Guest Blog: Thibault Pontallier
President Thomas Jefferson was an early admirer of Chateau Margaux wine. At the end of the 18th century, he sent a friend 120 bottles of the 1784 vintage and wrote, ''I may safely assure you that, according to the taste of this country and of England, there cannot be a bottle of better Bordeaux produced in France”. Two centuries later, Richard M. Nixon shared Jefferson's appreciation of Chateau Margaux, but may have been less generous. When Nixon as president entertained congressmen at the White House, he served them a rather cheap wine and instructed the stewards to fill his glass from a bottle of Chateau Margaux wrapped and hidden in a towel, in order to keep the best wine only for himself! More recently, Chateau Margaux also won the favour of Chinese President Hu Jintao, as Chateau Margaux was the only winery he visited during his stay in France in 2001. When the owner of Chateau Margaux Corinne Mentzelopoulos asked the Chinese President, “Why did you choose to visit Chateau Margaux?” Hu Jintao answered, “Because you are so famous, Madam!”
Since Thomas Jefferson, the admiration and the demand for top wines have become truly global, I went to Cambodia and Vietnam last month for a few exclusive Chateau Margaux wine dinners with a few ministers and top local personalities, and you could see the same excitement and passion in their eyes as Jefferson probably had when he was holding a glass of Chateau Margaux more than 200 years ago. Who could have said even a few years ago that we would be able to enjoy and share with the local Asian celebrities a glass of great French wine on top of a splendid temple of Angkor, on the Great Wall of China or on a boat in Ha Long Bay? Globalisation can really be magic and surprising sometimes. It is fascinating to see the same shared enthusiasm from wine lovers in Tokyo or Los Angeles, Bordeaux or Beijing! It is interesting also to realise how great wines have probably become the best ambassadors to gather different people everywhere. I am sure that all the recent meetings in Europe of the presidents of the Eurozone would have been much more efficient and shorter if they had opened a good bottle of wine before starting to negotiate! I really think that François Hollande and Mario Monti could have obtained a better and more enthusiastic agreement with Angela Merkel if they had brought her a nice bottle of Barolo and Margaux!
So how strong and how long will this “wine wave” last and conquer all the presidents in the world? Hong Kong is a wonderful place to observe and study the wine market, I have been living here for almost three years now, and I can see that the wine sector still has an amazing potential in the future. When you think about it, great French wines have become so popular in China in just a couple of years, but they have only reached a very small proportion of its huge population so far, and I meet so many people every day who are still discovering and enjoying great wines for the first time, in China of course, but also in Vietnam, in Indonesia, in India, Thailand, etc. All these new big developing countries and hopefully all their leaders are just starting to discover the beauties of the wine world. The consumption of wine in Europe and the US is still very strong: new and cool wine bars are opening everywhere, and people like finance ministers always need a good glass of wine to forget about the economic crisis!