PORTRAITS

JEAN-MICHEL CAZES

After studying engineering at the École nationale supérieure des mines in Paris and then earning a graduate degree in sedimentary geology at the University of Texas, on finishing his military service, Jean-Michel Cazes decided to make a radical career change. He joined IBM in 1962 and for over ten years worked in implementing the first computer systems in large businesses and French institutions.

But one day in 1971, his father André opened up about his difficulties in juggling his work in the insurance industry, as mayor and as winemaker and in order to lighten his load, raised the possibility of selling the family vineyards. After careful consideration, Jean-Michel Cazes moved to Pauillac in July 1973 with his wife and their four children. The insurance Agency then provided the largest part of the family’s financial resources. But it was in the field of viticulture where he would find something on which to leverage his engineering knowledge and his visionary experience. He set about modernising and developing Lynch-Bages and Ormes de Pez.

In the early 1980s, the return of a fair degree of prosperity allowed him to continue the expansion of family properties and fulfil their technical transformation. Approached by AXA in 1987, which was looking to make investments in the vineyards of Bordeaux, Cazes worked for them thenceforward up to 2001 in the building of AXA Millésimes, which he ran for 14 years and would include the Château Pichon-Longueville, Cantenac-Brown, Petit Village and Suduiraut and large vineyards abroad in Hungary and Portugal.
Wishing to expand the family wine-making company, beginning in 1988, Jean-Michel Cazes set about making new acquisitions: Villa Bel-Air in the Graves appellation, then a property in La Livinière in Languedoc, renamed L'Ostal Cazes, and in 2005, Domaine des Sénéchaux in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He also created new wines in Portugal and Australia, in partnership with family-owned companies. In 1992, the wine brand "Michel Lynch", a sophisticated blend of wines from several Bordeaux appellations filled out the range. In 2001, he created a new company, J. M. Cazes Sélection, whose mission is to offer a superb collection of terroir-driven wines from some of the most exciting viticultural areas in France, Portugal and Australia.

This taste for wine and for excellence helped him to define and develop a fine sense for the art of living. Beginning in the late 1980s, he has come to a veritable philosophy of life with complementary projects. First, the "Relais and Châteaux" Cordeillan-Bages, where the talented chef Jean-Luc Rocha, winner of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, composes a typical contemporary French cuisine. Added to this was a cookery school and a wine school, L'Ecole du Bordeaux. Finally, since 2003, he has dedicated himself to reviving the village of Bages, homeland of Lynch-Bages in the Pauillac commune. Bages, a village of gourmet delights and wine, became a veritable tourist attraction in the Médoc with businesses and institutions of excellence, all devoted to the joys and arts of the table and of wines, where tourists and the local actors in the local life of the vineyard meet.

President of the Union of Winegrowers of Pauillac, Jean-Michel Cazes is also director of the Conseil des Vins du Médoc and Vice Grand Maître of the Commanderie du Bontemps, an organisation near and dear to his heart, which he chaired for many years up till 2008.
Jean-Michel Cazes makes numerous trips to France and abroad during which he always tries to promote the image of Bordeaux wine and of the entire region. His patient and efficient activities in this area on the long run, have merited his consideration tod as one of the great ambassadors of the world of wine.