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Reviving a Relic: Laurent Delaunay reconstructs one of Burgundy’s great estates

Reviving a Relic: Laurent Delaunay reconstructs one of Burgundy’s great estates

13 February 2020

Of all the regions in the world where one might launch as a new wine producer, Burgundy is perhaps the least attainable. According to the latest figures from French land agency, Safer, the average price for a grand cru vineyard in Burgundy is €6.25million per hectare ($2.8million for 1 acre), which would still be a lucky break given there’s not much for sale anyway.

However, when the objective is to revive a house founded by family, particularly one with deep-rooted relationships in the region, then the circumstances are rather more auspicious than they might otherwise seem.

Great grandson recovers great house

Gathered at Hide Restaurant in London on November 28, 2019, Laurent Delaunay was visibly pleased (despite suffering from a cold) to greet UK press and share the fruits of his labor in reviving his great grandfather’s, Edouard Delaunay’s, Burgundy house. And judging by the ten wines he presented from his growing portfolio, it was evident that he has already made great strides since the 2017 purchase.

The rise and fall and rise

Edouard Delaunay’s illustrious history dates back to 1893, when Edouard Delaunay senior and his brother Louis purchased the estate from an old supplier and relocated  their families from Nantes and Angers to Nuits-Saint-Georges to run their new family business. From the 1920s, Jean Delaunay, the son of Edouard, and his brother Marcel expanded the business worldwide, from Europe to the Americas, from the African colonies to the Far East. In France the wines were not only in top restaurants but also supplied the major travel companies of the time (the French Line, Orient Express, Wagons-Lits, Cunard, Air France). The Delaunays distributed the wines of other prestigious producers including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and the Liger-Belair family (La Romanée), and naturally took an active part in the creation of the famous Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in 1934.

Alas, a difficult period brought on by Laurent’s father, Jean-Marie Delaunay, falling ill, as well as economic challenges during the Gulf War recession, led to the decision to sell the business to the Boisset family.

Nevertheless, Laurent found success in the industry. Upon graduating from Dijon University with his wife, and fellow winemaker, Catherine Delaunay, they founded Badet-Clément. Making wine in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Rhône Valley, and Provence, their company became famous for Les Jamelles, its flagship brand of varietal wines from Pays d’Oc, and its signature ranges of high-end wines, Abbotts & Delaunay from the Languedoc. Selling more than 15 million bottles of their wine in 55 countries gave them some more options.

Back to Burgundy

“We always kept one eye on returning to Burgundy,” said Laurent. The puzzle started to come together when at a lunch with Jean-Claude Boisset he asked the question, and Boisset replied that in fact he had already been thinking that the name should return to him. He also meanwhile bought back their original property, Château de Charmont, in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, and began renovations to the highest standard. “I bought the right to use my family name again. The original vineyards, however, were not for sale.”

“My family always kept very good relationships in Burgundy,” explained Laurent, acknowledging that his siblings’ connections, along with the small distribution company he started in Burgundy in 2003, DVP, allowed him to source grapes from more than 150 different growers.

He assembled a star team, led by cellar master, Christophe Briotet, who was previously chief winemaker at Domaine du Lycée Viticole de Beaune, with experience making wine in Chile and Turkey. They create around 25 different wines from purchased grapes, but the terms allow them to take responsibility from harvest. “We set the harvest date and pick the grapes ourselves,” said Laurent. “We work in a very precise way. It’s very important to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses. Even preparation to bottling and bottling—we can make important improvements with attention to details.”

Edouard Delaunay produced 60,000 bottles in 2017, 75 percent of which were Pinot Noir. White grapes were more difficult to find, but Laurent plans to increase white production, and double his overall volume in his second vintage, while continuing to improve quality.

The total capacity of the winery is 10,000 cases. “It might take us several years to get there,” smiled Laurent, but there’s hope that Edouard Delaunay will once again become a leading Burgundian house along the way.


13 February 2020
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