LVMH, the luxury goods company whose portfolio ranges from Louis Vuitton handbags to Dom Pérignon champagne, has made their first acquisition in Burgundy. The group has purchased Domaine des Lambrays just outside of Morey-Saint-Denis with its 21.9 acres of vineyards, including the Clos des Lambrays grand cru as well as several premier cru sites. Although the Clos des Lambrays has produced wine since the 14th century, the sellers were the Freund family who have owned it since 1996. The price was not disclosed. Production is about 35,000 bottles with an average retail price of $165 according to LVMH. Thierry Brouin, the estate’s chief winemaker who has overseen the last 35 vintages, will stay with LVMH.
Even though the holding is relatively small for the publicly-traded LVMH–a bauble for owner Bernard Arnault–it does signal a possible shift to corporate ownership. Part of Burgundy’s appeal to wine enthusiasts is that, in contrast to an area of corporate ownership such as the Médoc, the owners actually live on the ground and make the wines. Whether this is the thin edge of the wedge of corporate ownership remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure: LVMH is not a discounter, so don’t expect any price declines.
How much does that vineyard cost? In the video of the day, Alex Gambal, American in Burgundy, discusses vineyard prices in Burgundy and why he and his investors paid $10 million/acre for a sliver of land in Batard-Montrachet.
“It’s a way to preserve capital…You’re buying Treasury bonds today at 2%. What would you rather buy, US treasury bonds or a piece of grand cru in Burgundy where you’re getting 1%–and the dividend is bottles of wine! So it’s not a bad deal!”
I get the scarcity argument but there certainly are carrying costs associated with this type of investment. And weather may wreak havoc with a vintage as parts of the Cote de Beaune saw so dramatically this year so it’s not without risks. What do you think: is he oversimplifying things? Does it make you cry a little bit on the inside to see Burgundy land discussed as a functional equivalent of Treasury bonds?
The folks at Kermit Lynch wine merchants started a minor twit-flagration the other day by tweeting this provocative quote from the esteemed importer himself: “To me Chardonnay means white Burgundy, and the rest are, for better or worse, pretenders to the throne.”
The descent immediately ignited, lead by P. Cap, the fastest saberer in the East. “DISAGREE!” he tweeted, adding “Agrapart, Bouchard, Larmandier, Salon… Dude this conversation is POINTLESS!!!”
Covering the other still wine versions of Chardonnay, he added, “Ganevat, Overnoy, Mt Eden! Anybody else gonna join this conversation???” Others did, suggesting Miani, Borgo del Tiglio, Clos du Mesnil, Leclapart, and Sandhi. Certainly the list could go on.
What do you think? The statement is certainly provocative and largely correct: From Chablis to Chassange, the whites of Burgundy amply demonstrate the heights of the grape, showing why it is one of the top in the world. But the quote is also unnecessarily antagonistic: The stylistic pendulum has swung toward white Burgundy among Chardonnay producers (and consumers) around the world. Rather than dismiss producers outside of Burgundy who make chardonnay as mere “pretenders to the throne,” why not be more encouraging, nodding and noting the stylistic shift while singling out some leaders? Or is it damning with faint praise to call them Burgundian? Well, it least it is praise, which tends to go down easier on social media.
Caroline Parent Gros, who makes wine in the region, tweeted “So far, what we see in the vineyards of Pommard, Beaune & Savigny is, at least, 75% loss. # Burgundy #Storm”
Nicolas Rossignol, a vigneron in Volnay, has been posting some heart-wrenching photos to his Facebook page, including the one above.
On Saturday, the Grand Tasting at La Paulée de New York brought hundreds of consumers and 35 domaines from Burgundy together under one roof. There were only three brief hours to savor the event and since I arrived an hour late, my task made even more difficult–a difficulty that I would gladly shoulder any Saturday, mind you. Each domaine poured four wines, virtually all 2010s, which are so good that that were almost all sold out long ago.Alas, there were still too many to taste them all in the time that I had.
I dove into a raft of 2010 Dauvissat Chablis, wines of such precision and verve, from the Petit Chablis up to the single-vineyard Preuses, that the tasting could have ended there. But it was just getting started: other stand-out whites included the wines of Pierre-Yves Colin Morey, Domaine Leflaive and Comtes Lafon (who had a really nice Volnay too). Read more…
In honor of La Paulée de NYC happening this week, the wine pick this week is from, well, Burgundy. No, this isn’t a Bonnes Mares or a Chambertin, images of which have have been overtaking twitter feeds the past few days. In the language of a panel from La Paulée a few days ago, this is “outer borough” Burgundy, the 2010 Auxey-Duresses from Benjamin Leroux. By day, he’s the winemaker at Le Domaine des Epeneaux (Comte Armand) in Pommard. By night (or something like that), he has his own micro-négoce, meaning he sources grapes and vinifies them in to elixirs such as this.
The 2010 produced some amazing whites and reds in Burgundy and this wines comes from sites that border Meursault, so my expectations were high as I was twisting off the Stelvin closure. I wasn’t disappointed: the fresh acidity and stoniness give the wine a lean core with just a light top-dressing of Golden Delicious apple and a kiss of oak, that will likely become more integrated with some time in the cellar. It’s serious wine at a somewhat reasonable price (especially by Burgundy standards).
The Invisible Hand seems to be nudging Burgundy prices higher. Or, wait, was it Carla Bruni’s hand?
The presence of the former first lady of France (I doubt they call presidential wives “first ladies,” and it’s not just because it might be premieres crus dames…) at the charity auction for the Hospices de Beaune helped stoke overseas demand: sales hit $7.6 million, a record, on low volume. Eric Pfanner has a good recap over at NYTimes.com.
The executive summary is that supply declined in 2012, while demand appears to be rising. Not a pretty picture for Burgfans.