Silvio Denz, the owner of St.-Emilion châteaus Peby Faugères and Faugères has purchased Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey in Sauternes. The purchase price for the 90-acre estate was not disclosed. “I wouldn't have bought it above market,” said Denz. The Suez group has owned the estate since 1984.
The purchase continues a trend of both Right Bank and Médoc owners expanding into Sauternes. Châteaus d'Yquem, Guiraud, Rieussec, Suduiraut and Clos Haut-Peyraguey are owned by companies or individuals based outside Sauternes. “Sauternes is simply underrated these days,” said Denz of his impetus for the purchase. “We know the terroir is there or there wouldn't be so many Sauternes in the 1855 Classification. But it's an area that is overlooked these days.”
Denz, 58, developed a large chain of perfumeries in Switzerland before branching into the wine industry with his purchase of Peby Faugères in 2005. His investments there have helped propel the property to the elite level of St.-Emilion producers. Denz now owns seven wine estates in total, including five in Bordeaux, along with properties in Spain and Italy. He has also served as CEO of French luxury brand Lalique since 2008.
The bulk of the production from Denz' other properties is red wine, but he noted a desire to start making white wine, both sweet and dry. “[Lafaurie-Peyraguey] is [90 acres], but [half] are really the historic vineyards, with some vines dating back to 1927. I want to focus the sweet production on those parcels, which are on the best terroirs,” said Denz, who added that he has tasted numerous Lafaurie-Peyraguey vintages from the 1920s, '30s and '40s which convinced him of the estate's potential. “Then we can increase the dry white production from the rest of the estate,” said Denz.
Lafaurie-Peyraguey is planted primarily to Sémillon, along with small amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, with an average vine age of 40 years. Denz plans to keep technical director Eric Larramona in place. “I like experience, and since he joined the estate in 2006, he has improved the wine noticeably.”
In addition to improving quality and increasing production of dry whites, Denz also plans to develop an eno-tourism site at Lafaurie-Peyraguey. The Suez group renovated it during their ownership. “They did a very nice job and there's just a few little things to touch up. The château has 13 bedrooms and while I wouldn't call it a hotel per se, we do plan to use it for guests and other events. Sauternes is short on places to stay and I want to help develop that side of the region as well,” said Denz.