Château Brown, a well-known estate in the Pessac-Léognan region of Bordeaux, was sold this month to two European wine-merchant families for an undisclosed amount. The 70-acre property now belongs to Bordeaux's Mau family and the owners of the Dutch liquor company Dirkzwager, while the former owner, Bernard Barthe, retains a 20 percent interest.
The Mau family has been in the Bordeaux wine trade since 1897 and founded Yvon Mau Négociants, which is now part of the Spain-based drinks group Freixenet. Currently, the Maus own Château Ducla in Entre-Deux-Mers and the Médoc cru bourgeois Château Preuillac, which they purchased with Dirkzwager in 1998.
Brown's new owners have plans to try to improve quality at the estate, which produces about 8,000 cases of red Bordeaux (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot) and 2,000 cases of white Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon) per year. In Wine Spectator's tastings, most of the wines have earned scores in the mid-80s on the 100-point scale, with the whites showing somewhat better than the reds.
Of Brown's vineyards, about 60 acres are planted to red grapes and 10 to white. "Around half of the red-variety vineyards contain 18-year-old vines that are not yet giving their best," said Jean-Christophe Mau, who will run Château Brown. "We will be looking into techniques, both in the vineyard and the winery, to get better results."
The new owners have approached one of Bordeaux's top consulting enologists, Stéphane Derenoncourt, about supervising the production of Brown's red wine. (Brown's in-house enologist, Philippe Dulong, would continue to make the white wine.) Since 2003, Derenoncourt has been winemaker at Château Preuillac; he is also a consultant for a number of prominent Bordeaux châteaus, such as Canon-La Gaffelière, La Mondotte, Pavie-Macquin and Prieure-Lichine.
While taking on management of Brown, Jean-Christophe Mau will continue to run Preuillac and spearhead the négociant firm's purchases of grands cru classés wines during Bordeaux's annual futures campaign.