One of Champagne's leading families has bought a majority share in one of Bordeaux's super second-growths, giving it an ideal spot on the Left Bank. The Rouzaud family, owners of Louis Roederer, have entered into what it called a "strategic alliance" with the family that owns Château Pichon-Longueville-Lalande.
Neither side would reveal specifics of the deal, though Pichon managing director Gildas d'Ollone told Wine Spectator that the Rouzauds bought a majority share. Xavier Barlier, vice president for communications for Roederer's American marketing and distribution firm, said it was "a significant investment." The deal also includes the bourgeois cru Château Bernadotte and a South African wine property called Glenelly.
Pichon-Lalande owner May-Eliane de Lencquesaing had been in talks earlier this year with two heirs of the Hermès fashion house over a similar alliance, which industry insiders reported could have been worth more than $200 million. The deal was not completed, and the heirs, brothers Renaud and Laurent Mommeja, purchased Château Fourcas-Hosten, a bourgeois cru in nearby Listrac. Barlier said that while he didn't know the details, de Lencquesaing and her family wanted to work with someone with experience in the wine industry. Moreover, sources say the brothers thought the asking price was too steep.
The Rouzauds certainly have the experience and the cash. The family founded Roederer--best known for its prestige cuvée, Cristal--in 1776, and today owns estates in Provence, Portugal and California. The Rouzauds bought two St.-Estèphe properties in the early 1990s: Châteaus de Pez and Haut-Beauséjour.
De Lencquesaing, 81, has controlled Pichon-Lalande since 1978. Her father bought the estate more than 75 years ago, and it has become one of the Left Bank's top performers under her leadership, producing wines that regularly score classic (95-100 points) on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. She has several heirs, but none were interested in running the château. However, they will no doubt profit handsomely from the deal. The alliance will also provide plenty of capital for the estate.
"I have been running Pichon for 28 years now, and Pichon's future has been my main concern those past years," de Lencquesaing said in a statement. "Thus, I have decided to secure its future and ensure its stability and growth."
The Rouzauds are promising that there will be no immediate changes at the château. "The two families share similar visions for the estate," said Barlier. "Why fix what's not broken?"
The two families will now begin discussing a long-term vision for the property, according to Barlier. Bordeaux fans will be keeping a close eye on Pichon-Lalande's prices. The château has routinely offered wines at lower prices than many of its fellow super seconds, even in frenzied times such as the recent 2005 futures campaign. Similar properties sold futures at retail prices of $200 or more, while Pichon-Lalande was released at $127 per bottle.