Remembering Paul Pontallier

It’s hardly the news Bordeaux wanted to receive with the 2015 en primeur campaign set to start next week. The untimely passing of Paul Pontallier, Château Margaux’s Managing Director, at just 59, leaves an enormous void in the world of wine.

A graduate of the Grignon National Agronomic Institute of Paris and the University of Montepellier, where he earned a degree in Wine Growing and Oenology, Paul Pontallier dedicated essentially his entire professional career to Château Margaux and the Mentzelopoulos family. Pontallier cut a dashing figure. Wiry, lean and always impeccably dressed, he had a natural charm, with a radiant smile to match his sunny personality. A boyish sense of enthusiasm, passion and the desire to transmit all he loved about Bordeaux and Margaux were constant themes on the occasions we tasted together.

The last time I saw Pontallier was in July. Marzia and I visited Château Margaux to see the vineyards and taste the 2012s. It was a nice break from the typical rat race that is en primeur. There was no rush, no appointment to run off to. We spoke about California and Napa Valley, where Pontallier had recently vacationed. Then we visited the new cellar and spent some time walking the vineyard. Pontallier invited me to come back and taste the 2015s in the winter, before blending, when the wines would have still been in separate lots.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it happen. “There will be time for that,” I thought. How wrong I was.

A few months later, I heard that Pontallier had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. But I always thought he would pull through.  

Paul Pontallier leaves behind a rich legacy as one of Bordeaux’s foremost ambassadors and a true gentleman in every sense of the word.

-- Antonio Galloni