Friday, 1 August 2014

The Lurton Family, from Bordeaux to Chile

I had come across a few Lurtons in the past few years but had never really linked them together until I received an invitation to the Lurton Family Tasting prior to Vinexpo.

The Lurton family has its root in Bordeaux. The Recapet family started planting vines back in 1650 and great grandfather, Léonce Recapet, started buying estates in 1897, nurturing them back to health after the devastating phylloxera epidemic of 1890 that destroyed so many vineyards. He was even a joint owner of Chateau Margaux at one stage. His daughter married François Lurton who continued to manage the family estates. They had four children, André, Lucien, Simone and Domnique, who each inherited a domaine and carried on to expand the businesses. There are 24 children in the fourth generation.

With 13 of them involve in winemaking, Lurton is the largest family group in the wine industry. Together they own 27 estates with some 1,300 ha of vineyards all over the world. While each member has his own individual business and vineyards, some of them considerable successes in their own right, the name Lurton nonetheless still unites them. In 2009, the Lurton cousins decided to join force and set up the Lurton Wine Group, aiming to promote all the Lurton wines—a brilliant marketing idea in my opinion.

Eight of the 13 members were at the tasting, and we tasted 44 wines from 22 estates, stretching from Spain and Southern France to Australia, Chile and Argentina, with the majority (30) coming from Bordeaux. While the wines all have different styles, they have one thing in common: a respect for the terroir, doubtless a trait inherited from their great grandfather.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the family members and their wines:

Bérénice Lurton, Château Climens, 1st Grand Cru Classé 1855:
I first met Bérénice in 2012 at her estate and I was impressed by her passion. The market share of sweet wine is in decline because of consumers’ preference for less sweet wines. In response to the market, Bérénice developed a second label, Cyprès de Climens, a lighter and more playful style targeting the younger generation that can be served as an aperitif. She recently converted the vineyards to biodynamic farming to make a more elegant wine.

Jacques Lurton, The Islander Estate, Kangaroo Island, Australia:
Jacques was the first Lurton to venture outside Bordeaux, which he did in 1985. After trotting the globe as a flying winemaker for some ten years, he established The Islander Estate in Kangaroo Island in 2000, a maritime-climate site with air from the Antarctic cooling the vines in summer. He is particularly proud of The Investigator, made with 100% Cabernet Franc—a wine that combines the ripeness of Australia and the elegance of France, and I agree. It’s a shame that my one visit to Kangaroo Island happened a few years before Jacques founded the estate.

François Lurton, Domaines François Lurton, from Spain and Southern France to Argentina and Chile:
François is the most international Lurton member, with vineyards in four countries. He actually started off in South America before returning to set up vineyards in Spain then finally France. His philosophy is to preserve the freshness and purity of the fruit, producing wine as natural as possible (biodynamic in South America and minimum chemicals in Europe). I particularly like his Argentinian wine, the Gran Lurton Blanc 2012 from Tokay and Chardonnay grapes with an intense yet elegant palate, and the Piedra Negra Gran Malbec 2009—one of the few Malbecs with such elegance.

Pierre Lurton, Château Marjosse:
Most of us know Pierre because of his role in Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem, but it is Château Marjosse where he feels at home. This is his back garden where he shares wine with friends and family. Pierre has no intention to make a Cheval Blanc here, but rather an unpretentious, good quality wine to be enjoyed with friends. I love his Entre-Deux-Mers white 2012 with its fresh citrus and minerality (it is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Gris), and I can imagine enjoying the wine with friends on a lazy afternoon. This again proves my point that good quality wine doesn’t need to break the bank! By the way, Pierre is also consulting to Morgenster in South Africa, another outstanding wine from a beautiful terrior.

Other Lurton members present at the tasting:
Thierry Lurton, Château de Camarsac
Christine Lurton, Vignobles André Lurton
Henri Lurton, Château Brane Cantenac, 2nd Grand Cru Classé 1855
Denis Lurton, Château Desmirail, 3rd Grand Cru Calssé 1855
Sophie Lurton, Château Bouscaut, Cru Classés des Graves

Other wines presented at the tasting:
Marc Lurton, Château Reynier
Marie-Laure Lurton, Vignobles Marie-Laure Lurton
Gonzague Lurton, Château Durfort Vivens, 2nd Grand Cru Classé 1855

I hope the next generation of the Lurton family, now coming of winemaking age, will continue the fine traditions of their parents and expand the Lurton family horizons to yet more parts of the world.

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