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Yves and Stephanie Vatelot have been innovating at Chateau de Reignac since they purchased the property in 1990, so it came as no surprise that the Chateau was awarded the Best Of Wine Tourism award for Innovation for 2016. As an engineer and entrepreneur, innovation is in Yves Vatelot's DNA - he made his fortune with the 'epilady' that some of our readers may know well.
The Bordeaux appellation is at once the largest and most humble of the appellations of the region and Chateau de Reignac is firmly at its heart. Situated almost at the point of the Entre deux Mers close to the confluence of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, the highest outcrops of Reignac's vineyards are strewn with pebbles similar to that found in the gravel Medoc and Graves. Other plots of the vineyard are dominated by the limestone and clay soils associated with the top vineyards of Saint Emilion, a range of terroir that shows the range of soils that Bordeaux does best.
Investing in such a region for an innovator offered a myriad of possibilities but also challenges, the Vatelots rose to this challenge with gusto, and it has paid off. The property now produces four wines, the Grand Vin de Chateau de Reignac, the second wine Chateau de Reignac, their top cuvée Balthus, produced from a small parcel of old merlot, and more recently a dry white.
Choosing Michel Rolland as a consultant was a daring move but they applied his ideas and the resulting Grand Vin de Reignac regularly shines at blind tastings outclassing wines that are sometimes 10 times the price. He seems proud of his tag line Grand Cru Non Classé.
After innovation in the cellar and innovation out in the vineyard de Reignac is now all about innovation in wine tourism having opened to visitors since 2012.
Lunch in the Aroma Garden
Covering 150ha with just over ha under vine, the majority is covered with forest, important for biodiversity, and a lake large enough for an enthusiastic client to land his seaplane on during a recent visit.
At the heart of the property, next to the Chateau is the beautiful greenhouse, built by Gustave Eiffel, and the new aroma garden where 200 plants, sharing the typical aromas of red and white wines, have been planted. After a visit to the winery and the barrel cellar, a tour of this garden allows guests to get their sense of smell well honed before the tasting. This brings to life, in a very relaxed way, the part of wine tasting that many find the most challenging.
Le Jardin des Senteurs - the Aroma Garden
The garden has been such a success that many guests stay here for lunch under the trees with a picnic basket prepared by the property accompanied by their wines, of course and it was this garden that clinched the 2016 Best of Wine Tourism prize for ‘Innovation et discovery »
I first visited de Reignac just after the launch of Balthus in 2002. Named after their youngest son, it had been crowned the most expensive Bordeaux Supérieur on the market and was enjoying great success in the US. I was with a group from the American wine trade, keen to learn more about this phenomenon and we were not disappointed. The tasting room is in the 16th century pigeon tower, renovated in 1998. It includes a circular tasting table built around a dramatic pulley system that lowers the bottles selected for blind tasting from an upstairs room. It was already innovative in its approach to welcoming visitors.
The proximity to the water was the inspiration behind a new experience. “The Secrets of a Wine in a Day” starts in Bordeaux where a minibus takes guests to visit local barrel maker Boutes, then, after a full visit of Chateau de Reignac including the aroma garden and a tasting they enjoy a lunch in the gardens before returning back to Bordeaux by cruising up the Garonne river. This new experience is available for small groups from May until October.
Chateau de Reignac continues on its path of innovation in wine making, grape growing communication and tourism. In one single property they dispel several myths that surround Bordeaux: they offer excellent wines at affordable prices with a warm and innovative welcome in 5 languages. If you can't get to visit the property to experience it for yourself, you can join them via social media, but I recommend you try - seaplane trip anyone?
By Wendy Narby, at Insidertasting