Bordeaux legend Jean Gautreau dies aged 92

The founder of much-loved Haut-Medoc estate Sociando-Mallet passed away on 1 November.

Jean Gautreau with daughter Sylvie and grandson Arthur

A charismatic and talented athlete, winemaker and negociant, Jean Gautreau was born in April 1927 in the Lesparre-Medoc commune of the Gironde, yet his family had no connection at all with winemaking.

The son of an insurance agent, Gautreau’s skill as a tennis player brought him to the semi-finals of the Roland Garros Juniors competition at the age of 18.

After his military service in Morocco, Gautreau returned to the Medoc and began working with negociant houses in Bordeaux in the late 1940s, before setting up his own business.

According to Bordeaux expert Stephen Brook, Gautreau purchased Sociando-Mallet in 1969, but had reservations over becoming a full-time winemaker.

In his book The Complete Bordeax, Brook said that Gautreau’s friends in the industry – such as Jean-Michel Cazes of Lynch-Bages – convinced him that “the frost-free soils on this croupe overlooking the estuary were likely to be of superlative quality.”

Gautreau invested heavily in Sociando-Mallet. He renovating the winery, built a barrel cellar and acquired even more land, turning it from a five hectare property to the 83-hectare estate it is today.

Now, the sprawling business produces nearly 450,000 bottles a year of both Chateau Sociando-Mallet and its second wine, Demoiselle de Sociando-Mallet.

It remains one of the most highly regarded properties in the Haut-Medoc, routinely described as “of classified growth quality.”

On the eve of his 90th birthday, Jean Gautreau passed the winery on to his daughter, Sylvie, born in 1967.

The only child of Jean and Colette Gautreau, she now manages Sociando-Mallet and will continue Jean Gautreau’s passionate commitment to excellence and uncompromising quality.

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