The project started in 2019 as a Facebook group, created by Fallen downJean-Baptiste Duquesne, winemaker at Château Cazebonne. The positive reactions from the public and other winemakers who followed prompted the group to seek official recognition.
‘The idea came from me and my friend Laurent David from Château Edmus in St-Emilion. It was he who gave me the idea of the name “pirate”, says Duquesne Carafe.
‘So in December 2019, I created a Facebook group called Bordeaux Pirate to show that Bordeaux can be different. Anyone could join the group and talk about what’s happening in the area. We now have over three thousand members, of which about one tenth are producers.
The group introduced itself to the public and to the profession in January 2020, when Duquesne exhibited alongside six fellow winegrowers at the Wine Paris fair. “Then Covid hit and everything stopped for two years,” Duquesne explained. Doubled in size, the collective returned to exhibit in 2022 while working to obtain official status.
The collective now has 10 official members, including founders Laurent Cassy of Château Chillac and Fabien Lapeyre of Château La Peyre, as well as Duquesne and David themselves.
The Union des Vignerons Bordeaux Pirate was created with the main objective of associating alternatives and innovative winemakers. “Things are no longer moving in Bordeaux, we have standardized and stereotyped wines. Our key word is innovation,” said Duquesne, whose co-fermented cuvée of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc and work with neglected Bordeaux varietals are examples of activities seen as challenging the status quo.
“But everything that is new interests us. It could be the packaging, the style of the wine, the way you work in the cellar or communicate with the public,” he added.
According to the group, non-conventional Bordeaux producers are unlikely to be noticed, spoken and exchanged, with associations such as the Syndicat de Bordeaux and the region’s multiple classification systems open only to those who meet the criteria defined by the appellation structure of Bordeaux.
To meet this challenge, the Union wishes to offer alternative producers a collective platform to communicate with professionals and the public. ‘The only way I have to have my wines tasted by a journalist is to send them to the Syndicate, but I can only do this if they are labeled with an appellation [which they are not]. You have to be conformist in Bordeaux, there is no other choice,” said Duquesne. “It will be the only way for new, innovative winegrowers to have their wines tasted.”
To become a member of the Pirate Union, winegrowers must pay an annual fee – from €200 to €400 depending on size – and have at least one of their wines labeled “pirate” by a jury of business experts. . “All pirate wines will carry our logo, but we are still working on it because we are not allowed to use the word ‘Bordeaux’,” Duquesne said.
He pointed out that, unlike other organizations, the Pirates Union is not concerned with specific production methods or philosophies. Instead, he pledged to focus on personal identity and innovation by keeping his members as open as possible: “Only then will we see more innovation in the region. We have yet to finalize the set of criteria that will officially define a Bordeaux pirate wine, the only thing for now is that all wines must be organic.
Criteria will be finalized by October, when the band plans to hold its first formal tasting and judging day. The next steps will involve creating a website and organizing a series of official events across France.