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The Bories, and their winning gambles

Born and bred in the local wine community, Jacqueline Bories knew full well what she was letting herself in for when she decided in 1978 to sell the two properties she had inherited in Thézan and Fabrezan and buy out her godmother Marie Huc’s shares in Les Ollieux. The decision was a bold one, particularly considering that since 1872, when Antoine Teisset had divided the estate between his two daughters, the property was in two parts. “At the time, Les Ollieux-Romanis had 60 hectares in poor condition. My husband François and I did a lot of restoration work and replanting and in 1988 we refurbished the winery”.

Twelve years later, however, the Bories were on the verge of throwing in the towel due to sales issues. Their son Pierre, who was 28 at the time and an executive with a bank for large corporations, decided to take up the gauntlet. A seasoned negotiator, he managed to get his foot in the door of the supermarkets, established a network in restaurants locally and in Paris, and developed exports, particularly in England. At the same time, he redesigned the Ollieux-Romanis range. “There were only two reds, the Classique and the Prestige label. They were great wines, but you had to wait 10 years before you could drink them. In 2001, we created the Or label, styled after the concentrated, oaky, top-end wines popularised by Parker. It over-delivered in competitions and was quickly noticed by journalists”.
There was a meteoric rise in sales. With renewed energy, Jacqueline became involved in the fight to secure recognition for AOC Corbières-Boutenac. “We put up a struggle to defend our old Carignans which, admittedly produced slightly harsh, but nevertheless differentiated wines. In my opinion, Cru Boutenac stems from that resistance”.

As soon as the appellation had received INAO’s blessing in 2005, Pierre Bories released the Atal Sia label (meaning ‘So be it’ in Occitan), as a kind of mission statement. “Here, we cannot compete with the most famous, overripe-styled wines. We do have a lot of fruitiness, but also an acidic base, freshness and a slight bitterness on the finish which are unique to Boutenac. I kept the fundamentals – Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre – then opted for six months’ bottle ageing, recommended by Mathieu Dubernet. The sommeliers really “dug” the rawness of Atal Sia in its youth, making sure to decant it. The journalists followed suit. Subsequently, Atal Sia featured on the cover of the Revue du Vin de France issue dedicated to the finest Languedoc wines, along with Mas Jullien”.

In 2006, the Bories bought Châteaux les Ollieux (75 ha) and reunited the two properties to recreate the original estate. In 2009, Pierre Bories succeeded Gérard Bertrand as the chairman of the Corbières-Boutenac producers’ organisation. “I was already familiar with the specialist critics which helped us gain recognition for the appellation when not a single guide featured it as such. Supermarkets identified Boutenac, the wines were listed in Michelin-starred restaurants and in wine merchants – all of which boosted the reputation of several estates and Boutenac gained in notoriety”.
Drawing on this success, Pierre Bories made a case for ‘Crus’ at the CIVL. “Just like Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, Languedoc needs to be segmented. A hierarchy revolving around appellation powerhouses rather than a clutch of famous winegrowers needs to be created”.

In 2017, as David Latham took over as the organisation’s chair, Pierre refocused on his vineyards. “I have learnt how to harness the potential of the terroir by isolating plots and testing all the different winemaking formulae. We now have 45 labels produced on three estates – Ollieux-Romanis, Le Champ des Murailles, West of the mountains, and Domaine Pierre Bories, a micro-estate I created on the southern slopes of mount Alaric”.

Jacqueline has a smile on her face: “I often think about the expert who came to review the state of the vineyard right in the beginning. He warned us: “One day, the lion will eat the tamer!” “I would like to say to him that the tamer has tamed the lion!”

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Patrick Reverdy, mission accomplie
Patrick Reverdy, mission accomplished

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