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 Basile Tesseron of Château Lafon-Rochet 4CC
For Basile Tesseron of Lafon-Rochet in St-Estèphe, the path to the family château was more circuitous. He studied marketing and business in Bordeaux, Edinburgh and Germany, and has further degrees in management and winery management. Various jobs followed – running international communications for a luxury brands company in London, working for Zachys in New York, and spending a few months in Argentina with the French-owned Fabre Montmayou estate.
‘I have never worked so hard in my life as I did in Mendoza –19 hours a day. But it was a wonderful place and a great experience,’ says Basile. ‘Still, it wasn’t really my intention to make a career in wine and I had always been more involved in marketing.‘My father had never had much confidence in France and in the future of the wine business, and fully expected that at some point Lafon-Rochet would have to be sold. I wasn’t discouraged. I just accepted that’s the way things were. I was happy to forge my own career.’
There followed a spell working in the export department with the famous Bordeaux négociant house Duclot. It was a chance encounter in London with a bottle of 1990 Burgundy – Romanée-St Vivant from Domaine Leroy – that all of a sudden sparked a wish to return to the family estate. So in 2007 he joined his father Michel as general manager.
After his father retired in 2011 Basile took over, although Michel steps in temporarily when his son is travelling. ‘He doesn’t interfere but I know I can always turn to him or my uncle Alfred at Pontet- Canet for advice at any time. I’m not just occupied by sales and administration. I adore the whole business of winemaking, so I’m closely involved in that aspect of it, too.’