Christine Lurton is part of a wine dynasty which owns or manages a dozen chateau and more than 800 ha of prime vineyards in and around Bordeaux. He father, Andre, now aged 84, lives and works at Chateau Bonnet in Entre Deux Mers while her brothers Jacques and Francois work around the world as ‘flying winemakers. Many of her cousins are also deeply involved in wine making. Mareie-Leure is an oenologist and manages properties in Haut Medoc, Gonzague inherited a second growth Margaux estate, Berenice produces renowned wines at Climens, Edwige is co-owner of Brane-Cantenac, which she runs with her brother Henri while Louis produces organic wines in Barsac.
Little wonder then that Christine grew up among vines and oak barrels, tasting wines with her father from a young age and participating in the critical blending process. ‘I learned a lot from my father’, she says when we meet in Dun Laoghaire during her visit to distributors Febvre and Company.
Having ‘flying winemakers’ as brothers also helps and Christine joined in expeditions to make vintages in Italy, Spain, Australia and the Americas. She was appointed manager of Premier Grand Cru Chateau Clos Foret in 1972, adding business acumen to her wine experience. Meanwhile her father Andre was building up Chateau Bonnet producing high quality wines at competitive prices. He campaigned successfully for the creation of the Graves Appellation and was the first winemaker in the area to bottle his white wines in screwcaps. Then in 1988 he was asked to take over the running of Chateau Dauzac, a Margaux estate which dates back to 1740 when it was established by the Irishman Thomas Michel Lynch. The property was in poor shape when it was bought by a French insurance company in 1988 and Andre Lurton was asked to restore it to its former glory. He invested in viticulture and new equipment at the winery and steadily the quality of the wine improved. The initial work completed Andre handed over the job of running Dauzac to Christine in June 2005 and since then the Chateau has become recognised as a ‘rising star’ in Margaux.
‘We studied the soil very carefully and switched varietals around to places where the vines would thrive’, she says.. We did a lot of work in the vineyard, growing the vines close together so that they produced small quantities of excellent fruit. We take great care at vintage time to harvest at just the right moment, often delaying the picking from one day to the next. Grapes are hand selected by the pickers and placed in small baskets so that they are not damaged in any way. In the winery we have invested in new vibrating belts which remove all the small pieces of wood or gravel from the grapes before crushing and we select each bunch of grapes individually before crushing. Our philosophy is that good wines can only be made from good grapes.’
Reviews of Dauzac wines have become increasingly positive since 2002 and the 2004 vintage was widely praised by tasters in America and the UK. As a result demand has grown and to-day 70% of production is exported. Christine also manages Chateau Labarde, a small independent vineyard in haut Medoc whose wines are vinified at Chateau Dauzac.
Christine Lurton is dedicated to producing wines of the highest quality and to further enhancing the reputation of Dauzac. She is hesitant about bottling red wines in screwcap bottles ‘because the wine needs a little oxygen’, but she is experimenting with a new type of closure which will achieve that goal. She is also a pragmatist in relation to organic farming. ‘We do what is necessary- and no more’ she says.
As a member of the Lurton clan she can share in a wealth of knowledge and experience. ‘We work independently, but of course we meet and talk together and exchange our experiences and opinions’.
Over a glass or two of Dauzac of course.