Record sum paid for Burgundy's Domaine Engel

  • Thursday 21 September 2006

Burgundy’s Domaine Engel was sold for a record sum, decanter.com can reveal.

François Pinault – owner of Château Latour, as well as Gucci and a majority of Christie’s – paid €13m for the six planted hectares of the Vosne-Romanee property that was put up for sale following the death in May 2005 of its owner Philippe Engel.

‘This is the highest price paid to date for vines in this appellation,’ Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, owner of Château de Vosne-Romanée and president of the Vosne-Romanée association of property owners, told decanter.com. ‘It is 30% higher than the most recent similar property sold.’

There is concern within the industry that such an inflated price will not only drive up land prices but that Pinault will attempt to recoup his investment by charging inflated prices for Domaine Engel - forcing similar properties to follow suit.

‘It is most unlikely that Pinault would pay that sum for the property and not want to charge more for the wine,’ Jasper Morris MW, of wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd, said.

‘In the past, Engel has been in line with other good domaines but nothing like the small group – including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti and Leroy – who charge very high prices.’

Burgundy-watchers are concerned that Pinault – who has an astute appreciation of the value of luxury goods – may have it in mind to take Domaine Engel into a far higher price bracket.

‘We have to wait and see if he produces wine of superlative enough quality to justify any price rise,’ Morris said.

Liger-Belair added, ‘As an astute businessman, M. Pinault knows that the wine from this property cannot justify the price he has paid. It is very good but not at the top. Clearly he has other reasons for buying it. When it comes to wine, sometimes we are motivated by more than money.’

Berry Brothers is selling the 2003 vintage of Engel’s Grands Echezeaux for £462.00 a case in bond, while DRC’s Echezeaux is £433 a bottle.

Pinault bought Engel’s côte de Nuits parcels - located in Clos Vougeot, Echezeaux, Grand Echezeaux and Vosne-Romanee premier cru - but no buildings or equipment. The 2005 vintage was vinified by Maison Albert Bichot and will be released under their label - while 2006 is now in the hands of the Latour team under Frédéric Engerer.

‘They will lease winemaking equipment from us,’ said Alberic Bichot, ‘but we will not be involved in the production.’

As to what the wine will be called henceforth, the matter is still under debate.

‘The wines aren’t going to be released until 2008,’ Frederic Engerer said. ‘So I don’t see any particular rush.’

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