Following the last week of the 97th Tour de France, I was thrilled to set my eyes (and lips) upon one of the most famous wine regions in the world: Bordeaux. Not only that, but my manfriend and I had the rare pleasure to tour and dine with Jean-Charles Cazes—son of the owner of the highly revered, classified Fifth Growth Pauillac estate: Lynch-Bages.
To me, left bank Bordeaux, where Pauillac can be found, was more awe-inspiring than adorable—more immense and impressive than say the charming dips and curves that tangle themselves up in the little brick vineyard homes of the Rhone or Burgundy. In Bordeaux, the vast, manicured fields of vines were dotted with massive Chateaux. It spoke of wealth, power and success.
You don’t have to reach beyond a few hundred years to really learn about the rise of the Bordelaise wine industry. Sometime thereabouts 1500-1600, it was actually their Cahors neighbors who were filling the mouths and minds of English royalty with rich, dark Malbec-based reds. Of course, their only shipping port to the UK was through Bordeaux. It didn’t take long for this merchant hub to see the writing on the wall. Soon after, taxes soared and Cahors could no keep up with the exporting fees. Meanwhile, Bordeaux found that their sandy-stone, chalky, clay-based soils weren’t too shabby. Cabernet loved it as did Merlot, Cab France, Petite Verdot, Carmenere and even a little Malbec. They put these grapes together and won the hearts of England. By the early 1700’s, estates like Lynch-Bages were securing a corner of economy through wine and enjoying great success.
Though the primary land that comprises Lynch-Bages was developed in 1729 and saw many changes over the next 200 years, the Cazes family took over in 1934. The current owner, Jean-Michel Cazes, is a friendly, humble older gentleman. At this point, he has left the management of the business to his son (Jean-Charles) and daughter (Sylvie).
I say ‘business’ quite deliberately, as it very much speaks to the pulse in this region—a pulse that was established hundreds of years ago but beats persistently into the present. Here, it is less about selling romance as it is about selling futures of wine. The 2009 vintage is all the buzz right now. The weather was perfect, the progress in the barrel ideal. Hurry they say… buy it up now before it’s too late!
In the next entry, I will talk less about Bordeaux as a whole and more about my time spent at Lynch-Bages…