Andre Lurton, Château Bonnet

André Lurton first saw the light of day at Château Bonnet in Grézillac, in the heart of the Entre-Deux-Mers, in the middle of the grape harvest on 4 October 1924. This timing foretold the destiny of this man who would go on to devote a large part of his life to viticulture.

Andre’s education began at a private school in Branne before he was sent to Saint-Joseph de Tivoli in Bordeaux as a boarder at the age of 7, and then to another Catholic institution in Bazas run by the Bétharram Fathers. The eight years he spent there seemed like an eternity to this freedom-loving adolescent who loved nothing more than to wander around the countryside and vineyards at Bonnet.

  • The war years

When the Second World War broke out, and despite his young age, André could only think about joining the Free French forces in England or elsewhere and becoming a pilot. It was only by fighting the Nazis in the French Forces of the Interior (“Groupe Roland”), that he was able to bide his time. When he turned 20, during the autumn of 1944, he and a few friends succeeded in meeting up with the 1st French Army, commanded by General de Lattre de Tassigny,  in the Boucle du Doubs in eastern France. He was commissioned to drive a jeep for the Support Company of the 2nd Bataillion of the 6th Regiment of Senegalese Tirailleurs (later to become the 6th French Colonial Infantry Regiment). He took part in all the First Army military operations: the liberation of Alsace and the rest of France, the “Colmar Pocket” containment operation in harsh winter conditions in 1945 and a long campaign in Germany until the armistice was signed. He was decorated with the Croix de Guerre for his courage under fire…

André Lurton has never forgot this period of his life and is always ready to talk about the long battles, his friendships during these difficult, dangerous times, and many other memories…

  • Back to the earth…

At the age of 21, after a year and a half in the army, André Lurton returned to the family vineyards to help his father François Lurton, who had managed Château Bonnet since the death of his father-in-law, Léonce Récapet, in 1942. André Lurton owes his love of viticulture and much of his expertise to his grandfather, Léonce, whose winegrowing career began in 1897.

Several years later, in 1953, when his youngest brother Dominique reached the age of 18, the family vineyard holdings were divided among the four Lurton children.  André, the oldest, naturally inherited Château Bonnet. From then on he developed a true passion for winemaking. He battles were now focused on defending the world of agriculture in general and Bordeaux winegrowers in particular. He threw himself wholeheartedly into working on behalf many organizations to protect local terroirs and promote viticulture.

Alongside these activities, André Lurton spent the rest of his available time bringing Château Bonnet up to its full potential and expanding the vineyards. He replanted most of the vines after the killing frost of 1956. Once Château Bonnet was up to his standards, he began looking for new terroirs in the Graves, Saint-Emilion and elsewhere.

Jean-Michel Cazes, Chateau Lynch-Bages

After studying engineering at the École nationale supérieure des mines in Paris and then earning a graduate degree in sedimentary geology at the University of Texas, on finishing his military service, Jean-Michel Cazes decided to make a radical career change. He joined IBM in 1962 and for over ten years worked in implementing the first computer systems in large businesses and French institutions.

But one day in 1971, his father André opened up about his difficulties in juggling his work in the insurance industry, as mayor and as winemaker and in order to lighten his load, raised the possibility of selling the family vineyards. After careful consideration, Jean-Michel Cazes moved to Pauillac in July 1973 with his wife and their four children. The insurance Agency then provided the largest part of the family’s financial resources. But it was in the field of viticulture where he would find something on which to leverage his engineering knowledge and his visionary experience. He set about modernising and developing Lynch-Bages and Ormes de Pez.

In the early 1980s, the return of a fair degree of prosperity allowed him to continue the expansion of family properties and fulfil their technical transformation. Approached by AXA in 1987, which was looking to make investments in the vineyards of Bordeaux, Cazes worked for them thenceforward up to 2001 in the building of AXA Millésimes, which he ran for 14 years and would include the Château Pichon-Longueville, Cantenac-Brown, Petit Village and Suduiraut and large vineyards abroad in Hungary and Portugal.

Wishing to expand the family wine-making company, beginning in 1988, Jean-Michel Cazes set about making new acquisitions: Villa Bel-Air in the Graves appellation, then a property in La Livinière in Languedoc, renamed L’Ostal Cazes, and in 2005, Domaine des Sénéchaux in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He also created new wines in Portugal and Australia, in partnership with family-owned companies. In 1992, the wine brand “Michel Lynch”, a sophisticated blend of wines from several Bordeaux appellations filled out the range. In 2001, he created a new company, J. M. Cazes Sélection, whose mission is to offer a superb collection of terroir-driven wines from some of the most exciting viticultural areas in France, Portugal and Australia.

This taste for wine and for excellence helped him to define and develop a fine sense for the art of living. Beginning in the late 1980s, he has come to a veritable philosophy of life with complementary projects. First, the “Relais and Châteaux” Cordeillan-Bages, where the talented chef Jean-Luc Rocha, winner of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, composes a typical contemporary French cuisine. Added to this was a cookery school and a wine school, L’Ecole du Bordeaux. Finally, since 2003, he has dedicated himself to reviving the village of Bages, homeland of Lynch-Bages in the Pauillac commune. Bages, a village of gourmet delights and wine, became a veritable tourist attraction in the Médoc with businesses and institutions of excellence, all devoted to the joys and arts of the table and of wines, where tourists and the local actors in the local life of the vineyard meet.

President of the Union of Winegrowers of Pauillac, Jean-Michel Cazes is also director of the Conseil des Vins du Médoc and Vice Grand Maître of the Commanderie du Bontemps, an organisation near and dear to his heart, which he chaired for many years up till 2008.

Jean-Michel Cazes makes numerous trips to France and abroad during which he always tries to promote the image of Bordeaux wine and of the entire region. His patient and efficient activities in this area on the long run, have merited his consideration tod as one of the great ambassadors of the world of wine.

Paul Pontallier, Chateau Margaux

In 1975, Paul Pontallier attended the Grignon National Agronomic Institute of Paris, before specialising in Wine Growing and Oenology at Montpellier. In 1978, he returned to Bordeaux – his home town – to study at the prestigious Talence Institute of Oenology. He prepared a thesis on the ageing conditions of red wine in barrels and he obtained his doctorate in 1981.

A few months later, Paul Pontallier left for Chile to complete his military service. He taught oenology for eighteen months at the Catholic University of Santiago. It was on his return to France, in 1983, that he joined Corinne Mentzelopoulos’s team. He was appointed Managing Director in 1990 when Philippe Barré retired.

Susan & Peter Close, Camplazens

Susan & Peter Close, a couple from the North of England, have always had a passion for good food and fine wine.
After bringing up their family, they decided to follow their life long dream of owning a vineyard and embraced the challenge of producing quality wines at Chateau Camplazens.
They believe in differentiation through excellence and their commercial strategy has now achieved a client base which exceeds 100 suppliers of good wines in 26 countries.

Jean-Charles Cazes, L’Ostal Cazes

Born in Bordeaux, Jean-Charles Cazes grew up in Pauillac in the heart of the family vineyards. While studying economics and finance at the University of Bordeaux, he spent many summers working in the vineyard or in the wine storehouses of Château Lynch-Bages.

After several banking internships in Paris and New York, he began his professional career in Brazil, where he worked for two years as a finance controller at Valeo in Sao Paulo.

Attracted in turn by the world of wine, of which he is passionate, he returned to France in 2001 and joined the wine distribution company J.M Cazes-Sélection. As a business manager for J.M Cazes Sélection, he dealt especially with Scandinavia, Great Britain and the United States. Meanwhile, he topped up his knowledge of wine by studying at the Bordeaux University of Oenology and finishing the Diplôme Universitaire d’Aptitude à la Dégustation in 2005.

Since 2006, taking over from his father, Jean-Michel Cazes, he has been in charge of all the family vineyards, in France and abroad.

Catherine Wallace, Chateau de Combebelle

Catherine has had a long held dream of one day becoming a Master of Wine and owning her own vineyard in France when at the tender age of 8 or 9 years old she read part of Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine and fell in love with the idea of wine, travel and more! Soon after this, with the help of her parents, she started to find out more about a career in the wine trade and had her first “interview” with Tim Ferguson at Lay & Wheeler when she was 14 hoping to get a job with them over the busy Christmas period! Alas, the UK law would not allow someone under the age of 18 to work in the drinks industry! However, this did not deter her and when she reached 17 she found a summer job at Brandeston Vineyards in Suffolk. Much to her teacher’s horror she had no intention of following her class-mates to university but instead embarked on a 2 year training period working on vineyards in France and Germany immediately following school.

Catherine attended and passed the Wine & Spirit Education Trust exams up to and including Diploma and then embarked on the Master of Wine course. She is still working on this but hopes to finally achieve success in 2010! Catherine is keen to become actively involved in the Master of Wine Education Programme and hoping to encourage more French participation & success in the future.

Catherine has spent more than 20 years in the wine trade working in France, Germany, Holland (Résidence Wijnimport & Wijnkoperij De Gouden Ton) and UK where she worked for Majestic Wine Warehouses Ltd, La Vigneronne (now Handford Wines), Adnams and Lay & Wheeler.