Bordeaux mourns the loss of the famed first-growth’s leader.

By Carson Demmond
Updated May 24, 2017
© Caroline Blumberg / Bloomberg via Getty Images

When the news of Paul Pontallier’s death broke early March 28th—just shy of the 2015 Bordeaux en primeur campaign—it was met with shock in every corner of the wine-loving globe. He was just 59 years old and had been quietly battling cancer.

Pontallier was the face of Château Margaux for the better part of 30 years, having first joined the team as technical director in 1983. The success of that vintage set the tone for a long, influential career working alongside some of the greatest wine minds of the time, like the legendary Professor Emile Peynaud, and mentoring young winemakers in the home cellar and abroad.

He is lauded for his precision work in the vineyard, having reduced yields and focused on selection. His doctoral research on barrel ageing probably didn’t hurt the Château’s élevage program, either. But what was most striking about Pontallier was the impression that he viewed himself not as the author of exceptional wines but as the caretaker of an exceptional terroir—one capable of producing some of the most aromatically complex, ageworthy, and transportative Cabernet in the world. He embodied that same sophisticated elegance in all of his interactions with the trade, including the regular single lot barrel tastings he led, leaving behind a legacy of transparency into the art of blending unparalleled for a property of its historic importance.

Our thoughts are with the Château Margaux team, including owner and friend to Pontallier, Corinne Mentzelopoulos, Pontallier’s wife and four children, including his son Thibault, who works as the ambassador of the property in Asia.