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Top wine consultant and professor Denis Dubourdieu dies aged 67

Published:  27 July, 2016

Top claret from Bordeaux may have always cast a shadow over local white wines, but that was until the work of Denis Dubourdieu.

Top claret from Bordeaux may have always cast a shadow over local white wines, but that was until the work of Denis Dubourdieu.

Known in France as the 'Pope of white wine', Dubourdieu - who has died of cancer - was a wine producer and consultant for the top Chateaux, but also a scientist whose ground-breaking research, raised the bar of white wines which he liked to age in new oak barrels following extended skin contact.

Dubourdieu, a professor of Oenology at the University of Bordeaux, will be notably remembered as the director of Bordeaux's wine education and research centre, the Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin, which he founded in 2009.

Dubourdieu's work led to the identification of Thiols, the organic compounds responsible for the aromas of Sauvignon Blanc and he had several breakthroughs with issues surrounding premature oxidation, the clarification of wines made from grapes affected by noble rot and the role of yeasts.

Dubourdieu, who disliked pomposity and the pretentious of the world of wine, was too known in the 1980s for turning against the tide: rather than elevating the production role of the winemaker in the winery, Dubourdieu laid emphasis on the value of terroir, the land and a sense of place.

Dubourdieu, who later became a leading top red wine consultant, was critical of wine made to suit a particular market.

Although he was an advocate of organic wine production, he was critical of the sulphur limits established under Europe's organic wine label rules saying that red wine aged for more than a year would need greater levels of sulphur.

Dubourdieu preferred consulting for producers who made wine from grape varieties grown on the edge of their culture, where grapes reached maturity slowly and sometimes with difficulty.

He and his wife created their own estate Clos Floridène, on the edge of Graves and overall, the Dubourdieu family would own 135 hectares of vineyards in the Sauternes, Graves, and Cadillac-Cotes de Bordeaux regions.

Dubourdieu, who was born into a family of winemakers, once said: "The work of the oenologist consists in revealing the specific taste of the place where the wine is made. Purity and complexity of this taste should always be given priority over power.

"I am convinced that complexity, the originality of wine and its therefore its value always come about having overcome difficulties (of viticulture)."

Denis Dubourdieu was born in 1949 and passed away July 2016.