Due to the multiple news headlines of the weekend, you would be forgiven for having missed it, but this month, for the first time in many years, a chunk of Musigny changed hands.
News of this transaction was broken by the Winespectator, just before the Hospices auction.
Anyway, The Dufouleur family were parting with a small piece of the Musigny jigsaw, and Erwan Faiveley (today, right) was waiting with open wallet.
The two producers have long had links, indeed not just are their cuveries almost next-door to each other in Nuits St.Georges, François-Xavier Dufouleur and Erwan Faiveley were also at school together.
Domaine Dufouleur Frères:
This domaine have, for a long time, been exploiting the Musigny vines of Jean Dufouleur, who died this year, over 100 years old, and leaving 14 heirs to be satisfied. I’ve profiled these young producers before, and I found their 2010s and 2012s were very promising – the 2013s proportionally less-so [Subscribers], but the ‘2013 issue’ was a symptom of the succession to come. And here we have the rub. François-Xavier Dufouleur told me yesterday (at the Hospices auction) that the family chose to sell because:
- “We (the family) did not sell by choice but because of succession”
(It was the death of Jean Dufouleur, owner of the vines, that triggered the transaction. He had 14 potential ‘inheritors.’)
- “We decided to sell to a local and quality oriented producer, and for that, refused some higher financial proposals”
- “We also obtained, by exchange, about 1 hectare of Nuits & Nuits 1er cru vines (Vignerondes), which helps to confirm our anchoring in Burgundy”
And really, Faiveley are overwhelmingly a domaine today. Erwan Faiveley has been unstinting in taking every opportunity to buy-up expiring domaines – Billaud-Simon in Chablis was the last one, about 12 months ago. Let’s be honest, this transaction is certain to have been of much higher monetary value than the €1 million paid for Château de Puligny’s 0.03 hectares of Montrachet, in spite of the villages and 1er cru Nuits parcels taken by the Dufouleur family in lieu of some cash.
Have Faiveley unlimited cash? Well, that’s a good question. We should be aware that Faiveley have, very recently, sold a significant part of their family railway engineering company to US company Wabtec – a multi-billion dollar deal. Erwan notes “It’s a merger and we keep a significant ownership interest, and we also have seats on the board – but we were also able to take some cash from this transaction.” Just as well, as they also have a new cuverie project in Nuits, which begins at the end of this year. They won’t need much additional space for the produce of these vines in Musigny though.
My opinion?: I would suggest, given that such vines don’t often change hands, even once in a generation, that if you have the opportunity, and you have the means to pay, then you should not hesitate. The vines are (potentially) yours forever, just like the first vines the Faiveley family ever bought; their Nuits 1er (today) Les Porets, puchased in the 1830s…
But at least to start with, there is a small divergence of opinion:
An interesting quote from my Dufouleur domaine profile (2012):
“We are lucky to have a lot of things, and yes, we have 0.1 ha of Musigny – just 500 bottles – but it is on the limit of the vineyard next to Les Argillières – which is just Chambolle villages. Actually this Musigny is no gift for the domaine as people have such high expectations, but maybe the plant material is not the best, or it is just its position, but our Clos de Vougeot is usually better – so it’s a bit frustrating!”
Today’s quote from Erwan Faiveley:
“The Musigny vines are in really good shape. We already did some repiquage last week. Really, we are very happy with the work that the Dufouleur team have done with these vines in the last years.”
Of-course, Faiveley is now selling, not buying!
I’m a strong proponent of the phrase – it’s not what you pay for something, it’s what you do with it that counts. Dufouleur had no strong record in producing a small cuvée of Musigny but Faiveley have. Indeed, Faiveley are so good at it, that they even need a lock for their bespoke Musigny barrel’s bung (right) – currently big enough for 150 bottles.
It remains to be seen ‘how good are the produce of those vines’ once Faiveley start in earnest – and they already forecast producing only 60% of the number of bottles that Dufouleur used to. We will see, soon enough, how good that plot is.
It takes time to tease-out occasional, additional details, but some of these are pertinent. I should add that the following doesn’t come from either of the parties involved in the transaction, and take the third point with a pinch of salt – if you want 😉
- Regarding the location of the vines: despite the implication(s) of some of my notes above, the vines are very well placed, in-between those of de Vogüé and Roumier, right in the middle of the vineyard, though as noted, next to Chambolle villages at the top of the vineyard.
- There were indeed, a number of interested potential buyers, including Leroy. Extra complications (for buyers and sellers), was the inclusion of SAFER in the negotiations, who could otherwise have vetoed any deal.
- Euros 5.5 million for about 2.3 ouvrées (1 ouvrée = 0.04285 hectares) 🙂
Note: Faiveley also ended up with the 2015 Musigny crop. This, I assume will need to take a négoce label as the transaction for the sale of the vines was completed only after the harvest – but let’s see. Erwan Faiveley will certainly, now, need some more barrel locks!