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Château Guiraud gets new majority owner in Sauternes

Two significant moves in Sauternes this month have included a new majority shareholder for Château Guiraud and a bold new look for Château Rieussec, the estate owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite).

French entrepreneur Matthieu Gufflet, founding chairman of EPSA and with business interests including sustainability and hospitality, has acquired a majority stake in holding company Financière Guiraud, owner of Château Guiraud in Sauternes.

It’s a significant move in the world of Bordeaux’s premier sweet wine, and Guiraud said the deal would ensure the continuity of its two pillars: wine tourism and organic viticulture.

Peugeot Invest, which was the majority shareholder, jointly announced the news and has retained an unspecified stake in the winery. Winemaker Xavier Planty has decided to step back after 38 years at Premier Cru Classé Sauternes estate. Planty is no longer a shareholder, a spokesperson confirmed.

Tourism has been a focus for a number of Sauternes wineries in recent years and Gufflet’s arrival is set to further develop Guiraud’s visitor offering – with plans to add accommodation alongside the existing La Chapelle restaurant.

‘We want to make Château Guiraud a benchmark in sustainable viticulture and hospitality,’ said Gufflet, who also owns Château de Callac in the Graves appellation and has developed the ‘Terres de Natures’ chain of hotels and high-end restaurants.

Guiraud is already certified organic, at the forefront of a growing movement in Bordeaux.

The deal could also contribute to wider efforts in the area to revitalise the image of Sauternes on the market.

‘Our long-term project is also to continue the qualitative development of the estate led until now by the teams in place and its shareholders, with the ambition to contribute to the renewal of the Sauternes region,’ Gufflet said.

Robert Peugeot, chairman of Peugeot Invest, said, ‘We see the potential that the natural hotel experts Matthieu Gufflet and his team bring to Château Guiraud.

‘Peugeot Invest has been working with Château Guiraud since 2006 and we are delighted to participate in a new episode in the development of this prestigious vineyard by remaining a shareholder alongside it.’

A Peugeot Invest spokesperson said that Olivier Bernard, of Domaine de Chevalier, and Stephan von Neipperg, whose family owns Canon La Gaffelière in St-Emilion, also remained minority shareholders in Guiraud.

A ‘re-invention’ for Rieussec

Rieussec new bottle

The new Rieussec bottle design, devised by Swiss agency Big Game. Photo credit: Château Rieussec.

News from Guiraud came in the same week that fellow Sauternes estate Château Rieussec announced a new look, including new packaging and bottle design, beginning with the 2019 vintage.

Rieussec, which shares the same owner as Château Lafite Rothschild, has launched a new ‘durable bottle’ that the team said ‘leaves behind the classic wine bottle format in favour of non-transparent 95% recycled glass marked with a simple yellow crown’.

It comes with a replaceable closure, emphasising that ‘Sauternes can be stored for several weeks in the fridge’, and the bottle is designed to encourage wine lovers to keep it after the contents have been drunk.

‘It is easy to remove the label and turn the bottle into a water jug or vase,’ the estate said.

‘The time had come for Rieussec to reinvent itself, so that the vineyard, wine and bottle all share the same commitment to sustainable development,’ said Saskia de Rothschild, chairwoman of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (DBR Lafite).

Alongside the emphasis on sustainability, there is also a desire to help Sauternes to revitalise itself on the market.

‘For Rieussec and [DBR Lafite], it was urgent to act and put the spotlight on this region and the magic that is worked to produce these very great wines,’ said the announcement.

Rieussec 2019 will be the first vintage in the new bottle, to be launched at the end of November, the announcement said.

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