Too many Bordeaux chateau owners rely on negociants and prestige, warns Philippe Magrez.
Too many Bordeaux chateaux ‘don’t know how to sell’ wine and several estates are being hampered by disputes among members of their owning families, says Philippe Magrez.
Speaking to Decanter.com in London this week, Magrez said that Bordeaux chateaux are storing up problems in an increasingly competitive world wine market, because they remain too removed from the sales process.
His comments reignite a long-standing debate around Bordeaux’s negociant system, which critics claim separates wine producers from consumers.
‘If I’m a negociant, my problem is not to push your brand, it is to sell your stock. Many many chateau owners don’t know how to sell, and this is a big problem,’ said Magrez, who runs Magrez Group alongside his sister, Cécile Daquin, and father, Bernard.
He warned that a younger generation of wine drinkers have a ‘different dream’ to Bordeaux and are more willing to consume wines from all over the world; meaning the Bordelais must redouble marketing efforts.
‘I’m not sure that all the negociants will exist in 20 years, and the same for the small chateaux. Many small chateaux just exist because there is a French bank named Credit Agricole.’
Magrez also said that some top Bordeaux estates are hamstrung by family disagreements. ‘I could give you five or six names of chateaux who could do the same as us, but they don’t,’ he said, referring to the Magrez Group’s efforts to build a 40-estate empire in Bordeaux and beyond.
‘The less people from the same family you have in a company, the better,’ he said.
Despite this, Magrez said he has a good working relationship with his father and sister. ‘A lot of people say it’s impossible to work with Bernard Magrez, but it’s easy. My father says, no problem, ‘I write the rules of your job, my job and of your sister’s’. Sometimes we have small fights, but in the end we are all thinking about the consumer.
‘Bernard is 77 years old, but he’s in the company as if he’s 40.’
When asked whether the Magrez Group is in the market for more wine estates, nothing is being ruled out. The firm is open to opportunities, whether it’s in southern England, Italy or elsewhere. ‘It depends on the market,’ he said, but adding that ‘our main business is Bordeaux’.
Last year, Bernard Magrez purchased Clos Haut-Peyraguey, making him and his self-built business the owner of four Grands Crus Classés spanning Sauternes, Graves, Saint-Emilion and Médoc.
Written by Chris Mercer