Bordeaux opens its doors to tourists
When he was 20 years old back in 1999, Basile Tesseron of Château Lafon-Rochet, a classified growth in Saint-Estèphe, decided to leave: “Bordeaux was boring, conservative and unfashionable,” he said. Instead of taking over from his father, Michel Tesseron, he travelled across the US and South America, working in restaurants and other jobs.
Now in his mid 30s, with three children, Basile Tesseron directs Lafon-Rochet with pride. Lafon-Rochet will open a new boutique in January 2016 to welcome the general public, seven days a week – quite rare for Bordeaux. Just as neighbour Montrose had done amid much fanfare (and expense), Lafon-Rochet is modernizing its cellar. Tesseron explained how 22 stainless steel vats have been replaced with 18 new stainless steel and 18 new temperature-controlled concrete vats in a wider variety of sizes and shapes that enable parcel-by-parcel vinification. “All this goes together,” he said. “We improve winemaking and share this with people who love wine in a welcoming setting.” Read More
This year, premier grand cru classé Château La Gaffelière in Saint-Émilion this year began €20.00 ($21.30) per-person wine tours. Not just on Sundays, but also on bank holidays – in English, French and Spanish.
In nearby Lalande-de-Pomerol, Paul Goldschmidt of Château Siaurac launched a wine tourism program in September, including Sunday brunches at his 12-hectare garden, with a Jardin Remarquable rating from the French ministry of culture. Guests can stay overnight and enjoy gourmet dinners. “We must open our doors to the public,” Goldschmidt said Read More
Pioneers set stage
Gaillard praises wine tourism pioneers such as Philippe de Rothschild of Mouton Rothschild, the Cazes family at Château Lynch-Bages and, later on, the Cathiards at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. “Early on the Cathiards set up a restaurant, lodgings and spa for tourists for the Graves region,” she says. “They blazed a trail.”
When Florence and husband Daniel Cathiard arrived at Smith Haut Lafitte in 1990, Florence recalls: “At that time none of our neighbours were ready to open estate doors even on weekends.” Today, Florence Cathiard is president of the Oenotourisme French Council, where she initiates projects nationwide – and she is “very happy” with how Bordeaux has improved its wine tourism. Read More
Renovation transforms quality and image
Much has been said in the media about spectacular unveilings of new cellars at Château Margaux, designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, and some €60m spent by the tycoon owners of Château Montrose to transform the cellar space into a massive model of environmental sustainability. Both estates celebrated these changes over elaborate dinners at Vinexpo this year. A Keeping Up With The Joneses mentality permeates Bordeaux estates, as similar renovations – if not always on such grand scales – grow like so many autumnal mushrooms. Read More