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The Decanter interview: Philippe Bascaules

The former Château Margaux winemaker was persuaded by Francis Ford Coppola to join his historic Californian winery to help 'honour its heritage and restore its legacy'. Midway through his contract, Jane Anson catches up with him...

Philippe Bascaules: at a glance & legacy

Bascaules at a glance

Born Landes region of southwest France
Education Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique of Montpellier; his thesis was on the working practices of the Bordeaux first growths
Career 1988: Military service; 1989-1990: Worked for wine estates in the Beaujolais crus April 1990: Joined Château Margaux where he worked as estate manager, then technical director 2011: Joined Inglenook just as Coppola had reclaimed the original trademark (he kept its former name Rubicon for the flagship wine)
Family life Lives in St Helena. Has daughters (aged 21 and 19) and a son (23), all based in France
He says ‘I prefer to know than to believe’
What others say ‘Slowly the layers unravel, like his wines’

The legacy

Gustave Niebaum, who was born in Helsinki, Finland, created Inglenook in 1879. By the 1940s, its Cabernet was recognised as one of the best in the US. Niebaum’s grand- nephew, John Daniel, finally had to sell off part of the estate in 1964, ironically the first year he made a profit at the property. The Coppolas bought their first part in 1975 and vowed to restore it to its original state, buying piecemeal the other sections until they achieved their goal 40 years later. The estate is 687ha in total, on volcanic, iron-rich soils with pockets of clay; 95ha are planted to an average of 2,500 vines/ha, with 13 grape varieties. The consultant is Stéphane Derenoncourt.

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