Paul Jaboulet Aîné, one of the wine world's most storied houses, is putting the finishing touches on its sale to Jean-Jacques Frey, owner of Château La Lagune in Bordeaux's Haut-Médoc appellation and part-owner of Champagne house Billecart-Salmon. The purchase encompasses the entire company, including all vineyards and current inventory. The price has not yet been disclosed.
Fiscal and inventory audits have been completed without any problems, according to both parties in the deal, and the closing date for the sale of the venerable Rhône producer has been set for Jan. 5.
Paul Jaboulet Aîné has been owned by the Jaboulet family since its founding in 1834, but issues with the stifling French inheritance taxes prompted its sale. "The problems of succession in a family company are difficult," said Michel Jaboulet, president of the winery.
Frey's offer topped those from several other bidders, including Michel Reybier, who owns Bordeaux second-growth Château Cos-d'Estournel.
Frey plans to keep the younger generation of Jaboulets in the company, including Laurent Jaboulet, who is currently helping to make the wines with his father, Jacques, and uncle, Philippe. "It is very important to us to keep the family spirit," said Céline Frey, one of Jean-Jacques' daughters, who works in the financial side of the company. Frey's other daughter, Caroline, is currently the enologist at Château La Lagune and is expected to play a role in Jaboulet's production once the sale is completed.
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 iconic chapel at the top of the hill is also included in the sale.) 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.