August 8, 2022

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Entrepreneur Francois-Louis Vuitton Finds His Passion In Wine

     A serial entrepreneur with a love of beautiful things in his DNA, Francois-Louis Vuitton, the great-great grandson of that Louis Vuitton, has created his own wine brand. Produced in conjunction with negociant Maison Bouey and a “Who’s Who” of topnotch Bordeaux houses, the first vintage of his Collection Personnelle: Mr. Francois-L Vuitton, comprised of Grand Cru Bordeaux, reached the US late last year. 

     The wines are from top châteaus, such as Léoville-Poyferré in Saint-Julien, Dauzac and Lascombes in Margaux, Faugères in Saint-Émilion, Beauregard in Pomerol, and one Sauterne house, Lafaurie-Peraguey. Suggested retail is $125 to $195 depending on the house and vintage, and there is also a limited edition, signed, 6-bottle wooden case for $1,300.00. The collection launched in Europe and Asia last year and entered the US market late last year. It was first released in Florida and New York and is rolling out in a handful of other states including California and Colorado. The initial US launch was slowed due to the effects of the Covid-19 crisis on the wine market.

     Growing up between Paris and the Bay of Arcachon near Bordeaux, Francois-Louis dreamed of partnering with the great wine houses of family friends and bottling special cuvées. These newly released selections place the winery name front and center but also include a label that reads “Collection Personnelle: Mr. Francois-L Vuitton.” While each reflects the terroir and house style of the individual winery, the common thread is that these are wines that Mssr. Vuitton particularly loves. The total number of bottles released in 2020 was approximately 12,500. The largest markets, in descending order, are China, Japan, France, the United States, Belgium, and Brazil. Over a Zoom call from his home in Paris, Francois-Louis Vuitton spoke with us about his business journey and his current passion project while we each enjoyed a glass of his wine. 

World Wine Guys: When were you first introduced to the wines of Bordeaux?

Francois-Louis Vuitton: About 35 years ago, before I sold my last business, Ines de la Fressange, I found myself with some free time and decided to enjoy life. At that time, I ended up in Bordeaux. That’s when I started to walk the vineyards. After I sold the business, a few years later, my friends asked, “Can you help us, can you keep introducing us to people? We love what you are doing.” I was already sharing my passion for Bordeaux wines by bringing wine to my friends and setting up tastings. At first, it was just for my friends. 

WWG: How did you go about choosing which producers to work with for this collection? 

FLV: I first discussed the possibility of a collection with Patrick Bouey of Maison Bouey, a small family negociant in Bordeaux. During the conversation with Patrick, he said that I should speak with chateaus that have brand recognition and names instead of talking to smaller producers. He suggested I only talk to well-known, reputable chateaus. When we began to discuss who to approach, I already knew the owners; I already knew the vineyards; and I already knew the chateaus. I was already familiar with these houses and the way they were working. There was a definite, deliberate choice as to who I would talk to. 

WWG: Are you responsible for the packaging design? 

FLV: Although I never worked for Louis Vuitton, my father was in charge of production, and since I was a child I was always surrounded by beautiful things. A love of beautiful things is in my DNA. Patrick Bouey’s brother Jacques has a marketing and advertising company in Paris and his clientele is high-end producers. We designed the packaging together within a day. He and his team understood exactly what I wanted. I explained the philosophy of the collection and my philosophy about design. I told them what I wanted to label and coffret to look like and I showed them some examples. When I went to see the producers, they were reassured by the fact that the packaging was up to the standards of their chateau and also lived up to the promise of the Vuitton name. They thought it was in line with their perception of high-end wine. You will notice that the chateau name is not in big letters. The main name is Francois-Louis Vuitton, and the chateau name is underneath in smaller letters. The logo with the three letters, FLV, is a logo that was designed by my grandfather. He made cufflinks for me with this monogram for my first communion. This is not a high marketing product. 

WWG: Are there laws in France concerning the use of your name? Is there any conflict with LVMH? 

FLV: In France, it is a legal issue. You cannot keep someone from using their own personal name for business purposes as long as there is no confusion between your name and someone else with the same name. Before I proceeded, I met with people at LVMH and told them what I was planning to do. They agreed of course, but this is why I use Francois-L. Vuitton, so there is no confusion between my name and the brand. LVMH has a wine collection, but there are no Louis Vuitton branded wines. My importer does not use the same distribution network that LVMH uses for their wine and Champagne brands. On the other hand, I cannot design luggage with my name. 

WWG: What was your business journey prior to releasing your wine collection? 

FLV: Over the years I purchased and sold five different businesses. The first one was in the packaging industry, producing packaging for high end fashion and perfume companies. Then I purchased the perfume brand WEIL, which I sold to another perfume company a few years later. Then I purchased a company involved with kitchen and bath furniture that was designed by Pierre Cardin. The last one, I purchased the [fashion] brand Ines de la Fressange, which I owned and then sold ten years later. I like to be an entrepreneur. I purchased companies that were not making money; I put my personal touch on them and then re-sold them at a profit. It’s business, but it is my passion as well. That is the reason I got passionate about Bordeaux. I was walking through vineyards to restore myself and take a breath of fresh air away from day-to-day business. 

WWG: You seem to be a serial entrepreneur. What’s your next business? 

FLV: I have no plans to start or buy another business. I am focusing on the wine, which is my passion, and I also have ten grandchildren. I am busy enough, and I love what I am doing right now. I just can’t wait to travel again for the collection. A part of this is business, but I am passionate about it. I can’t wait to travel to the US, to Africa, where we will be launching the brand, and to Asia, particularly China and Japan, where the collection is doing phenomenally. Right now, the wines are on every continent. I love to meet people, especially in the world of wine.