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Leading wine families award business prize to Europe’s oldest luthier

The Primum Familiae Vini group of winery owners, which includes Châteaux Mouton Rothschild and Haut-Brion, plus Vega Sicilia and Sassicaia among others, has awarded its inaugural annual sustainability prize for family companies in any business sector to Europe’s oldest workshop for violin making and restoration. 

At a lunch in Brussels, the 2021 PFV ‘Family is Sustainability’ prize was presented to Jan Strick and his son Matthijs of Maison Bernard, who triumphed over more than 100 applicants from around the world to win the €100,000 (£84,000) award.

‘Selection was difficult,’ said Matthieu Perrin, president of the PFV, ‘but ultimately the jury felt that Maison Bernard is a brilliant example of exquisite handicraft and the maintenance of an ancient artisanal tradition in family hands, exactly as we fight to sustain our own family enterprises.’ 

The 12 winemaking families of the Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) group launched the prize to recognise and support other family-owned businesses around the world.

The group was looking for the company that best demonstrates ‘excellence in sustainability, innovation, craftsmanship, and the successful transmission of responsibility and commitment from one generation to another’.

Speaking at the lunch, PFV member Paul Symington said it is a fallacy that family companies are inherently weaker because they cannot compete with ultra-efficient corporations.

He quoted research from global consultancy McKinsey & Co, which shows that ‘family ownership has often been linked to superior shareholder performance’, and that ‘family businesses invest 29% higher share of revenue in R&D than non-family businesses.

‘We support the view that there is a different and more human economic model to the giant corporations,’ he said.

‘Family companies are the sustainable bedrock of our economies, and the best of them champion individuality, long-term thinking, and a deep commitment to the quality of what they produce, to their staff and their customers.’

Maison Bernard’s Jan Strick explained that he had a passion for violin making since the age of 14. ‘I never dreamed that there would be a prize for family businesses – or that we would win it,’ he said on accepting the award.

His son Matthijs joined the business six years ago, and father Jan explained that some of the prize money would be used to finance Matthijs’s travel to Chicago, to gain experience with one of the world’s leading violin shops.

The remainder would help to fund the publication of a book on Flemish violin makers of the 17th and 18th century, a labour of love for Jan over the past 20 years.

The jury comprised one member of each of the 12 PFV families, including:

  • Priscilla Incisa Della Rochetta, Tenuta San Guido, Italy (Founded 1840)
  • Albiera Antinori, Marchesi Antinori, Italy (1385)
  • Egon Müller, Egon Müller Scharzhof, Germany (1797)
  • Prince Robert of Luxembourg, Domaine Clarence Dillon, France (1935)
  • Marc Perrin, Famille Perrin, France (1909)
  • Paul Symington, Symington Family Estates, Portugal (1882)
  • Frédéric Drouhin, Maison Joseph Drouhin, France (1880)
  • Miguel Torres Maczassek, Familia Torres, Spain (1870)
  • Jean-Frédéric Hugel, Famille Hugel, France (1639)
  • Pablo Alvarez, Vega Sicilia, Spain (1864)
  • Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, France (1853)
  • Hubert de Billy, Champagne Pol Roger, France (1849)

Applications for the PFV Prize 2022 have now closed. Applications for the 2023 prize will open in Summer 2022.

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