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beyond avarice…

I suppose that I’m mandated to make a comment on the aftermath of this – ie the sale of the Clos de Tart by the Mommessin family shareholders for an undisclosed sum – but let’s say €250 million!

I was travelling (mainly taking pictures of cows!) in Switzerland when this was ‘confirmed’ yesterday morning, but I’ve been tweeting about this subject (and retweeting) since the sale of the Clos de Tart was first mooted, which was about 3 weeks ago.

The Clos de Tart has a magnificent location and is the perfect ‘compact item’ despite it’s 7.5 hectares – by that I mean that all the buildings of the domaine also sit within the walls of the Clos – compared, for example, to its neighbour the Clos des Lambrays, where the wine-making and offices are separated from the vines, albeit by only a few hundred metres. There are other grand cru monopoles, but none that can compare in this respect. The Clos de Tart is emblematic, it is the perfect representation of all the history and mythology of Burgundy, gift-wrapped into a 7.5 hectare parcel.

Under the tenure of Sylvain Pitiot, I felt that in terms of attention to detail, the Clos de Tart was the most fanatical domaine in the whole of Burgundy – even more-so than Leroy and DRC – imagine walking around the wall of the clos and seeing that the gap between the vines and the wall was a perfect ‘Japanese garden’ of raked small stones. Every detail of the operation of the domaine, right down to paint on the doors was perfect…

Of-course the wine needs to be good too!

Under Pitiot, given enough time to mature, the wine was magnificent – but I was never a fan of the oak treatment, which usually deprived drinkers of extracting the joy of youth, something that one should associate with the wine’s high price-tag. I simply loved the 1985, but the 2001 and a magnum of 2005, remain my reference points – reference points that can easily trade glasses with the grand crus of Vosne or the Clos de Vougeot. I was frankly pinning my hopes on Jacques Devauges to do something about the oak – though (so far) I have no view on whether that’s already the case, or not.

So, from certain viewpoints, the clos is indeed an unrivalled jewel and worth a King’s ransom. If it was the case that this would not inject further heat into the market for vineyard land – something of a storm that the new owner can easily ride out, but less-so the small family domaines of Burgundy – then I would simply stand and applaud François Pinault for winning this game and move on. I fear, however, that this is unlikely to be the case. The extra money that Pinault can bring will not improve the attention to detail at this domaine – though there is always something that can be improved – but this is clearly not a ‘project’ of restoration, it is the purchase of a chattel.

Drinkers, buyers and even owners of smaller domaines are simply bystanders in games such as this, and I cannot blame the various shareholders of the Mommessin family for taking this pay-day – though I know that some didn’t want to sell.

The Clos de Tart, courtesy the domaine:

4 responses to “beyond avarice…”

  1. jonwyand

    Bill, your use of the expression “Beyond avarice” indicates the influence of greed on the sale. On who’s part, the buyer or seller ? Are you accusing Pinault of greed in wanting another Burgundy estate, or the Mommessin family in wanting what someone is willing to pay, aka, the market price?
    Take someone with something prestigious ( horrible word, what is the attraction of “prestige” ? ) to sell and find them someone with a lot of money and its no surprise the deal will make them both happy. Where is SAFER in all this ? Was there a bidding war with Roederer or were they just the stalking horse to put everyone off the scent ?
    The fact is the soul of small grower Burgundians is what keeps them from cashing in, but sooner or later an expensive asset will get taxed and we know what happens then.
    Money talks and if we don’t like what it says, give up on big names and prestige and get your pleasure further south where quality and value are increasing. I’ve asked a lot of questions, but perhaps the answer to it all is to drink more Maconnaise, Chalonnaise and Bourgogne and support these small growners.

  2. jonwyand

    Well Mr Engerer will be pleased anyway.

  3. limsiangwee

    Just hoping this will not mean even higher prices …. hoping … but we all know where this will be heading

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