Name: Bruno-Eugène Borie
Winery: Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
Number of years in business: I was born and raised here at Ducru-Beaucaillou 52 years ago! 5 vintages as CEO of Ducru Beaucaillou, 23 years as CEO Lillet, 3 years as Export Manager for Peter A. Sichel in Bordeaux.
How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
In terms of management, our position as Super-Second gives us more obligations than rights:
- Quality obligation toward consumers
- Preservation obligation toward our ecosystem (terroir)
- Best effort obligation toward our commercial and financial partners
In terms of wines:
- I am hedonistic and I want my wine to deliver maximum pleasure to consumers (including myself): very refined aromas; on the palate: ripe and full, perfect balance between tannin /alcohol/acidity; great length on the finish.
- Probably more richness than in the past, but within the limit of elegance! Ducru-Beaucaillou has built its reputation on elegance and, indeed, our ambition is to make wines of perfect harmony (avoid over power / "Botoxed wines," avoid hardness/bitterness, no over-extraction).
- Top Bordeaux has been recognized for its aging capacity and indeed we want our wines to have maximum longevity, wines (like 2005) that my grandsons will be happy (and proud) to open 60 years from now!
What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy? First of all, I would like to point out that "winemaker" is a word that has no translation in French. We have "consultants," "cellar masters" and "vineyard masters," which means that we do not "make" wine as an industrial product, but view ourselves as "midwives" or "obstetricians" helping/accompanying mother nature in this extraordinary alchemy.
- One influence is wine tastings. I have been tasting wines since my childhood: Ducru-Beaucaillou of course, but as my father was a wine collector, each family event was an occasion to open glorious bottles including '61 Petrus, '67 d'Yquem, from Bordeaux but also Krug & Bollinger Champagne, DRC, Bonneau du Martray (Corton-Charlemagne) or Clos Saint Hune (Trimbach).I later opened my palate to "New World wines" spending my summer vacations as a trainee in California vineyards. I then came back to my roots in Bordeaux specifcally Château Palmer as Export Manager for Peter A. Sichel.
- Another influence is "characters." For many years, I have been close friends with Jean Hubert Delon (Léoville-Las Cases) and in the recent past I was impressed (influenced) by great wine personalities such as Christian Moueix, Alain Vauthier and Jean Luc Thunevin.
- Last and not least, I have a fully dedicated team around me with:
- internal enologist and agronomist (Virginie Sallette)
- cellar master (René Lusseau)
- vineyard master (Mathieu Courtier)
- and enologist consultant Jacques Boissenot. At this point, it is important to note that Boissenot (who succeeded Emile Peynaud and was the founder of contemporary oenology), if he is very little known by the public, is from far the most influential oenologist in Bordeaux (he consults for more than 150 top châteaux including all first growth and super seconds etc.).
How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?
- My management is very close to my team. I live at Ducru-Beaucaillou and spend most of my time there with my team. I do not travel often. I think that, even though it is important to meet consumers (and I adore sharing a glass of wine with them), it is essential to be here to take crucial decisions that could not be taken without me and that I could not analyze while travelling around the globe.
- Vineyard is key element in wine quality/character.
- We produce 100% of the grapes used to make our wines in our own vineyards.
- It seems that "terroir" is now a controversial concept for some American writers and wine producers. This is absurd! Cabernet sauvignon cannot be grown everywhere and the very same clone can reveal different characters depending on where it is grown! To take the debate to an end, just translate "terroir" to "ecosystem." Everyone will then agree!
- I am extremely proud of this plot of cabernet sauvignon, on a top slope of Ducru-Beaucaillou, facing the river that we will harvest for the first time next year ... seven years after we pulled out the previous vines. We let the ground rest for three years, planted it the fourth year with American roots and grafted it in the field on the sixth year, when the root system was well developed. The wine produced there will probably not be integrated into the "grand vin" for another 10 years.
How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that's influenced your wines? Well palate's aspirations evolve with age:
- In the early stages, I was under the influence of my father: classic top Bordeaux drunk at their perfect maturity.
- Then of course, as teenager, I wanted to express my own personality and was looking for freshness and fruitiness/young vintages.
- Later, becoming a young professional, I privileged technological prowess, looked for uncommon richness/spices/fruit/power/etc. all expressed through innovating techniques (garage wines etc.).
- Reaching maturity, I came back to reality and focused on the very elite and this is what influences me now. Thanks God for Ducru Fans!
What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?
Well, first of all, I have developed a true passion for food and am a passionate cook. I like all kinds of food and most often find within our range of wines the right one to pair the food. Depending on the season (which vegetables are available in the garden), the company (feminine or stag dinner), depending on how casual the meal (barbecue or formal, New Year's eve) ... I adapt my choice. Objective is always harmony: generally speaking, the spicier the food, the younger the wine. I prefer matured vintages in fall or winter, younger in the summer and spring.
What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?
I have been in charge of Ducru-Beaucaillou for five years now. My first decision was to record all techniques that were then conducted, investigate those that had been dropped through years, look into possible innovations and after global synthesis, define our Ducru-Beaucaillou model for the future. A lot has been done already with convincing results but we still have to work on installing this model in both vineyard and winery. In terms of varietals, it is important to know that our choice is dictated by nature and not marketing. We do not decide to plant cabernet sauvignon on plot N°XX because there is demand for "cabs," it is just because cabernet sauvignon is the most adapted on this very plot !
Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it?
Well, first of all, there are many critics around, all with their own palate and their own vision of their mission. Of course, with time their taste evolves, their palate loses discernment, their relations expand, their business flourishes, etc. I therefore think that to be reliable, we must refer to more than one or two critics. We have to take the most serious from various countries altogether, and take into consideration the global average of their scores ... and of course, we must rejuvenate the panel year after year. In proceeding like that, I then, most of the time, find myself in agreement with this average score ... and therefore don't need to adapt myself!
What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?
When drinking my neighbors' wines, I find that Bordeaux has made tremendous progresses to maintain its status of leading wine region in the world and indeed succeeded brilliantly!
Do you collect wine? If so, what's in your cellar?
I collect wines, indeed. Most of my collection is French ... partly for personal taste and also, like other European wine producing countries, we have an extremely limited supply of foreign wines. I just had yesterday evening a 1997 Chaillées de l'Enfer - Condrieu - Domaine Georges Vernay: pure liquid gold !
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today?
We have many challenges:
- The neo-prohibitionists movements around the globe.
- The scientific research in both viticulture and oenology!
- The $/Euro exchange rate!
But we also have many opportunities, including the pleasure to visit you soon!