I'll admit that my lunch with the owners of Chanel was under false pretense. As much as I like their wines, I love their clothes even more. "The Fox" looks good enough to eat, or maybe I should say drink, decked out in her Chanel for a night out. So I had to meet them.
Seriously, their wines are really excellent, particularly Rauzan-Ségla, the second-growth Margaux. And I have long been a fan of their St.-Emilion Premiers Grands Cru, Canon, particularly wines from the 1950s and early 1960s. So I wanted to know what made their owners get into the wine business.
And what I found out is simple. Alain Wertheimer and Charles Heilbronn are wine nuts. They love the stuff. Granted, we didn’t drink wine at the lunch in their fabulous offices in Manhattan—we had sushi and sake! “We didn’t want to serve you wine,” said Alain, with a naughty smile.
But they talked non-stop about their passion for wine. By the end of the meal, we were going over their wine list from the personal cellars, which held some recent vintages of Rauzan-Ségla and Canon, of course, along with things like 1990 Pichon-Lalande, 1982 Lafite, 1989 La Mission and 1982 Haut-Brion.
They seemed a little annoyed with their estates’ wines. “The wines are too young to drink right now,” said Alain. “I like my wines with age,” added Charles.
If I remember correctly, their first vintage at Rauzan was the 1994. And I would say that it’s certainly drinkable now. I wouldn’t wait. And the 1996 Canon—their first vintage there—is a bottle to pop the cork on. They said that they were very fond of the 1964 Canon and the 1983 Rauzan-Ségla—me too!
However, I think that Rauzan has really come into its own since the 2000 vintage. And the 2005 may be the estate’s best ever. It is clearly a super second and remains reasonably priced compared to similar wines of stature such as Cos or Ducru. Canon is still on its way up, mostly due to large-scale replanting of the vineyards in the late 1990s. But the pedigree is there.
I tried to talk to them a little about the fashion business but it was wine, wine and more wine—which is incredibly cool, considering who they are. But I still have to wonder if Karl Lagerfeld drinks Rauzan-Ségla and Canon ...
Clearly, the owners of Chanel make that little black dress, but they make some big red wines as well.