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Chanel Owners Expand Bordeaux Holdings

The Wertheimers, who own Rauzan-Ségla, buy a St.-Emilion property to complement Canon

Suzanne Mustacich
Posted: June 27, 2011

The Wertheimers, the family who controls the Chanel Group, have acquired grand cru classé Château Matras in St.-Emilion. The 31.6-acre estate borders Château Canon, a premier grand cru classé (B), also owned by the family. The price was $11.4 million or $368,932 per acre.

“It’s located just across the road at the bottom of the hill,” said John Kolasa, managing director of Chanel Group’s holdings in the area, including Châteaus Canon and Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux, and wine merchant Ulysse Cazabonne. He added that geologists are currently boring holes in the soil at Matras and have already made some surprising discoveries. “We’ve got a bit of everything,” said Kolasa. “We’ve got a very good clay and limestone at a meter and a half.”

And what kind of wine should customers expect? “I wouldn’t expect to make something as precise as Canon with the minerality and freshness. The soils are deeper, with more clay and sand—probably a bit more lush, like the wines made in that area, but I’m just guessing.”

Kolasa, 62, initially went hunting for more vines when he realized that with improved quality at Canon, his eventual successor might have few grapes for the 4,000- to 5,000-case production of Canon’s second wine, Clos Canon. “The vineyards in perfect condition at Canon will be making 95 percent grand vin. We have built up a brand, Clos Canon, over 20 years that sells well all over the world without any difficulties, a second wine of a first-growth, with really great quality for the price.”

The Matras vineyards will keep them supplied with Clos Canon and potentially increase the first wine. France's National Institute for Origin and Quality (INAO) is currently deciding whether Matras' grapes could go into Canon's wines. The Wertheimers already successfully lobbied the INAO for permission to absorb 8.6 acres of another small estate, Château Curé-Bon, into Canon in 2000.

The acquisition followed a path of acrimony familiar to those in Bordeaux. Two of the three sisters owning the estate wanted to sell, while the third sister, Veronique Gaboriaud Bernard, fought all the way to the French supreme court. She lost and is bitter over the sale. Her sisters could not be reached for comment.

Back at Canon, the mood is upbeat. Investments are planned to give Matras the Chanel touch. The historic chapel, which currently holds the cellar, will be restored with a new vat room and aging cellar. “I want to give it all the charm that it used to have,” said Kolasa.

“The most important thing for me is that I’ve bought a good terroir and I can continue to make a really very good Clos Canon and that will have the right value for the money,” said Kolasa.

Ben Giliberti
Washington, DC —  June 29, 2011 10:56pm ET
"The Wertheimers already successfully lobbied the INAO for permission to absorb 8.6 acres of another small estate, Château Curé-Bon, into Canon in 2000."

Given how horrible Cure-Bon always was, it's hard to see how absorbing it could have improved Canon. I've never tasted Matras, but this sounds like more of the same. I question whether this sort of thing, which is all too routine across Bordeaux, should be allowed. Is a chateau a unique terroir, or a label pasted on a bottle?

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