The Proust Q&A: Denis Dubourdieu

A winemaker and professor of oenology at the University of Bordeaux, Denis Dubourdieu specialises in white wine consultancy and has played a pivotal role in improving the quality of Bordeaux’s white wines. He is co-manager at several Bordeaux properties, including Château Doisy Daëne, Château Reynon, Château Cantegril and Clos Floridène. Among the clients he consults for are Château d’Yquem, Château Cheval Blanc, Bodegas Chivite and 4G Wines in South Africa. He lives in Bordeaux with his wife Florence. His two sons, Jean-Jacques and Fabrice, help to run the family domaines.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

An early-morning ride up to the forest on a well-trained horse, the sensations that it procures of lightness, equilibrium and power evokes the delight of a very good wine.

What is your greatest fear? 

Fanatics and hypocrites.

Who do you most admire?

It’s hard to choose, there are so many people. I’d say my 90-year-old father for his intelligence and his courage, and James Dewey Watson for his discovery of the structure of DNA.

What is your greatest extravagance?

L’Extravagant de Doisy-Daëne.

What is your current state of mind? 

Enthusiasm for my ongoing projects.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? 

Charm of course, but above all generosity and a good sense of humour.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Only the result counts” to convince those who hesitate, even if I don’t believe that myself.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

That’s an easy one: the great white wines.

When and where were you happiest?

At the age of 20 in Biarritz on the day I won my first national competition on Caracol, a four-year-old horse that was born at home in Cantegril. Towards the end of the round there were two obstacles left and I knew I was in the lead, and that’s what pushed me to win.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To be able to play a musical instrument.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to know how to stay calm and composed.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

From a hands-on point of view Clos Floridene, and academically speaking the discovery of the aroma of Sauvignon Blanc.

Where would you most like to live?

Not always in the same place, but the Mediterranean climates have my preference. I like the wines of the north and the light of the south, particularly that of Provence and Italy.

What is your most treasured possession?

Being alive and aware.

What is your most marked characteristic?

My freedom and independence of action.

Who are your favourite writers?

It’s eclectic: Homer (he invented everything but maybe never existed), Montaigne, Stendhal, Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas, Balzac, Giono, Pagnol, Albert Cohen, Tolstoi, Bulgakov, Lampedusa, Garcia Marquez, Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, Jack London and Jim Harrison.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Angelo Pardi in The Horseman on the Roof by Giono.

What is it that you most dislike?


What is your greatest regret?

To have only one life, and such a short one at that.

What is your motto?

Understand in order to act.

Who would be your ideal dinner party guests and what wines would you serve them?

French novelists Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette and Alexandre Dumas, and Winston Churchill, all three of whom I imagine to be gourmets and wine lovers. I would serve them a 1996 Clos Floridene white, with its marvellous hints of truffles, a 1929 Château Gruaud Larose, which is still black and velvety at such a ripe old age, and finally a 1945 Doisy-Daëne, the glorious wine of victory.

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