GRAPE EXPECTATIONS: Green might be the first color people think of at the mention of Bernard Arnault, one of the richest men in the world. But he’s also closely associated with red, white — and rosé, too.
At a ceremony on Thursday night, the chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton was crowned Personality of the Year by La Revue du Vin de France, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious wine monthlies.
The title trumpeted that in less than 40 years the luxury titan has become the global leader in wines and luxury liquors. LVMH’s wines and spirits division, spanning some 29 brands across Champagne, cognac, wines and spirits, generated revenues of 4.69 billion euros in the first nine months of 2023.
“He did it methodically, acquiring the most beautiful estates, the most prestigious names, with a knowledge of marketing, an intuition about the development potential of a château, and a sharp way of choosing the best teams, which is essential in this international market,” Denis Saverot, La Revue’s editor in chief, notes in his editor’s letter for the February issue, devoted to all of its “grand prize” winners.
Saverot also lauded the care LVMH takes in viticulture and winemaking, incorporating sustainable practices and “haute couture” means. “These houses and estates are the guardians of our landscapes, of a certain human and social harmony, too,” he wrote.
Arnault’s stable includes Dom Perignon, Ruinart and Krug in Champagne, and Château d’Yquem, Cloudy Bay, Cheval Blanc, Minuty and Château du Galoupet in wine.
Other Grand Prix winners recognized by the magazine, part of the Marie Claire group, include Champagne Philipponnat, named brand of the year, and the Restaurant Au Cheval Blanc in Feldbach for the wine list of the year.
Trailed by two of his sons, Antoine and Alexandre, Arnault arrived at the swanky l’Automobile Club de France to scoop up his prize scroll, and spoke eloquently about the “poetry” inherent in France’s vineyards and the creation of world-class wines.
He said he was particularly honored by the fact that La Revue’s previous personalities of the year include French President Emmanuel Macron, a vocal cheerleader for and defender of French winemakers, and French actress Carole Bouquet, who runs a winery on the island of Pantelleria.
Arnault recounted that his affinity with wine was forged through perfume, noting that the group’s famous noses, Guerlain’s Thierry Wasser and Dior’s Francis Kurkdijian, “are also very fine and erudite music lovers, as well as great wine lovers.”
He also noted that Christian Dior, a great fan of Alsace wines and gastronomy, entrusted the manufacture of his scents to Hennessy, the LVMH-owned Cognac distiller, who kept the activity through the ’80s.
Leading French wine critic Michel Bettane often said wine “is a place you pour into a glass,” Arnault said, concurring that “a great wine condenses a great place and inspires great thoughts.”
After a group photo, Arnault and his sons repaired to a grandiose wine and cheese party upstairs, where Château Cheval Blanc, an exceptional Saint-Émilion owned by LVMH, was very much in demand.