In addition to sitting on the board (and previously presiding over) the luxury Compagnie Financière Richemont—whose brands include Cartier, Baume & Mercier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chloe, Shanghai Tang and Azzedine Alaïa—Alain Dominique Perrin owns Château Lagrézette in Cahors, France, a producer of some of the finest Malbec in the world. A longtime collector of modern art, Perrin is the director of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Arts, which he founded in 1984.
How did you make the leap from luxury accessories and fashion into wine?
Fashion and luxury are about creativity, and wine is about creativity, with a big difference. Fashion and luxury are moneymaking businesses, and wine is a money-losing business. But in terms of creativity, nothing has changed in my business life.
“With creativity, art, and fashion, you never know if you are right or wrong. And with wine, it depends on God, because of the climate, so you also never know if you are right or wrong, even 10 days before the harvest. It’s all risky business.”
What do you see as the intersection between art, fashion and wine?
When you dig into the wine community [is that] you find that people are very sensitive to art and creation, and many are friends with artists and creative people. So wine has a natural connection with art and creation. With creativity, art, and fashion, you never know if you are right or wrong. And with wine, it depends on God, because of the climate, so you also never know if you are right or wrong, even 10 days before the harvest. It’s all risky business.
You run one of the oldest chateaus in France…does tradition extend to all aspects of the business?
Château Lagrézette is a listed monument, a very historical place that was built in the 1400s, and then …enriched during the Renaissance [and includes] an authentic castle from the time of the Crusades, decorated and adorned with carvings that are staggering. But the most important thing is that my winery is technically one of the most advanced wineries in France today. All my friends from Bordeaux come to the winery because it was re-equipped two years ago, and they want to see how far we can go with new technology.
Were there any challenges in developing Château Lagrézette?
I chose a region of France that is among the oldest wine regions in the country, Cahors. It goes back nearly 2,000 years, and over the years, Cahors…had the reputation of a tough, rough, tannic wine. With the help of our winemaking consultant, Michel Rolland, after 25 years of hard work, we managed to come out on the market with beautiful wines. Today, we belong to the small community of top wines of the world, which makes me proud.
What is the importance of having an original piece of art on your label each year?
I am very much involved with art and young artists. I have asked young artists to design a different label featuring the château every year, with their view of the château. Now we have a very nice 25-year collection of labels. By doing that, I help the artists become more famous, and they make money for their work, and very year I have a new image—a photograph, a painting, or a sculpture—of Château Lagrezette. —Mike DeSimone