One of the Medoc's most celebrated wine consultants, Jacques Boissenot, has died aged 75.
Boissenot was one of the most prolific wine consultants of the late 20th century, working with almost 200 properties on the Left Bank of Bordeaux over the last 45 years.
His expertise covered four of the five First Growths; Mouton, Lafite, Latour, Margaux, as well as countless other prestigious estates from Leoville-las-Cases and Cos d’Estournel to Clos des Quatres Vents and Fourcas Hosten.
Put a pin in a map of the Médoc, it has been said many times, and you find the hand of Jacques Boissenot.
He was known for his understated, respectful approach to the wines, as well as his intuitive understanding of how to bring the best out of them – and his clients – without ever stepping into the limelight himself.
In his own words he explained his job as; ‘there is the terroir, but also the philosophy behind it. To be a consultant, you need to be good at psychology. With the best wines, you don’t have enormous freedom; you only want to improve them along their own lines, to respect what they are.’
Boissenot was born in Beirut on September 10, 1938, where his father was serving in the military until the family returned to France when he was seven. He was not born into a wine-drinking dynasty, and never tried wine out of a bottle sealed with a cork until his late teens. His first career choice was to be a vet, but when that didn’t work out a friend suggested wine consulting because, as he recounted, ‘there were easy jobs in it’.
He had found his calling. His professor and mentor at Bordeaux’s oenology department was Émile Peynaud and after his studies were finished in 1972 Peynaud asked him to set up one of five new oenology departments around the Gironde – the first of their kind, although now commonplace world over. Boissenot headed up the Pauillac branch, and never ventured far from the Médoc peninsula for the rest of his professional career.
Once Peynaud retired, Boissenot inherited many of his clients, beginning with Lafite in 1980, then Margaux in 1987, Latour in 2000 and finally Mouton in 2005. His rare overseas projects were almost always with existing clients, such as the launch of Vina Los Vascos with Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) in Chile in 1988.
‘His enormous modesty was only matched by his skill,’ Christophe Salin, managing director of DBR Lafite told decanter.com. ‘He was a true paysan-oenologue; loving the terroir above all else. A quiet and calming presence. He will be missed.’
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux