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Burgundy Boot Camp

The Bouilland Symposium is a 10-year-old training program for wealthy Wall Street wine enthusiasts who are interested in purchasing a Burgundy vineyard or domaine. Each boot camp session is limited to 10 students for each of its twice-a-year gatherings, and costs $8,350.

Becky Wasserman founded the symposium in 1996 and all of the 150 Burgundy investors that have attended have aspired to own a domaine. Wasserman moved to Burgundy from New York in 1968 to sell oak barrels (Tonnellerie Francois Feres) from her farmhouse in Bouilland. In 1979, she formed Le Serbet Sari as a wine brokerage to represent domaine owners. She was the first American wine broker to live and work in Burgundy and one of the first to deal primarily with grower-producers who bottled their own wine (estate bottlers). At the time, very few producers in Burgundy shipped their wine beyond France. Today she has seven employees at her office in the former chancellery of the Duke of Burgundy in Beaune and exports Burgundy from 130 domaines. Francois Freres has become one of the largest single tonnelleries in Burgundy.

Investing in a domaine is expensive and very risky. As reported in the International Herald Tribune (September 27, 2006), none of the potential buyers do it for the money. A return of 4 percent is considered good, with most Burgundy domaines turning between a 2 and 3 percent profit. It is the lifestyle and the lure of investing in 2,000 years of Cote d’Or winemaking that appeals to investors. It costs up to five generations to pay off a grand cru investment. Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, and owner of Chateau Latour in Bordeaux, paid $22.3 million for control of 6 hectares of Domaine Engel vines in Vosne-Romanee that produces Clos Vougeot, Echezeaux and Grand Echezeaux.

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