Tue 02 Aug 2016

Remembering Denis Dubourdieu

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Raise a glass to the memory of Denis Dubourdieu, who died on 26th July.

Many members of The Wine Society will know him as the owner of Château Reynon in Premières Côtes, Clos Floridene in Graves, Château Cantegril (the excellent source over several vintages of The Society’s Exhibition Sauternes), and, with his father, of Château Doisy-Daëne in Barsac.

The Society has been regularly following his wines for over 30 years, because they have been consistently excellent examples of red, dry and sweet white Bordeaux at prices most can afford.

Denis Dubourdieu at The Wine Society in April 2015

Denis Dubourdieu at The Wine Society in April 2015.

He first made his reputation by revolutionising the quality of white Bordeaux, but a tasting we organised in London recently of ten vintages of Château Reynon Rouge for Jancis Robinson showed the keeping quality and class of his red wines too, with his 2005 and 2010 more delicious than many classed growths.

Not so many may have known of Denis’ immense importance in raising the standards of Bordeaux wines in general and that his influence extended far beyond his home patch. He was a highly valued consultant at châteaux as varied as Haut-Bailly, Batailley, Pichon Comtesse Lalande, Giscours, Cheval Blanc and Yquem, and many others in Bordeaux.

He consulted also in Burgundy, the Rhône, the Loire, Languedoc, Italy, Spain, Greece and in Asia.

Although he first made his reputation by revolutionising the quality of white Bordeaux, Denis Dubourdieu's influence extended far beyond his home patch

Although he first made his reputation by revolutionising the quality of white Bordeaux, Denis Dubourdieu’s influence extended far beyond his home patch.

He believed passionately that a wine should express the terroir it came from, quoting Émile Peynaud: ‘A cru wine is a taste one can recognise.’ He said that a terroir is not only the soil, climate and grape varieties of a place, but the capacity of all these to give a wine a delectable and specific taste recognisable by the customer who cannot find the exact equivalent elsewhere.

Denis, the son of Jean-Pierre Dubourdieu of Doisy-Daëne, was born into wine and married Florence, the daughter of a vigneron owner of Reynon, which they made their home. Together they created, almost from scratch, Clos Floridene, a property whose vines planted on limestone have produced wines that often outperform and outlive many Pessac-Léognan crus classés.

Visits each year in spring to Reynon to taste his newly made wines were an essential pleasure.

Visits each year in spring to Reynon to taste his newly made wines were an essential pleasure.

As Professor, since 1988, at the Oenology faculty of Bordeaux University and, since 2009, director general of the Science of Vines and Wine at the university, he gave countless young vignerons and winemakers the benefits of his scientific knowledge and practical experience.

For me, as wine buyer, visits each year in spring to Reynon to taste his newly made wines were an essential pleasure, because I could not only assess his own wines, but learn from his honest, informed view of the recent vintage all over Bordeaux; both its strengths and its weaknesses.

Denis proved that, if you worked hard in the vineyard, it was always possible to make good wine. He brought an extraordinary attention to detail, needed to make good Sauternes, to the making of red and dry white too, often making several consecutive pickings to catch grapes at their optimum.

The Dubourdieu family. Left-right: Fabrice, Denis, Florence and Jean-Jacques

The Dubourdieu family. From left to right: Fabrice, Denis, Florence and Jean-Jacques.

Florence, his wife, and his trained oenologist sons Fabrice and Jean-Jacques will continue, I am sure, to make excellent wine at the properties they own, but this remarkable, modest man will be very much missed, while his legacy lives on.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

Comments

  1. Tim Appelbee says:

    Very sorry to hear this. Condolences to his family and friends.
    I have drunk M. Dubourdieu’s wines for many years with great pleasure. Chateau Reynon is that rarity – excellent claret at a comparatively modest price. I shall open a bottle and indeed ‘raise a glass to him’ as will many other Members, I am sure.

  2. David Ling says:

    A remarkable man and a huge loss to the world of fine wine.

  3. Roger Mackenzie says:

    I recommend you round out this perspective by following the several reflections on Denis Dubourdieu referenced in the Wikipedia article on him.

    An amazing man with a stack of achievements gone too soon.

  4. Pelham Hawker says:

    What he did for dry white Bordeaux really started me on the path to fine wine. I think that at least part of Floridene used to be called Chateau Montalivet which was up there with Couhins Lurton, de Fieuzal, La Louviere and other brilliant wines 25 and more years ago. How much pleasure has M Dubourdieu’s work given to so many people in his lifetime. Such a legacy and so sad to note his passing.

  5. Keith Dawson says:

    Shocking news. Like so many others, I came to dry Bordeaux through Clos Floridène [thanks to TWS] and I’ve bought a case or so every year this century. Unfailingly beautiful wine from someone who was obviously very special. I’m so grateful to him.

  6. Bruce Jelly says:

    I’m drinking the last of my Clos Floridene bought from the Wine Society and will certainly toast a great vigneron
    Bruce

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