A Great Irish Wine from France?

bordeaux wine, lynch bages, irish wine, thomas lynchEveryone knows about the great wines of Bordeaux. If you have ever had one of the 1st growths in a marquis year, you know that it is very difficult to go back to a two-buck-chuck! Another bit of common knowledge is the French will do nearly anything to protect the reputation of those things that are decidedly French, their great wines are no exception to this rule.

What is not common knowledge is that one of the greatest wines of Bordeaux, in fact many consider it to be the greatest value, carries an Irish name. Yes you read that correctly. One of the greatest French wineries was founded by an Irish immigrant bold enough to challenge the French stronghold of wines. That wine is Lynch Bages (prounounced with a soft j on the end, the s is silent) and the name of the man who had the bullocks to do it was Thomas Lynch.

Lynch decended from the Tribes of Galway – 14 families who dominated the economic and political events in medievel Ireland until the Irish rebellion of 1641, long before Thomas Lynch was born. However, when he came of age and married, he inherited an old estate in Bages, France. After many years, he passed the property on to his son who passed it on to Thomas Lynch’s grandson, Michel. During these years, the property was producing excellent wine (much to the chagrin of the French). In 1824, the property was sold to Sebastian Jurine, a swiss wine merchant who held the winery for many years.

In 1855, the wines of the Medoc region (the left bank of Bordeaux) wanted to classify the wines so wine drinkers would know what was in fact a “top shelf” and which were run-of-the-mill table wines. Lynch Bages was considered to be a Premier Cru at this time (even Thomas Jefferson considered it as such). But the members of the French wine cartel were not going to allow a winery founded by an Irish upstart to become part of the “1st growth” classification. So Lynch Bages was relegated to a second class and in fact is considered by many to be the best of all of the 2nd class wines. In fact, I have personally witnessed Lynch Bages wines outperforming 1st growth wines such as Lafitte Rothchildm, Margaux or Latour in blind tastings. It is that good.

What’s great about Lynch Bages being classified as a 2nd growth wine is the price. You get the quality of a 1st growth wine for a fraction of the price (very similar to finding a bottle of Lafleur Petrus). And of course it’s also great that it is an “Irish” wine. At least we are going to claim it as such.