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ALAIN THIENOT - NEW OWNER OF CVBG



Alain THIENOT, founder of Champagne Thienot (and who also owns Champagnes Canard-Duchene and Joseph Perrier), is the new majority shareholder of Bordeaux powerhouse CVBG.











Story and Photo By Ch'ng Poh Tiong

In May 2007, Bordeaux learnt of a new name. Alain THIENOT.

The founder of Champagne Thienot (the group also owns Champagnes Joseph Perrier, Canard-Duchene, Marie Stuart and Jean-Louis Malard) acquired a majority stake in CVBG or Compagnie des Vins de Bordeaux et de la Gironde (one of the biggest players in Bordeaux Cru Classe wines and which also owns Vins & Vignobles Dourthe and Kressmann). Although Thienot would not reveal the price he paid for the Bordeaux powerhouse, the reasons he bought CVBG are crystal clear.

"CVBG is a very nice company that was owned by a good friend, Jean-Marie CHADRONNIER. It is very well-managed and exports 70% of its wines. I bought the company because I wanted to give muscle to the exportation of my champagne. In CVBG, they have 15 export managers. In Champagne, I have only two.

"Champagne Thienot is a young company that was started only in 1985. After establishing ourselves here in France, we exported to England but we are not yet a big exporter, certainly not in Asia. Not just Champagne Thienot but our Bordeaux wines are not so much seen in Asia (before acquiring CVBG, Champagne Thienot had already owned Chateaux Rahoul, De Ricaud, Haut Gros Cailloux and La Garance). CVBG has a lot of relationships we don't have. We can use them to have a presence in the world."

Another reason cited by Thienot for acquirng CVBG is that Dourthe (which produces generic white and red Bordeaux, including Dourthe Numero 1) is a good brand with a lot of potential.

Alain Thienot also informed (this interview took place on 9 January 2008) that he will continue to be based in Champagne and that, although he is the majority shareholder of CVBG, the other owners who are managing the company will stay on at the Bordeaux powerhouse. Following Jean-Marie Chadronnier's retirement in late 2007, Patrick JESTIN became Chief Executive Officer of CVBG.

"My son Stanislas is also based here but will travel more frequently to Bordeaux. Part of his job will be putting into place the exportation of Thienot brands to Asia and the USA. As for my daughter, Garance BARBIER-THIENOT, she is Director of Publicity. She just gave birth to a boy."

Apart from being a proud grandfather, Alain Thienot is now also assured that there is a third generation to continue flying the family flag.

BANKER BY PROFESSION, WINE LOVER BY CHOICE

After his graduation, Alain Thienot went into banking. However, after some time, he became bored and wanted a greater challenge. Thienot longed to return to the Champagne that he loved, the wide open space and his passion for the soil and the wine. He was born in Reims, not far from the ancient Cathedral. The exposure to the financial world however provided invaluable training both in matters of finance and management know-how for the future wine owner.

Thienot's father, a lawyer by training, had actually been in charge of a champagne house and, no doubt, communicated his own love for the wine to his son. Not to mention that his great grandfather was, from 1870 to 1947, a glassmaker whose products were of course crucial in containing the sparkling wine.

Alain Thienot first entered the Champagne wine trade as a broker. This is always a good vantage point from which to study and understand the intricacies of the wine business in France.

"I learnt a lot during this period of my life. When I created my own champagne house, I was able, with the contacts I made when I was a broker, rely on the many growers of top crus that I had come to know in my previous job."

Always quality-conscious, Alain Thienot not only relied on the best fruit available, the first step he undertook in becoming a champagne producer was to buy a few hectares of vineyards in the Grand Crus of Ay and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, renowned for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay respectively. Today, total vineyard holdings total 20 hectares and also include the Grand Crus of Pierry, Cumières and Damery.

Later, as luck would have it, Alain Thienot was able to acquire a lovely house in Reims which lords over a network of cellars that is two kilometres in length and 12 metres deep. The temperature here is a natural, constant 10 degrees Celsius.

Although the relatively modest annual production of around 300,000 bottles at Champagne Thienot does not require so much cellaring space (not even when one takes into account the additional stocks that are being aged there), Alain Thienot must surely consider himself very lucky indeed. After all, how many men are able to go to bed each night not only with their wife but also with thousands of bottles of very lively champagnes!



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