Libourne-based négociant J.P. Moueix is negotiating the purchase of one of Bordeaux's historic estates, Château Bélair, in the St.-Emilion appellation. The proposed purchase price remains undisclosed.
According to Edouard Moueix of J.P. Moueix, the current owner, Pascal Delbeck, wishes to sell because of problems with inheritance taxes that render him unable to finance the improvements that the estate needs. Delbeck could not be reached for comment.
J.P. Moueix has been the distributor for the wines of Bélair for several years and, according to Edouard, has managed the estate's vineyards in the last two vintages. The wine merchant took a minority share in the property in 2006.
Bélair is located just to the south of the village of St.-Emilion, next door to Château Ausone. The 34 acres of vineyards contain some very old vines, with one parcel dating back to 1901.
The estate dates back several centuries and has bottled its own wines since 1802. It came into fame when the Dubois-Challon family became owners in 1916. The clan also owned St.-Emilion's top-ranked Ausone. When the last member of the Dubois-Challon family, Helyett Dubois-Challon, died in 2003, Delbeck inherited the property, but was saddled with heavy inheritance taxes as a result. Besides running Bélair, Delbeck had been winemaker at Ausone from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s.
A premier grand cru classé B château, the property produces around 3,000 cases of its first wine, a blend of roughly 85 percent Merlot and 15 percent Cabernet Franc. The 2005 vintage earned 90 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.
Although older vintages of Bélair can still be very good quality, the estate has been an underachiever in recent years. Some people call it old fashioned but it remains a firm, closed red, the opposite style of many of the fruitier, lusher wines of the Right Bank today.
"We believe that Bélair is one of the most beautiful vineyards in Bordeaux," said Moueix, "but it's an extremely fragile vineyard, and it will take heavy investment and at least 10 years to turn it round."
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