Do-it-yourself Wine Comes to Bordeaux Country

by VR Sreeraman on  May 11, 2009 at 6:01 PM Lifestyle News
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Imagine a bottle of your own wine gracing your dining table, perhaps even with your own label.
 Do-it-yourself Wine Comes to Bordeaux Country
Do-it-yourself Wine Comes to Bordeaux Country

Before Franco-American Stephen Bolger read a "Fortune" magazine article about US firm Crushpad, the former management consultant had no idea he'd spend the next two years setting up a Do-It-Yourself winery in Bordeaux.

"It was a Eureka moment," said Bolger. "The dream to become a winemaker is not limited to Americans. It's a universal dream."

Crushpad is a San Francisco-based, micro-winery where anyone with 6,000 dollars living anywhere on the globe can make their own barrel of California wine.

No need to give up a regular job, win the lottery or know anything about winemaking. A user-friendly software program with instructional videos allows you to make decisions and send instructions to the cellar staff. No time? Leave the decision-making to the staff and monitor the progress.

The operation started in 2004 in owner Michael Brill's San Francisco garage and raked in nine million dollars in 2008. Most of his 5,000 clients are actually groups of friends or family members, often living in different cities, who share the experience together.

Then there are the 150 Crushpad clients, including restaurant owners, chefs and professional winemakers, who sell their wine.

Bolger, now president of Crushpad France, quickly envisioned blending US innovation with French wine culture. As a Franco-American, he knew he could bridge the culture gap, which appeared as soon as he went in search of French grapes.

The response from wine-brokers in Bordeaux: "It'll never work."

He persisted and finally found two brokers willing to listen. With their help, he visited 100 different wine estates, and selected 30.

At the same time, he needed winemakers.

"When Stephen came to present his idea, it seemed complicated to do in Bordeaux, notably because of our system of commercialisation," said Eric Boissenot, wine consultant to big names like Lafite, Margaux and Leoville-Barton.

But Bolger's enthusiasm was infectious. "At first, it was Stephen's dynamism and drive that appealed to me," said Stephane Derenoncourt, an international wine consultant.

"Then while working in California, I stopped in at the winery in San Francisco. The good atmosphere and originality of the concept reinforced my first impression."

The flurry of emails arriving on Bolger's Blackberry since the company announced its Bordeaux operation indicate that customers are eager for the experience.

Taavet Hindrikus, an Estonian expat in London, signed up immediately. "You have access to some of the world's best grapes, and you could make a really good, Old World wine. I think it's very exciting."

Professionals like Boissenot are also intrigued. "This project allows me to meet the people and see what we can create, what their tastes are and what they want from their wine."

By virtue of being in Bordeaux, the expectations in terms of quality are clearly high.

"It?s going to be interesting to see the quality we can make," said Asko Kassinen, a manager for Hewlett-Packard based in Helsinki. "We know the grapes come from great sources, and the consultants are very good, so it's the barrels and the blending."

He has already selected his grape varieties, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, the same used by Chateau Cheval Blanc, a legendary estate in Saint Emilion.

Cheval Blanc costs hundreds of dollars per bottle. Kassinen's barrel at Crushpad Bordeaux will cost between 6,750 euros and 9,000 euros or 22.50 to 30 euros per bottle.

"I don't know enough to make the wine myself, but I'm learning about winemaking," said Hindrikus. "I look at the reports they send me. Every time they do something, they send an email. They even send tasting notes."

From his desk in London, Hindrikus felt like he was living the dream. The main draw: "It's posh. Who wouldn't want to have their own wine?"

Source: AFP

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