Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

AXA, vast insurance group based in France whose wine division AXA-Millésimes is very small in the context of the company and very big in the context of fine wine in general and Bordeaux in particular. Claude Bébéar, the company’s president and founder, was led to buy the small St-Émilion property Ch Franc-Mayne in 1984 as an indirect result of his friendship with Jean-Michel Cazes of pauillac. Seeing the investment potential of good Bordeaux properties, he founded AXA-Millésimes in 1987 and it was managed by Cazes alongside his own wine holdings including Ch Lynch Bages until 2000 when Cazes retired and Christian Seely took over. Initial acquisitions included Clos de l’Arlot in nuits-st-georges, the cru bourgeois Ch Pibran and, also in Pauillac, the second growth Ch Pichon Baron, a fairy-tale chateau which has since been lavishly refurbished, re-equipped, and restored to its original name Ch Pichon-Longueville. In 1989 another landmark building Ch Cantenac Brown of margaux was acquired, along with pomerol’s Ch Petit Village, sold by the Prats family of Cos in st-estèphe. Three years later sauternes first growth Ch Suduiraut and the Disznókő vineyard in tokaj were added, a sweet triumvirate being completed by the acquisition and subsequent restoration of the quinta do noval port business in 1993. AXA is by no means the only French insurance company to have invested in wine-related real estate but is the most wine-minded one. Ch Petit Village was almost sold to the owner of Ch Pavie in St-Émilion in 2001 and Ch Cantenac Brown was sold in 2005.