Wine Star: Jean-Michel Cazes

The man who transformed Château Lynch Bages gives a history lesson with his classic 2000 Bordeaux
Oct 20, 2014

“Wine is a time machine,” Jean-Michel Cazes said. “It’s the only time machine that really works.” After 30 years at the helm of Château Lynch Bages in Bordeaux, Cazes speaks from experience, and he offered a superb example with the classic 2000 vintage from the fifth-growth estate's cellar.

The Château Lynch Bages Pauillac 2000 (96 points, $110 on release), he told the Wine Experience audience, was just beginning to open up, but he expects it to thrive for another 50 years. “I won’t be around by then,” Cazes said with a hearty laugh, “but most of you won’t either.” The crowd loved it.

Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews introduced Cazes and told his story, which started with his grandfather’s purchase in 1939 of a decrepit château called Lynch Bages. It provided a paltry living for the family, so Cazes’ father ran an insurance agency, and Cazes had his first career at IBM.

Cazes took over when his grandfather died in 1972, when the Bordeaux wine business was in crisis, and he modernized and built the château into a world-class producer. In 2006, he turned the business over to his family's fourth generation, his son, Jean-Charles.

In 2007, Cazes received Wine Spectator's Distinguished Service Award. “He has been a mentor and a guide to the complex society of Bordeaux,” Matthews said. “There is a nobility that comes from aristocratic titles. And then there is a nobility that comes from hard work, loyalty and generosity of soul.”

With modest aplomb, Cazes summed up his thoughts by expanding on his time-machine metaphor. “When you drink wine, you drink history,” he said. “Like Aladdin's lamp. Pull the cork. Let the genie out.”

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