The Lynch mob
With a long and fascinating history, the Lynch name maintains a connection to one of the most dynamic families of modern-day Bordeaux
Pauillac, home to Château Lynch-Bages.
The name Lynch resonates with Irish wine drinkers for different reasons. Château Lynch-Bages was for many years the favoured tipple of businessmen, property moguls and diplomats, who could remember and pronounce the name with ease.
Others are more likely to have come across the more modest Michel Lynch, a very popular range of generic Bordeaux imported by Barry & FitzWilliam, which can be found in many supermarkets and wine shops. There is no longer any direct connection to the name Lynch with either of these wines, but both have a link to one of the most dynamic families of modern-day Bordeaux.
The name Lynch relates to Thomas Lynch who took possession of the property when he married into the Drouillard family in 1750. His father John (or Jean) was one of the original Wild Geese who fled Ireland in 1691 following the Battle of the Boyne. The Lynch family prospered and became one of the leading families of Bordeaux. The connection with Château Lynch-Bages died in 1824 with the sale of the property.
Following several changes of ownership, Jean-Charles Cazes came on to the scene. He was the first of a series of entrepreneurs who created the mini-empire that is now Lynch Bages & Co. A baker, he saw an opportunity in the difficult economic climate of the 1930s and first rented and then bought Château Lynch-Bages. Around the same time he also took ownership of Château Les Ormes de Pez in St Estèphe. His son André took over in 1966 and ran the estate for several years as well as being mayor of Pauillac for more than 40 years and running an insurance business.
His son, Jean-Michel Cazes, remembers growing up in Lynch-Bages as not quite the luxury experience we might imagine. Most of the Bordeaux châteaux then were cold and draughty without heating or running water.
It was Jean-Michel who transformed the reputation of Lynch-Bages. Ranked as a lowly fifth growth in the 1885 classification, most commentators today would place it alongside the best second growths.
The property has an enviable reputation for consistency even in poor vintages. The Lynch-Bages style is rounded, succulent and meaty, with an ability to age for 20 years or more.
The second wine of Château Lynch-Bages is Echo de Lynch Bages, featured here a few weeks ago. O’Briens, which has strong links with the Cazes business, has exclusive retail access to a wine simply called Pauillac, in effect the third wine of Lynch-Bages. It features this week.
Château Lynch-Bages is widely available in Ireland through retailers, most notably Jus de Vine in Portmarnock which stocks a number of vintages.
The family also own Château Cordeillan-Bages in Pauillac, which operates as a winery, a hotel with one-star Michelin restaurant, cookery and wine school.
To the side of Lynch-Bages, the Cazes have developed the Village of Bages, a recreation of a traditional French village square with a bakery, butcher, café and various other shops. It may sound a little twee, but it has become a major tourist destination, worth visiting if you find yourself in the Médoc.
Across the road lies Viniv, a company partly owned by Lynch-Bages, which gives wine enthusiasts the opportunity to make their own Bordeaux wine. Viniv rents vines in various parts of Bordeaux and allows enthusiasts to help pick the grapes, make the wine and decide on the final blend of their own special cuvée of wine. You can also design your own label. O’Briens has created its own wine, which will be released in Ireland in September.
Elsewhere, the Cazes now own Château Villa Bel Air in the Graves region of Bordeaux, but has also spread its wings much further afield, with wine estates in the Languedoc (Domaine l’Ostal Cazes), Domaine des Sénéchaux in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in Portugal (Jean-Michel’s wife is Portuguese) and even Australia.
If this impressive list is not enough, Jean-Michel and his sister Sylvie ran the wine estates of insurance giant Axa, which includes some of the finest properties in Bordeaux and a few elsewhere. Jean-Michel retired from this business a few years ago, and is in the process of handing affairs on to the latest member of the tribe, Jean-Charles Cazes, who since 2001 has taken control of the family vineyards. He appears to have inherited his father’s successful combination of winemaking knowledge allied to a flair for business.