Winemaking partners Olivier Decelle and Pierre-Jean Villa have acquired the historic Rhône estate Domaine de Boisseyt-Chol in Chavanay, a prime Côte-Rôtie spot, from Didier and Agnes Chol. The deal, which will close on Aug. 1, includes 24 acres of vines in multiple parcels. Neither side would disclose a price, but the sale is notable, as top-quality vines in Côte-Rôtie rarely come on the market. When they do, the region's prominent names, such as E. Guigal and M. Chapoutier, often have the inside track on acquiring them.
"Let's just say there was big competition," Pierre-Jean Villa, owner of his namesake domaine in Chavanay, told Wine Spectator.
Decelle was an heir to the French frozen-food chain Picard Surgelés, and now owns Bordeaux châteaus Jean Faure in St.-Emilion and Haut-Maurac in the Médoc, as well as the Languedoc-Roussillon estate Mas Amiel. In Burgundy, Decelle and Villa are already partners as grower-négociants at Decelle-Villa, which they set up in a historic cellar in Nuits-Saint-Georges in 2009, farming 20 acres biodynamically.
It was more than Decelle's deep pockets that sealed the Boisseyt-Chol deal. Villa grew up across from de Boisseyt-Chol, which has been in the Chols' family since 1797. Didier and Agnes have decided to retire, and their children did not want to take over. They chose to sell to a partnership that included a talented, modest local vigneron and appreciated that the acquisition would allow for transmission to the next generation in Villa's family.
"It was more than just the financial side; this was also an emotional decision for them. I really saw this as an opportunity for the future, a way to keep the vineyards in my family. I have a son and a daughter, and I only had 12 hectares [30 acres],” said Villa. "I'm a first-generation winemaker. I started with nothing. This will assure the next generation of the domaine."
At Domaine de Boisseyt (the new owners will drop “Chol” from the name), Villa will work with his technical director Justin Prudhomme. De Boisseyt has an annual production of 5,000 cases produced from 24 acres spread among Côte-Rotie, Condrieu, St.-Joseph and Vin de Pays. The estate has underperformed in recent years, but owns some legendary Rhône plots.
"Côte-Rotie has the historic Côte Brune and Côte Blonde. This plot was planted in the 1930s and puts us in the heart of the mythic Côte Blonde," said Villa. "The wines are silky, with elegance and finesse, while still having the present tannins, structure and fruit of Syrah."
The acquisition also comes with plots of Les Rivoires in St.-Joseph—“a magnificent terroir," according to Prudhomme—and the tiny, steep terraced vineyards of Les Corbonnes in Condrieu. "The incline is more than 50 percent, all worked manually, of course. And again, it's a very specific terroir in the region," said Villa.
Both Decelle and Villa are committed to sustainability. "We're giving ourselves five years to convert the vineyards to organic viticulture," said Villa.