Jean-Guillaume Prats, CEO of second-growth Château Cos-d’Estournel, has announced his departure from the iconic, 224-acre St.-Estephe estate that once belonged to his family, where he has served as CEO for 12 years and earned the admiration of many. Prats told Wine Spectator he will become CEO of Estates and Wines, Moët-Hennessy's collection of premiere wine properties, including Numanthia, Cloudy Bay and Domaine Chandon.
Prats will remain at Cos until mid-January 2013, at which point he’ll embark, according to Michel Reybier, owner of Cos-d’Estournel. The move was announced to the Bordeaux trade in an Oct. 15 letter to Bordeaux négociants from Reybier. "I want to thank him as well as the whole team of Cos-d’Estournel, for the excellent job done all these years, and wish him every success for the future," wrote Reybier.
“I have nothing but praise for Jean-Guillaume and the incredible work he did at Cos-d'Estournel. His efforts to make the best wine possible year-to-year were remarkable,” Chris Adams, CEO of Sherry Lehman, told Wine Spectator. "And year after year he was able to make a wine that reflected, in my opinion, the finest character of the vintage and his vineyards. He has taken Cos to the top and solidified its position there."
Reybier, a Switzerland-based French businessman, acquired Cos in 2000 from the Merlaut family, owners of the Taillain Group, for an estimated $115 million. The Merlauts had acquired Cos from Jean-Guillaume’s father, Bruno Prats in 1998, and already owned négociant Maison Ginestet, founded by Prats' ancestor, Fernand Ginestet.
When Reybier purchased the estate, he hired Jean-Guillaume as CEO, who has since made his mark as one of the most influential winemakers in Bordeaux. Following in his father's footsteps in running the estate, Prats was synonymous with Cos, so much so that many consumers assumed his family still owned the château.
Prats has overseen massive investments by Reybier, including a stunning state-of-the-art gravity flow cellar that has every bell and whistle a winemaker could want. Under Prats’ guidance, the wines have earned consistently high ratings for producing classy wines with ultrafine tannins, a solid core of fruit and a gorgeous nose.
Prats often expressed his drive to put Cos on par—in terms of quality, image and brand value—with his first-growth neighbors, and wasn’t shy about edging prices higher. Some complained that the wines cost too much. “He oversaw Cos during a time of unprecedented price increases for the top wines of Bordeaux,” said Adams. “The bottom line, of course, is that Cos-d’Estournel has a very strong following among [our] clients.”
During the transition phase, Prats will work with Reybier and his associate Christophe Ranger to put together a new management team that will continue Reybier’s main objective, which is the "quest for excellence."
Prats' new job will put him in charge of wineries spanning from Spain to Napa to South America to New Zealand. "I'll be commuting between Bordeaux and Paris and the vineyards around the world," he said.
—With additional reporting by James Molesworth.