All in the Family

225-20140531.jpg

A New Generation at Saint-Emilion's Beau-Séjour Bécot

By Robert Camuto -- Wine Spectator May 31, 2014

The vineyards that gently slope from the heights of the picturesque medieval village of St.-Emilion produce some of Bordeaux's most prized wines. Yet this famed plateau is also home to some of the region's most divisive family intrigues.

In recent years, dissension and fallings-out, fueled by what are among the wine world's highest real estate prices—topping $1.5 million per acre—have led many a château to be sold to deep-pocketed outsiders or corporate conglomerates.

In this environment, Château Beau-Séjour Bécot is a rarity. This prestige estate created in the 1960s by merging the Bécot family's own ancestral property with a neighboring estate is now passing to yet another generation, without controversy. The Bécots themselves have the rare distinction of tracing their roots in St.-Emilion winemaking back more than 200 years to the French Revolution.

"We are encircled by new owners who didn't come from wine," says Gérard Bécot, 64, pointing to an aerial vineyard photograph hanging in the long, open room of a farmhouse that serves as the family's common office. For nearly 30 years, Gérard made the wine here, while his brother, Dominique, 55, managed the vineyards.

Yet this sense of continuity wasn't always so assured. When Gérard and Dominique took charge in the mid-1980s, the future of Beau-Séjour Bécot was threatened. The château was embroiled in a fight with France's national wine authority, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), which had sparked serious controversy by demoting the estate in its 1986 classification of St.-Emilion.

A few years later, questions about the future of the château arose again as the family searched for its next leader. Today those questions have been answered, and this year marks a new era.  Read more at the Wine Spectator.