Stephen Brook finds out how the new generation of energetic young winemakers in Bordeaux is rising to the daily challenges of managing the top estates...
Bordeaux’s Matthieu Cuvelier of Château Clos Fourtet 1GCCB
Clos Fourtet’s Matthieu Cuvelier and father Philippe
After he bought St-Emilion first-growth Clos Fourtet in 2001, Philippe Cuvelier had no great desire to immerse himself in running the property. His son Matthieu, although the youngest of five siblings, was happy to step in. ‘I arrived here at the same time that he did. I had already done some business studies, and enrolled in Bordeaux University to study oenology. It wasn’t a full degree but it gave me some background. My brothers and sisters were attached to their lives in Paris, and didn’t want to be directly involved. In 2005 I came here full-time, and since 2008 I have been running all our properties. I manage them, travel, meet négociants, and deal with the commercial side.’
The Cuveliers have bought other properties: the fine Moulis estate of Poujeaux, and more recently three classified growths that lie close to Clos Fourtet, no doubt with the long-term goal, authorities permitting, of integrating them into the premier cru. ‘I don’t have a free hand to go out and buy wine estates, though!’ Matthieu says. ‘My father still makes the final decisions, as he has to fund them. When we’re offered the opportunity to buy other properties, I examine the proposals to see what’s feasible. Then my father, if we want to go ahead, brings in his lawyers and finance people to help him make the deal.’
‘Buying Poujeaux was a challenge. At Clos Fourtet I can stand in the vineyards and see almost everybody who works here. It’s similar to a garden tended by a large family. At Poujeaux we have 70 hectares, so there’s a more hierarchical approach to running the properties and everything takes longer, whether it’s treatments or harvesting. In St-Emilion we can move much faster.’