International Women’s Day: Spotlight on the women driving wine tourism in Bordeaux

Armelle Cruse and Tatiana Falcy
Château Le Taillan: Armelle Cruse & Tatiana Falcy


Catherine Leparmentier has been developing wine tourism for 20 years. She is currently the director of Great Wine Capitals (GWC), a Bordeaux initiative that was established to link cities connected to great wine regions in order to sustain the health and prosperity of their wine-related activities. GWC started with six members and is now a global network of 12 including Adelaide, Rioja, Mendoza, Porto and Napa Valley and growing. Leparmentier says wine tourism may have started in Napa with Robert Mondavi but that Bordeaux wasn’t far behind. Small properties reliant on direct sales started the trend, with classified growths selling through ‘La Place’, slower to catch on until they understood the loyal fan base visits created. Now many estates have shops offering direct sales for tourists and locals alike.

Sylvie Cazes, co-owner of Pauillac fifth growth, Château Lynch Bages worked there alongside her brother Jean-Michel before setting up her own tourism agency Bordeaux Saveurs in 2005. The company specialises in organising tailor-made stays and events on the theme of great wines, gastronomy and the French art of living. She is also president of Bordeaux wine attraction La Cité du Vin and welcomes visitors at her St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé estate Château Chauvin.

Former Olympic skier Florence Cathiard has worked tirelessly since 1990 to welcome visitors to the Pessac-Léognan estate Château Smith Haut Lafitte she owns with her husband Daniel. What started with the pair running visits themselves seven days a week now sees the estate receive around 25,000 visitors a year, 5,000 of whom Florence meets in person. In 2014 she was elected for a three-year stint as president of the Superior Council of Wine Tourism with a mission to attract visitors to all the vineyards across France.

Cathiard’s daughter’s also followed her entrepreneurial footsteps: Mathilde Thomas created the Caudalie range of beauty products harnessing the beneficial and therapeutic properties of grapes in 1995 and four years later Alice Tourbier opened the first destination wine spa, Les Sources de Caudalie at the Pessac family property. It is now a five-star hotel and wellbeing complex that Jay-Z and Beyonce privatised in 2023 for their trip to Bordeaux.

Alice Tourbier

Alice Tourbier

Just down the road at Château Malartic la Gravière, Severine Bonnie, wife of co-owner Jaques Bonnie (with his sister Veronique) has opened the elegant family château for visits and tastings that showcase the property’s sustainable initiatives, elegant lunches and dinners in the reception rooms, picnics in the park and cooking classes. As well as being active in the tourism industry, the family also supports the arts as the official sponsor of the American Cinematheque Award. In 2024 Veronique jetted to Los Angeles for the award’s show which saw the estate’s wines poured at a gala dinner.

Caroline Perromat is another Graves tourism heroine. Starting at Château Haut Bailly with Veronique Sanders, she helped create one of the first vine to cellar visitor circuits as well as a tasting room and boutique – still the best château shop in Bordeaux. The estate also introduced ‘La Table Privée’, inviting guests into the intimacy of the 19th century building with a custom built menu based on local and seasonal foods. In 2022 the estate revealed a new state-of-the-art, sustainable cellar designed with visitors in mind, taking them from cellar to the roof garden in a glass lift. The neighbouring property, Château La Pape, was also transformed into a guest house.

In 2012, Perromat took her expertise to the family-owned Château de Cérons. Despite the beauty of this classified monument, it was hidden from view. Passionate about sharing the story of the property with the public, they opened it to visitors. Now, 18th century tunnels link to the banks of the Garonne and Perromat hosts elegant picnics in the park of the…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/features/international-womens-day-spotlight-on-the-women-driving-wine-tourism-in-bordeaux-524364/