Le Club FICOFI - Haute Couture of Wine
FICOFI is a French luxury company established by Bordelais Philippe Capdouze in 1990, specialising in fine wine and related services, as do many other companies, but none in anything like the same manner, writes Steven Spurrier, pictured left, at a Le Club FICOFI dinner in Paris.
I first came across FICOFI in the early 2000s, being invited by Philippe Capdouze to comment on the wines at some of the dinners that he organised in London's top hotels for international bankers and their clients. These were preceded by tastings of all the Bordeaux First Growths from a youngish vintage to include Château Haut-Brion's rare white wine and of course Château d'Yquem. The wines at dinner, mostly from double magnums or even jeroboams - what the French call grands formats - were of similar quality going back several decades.
From its base in large cellars in Bordeaux, FICOFI had already expanded to Paris and now has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul. In recent years, the high-rolling dinners have given way to events purely for members of Le Club FICOFI, which today numbers 170 members worldwide. It was formed in order to share unique access to the planet's most sought after wines and the pleasure to enjoy them in the right company. (The details and aims of Le Club can be found at the end of this piece.)
Quite plainly to belong to Le Club is very expensive, but what Philippe Capdouze (pictured with Charles Chevallier, Ch Lafite Rothschild) has realised over the years is that fine wines are linked by their quality and rarity to other luxury products, yet while anyone with money can buy and enjoy the latter, the former have such limited availability on the open market that access to them is normally second or third hand via auctions. Also, fine wines are best enjoyed in fine company. FICOFI not only supplies the wines, but it supplies the company as well, via exclusive tasting events, the most impressive of which I attended in Paris last December.
This was held for the second year at Le Petit Palais, home, in its marbled late 19th century halls, to one of France's finest museums. The 90 or so tables, behind which stood the owners or winemakers or both, represented the Almanach de Gotha of wine. France took all but a dozen places, with all the First Growths and most of the Super Seconds from Bordeaux being present with 40 tables.
Burgundy's 29 tables represented a dream list from the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti's Mathusalem of La Tâche 1996 and Jeroboam of Richebourg 1988, through classic Domaines like Marquis d'Angerville, Armand Rousseau, Bonneau du Martray, Coche-Dury, the two monopole Morey-St-Denis Grands Crus Clos des Lambrays and Clos de Tart, Leflaive, Roulot, the merchants Joseph Drouhin, Louis Jadot, Bouchard Père et Fils, down to the lovely wines made in the Cote-Chalonnaise's village of Bouzeron by Pierre de Benoist, nephew of Aubert de Villaine of the DRC.
The Rhône was represented by its five "grands" - Château de Beaucastel, Chapoutier, Delas, Guigal and Jaboulet; Champagne by Barons de Rothschild, Deutz, Dom Perignon, Krug, Henriot, Louis Roederer and Salon, while from outside France there were nine of the very best. Germany's Egon Muller Scharzhof, Italy's Marchese Antinori and Ornellaia, Spain's Vega Sicilia, Portugal's Quinta do Noval and Blandy's Madeira, California's Harlan Estate, Australia's Yarra Yering Vineyards and last, but not least, some amazing Syrah from Brazil's Vinicola Guaspari. And this cornucopia did by no means exhaust FICOFI'S list of suppliers.
The key to all this is the manner in which FICOFI has persuaded the greatest wine producers in the world to become partners in placing their wines on the tables of those who are certain to appreciate them. In return, Le Club members are offered wines that are virtually unobtainable on the market direct from the producers, a privilege that is expensive, but unique, as the dinner that followed across the street at the Two Michelin Rosette Restaurant Ledoyen so perfectly illustrated.
Over 300 producers, members and guests sat down at tables of 10 to enjoy what was one of most beautifully presented five course menus I have ever experienced. With a first course of Cream of Cauliflower with Frosted Sea Urchins the entire restaurant was served Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1996. Then, with 11 numbered Riedel glasses in front of us, a selection of wines was served to different tables.
Once coffee had been served, one was free to go up to the main table to be served any of the dozens of bottles, magnums and double-magnums, including old Ports and Madeiras, that had been given to other tables.
This was the second Le Palais des Grands Crus evening that I had been invited to, the first in 2012 I described in Decanter as "the greatest wine tasting of my life". The second time the wines, the food, the presentation was no less impressive and perhaps I was more relaxed, for I certainly felt part of Le Club ambience, rather than just being a privileged participant.
This is another of FICOFI's successes: their members are linked by a common passion which surpasses creed or colour. If the wines were the purpose of the evening, so was their enjoyment by those present. My view is that wine represents the Three Ps - Place, People, Product. FICOFI has added the Three Cs - Collectibles, Conviviality, Consumption, to offer their members the highest experience of Haute Couture in the world of wine.
Benefits of Le Club FICOFI
Building of bespoke wine collection with competitive pricing due to direct sourcing.
Guarantee of origin and provenance and best in class storage and quality control.
Complimentary invitation to all Club tastings around the world.
Personalised trips to the wine regions of the world.
Dedicated and secured website to manage wine collection.
Booking in 3 Rosette Michelin restaurants.
Membership terms and conditions.
Two member referrals.
One-time joining fee - € 30,000
Annual membership fee - € 9,000
Minimum first year purchase commitment - € 300,000
Storage, full insurance, replacement, audit, etc - optional.