Just a few hours of sleep are enough for him. Bernard Magrez starts his day with an hour of exercise between six and seven o’clock in the morning. Then it’s time for a marathon between Bordeaux (his home region), Paris, and the rest of the world! In his office, a motto is written: “Whoever comes in here without a solution is part of the problem.” Today, Magrez stands at the head of a veritable French winemaking empire (forty vineyards, including four Grands Crus classes: Château Pape Clément, Château La Tour Carnet, Château Fombrauge and Clos Haut-Peyraguey), all because he never gave up—not for over sixty years.
I wanted to get out. When I was thirteen years old, my father, with whom I had a difficult relationship, sent me to be an apprentice at a sawmill. There was a Breton in the dormitory, François Pinault, who also had some trouble with his father! When I was nineteen, I worked in a wine house for two years, and then I set off completely on my own: I took over a small business that imported barrels of Porto wine to bottle and resell to restaurants. The 1960s marked the start of superstores, so I presented my products—Porto, William Peel whiskey, Punch, Malesan wine—and it worked. Bit by bit, I bought vineyards around France and abroad. Like art, wine can create emotions, and it makes life that much happier!
In 2008, Bernard Magrez wanted to share his region and its rich heritage with the world by creating the Luxury Wine Experience. The idea? To give visitors a unique experience in the heart of Bordeaux and its great wines. “We felt that there was a growing curiosity amongst amateurs. For me, learning is a mission, an obligation.” As such, visitors can stay at the Château Pape Clément, discover the secrets of Magrez’s Grands Crus, participate in a workshop and develop their own wine, as well as explore the region by tasting oysters from Arachon Bay or even fly above the most beautiful vineyards by helicopter (Médoc, Saint Emilion, Graves, Sauternes and Pomerol.)
Similarly, Bernard Magrez has engaged with other sponsors to finance the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, which opened on June 1, 2016. This cultural site aims to promote and spread wine’s cultural heritage. “For me, it’s a sin to not invest in tourism.”
Above all, he’s a collector—animal bronzes from the nineteenth century, Flemish still lifes, Bernard Buffet paintings. Bernard Magrez opened his cultural institute in 2011 at the eighteenth-century Château Labottière to promote contemporary artists. His cultural sponsorship initiatives involve all four of his châteaux and multiply the number of events: expositions, artist residences, symposiums, writing contests, concerts and music workshops. “I discovered JonOne when walking around by Cap Ferret. He was doing graffiti on the blockhouses on the beach. He came to stay with us for one year. You absolutely have to meet with the artists, they teach you to see in 360°.”
Someone you view as a role model?
"I see role models everywhere, in François Pinault especially: a man with a vision and audacity, that’s rare."
Three words to describe yourself?
"Never give up."
Your inspiration to find new ideas?
"Reading. My go-to book is Seneca’s De Vita Beata, I bought four thousand copies to give to my team."
"Aquitaine is extremely rich. For me, it’s a big garden surrounded by amazing sights: the ocean, Spain, la Vendée... there’s extraordinary tourism potential! All this in addition to the housing market potential of a well-restored Bordeaux, with the TGV to come. I love the tranquility of this part of France, life is very sweet."
Three words or adjectives to describe your environment?
"We live well."
"The smell of grass mixed with sand on the dunes. The smell of true pleasure."
"The sound of my Stradivarius."
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