Nicolas de Bailliencourt is one of the owners of Pomerol’s Château Gazin, which counts Petrus, L’Évangile and other illustrious properties as neighbors.
What are the first wines you remember drinking as a child?
My grandparents had a vineyard in Lalande-de-Pomerol, and we used to spend holidays there. We had wine at all the meals but it was only wine produced by them: in those days we never exchanged wines with the neighbors as we were self-sufficient, with a vegetable garden, sheep, an orchard. They would always say: “My wine is the best.” I was about 16 when I started to drink wines properly; it was natural – a rite of passage from teenager to adult.
What will you have on the table on Christmas Day?
We’ll have some great Château Gazin vintages like 1989 or ’90 – there are very few bottles left – and perhaps 2004, not a great vintage but drinking very well now. Then there will be Burgundy, Bonneau du Martray, and we swap wines with Winston Churchill’s favorite Champagne producer, Pol Roger.
You worked in corporate communications before coming back to Gazin to take over. Was it useful to have worked outside the wine industry?
When you take over a winery it’s important that you deserve it. I’m surprised to see young people with little experience of the outside world coming into a winery. I think you should have worked in different fields, and to have had several different bosses in order to learn patience, and the rules of working properly. It gives you perspective, so you don’t just arrive and say: “I’m the boss.”
You once said the winemaker should always be outside. What did you mean by that?
The person in charge should be both blue and white collar: an enologist who is also able to visit the vines every day. In some wineries you have a lot of executives – this guy is in charge of production, this one is in charge of buildings – but they don’t have a global approach. You need to concentrate on the vineyards and the wines – but of course that’s easier to do in small wineries.
In April 2014 you released your wines in the middle of the en primeur campaign, before the critics had published their scores. Will you do that again?
I don’t know. It worked very well because there wasn’t a great quantity, but it was good wine and we sold out. I have always managed without the critics – of course a good mark from Parker makes me very happy, but the price has to be right for your wine to sell.
Were your neighbors annoyed that you had released so early?
It’s different. They had their own position, but I do think some of them released their wines far too late. The business was over, and the négociants said: “O.K., we’ll see you next year.” The point is that it’s not fair to wait a month and a half to release your wine.
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