French wine group Castel has confirmed the sale of all its mineral water interests to long-standing business partner Pierre Papillaud.

The operation concerns the Alma group, jointly owned by Castel and Papillaud, with its subsidiaries Neptune and CGES and their brand names St Yorre, Vichy Célestins, Thonon, Pierval, Chateldon, Courmayeur and Cristaline, Vernière, Rozana which are supplemented by regional brands. All existing distribution agreements between Castel and Alma are maintained.

Cristaline is France's leading mineral water brand in terms of volume.

When contacted by just-drinks today (8 May), Castel declined to comment in detail on the sale, saying only that the group is looking to refocus on its original wine business and strengthen its position through external growth.

Reports in the French press value the sale of Castel's 60% stake in Alma at around EUR600m (US$920.9m) with Papillaud increasing his stake from 40% to 51% and his Japanese partner, the Otsuka Beverage Co., who were behind the launch of the Crystal Geyser mineral water brand in the US, acquiring the remaining 49% of the capital.