Article, What's in the News: Bordeaux

Château Lascombes: the end of an era and the beginning of the next

First published in the Gilbert & Gaillard International Magazine

The Summer of 2011 will go down in the history of Margaux’s Château Lascombes as a memorable one with the gala dinner celebration of the Fête de la Fleur at the property to mark ten years of ownership by American investment fund Colony Capital. It will be doubly memorable as after a number of years on the market, the second growth property was sold some two weeks after the gala dinner celebration to French mutual insurance company MACSF.

The “Fête de la Fleur” celebration is traditionally held on the final evening of Vinexpo, the world’s largest wine trade fair, taking place in June 2011 for the 16th time in Bordeaux and attracting 48,000 visitors (with one in three from Asia). The 1500 guests including world wine trade professionals, press and VIP guests such as Alain Juppé, France’s Minister of Foreign affairs and Bordeaux’s mayor, Thomas Barrack, Colony Capital Founder and Chairman made the trip from the States to attend and Mr Yasuo Saito, the Japanese Ambassador.

“La Fête de la Fleur” organised in conjunction with the « Commanderie de Bontemps »

St Julien’s Château Beychevelle was the original host for this year’s “Fête de la Fleur” celebration but following its change of hands (today owned jointly by French Castel and Japanese Suntory), they decided to pull out. The “Fête de la Fleur” as the name suggests is the celebration of the flowering of the vine, small white blossoms that turn into grapes.  It is an event organized annually by the “Commanderie de Bontemps” an association of 350 producer members that represent the Médoc, Graves, Sauternes, Barsac appellations, in conjunction with a chosen château. The costs of the event (a budget of around 1 million euro) is shared between the property and the “Commanderie”.

Celebration of 10 years of Colony Capital at the Head of Lascombes

Lascombes’ General Manager since Colony’s purchase of the property in 2001, Dominique Befve, with the agreement of owners Colony Capital put themselves forward as a potential host. The timing was perfect for celebrating ten years at the head of the property. This left a short eight months to organize the largest celebration in the Bordeaux Wine Trade Calendar.

Months of Planning to organise the details in-front of, and behind the scenes

The hands-on organisation came down to Lascombes’ Public Relations Manager, Karine Barbier helped out by Dominique Befve’s wife, Pia and the experienced events agency Côte Ouest. Pia Befve who annually attends the Fête de la Fleur event, “As a guest one is not aware of what goes on behind the scenes for such a gala evening to run smoothly. For example we had over 400 workers made up of waiters, chefs and sommeliers to feed by a separate caterer let alone the 1500 guests!”

Lascombes’ wish-list for the tone of the evening was for it to be; “simple, classy and chic”. The biggest challenge was for the dinner to take place over two hours, not longer. The most important part of the evening was the choice of wines and the dishes to go with them.

Three Star Menu for the 1500 guests

The caterer for the main guests was Mont Blanc who prepared a menu created by three star Michelin star chef Eric Fréchon from the Hôtel Bristol in Paris (also owned by Colony) under his supervision aided by his team from Paris. There were no fewer than 40 chefs who re-created the four course menu for the 1500 guests in a specially created kitchen of 400m2.

Caviar d’Aquitaine with mashed potato flavoured with Haddock

2006 Château Haut-Brion Blanc, First Growth, Péssac Léognan – in magnum

*

Saddle of Lamb in Nori Crust served with Gnocchi with herbs and pureed Kohlrabi

2005 Château Lascombes, Second Growth, Margaux – in imperial (6 litre/8 bottles)

*

Farmhouse St Nectaire or Truffled Brie

2000 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Second Growth, St Julien

*

Frozen Caipirinha Pineapple, banana and passion-fruit sorbet and tiny meringue

2008 Château d’Yquem, First Growth Superior, Sauternes

Asian Influence for the Gala Dinner

To echo the importance of the Chinese market in 2011 the team decided to pay homage to this and have an asian “clin d’oeil” with replicas of the generals of Xian’s Terracotta Army from the First Emperor of China standing to attention outside the marquis.

The marquis stretched 2500 m2 and resembled more a large dining room than a tent with elaborate chandeliers, framed photos of scenes from Lascombes in sepia and contemporary transparent Philip Stark chairs.

The guests were entertained by jazz singers, opera singing by Julie Mathevert and an impressive aerial acrobatic show by Maria Belloir.

Intronisation by the “Commanderie de Bontemps”

 One of the evening’s highlights is the customary “intronisaton” induction ceremony. This year forty-five personalities from the world of wine, arts, entertainment and politics were invited to become honorary members of the “Commanderie” donning ermine robes to receive the honour. Today there are more than 10,000 such members around the world.

Sale of Margaux’s largest property to French Medical Insurance Company

Following the re-launch of the sale of the property with a number of new banks, at the time of the gala dinner there were a number of parties interested in the purchase of Château Lascombes but nothing definite was on the table.

At the beginning of July the deal with MACSF for the purchase of the 84 hectare second growth estate of Château Lascombes was signed for 200,000,000€. Since Colony Capital purchased the property in 2001 and employed Dominique Bevfre, previously of Château Lafite and Château l’Evangile in Pomerol, they invested heavily to bring the second growth property up to its correct level. Today Lascombes has definitely reached its goal and is well noted for its wines. The progress made over the ten years in improving the quality of the wine has been impressive. It is now amongst the top of the appellation of Margaux and where it should be.

 Continuity for the future at Lascombes “pour la vie”

So what does the change in owners mean for the property and for Bordeaux? Dominique Bevfe explains; “Marcel Kahn, the Director of the French mutual insurance company MACSF, expressed his wish to continue with how the property is currently run and wants to keep the same team. He explained that the investment in Lascombes is a long-term project. Having an insurance company as owners rather than an investment fund is more secure for the team who work here and for the “place de Bordeaux” where the wine is sold by wine merchants”.

So what plans do the new owners have for the property? Today 80% of Lascombes is exported and is  relatively well-known across the world particularly the USA and more recently in Asia. It is not so well known in Europe and particularly in France. Here there is work to do in marketing and communications. Other plans include the renovation of the “chartreuse” building for offices and also for entertaining and the development of a website to keep MACSF members up-to-date and involved with the happenings at the Château.  So 2011 has been a good year for Château Lascombes with the Fête de la Fleur and the sale; With the harvest just underway now we just have to wait and see if the 2011 vintage will give them a hat-trick!

Château Lascombes, Second Growth, Margaux

Tel: 05 57 88 70 66

http://www.chateau-lascombes.com

About nicolle

Wine bod living in Bordeaux whose passion is finding authentic wines and getting them to your doorstep

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