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Fine wine profile: Family fortunes

Newly formed wine group Advini brings together two of France’s most well-established estates, Jeanjean and Laroche. Patricia Langton discovers its focus is on premium rather than mass-market wines, with further consolidation likely.

February’s Vinisud, the biennial showcase of Mediterranean wines held in Montpellier, offered an appropriate platform for France’s Advini wine group to make its debut as the country’s largest quality wine group.

The name itself is new and formed of two words: “ad” symbolises the union of two long-established wine families – Jeanjean and Laroche – and “vini” is taken from the Latin word for wine.

Advini SA was established in January following the merger of the Jeanjean and Laroche wine interests. The Jeanjean family holds a majority stake with 49%, the Laroche family has 11% and the remainder is divided between private shareholders.

Headquartered at Saint-Félix-de-Lodez near Montpellier, the group brings together the estates and négociant business of Jeanjean which focus largely on the south-west and south of France and those of Laroche (Chablis, the Languedoc, Chile and South Africa). Its vineyards extend over 1,450 hectares.

The development reflects an increasing trend for consolidation in the French wine industry and the challenging environment for wine producers. It places Advini firmly among France’s largest wine groups in the same league as Castel, les Grands Chais de France and Boisset.

High end

However, as Advini’s CEO Antoine Leccia is keen to point out, Advini sees its future in premium wine rather than mass-market brands. Its interest lies, he says, in “supplying wines with character that communicate a way of life, an identity and originality…” He adds: “The strength of French wines lies in the identity of the terroir, the typicity of the wines – small growers with an in-depth knowledge of the land.” He’s a firm believer in the AOC system, describing it as “one of our greatest assets”.

Leccia is convinced that backing higher-priced AOC wines is the way forward and adds that sales of AOC wines across the Jeanjean subsidiaries (before the merger) showed an increase in 2009. He expects this category to represent around 60% of sales across the seven companies in the group as Advini begins to trade in its new guise.

Leccia, 43, with a background in agricultural engineering and oenology and originally from Corsica, is youthful, dynamic and straight talking. He admits that both he and most of the houses in the group are relatively unknown outside France. “We haven’t really promoted ourselves and now each house needs to show its qualities,” he says.

A non-family member, he has worked for various subsidiaries within the Jeanjean stable since 1992 when he started in quality control. Notably, he oversaw the expansion of Ogier, one of the first in a serious of acquisitions made by Jeanjean following the flotation of the company 1994. Under his management the Rhône company was returned to its original home of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and in 2000 Ogier acquired a stake in Léonce Amouroux, owner of the prestigious Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes vineyard. He became Jeanjean’s general manager in 2002.

Leccia saw the addition of Laroche, both the man and the business, as an ideal way to boost the image of Advini’s wines. Laroche’s quest for quality in Chablis since the 1970s is widely recognised at home and abroad earning him the moniker “king of Chablis”.

He respects tradition, though he’s not afraid to break with it if he sees a good reason. In 2003 he raised eyebrows in more traditional circles by being the first to seal Chablis wines with screwcap closures believing that this favoured the quality; he started with his top grands crus wines.

For his part Michel Laroche had been looking to secure the future of the Laroche business as, at 64, he approaches retirement. He has agreed to be part of Advini for two years initially and has a seat on the board of directors along with Brigitte and Frédéric Jeanjean and Raymond Plantade. Laroche remains president of the Laroche estates while Thierry Bellicaud, formerly general manager at rosé wine specialist Gassier, is now its managing director.

Forward planning

Looking to Advini’s future Leccia says: “Over the next 10 years we want to develop a group that promotes its wines with a strong identity.“ Each house will be run autonomously but will be served by Advini’s centralised sales force (in France) while overseas each estate or brand will “go its own way” in terms of importer.

The UK is viewed as “a key market with great potential for growth”. Negotiations are under way to find importers for two houses that are not currently represented:  Antoine Moueix in Bordeaux, which is poised to be one of Advini’s big sellers, and Cazes, a 220 hectare estate run according to biodynamic principles in the Rivesaltes appellation, which specialises in vin de pays and AOC wines including fortified wines. Meanwhile Laroche has recently moved from Bibendum to Liberty Wines.

Could further acquisitions be on the cards and if so where? “Consolidation is our main priority,” says Leccia, adding that additions to the group, in time, are more likely to be overseas or in regions where Advini is already present such as Bordeaux. He describes Burgundy as “complicated” and “expensive”, he sees sparkling wine as “another business” and he’s lukewarm about the Loire and Alsace. But these two classic regions do have the potential to offer estates that meet Advini’s criteria: established vineyards and a solid reputation.

Advini’s wine companies

Jeanjean: turnover E102m, exports 33%
Ogier: turnover E35m, exports 65%
Laroche: turnover E21m, exports 80-90%
Antoine Moueix: turnover E18m (target E40)*, exports 25%
Rigal: turnover E17m, exports 40%
Gassier: turnover E13m, exports 15%
Cazes: turnover E3.9m, exports 60%

Source: Advini
*In 2009 the Bordeaux estates Château Grand Renom and Château Capet-Guillier were acquired through Antoine Moueix in a move which reflects Advini’s ambitions for this area of the portfolio
Leccia’s pick of Advini’s top wines


• Ogier, Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes (Châteauneuf-du-Pape)
• Cazes, Cuvée Aimé Cazes 1979 (Rivesaltes)
• Antoine Moueix, Château Capet-Guillier (St-Emilion)
• Gassier, Château Gassier Sainte-Victoire (Provence)
• Laroche, Cuvée Reserve de l’Obédience (Chablis)
• Laroche, Mas La Chevalière, La Croix Chavalière (Languedoc)
• Jeanjean, Grand Devois, Côteaux du Languedoc
• Rigal, Le Vin Noir (Cahors and south-west France)

Other countries:

• Laroche, Viña Punto Alto Carménère (Chile)
• Laroche, L’Avenir Grand Vin Pinotage (South Africa)

Patricia Langton, April 2010

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