Simon de Burton
Chopard’s co-president Karl- Friedrich Scheufele (he looks after the watches while his sister Caroline ‘takes care’ of the jewellery) is well known for his love of automobiles and has successfully integrated business and pleasure by backing everything from the Mille Miglia old car rally to the Porsche Motorsport team, which has won the elite LMP/1 category at the Le Mans
24 Hours for the past three years.
Less well-publicised is Scheufele’s vinous expertise, a skill which he has put to good use for decades in the running of a retail wine business called Le Caveau de Bacchus, with boutiques in Geneva, Gland and Gstaad.
As a result, one of the highlights of the annual Baselworld watch show is the wine-tasting event held on the Chopard booth – which, since 2012, has included an impressive selection from the Château Monestier La Tour estate in the Dordogne region of France.
The preponderance of Monestier La Tour wines at these events is down to the fact that Scheufele bought the vineyard lock, stock and many, many barrels in 2012, since when he has developed it both as a hobby and a thoughtfully run commercial enterprise.
Like a number of major vineyards, Château Monestier suffered from neglect between the wars and the label might well have sunk without trace had it not been for the efforts of the former owner, Dutch tycoon Philip de Haseth- Moeller. He undertook a wholesale renovation of the property and its ‘terrain’ in 1998, relaunching wine production and returning it to a position as one of the leading growths of the Dordogne.
Viticulture was first practiced on the site in 1792 and carried on under the stewardship of several noble French families until 1925, after which it passed through the hands of a series of owners (among them opera star Kiri Te Kanawa).
Since acquiring the place five years ago, Scheufele has expanded its winemaking potential with a series of new buildings that have been sympathetically integrated into the existing structures built during the 17th and 19th centuries.
The vineyard is made up of 14.5 hectares of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grapes for producing red wines, and 10 hectares of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle for white.
The vines are grown in an eco-friendly, largely ‘hands-off ’ way, which so far has resulted in a combined production of around 150,000 bottles – most of which stays in France, with the bulk of the rest going to China (30 per cent), Switzerland (25 per cent) and the UK (currently just six per cent).
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Scheufele has now created a Chopard watch that takes inspiration from the world of wine. Called the L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru, the tonneau-shaped case is reminiscent of a barrel (albeit a slim one – it measures just 7.75mm thick) and is nicely shaped to fit the wrist.
The Grand Cru contains a self-winding movement. The curved ‘97-01L’ calibre was designed specifically for it and features twin winding barrels driven from a solid gold micro rotor to provide a guaranteed 65-hour power reserve.
The 197-part movement is also exquisitely finished and decorated – well enough, in fact, for the watch to have been awarded the coveted ‘Geneva Seal’ of excellence.
Appropriately, the Grand Cru was unveiled by Scheufele at Monestier La Tour – and, like the chateau’s wines, it seems likely that it will only get better with age.
The Chopard L.U.C Heritage Grand Cru is available in rose gold only, £18,360; chopard.com