New Bordeaux winery owners
There have been several ownership changes over the past 12 months, which is likely to bring increased investment or renewed focus to certain estates. They will also be responsible for at least the ageing of the Bordeaux 2019 vintage.
These include Tristan le Lous at Château Cantenac Brown, the Margaux third growth that has been owned for the past 13 years by low-profile British businessman Simon Halabi.
Quality has been improving here for some time under director José Sanfins, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Le Lous brings to the table.
Staying in the Margaux appellation, we have new owners at Cambon la Pelouse in the shape of Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates, the first major investment in Bordeaux by this group.
At Château Dauzac, the French insurance group MAIF has sold up to Breton businessman Christian Rolleau, while Château Tour de Mons has been sold by CA Grands Crus to the Perrodo family of Marquis d’Alesme.
That last one is really a deal to watch, because it will either see a huge boost in quality, or the disappearance of the label if they choose to combine it with neighbour Labegorce. I really have no idea, at this stage, which way they are planning to go.
Over in Pomerol, Château Petit Village has just changed hands, moving from AXA Millésimes to the Moulin family of neighbouring Château Beauregard. The Cathiard family, owner of Smith Haut Lafitte, has also bought a minority stake and will offer consultancy at the property.
This next one is not technically a new owner, but is still a significant change. Jacques Lurton has stepped into the role of managing director at Vignobles André Lurton, following the death of his father.
This is a group that holds 300 hectares of Pessac-Léognan vineyards. It has been under-performing for a number of years, without clear management; the exception being its flagship estate Couhins-Lurton, which for me has kept quality extremely high.
Jacques Lurton is a brilliant winemaker and consultant himself, focused on organic and biodynamic farming in much of his work, and I expect him to oversee the start of a bounce-back for these properties, helped by new technical director Anne Neuville. I’m excited to see what they do.
Consultants and winemakers
On a winemaker level, Yann Monties has moved from Haut-Bailly in Pessac-Léognan to St-Emilion’s La Dominique, which is extremely positive for the classified Right Bank property.
There was also big news up in Pauillac, where Jean-Emmanuel Donjoy moved down the road from Clerc Milon to Mouton Rothschild.
This has, in turn, led to the extremely talented Caroline Artaud arriving at Clerc Milon from Fourcas-Hosten in Listrac-Médoc. I expect we will see this change have more impact from the 2020 vintage, rather than 2019, but the changes have been implemented.
Up in St-Estèphe, Château Sérilhan, a newly-anointed Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, has changed consultants from Hubert de Boüard to Alain Raynaud.
A little further south in St-Julien, the 2019 vintage is the second with Jean-Michel Laporte heading up Château Talbot. It’s not strictly a new arrival, but I think this is still one to note, because things take time to change in these vast Médoc estates.
Appointing Laporte is an exciting move for Talbot. He was previously at La Conseillante in Pomerol, although most recently spent a few years as a wine broker.
New Cru Bourgeois rankings
This has marked the year when the Cru Bourgeois classification returned to its three-tier system.
Here is a reminder of those 14 new Cru Bourgeois ‘Exceptionnel’ estates: Châteaux d’Agassac, Arnauld, Belle-Vue, Cambon la Pelouse, Charmail, Malescasse, de Malleret, du Taillan, Lestage, d’Arsac, Paveil de Luze, le Boscq, le Crock, and Lilian Ladouys.
In normal circumstances this would guarantee price rises. This year, who knows.
There have been many projects in recent years. The works at Château Troplong Mondot are pretty much complete now; the St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé B estate was bought by French insurance group Scor in 2017.
Projects at Lynch-Bages and Haut-Bailly are on hold due to current conditions, but both should be finished in 2021.
New and unusual wines
A growing number of wines made from unusual varieties or techniques are cropping up in Bordeaux.
Up in the Médoc, Château Lousteauneuf has released a 100% Petit Verdot, aged in amphorae, which I enjoyed tasting this week.
I also tasted Hubert de Boüard’s Chardonnay which was excellent – although better was Château Puy Redon, which he consults for over in Monbazillac, outside of the Bordeaux region. Both of those wines are bottled as Vin de France.
I also recommend seeking out the new Bordeaux blend white wine from Château Plain-Point in Fronsac.
And, if you followed Oswaldo Hernandez over at Clos des Moiselles, he is back with a new wine called Nouvelle Vie.
Every year there are more environmental initiatives to follow across Bordeaux.
One that particularly caught my eye this year has come from Château la Fleur Cardinale in St-Emilion. From this vintage, they will be planting a tree for every case sold. As they sell 10,000 cases in an average year, that’s a lot of new trees to plant.
This article traditionally forms part of Jane Anson’s build-up to her annual en primeur tastings. At present, it is still uncertain when the Bordeaux 2019 en primeur campaign might run, after this year’s organised tastings were understandably postponed due to the coronavirus public health emergency. You can find Jane’s preview of the 2019 vintage here.