Wine word: Jean-Michel Cazes, Chateau Lynch-Bages

By Jim Boyce

I have been fortunate over the past year to taste a world of wines with fellow consumers and to meet some of China’s and the world’s key wine figures. Last night offered another such occasion when I met Jean-Michel Cazes of Chateau Lynch-Bages to chat about China’s wine scene. First, a handful of things I learned from Cazes during our talk:

- He made his first visit to China 18 years ago. “My first organized tasting was in 1990, just for the local consumers, and they didn’t like wine at all,” he said.

- He thought China’s wine market would develop slowly, but a psychological shift happened: “People started to talk about red wine being good for health.”

- Despite increased interest in wine in China, he still sees it, including on his current trip, being used more as a traditional social tool (bottoms up!) than for pleasure.

- He visited several wineries around Beijing. His talks with management and observations of the equipment convince him that some producers in China are serious about making better wine.

– China is still a fairly small market for Lynch-Bages, taking about 5 percent of production, but is growing fast.

Cazes should qualify for a gold medal for Olympic event attendance: On Sunday, he caught the US-Brazil volleyball finals and then jumped into a car and made it to the US-Spain basketball finals. “The Olympic lane [on the highways] is excellent,” he said, with a laugh.

We also had an “it’s a small world” vintage-2005-cabernet-sauvignon.JPGmoment.

I brought a bottle of “Vintage” 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, an export brand manufactured in Xinjiang and that has a back label in Dutch and French. Ironically, Cazes discovered on that label the name of a friend who had been involved in his early wine tastings in China. Even more ironically, the friend’s wife and Cazes’ wife were next door having dinner. If that doesn’t call for uncorking the bottle, I don’t know what does.

vintage-2005-cabernet-sauvignon-bottle-back-label.JPGFairly light in color for a Cabernet Sauvignon, it had a simple body with some cherry flavors and a good shake of pepper, and not a great deal of tannin or acidity. “It doesn’t have the focus or the body of a general Bordeaux, but it’s decent,” said Cazes, and he upped his opinion after trying it with his steak as we polished off the bottle.

See also: This Wine Spectator video with Jean-Michel Cazes.

2 Comments on Wine word: Jean-Michel Cazes, Chateau Lynch-Bages

  1. Eddie Cheung // September 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm //

    Interesting. Lucky you Jim!

    I would like to meet up with Jean-Michel Cazes as well, no matter in China or in Pauillac. I missed him this April at Lynch Bages while I was welcomed by Sylvie Cazes and staying at Ch. Ormes de Pez. I had a formal visit to Chateau Lynch Bages but he was not around.

    I would see if there could be a chance we do some “horizontal tasting” with production of Jean-Michel Cazes’ vineries all over the world, with his presence would be even better – he really did some great work.

    Eddie Cheung

  2. Hi Eddie,

    Actually, that would be an amazing tasting, especially as he seems like a very open-minded and fun person. Actually, I hope to be able to try a few Chinese wines with him when he comes back.

    Cheers, Jim

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