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November 2017

Jean Cordeau, a Man of Passion


From left to right, Jérôme Leroux, Jean Cordeau, Nicolas Labenne and Franck Debrais


On a morning in October, a man walked among the vats. The last harvests had been received and the wines had begun fermenting. He shook the hand of most he met, his eyes sharp, his smile warm. Some called him Mr. Cordeau out of respect, but he'd rather you call him Jean. That October morning, he had come to talk of his past, of his history with Lynch-Bages and the Bordeaux vineyard, of the sixty vintages he has worked on. Read on to find out more about this man of passion.

His career began when barely 22, a young agricultural engineering graduate of the National School of Agriculture in Montpellier. He started his first job on 2 August 1958 as an agricultural consultant near Blaye, France. A new technical post created and tested by the Gironde Chamber of Agriculture. In 1970 he was appointed head of the Chamber’s vine department, and ten years later founded the laboratory for analysis and agronomic advice in Blanquefort which he managed for fifteen years.

With time, he became an expert in the vine and its behaviour. He even wrote a book on the subject.
Then came retirement, and Jean decided to bring his thirty-eight years at the Chamber of Agriculture to a close. But his passion lived on, a fact reflected in his activities, and he chose to launch his own business. Contacted by various different chateaux, he became a self-employed consultant.

In the space of ten years, and without even realising it, he gradually left his imprint throughout the Bordeaux vineyard.

Since 2006, he has been happy to share his lifetime of knowledge and know-how at no cost, on just two conditions: that he finds the mission interesting and that he likes the people he meets! Fortunately for us, Nicolas Labenne, Technical Director for Lynch-Bages, satisfies both criteria hands down. The two men share the same passions, for rugby and the vine, so when they work together their try is generally converted.

According to Jean Cordeau, Lynch-Bages enjoys particularly harmonious soils with different gravels, which create a great strength and finesse. He helped choose the strains used for the Petit Verdot plot. And readily admits that this grape variety is one of his favourites, because it produces tannic wines, both round and harmonious, never rough.
He is glad to lend a helping hand at Nicolas Labenne's request, in order help the vine along. You simply have to wander through the rows with him to realise that, at the age of eighty, he is familiar with every detail, a knowledge he is pleased to share with contagious enthusiasm. When asked what his favourite time of year is, he’ll say it’s when “I tremble at the same time as the vine”, in reference to bud break and flowering, crucial periods over which the risk of frost and coulure hang heavy. “And the harvest too”, which brings first predictions, “and when the vine is dormant”, for the pruning... like any enthusiast, he finds it hard to choose.

Although he began in the 1950s, when most of the vineyard was worked on horseback, he is not one to regret the past. According to him, Bordeaux wines have never been as good as they have in the past twenty years. “Before then, great vintages were almost an exception.” Although he would probably never say that, if they are better today it is also thanks to men like him.


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5 october 2017

Grape picking with a Portuguese twist

For the second year running, João Tito and his team of about 50 pickers travelled over 800 km from the city of Mirandela in northern Portugal to reach Pauillac, where our Lynch-Bages vineyards stretch over the land.

From a distance, you would have seen heads bent over rows of vines, backs hunching as baskets were filled, eyes trained on sorting tables. On approaching you would have heard laughter, the odd “cuidado!”, and maybe a song. A group of men and women ranging in age from 18 to 68, from different walks of life, brought together this year, during the period from18th September and 5th October, when harvest was finished.

In their hometown, they are plumbers, students, bricklayers, bakers and psychologists, some are retired.
In the vineyard they form an organised group sharing tasks, forty pickers filling the baskets of ten carriers, taking it in turns to pour their harvest out onto the sorting table. 

It took just a few days for the pickers to get into the swing of things, under the watchful eye of Nelson Pires, reporting to vineyard manager Franck Debrais. Each morning he would check who was present, set the agenda for the day, assign every picker a row and keep morale high. Nearly all those present last year returned in 2017, some for the adventure and the journey, others for the more practical purpose of earning an additional wage, all revelling in the atmosphere and – they are the first to admit – in the gourmet French meals! 

Most were recruited by João Tito, a bus driver by profession, who brought them from Mirandela all the way to Pauillac and who ferried them to and fro every day between the vineyards and the Le Paradis campsite where they were staying. It was he who put up posters throughout the town and who spread the word among friends and more distant acquaintances to attract volunteers, and it didn’t take him long to find his team, even managing to convince his 60-year-old father to join them.

Franck is delighted with how it all went. “We worked methodically and efficiently, respecting each other’s sensitivities, and in contagious good humour,” he said. 

Although conscientious and committed, all admit that harvesting is a rapid source of aches and pains, but they lost neither their motivation nor their momentum. According to Deolinda, the eldest woman in the group, grape harvests are nothing compared to strawberry picking. And the 60-year-old should know what she’s talking about, because she harvests olives, strawberries, almonds and chestnuts all year round. Others speak of the need for common sense and for a little inside knowledge, for example adding small cushions to the baskets relieves the backs and shoulders of carriers. 

This year again, all poured their energy into helping us with these first stages of our 2017 vintage. And when the harvest finally came to an end, we had just one wish... that we would see them all again next September!

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22 september 2017

The cat who saved Lynch-Bages


Roger Mau

Most Médoc cellars have been frequented at one time or another by cats. Their very presence was enough to keep rats and mice at bay. Lynch-Bages was no exception. At one time, cellar master Roger Mau jealously guarded a cat who had taken up residence in its cellars. We’d bump into him from time to time in one of the many hallways, where he used to prowl. He had no name, and simply became “Le chat de Monsieur Mau”. Every day he’d receive a plate of milk, served by the cellar master beneath the wooden vats in the fermentation cellar. Roger Mau assumed the task throughout the week. And he’d return to look after his cat at the weekend, when the cellars were otherwise deserted.

One Saturday morning, in 1975, Roger Mau made his way to the fermenting room as usual armed with his milk churn. No sooner had he entered the room than a smell attracted his attention. When he looked up, he could see smoke filtering through the slatted floor. It was coming from above. Mr Mau rushed up the stairs and saw flames reaching about twenty centimetres at the top of the sixth vat in the middle on the left, licking the top three feet of its upper section near the hatch. The cellar master wasted no time and filled a bucket with water from the nearby tap, easily extinguishing the fire just as it was beginning.

What had happened? The day before, he’d issued instructions to “sulphur” the vat. This involves burning a sulphur wick inside the vat to release sulphur dioxide, which acts as an antiseptic and disinfects the wood. Normally, the wick, which is attached to a 25-cm long wire hook, is hung at a reasonable distance from the vat wall, just like in barrels, in order to avoid any accidents. Because sulphur produces very small flames when it burns, there is a reasonably low risk of fire spreading over the wood. Unfortunately, the person who performed the task late Friday afternoon had hung the wire on the edge of the hatch closest to the wall. The incandescent wick was therefore in contact with the vat’s wooden staves throughout the night. Fortunately, the fire hadn’t started immediately but had been smouldering all night. When the wood finally caught fire, early Saturday morning, it coincided with the time when the cat usually took his breakfast.

Because there were no employees on the premises, which is quite normal for a Saturday, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that if Roger Mau had not brought his cat his morning plate of milk the fire would have spread rapidly. And there would be nothing left of our historic Lynch-Bages fermentation cellar. It is even likely that the fire would have spread beyond the fermenting room, which at the time communicated directly with the barrel cellars and the chateau itself.

So in our new facilities we should be thinking of erecting a small monument in memory of "Le chat de Monsieur Mau"!

- Jean Michel-Cazes, 22 September 2017 - 


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26 September 2017

A chat with Daniel LLose

Head Winemaker Daniel LLose, oversees all the Cazes family estates

Leaving the post of non-commissioned army officer to become a winemaker doesn't appear as a straightfoward career move... Well think again, because this is precisely what Daniel LLose did in 1976.
We recently celebrated his 41st anniversary at Lynch-Bages. Daniel, as spontaneous as ever, accepted an interview to mark the occasion!

What is your first memory of Lynch-Bages?
I remember the “Boss” (Jean-Michel Cazes), of course, because he was the one who hired me!
And a duo, the Roger Mau/Gabriel Bérard tandem. Roger Mau, who must have already been in his seventies, was both technical director and cellar master. I was seriously impressed by his empirical knowledge. And by the way he always held his pipe in his mouth when tasting, whether it bothered anyone else or not! Gabriel Bérard was vineyard manager, he’d worked his way up through the ranks and would visit the 45 hectares of vineyards on his moped, because he’d never got round to getting a driving license!

If you had to pick three words to describe your job?
In addition to hard work (rather than “talent”), I’d say memory, observation and humility.

What do you find most stimulating?
The fact that there is no “copy and paste”, that and the perpetual renewal.

What do you like most about wine?
The conviviality it brings when those sitting around the bottle don’t spend too much time splitting hairs.

If you had to choose a vintage?
1982. It might not be the greatest, but it jogs some fantastic memories and is still a very good vintage today.

Your best tasting memory?
There are too many to name, it’s never easy choosing just one. But if I had to pick my first great tasting memory, I’d mention a wine that few people have heard of, vinified by Roger Mau and which no longer exists: Grand Vin des Rosiers 1929, a Pauillac AOC I tasted in the late 70s. At the time, I remember thinking it was a beautifully-balanced gustatory “legend”, radiating a particularly wonderful youth... From that moment on, and although a (highly) chauvinist Catalan, I knew I was working in a great terroir!

In your opinion, what makes Lynch-Bages different from the other Bordeaux Grands Crus?
It’s not for nothing that this Fifth Cru Classé is considered to be on a par with the Seconds! Lynch-Bages has a remarkably high-quality homogeneity thanks to its different soils. Its vineyard may not be associated with the leading Médoc terroir, but the entire parcel benefits from extremely “solid”, top-quality soils.

What have you learned in the forty years (and more) spent at Lynch-Bages?
“Now I know, I know that you never know,” as Jean Gabin would say.

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July 2017

The small mistake that led to success!

Who’d have thought it? The Lynch-Bages white might never have existed if a nurseryman hadn’t mixed some white grape vinestocks in with the vineyard’s red by mistake. And the story doesn’t end there, on the contrary, it led to an unexpected turn of events...

In the 1970s, the Cazes family actually bought bottles of white wine from for their personal consumption. It was Daniel Llose who persuaded Jean-Michel Cazes to use these white grapes, peppered by mistake around the estate, to produce his own wine. A few intruders were indeed mixed up with the red vinestocks by the nurseryman at the time. This is how Blanc de Lynch-Bages came into being, in 1978, a small, personal collection of the equivalent of one barrel a year.
Unfortunately these bottles, intended exclusively for family consumption, did not escape the attention of a particularly zealous customs official. The result? A triple sentence: false plantation declaration, false harvest declaration and false inventory!

By his own admission, Jean-Michel Cazes today recognises the sanction was in fact a blessing in disguise. In 1988, he decided to plant a new vineyard using the white vines grown traditionally in Bordeaux, and in 1990 he began marketing his production. Which is how the Blanc de Lynch-Bages was born.

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April 2017

If 6 was 9…

"If 6 was 9"...
Easy Rider - Jimi Hendrix

The 2016 vintage was one of exceptional weather conditions: a dry, mild start to the winter, a very wet first week of the year followed by a wet and chilly spring and a hot, dry summer.

An Unsettled year of contrasts

There was abundant rain from January to March, with temperatures remaining mild compared to the average over the last few years. This saturated the ground and prompted the buds to develop relatively early. Following the chilliness and damp of April and May, the vineyard escaped the frosts but required special care to avoid the development of mildew, which was spotted on the most susceptible plots. The first fortnight of June was hot and dry, allowing flowering to take place. The end of June saw some rainy spells, after which the summer temperatures set in. Sunshine was to be a major factor throughout the season. Although the hot spikes helped prevent the development of vegetal aromas, the first signs of drought were anticipated in August. These were avoided, however, thanks to a good reserve of water in the vineyard’s clayey subsoils

Quality guaranteed by the Indian Summer

In early September, the rains arrived just in time to rekindle a sweet and high-quality - if rather belated - maturation. With cool nights and milder days, the autumn weather conditions fostered a complete ripening and a stable and perfect sanitary state. Harvesting began on 28 September, with a crop of extremely healthy and high-quality grapes.

An abundant and promising vintage

As in 2009, harvesting ended on 12 October and this one was also particularly promising: the berries were small and naturally concentrated with juice possessing good acidity, and displayed the highest level of tannins ever achieved so far. Displaying intense colour, very crisp fruity aromas, acidity, and very powerful yet velvety tannins, this is a great vintage.

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17 February 2017

Shh, the cameras are rolling at Lynch-Bages!

Stephen Bolger, Yin Zheng,Juliette Binoche, Xu Zheng

If you had to write a synopsis for January 3rd, it would include fun, sharing and a wonderful atmosphere. That day, the Lynch-Bages vineyard, the VINIV cellars and the harvest room were transformed into a life-size film set for the Chinese entertainment show “Lost in Food”.

An unusual setting for an exceptional cast: our ambassador of French culture, Juliette Binoche played opposite Yin Zheng and Xu Zheng, two very famous actors in China.

The Cazes family, VINIV CEO Stephen Bolger and our team of wine specialists also took up the filming challenge. These amateur, but no less talented actors accompanied the three celebrities in a series of difficult challenges on the theme of wine. Following instructions given by Juliette Binoche, Xu Zhen and Yin Zheng had to try their hand at blending, do some highly technical vine pruning and pass the difficult test of pronouncing names of varietals.

The day ended with a final gratifying snap of the clapperboard. The leading and supporting roles then came together around a festive meal, to discover more of our Bordeaux heritage. They enjoyed spit-roasted Pauillac lamb prepared by Yves Bruneau, accompanied by a jeroboam of Lynch-Bages 2008 and a few bottles of Ormes de Pez. A fine end to a unique encounter fusing French know-how and Chinese culture.

This special Lynch-Bages episode of “Lost in Food” was aired on 18 February on Zhejiang TV, one of the most important channels in the Middle Kingdom.

Photo Gallery

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19 December 2016

New visits and events for 2017

Les visites autour de Bordeaux en 2017

From 1 January 2017 and throughout the renovation of our Lynch-Bages technical facilities, we will be offering visitors a new range of visits and activities.

While waiting for the new facilities at the heart of Bages village to be completed, we’ll be setting off to Saint-Estephe to visit Château Ormes de Pez. An ideal opportunity for those wanting to know more about this estate, which has stood proudly in the Médoc vineyard landscape since the 18th century and in recent years developed a closer relationship with Château Lynch-Bages.

Here, as in Pauillac, the Cazes family has made the site more attractive to visitors, transforming the elegant residence into a charming guest house. Its bedrooms overlook the park and a fascinating walnut tree stretched out over the grass, still very much alive. Having survived the storms at the end of the last century, this hundred-year-old tree sits in place of the old elm trees that gave the Château its name. It lives on, horizontally, amidst a vertical landscape. Low stone walls extend from the home alongside the outbuildings and cellars, becoming one with the estate’s 40 hectares of vines. At Ormes de Pez, each season has its own colour palette. All the conditions are met for creating fine wines, and for enjoying a memorable holiday.

In 2017, Château Ormes de Pez will organise visits for both professionals and the public.

New activities in and around Bages

In the village of Bages, Cercle Lynch-Bages will be offering a variety of tastings, tasting classes, “Premium” tastings, meetings and seminars all year round.

From April, Château Cordeillan-Bages will organise special events, wine tours and unique activities on the theme of wine. We’ll keep you posted.

See you in January.

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December 1st, 2016

Lynch-Bages has launched its renovation project

Architect Chien Chung Pei with the Cazes family and a group of journalists

Owned by the Cazes family since 1939, Château Lynch-Bages will embark on a new chapter in its history early 2017 with the renovation of its wine-making facilities. American architect Chien Chung Pei has been placed in charge of the project.

The background

"For several years now, our team of specialists has concentrated on the substantive work needed to improve our knowledge of the Lynch-Bages vineyard, studying its soils, introducing mass selection, analysing plots, and so on. This project aimed at renovating the estate’s technical facilities now marks the next logical step," says Jean-Charles Cazes who has managed the family owned group since 2006.

Technical improvements in these new facilities will centre on three areas: a vast area dedicated to receiving the harvest; the fermentation cellar, allowing a more precise vinification of individual parcels in 80 stainless steel vats; and finally a large cellar, capable of accommodating two vintages at once, hence increasing the duration of wine maturation. Work is expected to last two and a half years.

The project will bring its fair share of innovation, while respecting Lynch-Bages’ history. Gravity flow winemaking will be a key process in the new facilities, as a nod to the estate’s historic fermentation cellar designed by Skawinski in the 19th century, which will also have its proper place amidst the future buildings.

Chien Chung Pei

Chien Chung Pei was the obvious choice when it came to appointing an architect. "First, because he’s had ties with my family for years. He met my father for the first time in 1986 when working with his own, Ieoh Ming Pei, on the Louvre pyramid project in Paris. I like the idea of handing down through generations, not only in his history but also our own. He shares our philosophy of embracing the outside world, he has a dual culture and an excellent understanding of our country. He’s also a wine enthusiast, and therefore understands the technical and functional challenges such a project raises for our estate." 

Chien Chung Pei is known for his many achievements worldwide (China, Hong Kong, United States, Brazil, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, etc.), and in particular for the Guanajuato State Library in León, Mexico, the Museum of Islamic Art Park in Doha, and the Six Dynasties Museum in China.

He will work in collaboration with Atelier BPM, selected as prime contractor for the project, and an agency that has already completed numerous vineyard projects in and around Bordeaux.

An architectural feat

"Light and transparency are two strong influences that will guide the architects working on the project. “Another reason why we chose Chien Chung Pei is because we are great fans of his sleek architectural style, with its contemporary lines and perfectly sober form." says Jean-Charles Cazes

He will work in collaboration with Atelier BPM, selected as prime contractor for the project, and an agency that has already completed numerous vineyard projects in and around Bordeaux.

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6 July 2016

Opening of the promotion for the 2016 oenology diploma

Nicolas Labenne et Laëtitia Rameau encadrent nos stagiaires 2015, Angélique Michaud et Carlo Cuomo

Lynch-Bages Trainees Angélique Michaud and Carlo Cuomo, flanked by Nicolas Labenne and Laëtitia Rameau

The opening of the DNO (National Oenology Diploma) promotion took place at the Palais de la Bourse in Bordeaux on 4 July. 

The opening of the ISVV (Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences) DNO promotion was held on Monday, 4 July, at the Palais de la Bourse in Bordeaux. The event was organised by the Association des Œnologues de Bordeaux (the Bordeaux oenologist association), which comprises all the past DNO graduates from the Bordeaux college since 1957.

La promotion 2015 des Œnologues de Bordeaux au Palais de la Bourse le 4 juillet 2016

A wonderful evening attended by two 2015 Lynch-Bages trainees under technical director Nicolas Labenne: Angélique Michot, who worked for 6 months on the theme "souche de levure indigène" (indigenous yeast strain), which she tested on the Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety; and Carlo Cuomo with his study on the Lynch-Bages whites and the evolution of aging aromas and trials on fermentation temperatures and turbidity, aimed at improving typicity.

During the event, Carlo also received a special prize for his course report.

Carlo Cuomo, stagiaire 2015 au Château Lynch-Bages, reçoit un prix spécial pour son rapport de stage lors de la remise du diplôme national d’œnologue

Carlo Cuomo gets a special prize for his course report during the opening of the DNO promotion

Following in the tradition of trainees hosted at Pauillac, Angélique and Carlo came on 30 March this year to present the findings of their experiments to the team at the château. A very informative presentation outlining new avenues to explore in the years to come.

Hats off to everyone involved in the 2015 promotion of Bordeaux oenologists!