In April 2022, Sonoma-based antiquarian bookseller Ben Kinmont oversaw the sale of the Thackrey Library, a valuable collection of more than 700 tomes and documents assembled by California winemaker Sean Thackrey. Sadly, Thackrey passed away shortly after the collection sold for $2 million to an undisclosed buyer. It was revealed this month that the buyer was, in fact, Domaine Clarence Dillon, the parent company of several leading Bordeaux estates, including first-growth Château Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion and Château Quintus.
“Through its enviable status at the heart of the worlds of gastronomy and wine, Château Haut-Brion is as relevant and present today ... as the wines have been over millennia,” Domaine Clarence Dillon chairman and CEO Prince Robert de Luxembourg explained to Wine Spectator via email. “The library that we have constituted over the last decades is as much a reflection of Haut-Brion's DNA as the estate is a privileged protagonist in many of the stories and documents that grace our shelves.”
The Thackrey Library (a portion of which is available to read online) consists primarily of texts focused on winemaking, grapegrowing and gastronomy, including Bordeaux-related works like M. Paguierre’s Manière de Faire le Vin (Manner of Making the Wine), published around 1828. Items span millennia, with many published before 1600 and the earliest dating to the 6th century. It is, altogether, an unrivaled collection that clearly translates Thackrey’s passion and curiosity, and it remains highly useful both to historians and vintners. So it is no wonder that a leading wine producer would take notice when the library came up for sale at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair.
Haut-Brion now houses the Thackrey Library, adding to its already massive collection of some 3,000 books, including signed editions written by “the king of chefs and the chef of kings” Antonin Carême, more than 300 menus (many from royal fêtes) and 100 benchmark wine lists. There are also letters and manuscripts from historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson (who visited Haut-Brion in 1787) and Claude Monet, and important archives concerning Haut-Brion, itself.
Indeed, Haut-Brion has been home to several book collectors over the centuries, including Renaissance-era bishop Arnaud II de Pontac and famed 19th-century politician, diplomat and Carême benefactor Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, who represented France during the Congress of Vienna that followed Napoleon Bonaparte’s forced abdication.
That enthusiasm for books lives on under Prince Robert’s leadership. As part of a sustainability-focused renovation-construction project led by architect Annabelle Selldorf, set to finish in 2026, Haut-Brion is building a new library to house many of its texts. “We feel very fortunate to be the guardians of this newly constituted treasure,” said Prince Robert. “Over the years ahead, we look forward to regularly sharing elements of its contents with other people that share our passion.”
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