Maison Louis Jadot
Maison Louis Jadot
SICs: 2084 Wines, Brandy & Brandy Spirits
With extensive vineyard holdings throughout France’s Burgundy region, Maison Louis Jadot ranks among the premier producers and negociants of the popular Burgundy wine variety. Louis Jadot’s list of some 150 labels presents a unique collection of “premier cru” and “grand cru” appellations (the designations premier and grand cru can refer to both the vineyard as well as the wines produced; grand cru is the highest classification for the Burgundy region, followed by premier cru). The company has long held a reputation for the high quality of its wines. In order to ensure this quality, Louis Jadot has engaged in a string of vineyard acquisitions through the 1980s and 1990s. With more than 300 acres of vines, the company can boast that a large percentage of Louis Jadot wines are made from grapes grown on the company’s own vines or in vineyards under the company’s management control. The company negotiates its further grape requirements largely through non-binding agreements with primarily Cote d’Or growers. More than a buyer-seller contract, the company’s relationship with its outside growers functions as a collaborative partnership, enabling the company to exert a degree of control over the quality of the grape. In exchange, the company has long held a policy of paying finished wine prices for its grape purchases. This enables the company to maintain its supply of grapes as well as a degree of year-to-year consistency among its labels.
Louis Jadot has specialized in Burgundy for nearly 150 years, and the majority of its vineyards are located in the Coted’Or area of the famous wine-making region of Burgundy. In 1996, however, Louis Jadot took a step towards an expanded portfolio, with the acquisition of the Chateaux St. Jacques label, winemaking facilities, and extensive holdings in Beaujolais vineyards, including some 67 acres of AOC (appelation d’origine controlé) Moulin a Vent vineyards. The company’s Cote d’Or holdings represent a collection of prime vineyards that have remained for generations within the founding Jadot family, vineyards owned by the Gagey family, and the company’s more recent acquisitions of vineyards and vineyard management contracts. The company’s holdings also include a new winemaking facility, completed in August 1997. Since 1996, the company has also operated the cooperative Cadus cooperage to supply the company’s wooden casks needs according to its specifications.
While Louis Jadot has adapted modern production techniques, these have remained subservient to the company’s insistence on traditional winemaking methods—grapes are harvested and selected by hand, all wines are aged exclusively in wood, and the wines themselves are prepared with only natural ingredients. The company’s labels also respect tradition: each label denotes the specific vineyard from which its grapes originated. Louis Jadot wines remain single variety wines in the Burgundian tradition. Nearly half of all Louis Jadot labels are produced from grapes from the company’s own vineyards.
In the late 1990s, Louis Jadot was led by President Pierre-Henry Gagey, son of the legendary Andre Gagey, master oenologist, who guided the company for more than 30 years and continued to serve the company as chairman. While the younger Gagey led the company’s management, Louis Jadot’s wine production was headed up by technical director Jacques Lardiére.
Founding a Legend in the 1850s
Louis Henry Denis Jadot, born in 1821, gave his name to the wine house he founded in 1859. The Jadot family’s involvement in winemaking began at the turn of the 19th century. Originally from Belgium, members of the Jadot family emigrated to the area around Beaune, in the central-eastern region of France in the 1790s, purchasing a partnership share in the grand cruvineyard Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles. Louis Jadot’s father expanded the family’s vineyard holdings when he purchased the Clos des Ursules, a small, premier cru parcel less than five kilometers from the Chevalier-Montrachet site.
The Jadot family vineyards were transferred to Louis Jadot’s uncle after the death of Jadot’s father. The young Jadot went to work for his uncle, where he gained a thorough understanding of the art and craft of winemaking, from the cellar to the vine. Part of Jadot’s responsibilities entailed selling and distributing the family’s wines, often to Belgium—which, formerly a province of the Duchy of Burgogne, remained a principal market for the Jadot and other Burgundy wines—enabling him to build a strong clientele. With this clientele, Jadot went into business for himself. In 1859, Jadot bought a wine negociant house, Lemaire-Fouleux.
Jadot changed the company’s name to Maison Louis Jadot and reoriented its sales to the Belgium and northern French markets. Maison Louis Jadot soon came under control of the Jadot family’s vineyards. New vineyards, including the Beaune Theurons and Beaune Clos des Couchereaux added their wines to the Jadot list. It was from small parcels such as these—the Theurons vineyard was a mere one hectare; the Couchereaux parcel, slightly larger at 1.3 hectares—that the reputation of the Jadot name and the quality of its wines would grow.
Louis Jadot continued to lead the family operation until his death in 1900. Son Louis Baptiste Jadot, then age 27, inherited not only the Maison Louis Jadot, but his father’s gift for wine as well. The younger Jadot would continue building both the winery and its reputation, bringing the Jadot name to new international markets, while expanding its sales throughout France. Jadot also continued to invest in the company and is credited with adding a number of important premier and grand cru vineyards to the family’s holdings, including the relatively large, and adjoining, Cortón Charlemagne and Cortón Pougets vineyards and the Beune Les Boucherottes vineyards.
The third generation of Louis Jadots—Louis Baptiste’s son Louis Auguste—joined the family operation in 1931 and took over after his father’s death in 1939. Under Louis Auguste Jadot, the company would pursue its strongest international growth, reaching the newly emerging United States market; the company’s wines were imported exclusively by the Kobrand Corporation. Other important new markets for the company during this period were the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the South American countries. Louis Auguste also expanded the company’s vineyard holdings, and its domain labels, with the purchases of Les Chouacheux and Les Bressandes.
New Leadership in the 1960s
The death of Louis Baptiste’s son, Louis Alain, who died in an auto accident at the age of 23, left the Jadot’s without a natural successor to the line. Future leadership would come from outside the family, in the person of Andre Gagey, who became Louis Auguste Jadot’s assistant in 1954. Gagey, born in 1924 in nearby Dijon, had strong ties to the Burgundy territory. His family had also been involved in winemaking, including the Clos de Malte vineyard in Santenay, purchased—and later sold—by Gagey’s grandfather in the mid-1860s. After studying at the University of Commerce and Administration, Gagey had married Marie-Héléne Tourlière, whose family, like the Jadot’s, held a number of important Burgundy vineyards, and had operated a winery and negociant firm in the Beune area since the early 1800s. Gagey went to work for his father-in-law, learning the art of viniculture, winemaking, and cellar operations, as well as gaining experience in the commercial aspects of the negociant business.
Louis Auguste Jadot died in 1962. His widow and daughters retained ownership of the family firm, while placing the management of its operations fully under Gagey, who had become instilled with the Jadot family’s commitment to the highest quality wines. Indeed, Gagey himself would become world-renowned as a master oenologist, credited with a gift for selecting grapes and nurturing young wines. Through Gagey, the Maison Jadot would also take over operations of the Gagey/ Tourlière vineyards.
Gagey would lead the company for more than 30 years. He would also transform the company from principally a negociant firm, with a minor interest in the production from its own vineyards, into a full-fledged owner-producer. To this end, Gagey hired Jacques Lardiére as his assistant in 1970. Lardiére, born in 1948 and raised on France’s western coast, had studied at the School of Viticulture and Oenology of Alentours, and had continued his research studies at the prestigious Pasteur Institute. Lardiére would build a reputation as one of the leading Burgundy winemakers. In 1980, Lardiére was named technical director of the Maison Louis Jadot. Gagey and Lardiére pursued a policy of expanding the company’s vineyard holdings and improving and maintaining the quality of its grapes. By then, the company had determined that its best means of ensuring the consistent quality of its wines was in possessing control of the entire production process, starting with growing the grapes themselves. In 1985, Gagey and Lardiére were joined by Gagey’s son, Pierre-Henry Gagey, born in 1955, whose educational background included a master’s degree in business administration from Paris’s Institut des Hautes Etudes Comerciales.
Refocusing Operations in the 1980s
By the 1980s, Maison Louis Jadot possessed more than 45 acres of some of the finest Burgundy vineyards. However, with Gagey approaching 60 years of age in the 1980s, the company faced the problem of succession, as well as the need to ensure the company’s future growth. In 1985, the Jadot family, represented by Louis Auguste’s widow and his daughters, sold the Jadot operations—excluding the vineyards, which remained the property of the Jadot and Gagey families—to the Kopf family, owners of the company’s United States importer, the Kobrand Corporation. The sale was performed as a private transaction, leaving Maison Louis Jadot unaffiliated with Kobrand. Nevertheless, the sale would provide capital for continued expansion.
Andre Gagey remained as the company’s CEO and retained complete control over the house’s direction. With the new capital, Maison Louis Jadot intensified the expansion of its vineyard acreage. In 1985, the company purchased the Domaines Clair Dau, an area of 18 hectares (35 acres) which included such distinguished vineyards as Clos St. Jacques, Les Amoureuses, Chapelle Chambertin, Clos de Béze, Musigny, Bonnes Mares, and others. This purchase was followed in the 1980s by the acquisition of the ten-acre Domaines Champy, which had been established in 1720. In addition to these purchases, Gagey led Maison Louis Jadot into another direction—that of gaining long-term management contracts for the operation of non-company owned vineyards. A major addition in this way was made in 1986 with the contract to operate the Domaine du Due de Magenta, which featured 30 acres of premier cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.
Andre Gagey remained to the position of chairman of the company; son Pierre-Henry was named president in his stead, while Jacques Lardiére, assisted by Christine Botton, became managing director in charge of all winemaking operations. Gagey’s retirement brought the Gagey family holdings definitively onto the Jadot list, with these properties—including the premier crus Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Boudots, Chambolle-Musigny Les Baudes, and Beaune Cent-Vignes, and the grand cru Clos Saint-Denis—added as long-term contracts, their wines labeled as the Domaine Andre Gagey. The company continued its acquisitions in the first half of the 1990s. In 1993, Jadot purchased the 20-acre Clos de Malte, which had originally been planted by Gagey’s grandfather. Two years later, the company added approximately five acres of premier cru and grand cru vineyards, ranging from the 1.1 acre Les Referts, to the 0.87 acre grand cru Echezeaux. The company also acquired the ten-acre parcel Cote de Nuits Villages, located in the village of Comblanchien, in 1995.
By the mid-1990s, the company’s vineyard holdings totaled more than 230 acres of the finest grand cru and premier cru land in the Beaune area. The company would continue to seek new acquisitions—either as outright purchases or in the form of long-term contracts—in its traditional region. However, in February 1997, Maison Louis Jadot ventured outside of the Beaune region for the first time, purchasing the substantial holdings of Chateau des Jacques. Established in the 1700s, and featuring some 98 acres of vineyard, Chateau des Jacques was one of the most important estates of the Moulin-à-Vent appelation. Despite poor weather conditions—resulting principally in lower yields—the first harvest and wines produced from Chateau des Jacques grapes was prepared by Maison Louis Jadot in 1997. Remaining rooted in its Beaune area base, Maison Louis Jadot expected to purchase other properties throughout the region, while keeping true to its Burgundy traditions.
—M. L. Cohen