Greek Heiress Corinne Mentzelopoulos Turns Winery into $1B Business

(Photo AFP)


Greek heiress Corinne Mentzelopoulos has turned the famous Chateau Margaux in France into a $1 billion business, according to a Bloomberg report.

Mentzopoulos is the daughter of the owner of a French super market empire consisting of 1,600 stores, 80 buildings in central Paris, a hotel and a vineyard.

According to Bloomberg, Chateau Margaux is among a handful of wineries that can claim the prized Premier Cru designation bestowed by Napoleon III in 1855, upon Bordeaux’s very best terroirs for making wine.

Mentzelopoulos’ father paid only 72 million francs ($16 million) for Margaux in 1977, after it had languished on the market for two years. The family worked hard to return the neglected winery into its past glories, despite the fact that the French wine industry was at its lowest due to the economic crisis.

However, 40 years later the Mentzelopoulos family has turned Chateau Margaux into a trophy estate that some would be willing to pay $1 billion to make it their own. According to Bloomberg though, the owner is not interested in selling.

Chateau Margaux employs 81 people and is one of the world’s smallest billion-dollar businesses. The 262 hectares (647 acres) vineyard  produces about 280,000 bottles of wine a year, which can retail at more than $1,000 each for recent vintages. It is estimated that it brings revenues of $100 million each year.

Fine wine has moved from hobby to mainstream investment, collected by a quarter of the world’s rich, according to Barclays Plc. Wine has become the second-best performing luxury asset, behind classic cars, property consultancy Knight Frank says.

Corinne Mentzelopoulos is grooming the second of her three children; 32-year old Alexandra, to succeed her. Even though Alexandra lives in London, where she owns a wine bar and restaurant, she travels to Bordeaux at key times such as the harvest and the blending of the new wine, the Bloomberg report says.

“Because it’s a family business, I want to be trained in every part of it,” Alexandra says. “After 500 years, you can’t be too big for your shoes and think you can change everything.”