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Rothschild, Chalone and other giants in Napa joint venture

The owners of Chateau Lafite and Constellation Brands have just announced a major new ‘luxury’ joint venture in Napa Valley – along with Huneeus of Chile and the giant California group Chalone.

In a complicated series of deals, Domaines Barons de Rothschild – which owns Bordeaux first growth Chateau Lafite – and Constellation will spend around US$60m on a majority share in Chalone, of which Rothschild already owns 46%.

Chalone would then become a private company.

The Huneeus family will then contribute its Quintessa Estate in Rutherford, Napa, and Constellation will provide the Oakville Vineyard in Napa.

The group then intends to develop an estate in Napa to produce a top terroir-based wine. At this stage the partners are not revealing what sort of wines and what price points they intend to make.

Constellation is the world’s biggest drinks company, owner of BRL Hardy, Canandaigua wines, Franciscan Estates – which includes such wineries as Chile’s Veramonte as well as Oakville – UK wholesaler Matthew Clark, Stowells of Chelsea, Dry Blackthorn cider and a range of beers including Corona, Tsingtao, Tetley’s bitter and Peroni.

CEO Richard Sands said the combined investors were ‘icons of quality, innovation and financial stability. We are changing the way business has traditionally been done in the luxury segment.’

Industry commentators estimate the deal could be worth between US$275m and US$325m.

Agustin Huneeus, who was instrumental in setting up the venture after resigning from Franciscan a few months ago to pursue such entrepeneurial deals, said he had always been ‘dedicated to the creation of wines of terroir’. One of his mantras is, ‘Great wines are a reflection of place.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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