After a career spanning more than 70 vintages, Bordeaux winemaking icon André Lurton has died. He was 94.
Lurton and his siblings Lucien, Simone and Dominique, together with their many children, created one of the largest wine dynasties in Bordeaux. Today the family owns more than two dozen estates.
"André Lurton was a force—a physical force, a force of character, and an innovator," said Jean-Christophe Calvet, president of Aquitaine Wine Company. "He was strong-minded and ready to battle for an idea. It was because of him that they created the appellation of Pessac-Léognan. It was his incredible initiative to identify the best vineyards of the Graves. He was an ambassador for Bordeaux."
André owned 1,480 acres of vineyards and ten châteaus. His wine company produced 4 million bottles a year, focusing on delivering affordable crowd pleasers. Always keen to build and innovate, Lurton was the first Bordeaux producer to sell a cru classé—Château Couhins-Lurton—with a screwcap. In recent vintages, he yielded to pressure from French buyers to use corks at Couhins-Lurton and three other estates, but kept the screwcaps for his Château Bonnet white and rosé.
Lurton was born in 1924 in Grézillac, at Château Bonnet, an Entre-Deux-Mers winery acquired by his grandfather Léonce Récapet in 1897. Récapet had a distillery in the Entre-Deux-Mers, and in the late 19th century began acquiring vineyards ravaged by phylloxera and replanting them. Decades later, Lurton would follow in his footsteps, restoring vineyards that had been abandoned or fallen into ruin.
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Lurton also had a major impact on the community. He was mayor of Grézillac for more than four decades, where he established an enology laboratory that supported the quality of winemaking in the area.
And for 23 years, he lobbied for the creation of Pessac-Léognan, finally succeeding in 1987. He was heavily invested in both Pessac-Léognan and the Entre-Deux-Mers.
Lurton inherited Bonnet in 1953, and gradually acquired other estates, including Château La Louvière (Pessac-Léognan), Château de Cruzeau (Pessac-Léognan), Château de Rochemorin (Pessac-Léognan), Château Couhins-Lurton (Pessac-Léognan) and a stake in Château de Barbe Blanche (Lussac-St-Emilion). He also had a large minority share in Margaux fifth-growth Château Dauzac, which his company managed for over 20 years, selling its stake in 2014 to the majority owner French insurer MAIF.
In 2012, Lurton created a stir when he sold an 18 percent stake in his company Les Vignobles André Lurton to Crédit Agricole Grands Crus, a subsidiary of the French bank Crédit Agricole. The remaining shares are held by his heirs.
Lurton is survived by seven children—Jacques, François, Christine, Beatrice, Denise, Edith and Odile. Jacques is a consultant, and owns Islander Estate Vineyards and Variety Club. Christine is in charge of communications for Château La Louvière and Château Couhins-Lurton. François owns Domaines François Lurton, Bodega Piedra Negra, Hacienda Araucano and Bodega El Albar. Beatrice owns Château Grossombre de Saint Joseph, and Denise owns the cooking school Two Bordelais with her husband, Jean-Pierre Moullé, the former longtime executive chef at Chez Panisse.