French wine tycoon Bernard Magrez has acquired Sauternes first-growth Clos Haut-Peyraguey for an undisclosed sum, in response, he says, to demand from wine lovers in Asia. “We were already the owners of a château in Sauternes, but our high-end Asian clients wanted a Sauternes grand cru classé or a premier grand cru classé,” the 76-year-old entrepreneur told Wine Spectator.
Clos Haut-Peyraguey consistently earns outstanding scores on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, with the 2011 barrel sample receiving 93 to 96 points from senior editor and Bordeaux taster James Molesworth. The estate produces 28,000 bottles from 39.5 acres of sandy-gravel soil atop clay subsoil on the highest point of the Bommes plateau above the Ciron river. It’s surrounded by top-performing châteaus, with 9.8 acres close to Château d’Yquem. The estate has been in the Pauly family since 1914. The current owner-manager, Martine Langlais-Pauly, said that that the sale was not yet official, but expected it to finalize by the end of the year.
Magrez made his fortune by founding the William Pitters spirits company as well as entry-level red Bordeaux brand Malesan. He sold both companies several years ago, and began collecting vineyards. Last spring, Magrez attempted to buy a different Sauternes estate, second-growth Château Romer, but was blocked by SAFER, the French government agency that oversees rural land deals.
At the same time the Romer deal fell through, Magrez had better luck buying 35.5-acre Château de Malleprat in Pessac-Leognan and 27-acre Château Moulin d’Ulysse in Listrac. “Château de Malleprat–the terroir is exceptional, and we’re going to do what it takes to make sure the wine is too,” said Magrez. “The same goes for Moulin d’Ulysse.”
Magrez now owns 40 estates around the world, all producing premium, limited-quantity wines. “I am the only Bordelais to own–as the sole owner–a classified growth in each of the four prestigious appellations,” he said. In addition to Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Magrez’s Bordeaux classified portfolio includes Château Fombrauge in St.-Emilion, recently ranked a grand cru classé, as well as Château Pape Clément in Graves and Château La Tour Carnet, a fourth-growth in the Médoc.