Monday, 16 January 2012

Top 10 most powerful people in wine

the drinks business rounds up the top 10 most powerful people in the world of luxury wine and spirits shaping what we drink, taking into account influence, wealth and brand ownership.

1: Bernard Arnault (age 62)

The LVMH chairman and CEO is the world’s fourth and Europe’s richest person, with a 2011 net worth of US$41 billion (£26bn). Arguably the most influential tastemaker in the world of luxury, Arnault’s shiny portfolio includes heavyweight Champagne houses Krug, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Sauternes’ revered Château d’Yquem, St Emilion’s sought after Château Cheval Blanc (which he has a 50% personal stake in), and Toro newcomer Numanthia, with Belvedere, Glenmorangie and Ardberg holding up the spirits end. Arnault’s wealth soared this year, as demand for fine wines and sprits accelerated in Asia.

Through acquisitions, savvy marketing and bold design, Arnault has turned LVMH into a global empire boasting more than 60 brands, including fashion labels Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. LVMH is counting on emerging markets for its future growth. “China is the most interesting part of the world for me now. There are so many people who are getting to the stage where they want to consume, who want to be part of a club,” Arnault says. In five years, Arnault expects China to account for 20% of LVMH’s sales.

2: Pierre Pringuet (age 60)

The 60-year-old chief executive of Pernod Ricard presides over the world’s fourth biggest drinks company, owner of brands from Champagne Mumm and Perrier-Jouët to Martell Cognac and Scotch whiskies Ballantine’s, Chivas Regal, Royal Salute and The Glenlivet. In September, sales in emerging markets allowed Pernod Ricard to outstrip its larger rival Diageo to post organic sales growth of 7%. Pernod saw its emerging markets leap by 17%, driven largely by 15% organic growth in Asia. Further headline figures saw the group report pre-tax full year sales of e7,643 million (£6.559m). Working for Pernod Ricard since 1987, Pringuet has been a board member since 2004.

3: Paul Walsh (age 56)

At the helm of drinks giant Diageo, Paul Walsh presides over some of the world’s top spirits brands, from Cîroc vodka (a collaboration with rapper P Diddy), to Johnnie Walker whisky, Ketel One vodka and Tanqueray gin. The company recently collaborated with hip-hop artist Pharrell Williams to launch a super-premium cream liqueur, Qream, aimed at the luxury clubbing market. Also on their books is London-based fine wine merchant Justerini & Brooks, while the company has had a 34% stake in LVMH since the mid-1990s. Walsh has headed Diageo for 11 years, having been appointed to the board in December 1997. Walsh is also chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association.

4: The Rothschilds (ages 71 - Eric, 78 - Philippine)

Baron Eric de Rothschild has presided over Domaines Barons de Rothschild’s extensive portfolio, including Châteaux Lafite, Duhart-Milon and Rieussec, and Viña los Vascos in Chile, for 37 years, while his cousin, Baroness Philippine, oversees an impressive portfolio of her own, including first growth Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Clerc Milon and cult Californian winery Opus One. Lafite’s huge influence in China – empty bottles sell for up to £250 online, has contributed greatly to the company’s recent success, but there are already signs that the wine’s popularity in China may be on the wane. Last October, Sotheby’s failed to sell all the Lafite on offer in a Hong Kong auction for the first time in 17 sales. Lafite aside, the Rothschilds have embarked on a new venture in Champagne with new brand Champagne Barons de Rothschild, further strengthening the family’s luxury credentials.

5: Aubert de Villaine (age 72)

With the popularity of Lafite abating among the Chinese super elite due to the proliferation of fakes on the market, wealthy Asians are turning to Burgundy, and more specifically, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, headed up by Aubert de Villaine. The insatiable appetite for the reds of this famous Burgundian domaine in Hong Kong has now carried over to all the key markets in China – especially Beijing. In a given vintage, Romanée-Conti only makes about 450 cases. Production of La Tâche is significantly more with slightly just over 1,800 cases made annually. At a recent Acker, Merrall & Condit auction in Hong Kong, a single Jeroboam of 1999 Romanée-Conti sold for more than £47,000. De Villaine is also director of Hyde de Villaine Wines in Napa Valley and is about to show the first vintage of his new acquisition in Burgundy: the 2.2 Clos du Roi in Corton, which he bought in 2009.

6: Robert Parker (age 64)

The American lawyer-turned-wine scribe’s power as the world’s most influential wine critic still stands, but as he hands over more key regions to Wine Advocate colleagues, in particular California to Antonio Galloni, the emperor’s power is slowly diminishing. In his address at WineFuture in Hong Kong last November, Parker admitted his star may be fading, but that his influence has always been greatly overplayed. However, his "Magical 20" tasting at the even attracted 1,000 people – the maximum able to be accommodated, while the wines featured from the Bordeaux 2009 vintage have enjoyed a spike in prices, even though they have not yet been delivered to customers.

7: Sylvie Cazes (age 56)

Cazes has a multitude of titles, including director of the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux and co-owner of Château Lynch-Bages in Pauillac with brother Jean-Michel. This February, Cazes was appointed director of Pauillac second growth estate Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Cazes is also a member of Bordeaux City Council, with a mandate to promote economic development through the wine sector. She continues to work for the development of the Wine Cultural Centre, due to open in the city in 2013.

8: The wine consultant (Michel Rolland, age 63, Denis Dubourdieu, age 60, Stéphane Derenoncourt, age 48)

Michel Rolland, the Bordeaux-based go-to consultant, is one of the most influential winemakers in the world. His enviable CV includes stints at Angélus, Ausone, Ornellaia and Harlan Estate, though Rolland also owns several properties that he markets under The Rolland Collection, including Château Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol. He consults for over 100 properties worldwide, with clients in India, Bulgaria and Brazil.

Dubourdieu is one of the world’s most respected consultants. Specialising in white wine, he has influenced production and quality globally. Dubourdieu owns a number of Bordeaux châteaux, including Doisy-Daëne in Barsac and Clos Floridène in Graves. He has also made a Japanese white wine, Shizen, from the indigenous Koshu grape for Asagiri Wine Company.

Heir apparent to Michel Rolland, Derenoncourt is taking on more consultancies outside France: in 2008, he was hired by film director Francis Ford Coppola to work at his newly renamed Inglenook Estate in Napa, and has founded Derenoncourt California, where he makes six single vineyard wines, including his first 100% Cabernet Franc. Closer to home, Derenoncourt offers his services at Crushpad in St-Emilion. He continues to consult for a number of Bordeaux châteaux, as well as properties in China, India and Turkey.

9: Nobutada Saji (age 65)

The chief executive of Suntory Ltd, Japan’s fourth-largest brewer, was last year ranked as the second richest person in Japan, with a net worth of US$8.6bn. Founded in 1899 by Saji’s grandfather, Suntory was the first to sell Western spirits in Japan. Business is thriving in China – its beer has a more than 50% market share in Shanghai. The company owns Cognac Louis Royer, has a majority stake in Chinese importer ASC, 50% stakes in Château Beychevelle and Rheingau estate Weingut Robert Weil, and a 40% share in Tokaji winery Hetszölö.

10: Frédéric Rouzaud (age 43)

Rouzaud (above, left) took over from his father Jean-Claude as president of the Champagne Louis Roederer Group in January 2006, becoming the custodian of Cristal. The driving force behind all flagship companies in the family owned group, Rouzaud runs a tight ship at Champagne Louis Roederer, Champagne Deutz, Maison Delas in the Côtes du Rhône, Château de Pez and Château Haut-Beauséjour in Bordeaux, Ramos Pinto in Portugal, Domaines Ott in Provence and finally Roederer Estate and Scharffenberger Cellars in California. In January 2007, the Rouzaud family acquired a majority share in second growth estate Château Pichon Longueville Comtess de Lalande.


  1. Lucy, please advise who compiled this list? Was the poll conducted by The Drinks Business?

  2. Hi Robert, yes, the poll was conducted by the drinks business editorial staff, taking into account individuals' wealth, influence and brand ownership.