I don’t like to bother people on their holiday, but I had to know what was going on with Château Pichon Longueville Lalande, following the various reports on a deal involving the property and the owners of Louis Roederer. The Champagne house had issued a press release on the subject, but the only way it could have been more unclear was if it had been written in hieroglyphics!
Anyway, I got in touch with Gildas d’Ollone, who runs the second-growth Pauillac estate with his aunt, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, while he was on holiday on the island of Madagascar. (He must have been so pleased to hear from me! Luckily, he is an extremely kind and friendly man.) He said that his aunt had agreed to sell a majority interest in the estate to the Rouzaud family, who owns Roederer. The deal includes the bourgeois cru Bernadotte and a South African wine property called Glenelly.
Originally, I had heard that they'd agreed to sell to some of the owners of the Hermès fashion company, but that deal fell through. Sources say that they didn’t want to pay the asking price. So the Rouzaud family and another serious buyer became contenders, but de Lencquesaing finally chose the former for the deal.
This was all done to secure the future of Pichon-Lalande. France has horrific inheritance taxes, and de Lencquesaing is in her 80s. She also has numerous children and grandchildren to worry about, and no one in her immediate family was very interested in the estate. It’s a shame, because she has done an extraordinary job for the 28 years of her management. And her nephew Gildas is solid as well. But that’s life. And this sale is not the first or the last of its kind in Bordeaux.
Gildas said that the team at Pichon-Lalande would not be changed with the coming sale and that he was very excited about the prospects of working with the Rouzauds. The Champenois already have a couple of wine estates in Bordeaux—Château de Pez and Château Haut-Beauséjour in St.-Estèphe—but they're hardly at the same level as Pichon Lalande. Moreover, their other wine properties are nowhere near P-L. But it probably makes better sense to align with a wine family like the Rouzauds.
This all makes me think of a tasting of Pichon-Lalande I did a few weeks back in London, where the modern vintages of this wonderful property proved how well de Lencquesaing has done during her tenure. Wines like the 1982, 1986, 1989, and 2000 are classic through and through. The Rouzauds have a lot to live up to if the deal finally goes through.
(For more information about the sale, see "Champagne House Invests in Bordeaux's Pichon Lalande" by Mitch Frank.)
Bob Golbahar — Los Angeles — October 31, 2006 2:14pm ET
James Suckling — — November 1, 2006 3:35am ET
Steve Dubois — Ellijay, GA — November 13, 2006 5:34am ET
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