L’Eglise Clinet owner and winemaker Denis Durantou dies

Denis Durantou, the highly respected owner and winemaker at Right Bank Bordeaux estate L’Eglise Clinet in Pomerol, has died aged 62.

Denis Dutantou photographed by Colin Hampden-White

According to Bordeaux-based writer Jane Anson, Durantou passed away late last week after a long illness.

“Denis Durantou was one of the rare owners in Bordeaux who also made the wine and walked the vineyards every day. He felt very strongly that wine should be a reflection of the land that it came from, and could be searingly honest in his opinion of producers who fell short of that ideal.

“I feel genuinely gutted not to be able to taste a new Durantou wine again after this 2019 vintage,” Anson told db.

Durantou at his estate in Pomerol. Photo c/o Colin Hampden-White

Born in 1957, after studying winemaking at the University of Bordeaux, Durantou took over his 4.5-hectare Pomerol-based family estate in 1983.

With vines averaging 40 years old, the estate is planted with 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc on a combination of gravel and clay soils. The château is named after an ancient Roman church of which now little remains.

In addition to Eglise Clinet, which produces around 1,000 cases a year, Durantou also owned and ran Château Les Cruzelles in Lalande de Pomerol, Saintayme in St Emilion and Montlandrie in Castillon.

“Under Denis, L’Eglise Clinet rose from obscurity to become one of Pomerol’s – and indeed Bordeaux’s – greatest wines. His passion for and his understanding of his terroir and meticulous attention to detail of every aspect of the winemaking process were the keys to his success,” said Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners.

The property gained cult status and worldwide acclaim following a perfect 100 point score for the 2005 vintage from Robert Parker. Browett describes the 2010 vintage as “truly sublime”.

“As Eglise Clinet is unassuming and humble but of exceptional quality, so was Denis, who was shy by nature but a deep thinker with an impish smile. The highlight of the Farr Vintners annual en primeur trip was our appointment with Denis, where the tasting of his wines was followed by a glass of Champagne and foie gras sandwiches,” Browett recalled.

Wine writer and artist David Eley describes Durantou as “a winemakers’ winemaker”. “He was a singular man of forthright opinions and great integrity whose wines articulately express the soil on which his modest Pomerol château stands.

“His thoughts were conveyed clearly and with enormous passion. He made wines for the long haul with no half measures. If one ever needed a definition of ‘a man of the soil’ it would be Denis Durantou,” Eley said.

Tom Parker, the UK’s youngest Master of Wine, fondly remembers a trip to the estate in 2011 to taste the 2010 vintage en primeur.

“I first met Denis when I was still at Oxford and snuck a few days away when I should have been studying for finals to taste Eglise Clinet 2010 en primeur. It remains to this day one of the greatest wines I have ever tasted,” he said.

Wine writer Andrew Jefford meanwhile, praised his unassuming nature. “Durantou was the perfect example of what Bordeaux should be: unpretentious, unvarnished and unfettered, offering a range which provides great value even to those who couldn’t think about buying the top wine.

“He was a winegrower in the classic sense, from pruning to bottling. I suppose he must have owned a suit, but I never saw him in one,” he said.

Durantou is survived by his artist wife, Marie Reilhac, whose work hangs at Eglise Clinet, and their three daughters, Alix, Noemie and Constance.

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