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Talking wine with Arnaud Christiaens, founder of SGC Wine, the critically recognised fine wine disruptors

By LLM Reporters  |  December 13, 2020

Former financier Arnaud Christiaens has always been something of a maverick. It should therefore come as no surprise that in 2006, he developed a business model which would turn the world of wine on its head.

SGC is a brand of three Bordeaux wines coming from parcels of land that were not discovered at the time of the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. The parcels on both left and right banks of Gironde river produce a Grand Vin, good enough to compete with the best of the appellation. As a result, SGC has been coined the ‘Tesla of wine’ due to its innovative and scientific approach to undiscovered parcels and soil analysis, and producing only from the highest-rated areas of land.

Established in 2006 by former financier Arnaud Christiaens, SGC scours the Gironde river’s right and left banks for exceptional soil with undiscovered potential initially overlooked by the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855

We speak to Arnaud about the philosophy behind SGC, the importance of soil and the process of establishing relationships with vineyard owners in Bordeaux.

What is the philosophy behind SGC? How and where did the business idea originate?

SGC’s philosophy is about taking Bordeaux back to its roots, by concentrating on parcels of soil and only producing where it is deemed truly exceptional by our objective criteria. The idea behind SGC originated from knowing there were many estates who weren’t being sufficiently analysed or properly celebrated as they were not ranked in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. We have introduced a modern, yet purist approach that values soil, terroir and the product itself using cutting-edge scientific analysis to bring our clients the highest quality wines of Bordeaux.

‘SGC’s philosophy is about taking Bordeaux back to its roots, by concentrating on parcels of soil and only producing where it is deemed truly exceptional’

Why did you choose wine? 

As a native Frenchman, I have always had a passion for wine, and long held the wines of Bordeaux in the highest regard. I was drawn to the industry because I thoroughly enjoy challenging the status quo of whatever industry I’m working in. I saw great potential to do this in wine, and especially, in Bordeaux.

If you look at what the Medici’s did for art, it was all driven by passion. It created a legacy on another level. Nobody in the world has done what these guys did for art – and I have chosen wine! SGC continues to search the vineyards of Bordeaux for its precious gold and works with some of the most established and well revered wine makers in the region, Alain Reynaud and Hubert de Boüard – amongst others.

Can you explain why different parcels of land yield such different offerings when it comes to the final product?

We have small parcels on both the left and right banks of the Gironde that produce three red wines: Pomerol and Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and Medoc. We find the best of the grape varieties for these appellations through soil analysis – a process that can take an entire year. The locations of the parcels, of course, remain very discreet.

Protected by a vetting process, SGC’s annual bottles are only bought by the most passionate of oenophiles, creating prestige in being a chosen patron of SGC.

Tell us how SGC is grounded in science?

We use highly sophisticated scientific techniques to determine the exact nutrients in any parcel of land. The lab we work with breaks down the soil into four main pillars – irrigation, nitrogen levels, strength of the vine and different layers of ground quality, in a process developed especially for the task. They are then awarded a score out of 20 based on these crucially objective criteria. There are many ways to rank wine, but ranking soil is much less subjective than ranking by individual taste and means you can make something consistent, year after year.

What is the process in establishing the relationship with the vineyards?

There are many vineyards which were totally unknown, and plenty of people who aren’t necessarily aware that they’re sitting on great soil. The beauty of SGC’s model is that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Not only are we locating these hidden treasures for the benefit of our oenophiles, but also to deliver real change and sustained livelihoods to winemakers across the region. SGC is making wine that authentically celebrates the very best that is Bordeaux and gives Chateaux owners the opportunity to optimise the commercial value of their land.

Former financier Arnaud Christiaens (right) is the founder of SGC Wine, a wine brand rewriting the rule book on Bordeaux’s venerable vintages

Tell us about Le Cercle – what type of events have you done?

Over the years, our wine has attracted a dedicated following. Called Le Cercle (The Circle) by those in its ranks, those who join are natural pioneers; globally minded individuals with a thirst for knowledge and are truly passionate oenophiles. They are interested in making meaningful connections through a shared love for fine wines.

Our network ranges from royal families, industrialists, political leaders, and wealth creators, to exceptional individuals from the media and entertainment industries. Over the years, we have hosted events in Copenhagen, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, New York, London, Oslo, Monaco and more. Hopefully, in 2021, we can get back to hosting more regular events and bringing our community together again.

Is there untapped terroir the world over, for similar initiatives to take place elsewhere?

We have already started looking into countries such as Italy and Spain, so watch this space! We would love to bring soil analysis techniques to more wine producing countries in Europe.