In a rare deal, a notable classified-growth Bordeaux winery has changed hands. Wine Spectator has learned that the Cazes family, owners of the well-known Pauillac fifth-growth Château Lynch Bages, has purchased Château Haut-Batailley, a fellow fifth-growth also located in Pauillac. Haut-Batailley comprises 100 acres, roughly half of them planted, and produces 9,000 cases annually. It had been managed by François-Xavier Borie, owner of Grand-Puy-Lacoste, and owned by an extension of his family.
"It's the deal of a lifetime," said a beaming Jean-Charles Cazes, director of Domaine JM Cazes, in an exclusive interview with Wine Spectator about the deal. "It's a unique opportunity to write a new story. And it's rare because it is a deal from one family to another."
The purchase price was not disclosed, though public transactions recorded by SAFER, a French agency that approves land deals, indicate that current land values in Pauillac are valued between €1.5 million to €2 million per hectare, or $648,000 to $809,000 per acre, though for classified growths the price is likely higher.
"We are pleased that this transmission can be done with the Cazes family, who will be eager to continue the work undertaken on the property," said Borie, in a statement. "We are convinced that the identity and quality of its wines will be perpetuated." The Borie family has owned the estate since 1930. Originally part of Château Batailley, the family broke off Haut-Batailley as a separate estate in the 1940s.
Haut-Batailley's new story will be written on 47 acres of unplanted land—only 54 acres of the estate are currently planted. It was that opportunity that made the acquisition of Haut-Batailley so coveted.
"Those parcels have been unplanted since at least the 1940s," said Cazes. "Obviously we feel it has a lot of potential. It gives us the opportunity to basically plant the estate from scratch. To define Haut-Batailley going forward will be fun."
Cazes says he and his team plan to spend the next year conducting soil analysis and other research on the estate, though he is more than familiar with the terroir—classic Pauillac gravel over clay subsoil. Haut-Batailley's vineyards are in a nearly contiguous block, with the bulk of them bordering a section of Lynch Bages' own parcels along the southern border of Pauillac next to St.-Julien. The estate is currently planted to 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc, a mix that is unlikely to change going forward.
"Pauillac is on a whole 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. I think it's pretty clear that is what does well here," said Cazes.
In addition to replanting the estate, Cazes squashed rumors that the parcels would go into Lynch Bages, the more prominent of the two properties, in order to increase production. "Absolutely not," he said emphatically. "Haut-Batailley stays Haut-Batailley. It will be run independently with its own dedicated vineyard and winemaking team."
Cazes was also effusive in his praise for Borie's management of the estate. "The vineyards have been farmed wonderfully, there's been no herbicides or anything like that. They are really in perfect condition. And the cellar was invested in over the last 10 years and so it doesn't need anything new. There is no immediate investment to be made there. This means we can focus on the replanting."
Combining Haut-Batailley with Lynch Bages' 260 acres, the Cazes family now holds nearly 15 percent of the Pauillac appellation. The family also owns Château Cordeillan-Bages in Pauillac (10 acres, as well as a hotel and fine dining restaurant), Ormes des Pez in St.-Estèphe (100 acres) and Château Villa Bel-Air in Graves (104 acres).