Winebits 595: Andre Lurton, ancient yeast, Grocery Outlet

Andre Lurton

Andre Lurton

This week’s wine news: Andre Lurton, one of the leaders in great cheap wine, has died, plus an ancient yeast discovery and wine discounter Grocery Outlet may expand

Andre Lurton: Andre Lurton, whose skill and foresight gave us Chateau Bonnet, one of the world’s greatest cheap wines, has died at 94. The Lurton family are Bordeaux royalty, and their holdings include Cheval Blanc, one of the world’s great estates. But Andre Lurton “specialized in buying properties at their lowest value and nurturing them into valuable wine estates,” starting with the family’s Château Bonnet in 1953. It was in Bordeaux’s Entre-Deux-Mers region, then and now known for mostly poorly made supermarket wine. But Lurton understood how to improve wine quality and maintain the price, and today Chateau Bonnet produces $10 wine that shames almost all the other cheap wine in the world. As one French journalist wrote: “Andre defines himself as a peasant. He loves to count the hours he spent driving a tractor more than he loves to count the chateaus he owns.” What better epitaph could Lurton have?

5,000-year-old yeast: Israeli researchers have made beer using yeast extracted from 5,000-year-old Egyptian clay pots. Key to their work was Israel’s Kadma Winery, which makes wine in clay pots. Said one expert: “We are talking about a real breakthrough here. This is the first time we succeeded in producing ancient alcohol from ancient yeast. In other words, from the original substances from which alcohol was produced. This has never been done before.” And, reportedly, the beer wasn’t bad, either.

More Grocery Outlets? Good news for cheap wine drinkers – Grocery Outlet, the west coast cult discounter, wants to expand to other parts of the U.S. Supermarket News reports that the company wants to raise $100 million through a stock offering to open hundreds of stores adjacent to its locations in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington (it also has stores in Pennsylvania, which has limited supermarket wine sales). Company officials say it could eventually reach 4,800 stores across the country. Grocery Outlet is famous for buying surplus products from wholesalers and manufacturers, including and especially wine, marking it down by as much as 40 to 70 percent.

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