Nady Foucault tasting in the
Clos Rougeard cellar in 2009
There have been two recent purchases of well-known Loire domaines that have hit the headlines. Firstly Maison Ackerman buying Château de Sancerre from the Campari Group, who have decided to divest themselves of all their still wine portfolio. Then at the end of last week came the long-awaited confirmation that Martin and Olivier Bouygues, owners of Château Montrose in Saint Estèphe, have bought Clos Rougeard from the Foucaults.
One of these deals makes obvious commercial sense whereas for the other the advantage is, I think, more questionable.
Ackerman, the most important Loire owned négociant in the valley and since early 2015 part of the group Terrena, has pursued an expansionist policy. Acquisitions over the past few years include in 2015 the 110-hectare Château de Varière in Brissac-Quincé, which has vineyards in a number of Anjou appellations including the Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux. It also includes the 40-hectare Domaine de la Perruche in Montsoreau for Saumur and Saumur-Champigny.
Previously Ackerman bought the sparkling wine producer Monmousseau based in Montrichard in the Cher Valley in 2011 and the Celliers du Prieuré based in Saint-Georges-sur-Loire in 2014.
The purchase, which is subject to a final administrative approval, of Château de Sancerre gives Ackerman 55-hectares in the Loire’s best known and successful appellation. The deal completes Campari’s sale of its still wine businesses – Sella & Mosca and Teruzzi & Puthod in Italy and Casa Lapostolle in Chile. It is welcome that an important Sancerre domaine returns to a company based in the Loire.
In contrast I have to wonder a little about the Bouygues brothers buying Clos Rougeard, especially over the long term. There is no doubt that through the efforts of the late Charly Foucault and his brother Nady, this small domaine has become the most iconic Loire estate with their wines now fetching higher prices than any other Loire domaine. Equally there is no doubt that together Charly and Nady and previous generations of the Foucaults made lovely wines. I still remember an amazing afternoon in the the magical cellar at Chacé tasting/drinking a 1937 ‘Saumur-Champigny’ followed by a 1921 ‘Coteaux de Saumur’.
Ouest-France yesterday speculated that it cost the Bouygues brothers 14 million euros to clinch the deal. The paper’s credibility is slightly undermined here by captioning their photo of the two brothers in their cellar at ‘Macé’ when it should be Chacé. Jane Anson in Decanter reports that Hervé Berland, CEO of Château Montrose in Saint-Estèphe will now also oversee Clos Rougeard with Nady Foucault remaining as consultant.
It remains to be seen how much Nady, at retirement age, will actually be involved and for how long. You can promise to continue the traditions and methods of the Foucaults but what of their inimitable personalities? Without their touch and presence will the Clos Rougeard wines still be seen as extraordinary? The Les Poyeux vineyard, for example, is not a monopole. In years to come will the Clos Rougeard Les Poyeux be seen as worth so much more than Les Poyeux from Antoine Sanzay or Bonnelière (Bonneau family)? Furthermore this sector of Saumur is frost prone.
It all remains to be seen. The Loire needs internationally renowned producers….à suivre….
Part of Les Poyeux