This week brings the sad news that Patrick Léon, winemaking legend, has passed away. Having briefly worked under him as a Cellar Hand for the Château d’Esclan 2017 vintage where he was the consulting winemaker, I found him impressive, gregarious and generous with not only his knowledge but a life time of hilarious anecdotes. Always willing to engage in debate and discussion with us humble cellar hands (don’t ask him what he thinks about carbonic maceration), he was also a constant presence in the winery – not a given amongst consultants!
My personal experience of him aside, Patrick has an absurdly impressive CV. Learning his trade in the finest establishments France has to offer, he subsequently worked in senior positions at an incredible number of the best wineries in the world. These included but were by no means restricted to; Château d’Armailhac, Clerc Milon, le Petit Mouton, Lascombes, Aile d’Argent, Opus One in California, Almaviva in Chile, Domaine de Lambert & Baron d’Arques, Mouton Cadet and culminating in a 20 year stretch as Managing Director of Château Mouton Rothschild. During this time, he struck up a life-long friendship and business relationship with Alexis Lichine, a pioneer in the trade, and upon whose death he continued to work alongside his son Sascha Lichine, with whom he created the first ‘super-luxe’ Provence rosé staying on as consultant until the end.
Having spoken to former colleagues it is evident that everyone who met him is truly saddened by his passing not due to his skill but as a wonderful man. In terms of the future, it will be interesting to see how Esclan copes with the loss of such an integral figure of the brand.