The changing ownership landscape of the Côte d’Or

Update 30.6.2021(29.6.2021)billn

The waxing and waning of vineyard ownership – or rather the relative size of ownership – has always been the subject of external forces; times of higher demand, times of lower demand, times of disease or simply times of consistently poor weather. Burgundy has never been a stranger to those things…

Outwardly, and from this perspective, things seem little different today to what has happened in previous generations but dig deeper and I’d say that the current situation is different.

My current musings on this were partly prompted by the recently announced sale of the Christian Confuron estate to the Evenstad family of Domaine Serene, to add to their ownership of Domaine de la Crée in Santenay. Actually, I’d been aware of both the sale and the (undisclosed but ballpark) price of €40 million – for under 7 hectares but with grand and 1er cru appellations – for a few weeks after visiting a domaine that had bought grapes from this Confuron estate but was seemingly going to lose their grape contract this year due to the sale – but, hopefully, they will manage to come to some short-term accommodation on that front.

On the positive side for this Confuron acquisition, we have a business that is focused on wine – whether that wine comes from Oregon or Burgundy – we can all appreciate the synergy and, of course, there are domaines in Burgundy that have estates in Oregon too – so all is fair! On the negative side – and negative purely from my gut feeling – is the ever-growing concentration of vineyard land in the hands of a) buyers from outside of Burgundy and b) groups and individuals who are not primarily in the wine business. Some buyers still count wine as an important part of a portfolio of assets whilst others buy due to their ‘interest’ in wine but the essential issue today is the significant geographic change of ownership of the vineyards of Burgundy. Outside of the pre-revolutionary times of the French monarchy/aristocracy and ownership by the church – Burgundian vineyards have never seen such dwindling local ownership.

New ownership still has an important French dimension and at the most exclusive end of the vineyard scale, many hectares are being rolled into the portfolios of some of France’s richest individuals. And do continue to watch this space, a certain domaine in an important Côte de Nuits village has tongues wagging of an imminent €800 million transaction – you heard it here first 😉

Less transparent still, are the organisations that are buying up estates and parcels here and there and paying off the incumbent producers. These organisations have no winemaking so ‘donate’ the vines to important domaines in both the red and white villages of the Côte d’Or, guaranteeing themselves or their ‘club members’ the majority or all of that production – it’s hard to imagine many illustrious names being used as ‘toll manufacturing’ facilities but this is the effective result and you need not feel sorry for the domaines – they are being well recompensed, though don’t expect them to show you the wines when you visit.

Whilst I have uncomfortable feelings about the loss of local ownership of Burgundian vineyards, the inward investment that this has generated and the relative clarity of ownership that we see, clearly has many benefits. The reduction of local ownership of the vines is something that I instinctively feel to be a sub-optimal direction for the region but I feel significantly less positive about the lack of clarity surrounding the growth of the 1er and grand cru ownership and then toll-manufacturing approach – and just occasionally I feel the need to beat out a few words on my keyboard about it!

[Edit:] Posted today (30-June):

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

There are 5 responses to “The changing ownership landscape of the Côte d’Or”

  1. Mike Golub29th June 2021 at 6:30 pmPermalinkReply

    /*The factor of climate change should be factored in because in the long run that is what really
    matters! Already vineyard locations are beiong decioded based on climate cdhange. In the Catneros in Napa Vvaley some vineyardss will no longer be vioable .

    • billn30th June 2021 at 7:06 amPermalinkReply

      I considered including that, Mike – yet it seems like a two-edged sword – currently the region is on a run of successful vintages and certainly have a consistency that hasn’t been seen before but they are also making wines of type that haven’t been seen before. Weather ‘events’ also take their toll. So at this stage, I abstained from the climate question…

  2. Suvro29th June 2021 at 6:49 pmPermalinkReply

    Not germaine to your main argument, but in 2017 on our first visit to Burgundy, we ended up at Domaine de la Cree… they opened specially for us since we were reaching late on a Saturday (we were in Switzerland for a destination wedding, and this was an add-on trip for our small group of 6 couples). At that time I was initially not getting any response from the Chateau, so I contacted Domaine Serene, and they got me in touch with de la Cree… we had a marvelous time….
    Fast forward to the present – our same wine group is now making a trip to Oregon wine country in late September – and I contacted Domaine Serene… they were happy to host us for a special tasting of their rare library wines… that 2017 connection helped (even though the original person has left)..

    I have nothing to add about ownership… but as having been born in India, and now a naturalized US citizen, I think global citizenship with all its consequences is overall a good thing.

    • billn30th June 2021 at 7:09 amPermalinkReply

      Good for them, Suvro – as usual, it’s about getting your request in front of the right eyes.
      Re ownership, I think it’s the lack or transparency and the reducing lack of local accountability that I fail to see as positive.

  3. Phil29th June 2021 at 6:53 pmPermalinkReply


    I wonder what do SAFER have to say on these developments has their influence wained or is the big bucks approach to much for locals to cope with and so remove any objections?


  4. billn30th June 2021 at 7:14 amPermalinkReply

    SAFER have their moments, Phil but I largely see them as estate agents and not much more. The prioritising of young local talent for vineyard ownership seems rarer and rarer – and of course, with current vineyard prices, new ‘owners’ need their investors. If you have the resources, and importantly, the connections, they are not so hard to bypass.

  5. Thomas De Waen3rd July 2021 at 9:26 amPermalinkReply

    All true, and sad, but ironic that it should be illustrated by a video from Cru Rated!

Burgundy Report

Translate »

You are using an outdated browser. Please update your browser to view this website correctly:;