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Mar 9, 2020

From Eleanor of Acquitane who married Henry Plantagenet of England in 1152, uniting Britain with Bordeaux and kicking off a lifelong relationship between the two nations, to Caroline de Villeneuve, owner of Château Cantemerle who fought tooth and nail to be included in the 1855 Classification, to Madame Labat whose vision and marketing genius gave us Petrus to Baroness Philippine de Rothschild of  Château Mouton-Rothschild and Corinne Mentzelopoulos of Château Margaux women have played a role in Bordeaux for centuries. And in this show we have two women of the current generation. They are here to celebrate women in wine.

 

On this show I talk with Sylvie Coursell of Château Thieuley, whose estate is in the Entre deux Mers and has been in her family since it was acquired in 1950 and who runs the estate with her sister, making lovely red, white, and sparkling wine. And also Caroline Perromat of the historic Graves estate of Château de Cerons. The property has been around since the 18th century, has groundings in the aristocracy of Bordeaux, and is well known for beautiful reds, whites, and especially botrytis affected sweet wines, which rival those of Barsac and Sauternes.

Caroline tells us about the transformation of Bordeaux culture in three generations. Château de Cerons has kept its aristocratic beginnings  but with Caroline and her husband Xavier at the helm, changes have been made. What are three ways this historic property has changed?

  1. Caroline and Xavier have hired people of diverse backgrounds -- women and men from the arts and other industries apart from wine to give the Château a wider, global perspective. 

  2. They work sustainably in their vineyards, so they can maintain the beautiful freshness (acidity, medium body/lower alcohol, mineral character) in the reds, whites and sweet wines. 

  3. They are working to marry tradition with new practices and a new sense of openness to tourists and to wine lovers around the globe to make Bordeaux a more welcoming, warm place where people can have fun. 

Cool fact Caroline shares: The famous more tangerine flavored Cerons sweet wines from Château de Cerons is actually grown side by side with the grapes for the fresh whites. The difference between the grapes: picking times only!

 

Sylvie Courselle of Château Thieuley runs the estate with her sister in Entre-Deux-Mers, the home of excellent, fresh white wines and bright, fruity reds. What are Sylvie's 3 points:

1. There used to be far more white than red in Bordeaux, now there is a mere 9% of whites here. 

2. The new grapes that have been introduced for climate reasons (Marselan, Touriga Nacional, Castets, and Arinarnoa for reds and Alvarinho, Petit Manseng and Liliorila for whites) will give winemakers flexibility that they crave -- she and her sister feel inhibited by the AOC system, so much that they planted Chardonnay and Syrah so they could make wine from them (they are label Vin de France, the general appellation for French wine).  Experimetation in anticipation of climate change has been happening for years, so these grapes are the best options based on research.

3. Sylvie believes that in the next generation, the conversation around women and wine will be a non-issue. She feels the playing field has equalized and that we won't be talking about this in 10 years (I gotta disagree with her, but I love the optimism!).

 

Cool fact from Sylvie: Château Thieuley is named for its soil types of clay "tiles" that surround the estate. Sylvie tells us that many of the Bordeaux chateaux are named in a similar fashion, if they aren't named for the people who founded them.

A great show to salute two fantastic women in wine, this women's history month! 

 

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