Tag Archives: Château la Tour Bessan

Women making Sense in Bordeaux

If you think women in the world of the wine world is something new and/or unusual, where have you been in recent years? You might be forgiven for thinking that in such a traditional bastion of wine as Bordeaux, women in the vineyards and cellars might be more unusual that in other regions  – think again. Historically, there have always been influential women on the Bordeaux wine scene, as well as many others working behind the scenes.

Some of Bordeaux’s leading vineyards are still going strong today thanks to the historical role of women. Jean de Bellon was the first owner of Chateau Haut Brion in the 16th century and it’s not only Champagne that has famous widows. As a young widow, Françoise Josephine de Sauvage d’Yquem was thrown into prison twice during the French revolution but she continued to make Château d’Yquem prosper. The Comtesse de Bournazel successfully took over the reigns of the family Chateau de Malle in Sauternes on the death of her husband, before handing it over to her son. Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is named after another Comtesse responsible for its success.

Properties may be handed down from fathers to daughters who continue to grow the family estates. Famously Baroness Philippine Rothschild continued and expanded her father’s work at Mouton Rothschild, Corinne Mentzelopoulos owns and runs Chateau Margaux with her daughter. More recently, Siaska Rothschild took over running Château Lafite from her father Baron Eric, and Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal is now in charge of Chateau Angelus alongside her cousin Thierry Grenié,with Emmanuelle Fulchi their cellar master. There is nothing new about feminine power in Bordeaux wine.

Not so long ago it was unusual to see a woman working in the cellars – with an older generation of male wine makers talking about women ‘turning’ the wine – and that is still in living memory. Women are now making the wines as well as owning, running and marketing them. A few that come to mind, and not only in the top growths, are Marjolaine de Cornack at Chateau Marquis d’Alesme, Maylis De Laborderie at Chateau La Lagune, (both working with female owners), Paz Espejo at Château Lanessan and Caroline Artaud at Château Forcas Hostens. Some women are carrying on from the parents in a family vineyard, such as Estelle Roumage at Chateau Lestrille, Armelle Falcy Cruse at Château du Taillan, and I could go on.

I organized my first Women in Wine Tour in Bordeaux back in  2007, so again nothing new here, but these women, and many more, came back on my radar thanks to the recent visit here in Bordeaux of the American association Women for Wine sense (WWS). Created in 1990 by two leading Californian women in wine, Michaela Rodeno and Julie Johnson, WWS aims to increase knowledge about wine through education as a counterweight to the anti-alcohol lobby. Their premise is a better understanding of wine leads to more responsible consumption. The success of this organisation has been phenomenal; they now have a network of 10 chapters and growing throughout the US and a charitable arm that sponsors wine education for women in the industry.

I have run several Bordeaux seminars for WWS members in the US over the last year but this was their first trip to Bordeaux. With Decanter Tours it seemed only natural to concentrate on vineyards with a feminine signature, choosing properties for them to visit that were owned by, managed by or where women made the wine. I’m aware it’s sexist – but it was great fun!

We were spoilt for choice with just three days we only scratched the surface. Following their tour, I wanted to use this post to profile some of the leading women in Bordeaux but as I started looking at the long list I realised that it would take a book rather than a blog post to do them justice, so I’ll just concentrate on the women that offered us such a warm welcome and amazing hospitality during our tour.

Margaux has traditionally been considered the most feminine of all the Medoc appellations, thanks to its signature sumptuousness and velvety tannins, so it seemed like the perfect place to start. Chateau Margaux is known as the most feminine of all the 1st growths by its style as well as being owned and run by Corinne and Alexandra Mentzelopoulos. The harvest had just started when we were there, with a man at the helm; Philippe Bascules splits his wine making between Bordeaux and Napa – and was very excited about explaining  the complementarity of making wines both sides of the Atlantic – he is a very busy man!

Bascules a Margaux

With Philippe Bascaules wine maker at Chateau Margaux above the new Pavillon Blanc cellars.

Further north, Lilian and Melanie Barton Sartorius, another mother and daughter team, are working together. As Lilian takes on more and more responsibility at the family vineyards, Leoville and Langoa Barton, her daughter Melanie, the eighth generation of the Bartons in Bordeaux and the first qualified oenologist of the family, has taken over the wine making at their new vineyard Mauvesin Barton in Moulis, purchased in 2011.

Lilian and Melanie at Mauvesin

Lilian and Melanie Barton-Sartorius at Chateau Mauvesin

We also met the latest member of the family, Oona, the Parson Russell terrier puppy, who completely stole the limelight!

oona

The newest member of the Barton family

Pascale Peyronie welcomed us to her family property Chateau Fonbadet in Pauillac. After working alongside her father for 20 years, she has stepped into his shoes to run the vineyard. Her vines are on some of the best and priciest gravel terroir in Pauillac, smack in the middle of the famous names of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau Pichon Baron and Longueville Comtesse. You can imagine that she has received some interesting offers for her vines, but she continues to produce Chateau Fonbadet as an independent Cru Bourgeois rather than succumbing to the temptation of an easier life, although she did exchange three ha of vines with Mouton Rothschild to re-organise the vineyard. When she showed us around, her 92-year-old father was still on hand to meet the ladies and help serve the wine.

Fonbadet barrel

Is it a characteristic for women to work more closely together? We had several examples of collaboration between neighbouring women in wine which make me think that perhaps it is.

Four properties in Margaux owned and/or managed by women have grouped together to welcome visitors into their chateaux. Well aware that chateau visits can be repetitive (vines, cellars, barrels, tasting, repeat), Lise Latrille of Château Prieuré Lichine, Nathalie Schyler of Chateau Kirwan, Marie Laure Lurton of La Tour Bessanand Anne-Francoise Quié of Chateau Rauzan Gassies have grouped together to create a ‘Une Journée Gourmande à Margaux’. These dynamic women explained this project to us over lunch in the beautiful kitchens of Chateau Prieuré Lichine.

Prieure kitchen

Ladies who lunch at Chateau Prieuré Lichine

Their idea was to create a tour where each visit concentrates on a different part of the wine process.  The tour starts at Château Prieuré-Lichine, with a history of the Medoc while sipping on their white wine (yes there are some rare white wines in the Medoc even though they don’t carry the name). Then at Chateau Rauzan Gassies they explore the importance of terroir, tasting the wines from the three vineyards owned by the Quié family. Lunch at Chateau Kirwanis the opportunity to taste the wines from all four vineyards paired with regional dishes before a visit to Château La Tour Bessan to try your hand at blending, tasting your results alongside local chocolates – there’s a reason this is called a ‘Gourmande’ tour.

Margaux gourmand girls

Nathalie Schyler of Chateau Kirwan, Lise Latrille of Château Prieure Lichine and Marie-Laure Lurton of Château La Tour Bessan.

Margaux gourmande

Women do seem to be very open to developing wine tourism. I was recently asked to cover leading women winners of best of Wine Tourism awards reinforcing this impression. Chatting with Florence Cathiard at Château Smith Haut Lafite, one of the pioneers of wine tourism in the region, it was interesting to compare the European and the American approach to wine tourism. The chateau with its open door policy, new land art exhibition alongside the more traditional visits, as well as the phenomenal success her daughters have had, both with The Sources de Caudalie resort and the Caudalie cosmetics is a case study for successful wine tourism.

Florence

Talking wine tourism with Florence Cathiard at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

We had another experience of collaboration with the women of sweet Bordeaux. A picnic lunch in the park of Chateau de Ceronswith Caroline Peyromat and her neighbour Nicola Alison from Chateau du Seuil, was the ideal way to discover the characteristics of the tiny Cerons appellation but also to share their red and white wines from the Graves appellation.

Then on to Sauternes and Barsac for a progressive dinner, the idea was to show just how food friendly the sweet wines of Bordeaux really are. After a visit and tasting at Chateau Yquem with cellar Master Sandrine Garbay, and a look at the new in-chateau boutique, we headed down the hill to the terrace of Château Sigalas Rabaud. Here, with tapas, we tasted the range of wines made by owner wine maker Laure de Lambert including her 100% dry Sémilion (La Semillante) and a Sweet Bordeaux made with no Sulphur le 5 – quite a technical challenge.

Mout at Sigalas

Tasting the semillon juice at Chateau Sigalas Rabaud before fermentation

Then on to Barsac, to first growth Château Climensfor the main course served with three vintages from the property, after discovering where owner wine maker Berenice Lurton dries and prepares the herbs she uses in her biodynamic preparations.

Climens Tissanerie

La Tisanerie at Château Climens in Barsac

Climens sunset

Climens 3 vintages

And of course dessert served at neighbour Château Coutet by Aline Baily, and we all slept soundly on the coach all the way home!

Coutet Chapel

The chapel at Château Coutet

Coutet with desert

We found this same spirit of cooperation in Pomerol. The neighbours came over to lunch organised by Monique Bailly at the new Ronan by Client winery of Château Client. Hosted by Nathalie Bez, we were joined by Maireille Cazaux Director and wine maker at Chateau La Conseillante and Diana Berrouet Garcia Wine maker at Chateau Petit Village.Tasting their wines side by side, although they are so close, showed just how important the notion of terroir can be even in as small an appellation as Pomerol.

Pomerol bottles

Tasting with the neighbors in Pomerol

Cellar master Emmanuel Fulchi hosted us at Chateau Angelus, taking us into the vineyard to get to grips with the terroir in their two properties, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Bellevue. Walking amongst the almost ripe grapes, we could understand the subtle differences of terroir up and down the south facing foothills of the limestone slopes of Saint Emilion.

Emmanuelle Fulchi

Emmanuelle Fulchi explains the Saint Emilion terroir at Château Angelus

The tasting was a master class in right bank Merlot. Bellevue is 100% Merlot and Angelus a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Recently returned from a Merlot seminar in the US, Emmanuel shared her surprise at the reputation Merlot suffers from in the States. The tasting firmly dispelled any questions hanging over the great potential of Merlot on the right bank.

Belleve:angelus

The Women for Wine Sense visit was both an opportunity to shine a light on the women in Bordeaux but also to dispel a few Bordeaux myths. They are planning to return, so it’s back to the drawing board to see which other Bordeaux Women in Wine we can visit on their next trip – we will be spoilt for choice.

 

Inspiration for your 2014 visit to Bordeaux.

 If you are planning a visit to Bordeaux this year, here are a few ideas I’ll be suggesting to visitors.  

Stay somewhere (very) different. I’m constantly suggesting lovely places to stay in and around Bordeaux on this blog but this year why not stay somewhere (very) different? I previously have posted about staying in tree houses and vats but if that is not cutting edge enough for you, try staying at Chateau La Romaningue in a bubble or even in a gypsy caravan.

Learn to cuisine like a chateau chef. More and more Chateaux are happy to open not just their cellar doors but also their kitchens where you can learn the secrets of Bordelais cuisine and food and wine matches at the source.  Chateau Phelan Segur in Saint Estèphe, Chateau Gruaud Larose in Saint Julien  and Chateau La Pointe in Pomerol all offer cooking classes and workshops followed by lunch to sample your success with a glass or two of the chateau wine. Lunch or dinner at Chateau La Lagune in their sumptuous kitchen is an opportunity to see Chef Catherine Negre at work. Check out some of the recipes here to whet your appetite or start practicing at home.

A table in the kitchens of Chateau La Lagune.

A table in the kitchens of Chateau La Lagune.

Shop ‘til you drop. More and more Chateaux have great shops, selling  not just wine and vinous paraphernalia but other cool gifts. In the Entre deux Mers, call in at Chateau Lestrille in Saint Germain du Puch to see owner Estelle Roumage’s eclectic selection of gifts and French specialities.

Shop at Chateau Lestrille

Shop at Chateau Lestrille

Just down the road in Grezillac at Chateau Ferret Lambert, Valerie Lambert has created a wonderful space showing various collectables and renovated French country furniture and bric à brac.

Look for treasures at Chateau Feret Lambert

Look for treasures at Chateau Feret Lambert

You if like you can even stay for lunch, dinner or even overnight in one of her guest rooms. Chateau Biac is opening its new tasting room this year on a unique oriental theme as befits the Lebanese owner Youmna Asseily.

Get off the beaten track. Have you noticed that a lot of the above recommendations are in the Entre deux Mers? That leads me to my next suggestion. Yes the classified growths of the Medoc, Saint Emilion and Graves will always be on visitors wish lists but try and find the time to visit the lesser known appellations of Bordeaux: the Saint Emilion Satellites, the Côtes and the Entre deux Mers. Here you will find the smaller family owned properties where the owners and wine makers will be on hand, often with bed and breakfast and table d’hôtes to add to the welcome.

A cellar lunch at Domaine de Claouset in the Entre deux Mers

A cellar lunch at Domaine de Claouset in the Entre deux Mers

Be a culture vulture. Bordeaux has some great museums and art galleries. If contemporary art is your thing, do not to miss the amazing Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez  created by the Chateau owner in the centre of Bordeaux. Many chateaux use the summer months to not just show their wines to visitors but also to show-case up and coming artists. Chateau Kirwan, Chateau Palmer, Chateau d’Arsac, Chateau Paloumey, La Tour Bessan and Lynch Bages are some of the properties that welcome artists to their cellars each year.

An art installation in the cellars of Chateau Kirwan

An art installation in the cellars of Chateau Kirwan

Learn how Bordeaux works. There’s more to Bordeaux than just the Chateaux,. To understand how the wine gets to Market, visit a negociant. Cordier, and Millesima both offer great visits to discover how the ‘Place de Bordeaux’ works and on the banks of the Dordogne, a visit to Le Chai au Quai can show you a hands on wine making experience.

Le Chai au Quai on the banks of the Dordogne

Le Chai au Quai on the banks of the Dordogne

See you there soon.

 

Visits with a difference or how to avoid barrel fatigue.

It has been said that after the third or forth château visit some visitors may suffer from barrel fatigue – after the same description of wine making and barrel ageing in each Château – but do not despair properties in Bordeaux have caught on and are offering visits with a difference.
One of the first to cotton on were ’Les Medocaines’ four women wine makers who have joined forces to offer visitors a different insight to the châteaux. They organise joint visits between the four properties of Château Paloumey, Château La Tour Bessan, Château La Loudenne and Château du Taillan. Themes vary from blending to food and wine workshops and even participating in the harvest for a day.
Four more women wine makers from Margaux (are we picking up a theme here?) have also got together again to ensure that they all offer visitors a different experience. The themes at each vary from Château Prieuré Lichine where you explore the history of the 1855 classification, Château Rauzan Gassies understanding the Margaux terroir, Château La Tour de Bessan grape varieties and blending and Château Kirwan the commercial organisation of Bordeaux.
All these tours can de booked through the Bordeaux Tourist board who will lay on the transport too so you can taste in peace.
Château Gruaud Larose is another of the many classified growths of the Medoc open to visitors and they offer specific visits for this season, on certain days either the cellar master M. Carmagnac or the agricultural manger M. Frederique will accompany visitors each explaining their expertise and role at the property. For more information contact Maisa Mansion at maisa.mansion@gruaud-larose.com
Make sure you book ahead.

The View from Château du Taillan – a taste of visits to come.

Bordeaux women welcome the Napa women in Wine

Last January Napa Women in Wine invited their Bordeaux counterparts to discover the Napa Vineyard. This year was the return match.

From the 11th to 15th January, The 16 ladies from Napa travelled the length and breadth of Bordeaux from Pomerol to the Medoc, Saint Emilion to Sauternes and Pessac Leognan visint gproperties where women plys a major role either as wine makers, owners or managers. Included on the itinerary were Château La Lagune, Château la Tour Bessan, Château Margaux, Château kirwan, Château Paloumey, Château Franc Mayne, Château Teyssier, Château Troplong Mondot, Château Sigalas Rabaud, Château Yquem, Château Haut Bailly and Château de Seuil.
It was not just tourism; several conferences on themes including marketing, understanding Bordeaux, a presentation on the role of the negociant by Paz Espero and ‘Tasting Terroir’ by Nicole Croft.

The participants from both sides of the Atlantic were

From California 
Jane Ballentine – William Cole
Pavi Lawson – Pavi Wines
Heidi Barrett – La Sirena
Cherie Melka – Melka Wines
Sandy Blecher – Arns Family Winery Beth Milliken – Spottswood
Carissa Chappellet – Chappellet Winery
Mary Novak – Spottswood
Carolyn Duryea Smith – Hourglass Suzanne Pavitt – Phifer Pavitt Wines
Ursula Hermacinski – Screaming Eagle
Pam Starr – Crocker & Starr
Sharon Harris – AmiCellars
Pierette Titus – Titus Vineyards,
Erin Lail – LailVineyard
Michele Torres – Trincharo Family Vineyards

And from Bordeaux 
Sandrine Garbay, Wine Maker – Château d’Yquem- AOC Sauternes.
Laure Compeyrot, propriétaire – Château Sigalas Rabaud – AOC Sauternes.
Myriam Ruer, négociant propriétaire de Vinprod
Nicola Allison, propriétaire – Château du Seuil – AOC Graves
Griet Laviale, propriétaire & Laurence Ters, Wine Maker : Château Franc Mayne, AOC saint Emilion Château de Lussac, AOC Lussac Saint Emilion – Château Vieux Mallet – AOC Pomerol
Caroline Frey, propriétaire – Château La Lagune , AOC Haut-Médoc
Sophie Thierry, propriétaire – Château Kirwan, AOC Margaux
Martine Cazeneuve propriétaire & Babara Engerer, RP Château Paloumey, AOC Haut-Médoc
Marie-Laure Lurton, propriétaire – Château de Villegeorge , AOC Haut-Médoc- Château Duplessis, AOC Moulis – Château La Tour Bessan, AOC Margaux.
Lyn Maltus, propriétaire Château Teyssier, AOC Saint Emilion Grand cru
and my good self !