Women in wine: Bordeaux

Sara Lecomte Cuvelier
Sara Lecomte Cuvelier, Château Leoville Poyferré, Moulin Riche and Le Crock

Bordeaux has a history of extraordinary women running vineyards.

In Sauternes & Barsac

Françoise-Joséphine d’Yquem was imprisoned twice during the French revolution but managed to save both her neck and Château d’Yquem, 1er Grand Cru Classé Supérieur Sauternes. She then dedicated herself to her property, and introduced the practice of ‘tries successives’ or multiple passes through the vineyard during harvest to collect botrytised grapes at maximum maturity, transforming the quality of wines from the whole appellation.

Her legacy lives on. Sandrine Garbay followed her footsteps at Château d’Yquem but is now at neighbouring Château Guiraud, where the new owner Matthieu Gufflet has entrusted her with both winemaking and overseeing the whole estate, including launching a new wine tourism venture with a 26-room hotel planned for 2025.

At Château Sigalas Rabaud, 1er Grand Cru Classé Sauternes, sixth-generation Laure de Lambert Compeyrot has also embraced wine tourism with five exquisite guest rooms. She has extended her range adding a 100% dry white Sémillon and a sulphur free, semi-sweet Bordeaux. Her latest is the first cuvée of a sparkling Semillon, La Marquise in honour of her grandmother, who ran the property in the 1950s.

Franco-American Aline Baly is the third-generation to join the family business at nearby Château Coutet in Barsac bringing a different kind of dynamism to the industry. Having studied and worked across the US, Europe and Asia, she now co-owns and manages the estate with her uncle as well as being the director of marketing at Baron Philippe de Rothschild.

Aline Baly

Aline Baly, Château Coutet

In the Médoc

My favourite historical heroine is Château Cantemerle’s Caroline de Lalande who, at 72 years old, challenged courtiers and négociants to add Cantemerle to the 1855 classification she won. Today, Laure Canu runs both Château Cantemerle, 5ème Grand Cru Classé Haut-Médoc, and Grand Corbin, Grand Cru Classé in St-Emilion. Currently renovating, she is tripling the size of the cellars, creating a visitor centre and adapting the château for guests.

Perhaps the best known Bordeaux property owned and run by a woman is Bordeaux first growth Château Margaux, which is run by Corinne Mentzelopoulos, now joined by her daughter Alexandra. She’s not the first woman in charge here. In the 17th century Château Margaux was part of the business empire of Olive de Lestonnac, known as ‘La Dame de Margaux’. She was the richest woman in Bordeaux when she died at the château in 1652 at the grand age of 80.

Another Médoc mother and daughter team is Lillian and Melanie Barton Sartorius. Châteaux Langoa, and Leoville Barton, have been in the family since the 1820s. Lilian runs the classified growths, that reopen to visitors this spring after extensive renovation. In 2011, with her husband, Michel Sartorius, they bought Château Mauvesin Barton in Moulis. Their daughter Melanie, the first qualified oenologist in the family, joined them in 2013 – the eighth generation Barton to put their mark on the Médoc.

Lilian Barton Sartorius

Lilian Barton Sartorius, Château Léoville Barton

In 1992, two Lurton sisters took on respective family estates; Berenice became an early advocate for biodynamics at Château Climens in Barsac making spectacular wines in this challenging micro-climate while Marie-Laure took over the family vineyards at Château de Villegeorge in Haut Médoc and Château La Tour de Besan in Margaux. La Tour Besan typifies Bordeaux old meets new. The château takes it’s name from a 12th century lookout tower but Marie-Laure makes the wine in a 1930s telecommunications centre converted into an ultra-modern cellar.

Their sister-in-law, Claire Villars Lurton, is also a passionate advocate for organic and biodynamic viticulture and agro forestry at Châteaux Haut-Bages Libéral (5ème Grand Cru Classé Pauillac), Ferrière (3ème Grand…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/women-in-wine-bordeaux-498878/

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