Haut-Brion’s Jean-Bernard Delmas diesBy Lucy Shaw
Bordeaux first growth Château Haut-Brion’s former winemaker, Jean-Bernard Delmas, who more recently managed Château Montrose, has died aged 83.
Delmas worked as technical director for Haut-Brion between 1961 and 2003, overseeing Haut-Brion and the other wines in Domaine Clarence Dillon’s portfolio, including La Mission Haut-Brion, for over 40 years before moving on to manage Montrose until his retirement in 2011.
On leaving Haut-Brion, the mantle was taken up by his son Jean-Philippe Delmas, who works as deputy managing director at Domaine Clarence Dillon.
Born in 1935, Delmas was a moderniser and instrumental in introducing new winemaking techniques to Bordeaux during his long tenure at Haut-Brion, such as the early adoption of stainless steel fermentation tanks.
He also pioneered a rigorous replanting programme at Haut-Brion in the ‘70s, which included scrupulous testing of different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Haut-Brion’s chairman, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, led the tributes to Delmas, saying: “My family has never known Haut-Brion without the presence of this great man and extraordinary winemaker.
“His charm and humour marked all who were fortunate enough to meet him. His boundless curiosity and innovative spirit raised the estates and our wines to new heights.
“Jean was a mentor and a friend to so many of us at Domaine Clarence Dillon, not least his son Jean-Philippe, who worked alongside his father for 10 years, before following him in his footsteps.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones and particularly to his sons, Jean-Philippe, Frederic and their families.”
Bordeaux-based wine writer Jane Anson said Delmas was “part of Bordeaux history”, describing him as an “extremely generous man”.
Hervé Berland, CEO of Château Montrose, described Delmas as a “bon vivant”. “Many of my best memories of him are of sharing meals together. He was a great companion, a great friend, and a godfather to Montrose responsible for exceptional vintages like 2009 and 2010,” he said.
Delmas’ funeral will be held on 9 October at 10:30am in the Church of St Martin de Pessac.