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A Chat With J.M. Cazes

© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.


Ch. Lynch-Bages
Chateau Lynch-Bages. Photo from the winery's Website.
It was a great honor and privilege to have the company of Jean-Michel Cazes, proprietor of Chateau Lynch-Bages in Bordeaux, as special guest for a two-hour question-and-answer session in the Wine Lovers' Chatroom on Sunday, Feb. 8, 1998.

The many fine wine properties under his control include:

  • Pauillac: Château Pichon-Longueville / Château Lynch-Bages / Château Pibran
  • Saint-Estèphe: Château Les Ormes de Pez
  • Margaux: Château Cantenac-Brown
  • Graves: Villa Bel Air
  • Pomerol: Château Petit Village
  • Sauternes: Château Suduiraut
  • Portugal: Quinta do Noval
  • Hungary (Tokaj): Disznókö
M. Cazes was most generous with his time, and we appreciate it. Public thanks go also to Wine Lovers' Discussion Group members Mike Conner, for arranging for M. Cazes' visit; and to Mike and Paul Raphelian for keeping the following transcript of the chat session.

A Chat With Jean-Michel Cazes

>> jmc has joined channel #WineLoversPage
[Robin] Is this Jean-Michel Cazes who has just joined us?
[Pritam] Good evening Monsieur Cazes.
[Robin] Bienvenue, Willkommen and welcome!
[jmc] Good Afternoon everyone !!
[Mike Conner] Hello Mr. Cazes!!
[Mike Conner] Glad to see you made it back to Pauillac O.K. !
[Robin] M. Cazes, it's a great honor to have you visit us as our special guest!
[BobH] Welcome M. Cazes!
[jmc] Thank you. It's a pleasure for me.
[PaulR] Welcome and Hello Mr Cazes.
[jmc] And it works !!!
[Robin] We don't know how large a crowd to expect, so in respect of your busy time, we are planning to do this somewhat formally.
[Rock] Hello M. Cazes
[Robin] I have a list of questions that several people have submitted, and I will suggest that we begin by my giving them to you, one at a time, then waiting for your answer.
[Robin] After that, if there's time, we'll invite participants to ask further questions "live."
[jmc] Plane was on time... and the weather in France is quite good
[Robin] M. Cazes, how much time can you give us? We know you've had a busy week, and it is already late in France.
[Robin] Our Sunday chats usually last for an hour or more, but we don't want to impose on you.
[jmc] one hour and a half is fine. we'll see if there is enough interest?
[Robin] Fine! We'll agree, then, that if you are growing tired at 4:30 US Eastern, we will call a halt.
[jmc] Fine..
[Robin] Remember, everyone, this Chat software will sign you off if you don't enter a keystroke every now and then, so feel free to interrupt with a simple character like a . or , every few moments.
[Robin] Otherwise, we will try to keep this rather "formal," talking one at a time as I call on you.
[Robin] Let's begin with some questions submitted in advance.
[Robin] But first, to introduce our honored guest: Jean-Michel Cazes, who really needs no introduction, is the proprietor of Ch. Lynch-Bages in Pauillac (as well as many other famous properties).
[Robin] M. Cazes, would you like to say a few words of introduction to get us started? Then I will offer some questions.
[jmc] Well, I'm happy to be here (!!) with you, and thank you all for the interest you show about wine.
[Robin] We're very glad you're here!
[Robin] Here's the first question, then:
[Robin] Neville Russell, from New Zealand, asks: Of 1995 and 1996, which vintage of Lynch Bages do you consider superior?
[jmc] It's still early to be sure, but I think that of these two excellent vintages, 96 might prove superior in the long run
[Robin] Interesting!
[Robin] A similar question: Several other participants have also asked that you tell us what to expect from the 1995 Lynch Bages.
[jmc] But we are talking of two really fine years.
[jmc] Good wines for many years to come. don't expect me to deliver a rating !!
[Robin] It's early for that!
[MikeConner] Stylistically 1995?
[Robin] Neville Russell also asked, as did Stephen Liss, of the U.S., How do you rate the 1997 vintage?
[jmc] 1997 : you have to be more specific about regions. pomerol, St Emilion are very good, probably superior to 96.
[Robin] To clarify, I expect they were asking about Lynch-Bages specifically!
[jmc] Medoc is not as intense as 97, but a good wine. Sauternes, great wines were made in 97, the best since 1990
[jmc] OK : if I have to rank the vintages, I would do it in the following order : 96, 95, 97 (for LB)
[jmc] Prices are on the high side due to various factors
[jb] Can you elaborate on those factors?
[jmc] One is the demand, fueled by the good economy in England and the US. Others are smaller production, and new markets
[jmc] High dollar value plays a role too
[jmc] You also should remember that prices went down deeply in 91-94, and a large part of the increase is just coming back to previous levels.
[winefreak] Yes but don 't you think it might encourage winefreaks to look for other great wines elsewhere?
[jb] With all respect, which "previous levels"? It seems to me that prices for '95 and '96 Bordeaux are at an all time high.
[jmc] And take into consideration the variation in currency values. british pound is up, as is the US dollar against Deutschmark and frech franc
[jmc] All time level ?? Not for us. In our currency, the highest level is 96 all right, but the second is 89, followed by 90, and 95
[Robin] Good point! I think we in the U.S. look at our prices without realizing that people in other parts of the world see a different picture.
[Robin] Let's move back to discussing the wine (Lynch-Bages) ...
[Robin] Nick Alabaster, of Great Britain, asks if the 1995 Lynch-Bages was made with softness and accessibility in mind.
[jmc] The question is very intricate, but basically, demand and offer is the rule, and variations can and are amplified by the different actors : importers, retailers etc...
[jmc] 95 LB : not particularly
[Robin] I didn't think so!
[winefreak] As I understand it Lynch-bages and Pichon-Baron are made in the very same way - but still they are very different. The soil???
[jmc] Yes. We use the same basic techniques, the same technology, and the same people look after the two wines. and still they have a different character that comes from the vineyard.
[PaulC] Terroir?
[jmc] It's not only the soil, but also the particular growing conditions each year, the rootstock, varietal mix etc...
[Robin] Another open question, M. Cazes: One of our people had asked for a stylistic comparison of the 1995 and 1985 Lynch-Bages.
[jmc] I'm not too good at answering that (85 & 95). Year in year out, we try to do our best effort, considering the character of the vintage.
[jmc] We did not mean to make something different.
[Robin] That's fair!
[Robin] David Guimond, who is here with us today, would like to hear your opinion of the peak drinking plateau for Lynch Bages and other properties for the major vintages of the 1980s and 1990s.
[Robin] In other words, I think, how long to wait before they are at their peak.
[jmc] Questions come a little too fast, and I afraid it could be confusing
[Robin] Sorry, I'll slow down a little.
[Robin] Let me know when you are ready for another.
[jmc] Peak of vintages : Well, this is a notion which can be discussed.
[jmc] A wine changes with age. but is it better after 20 years, or just different. My opinion is that a good wine evolves with time, and it's up to the derinker to match it with the right food, and the right occasion to get the most of its quality.
[jmc] And this can occur after 3 or 4 years, or after 25 !! Wine is made to provide us with pleasure, isn'tit ?
[PaulC] well said
[AlexR] Which prompts another question: are people too slavish to what wine journalists say? Are they too powerful?
[AlexR] Which prompts another question: are people too slavish to what wine journalists say? Are they too powerful?
[jmc] And this can occur after 3 or 4 years, or after 25 !! Wine is made to provide us with pleasure, isn'tit ?
[jmc] What means slavish : acting like slaves ?
[AlexR] Yes. Like robots.
[jb] Yes, following without thinking for one's self.
[jmc] Yes, I think they are.
[jmc] And it's a pity. But I realize that people also need some guidance.
[Robin] M. Cazes, are you ready for another question? I have four more on my list, then we'll take questions from the floor.
[jmc] Yes, but I would like to say something about critics
[Robin] Go right ahead! I'll wait.
[jmc] Critics are great, They are useful to promote wine. They don't always agree with each other. Most of them are talented and honest
[jmc] But the US critics have much much more following and influence than these of other countries. It's a quite remarkable difference
[Robin] Speaking as a critic (although a very minor one, without much following or influence), I'll thank you for that. :)
[Robin] Do you have a "favorite" critic, or would you be comfortable telling us that?
[jmc] I think it is because of the American culture : if you buy a book, you want it to be on the Best sellers lis. If you go to a musical, you look for tony awards etc... The need for information and guidance is greater than in Europe
[jmc] And I am not sayioing it's better or worse : just a fact
[Robin] I think most of us would agree.
[jmc] My favorite critic is the one that speaks nicely about what we do. No, I like Bob Parker, Tanzer, the Wine Spectator guys, etc... I think they all do a good job. Richard Nalley is very good I think And many others
[Robin] An honest answer, and a diplomatic one!
[Robin] Now, here is another question:
[Robin] Russ Sprouse asks the relationship between Ch. Lynch-Bages and the Michel Lynch Bordeaux (which, as a matter of fact, I have open today ... the '94).
[Russ] And I just opened the 1995.
[Family] Soccer news MONACO 1 BORDEAUX 0 (TREZEGUET)
[jmc] Too bad for Bordeaux.!!!! Thanks Gerard
[jmc] Michel Lynch is a blend that we produce not with our own vineyards, but from wines we buy in varoious areas of Bordeaux. Lynch-Bages is an estate produced wine in Pauillac
[Robin] Now, from the UK: Tom Cannavan, of Glasgow in Scotland, who is with us today, would like to know a bit about the Cordeillan-Bages vineyard and wine-making. How would you compare it to Lynch-Bages?
[jmc] Cordeillan is a very small vineyard only 2 hectares, located next to the LB vineyards. Practically no difference in location, but the size of the two vineyards makes a difference
[jmc] Glasgow : in two weeks a great rugby game in Scotland !!!
[Robin] Thank you! Now, a question about yet another Lynch propety:
[Robin] Tom Demergian, of Madison, Wisconsin, in the U.S., would enjoy hearing M. Cazes' comments and comparison of the wines produced by Pichon-Baron in 1993, 1994, and 1995.
[jmc] The vintages are different in structure. 93 would be the lightest, followed by 94, and 95 is very fine. But I would like to say that every vintage has an interest, and its particular character corresponds to a special occasion that the wine lover has to find
[jmc] Wine cannot be put into figures. It is a subjective matter, and a very personal question for each individual.
[Robin] Returning briefly to the discussion of Cordeillan, a question from Russ: Why would the size of the vineyard make a difference?
[jmc] Size : because you get many more different lots of wine, and you can work on your final blend
[jmc] in a large vineyard of course
[jmc] A large vineyard is more flexible, and more consistent.
[Robin] Ah, very good!
[Robin] We have just one more previously submitted question. I'll ask it, then we'll go over to a moderated interactive mode in which everyone may ask questions directly.
[Robin] First, though:
[Robin] Mike Conner, of Knoxville, Tenn., in the U.S., (who just left the room, but I assume he's coming back) would like your thoughts on the practice of chateaux selling wine through negociants. Why not sell directly to the importers?
[jmc] We are small companies, and our wines must be offered in many countries. We cannot maintain a sales force that would propose our wines, and deal with customers in Alaska, Geece, Argentina, Londo, etc... Way too expensive.
[jmc] So, we rely on negociants, which have proven very effective in Bordeaux over the centuries. on top of that, I believe that making wine and selling wine are two different activities
[Robin] We hear the same response from California wineries about selling right here in the U.S.!
[jmc] Most Californian wineries don't have a world wide distribution. Those which do are very big
[Robin] Well, we have been online for only 50 minutes ... the time has flown so fast!
[Robin] That concludes all the questions submitted in advance, and I would like to thank M. Cazes again for his patience and good humor.
[Robin] Now, we still have some time for questions from the floor, but to keep things from getting chaotic ...
[Robin] I'm going to request that we use a formal procedure.
[boe] ! a question for mr. cazes. I've read comments from him about big bottles and their ageing potential. does he still think that size does not make a differnece (joke) as far as longevity
[jmc] Plenty. I uusually would remember the bottles I had with good friends, and which were an occasion for a happy moment.
[jmc] Palmer 61 is one. La Tour a Pomerol 55 another. Ausone 42 was fantastic evening. Latour 45, and most latours as a matter of fact !!
[Robin] Rock, you're next, go ahead.
[Rock] I've been enjoying the '93 Les Ormes De Pez during the chat. What is the usual blend of grapes in this wine? and if possible comment briefly on the '94 ,'95 and '96 versions.
[jmc] OP : 55 % Cab sauv, 45 % merlot
[jmc] 94 Ormes de Pez just won the Crus bourgeois competition. So, I believe it's fine. 95 is a serious wine, with plenty of life ahead.
[PaulR] Mr. Cazes, a question was asked earlier regarding the readiness of the Lynch Bages vintages in the 80's and 1990. I have had the 1990 near release and it was fabulous. I have the 86, 89, and 90 in my cellar. Are any close to being "ready" to drink??
[jmc] That's really your decision.
[BobH] Mr. Cazes, over the past few years several factors have conspired to raise wine prices faster than most other manufactored products. Do you see a reversal in that over the short term?
[PaulR] Well, what I guess I am alluding to are the "closed-down" or "dumb" phases of the wine, being of limited experience with this.
[jmc] Again, don't be shy about wine : experiment, and up your own taste; It's as respectable as anyone else's. And it belongsd to you !!!
[Robin] M. Cazes, if you're ready, go ahead and take on Bob's question about the prices and possibility for reversal.
[jmc] Prices : they will go down some day, but nobody knows when. As far as I am concerned, the later the better. Please excuse my wish. I've seen several very tough crisis in my life.
[Robin] A reasonable reply!
[Robin] Dave G, I believe you're next at the plate. Go ahead.
[dGuimond] I'm drinking the 82 Les Ormes de Pez right now. I think that I detect a bit of the brettanomyces bacteria in it. Is this common in older vintages of this wine?
[jmc] I don't know. Brettanomices, by the way, is a yeast
[jmc] Tere may be some in it, but we have no analyses of the wine. BTW, most wines contain brettanomyces, as far as I know
[Family] Soccer news!no news!!!!
[AlexR] Hello Jean-Michel. This is Alex Rychlewski. My message is going from Bordeaux to the US and back to Bordeaux again. My question is suited to this forum. Do you think the Internet will make a big difference in the way we perceive wine,and buy wine.
[jmc] Hi Alex ... Yes, I think Internet will change our way of doing things. It's too early to say, and I'm new at it, but it is fascinating
[jmc] Buying wine on the web will be easy I'm sure, at least withibn one country
[jmc] And information on wine will be easily obtainable and spread out
[Robin] Paul C, you're next.
[PaulC] Thank you Robin. M.Cazes how would you compare the '76 LB with the '76 Latour, (I have both)?
[jmc] Latour is really better. 76 LB was not a year very easy for us. It was difficult time at Lynch-Bages, for many reasons.
[jmc] 76 LB is tired, but still drinkable if you like the style. Again, it's a question of occasion
[PaulC] Thank you for your honesty
[Robin] Tom C, signing on from Glasgow, go ahead
[TomC] I realy enjoyed a superb '85 Cordeillan-Bages I drank in your fine restaurant last summer....
[TomC] Local merchant has 83 and 88 for sale - which would you buy and what would you eat with it?
[jmc] Thanks. that was the first vintage we made for Cordeillan
[TomC] sorry, meant 86 and 88
[jmc] I'd buy both, drink the 83, and save the 88 which is a very good wine for ageing
[Robin] How about the '86, then?
[jmc] OK. 86 is a vintage for the future. Certainly a great one, but it would be a pity to drink it now
[jmc] 88 is more classic. caqn be drunk, or laid down
[TomC] Thank you - am tasting the 95 L-B tomorrow - will let the group know what I think!
[Robin] I have Boe, Miguel and JB standing in line, then no more hands. Boe, go ahead!
[boe] thank s for the opportunity to chat. i remember reading a comment in the wine spectator about large format bottles. you said that did not believe a large bottles meant a longer life. why?
[jmc] Because large bottles - larger than magnums - are difficult to find good corks for, and this can have an effect on the wine.
[Robin] Would you say, then, that magnums offer a longer life than 750s?
[jmc] I have some halves of 52 LB, which are really in good shape
[jmc] Perhaps magnums, but we are not in a matter which can be measured
[jmc] I think conservation conditions, particularly temperature, are more important than size
[jmc] A cool cellar, and wines won't age quickly, a warm cellar, and you get faster evolution
[jmc] Wines age better in Scotland than in a non-airconditionned cellar in Venezuela
[mad1] Hello Mr. Cazes, Let me introduce myself first
[mad1] My name is Miguel de la Mata, I own a wine importing co in N, USA, with focus on Bordeuax
[jmc] Hello Miguel
[mad1] Of all your releases, which do you consider your best, and worst, and what is your opinion of the 1975 LB (which I am sipping now) :)
[jmc] My best at Lynch Bages, I think is 89. But I also love 82's, 85's, 86's?90's, 95's and 96's and many others
[mad1] do you consider 1996 better than 1994 for you and in general?
[jmc] My grand father and father's vintages of the 50's and 60's are excellent too. As a matter of fact, the one I love best of all is 53
[jmc] Worst vintage : 74 !! Avoid it !!!!!
[Robin] JB, you're next and last of the current list. After your question, we'll entertain one or two more, but it is getting late in France, and we've almost used up the time M. Cazes was kind enough to give us.
[jb] OK. What a great opportunity to speak with you! I?d like a few more specifics: where exactly is the demand for Bordeaux strongest? In other words, which markets do you consider responsible for maintaining the current strong prices of Bordeaux wines? And if Asia is a major factor, do you believe the current problems in Asian economies will have a significant effect on overall demand and prices ?
[jmc] Demand is strongest in the US at this time, but the US market is not consistent and may go down quickly
[jb] And what are the other strong markets, in order of importance?
[jmc] Asia is a factor, but not a major one. Activity in the US is more important. There is a lot of money around now in the country, and when Americans have money, they usually have the good habit of spending it. When times change, or if they don't like the vintage, then US sales come down sharply. Like in 92 and 93. That is what makes that market impossible to control
[jmc] I don't think the situation in Asia will have an important effect
[jmc] Another thing which is important is the new interest of big airlines for good wines, thus reducing the volumes
[mad1] Gotta run guys. It's been nice meeting you Mr. Cazes, May be I will pay your property a visit in June when I go in my buying trip to Bordeaux.
[jmc] You will have infos on visits, and there is asort of magazine section
[jmc] Visit our site at www.atinternet.fr/chateaux
[Robin] OK, I see questions from Russ, Alex, Boe and Bob H and Tom C, so let's stay in order.
[jmc] I'm fine, and enjoying it. I wish I could elaboratre more on some questions though. Let's go on until 11:00 if it's OK with you
[Robin] I can't tell you how much we appreciate your generosity.
[Robin] Russ?
[Russ] M. Cazes, I also greatly appreciate this opportunity - Thank You! My question is about corks. Have you experienced the problems\ others have? To what extent? Would you consider an artificial substitute?
[Robin] OK, I see questions from Russ, Alex, Boe and Bob H and Tom C, so let's stay in order.
[Robin] Russ?
[Russ] M. Cazes, I also greatly appreciate this opportunity - Thank You! My question is about corks. Have you experienced the problems others have? To what extent? Would you consider an artificial substitute?
[jmc] You will have infos on visits, and there is asort of magazine section
[jmc] Everybody has problems with corks, and it's a matter of concern. Yes, we probably will experiment some artificial corks. But it will takre a long time to change for good. I w probably won't see it in my lifetime.
[jmc] We've tried some plastic corks a few years ago; they were lousy. I hear ther are better ones now
[jmc] Cork problems cannot be controlled.
[jmc] Problem with corks start with the way the tree is treated or sprayed in Morocco or PortugaL Tough to know what they actually do !!*
[Russ] Is it a marketing problem?
[jmc] Not really. What is a marketing problem ? Bad corks ?
[Robin] Russ has been bounced offline, J-M., but I think he meant that some might consider plastic corks a hard thing for a great winery to sell.
[jmc] OK. Yes, and I usually say that we will change to plastic when Latour and Mouton also do. Let the big ones lead the way...
[Robin] Well, we'd better keep moving. Alex, you're next, followed by Boe, Bob, Tom, Mike and Rock. Alex?
[AlexR] My question is a little bit of a provocation. Is is about "transferal". We'll go on the assumption that Bordeaux is only Bordeaux, and no one can make ersatz Bordeaux anywhere else. However, when the market in Bx. becomes volatile, and people turn elsewhere. Where do you see your greatest competition coming from in terms of quality wines around the world?
[jmc] Competition comes from several countries : Italy, Spain, California, Chile, Australia are the most important
[boe] are there any great undiscovered regions in france or anywhere else for that matter for great wines?
[jmc] There are good wines in many places, but Bordeaux is the largest in the world for quality, and has the oldest history ( with Italy of course)
[jmc] Undiscovered, I do not think so. New regions perhaps. The last classic wine region that was re-discovered is Tokaj in Hungary
[Robin] How about Greece? An ancient tradition, now being rediscovered.
[jmc] I know very little about greek wines.
[jmc] Certainly great history though !!!
[jmc] Well, It's time to go perhaps for everyone... And
[jmc] Thak you all for an interesting experience
[dGuimond] Merci M. Cazes, au revoir!
[Robin] Well, thank you very much indeed, M. Cazes. As many have said, it's been a great honor and a priveilege to have your company tonight.
[Mike Conner] Thank you very much for your time Mr. Cazes!
[PaulC] no, thank you!
[Robin] If you ever have the chance to stop by our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, we would be happy to talk with you there.
[PaulR] Thank you very much
[Rock] thanks very much - it was very enjoyable and informative
[jmc] I hope we can meet in real life some day. You are welcome here in Pauillac any time !!!
[Rock] Hope to see you in Pauillac someday.
[AlexR] Merci, ‡a a ‚t‚ ‚patant!
[Mike Conner] Hey, Pauillac Offline!
[jmc] Thank you Robin for what you do for wine. All wine lovers aqppreciate your effort
[Russ] Thank you VERY much, M.Cazes. You are truely a gentleman.
[jmc] And you too, Mike, for thjis initiative
[PaulC] Its close for me!
[Mike Conner] No, the thanks are just for you. To take time from your schedule is wonderful!!
[TomC] thanks to all....
[jmc] Au revoir....!!
[Robin] Au 'voir!
[Pritam] Au revoir. A bientôt.
[geot] Thank you Mr. Cazes, from a lurker.

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