It was officially confirmed on October 22nd – although the news hit Twitter courtesy of François Mauss during the preceding weekend – that Bernard Magrez and Martine Langlais-Pauly had agreed the sale of Clos Haut-Peyraguey. It’s an interesting story, not least because of rather convoluted path Magrez has taken to arrive at this point. Having been on the prowl for a Sauternes estate to add to his already impressive portfolio of Bordeaux properties which already includes Château La Tour Carnet and Château Pape-Clément, this isn’t the first time Magrez has bought an estate in the region this year. It is the first not to slip through his fingers at the last minute though.
Although the owner of about 40 estates in Bordeaux, until recently Magrez had only one in Sauternes; a small property named Latrézotte which he used for the production of a cuvée named Le Sauternes de Ma Fille. A belief in the growing Asian appetite for Sauternes led him to seek out a larger and perhaps grander estate, however, and it was widely reported in April 2012 that he had purchased Château Romer. As indeed he had…..sort of.
First up, a few words on Romer; there’s a great deal of potential for confusion here, as neither Romer nor the slightly better known Romer du Hayot have featured very much on Winedoctor over the years. Just to briefly clear things up, Romer was a Sauternes estate that was classified as a deuxième cru in the 1855 classification of Sauternes and Barsac. Then, if I recall correctly, the estate was broken up as it was divided between heirs, and the major part of the estate came to the Hayot family. This became the Romer du Hayot we know today, and which I list among the second growths on my page on the 1855 classification of Sauternes and Barsac. Meanwhile the other parts of the estate remained as Château Romer. I would think both are entitled to the deuxième cru ranking today, although Romer du Hayot does not even have a château to its name, this having been demolished during the 1970s when the autoroute was routed through the Sauternes vineyards. The vineyards of both are located just on the other side of the autoroute from Château de Malle.
So why “sort of”? Well, as soon as the Société d’Aménagement Foncier et d’Établissement Rural (more conveniently known as SAFER), an organisation intended to protect the interested of young (and perhaps financially disadvantaged) vignerons, learnt of the transaction between Bernard Magrez and proprietor Anne Farges, it intervened in favour of François Janoueix, a young vigneron who had also been interested in buying the estate. The sale was off; Magrez was, unsurprisingly, furious.
Nevertheless, unabashed, he continued his search for a property to buy. I believe Sigalas-Rabaud was considered, although it was – as we all learnt this week – Clos Haut-Peyraguey on which he settled. Proprietor Martine Langlais-Pauly was on a roll here, as quality at this estate has been climbing higher and higher in recent years. I visited in July, and saw no indication that the property was for sale; the only element of my visit that didn’t go to plan was the absence of Martine, with whom I had personally made the appointment. I didn’t think it suspicious at the time (what can I say….I’m used to being stood up!) but with the benefit of hindsight I wonder if negotiations regarding the sale of the property – which has changed hands for an undisclosed sum – took precedence?
I look forward to seeing what changes Magrez makes at Clos Haut-Peyraguey, and assume that – being a well established first growth – it will continue an independent existence within his portfolio (Magrez is not averse to amalgamating properties, or earmarking one for the production of a second wine for another). In the meantime I will update my Clos Haut-Peyraguey profile as soon as possible.