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Calon-Segur Sold: New Price Record

Rumours about the sale of Calon-Ségur have been circulating for months now; it has always been a possibility, mooted on and off, following the death of Denise Capbern-Gasqueton in September 2011. But in the past couple of weeks, prompted by a short article reportedly printed in La Revue des Vins de France, the intensity and frequency of the rumours increased, to the point at which confirmation – which came today though Sud Ouest – seemed inevitable.

The new owner is yet another insurance company, Suravenir Assurances. The company, which was only created in 1996, is an affiliate of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa, a major French bank based in Strasbourg but operating throughout France and abroad. Suravenir Assurances is a small component of this financial group but is clearly in a strong position. Speaking on behalf of Arkéa, Jean-Pierre Denis – who served in Chirac’s cabinet – has already indicated that the acquisition is part of a diversification of assets and that there is strong potential for investment, upgrading and, in words unspoken, there is no doubt a plan for firmer prices and increased revenue generation as well. Purchases of Bordeaux châteaux at this level have long ceased to be foibles I think; the return per bottle for wines that sell at the price of the first growths, as well as notable seconds and thirds (and one or two fifth growths too, before the Pontet Canet fans complain) is absolutely phenomenal.

Calon-Segur

The last major land transaction in St Estèphe that springs to mind was the sale of 22 hectares by Phélan-Ségur to Montrose, a deal agreed in 2010. There the land changed hands at a price of €900,000 per hectare; at the time this was the most paid per hectare for any St Estèphe transaction, although such figures are much closer to the norm in Pauillac or St Julien. Suffice to say that the sale of Calon-Ségur wipes the floor with such measly sums. The deal, which purportedly has been brokered with the help of Jean-François Moueix (as he did with the sale of Montrose by the Charmolüe to the Bouygues brothers) will be signed off at a price somewhere between €170 and €200 million.

This transaction is slightly different, as this is not just land but a château, winemaking facilities, stocks of wine in barrel and of course whatever bottled stocks are currently held, and we should not forget it also includes Château Capbern-Gasqueton as well. Even so, the price as it stands, wherever it falls in the possible range, is getting on for €2 million per hectare. Even if you were to say half the money to change hands is for the château, stocks and Château Capbern-Gasqueton, this is still the most expensive transaction in St Estèphe, in terms of price per hectare, by some considerable margin. Hélène Capbern Gasqueton and her husband, Alain de Baritault, are reported by Sud Ouest to be “heartboken” at having to make the sale. I’m sure the €200 million will go some way to easing their pain!

Now that rumours appear to be fact, I will update my Calon-Ségur profile as soon as possible. Although I have some other reports of sales and acquisitions in Bordeaux to work on yet. It seems to be transfer season at the moment!

4 Responses to “Calon-Segur Sold: New Price Record”

  1. I always wonder what is the real reason for those transactions. Short of money? No interest on making wines? Can not afford the tax?

  2. It can often be inheritance difficulties; the inheritance tax can be so great that when a property is divided between offspring no one beneficiary has enough to actually be able to pay off the tax. If they can’t work together, and one can’t afford to buy the others out, then sale can be the only option. None of this is true here as Hélène was the only beneficiary to my knowledge. I suspect she had no interest; she is not young and I would imagine she has long intended to sell once she inherited despite her claims of heartbreak. This sale hasn’t been negotiated in the last week; the process will have begun months ago. Denise only died last September; I imagine the word that Calon-Ségur was potentially up for sale was put out last year some time.

  3. Chris,

    Is there any word on the intentions of the new owners once the deal is settled? Do major transactions of chateau’s of this caliber, effect production or do things go on as normal? Thanks for your time!

  4. Ray, good question. Things will almost certainly change at Calon-Ségur, and the involvement of big business should not be seen as a negative. It is through the bankrolling of big business backers that many estates have been rescued from mediocrity, with the work done by AXA Millesimes in the shape of Jean-Michel Cazes and then Christian Seely at Pichon-Baron and Suduiraut being the obvious example.

    Having said that, Calon-Ségur is not really in need of rescue, the wines are generally well received, have a strong following, and sell well. The winemaker Vincent Millet is young, relatively new to the estate and enthusiastic. He seems to be well liked and I suspect he will be kept on; in many cases, when the team is determined to be part of the problem, or just not dynamic enough, they will be ousted in favour of new blood. We saw that only recently with the “cabinet shuffle” at Pichon-Lalande under the new direction of Sylvie Cazes on behalf of Roederer. But I really don’t think this is going to be an issue at Calon-Ségur.

    That said there is always room for improvement and investment; pushing the envelope of quality has taken good wines to greatness, great wines to exquisite excellence – we see this at Pontet-Canet, Grand Puy Lacoste, Pichon-Baron, Cos d’Estournel (although the style is questionable in my opinion), Montrose, and so on. There is undoubtedly room for improvement at Calon-Ségur. This will be necessary as there will be a need for a ‘story’ to accompany the inevitable price rises. There is certainly scope to charge more for Calon-Ségur, as we have seen with the prices of many of the estates mentioned above, which have rocketed in recent years.