Additional reporting by Jane Anson in Bordeaux.
The French wine world was today mourning the loss of André Lurton, a key figure in the modern history of Bordeaux winemaking.
Among his achievements, Lurton played a central role in the creation of the Pessac-Léognan appellation, which was born in 1987 following several years of lobbying and bureaucratic wrangling.
Born in 1924 in the middle of harvest, and to a winemaking family, Lurton significantly expanded the family business after first inheriting Château Bonnet in Grezillac in 1953.
First, though, came World War Two, during which Lurton worked in the French Resistance and subsequently joined the French army in order to help with the fighting in Alsace in particular.
It was partly because of this experience that Lurton was known later for his collection of 1940s army vehicles.
He joined his father, François Lurton, in the vineyards after the war, aged 21.
After inheriting Bonnet in 1953, things didn’t go to plan initially. Frost seriously damaged the estate’s 50 hectares of vineyard in 1956 and Lurton grew crops for cattle feed in order to fund a major replanting programme.
Success eventually followed at Bonnet and this enabled Lurton to expand into what was then Graves, buying Château La Louvière in 1965. Two years later, he started renting vines at Château Couhins and subsequently bought the vineyards to create Château Couhins-Lurton in 1970.
Vignobles André Lurton today has 600ha of vines across much of southern Bordeaux.
Along the way, Lurton became mayor of Grézillac, was director of the CIVB for 20 years from 1966 to 1986 and president of the winemaking syndicate of Pessac and Léognan from 1980 to 1987, at which point it became AOC Pessac-Léognan.
Decanter’s Jane Anson wrote recently that the creation of the Pessac-Léognan appellation may not have come about at all ‘if it hadn’t been for the stubborn persistency of André Lurton’.
She said of Lurton this week, ‘He might have slowed down over the past few years, but few men have done as much to shape Bordeaux as André Lurton.
‘It was his lobbying that led to the creation of the Pessac-Léognan vintage in 1987, after a steady campaign of lobbying begun following his purchase of La Louvière.
‘He also managed the difficult feat of building up a successful, sizeable and consistently good quality AOC Bordeaux wine in the form of Château Bonnet, which today covers 300ha of vines.
‘He was also extremely good company, and will be missed’.
Several of Lurton’s seven children, notably Christine, François and Jacques, have built their own successful careers in wine.