consumers want artisanal, they want classic Bordeaux, and they want value. Our wines have true French character and terroir, and that’s how we are carving our niche in the U.S. market.”

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