Philippe Bascaules began his career at the legendary Château Margaux, one of France’s five First Growth Bordeaux estates, after receiving a degree in agricultural engineering and enology from France’s Montpellier University. He became Château Margaux’s Estate Director in 2000, working alongside its renowned Managing Director, the late Paul Pontallier. Bascaules joined Francis Ford Coppola’s Rutherford estate in the Napa Valley as winemaker and general manager in 2011, the year Coppola re-acquired the Inglenook name. With the untimely passing of Paul Pontallier in 2016, Bascaules returned to Château Margaux as Managing Director. He remains as Director of Winemaking for Inglenook, overseeing the 50-year vineyard plan that he put in place.
Karen MacNeil interviewed Philippe Bascaules for WineSpeed in September 2019.
Karen MacNeil: You’ve worked for many years for Château Margaux, one of the most heralded wine estates in the world. How did the opportunity to join Inglenook come about?
Philippe Bascaules: I wasn’t looking, but when I was contacted by a recruiter, I was curious. So I decided to visit Inglenook and meet Francis. We tasted a 1959 cabernet sauvignon and the wine convinced me that it was possible to make elegant, balanced wines from the estate. I accepted the position because of the beauty of the valley and the history of the original Iglenook Vineyards. Also, Francis had a very clear vision for [restoring] Inglenook. He’s motivated and focused on quality and elegance.
KM: Did you have a mentor? Tell us about him/her.
PB: No [single mentor]. I take the best from all of my teachers and colleagues.
KM: How would you describe Inglenook’s Rubicon?
PB: I like to discuss wine, but not describe it. I don’t want to influence you in how you discover a wine. Tasting wine is a personal experience. There’s complexity depending on the vintage, and each person has different sensitivities, so I don’t want to impose my vision. My opinion is not more important than yours. I prefer to let people discover the wine. The quality we’re looking for in Rubicon is complexity, density, silkiness and persistence of flavors on the palate.
“My opinion is not more important than yours. I prefer to let people discover the wine.”
KM: Besides Napa Valley and Bordeaux, what other wine region inspires you the most and why?
PB: Tuscany. I find wines there with texture, density, and silkiness. And I like sangiovese because of the complexity on the nose.
KM: I’m not going to ask what’s your favorite wine. But what wine or type of wine do you like the least?
PB: Depending on the circumstances, each wine is interesting. Each wine has some positive aspect.
KM: In addition to wine, what’s your other favorite beverage?
PB: Espresso – after lunch or dinner. I can’t finish a good meal without espresso.
KM: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
PB: My children.