The world’s most expensive wines are produced by Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Domaine Leroy in the Burgundy region. As owners of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, the Leroy and the de Villaine families ranked 115th with 380 million euros worth of assets on the French Rich List. Actually, the grudges of the two families are rarely known. What brews in a vineyard can be rather excitings.
90年代初期，日本人開始大量購入羅曼尼康帝，拉露覺得是商機，於是以高於官方售價的價格──1,570歐元（約14,750港幣）與日本經銷商簽下訂單，其實日本經銷商只對羅曼尼康帝這瓶酒感興趣，（當時一瓶1988年的羅曼尼康在日本被炒高價格至1,524歐元（約14,318港幣）！於是酒一到手就立即將其餘11 瓶酒拆開來賣，以賤價賣到其它國家。當時美國官方經銷商將一瓶1988年的踏雪定價為200美元（約1,570港幣），而一瓶從日本賣過來去的「水貨」則只售125 美元（約港幣981）！
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was co-owned by the Leroys and the de Villaines, each having 50% . Henri Leroy divided his share equally between his daughters Lalou and Pauline before passing away in 1980, entitling the girls to 25% each of the total shares with Aubert de Villaine owning the other half of the Domaine. Aside from the Domaine, Lalou also inherited the trading wine company, the Maison Leroy.
The relationship between Lalou and Aubert was marred after discord over Lalou’s strategy of bundled sales (one bottle of Romanée-Conti with the Domaine’s other 11 bottles of wine including La Tache and Saint-Vivant) where customers purchased other wines in order to buy one Romanée- Conti. With Maison Leroy in charge of all distribution rights, except the United States and the United Kingdom,when the Japanese were purchasing Romanée-Conti in bulk in the early 1990s, Lalou seized the opportunity and signed the orders with Japanese distributors at a price of 1,570 euros (about HKD 14,750), which was higher than the official price.
The truth was a 1988 Romanée-Conti was selling at 1,524 euros (about HKD 14,318) in Japan; therefore, Japanese distributors bargained away the other 11 bottles immediately after the wines arrived. While the official price for Ta Tache in the United States was USD 200 (about HKD 1,570), the same wine coming from Japan was only USD 125 (about HKD 981).
Extremely dissatisfied about the condition, wine agents in the United States returned the wines and demanded a compensation of over 410,000 euros (HKD 3.82 million). Not only was Lalou asked to shoulder the amount but she was also dismissed from her position. She was put to trial and was evoked of the distributorship rights of Domaine de la Romaném-Conti.
Since Lalou left Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in early 1990s, her nephew Henri has taken over the business. Aubert and Lalou ignored each other at wine-tasting occasions and even treated as strangers when dining in the same restaurant. Lalou, famous for being disagreeable, has long suffered fractured relationship with her daughter.
However, all sorts of blows did not knock her down. On the contrary, she firmly committed herself to the business of Maison Leroy and established the brand “Leroy” on a series of wines. With her talent in winery and unyielding effort, Leroy stands in par with Romanée-Conti in both price and reputation.
It seems to be the law of invariance to have a family fight over money.