They number among the best of their industry, and yet they created an association to share their passion for wine, their expertise, and their pursuit of excellence. They are the ‘First Families of Wine.’
Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) is an association born from an idea of Robert Drouhin and Miguel Torres in 1991. Both men realized that not only did they share a commitment to excellence and traditional values related to wine-making, but also shared several business concerns. Each is a product of longstanding family traditions: Maison Joseph Drouhin has been growing vines in Burgundy since 1880, and Bodegas Torres in the Penedès region of Spain since 1870. PFV’s commitment to excellence is based on a few foundational principles: sharing the challenges of managing independent intergenerational family businesses, sharing wine making information, promoting traditional methods that highlight the quality of the wines and respect the ‘terroir’, promoting the environmental and social responsibility of wine families, and increasing awareness about moderation and consumption benefits of fine wines. The eleven family companies that comprise the PVF group are acknowledged for their distinguished histories.
For 26 generations the Antinori family has produced red wines in Tuscany, like the famous Tignanello and Solaia. They are also active in Umbria, producing Orvieto, as well as in Piedmont, Lombardy, California, and Hungary, among others. Since 1385, the family philosophy has been grounded in tradition and innovation.
Maison Joseph Drouhin has been a family business for over 130 years. Their lands include 192 acres located in the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Chablis. Their vineyards exemplify an organic approach with regard to the soil, the wine, and the environment, and more than two-thirds of their vineyards are classified Premier Cru or Grand Cru.
The Egon Müller Scharzhof vineyard in Moselle, Germany was likely planted by the Romans, but it was Egon Müller’s great great-grandfather who acquired the Scharzhof estate from the ‘République Française’ in 1797 following the French Revolution. The vineyards produce only Rieslings, and the family philosophy is based on the belief that the best wines are the ones that ‘make themselves’.
Hans-Ulrich Hugel fled his native Switzerland and the horrors of the Thirty Years War to settle in Alsace in 1639, where he would go on to produce white wines. This province, returned to the French in 1918, would see Hugel et Fils struggle to successfully implement the conceptof appellation contrôlée.
Torres, one of the founding entities of PFV, is a heavyweight in the industry with its 5,500 acres of cultivated land in Spain, Chile, and California, 3 million cases, and 1,300 employees. The Torres philosophy is to respect the land, thus the family has eliminated the use of chemical treatments, preferring more organic solutions.
Château Mouton Rothschild has been a family business in the Médoc region since 1853. But it is the famous Baron Philippe who, between 1922 and 1988, put his own seal on the legendary vineyard with the creation of Mouton Cadet, the opening of the Museum of Wine in Art, securing the Premier Cru designation for Mouton Rothschild, as well as developing Opus One wine with Robert Mondavi. Rothschild’s daughter Philippine has taken over his work in a dynamic way.
With the acquisition of Château Beaucastel, the Perrin family made their debut in the vineyards of the Rhone Valley, land of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 1909. The fifth (Jean-Pierre and François) and sixth (Marc, Pierre, Thomas, et Matthieu) generations of the Perrin family believe that to produce a great wine, the vine must grow in the most natural way possible.
The history of Spanish winery Vega-Sicilia, founded in 1864, is quite turbulent. Many families have assumed leadership of this jewel of the wine region of Ribera del Duero: Herrero Serras, Neuman, Alvarez. The character of the wine, very typically Spanish, comes not only from the high quality vines, but also from perfectionism in production.
Tenuta San Guido has been in existence since 1840, but the land around Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast has belonged to the della Gherardesca, the ancestors of Clarice, for over 1200 years! Her husband, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, introduced cabernet sauvignon to the Nebbiolo and Sangiovese territories in 1944 and discovered that his wine improved with ageing: this long sought after varietal blend with the perfumed bouquet had found fertile ground. Thus was born the famous Sassicaia wine.
As we know, port wine from Portugal is a British matter. The Symington family has worked this land for centuries, 1 652 years to be precise! They are by far the largest owner of vineyards in the historic Douro Valley. Here again, there is no resting on past laurels, as the company is renowned for its innovative practices.
Champagne Pol Roger was founded in 1849 by a young man, aged 24, and his progeny continue to this day producing chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier on 211 acres. Their greatest achievement: the full-bodied and robust Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill (made only eight times since 1975).
It is evident that PFV brings together passionate winemakers who thrive on excellence and tradition. Even today, members continue to share their experiences of the wine trade, forecast future trends, and explore solutions to their business challenges. Role models to watch.