Château Lascombes pulls off ‘real coup’ with appointment of Ornellaia’s Axel Heinz
Axel Heinz, the winemaker behind Super Tuscans Ornellaia and Masseto has been announced as the new CEO of Margaux estate Château Lascombes, as part of new owner Lawrence Wine Estates bid to bring “one of the greatest wine estates… to its full potential”.
Following db’s exclusive last week announcing Heinz was stepping down from his role at Super Tuscan wine brands Ornellaia and Masseto to take on “new challenges in France”, Château Lascombes has confirmed Heinz will take up his position as CEO this summer, in time to oversee the 2023 harvest.
US wine company Lawrence Wine Estates acquired the acclaimed Bordeaux second growth estate in November for as estimated €300 million – €400 million – the largest ever financial transaction in the Médoc – vowing to invest heavily in its first European holding. The Lawrence family already own a number of Californian wineries, notably Burgess, Heitz Cellar, Ink Grade, and Stony Hill Vineyard in Napa.
In an interview at the time, Lawrence Family Wine’s managing partner Carlton McCoy described Château Lascombes as “a special place”, saying it would “spare no expense to ensure that we bring it to its full potential”, promising to focus on farming and being “more meticulous in selection of the plots for the first wine”.
“With such exceptional vineyard holdings we are confident that we can craft some of the most exceptional wines in the region,” he was reported as saying.
Following the announcement of Heinz’s appointment last week, McCoy described him as “a master of his craft” noting that “the work he has done while overseeing Ornellaia and Masseto have taken this already heralded estate to new heights”.
“I am thrilled to work with Axel to bring Château Lascombes to its full potential as one of the greatest wine estates in the world,” he added.
Major sign of intention
db’s Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay called it an “important and fascinating decision” for the Margaux property, pointing out that while Heinz is not the first to return from Ornellaia and Masseto to a leading Margaux property – he follows in the footsteps of Thomas Duroux at Château Palmer – it was a “real coup” for Chateau Lascombes, for the appellation, and for Bordeaux more generally.
“What is clear is that this is a major sign of intention from Lascombes, indicating – one might infer – that they are keen to re-establish their rightful place in the classification just below the first growths,” he said. “It also confirms in a way the rising status of the appellation of Margaux and its capacity to prove very tempting to some of the worlds’ greatest winemakers.”
“All the ingredients now seem in place at Lascombes – and they have been assembled quite quickly. We will all be following this property with even greater interest in the years to come.”
Lascombes, which was founded in the 17th century, is one of only five second growth estates in Margaux from the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, alongside Brane Cantenac, Durfort-Vivens, Rauzan-Gassies and Rauzan-Ségla.
It comprises 117 hectares, with around 84 hectares of vineyards planted with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a small amount of Petit Verdot, from which it produces around 250,000 bottles of its Grand vin and 70,000 bottles of its second wine, Chevalier de Lascombes. The vineyards cover some of the most sought-after plots in Margaux and are composed of a unique mix of soil-types for the appellation: a gravelly outcrop planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, a block of clay-gravel made up of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and clay-limestone plots which produce “an optimal expression” of Merlot.
Château Lascombes’s website today lists Delphine Barboux as the estate’s technical manager, a role she has held since 2016, along with Michel Rolland, who has been Château Lascombes’ consultant winemaker since 2001. It should be noted that Rolland has worked with Heinz for many years, having been a consultant winemaker for Ornellaia since 1991 – indicating, Hay suggested, that Rolland would continue to act as consultant at Château Lascombes.
Heinz was born in Munich to a French mother and German father, but was raised in France and attended the University of Bordeaux. He started his career as a winemaker in Bordeaux, working at Château La Tour Carnet in Saint Laurent du Medoc, as well as a domaines in Macau en Médoc and in Saint-Émilion before moving to Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast in 2005, to become Ornellaia’s estate director and winemaker.
During his 18-year tenure at the Frescobaldi-owned estates, Heinz raised the profile of the two estates and helped super-charge the Super Tuscan category, producing some of the most sought-after Italian wines in the secondary market. Together with Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Masseto are the only Italian wines to maintain a continuous presence in the Liv-ex Power 100 since 2010.
Analysis: Château Lascombes’s US buyer revealed (thedrinksbusiness.com)