Vincent Girardin, a highly-regarded producer from Burgundy, purchased the historic La Tour du Bief estate in Burgundy on Sept. 8. The property is located near the town of Chénas, and the purchase includes the winery as well as 50 acres of vines, all within the Moulin-à-Vent appellation. The price was undisclosed.
The acquisition adds to a growing trend of Burgundy investing in Beaujolais. In 1996, négociant Louis Jadot purchased Château des Jacques in Moulin-à-Vent, and another respected négociant, Maison Louis Latour, acquired Henry Fessy soon afterward. More recently, Henriot, which owns Henriot Champagne and Burgundy’s Bouchard Père & Fils, bought the Château de Poncié estate in Fleurie in 2008.
Girardin began looking at La Tour du Bief almost three years ago. “After much consideration [and] multiple trips to judge the soils, vineyards and [the] exceptional location, I was motivated to take up the challenge,” he said. Girardin’s export manager, Marco Caschera, cites the undervalued potential of the region, particularly of the area’s crus (the 10 AOC-named communes that represent the area’s pinnacle in terms of quality), as the driving force behind the decision to purchase the estate, but admitted that Beaujolais’ attractive land prices make it, “easier to invest now.”
Negotiations for the property lasted almost a year, and part of the agreement gave Girardin the right to select and retain 40 percent of the estate’s production of the excellent 2009 vintage, completing the élevage and ultimately bottling four different cuvées. These cuvées were selected in order to express the estate’s varying terroirs, and they will be available in the U.S. in October. About 10 percent of 2009’s production went to well-known Beaujolais négociant Georges Duboeuf, who has regularly bottled a Domaine de la Tour du Bief label since the early 1990s, while the rest of the production was sold to other négociants. Going forward with the 2010 vintage, the estate’s production will be wholly for Girardin, and in preparation for the 2010 harvest, the majority of the winery equipment was replaced.
Looking at Beaujolais as a whole, Caschera expressed a common sentiment when he said, “Everybody knows that this region is suffering from a bad image due to [Beaujolais] Nouveau.” And indeed, the lesser-quality Beaujolais Nouveau is still rushed into the marketplace every November, even as that marketplace struggles to sell quality wines from the area’s crus. “It is unfair when [there are] growers promoting their terroirs with top-quality wines,” said Caschera, but added that, “Quality will be the only way to restore the image.”
Investment in Beaujolais from other wine regions may already be doing the trick, coupled with excitement over the terrific 2009 vintage and the wines' attractive prices. Beaujolais exports to the U.S. were up 11.6 percent this January compared to January 2009, according to InterBeaujolais, the regional trade body.
K & L Wine Merchants — Hollywood, California — October 15, 2010 12:56pm ET
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