Bordeaux's top wine consultants give professional advice to hundreds of estates in the region and beyond, but how about going straight to the source? Here is a list of top consultants and the châteaux that they own.
Which châteaux are owned by top Bordeaux wine consultants?
At this time of year, wine consultants here are flat out getting everybody else’s properties ready for the Bordeaux en primeur parade.
Since the endless stream of questions over phenolics, sugars and tannin counts in the lead up to harvest, they have been busy in cellars checking on the progress of the vinification and most crucially assisting in the blending sessions of châteaux across the region. These begin in December in some estates and go right through until March (with a few on the Right Bank such as Château Troplong Mondot saving their final blend until just a few months before bottling, but still needing to decide 99% in time for the primeurs). The 2016 vintage was a relatively late one for blending, as result of late harvest and late malolactic fermentation, which means many of these round-table sessions were only completed a few weeks ago.
Across France, there are perhaps 2,000 consultants working in wine regions since the trade was recognised in law back in 1955, but many of them are oenologists in laboratories simply testing the wines for deviations or other data. They have a particular significance in Bordeaux, where wines are drawn from a number of different grape varieties, estates are often large and many owners live outside of the region. And the en primeur build up is one of the key moments when consultants are prized for their external eye. They know how the different grape varieties have fared in various parts of the region, and can provide helpful context during the blending, and they have specialist knowledge in areas such as co-inoculation and the use of press wine (Boissenot) or an encyclopedic memory for different vats and micro-vats during the blending process (Rolland).
All this expertise comes at a price for the wine estates, but many of us focus too much on their famous clients and perhaps don’t consider enough their own home estates, many of which don’t even sell en primeur and offer exceptional value for money considering the skill of the people making the wines.
Michel and Dany Rolland, Château Fontenil AOC Fronsac
Michel Rolland has more than 200 clients in Bordeaux, and many hundreds more around the world. He made his name back in the 1970s and 1980s in Pomerol, but sold three of his family estates (most famously Château Le Bon Pasteur) to a group of Chinese investors back in 2013. But he still owns the Fronsac property Château Fontenil, located in the high-quality commune of Saillans. It’s a wine that has the signature generosity of a Rolland Right Bank, and the signature fruit-forward, merlot-dominated but elegant pleasure of a Fronsac. ‘I live there and it’s like my garden,’ Dany Rolland told me this week. ‘You can be more experimental with your own estate than you can with those of clients, so many of our experiments over vinification or viticulture have always begun in our own vines and cellars. But at the same time we don’t have the same budget. We are lucky that Fontenil is not our only source of income, as the consultancy brings in revenue that we can then spend on the property, but the price of resale still means we have to be realistic about investments’.
Eric Boissenot, Château les Vimières AOC Haut Médoc / Margaux
The most understated but most revered consultant in Bordeaux has around 180 clients across the region (and a few overseas), largely up in the Médoc where he consults for around two-thirds of the 1855 classified growths. He also has a 1.5ha property in Haut Médoc called Château Les Vimières in the town of Lamarque, plus less than half of hectare vines in Margaux that go into Château Les Vimières Le Tronquera. The estate was bought in 1984 by his father Jacques Boissenot, who was the first of the family to become an oenologist, and who built up the consultancy that counts four of the five First Growths among its clients. The Haut Médoc is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, while the Margaux is unusually 100% Merlot. Old vines, planted to 10,000 per hectare as is typical in the best Médocs, and incredible value. The only drawback is that Boissenot’s incredibly heavy schedule means that he has to work on his own vines, so he tells me, ‘at evenings and weekends’.
Antoine Medeville, Château la Fleur de Mothe AOC Médoc
This is an interesting estate owned by Henri Boyer, Edouard Massie and Antoine Medeville, three of the consultants that make up the company L’Oenoconseil so you really are getting a bunch of top expertise in the bottle. An excellent wine with a lovely sense of energy, the three men took over the property, located in Saint Yzans du Médoc, in 2008, so expect even more improvements under their tutelage, as they have been carrying out extensive restations in vineyard and cellar. And again excellent quality for a wine with consumer price in France of under €15.
Patrick Leon, Château Les Trois Croix AOC Fronsac
Technical director at Château Mouton Rothschild from 1985 to 2004, Patrick Léon has quite rightly been called a winemaking legend, and today only consults for a few dozen clients globally, but they are always good ones – Château D’Esclans in Provence, Domaine Faiveley in Burgundy, Cune in Rioja, Spring Mountain Vineyards in Napa, Château Biac in Bordeaux. So no surprise that his home estate in Fronsac – bought in 1995 – is one of the most consistently impressive wines in the appellation (and for me one of the greatest values in Bordeaux). Run with his son Bertrand, who is also part of the consultancy team, it covers 37 hectares of clay-limestone stoils, planted with 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.
Jean-Claude Berrouet, Vieux Château Saint André AOC Montagne St-Emilion / Château Samion AOC Lalande de Pomerol
Another true insider’s wine in Bordeaux, Vieux Château Saint André is the home estate of Jean-Claude Berrouet, Petrus winemaker for over four decades. Run by his son Jeff (the other son Oliver has famously taken over from his dad at Petrus), Berrouet bought the 10ha estate in 1978 on the high clay limestone ridges of Montagne just behind Saint George’s church. The winemaking, as you would expect, is restrained and precise, with vinification in small two-tiered vats of stainless steel and cement before ageing in 15-20% new oak. Expect finesse, perfectly ripe fruit with aromatic integrity. The Lalande de Pomerol estate is smaller, with 2ha of vines planted to 100% merlot, and equally worth seeking out. When Berrouet was working full time, the JP Moueix team looked after both estates, but since 2003 they have returned entirely to be worked by Jeff – with his father on hand ‘for advice, if he needs it’. The results are beautiful – expect finesse and aromatic integrity.
Stéphane Derenoncourt, Domaine de L’A, AOC Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
Derenoncourt has built up an impressive number of clients largely across the Right Bank of Bordeaux, but also internationally and most notably in Napa, along with a growing reputation for a concentration on organic and biodynamic winemaking. His home property of Domaine de l’A is currently in official conversion to biodynamics, as I guess he realises he has to put his money where his mouth is, even if he has been farming ‘under the philosophy’ for many years. Domaine de l’A is one of the best known Castillon estates, located in the south of the appellation near to the border with St-Emilion, and has 8ha planted to 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc.
Olivier Dauga, Château Foncadaure, Languedoc
Former professional rugby player turned consultant with his company Le Faiseur de Vin, Oliver Dauga is renowned for helping with every stage of production from the vineyard right through to the packaging and promotion. He was born in Libourne in 1964, and got his wine career started at Château Sociando Mallet in the Médoc, where he was technical director from 1988 to 1992. He doesn’t own a property in Bordeaux for you to try out (although he runs Château Marzin in Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux on behalf of a friend of his) but does own a tiny 0.8ha vineyard with two friends in the Languedoc area called Foncadaure, planted with 100 year old Carignan.
Hubert de Boüard – Château Angelus, AOC St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé / La Fleur de Boüard AOC Lalande-de-Pomerol
No need to introduce Hubert de Boüard, who began the consultancy side to his career back in 2001 after a request from the new owner of Clos des Jacobins in St-Emilion. Today he has around 80 clients in Bordeaux including Cambon la Pelouse in Haut Médoc, Grand Puy Ducasse in Pauillac and Bodega Francisco Barona in Ribera del Duero. If you want to try his home estates, you will have to dig deep for Château Angélus, now a Premier Grand Cru Classé A, but also more than worth seeking out is the beautiful Château Bellevue, set on the limestone plateau of St-Emilion, and Château La Fleur de Bouard in Lalande de Pomerol, run by de Bouärd with his son and daughter Matthieu and Coralie (his daughter Stephanie is in charge over at Angélus). Le Fleur de Bouard has become part of the research centre for de Boüard’s techniques, and the winery really has to be seen to be believed, with inverted triconic stainless steel tanks hanging from the roof to enable the ultimate in gravity-fed winemaking.
Corinne Comme, Château du Champs de Treilles AOC Saint Foy Côtes de Bordeaux
Jean-Michel Comme of Château Pontet Canet is not the only family member with winemaking expertise. His wife Corinne not only runs their family estate of Champs de Treilles but also has a growing biodynamic consultancy, most notably working with Berenice Lurton at Château Climens in Sauternes and Château Monestier-La-Tour in Bergerac. Champs du Treille is where it all began, biodynamic since the 1990s, with 6.5ha of vines planted to 63% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, 9% cabernet sauvignon and 8% petit verdot, and a further 3ha of white grapes split between the three main Bordeaux varieties of sauvignon blanc, Semillon and muscadelle.
Pascal Chatonnet, Châteaux Haut Chaigneau, La Sergue AOC Lalande de Pomerol, Château L’Archange AOC St-Emilion
Renowned for his expertise in the fight against brettonamyces and other yeast or bacterial deviations, Chatonnet trained under Denis Dubourdieu, and now runs his own consultancy with clients including Château Cos d’Estournel and Château d’Issan. He has three properties of his own, all of which I can recommend, across the Right Bank of Bordeaux.
The late Denis Dubourdieu, Château Reynon, AOC Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
Denis Dubourdieu may no longer with us, but this estate was shaped on his knowledge, and his sons Jean-Jacques and Fabrice have now taken over. The other Dubourdieu family estates include Clos Floridène, Château Cantegril, Château Haura and Château Doisy-Daëne. His consultancy continues in importance, run by his colleagues Valérie Lavigne, Axel Marchal and Christophe Oliver.
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