Artemis Domaines, the company that owns Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour, has acquired a large minority stake in Château Siaurac & Co., according to Siaurac owner and manager Paul Goldschmidt. Siaurac includes three Right Bank estates—Château Le Prieuré in St.-Emilion, Château Vray Croix de Gay in Pomerol and Château Siaurac in Lalande-de-Pomerol—for a total of 143 acres of vines.
The deal, for an undisclosed price, is Artemis founder François Pinault's first investment on the Right Bank. (He made a bid on Château Ausone 17 years ago.) Siaurac owners Aline and Paul Goldschmidt remain the majority shareholders.
“They are the ideal partner. We jumped on it,” Paul Goldschmidt told Wine Spectator. “We now have a long-term technical cooperation agreement with Château Latour that covers our three vineyards. Penelope Godefoy has been recruited as technical manager of our vineyards and is now fully in charge of the technical side. 2014 will be the first full vintage under the new cooperation.”
Godefoy had been vineyard manager at Latour for the past seven years and had also worked at Château-Grillet in the Northern Rhône Valley, which was purchased by the Artemis group in 2011. “She’s already improving how we work,” said Goldschmidt. They plan to convert the vineyards to biodynamic viticulture.
The Goldschmidts sought an outside partner to relieve financial pressure. The vineyards have been in the family of Aline since 1832, and she and Paul took over management in 2004. To prevent the estates being sold, they bought the shares held by other family members in 2007. They accrued more debt as they made heavy investments in the cellars and in restructuring the vineyards. “These have not been the easiest years,” admitted Goldschmidt. “We have already invested a huge amount in our vineyards, and we know we have another layer of investment. We have magnificent terroirs. We can make it so much better with more investment.”
Pinault visited the estates this past fall, saw the potential and quickly reached a decision. Not only will his deep pockets improve cash flow—Artemis Group is estimated to be worth more than $42 billion—but the Goldschmidts are thrilled to benefit from Latour’s technical expertise.
Paul Goldschmidt remains general manager, and will work with Jean Garandeau, Latour’s sales and marketing director, while CEO Frédéric Engerer will play an oversight role. “He’s like a member of the board,” said Goldschmidt.
Château Siaurac has 120 acres in Lalande de Pomerol, extending from the famous Pomerol plateau, a half-mile from Pétrus. There is a lovely château and 19th-century park. Château Le Prieuré includes 15 acres on St-Emilion’s limestone plateau and the south-facing slopes between Trottevieille, Troplong Mondot and Pavie Macquin. Château Vray Croix de Gay is an 8-acre gem with two exceptional gravel plots, one behind Pétrus in a similar terroir as nearby Château Lafleur and the second near Château Trotanoy and Le Pin. All of these choice morsels form the Baronne Guichard Vignobles holding company, in which Pinault has invested. Goldschmidt said the structure of the company made it difficult to specify Pinault’s percentage.
Artemis is a luxury group with diverse holdings, including Christie’s auction house, multiple fashion and retail ventures, and now wine estates on both the Left and Right Banks, in the Rhône, Domaine d'Eugénie in Burgundy and Araujo in Napa Valley, purchased last summer.
While Château Latour left the futures system two years ago, instead selling its vintages to a select number of négociants after several years aging in Latour's cellars, the Baronne Guichard wines will continue to be sold en primeur on the Place de Bordeaux. “Our commercial activities remain separate from Latour,” said Goldschmidt. “We work with a group of négociants on the Place de Bordeaux. This will not change.”