Culture of omertà still exists in Bordeaux
Bordeaux still operates under a culture of omertà, according to one of the region’s most respected producers.
Speaking at a dinner in London organised by Bordeaux specialist merchant EFWines, Jean-Michel Laporte, director of Château La Conseillante in Pomerol, told the drinks business: “There are winemakers who are real liars in the region that haven’t been outed or caught because a culture of omertà still exists in Bordeaux.
“Producers live and work by a code of silence. When you scratch below the surface, Bordeaux is a very unprofessional region in the way it does business.”
Despite the prevailing code of silence, Laporte believes there is little room in the region for extreme manipulation.
“A few producers were guilty of keeping their best barrels for samples while the majority tasted completely different, but the négociants caught onto it and stopped buying their wine,” he told db.
However, barrel manipulation is still very much alive in the region.
Last month, Yann Bouscasse of Château Cantinot admitted that he offers different en primeur barrel samples to different journalists, with US critics James Suckling and Robert Parker getting new barrels while the Revue du Vin de France gets a sample from a second or third use barrel.
Meanwhile, prominent consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt admitted that the samples he prepares for primeurs week are different to the final wines that will be bottled.
Derenoncourt, whose clients include châteaux Talbot, Smith Haut Lafitte and Clos Fourtet, told French newspaper Le Monde: “We remove a bit of each distinct parcel and put them straight into barrel after the running off so that the marriage between the wines and the wood may happen more naturally than if we were to put the wines through that at a later date.”
Laporte is surprised at the admission: “For a consultant of such importance to admit that, he’s put himself in a tricky position – he’s shot himself in the foot,” he said.
“If you’re not confident about your wines at an early stage then you shouldn’t be showing them en primeur – it’s as simple as that,” he added.
As for La Conseillante, the only difference to the château’s en primeur samples and what ends up in the bottle is the percentage of pressed wines in the blend.
“Pressed wines are extracted, powerful and astringent when they’re first made so we don’t add them to our en primeur samples as they need time to soften in barrel.
“We don’t use any pressed wine in our en primeur samples, but around 5-6% will end up in the final blend,” he said.
Laporte admitted that it would be sensible to hold the en primeur tastings a year later than they currently take place, but that it would be difficult to do so as many of the châteaux rely on the money that selling en primeur provides them.