Alsace-based trader Grands Chais de France has acquired the Domaine de La Baume estate near Montpellier from Constellation Brands for an undisclosed sum.

The trader is already a main player in the Languedoc vineyards and buys 900,000 hectolitres annually largely through partnerships with cellar co-operatives.

The deal marks the US group's withdrawal from the French wine production market.

Constellation inherited the estate when it acquired BRL Hardy. The Australian group had purchased La Baume in 1994, investing heavily in building up the 24-hectare estate. More than €4m of funding went on vinification facilities with a capacity of 27,000 hectolitres. The estate produces two million bottles of varietal Pays d'Oc wine annually, under the La Baume brand - 80% of which is exported, the majority bound for the UK market.

Commenting on the acquisition, Grand Chais de France' sales director, Bruno Kessler, told "It allows us to develop at a higher end of the market than our Jean-Paul Chenet brand which has already moved into the Classic and Reserve categories. Our aim is to reach four million bottles in five to ten years in voluntarily limiting our sales in order to position the wine in the top quality segment."