Some of Bordeaux's leading vintners are looking to Provence. French billionaire, vintner and hotelier Michel Reybier and his family have acquired Château La Mascaronne in the Côtes de Provence appellation from American Tom Bove. And Jean-Guillaume Prats, who worked for Reybier as CEO at Château Cos-d'Estournel and now fills the same role at Lafite Rothschild has, along with his family, joined French tycoon Stéphane Courbit as minority partners in the acquisition of Château d'Estoublon in Baux-de-Provence.
For Reybier, the purchase of La Mascaronne fulfills a longtime goal. "It is a region to which I have been very attached for over 40 years," Reybier told Wine Spectator. Ultimately, Reybier was drawn to the potential of La Mascaronne's terroir. "I have been looking for a high-quality terroir for a long time—it is done with Château La Mascaronne, which produces very great wines and particularly a magnificent rosé."
La Mascaronne is a 240-acre estate located above the village of Luc-en-Provence, with 148 acres under vine, producing 10,000 cases of rosé, white and red wines annually. The main labels are Quat'saisons (rosé), Vita Bella (white) and Fazioli (red).
"I would like to continue the work that has already been undertaken in order to make the best possible wine, and that the rosé remains produced mainly on the property," said Reybier. "The current technical team, which brought the wines to this level of quality, will collaborate with the technical team from Cos-d'Estournel."
Though the deal was announced this month, Reybier completed the transaction prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, acquiring the estate from Bove for an undisclosed sum. Reybier said the estate benefits from the remarkable effort of restoration carried out in the vineyard by Bove over two decades.
Bove has a reputation for bringing out the potential in rundown estates in Provence. He is the former owner of Château Miraval, which he bought in 1993, restored and then sold to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for $60 million in 2012. Bove bought La Mascaronne, near Miraval, in 1999 and began a series of massive investments. He excavated boulders, reshaped hillsides and replanted vineyards on slopes of chalk and clay soils over sedimentary fissured limestone.
The vineyards have been certified organic since 2016—another attribute that attracted Reybier to the estate. Reyber also owns Cos-d'Estournel, the Imperial Estate of Hétszölö in Hungary and Jeeper Champagne house. He amassed his initial fortune in deli meats, selling his company Aoste to Sara Lee in 1996. He then embarked on new ventures in Swiss healthcare clinics, biotech, oil and luxury hotels.
With his vast experience in hotels and restaurants, including more recently the Maison d'Estournel in St.-Estèphe, Reybier expressed a desire to bring the same relaxed, authentic wine country experience to La Mascaronne. And he's not ruling out the acquisition of another estate. "If we can bring our savoir-faire to another region, we will."
Wine, olive oil and hospitality
Stéphane Courbit, with the Prats family, bought the 741-acre Château d'Estoublon in Baux-de-Provence from the Reboul-Schneider family for an undisclosed sum prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jean-Guillaume Prats explained to Wine Spectator that this is a project for the next generation of the Prats family, among which are eight cousins, including his son Jean-Quentin Prats who will be "hands on" in launching their new premium organic rosé, Roseblood d’Estoubon.
“Rosé is appreciated by young consumers, in the U.S. in particular, and we thought it would be interesting to have this social connection to my generation arriving in the family business,” Jean-Quentin told Wine Spectator. He was previously brand ambassador in Asia for Château Pavie. “We want this to be the flagship of Estoubon offering premium value at a fair price.”
The winery is located on the south-facing slopes of the low-altitude Alpilles mountains, with 45 acres under vine grown organically. The historic estate dates to 1489; the buildings date to the 17th century.
“The previous owners did a marvelous job. The estate is gorgeous,” said Jean-Quentin. “The château has deep roots. This was very important for us.”
The new owners are excited about the potential of the different terroirs, including outcrops of limestone, clay and sandy-silt gravel—ideal for regional grape varieties Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Roussane and Marsanne. Their first project is the launch of a new premium organic rosé, Roseblood d'Estoublon, a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Tibouren. But bigger plans include the construction of a new, modern, gravity-fed winery. They are also running a luxury hotel and restaurant.
Courbit, age 55, and a longtime friend of the Prats family, made his fortune in television. His holding company, LOV Group, has investments in entertainment, online gaming and luxury hotels in Courchevel and St.-Tropez. D'Estoublon will join Courbit's luxury hotel business Airelles Collection, and offer guests the Provençal lifestyle and the chance to stay in one of 10 suites.
The estate also includes 297 acres of olive groves and a modern mill, producing award-winning olive oils under the Vallée-des-Baux-de-Provence appellation.