Bordeaux's Clos Fourtet, one of 11 premiers grands crus classis B in the St.-Emilion district, has been sold by the Lurton family to Philippe Cuvelier, a Parisian businessman who owns Papeterie Gilbert, a paper and office supplies company.
"Though Cuvelier is new to the wine industry, he is a great wine enthusiast," said Tony Ballu, manager of Clos Fourtet.
Clos Fourtet has been in the Lurton family since 1949. But the estate was put on the market in July after owners Andri and Lucien Lurton decided they wanted to avoid the French government's costly inheritance taxes.
"The expense of inheritance tax in France, especially on such a prestigious property, is enormous," said Ballu. "If the Lurtons were to leave this property to one lone successor, he or she would be suffocated by taxes. Alternatively, splitting or leaving such a property to the succession of cousins or to more than one relative can often lead to family disputes."
Ballu declined to reveal the sale price for Clos Fourtet, but said that the going rate for prestigious vineyard properties in St.-Emilion is anywhere from 10 million francs to 15 million francs per hectare. At those rates, the 50-acre estate could have fetched roughly anywhere between US$30 million and $40 million.
Clos Fourtet consists of 45 acres of vineyards planted to 80 percent Merlot, 10 percent Cabernet Franc and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvingon. The estate produces about 5,000 cases of Clos Fourtet annually, along with 2,500 cases of its second wine, Domaine de Martialis.
The sale will not be finalized until sometime during the first week of February, and Ballu said that no immediate changes have been planned. Daniel Alard will continue as winemaker for Clos Fourtet.
Full-access subscribers can check our past ratings of Clos Fourtet.
Read more about the potentially crippling French inheritance tax:
France's Broken Winemaking Families
Learn more about Clos Fourtet:
Who's on Top in St.-Emilion