The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2015

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Page 98 of 136

T o tell the story of Les Grands Chais de France (GCF), one of that nation's biggest wine companies, is to tell the story of a family business's evolution into an international one that caters to each individual market it permeates. The global company, and parent of J.P. Chenet, prides itself on forging partnerships with wine growers as well as developing innovative solutions to what otherwise might be considered "growing pains." Growing up Grand Launched in 1979 on only 5,000 francs, GCF was founded by CEO Joseph Helfrich, whose father was a spirits producer. Helfrich's path quickly led him from Cognac sales to wine production and he began buying, bottling and selling Alsace wine. GCF grew rapidly in the 1980s to become France's biggest exporter, wine producer and land owner, with 1,500 hectares (3700 acres) of land in the Loire, Beaujolais and Burgundy regions—total- ing 38 properties in nine of the country's winegrowing regions. Now, GCF wines have visibility on and off premise in 165 countries, and in 2014, volume was 36 million 9-liter cases (430 million 750ml bottles). With production sites located in Petersbach at the heart of Vosges du Nord park in Alsace and Landiras in the Gironde, GCF produces three of the strongest 12 French wine brands. Their success is driven by strong partnerships with winegrowers, an automated storage warehouse facility and seamless logistics for international distribution of their four global brands: Calvet, Grand Sud, Jelzin and J.P. Chenet. Launch of the J.P. Chenet Brand The story goes that Helfrich designed the distinctive J.P. Chenet bent bottle neck in one day, a feature that only begins to tell the story of how unique the product inside is. Launched in 1984 as Cabernet Sauvignon Vin de Pays d'Oc and Blanc de Blancs Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, J.P. Chenet was the first brand-driven French wine label in the world; now it has grown to become the world's second- favorite (behind Australia's Jacob's Creek) and is the leading brand in Europe. In the past two decades, J.P. Chenet has further innovated by rolling out a bag- in-box version in 2000, environmentally- friendly packaging in 2007 and launched a sparkling wine Ice Edition designed to be enjoyed on ice. Affordability has always been top of mind for the company as well as developing strong relationships with growers, who are more like partners, and span the Gascony, Étang de Thau and Pays d'Oc regions. A Winemaker's Wish Come True "I am always in the field, directly in contact with our partners," says Tomy Barbe, Gascony Winemaker for GCF since 2011. "During the year, I spend time with them in the vineyards. I am with them before the crop to manage grape tasting, maturity control and harvest launching. All through wine production I am in our partners' cellars: J.P. Chenet production is precise and needs to be conducted in a specific way. Winemaking decisions are taken by mutual accord. This is a real two- way communication." The winemaker was born in Bordeaux and grew up in a home located in the vineyards of AOC Pessac-Léognan, spend- PHOTO COURTESTY OF GCF GROUP A Model Citizen of the World FRENCH EXPORT J.P. CHENET PUTS THE "NEW" IN ENTREPRENEUR by Becky Tsadik Tomy Barbe, Gascony Winemaker for GCF.

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