French businessman François Pinault, owner of Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour, has purchased Domaine Engel in Burgundy's Vosne-Romanée appellation for an undisclosed price. The 15-acre domaine includes prime plots in the premier cru Vosne-Romanée Les Brûlées vineyard and the grands crus Echézeaux, Grands Echézeaux and Clos de Vougeot.
It is rare for a Burgundy domaine like this to come up for sale; most properties are kept in the family. But the future of Engel had been in limbo since the sudden death of Philippe Engel in May 2005. Earlier this year, his surviving family decided to sell the vineyards and remaining inventory of older stocks. The Engel wines have frequently performed very well; the last vintage tasted by Wine Spectator, the 2002 wines, scored from 89 points for the Vosne-Romanée to 94 points for the Grands Echézeaux.
"I've been at Latour for 12 years, and I've heard [Pinault] speak about having something small and of the equivalent quality of Château Latour in Burgundy," said Frédéric Engerer, president of Latour.
The deal was finalized Sept. 20. Along with his responsibilities at Latour, Engerer will also oversee Domaine Engel, and he and Latour winemaker Frédéric Ardouin will visit the new property regularly. They will be leasing space in which to make the wines, which were previously produced at the Engel family home.
Engerer has hired a young Burgundian to "follow the day-to-day technical activities" at Engel, but he would not name his new employee. "Let's see how the 2006 harvest goes, and we'll make changes as we see fit," Engerer said.