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French Wine Tycoon Magrez Moves into Chile

Vintner also has his eye on properties in Tuscany and Washington state

Mitch Frank
Posted: March 14, 2008

French wine magnate Bernard Magrez has expanded the boundaries of his wine empire further, buying 545 acres of prime land in Chile's Colchagua Valley. Magrez is a Bordeaux native who heads up wine company Bernard Magrez Grand Vignobles, which owns 32 properties ranging from Château Pape Clement in Bordeaux to small wineries in Morocco, Napa Valley and Uruguay.

Magrez, who made his fortune as the founder of the William Pitters spirits company and the low-cost red Bordeaux brand Malesan (he sold both companies several years ago), made this latest acquisition because he believes Chile is too promising to ignore. "I wanted to invest in Chile since we bought land in Argentina and Uruguay seven years ago," he said. "It took us three years to find the land."

The new property, which will be called Hacienda de la Serenidad, is 100 miles south of Santiago in one of Chile's most prestigious regions, not far from Apalta. "We will plant vines after the harvest," said Magrez, "Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Carmènere."

Since 2005, Magrez has been making a small amount of wine in the area from purchased grapes, which is what convinced him of the quality of the terroir. In three to four years, he plans to make two cuvées from his own vines: an entry-level wine and a "cuvee d'exception" made from lower yields, all manually harvested and sorted and destemmed.

As part of his diversification, Magrez is selling three of his Bordeaux properties—Châteaux Bois Pertuis, Haut Mouleyre and Bois Chantant. All three produced entry-level Bordeaux AOC wines. "The deal is not finalized," Magrez said. "We want to sell these three because they are no longer part of our strategy. We are refocusing on high-quality vineyards."

Magrez's Chilean project will probably not be his last acquisition. He said he is looking for potential properties in Tuscany, Washington state and the Médoc. He also recently bought a vineyard in Collioure in southern Roussillon.

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