Gagey's three-decade stewardship of shipper Maison Louis Jadot clinched his reputation as a successful vintner, talented winemaker and strong businessman. To many, he was "Mr. Burgundy." He represented the region at venues around the world, and as president for many years of Burgundy's leading negociant trade organization, he saw the region through turbulent times. He was widely known in the wine business as a wise, decent and fair man with a dry sense of humor.
He died at his waterfront summer estate at Lake Annecy in the foothills of the Savoie Mountains, where he enjoyed boating and indulged in waterskiing until he was forced to stop due to back problems. He had successfully undergone back surgery last year and had been in good spirits, said company officials.
Gagey is survived by his wife, Marie-Helene, three daughters, a son and 16 grandchildren. After Gagey retired, several years ago, his son, Pierre-Henry, now 43, took over as president of Jadot.
The Gagey clan was tightly knit, and every two years, Gagey and his wife invited their children and their spouses for a trip together, even bringing all the grandchildren along for the latest family gathering. The Gageys also enlarged their summer estate so the children and grandchildren could come and spend time with them during the holidays.
Gagey's paternal instincts extended beyond his immediate relatives. "To me he was like a father," said Jacques Lardiere, 50, Jadot's longtime enologist and winemaker. Gagey hired him sight unseen right after Lardiere finished enology school and then trained him in the ways of making Jadot's austere and long-lived red and white Burgundies. "In fact, he used to say, 'You know, you could be my "fiston" [son],'" Lardiere added, his voice breaking as he spoke on the telephone from his vacation spot in southern France.
Gagey may have been rooted in Burgundy, but he moved easily in international circles. He traveled widely throughout the United States presenting the wines of Maison Louis Jadot, which is owned by the same American family that owns Kobrand Corp., a New York-based firm that is the sole U.S. importer of Jadot's wines.
"He was one of my greatest friends and one of my professional mentors," said Gerard Yvernault, senior vice president of Kobrand. "He had a heart of gold."
Gagey also had the wine business in his blood, though his family did not own a domaine for him to set his sights on as a young man. He later married into some vineyards, and he and his wife acquired a small domaine. But his big break came in 1954, when Louis Auguste Jadot, a negociant who ran a small firm, asked Gagey to join him. Upon Jadot's death, in 1962, Gagey skillfully took the torch for 30 years before passing it on to his son.
"[Andre] was the force behind the development of Jadot, behind the whole thing," said Yvernault.
To learn more about Maison Louis Jadot and the Gageys, read:
Americans in Burgundy