The death of winemaker Lucien Lurton

One of the major players in the Médoc died peacefully at the age of 97, on Saturday March 25, in his bed at Château Brane-Cantenac

The death of winemaker Lucien Lurton

One of the major players in the Médoc died peacefully at the age of 97, on Saturday March 25, in his bed at Château Brane-Cantenac. Surrounded by his family, Lucien Lurton ended a dense life, in which Bordeaux wine had a central place. Who knows, however, that this man with the steel blue eyes, who always stood straight and whose bearing was imposing, was hiding an adventurer? Above all, he was of exemplary discretion. If he was not a communicator, he was in action.

Born in 1925 into a farming family in Entre-Deux-Mers, Gironde, Lucien Lurton lost his mother when he was just 8 years old. His father, François Lurton, raised him with his three other children. First a student in Bordeaux with the Jesuits, then a boarder in Bazas, where studies were less expensive, Lucien Lurton forged an unfailing character. Every weekend, he returns home by bike to Château Bonnet, in Grézillac. Fifty kilometers to pedal to find his father, his two brothers and his sister.

At 18, he continued his studies in Toulouse, where he obtained a diploma in agricultural engineering. When the Second World War broke out, his brothers, André and Dominique, were called up, while he remained close to his father as an operating assistant. But he has only one thing in mind: to travel. He waits. After the war, he worked for a few years with André on the family land, until the day he decided to take flight.

Travel to South America

The United States makes him dream: he goes there, without a penny in his pocket. He first stopped in the Finger Lakes, New York, where he managed to produce wine at the first wineries in that region. Then he continued his journey to California, where he worked at Beaulieu Vineyard with one of the pioneers of Napa Valley viticulture, André Tchelistcheff, who will always remain a friend, a visionary and an example for him.

Bordeaux does not stop there. He sets off again on the roads, which lead him to Mexico. For another year, he travels through South America, living off odd jobs. "My father always considered these to be the best years of his life," says his son Gonzague, owner of Château Durfort-Vivens in Margaux. Nobody imagined then what Lucien Lurton would build, later, on the land of his ancestors. Back in Gironde in 1954, he fell in love with the one who immediately became his wife, Marie-Jeanne Duvoisin, from a family in Périgord. From then on, the adventurer stands aside.

That same year, Lucien inherited Château Brane-Cantenac, a second growth classified in 1855, in Margaux, bought by his grandfather Léonce Récapet. No one then wanted to settle in the Médoc, an area so devastated that even André, Lucien's brother, preferred to stay in Entre-deux-Mers, where mixed farming was possible. From then on, Lucien became a relentless winegrower, despite the vagaries of the weather, such as the historic frost of 1956 which wiped out almost all of his harvest. Far from being discouraged, the couple built a family of eleven children, while seeking to save their environment.

Money interests him less than construction: Lucien Lurton constantly reinvests the little money he earns in his production tool. The first years are difficult. The couple loses one of their children, Bernard, 4 years old. But Lucien Lurton does not let himself be defeated. Driven in particular by a gratifying and now legendary 1961 vintage, the winegrower, advised by the famous oenologist Emile Peynaud, borrows and reintroduces old viticultural practices and continues to replant.

"Each came to find their heritage"

In the 1970s, he saw the fruits of his efforts rewarded. The place of Bordeaux is interested in its wines. Anchored in his land, he successively bought the castles Durfort-Vivens (1961), Climens (1971), Villegeorge (1973), La Tour de Bessan, Haut Nouchet, Camarsac (1974), Bouscaut (1979), and Château Desmirail. to Margaux (1980). He thus constitutes a unique portfolio of properties in the Médoc, Graves and Entre-deux-Mers, thanks in particular to the advice of Henri Enjalbert, a Bordeaux pioneer in geography and viticultural geology. Then, in 1992, he gave everything to his children.

“At 67, he had decided that he had to pass on. He divided his property between his ten children, remembers one of them. Each came to find their heirloom, while they set out alone to circumnavigate the world for a year! After a year, Lucien returned to his wife, while checking that each child was doing well. He had not ceased then, always with discretion, to help one and the other.