The First Families of Wine (September 25, 2003)
||The Torres family
Thirteen years ago, Miguel Torres, the great Spanish winemaker, sat down
in Beaune with his friend Robert Drouhin, the leading Burgundy shipper,
to discuss their mutual concerns about the international wine business.
During their conversation they found themselves in harmony over their
philosophy of wine and the problems facing family businesses. The wine
world, they believed, was becoming too corporate as more and more of the
banner names were being swallowed up in acquisitions by banks and insurance
They brainstormed the idea of creating an association of the top family
winemakers around the world.
They invited like-minded family-owned wineries of repute to join them
under the Latin banner "Primum Familiae Vini" the First
Families of Wines. The twelve original members were Torres, Drouhin, Hugel
from Alsace, Pol Roger (Champagne), Bruno Prats of Cos d'Estournel (Bordeaux),
Baroness Philippine de Rothschild (Bordeaux), Jaboulet (Rhône),
the Alvarez family, owners of Vega Sicilia (Ribera del Duero, Spain),
the Symington family (Port and Madeira), Egon Müller-Schartzhof (Saar,
Germany), the Antinori family (Tuscany) and the sole New World property,
Robert Mondavi (Napa Valley, California).
The inaugural meeting of the PFV was held in 1994 at Hugel's winery in
the historic town of Riquewihr, Alsace. "We chose twelve," recounts
Michael Mondavi in an interview with Wine Tidings magazine, "because
there are twelve bottles in a case of wine and when you get more families
than that together it could be hard to get a charter."
The first rule of the association is that the winery has to be completely
in family hands, so when Bruno Prats sold Cos d'Estournel he had to relinquish
his membership in this elite club.
"The PFV was born of our desire to keep our companies in family
hands," says Miguel Torres. "Now after all these years we are
proud to see that our common goal created on a summer afternoon in Beaune
with Robert Drouhin has become a reality. We love to share our experiences
with all the members of the PFV family."
And not only an exchange of ideas; many of the members share importing
agencies around the world and gather frequently to promote themselves
as a critical mass. They share research as well as the values of tradition
and the quest for quality.
"We have the rare luxury of working for our passion," says
Etienne Hugel, "with no other shareholders to please than ourselves.
My great-grandfather used to advise his sons, 'Run your business so that
when you meet your banker he has to greet you more cordially that you
need to greet him."
Every year the members of the PFV meet in one country. To mark its tenth
anniversary in May 2002, they organized a series of gala dinners in Bangkok,
Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. At these
dinners they auction off a mahogany case containing one bottle of each
member's flagship wine for a local charity. If you're curious as to what's
inside, here's the line-up of the most exclusive case of wine you can
MARCHESI ANTINORI : Tignanello
JOSEPH DROUHIN : Beaune Clos de Mouches Blanc
HUGEL ET FILS : Gewurztraminer Selection de Gains Nobles
PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ : Hermitage la Chapelle
ROBERT MONDAVI : Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
CHÂTEAU MOUTON-ROTHSCHILD : Château Mouton Rothschild
EGON MÜLLER-SCHARZHOF : Scharzhofberger Auslese
POL ROGER : Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill
SYMINGTON PORT & MADEIRA : Graham's Vintage
TORRES : Gran Coronas Mas La Plana
VEGA SICILIA : Vega Sicilia Unico
The first such cases were presented to the King of Spain in 1995 and
to the King of Sweden in 1999. But you don't have to be royalty to get
in on the act, although it helps. The PFV issue passports, very sparingly,
to wine lovers around the world. If you are lucky enough to acquire one
and you have the means to travel to each of the member wineries
once you have completed the circuit you will be presented with
The first wine lover to achieve this goal was a Swiss, Manfred Wagner,
followed by two Toronto couples Arlene and Michael Willis and Sam
and Esther Sarick.
Like the Primum Familiae Vini, the passport holders who have traveled
to each member winery are an elite group.