Paul Jaboulet Aîné, one of the wine world's most storied houses, is apparently close to being sold. Although winery president Michel Jaboulet, has denied that any transaction had yet occurred, a source with knowledge of the situation said that Jean-Jacques Frey, a part-owner of Château La Lagune in Bordeaux's Haut-Médoc appellation, made a bid for the company that was accepted, and a letter of intent has been signed.
If ongoing audits are completed without any issues arising, the source said, the sale would be official as of Jan. 1, 2006.
Jaboulet did admit that Paul Jaboulet Aîné, which has been owned by his family since its founding in 1834, is fielding offers from prospective buyers. "We are in discussions, but nothing has happened," he said.
A meeting of the owners is scheduled for Oct. 5, at which time Jaboulet expected a decision would be made. "I would say the chance that the company could change [hands] is 70 percent," he said.
Issues with French inheritance taxes and a lack of interest in maintaining the business among the family members could be prompting the sale. "The problems of succession in a family company are difficult," Jaboulet said.
One of the most recognizable names in wine, Paul Jaboulet Aîné's Hermitage La Chapelle bottling has historically been a benchmark for the Rhône Valley. The company both acts as a négociant and owns more than 245 acres of vineyards in the Northern Rhône, including 60 prized acres in the Hermitage appellation and 5 percent of the entire Crozes-Hermitage appellation. The winery currently produces 275,000 cases of wine annually, sending an average of 70,000 cases a year to the U.S. market.