Meet Some of the Sons and Daughters: Jean-Michel & Jean-Charles Cazes - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Meet Some of the Sons and Daughters: Jean-Michel & Jean-Charles Cazes

Jasmine Hirsch never believed she’d end up working with her father, David, at Hirsch Vineyards on Sonoma’s remote far coast. Olivier Berrouet didn’t have a second thought when he was offered the job his father, Jean-Claude, had held for more than forty years—making the wine at Château Pétrus in Bordeaux. Working with—or separately from—a famous father may not be the simplest career path—but the sons and daughters in the pages that follow have worked it out brilliantly.

Jean-Michel Cazes is the owner of Château Lynch-Bages and, perhaps, the greatest ambassador for Bordeaux in his generation. He’s a man with many qualities—charm, intelligence, energy, creativity and a forward-thinking mindset, but absent from that list is the art of delegation. Which is why being his son and heir may not be as easy as it seems. Jean-Charles Cazes knows he has a tough act to follow. Born in 1974, Jean-Charles was the youngest of four children and the only boy, so the weight of expectations could have been heavy on his shoulders. Perhaps it was for this reason that he took his time settling down in Pauillac. His studies in economics and finance led to internships in New York and Paris, a stint working in Brazil in the automobile industry and lots of travel. He returned to Bordeaux in 2002, passed a tasting diploma at the University of Bordeaux’s Institute of Oenology and then started at the family company, working his way up in sales positions until he took over the management of all the family’s sales and production companies in November of 2006.

“The transition from my father to me happened very easily,” he says. “Everyone thought that Jean-Michel would have difficulty retiring, but when the decision was made, my father immediately stepped aside. Getting on as well as we do makes everything so much easier, and we still confer on the important decisions, such as pricing.”

While Jean-Michel may be retired, he is far from inactive. Over the last decade, he has worked to resurrect the hamlet of Bages—where derelict stone buildings once housed a workers community neighboring the château. Now a destination in Pauillac, the restored buildings are home to a local bistro, a delicious bakery (Jean-Michel’s grandfather was the baker in town), a butcher and a gift shop stocked by Jean-Michel’s daughter, Kinou.

Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Jean-Charles has plenty to keep him busy: a new winery to build at Lynch-Bages (more about winemaking than architecture he insists); a new wine project in the Douro Valley, Xisto; a generic third wine, Pauillac de Lynch-Bages; Château Les Ormes de Pez in St-Estèphe; Domaine des Sénéchaux in Châteauneuf-du-Pape; L’Ostal Cazes in Minervois; Tapanappa in Australia; and the wine merchant business, J.M. Cazes Sélection. Named after his great-grandfather who purchased Lynch-Bages in 1938, Jean-Charles is as much a people person as his father. “I love meeting the interesting people who are involved in the wine business,” he says. “That’s great and very motivating. But there are not enough hours in the day to achieve all I want to. I’ve had to learn patience—and that’s not easy to learn…”

96 ‘05 Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac $150 (10/08)
95 ‘06 Château Lynch-Bages Bordeaux Blanc $65 (12/09)
90 ‘06 Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac Grand Cru Classe (12/09)

This story was featured in W&S Fall 2011.

In addition to writing about wine, Master of Wine Fiona Morrison manages the Thienpont family’s négociant business in Etikhove, Belgium and, with her husband, Jacques, manages their three Bordeaux estates—Le Pin in Pomerol, L’If in St-Emilion and L’Hêtre in Castillon.

This story appears in the print issue of fal 2011.
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