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james suckling uncorked

Thoughts on the Sale of Pichon Lalande


Posted: Oct 31, 2006 7:55am ET

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, You blogs are great and its nice to have you write on many different subjects. Now about the sale of Pichon Lalande, what a shame, anybody but the owners of Roederer, you ask why? You should see how they deal with the trade on selling us Cristal. You have to buy every size of the Roederer from the one made in the USA and the Roederer Brut from France, they make you buy 6 cases of "other" wines before you get any Cristal, and then its like they are doing you a favor! Then the "Comments" the president of the company made about the consumers that buy his Cristal, NOT a brilliant statement!! I love the wines from Pichon Lalande and I hope they do not ruin this great estate!!All the best,Bob Golbahar
James Suckling
 —  November 1, 2006 3:35am ET
Hey Bob! Let's hook up in LA soon! Don't worry. I don't think Roederer can do anything to Pichon-Lalande. The estate has great soil, great history. Moreover, the negociant system in Bordeaux assures a free distribution...
Steve Dubois
Ellijay, GA —  November 13, 2006 5:34am ET
James,Have you ever blogged the subject opened by Bob? It is something that continues to bother me. Until recently I owned a large retail store here in Georgia. You cannot imagine the number of times I was told (by the distributor) that they had been instructed to sell specific wines only to restaurants (so that they could be re-sold to diners long before the wine is ready?). What a waste.

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