Words on Wine with Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu
He very kindly answered our questions, despite the recent death of his beloved father Denis Dubourdieu – a winemaker renowned for his innovation of white wine production in Bordeaux and who was described by Decanter as: “the world’s most famous scientist”. Jean Jacques, along with his brother Fabrice, followed in his father’s footsteps into the family business. He is now responsible for distribution and promotion of their estates’ wines, although depending on the time of year his job also entails winemaking and production!
Besides growing up in a family that has been making wine for four generations, we wanted to know what prompted him personally to work with wine? He tells us that when he was 7 or 8 years old he tasted a drop of Sauternes for the first time with his grandfather, Pierre Dubourdieu – an experience he describes as “unforgettable”. Growing up in Château Reynon (one of the brand’s châteaux) also had a big impact on him: “I did my first vinification at just 12 years old – the estate was like a playground for me! I have wonderful memories. The question was always about how to know more, not about doing anything else.” His father sent him to boarding school as a child, which although he knew it was necessary for his education, made him feel “terribly” sad as it meant moving away from the château. It’s clear that this only gave him more determination to work in the family’s wineries. His relationship with his father was also an important aspect in his decision to work with wine, as he explains: “I had a very close relationship with my father” he says, “so working with him was a dream. He always let me have the choice, but much more than that, he let me be free, which made me want to come back and work with him even more.”
After his boarding school education, Jean Jacques achieved a DUAD ISVV – diploma in tasting from ISVV (the institute of vines and wine at Bordeaux university) before embarking on a Masters Degree from Kedge (Bordeaux Business School) and a Masters Degree from Bordeaux University of Economy (Montesquieu Bordeaux IV). He then spent some years abroad in Spain, New York and Paris before starting his career at Denis Dubourdieu Domaines in 2006.
The property produces a little more than 50% red wines, but it’s the whites that have given the Dubourdieu brand its reputation. The winery makes more than the average Bordeaux estate. “We are lucky to own a vineyard in a large limestone area” Jean Jacques explains, “it helps to make fresher wines with higher acidity and lower PH. It’s a part of the Dubourdieu style.” But despite the boost the Dubourdieu family have given whites in the Bordeaux region, they are still somewhat under the radar outside Bordeaux, especially in the UK. So what measures does he take to spread the word? “I spend a lot of time trying to educate consumers in France and abroad during tastings and winemaker dinners. The most efficient way is to also train the sales force as they are the best ambassadors.” His family are also welcoming more and more people to the estate: “we really believe in the experience”, he emphasizes.
From the start of his professional life, up until his father’s death – he has been very happy. “Now I have to face Denis’s death…I will survive, I will run the family Domaines like before, but I’m terribly sad. I lost more than a father…Denis was a brother, a friend, a teacher. I can’t put this relationship into words, but I know I will miss it a lot…” We cannot begin to imagine what it feels like to loose a father as well as a mentor, but if Jean Jacques is anything like his father and his clear enthusiasm for Bordeaux wine and his family’s wineries suggests he is, we’re confident that he will only enforce his father’s legacy and put his own stamp on the properties.
Jean-Jacques’s suggested summer food and wine pairing:
Château Reynon White (100 % sauvignon blanc) paired with BBQ’d prawns.
Find a wine in our Everyday Bordeaux Selection 2016.