One of France's greatest wine treasures lies off a dead-end road on a wind-swept strip of Mediterranean coastline.
Here, Blaise Genna, 60, sporting a white handlebar mustache direct from central vigneron casting, greets wine pilgrims (scientists, viticulturists and other professionals) who come for the world's greatest collection of vine stock: 2,600 separate grape varieties—7,500 genotypes—from 50 countries.
And like any wine lover should be, I am concerned about the tentative future of the collection, caught in a lease dispute after 65 years at this site.
Ten years ago, when the board of Château d'Yquem fired him, president and former owner Count Alexandre de Lur Saluces was expected to fade into the Sauternes sunset.
Instead, Lur Saluces picked himself up off the mat. The 80-year-old aristocrat continues making great Sauternes a few miles away at his Château de Fargues. Here, since 2005, he has produced seven wines in the outstanding range or better by Wine Spectator. The most recently released, 2009 (97 points), sold for $170.
Not bad for a man who doesn't even consider himself a winemaker.