Rolland ‘sad’ to sell Le Bon Pasteur

Bordeaux’s most prominent consultant, Michel Rolland, has admitted that he was sad to have to sell his Pomerol-based family château, Le Bon Pasteur, to a Chinese businessman.

Bordeaux heavyweight Michel Rolland has admitted he was sad to sell family estate Le Bon Pasteur

Bordeaux heavyweight Michel Rolland has admitted he was sad to sell family estate Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol

Speaking exclusively to the drinks business at the UK launch of his new Spanish wine project – R&G – Rolland said: “Of course it was sad to sell it as it’s been in our family since the ‘20s, but we’re not the first family in Bordeaux to sell and we won’t be the last.

“I knew it would happen so I was prepared for it. I’m still a shareholder and still do a lot for the estate – I’m still the winemaker and estate manager.

“Le Bon Pasteur was a family problem – I knew for years that I was going to have to sell the property because my brother wanted to get his share of the money out.

“While the value of the property is quite high, the income you get from it is almost zero so my brother wanted out and we had to sell.

Rolland refused to reveal the sale price of Le Bon Pasteur

Rolland refused to reveal the sale price of Le Bon Pasteur

“I did what I could to keep it until the economic situation improved and we could get a better price for it, and managed to hold the sale off for five years,” he said.

Despite his candour, Rolland remained tight-lipped about how much he sold the estate for, as well as the price paid for two other properties – Château Rolland-Maillet in St-Emilion and Château Bertineau St Vincent in Lalande Pomerol.

“I can’t tell you the price, no one ever reveals the price, and if prices are printed they’re always wrong,” he said.

Having sold the trio to Chinese businessman Pan Sutong, chairman of Hong Kong-based investment holding company Goldin Financial Holdings, Rolland sees the influx of Chinese investors in Bordeaux as a positive for the region.

“Yes, there are a lot of Chinese buying properties in Bordeaux at the moment but people have short memories – before it was the Americans, the Irish, the Belgians, the Japanese – Bordeaux has always been a cosmopolitan place.

“Who buys estates in Bordeaux? The people with money, that’s why the Chinese are flocking to the region at the moment. I actually think it’s a good thing as the Chinese interest in Bordeaux is helping to keep the region alive,” he told db.

Rolland's new Spanish wine project, R&G

Rolland’s new Spanish wine project, R&G

The sale came about through a meeting with Sutong at Sloan Estate in the Napa Valley, where Rolland consults, which Sutong bought in June 2011 for US$40m.

Rolland insists that there are no plans for Sloan’s name to change to Pan Estate but rather a special cuvée is being made for sole consumption within Sutong’s Goldin group.

“We’re currently only making three barrels of the ‘Pan’ wine, so the production is tiny,” Rolland confirmed.

Rolland was in London this week for the UK launch of R&G, a collaboration with Spanish entrepreneur Javier Galarreta, founder of the Rioja Alavesa-based Araex group.

The wines – a 100% Tempranillo from Rioja, a Tinto Fino and Merlot blend from Ribera del Duero, and a 100% Verdejo from Rueda – will be distributed in the UK by Matthew Clark.

Value is at the heart of the trio, with the wines ranging from £12-14. While the Rioja is aged in 100% new American oak, the Ribera spends 10 months in 100% new French oak.

“With this range, given their price point, I’m not seeking to make wines of huge complexity, but rather enjoyable wines that can be drunk young but still have the potential to age,” said Rolland.

As for the region of Rioja, Rolland believes it has huge potential but that the Consejo needs to loosen its grip in terms of rules and regulations.

“To succeed you have to break the rules from time to time – sticking rigidly to a set of rules is stupid and ultimately damages that quality of the wines,” he said.

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