With land prices and wine quality both high, turnover in the region could become more common
Domaine des Relagnes, a 39-acre estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, was sold by its owner, Henri Boiron, in October, according to its winemaker, Olivier Hillaire. The estate produced its highest-scoring wines ever in the 2004 vintage, topped by the classic-scoring Les Petits Pieds d’Armand cuvée.
The sale of the estate may signal a period of turnover in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is enjoying an unparalleled run of success since the 1998 vintage. Land values are high, and domaines where there is no generational plan of succession in place may be faced with outside offers that are too good to turn down. Another estate, Domaine des Sénéchaux, was also close to being sold to a prominent Bordeaux vintner before a group of vignerons in Châteauneuf petitioned SAFER (the French governmental body that oversees all vineyard sales) to consider their offer for the estate instead. The sale is now being held up.
The sale of Domaine des Relagnes does not include all of the estate’s vineyards. Boiron’s former son-in-law, Hillaire, will keep the prime parcel of 100-year-old vines in La Crau, which were used for the domaine’s top cuvée, Les Petits Pieds d’Armand. Hillaire had been the winemaker at Domaine des Relagnes (although he divorced Boiron’s daughter a few years ago, Hillaire stayed at the estate), and he has now set up his own eponymous domaine where he will continue to produce the Les Petits Pieds d’Armand cuvée, along with another cuvée of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a Côtes du Rhône.
Domaine des Relagnes’ longtime U.S. importer, Wines of France, Inc., plans to continue working with the new owners of Relagnes, and will also import the wines of Hillaire’s new domaine, which vinified its first wines in the 2006 vintage.