Anthony Rose: An anonymous, unsung hero – until now

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The Independent Online

Although he's been described in news reports as "famous", not many people actually seem to know very much about Philippe Bascoules. Yet the man now in the hot seat at Francis Ford Coppola's Napa Valley Estate, re-named Inglenook, has been second in command as estate director at Château Margaux since 1990.

"I met him recently when I was judging wines in South Africa," says UK wine writer and educator Michael Schuster. "He's an affable Frenchman, a fitness fanatic and a very good taster."

I was at the prestigious first growth Château Margaux last week tasting its new 2010 vintage wine drawn from the barrel. Its wine is as fabulous as it will be expensive when its price comes out in the early summer. The head winemaker there, Paul Pontallier describes it as a 100-year wine. Yet while Mr Pontallier was conducting proceedings along with his son Thibault and the owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos and her daughter, Alexandra, there was no sign of Philippe Bascoules. Why not?

It's part and parcel of the Bordeaux château culture to wheel out the glamorous stars while the unsung heroes in the team sit below the radar. The Margaux image is embellished by the likes of the suave Paul Pontallier. The same goes for Jean-Philippe Delmas at Château Haut-Brion and Charles Chevallier at Château Lafite. The talented young backroom boys who have studied at Montepellier, Toulouse and Bordeaux are more or less anonymous. Until, that is, a Simon Cowell figure comes along and sprinkles a little stardust their way.

Anthony Rose is 'The Independent's' wine correspondent