Allied-Lyons, the British brewer and distiller, has announced plans to acquire Chateau Latour, one of France's finest top Bordeaux houses.
Allied-Lyons has had a 25.2% stake in Chateau Latour for 26 years and now aims to acquire the 53.5% held by Pearson, the conglomerate that owns the Financial Times of London, for $94.4 million in cash.
In addition, Allied-Lyons also has offered substantially the same financial arrangement to News International, which holds an 18.5% stake and to all the other shareholders. This would value Chateau Latour at $185 million.
Chateau Latour, situated in the Medoc district, is one of the five Premier Cru wines of Bordeaux. Like the others -- Lafite, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion -- it can command among the highest prices on release.
As a multiple of earnings, the price makes Chateau Latour the most expensive vineyard ever sold.
Sir Derrick Holden-Brown, chairman of Allied-Lyons, said the ownership of Chateau Latour as part of a portfolio that included Courvoisier, Canadian Club and Ballantine's was of outstanding value.
"The benefit of Chateau Latour in underwriting our credentials as a world leader in wines and spirits and providing a further powerful entree to the major markets is immeasurable." He said Alan Hare had agreed to stay on as chairman and manager of Chateau Latour.
In the year ended Dec. 31 Chateau Latour made a pre-tax profit of $6.8 million.
Now that the controversial Stag's Leap appellation fight is over and that name has been approved for wines coming from an area in the southeastern sector of the Napa Valley, a new appellation application has been filed with the government and it figures to create at least as much controversy.
Applications were submitted recently to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to certify regions called Rutherford and Oakville. And within each of the areas, the applications seek approval for smaller regions called Rutherford Bench and Oakville Bench.
It is Rutherford Bench that may cause problems, say growers and wineries, who say defining the boundaries of just what is benchland and what is not is at the heart of the problem.
For years, wine lovers have heard there is a special quality to Cabernet Sauvignons of the Rutherford area, and an even more special quality to Cabernets of the Rutherford Bench. But until now no one has known precisely where the boundaries of this "bench" are located.
Said Phyllis Van Kriedt, writing in the California Wineletter, "The filing . . . is already causing plenty of controversy in the (Napa) Valley."
Decanter, a respected London-based wine magazine, has presented its Man of the Year award to Robert Mondavi of the Napa Valley. Mondavi is the first California wine maker to receive the honor.
The first to win the award, in 1984, was Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar in Lebanon. In subsequent years, the awards went to Laura and Corinne Mentzelopoulos, owners of Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux; Piero Antinori, one of Italy's leading wine makers; Alexis Lichine, owner of Chateau Prieure-Lichine and a wine author, and Max Schubert, creator of one of Australia's greatest wines, Penfolds Grange Hermitage.