Born in 1927, Jean Gautreau was an accomplished athlete, then Bordeaux négociant before discovering Château Sociando-Mallet in the village of Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne, ten kilometers north of Pauillac in the Haut-Médoc appellation, in 1969 when looking for a wine estate to buy on behalf of a Belgian client.
Choosing to buy the then 5-hectare estate for himself, Gautreau began making wine while embarking on full estate renovations that saw the building of a barrel cellar, an increase in vineyard holdings year after year and meticulous matching of grape varieties to individual plots.
Speaking about Jean Gautreau, Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent Jane Anson said: ‘He might have been 92, but it still feels almost impossible to believe that he won’t be heading up Sociando-Mallet, uncompromising, straight talking, rightly confident in the brilliance of his wine.
‘In May this year he celebrated 50 years at the estate that will always be associated with him, but he actually had several lives, from being a talented tennis player who made it to the semi-finals of Roland Garos when he was 18, to his years as a courtier and négociant in Bordeaux.
‘He was born in the Médoc, but didn’t come from a winemaking family, and it was through sheer determination that he succeeded in building up Sociando piece by piece, bringing out the potential of its location on one of the best gravel outcrops in the Médoc.
‘He had tunnel vision when it came to his wine and we all benefitted from it’.
Today the estate is comprised of 83 hectares producing nearly 450,000 bottles a year of Château Sociando-Mallet and the second wine, Demoiselle de Sociando-Mallet.
Gautreau is succeeded by his daughter, and only child, Sylvie who now manages the estate and has done since being handed control on the eve of Jean’s 90th birthday, and grandson Arthur.