Vineyards in upper Rioja, Spain

I had the good fortune to meet and speak with Baroness de Rothschild last week, and found her energetic, colorful, determined and endlessly curious. Earlier I had made notes on words of wisdom from this woman who tirelessly travels the world. Born in El Salvador, she lived in Columbia, spent time in Senegal in Africa and now tirelessly manages a foundation responsible for thousands of employees and over $100 billion of assets. She is a bright, though warm and approachable woman. In building wine businesses, her two watchwords are ‘discipline and quality.’

Traveling south of Rioja to San Sebastian, Spain

Some wise words about life and wine from this bright woman are below.

“You can work a lot but if you never party I don’t see the point in working. It’s important to celebrate.”

“We’re only one of the families in the world that does banking as much as we do winemaking. For me it’s an economic model that really has worked. Why? As a finance person—asset diversification. That’s one. Two, to be very rooted in the earth. Banking tends to be often times very abstract and so it’s a very healthy exercise to be reconnected with basics. It’s very difficult, by the way, to earn money when you are subject to weather. But it’s a very good reminder. For me it’s a model. It’s balance.”

“I think we build more by heart and conviction rather than by business.”

“There is a strong market for terroir projects that are related to a specific region.”

“I don’t have hierarchies. I manage with a flat structure. Because I think small businesses are just as much work as big businesses.”

“A lot of people have a static view of what Rothschild is, so this is something to discuss: the difference between myth and reality. They myth exists as long as you keep keeping it. You could say living off just Lafite [wine] could be nice. For me it’s not very satisfactory. With a name such as ours it’s really interesting to keep building because it’s what I like to call legacy transformation. When you inherit, is it an end in itself? I think if my life was just to inherit it would be a very sad life. You can’t just one day just inherit and sit on a pile of dividends and make your life just that. It’s important to take risks, to have strong roots, strong opinions, and go for it.”

Bottles of Macán wine – Tempranillo from Rioja

“The wines I like drinking? There are times you drink excellent wines you are just not into. Sometimes they just don’t work. That’s my personal experience. Sometimes you don’t expect anything and you drink and wine and you say—’Wow! Absolutely amazing.’ I always have a hard time with people having a linear view of wines because I think it depends on how you feel, and it’s not always the company. Sometimes you taste wine, sometimes you don’t. I think there are obviously amazing wines in Bordeaux. To be very precise my very favorite is Lafite ’59. Absolute superstar. Why? Because every time you have the same experience of power. I think it’s a memorable wine. Cheval Blanc—I think it’s an exceptional wine. Many vintages are exceptional. And Burgundy? Very interesting wines. I have the extreme luxury to have a very old cellar. I really like just picking a bottle. Especially I would say hanging our in the garden in Bordeaux is the experience. Sometimes you have amazing surprises without the filter of the hype. Sometimes you say, ‘is that it?’ ”

Disciplined vineyards near the Sierra Cantabria in Rioja, Spain

Sage words.

By the way, their new Rioja wine Macán? It’s beautiful. Truly. Read more about it in my Forbes piece here.

Madame Rothschild, who received an MBA in New York, mentioned the economic concept of ‘elasticity’ and ‘inelasticity’ with regard to the price of wine. Which relates, tangentially, to a possible new app.

Basically (very basically) if the price of something increases, and that does not proportionally impact your decision to buy it—that product displays ‘inelasticity.’ Imagine you have to drink bottled water instead of tap water. If someone increases the price, you still buy about the same amount of water. Why? Because you need it to survive. ‘Economic inelasticity’ means that someone can increase a price, and that ends up also increasing their overall revenue.  (The opposite holds true for ‘elasticity.’)

Is wine an elastic or inelastic commodity? Ah, it depends. If the price of a mediocre wine doubles, are you going to drink half as much? If the price of an excellent wine halves, will you drink twice as much?

I’ll not discuss that uncertain realm of economics.


If we take a few dozen wines, discern those of acceptable quality, and then compare their quality to price, we can deduce which of those wines are the best value to buy. Evaluating that is not quite so simple, because at certain points the quality of some wines is high enough that you will be willing to spend a bit more than for mediocre wines. These are points at which degrees of elasticity change.

This is considered in the Vino Value algorithm I developed, and have mentioned here before. Tomorrow I’ll have the second Skype call with an IOS software specialist interested in developing this algorithm into an interactive app that would allow users to rate their own wines alone or, in groups. (Investors are welcome.)

I’ll keep you posted.

Given a range of wines from the same region, each priced differently and having—according to your own taste—different levels of quality, this algorithm eliminates wines not worth considering and highlights three best levels of value.

This past weekend was the Portes Ouverts—’open doors’—wine tasting in the nearby Côtes de Bourg wine region of Bordeaux (which I’ve written about before here). What is news?

The new owners of Clos du Notaire, a young couple, have already sold out their entire stock. I was fortunate to taste from their final bottle and found it delicious…I am confident their future wines will equal and perhaps surpass what were already good wines coming from this château. Also, the top cuvée from Château Sirac, 2015, is a beauty worth watching.

Helpful service from Naomi at Château Puy ‘dAmour


Taking the motor for a spin out of Château Tayac


During two leisurely days I visited 14 chateaux—both alone and in a group of five. Lunch on both days at different châteaux was a pleasure … grilled duck, foie gras and glasses of hearty red blends of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec wines.

Wandering the vineyards of Château Gros Moulin

The table below rates wines for overall value, not just quality.

Finally, if you have been under the impression that Bordeaux wines are generally expensive, look at the prices.

Vino Value™ Scoring of Selected Wines – Côtes de Bourg Open Doors 2017
Winery Wine Retail Price – Euros Retail Price – US dollars equivalent Value Score
Château Sauman Secret de Sauman Rosé 2016 € 6.80 $7.41 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Puy d’Amour Rosé € 4.80 $5.23 Good Value ♫
Clos du Notaire Clos de Notaire 2012 (red) € 9.80 $10.68 Good Value ♫
Clos du Notaire L’usu Fruit 2016 (red) € 5.90 $6.43 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château La Croix-Davids Le Paradis 2014 (red) € 7.00 $7.63 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château La Croix-Davids Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2014 (red) € 9.00 $9.81 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château La Croix-Davids Louis Meneuvrier Bouteille 2014 (red) € 15.00 $16.35 Good Value ♫
Château Brûlesécaille Blanc de Brulesecaille 2015 (white) € 8.50 $9.27 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Brûlesécaille Château La Gravière 2012 (red) € 8.00 $8.72 Good Value ♫
Château Mercier Cuvée Prestige 2014 (red) € 9.95 $10.85 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Mercier Clos de Piat 2014 (red) € 12.80 $13.95 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château de Rousselet Traditionnel 2012 (red) € 4.10 $4.47 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Vieux Nodeau Tradition 2012 (red) € 12.00 $13.08 Good Value ♫
Château de la Grave Grain Fins 2015 (white) € 10.50 $11.45 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château de la Grave Classic 2015 (red) € 8.00 $8.72 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château de la Grave Nectar 2014 (red) € 15.00 $16.35 Good Value ♫
Château Gros Moulin Les Lys du Moulin 2016 (white) € 6.00 $6.54 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Gros Moulin Gros Moulin 2015 (red) € 7.30 $7.96 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Gros Moulin Per Vitem ad Vitam 2014 (red) € 14.00 $15.26 Superlative Value ♫♫♫
Château Gros Moulin Heritage 2014 (red) € 20.00 $21.80 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Tayac Cuvée Océane 2015 (white) € 7.20 $7.85 Good Value ♫
Château Tayac Cuvée Réservée 2009 (red) € 11.50 $12.54 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Tour des Graves Tour des Graves 2014 (white) € 7.00 $7.63 Good Value ♫
Château Tour des Graves Tour des Graves Fût de Chêne (red) € 7.00 $7.63 Good Value ♫
Château Puybarbe Cuvée Le Main 2014 (red) € 5.40 $5.89 Excellent Value ♫♫
Château Puybarbe Cuvée Tradition 2014 (red) € 7.00 $7.63 Good Value ♫
Château Sirac Cuvée Especial 2015 (red) € 19.00 $20.71 Excellent Value ♫♫

You may want to check out these sites…

This wine blog is run by an American friend, Alex Rychlewski, who has spent years living in Bordeaux.

This food and lifestyle site is run by a charming young lady, Marion Flipo, who leads tours in Paris.

Here are various articles, many in the New York Times, written by a freelance American writer, Sara Lieberman, who is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Paris.


Here are also a few wonderful, colorful, lively Instagram sites (from an international team of women I recently met in Paris) that highlight food, drinks and trips:

Elizabeth from the Shetland Islands…

Kavita Favelle of London…

Sarah from Birmingham…

Ida from Norway…


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  1. This comment from neighbor Lara Sanan…

    “Tom your articles keep me going, I love reading them and I love the way you write.
    Keep doing what you are doing, you are brilliant !”

  2. Message from Rick Mullen:

    “Great articles (blog and Forbes) on Rothschilds.”

    1. Yes Lisa! Sage words from an unpretentious woman with many responsibilities.

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