As winemaker for two of the world’s most iconic, sought-after wines (both Château d’Yquem and Château Cheval Blanc), Pierre Lurton is a big deal in the wine world. Collectors and enthusiasts spend thousands of dollars on his wines, while critics scrutinize (and ultimately praise) his efforts each year. His resume, packed with impressive achievements, leads me to wonder if he actually sleeps. At 23, he took over the management of Clos Fourtet, the Saint-Emilion First Classified Growth, which belonged to the Lurton family. Years later he was appointed President of Cheval Blanc, the First Classified Growth of Saint Emilion, and then Château d’Yquem, another First Growth wine. He is also President of Cheval des Andes and advises at some vineyards in South Africa, New Zealand and California. Finally, he has set up and developed his own vineyard, Château Marjosse, in the Entre Deux Mers, whose wines are also attracting critical acclaim.
Knowing that Lurton has a “nose” for wine, I asked him to show me some of his personal favorites while at the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience. Of course many of them were French, but Lurton has an open-mind on wine, always looking for the twin qualities of freshness and fruitiness combined with the ability to “voyager les temps”—a very French way of saying, “age nicely over time.”
You can imagine the hub-bub that ensued when Lurton began to make the rounds—I felt a bit like I was walking the red carpet with Martin Scorsese. Often trapped in a crush of glad-handing and French-styled cheek kisses, I had to hustle to keep up with the steady stream of Franglais between Lurton and his global colleagues. Indeed, he knows wines and winemakers all across the globe. Below are the highlights of our tour–but note, we simply couldn’t visit every wine Pierre wanted to taste; he kept getting waylaid by fans, colleagues and conversation—and isn’t that really what wine is all about?
WWPT—What Would Pierre Taste?
2007 Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Unico—Pablo Álvarez Mezquiriz (owner and CEO) and Pierre are clearly simpatico. Lurton explains how he and Pablo have a very similar winemaking style. “We both seek fruity freshness. We have great symmetry.” No surprise that this wine shows deep rich layers of fruit and a floral, delightful freshness at the finish. ($450)
2010 Château Figeac St. Emilion—Lurton refers to winemaker Frederic Faye and the Figeac team as: “My very famous neighbors.” Much like Lurton’s legendary Cheval Blanc, Figeac shows structure, refinement and dense complexity for long term aging. ($300)
2005 Château Montrose St. Estephe—Lurton led me to this winery at the start of our tour and the palate of tart cherry, anise and blackberry notes ended up being my favorite of the evening. ($130)
2011 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia—Another Italian favorite for Lurton and my second favorite of the evening; fresh, savory, elegant and fruity, a wine of beautiful balance and proportion. ($235)
2012 Domaine Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers—Lurton again praised this Pinot Noir for its fresh finish and ripe berry flavors. I loved the silky texture and notes of violets. ($153)
2012 Château Valandraud St. Emilion—Introducing me to owner Jean-Luc Thunevin, Lurton declares, “This man is a garagiste,” referring to Thunevin’s revolutionary role in Bordeaux winemaking. Lurton likes the long finish, interesting spice and rich fruit in the wine. ($135)
2011 Gaja Langhe Costa Russi—Lurton and owner Angleo Gaja share some laughs (in a mixture of Italian and French) about what I cannot say, but we all agree the wine shows vibrant black cherry fruit and that signature fresh finish that Lurton seeks in a wine. ($500)
2010 Jacob’s Creek Barossa Valley Centenary Hill Shiraz—Always interested in what the other hemisphere is creating, Lurton praised this wine’s spicy, densely fruity style. ($35)
2011 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne—Lurton loved the ripe blackberry fruitiness in this wine. Also noted, spicy and wild brambly notes. ($125)
2012 DeLille D2 Columbia Valley—I directed Lurton to this winery to get his opinion on Washington State wines, which often resemble Bordeaux wines in style. He was impressed with the flavors and the freshness in the D2 wine—a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. ($49)