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Laurent Dassault to buy Chateau La Croix de Gay and La Fleur de Gay?

Jane Anson has reported on Decanter that aviation millionaire Laurent Dassault (the maker of Dassault Falcon business jets), owner of Chateau Dassault and Chateau La Fleur, has made an approach to purchase both Chateau La Croix de Gay and La Fleur de Gay from Dr Alain Raynaud. Both Chateaux Dassault and La Fleur are located in Saint Emilion’ whereas Raynaud’s properties are in Pomerol. Château Dassault was formerly called Château Couperie and was created in 1862 by Victor Beylot. It was purchased in 1955 by Marcel Dassault, who renovated the estate as well as gave his name to it.

In 2002, Chateau Dassault purchased its closest neighbour, Chateau La Fleur, with the intention of elevating this wine to Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe status. Chateau La Fleur was known in 1898 under the name Cru Merissac, then in 1929 as La Fleur Merissac, the first label with Chateau La Fleur, Saint Emilion 1st Grand Cru appeared in 1949.

The Dassault Group also owns shares, amounting to 5%, of Premier Cru Chateau Cheval Blanc. They also own the Argentinean vineyards Casa Los Dassos and Flechas de los Andes having invested in them in 1998, with Benjamin de Rothschild. In 2001 they signed a ‘joint venture’ with Guillermo Luksic, chairman of Quinenco (one of Chile’s largest business conglomerates that owns Vina San Pedro, the third largest winery in Chile) to create a New World wine called Altair.

Although Alain Raynaud can trace his family’s involvement in the wine business back to the 15th century, he went to medical school and spent twenty five years working as a hospital doctor before he returned to his roots. In 1997 he purchased Château Quinault in Saint Emilion. He currently supervises the production of Château Lascombes in Margaux and is consultant to Colgin in Napa, Clos de l’Eglise in Pomerol and the Barclay Brothers’ new venture on the island of Sark. He served as President of the Union Des Grands Crus De Bordeaux from 1994-2000, representing top Bordeaux wines around the world. The sale of the two family estates La Croix de Gay and La Fleur de Gay, would mean Raynaud, president of the Circle de Rive Droite and a close friend of Robert Parker, would no longer own any Bordeaux wine estates.

Château la Croix de Gay has belonged to the Raynaud family for over five generations, and their history is closely tied with that of Pomerol. Château La Fleur de Gay is the special luxury cuvée wine produced by Château La Croix de Gay. Proprietor Dr. Alain Raynaud first launched the cuvée in 1982 and the fruit is taken from two plots of old vines located on the Pomerol plateau between Pétrus and Lafleur. According to local vineyard experts, the two vineyards together should be worth in excess of 35 million euros.

In September, 2008, Quinault was sold to Bernard Arnault, head of luxury goods empire LVMH, and his associate Albert Frère, adding to their portfolio of Saint Émilion properties Château Cheval Blanc and Château la Tour du Pin Figeac. At the time of the sale, Raynaud stated he did not have the means to continue improving the estate, citing the frost in 2002, the heat wave in 2003 and the hail in 2004 as problematic factors, but pledged to remain with Quinault as a consultant.

Alain Raynaud told Decanter: “I have not yet made any decisions, and will do so by the end of the year. It is not always easy to work both properties between just the two of us, but these are family estates and we will take the necessary time to reflect.”

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