Gérard Perse, owner of first-growth Château Pavie and St.-Emilion luxury hotel L'Hostellerie de Plaisance, has acquired the nearby bistro and wine bar L'Envers du Décor from François des Ligneris. The bistro, located at the top of the Bordeaux town, has long functioned as a clubhouse for the local wine industry and a casual eatery for tourists in the know.
"It's a beautiful exit for me," Des Ligneris told Wine Spectator. "[Perse and his team] have a Relais & Châteaux hotel, a gourmet restaurant—we're pleased they chose us."
Chantal Perse, Gerard's wife and partner, told Wine Spectator that there are no plans to make any significant changes. “L’Envers du Décor is a real institution in St.-Emilion,” she said. “It will remain a bistro, a place both for locals and people from elsewhere, as it’s been for the last 30 years. The menu will be [overseen] by our chef at Plaisance, Ronan Kervarrec, who was just awarded two Michelin stars.” They have already hired additional staff members for L'Envers.
De Ligneris opened the wine bar in 1987 in an era when St.-Emilion attracted few tourists. At the time he was working at his family's estate, Château Soutard (sold in 2006).
"In the winter I was pruning or I'd finish on the tractor at 10 p.m. I wanted to get out and see people, but I wanted to arrive at 10 p.m., not 8 p.m., dressed in my work clothes, eat one dish rather than an entire fixed menu, and drink wine by the glass," explained Des Ligneris. "I wanted to try my neighbors' wines but also wines from other regions. So I opened a wine bar that suited my needs."
Although local dignitaries were scandalized that Des Ligneris would sell wines from other regions, L'Envers du Décor soon took off, first as a hangout for winemakers, and gradually as the favorite bistro for artists, tourists and the wine trade. Des Ligneris has been an early local advocate for farm-to-table cuisine and organic farming.
De Ligernis worked at Soutard from 1978 to 2006. He also owned vineyards in Corbières and Entre-Deux-Mers, which he sold in 2011. When the Perse family made him an offer for L'Envers du Decors, he accepted. Now 61, he has run the restaurant for 30 years, and been a winemaker for 35. It was the moment to think about a "quiet transition to another activity," he said.
In addition to Pavie and L'Hostellerie de Plaisance, Perse owns Château Monbousquet, Château Pavie-Decesse, Château Bellevue-Mondotte, Clos Lunelles in Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux, Esprit de Pavie and an olive-oil estate in Alpilles, Provence, called La Clusière.