A BEVERAGE EMPIRE NAMED CASTEL
Chateau de Goelane
Chateau Tour Prignac
Founded in 1949, Castel has grown into a multinational beverage empire. The family-owned company headed by Pierre CASTEL also owns 800 hectares of vineyards in Bordeaux, including the above chateaux.
At Vinexpo, whether in Bordeaux or Asia (at one time, Tokyo, and the inaugural (1998) and last two editions in Hong Kong), the most conspicuous thing you will see at the wine exhibition, apart from bottles of wine, is an ubiquitous carrier bag.
This bag does not discriminate. On the contrary, it is like a "United Nations" symbol because whether you are between rows of Australian exhibitors, inside the California Pavilion, amongst gesticulating Italian exhibitors or sun-tanned Spanish vignerons, lingering at the Champagne stands or chatting up the ladies from the South of France, everywhere you go at Vinexpo, you see a steady stream of visitors carrying the Castel paper-bag.
If visibility alone decides which is the Number One wine in the world, Castel at Vinexpo, would win hands-down. For more substantive reasons, Castel may indeed be the largest wine group in the world. Consider the facts.
Castel, the group, owns:
• Nicolas wine shops (348 shops in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Morocco and Reunion Island)
• Oddbins wine shops (175 shops in the United Kingdom)
• 13 Bordeaux chateaux and brands such as Baron de Lestac and Malesan
• Grain d'Oc and Domaine Virginie in the south of France
• 14 wine estates in Morocco
• Beer brewing and soft-drinks interests in French-speaking African countries
• 10 mineral water brands including Thonon, Piervals, Vals and, perhaps the world's most prestigious water, Chateldon
In the Asia-Pacific region alone, in 2007, Castel sold 9.2 million bottles of wine. Through their Nicolas shops in France, they are the purveyor of more champagne than anyone else in that country.
In Asia, Castel is a major French player in many markets including Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The first Castel office in Asia was opened in Japan in 1999, followed by one in Korea and then two in China (Shenzhen and Canton). A team of 60 staff now works in the region to ensure the development of the group's brands, including Baron de Lestac, Famille Castel, Grain d'Oc, Malesan, Virginie, as well as Castel's Estates and Vineyards. Asia represents a major strand of Castel's international development, not least because it is one of the fastest growing markets in the world.
Castel Senior, from Zaragoza, Spain, used to go over to Bordeaux to work for six months in the year during, and after, the harvest. When civil war broke out in Spain in the 1930s, Castel took his wife and four sons to escape the fighting. Times were also tough for the owners of Bordeaux estates and the labourers who work in them. Payment was usually in the form of wine. However, instead of consuming them, his son Pierre Castel decided to bottle and sell them. The company was founded in 1949.
In the late 1950s, many of the Bordeaux chateaux were on the verge of bankruptcy. As a consequence, they were not only put up for sale but it was a buyers' market. Through their hard work and thrift, the four Castel brothers acquired, in 1975, Chateau de Goelane, a Bordeaux Superieur in the Entre-deux-Mers. The purchase was an emotional tribute to their father because it was at this beautiful estate that father and four sons worked when they first arrived from Spain.
With the passing years, the family acquired more and more properties. Their names include Chateau Tour Prignac, Chateau D'Arcins and Chateau Barreyres. Perhaps the most famous of their Bordeaux properties is Chateau Ferrande, a white and red Graves, and which is a member of the prestigious Union des Grands Crus. Accordingly, the wines are on the tasting schedule of journalists from around the world each spring during the Futures or Primeurs campaign. Castel is, today, the proprietor of 800 hectares of vineyards in Bordeaux, 160 hectares in the Cotes de Provence and 2,000 hectares in Morocco. In 2007, the Castel Group sold 430 million bottles of worth worth Euro 950 million.
The Castel family has always kept a low profile. Today, the business, still family owned, is headed by Pierre CASTEL who divides his time between Bordeaux, Paris and Geneva. Although the family still prefers to stay below the radar, that may change in the near future as it will not be possible to keep all that success under wraps. If anything, particularly in Asia, the products of Castel have been gaining so much traction that ignorance of its influence is simply not an option anymore. The word is slowly getting out that Castel is one of the best managed and most successful beverage companies in the world.