Bordeaux wine has lost a leading light following the passing of Denis Durantou, co-owner with his family of Château L’Eglise Clinet in Pomerol.
Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent, Jane Anson, described Durantou as a ‘real legend of the past three decades in Bordeaux’.
Born in 1957 in the Dordogne area, Durantou studied economics at Sciences Po in Paris before studying winemaking at the University of Bordeaux.
L’Eglise Clinet was not a big name when he took on the long-held family estate in the early 1980s.
‘It came to my attention when I tasted, and was hugely impressed by, the 1985 vintage,’ said Stephen Browett, chairman of Farr Vintners, in a tribute to Durantou on the UK merchant’s website. He added that the pair became ‘firm friends’ after first meeting in the late 1980s.
Durantou and his wife, the artist Marie Reilhac, have since made L’Eglise Clinet one of the Bordeaux Right Bank’s top estates, albeit retaining a relatively understated physical presence in Pomerol. It has 4.5 hectares of vineyard.
Elsewhere, Durantou bought Château Les Cruzelles in Lalande-de-Pomerol – the first vintage being 2000 – as well Château Montlandrie in Castillon, in 2009.
The wine portfolio also includes La Petite Eglise, sourced from a specific site in Pomerol not far from L’Eglise Clinet, plus Château Saintayme, produced from rented vines in St-Emilion, and La Chenade in Lalande-de-Pomerol.
Browett said, ‘Denis was a wonderful man and he made absolutely brilliant wines, not just at L’Eglise Clinet but also in Lalande-de-Pomerol, St-Emilion and Castillon.’
He added, ‘His memory will live on in the exceptional wines that he produced and his remarkable achievement in transforming L’Eglise Clinet from a simple wine to one of the greatest and most respected wine estates of the world.’
While considered an extremely talented winemaker in the cellar, Durantou was equally respected for his attention to detail in the vineyard.
‘I believe in translating terroir as honestly as possible,’ he told Jane Anson in an interview for Decanter in 2018, explaining how his eschewal of new oak in the first decade at L’Eglise Clinet enabled him to become quickly acquainted with how different vineyards plots expressed themselves in the glass.
Anson said this week, ‘Denis Durantou was one of the few owners in Bordeaux who was also the viticulturalist and chief winemaker across his estates.
‘He was rightly fêted for the brilliant L’Eglise Clinet, but his real genius came through in the work he did in Lalande-de-Pomerol and Castillon, showcasing his skills in wines that offered some of the best values in the whole region.
‘I will miss his voice in Bordeaux, championing terroir and authentic winemaking, and I will miss the thrill of discovering what he had come up with in each vintage.’
Denis Durantou and Marie Reilhac’s three daughters are Alix, Noémie and Constance.