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The owner of Château Latour buys Château-Grillet

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François Pinault offers himself a monopoly in the northern Rhône.

The acquisition of Château-Grillet by the French billionaire François Pinault allows him to add a small jewel of the northern Rhône to his Artémis group, which already includes the Premier Grand Cru Château Latour in Pauillac and the Eugénie estate in Burgundy. The amount of the sale was not disclosed.

Château-Grillet is a monopoly of 8.5 acres. This is one of the rare micro-appellations in France. Located in the heart of the Condrieu production region, on a steep terraced vineyard facing south-east, the Château has long been considered one of the most precious terroirs of the Rhône Valley.

Frédéric Engerer, director of Château Latour, confirmed the sale without giving further details, indicating that it was still necessary to carry out administrative formalities and obtain authorizations before concluding the deal. »

Château-Grillet belonged to Isabelle Baratin. Her family has owned the estate since 1830 and she embarked on the activity of winegrower when her father died in 1994, when the harvest had just begun. “I was totally alone. Imagine what it can be like to be a chef and try to manage everything in the restaurant, in the kitchen and in the dining room, all by yourself,” she told Wine Spectator in 2006. On Monday, the demands addressed to Isabelle Baratin have been transferred to Wine Bankers & Co which is in charge of the sale.

The first years after the death of her father, Isabelle Baratin experienced difficulties in managing the estate. She had to learn on the job and try to do a lot of the work herself. In 2000, she then hired Bordeaux-based consultant Denis Dubourdieu to help with wine production as she renovated the property. Despite everything, Château-Grillet's presence on the American market was, at best, occasional, and the rare wines offered for sale often did not live up to the estate's reputation. Many winegrowers around the Condrieu appellation dreamed out loud of what they would do with the estate if it were to be put up for sale.

"We have noticed progress since the arrival of Dubourdieu," said Paul Amsellem of Domaine Georges Vernay, one of Condrieu's best. “I'm sure the level could be better and someone from another region could take this area a step further. I hope these are the intentions of [François Pinault]. Injecting new blood never hurts. »

Planted with Viognier, the land of Château-Grillet is capable of producing the grapes for one of the best wines in the world. It has distinct notes of anise, peach and melon and an extremely fine minerality, compared to some of the more powerful Condrieu wines produced by Georges Vernay, Yves Cuilleron, E. Guigal and others. Around 10,000 bottles of Château-Grillet are produced each year.

François Pinault owns and manages the French distribution group PPR. In addition to three wine estates, his investment group Artémis SA, led by his son François-Henri, has interests in several French magazines, in the insurance group ANLAC and in the auction house Christie's.


Source: James Molesworth
Wine Spectator
Mar 15, 2011

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