Olivier Bernard has called for greater co-operation between châteaux and négociants as the owner of Graves estate Domaine de Chevalier was confirmed as the new president of Bordeaux’s Union des Grands Crus.
Olivier Bernard, new UGC president
Bernard, 52, was the only candidate for the role, which will see him head up the promotional organisation’s 134 members, who invest around €4 million each year in over 80 promotional tasting events for the trade and press across 13 priority markets around the world.
Responding to his appointment, Bernard remarked: “At a time when the success of the Bordeaux great growths calls for a strong involvement from their owners, I am honoured and highly motivated to take on this new responsibility and devote a great deal of energy to it. I intend to work closely with the Union’s employees on behalf of all our members.”
In particular, he announced: “Our grands crus must work more closely with the Bordeaux négociants and envisage a stronger commitment from the region’s top estates during UGCB missions”.
This focus will see Bernard establish a joint commission with the Union des Maisons de Bordeaux, which represents the region’s major négociants, in an effort to improve cooperation between the châteaux and the merchant houses who sell their wine.
Bernard’s work will build on the advances implemented by his predecessor Sylvie Cazes, who stepped down in November at the same time as she resigned from her post as director of Pauillac second growth Château Pichon Lalande.
During her time at the helm, Cazes not only took the UGC into new markets such as Brazil and India, but added a consumer focus to the organisation, with 1,800 wine lovers from around the world now attending the Week-end des Grands Crus.
Although best known as owner of Domaine de Chevalier, which he bought in 1983, Bernard is also managing director of family firm Financière Bernard.
Recent years have seen the Bernard family expand its holdings in Bordeaux, with a focus on Péssac-Leognan and, more recently, Sauternes. In 1993 it bought Pessac property Domaine de la Solitude and since the 2009 vintage has managed the appellation’s nearby Château Lespault-Martillac.
In 2006, the Bernards took joint ownership of organic Sauternes estate Château Guiraud in collaboration with oenologist Xavier Planty, Canon La Gafflière owner Stephan von Neipperg, and industrialist Robert Peugeot.
This autumn saw the family unveil the results of its latest acquisition, the 12.5 hectare Clos des Lunes estate in Sauternes, formerly known as Château Haut Caplane, which it bought from Castel in August 2011. In an effort to address the commercial challenge of Sauternes’ traditional sweet wine focus, the property will primarily focus on dry styles.
The Bernards have also shown commitment to building a carefully controlled presence in Asian market, with Olivier’s son, Adrien Bernard, currently based in Shanghai as brand ambassador.