Domaine de Lambert, near Limoux, has 90 acres of vines, mainly planted to the Languedoc's regional varieties, including Syrah. The price the Rothschilds paid for the property was not disclosed.
Not long ago, the Languedoc was seen as a region that made large quantities of poor-quality wines from lesser-known grapes. But in recent years, the area has attracted the attention of international winemakers, including Beringer and Mondavi, who have been replanting with popular grapes (such as Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot) and are turning out value-priced wines labeled by varietal.
"The Languedoc has a good future," said Herve Berland, a director at Mouton-Rothschild. "For a long time, people underestimated the quality, but now with the improvements in winemaking, the region is beginning to make some very good wine. The international market is waking up to this, and we can play a role in the development of the region."
Since 1995, Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A., the company behind the chateau, has been selling five varietal wines under the broad vin de pays (literally "country wines") designation: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Rose, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
With the new estate, "We are really looking to make a superpremium wine," said Berland. "We have more flexibility with the Vin de Pays appellation than with the Appellation Controlee [the highest rank, with the strictest regulations, in French wine law]."
At Domaine de Lambert, the Rothchilds plan to create a Bordeaux-style wine using Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. "We first need to replant more to the Bordeaux varieties and then observe the quality of the vines," said Berland. The new owners hope to produce their first vintage at Lambert within four to five years, with an estimated release of 16,000 cases.
Patrick Leon, head winemaker at Mouton-Rothschild, will also be responsible for Domaine de Lambert. Mouton-Rothchild also produces Opus One, a joint venture in California's Napa Valley with Robert Mondavi Winery, and Almaviva, a joint venture with Concha y Toro in Chile.
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