(Wine Spectator has confirmed that Calon-Segur has been sold to a French insurance firm. Get the details here.)
Bordeaux third-growth Château Calon-Ségur is rumored to have been sold to a new French owner, for an estimated $212.5 million. The purchase would include 235 acres in St.-Estèphe, encompassing Calon-Ségur, second label Marquis de Calon and a cru bourgeois property, Capbern-Gasqueton. If the deal closes, Calon-Ségur would be the most prominent of several Bordeaux properties to recently change hands.
The future of Calon-Ségur has been in question since the death of Denise Capbern-Gasqueton in September 2011 at the age of 87. The formidable Madame Gasqueton, as she was known, had run the estate with passion and an iron grip since the death of her husband in 1995. Calon-Ségur's wines earned high praise during that time, but she was a divisive figure in the family, which has owned the estate since the late 19th century.
Neither Calon-Ségur's current co-owners nor a prominent Bordeaux château owner rumored to be involved in the purchase verified that an acquisition was in the works. Alain de Baritault du Carpia, husband of co-owner and general manager Hélène de Baritault du Carpia, neither confirmed nor denied the sale when contacted by telephone by Wine Spectator. Co-owners Agnes Florisoone and Sophie de Mascarel de la Corbière were equally tight-lipped.
However, legal documents reveal that, at recent meetings, lawyers and CPAs outnumbered shareholders. Several sources claimed that the long-anticipated transaction is well underway. “It’s done,” said one real-estate agent not directly involved in the sale. “Jean-Francois Moueix has brought in an investor, just like he did with Montrose.”
Moueix—the current owner of Pomerol’s famed Château Pétrus, négociant Duclot and a wine retail chain in France—was unavailable for comment.
In 2006, when Château Montrose’s then-owner, Jean-Louis Charmolüe, decided to sell, Jean-Francois Moueix brought billionaires Martin and Olivier Bouygues to the table. At the time, Jean-Francois and his brother, Christian Moueix (owner of Right Bank châteaus such as Trotanoy and La Fleur-Pétrus), acquired minority stakes in Montrose; then Jean-Francois nearly doubled his stake in July 2010 by buying out another minority shareholder for $2.6 million.
There has not been any indication about the structure of the Calon-Ségur purchase or whether Moueix may have acquired a stake himself.
Calon-Ségur has a rich pedigree, once among the properties owned by the "Prince of Vines," Nicolas-Alexandre, the Marquis de Ségur—along with châteaus Lafite, Latour, Mouton-Rothschild, Pontet-Canet, d'Armailhac and Montrose. The château passed through various owners in the late-18th and 19th centuries, until it was purchased by Georges Gasqueton of Château Capbern-Gasquiton in 1894. However, Calon-Ségur's iconic heart-shaped label remains a reminder of the Marquis' assertion that "I make my wine at Lafite and Latour, but my heart is in Calon."
Elsewhere in Bordeaux, Château Lafite Rothschild owner Baron Eric de Rothschild has quietly purchased 15 acres from Pomerol's Château La Croix-de-Gay. The acquisition will go to expand Château L’Evangile—one of several estates owned by parent company Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)—from 40 acres to 55 acres, not insignificant, considering the average estate size in Pomerol is 10 acres. Lafite CEO Christophe Salin told Wine Spectator that production would remain stable for some time while they replant.
In exchange for bowing out of the bidding war over the La Croix-de-Gay property, billionaire Laurent Dassault—who owns châteaus Dassault and La Fleur, as well as a 5 percent stake in Château Cheval-Blanc—acquired a 5 percent stake in châteaus L’Evangile and Rieussec.
“I would have preferred 10 percent, but 5 percent isn’t bad,” said Dassault. He’s still on the prowl for a Pomerol estate, but was mollified by the agreement to "bundle" Dassault with the distribution of the Lafite portfolio of wines. The payoff has been immediate. Old vintages of Dassault are flying out of the cellar and what could have been an extremely disappointing en primeur campaign ended satisfactorily.
La Croix-de-Gay will continue to exist with 10 acres and be run by Chantal Lebreton and her children, along with 5 acres of La Fleur de Gay. The sale allowed her brother, Dr. Alain Raynaud, to exit the property and end what had been an acrimonious relationship. “Either you live in conflict, or you leave,” said Raynaud. “I wanted to find the right buyer for La Croix-de-Gay. Someone of quality. The money was important, but not the most important.”
(Raynaud hasn't gone far: Last year, he purchased 14-acre Château du Parc in St.-Emilion, where his first vintage earned a respectable 88-91 points from Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth.)
Another transaction was afoot on the négociant side of the Bordeaux wine trade. Shanghai Sugar Cigarette and Wine (SSCW), a subsidiary of the Chinese-government-owned Bright Food group, has acquired a 70 percent stake in an important wine merchant, DIVA (Distribution Internationale de Vins et Alcools).
DIVA-Bordeaux director Jean-Pierre Rousseau explained that two factors weighed heavily in his and partner Pierre Beuchet’s decision to sell. First, neither have children interested in taking over the company. Second, the cost of Bordeaux classified-growth is such that they did not have the financial wherewithal to expand the business. They do $41.8 million in turnover, and hold roughly $7 million worth of wine in stock and $3.7 million in futures.
Bright Food owns 800 retail stores in China selling wine, liquor and cigarettes. “The three vices,” quipped Rousseau, who will remain with the company as president and CEO for at least five years.