Bernard Arnault would like to treat himself to this famous Swiss vineyard

The rumor grows again and again, without ever dying down: is the famous Graubünden wine estate “Gantenbein” about to fall into the hands of Bernard Arnault, the all-powerful boss of the LVMH group?

Christian Berzins / ch media

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For a 2020 vintage of pinot noir from the Gantenbein estate in Fläsch, count around 300 francs at Globus. It is one of the most expensive wines from the Bündner Herrschaft – a small but high-quality wine region close to Landquart. Martha and Daniel Gantenbein have been making wine there for 42 years. Thanks to their passion and taste for precision, they succeeded in putting Bündner Herrschaft on the wine map. Better: to help Swiss wines gain their letters of nobility.

Daniel and Martha Gantenbein confess to thinking about the future.Hans-Peter Siffert/Weinweltfoto

In recent weeks, wild rumors have circulated around the country’s most famous wine estate. The specialist on the subject, Wolfram Meister, summarized them in the Schweizer Weinzeitung. His thoughts spread from glass to glass, from table to table, throughout the territory:

“Gantenbein sold his estate”

And then, suddenly, the buyer was “known.” This would be LVMH, the best-listed French company on the stock exchange, which collects luxury products like pearls. The property of Bernard Arnault, one of the richest men in the world – the richest even, according to the time of calculation of his fortune – and who owns approximately 233 billion euros. His group would have put 35 million on the table to afford the prestigious estate.

A flair of the super-rich for famous vineyards

The originators of the rumor, who are to be found in the wine world in Graubünden, would have thought that such an elegant wine estate would perfectly complement the portfolio of the French billionaire. Arnault already owns the Cheval Blanc estate since 1998 – a house that produces one of the best-selling Bordeaux in the world. The price of some bottles can reach four-figure sums, even five for the best, oldest vintages. LVMH has also acquired other vineyards, which therefore belong indirectly to Arnault.

The Frenchman is far from being the only ultra-rich to smell good wines and to own them. Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and Swiss Andy Rihs (now deceased) are also part of the select club of owners.

Switzerland in the bouncer

So why does the French group want to buy a wine estate in Switzerland rather than in France, the terroir par excellence of good wine and good food? Perhaps we, the Helvetians, are too modest, and that finally, here too, we can enjoy ourselves. The Gantenbein winery in Graubünden is listed in the 2023 “Power 100” global ranking of the 100 strongest wine brands. It is established by the wine trading platform Liv-ex. Gantenbein now occupies 55th place.

This list takes into account the evolution of prices, the number of wines marketed by an estate as well as the cumulative value and volume of this trade. Gantenbein is one of the first Swiss wines to be traded abroad. This international orientation has been one of the keys to its marketing success.

The modern Gantenbein winery surrounded by vineyards against the backdrop of the Falknis Mountains in Fläsch.

The modern Gantenbein winery surrounded by vineyards against the backdrop of the Falknis Mountains in Fläsch.hans-peter siffert/weinweltfoto

This year, it is the Burgundian domain of Leflaive which is at the top of the Liv-ex ranking. In second place, we find Château d’Yquem from Sauternes, which produces a sweet wine sold at a premium. It is followed by Méo-Camuzet, in Burgundy. In the top 10, we find names like Opus One, Château Cheval-Blanc in Bordeaux and even Gaja, in Piedmont. Slipping into 59th place on the list, after these prestigious names, is therefore very promising.

A feat all the more astonishing given that the Gantenbeins only produce three wines: a pinot noir, a chardonnay and a riesling – barely 30,000 bottles in total, decorated with a simple label, but full of personality. Customers who are lucky enough to be able to buy directly pay less than 100 francs per bottle, compared to wines which will then sell for up to 500 francs.

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Hans-Peter Siffert/Weinweltfoto

It seems entirely understandable that a renowned winemaker close to retirement and with no one to take over would consider selling his life’s work at a high price. But it’s actually not that simple: in Switzerland and the Graubünden region in question, rural land law applies, which makes sales to non-farmers impossible or at least very difficult. Monsieur Arnault’s millions might not be of any help. The “Lex Koller” greatly slows down the acquisition of land by foreigners.

“We think about the future”

When contacted, Martha Gantenbein did not respond head-on to the question of the sale: “Of course we are thinking about the future of our estate.”

“You will understand that we preferred to keep this to ourselves. And besides that, we continue to do our work with pleasure and passion”

A reaction that hardly resembles a denial. However, according to a secondary Source, a reputable winemaker, the Gantenbeins would not be interested in giving up their property. So could this be a strategy to attract attention? If so, it’s successful.

There may not be any young winegrowers to take over for the Gantenbeins, but several young people are emerging to continue running the operation. For the Gantenbein name to continue, it would be enough to hire an administrator, a technician and continue to participate in the Open Cellars day. According to Weinzeitungthe Gantenbein couple have actually hired a couple of winegrowers since January 1.

The estate obviously does not need the open Cellars to get by. On his site, we can read for a long time that tours are not offered to the general public. A sort of impassable wall – coupled with a law of silence. Which won’t help quell the rumors surrounding the sale anytime soon. Which doesn’t change much for potential future buyers. Year after year, stock shortages follow one another. We haven’t been accepting new clients for ages.

However, a small consolation for lovers of these precious beverages: there is still a long worldwide list of points of sale for Gantenbein wines online. At the Swiss wine merchants Gerstl or Martel, young wines are sold out; but you can be put on the waiting list for the following year. You can also get a ready-to-drink wine from 2013 at the price of 2020 from Globus (300 francs). An exceptional price for an exceptional product.

(Translated and adapted from German by Valentine Zenker)

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