Bernard Arnault’s Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) luxury group has made its first move in Burgundy, buying Domaine des Lambrays from Ruth Freund for an undisclosed sum. The domaine includes a near monopoly of the climat Clos des Lambrays. "It is the first step in Burgundy, with an exceptional terroir and a great historic estate," Jean-Guillaume Prats, CEO of LVMH Estates and Wines, told Wine Spectator.
Clos des Lambrays is an enclosed vineyard of almost 21.5 acres near the village of Morey-St.-Denis. Domaine des Lambrays owns 21.4 acres of the clos, which dates back to the 14th century and was once part of the vast holdings of the Abbey of Citeaux. The monks tended the vines until the French Revolution, when the vineyard was confiscated and sold off to 75 different owners.
The arduous and costly job of reconstituting the estate began in the 19th century. It passed through several owners and was largely abandoned for 40 years when the Sair brothers bought it in 1979. The brothers began making improvements, and hired a young Dijon enologist, Thierry Brouin, to oversee the estate. Brouin has remained with the property ever since.
Freund and her husband, Gunter, who passed away in 2010, have been widely lauded for the investments and improvements they made in the vineyards and cellars since they acquired the property in 1996. The domaine has been pesticide- and fertilizer-free for 18 years. Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson awarded 94 points to the Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays 2010.
The remaining tenth of an acre of Clos des Lambrays belongs to Domaine Taupenot-Merme. Co-owner and winemaker Romain Taupenot said that any dream Arnault might have of a monopoly will have to wait. "If Bernard Arnault would like to sell to us a part of the Clos des Lambrays that he just bought, we would obviously be ready to listen," said Taupenot.
Although Domaine des Lambrays is most famous for Clos des Lambrays, it owns 27.2 acres in all, including parts of the Morey-St.-Denis premier cru Les Loups, parts of the Puligny Montrachet premier cru Clos du Cailleret and less than an acre of Puligny Montrachet premier cru Clos Les Folatières.
Prats said LVMH would maintain the current distribution and, "of course, the existing very competent local team will continue to manage the estate." LVMH already has extensive vineyard holdings, including Châteaus Cheval-Blanc and d’Yquem in Bordeaux, as well as Australia's Cape Mentelle, California's Newton, Cloudy Bay in New Zealand, Cheval des Andes in Argentina, and Spain's Numanthia, as well as several Champagne houses and sparkling wine Chandon operations in several countries.