Etienne de Montille, co-proprietor of Domaine de Montille in Volnay, has purchased Château de Puligny-Montrachet, where he had been the managing director since 2002. The deal, concluded June 28, is for $22.1 million and includes almost 50 acres of prime vineyards, the château and some stocks of wine.
“This is a major acquisition for the Domaine de Montille,” de Montille told Wine Spectator. “It takes the Domaine to an actual level of where it was in the 19th century with 86.45 acres of vineyards. After the restructuring, Domaine de Montille, including Château de Puligny-Montrachet, will own and farm 86.5 acres of vineyards, of which 49.4 acres are premiers and grands crus. This will place Domaine de Montille among the significant estates in the Côte de Beaune."
A former mergers and acquisitions banker in the agricultural sector, de Montille realized that the property was the type of asset that owner Groupe Banque Populaire et Caisse d’Epargne would divest itself of once the balance sheet came under scrutiny. His concern was that by the time that happened, he might no longer have the connection with the management at BPCE that he had as the head of the estate.
“That deal, I can really tell you, it is the result of long and hard work we initiated three years ago,” said de Montille. “My strategy was to convince them to sell the estate on a timely basis and with a process that would be respectful of the work that had been carried on here and that would be to the benefit of both parties." However, it took de Montille two years to connect with the correct executive at BPCE.
The bank agreed to consider a proposal from de Montille before any other options. An agreement was signed in February of this year, with a six-month window to organize financing. De Montille put the deal together in half that time, with minority investors from Asia, Europe and the United States as partners in two land companies, while de Montille owns the farming company outright. “I put together a few investors, private individuals who are all wine lovers to co-purchase the land and rent it to Château de Puligny-Montrachet. I remain fully in charge of the farming company, I’m the only shareholder,” he said.
French businessman and Château Latour owner François Pinault helped de Montille to structure the deal. As a result, he added to his Burgundy holdings at Domaine d’Eugenie by acquiring just less than one-tenth of an acre of Montrachet and 0.12 acres of Bâtard-Montrachet.
“The idea is to really focus on the best vineyards, that’s why I sold part of it," said de Montille. "Together with Alix [de Montille’s sister and co-owner of Domaine de Montille], we want to edit and downsize not only the number of wines we are producing but the number of bottles as well, so we can really focus on quality. We want to have the ability by refocusing on the best vineyards to go onto the finest level of detail and pay as much attention as necessary to each of the cuvées.”
The goal is to cut the number of labels by about 20 percent, with total production decreasing from 20,800 cases to less than 16,666 cases. There are currently 60 different labels between Domaine de Montille, Château de Puligny-Montrachet and the négociant label Deux Montille Soeur-Frère. Alix de Montille makes the whites, while Etienne vinifies the reds.
With the restructuring, Domaine de Montille will be at the top of the range with the iconic vineyards and the grands crus and premiers crus, Château de Puligny will be the high end and middle range with the premiers crus and the villages and the Maison Deux Montille will be the more entry level.