One of Burgundy's historic négociant houses has changed hands. The owners of Maison Moillard, in Nuits-St.-Georges, sold the company to fellow Burgundian Vincent Sauvestre on June 5. Sauvestre, who owns both the négociant Jean-Baptiste Béjot and more than 740 acres of vineyards from Chablis to Provence, gains Moillard's 75 acres in Burgundy and 180 acres in the Languedoc, plus its stores of older vintages for his new group Béjot-Moillard. The purchase price was undisclosed.
"This merger will both enhance and strengthen the two family companies," said Valerie Delannoy, Béjot's director of sales for North America. She added that Sauvestre wanted to add more wines from the Côte de Nuits to his portfolio as well as Moillard's organically grown vineyards in Languedoc. "Their holdings will remain separate, but there will be synergy on the operational side of the business."
Moillard was established in 1850 by Symphorien Moillard, and has remained in the Thomas-Moillard family since. It once owned several impressive vineyards, but the company has struggled in recent years. Ownership was split amongst 65 shareholders, 35 of whom were family members. In 2005, the company sold 30 acres of many of its best parcels—including land in Chambertin, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze, Romanée St.-Vivant, Bonnes Mares and Corton Clos du Roi—to Domaine Dujac and Etienne de Montille to deal with inheritance issues.
In 2006, general manager Denis Thomas hired Bernard Zito to oversee the vineyards and convert them to organic methods, and he installed Isabelle Lenet as winemaker. But a year ago, a majority of the shareholders voted to sell the maison. Sources in Burgundy say that Denis Thomas was against the deal, while his cousin, Patrick Thomas, CEO of the fashion house Hermès, was part of the group that favored selling. According to Delannoy, negotiations took several months.
Denis Thomas will remain as manager, according to Sauvestre, and Lenet will stay on as head winemaker. Zito plans to move on to other opportunities, and winemaking consultant Pascal Marchand's contract will end in September.
Sauvestre, whose operations are based in Meursault, gains one of the largest négociants in Burgundy. Just 20 years ago, he only owned Béjot and his family's 15-acre domaine. He now has extensive holdings in Chablis, Côte d'Or, Côte Chalonnaise, Côtes du Rhône, Corbières and Côtes de Provence.