Young guns of Bordeaux Wine

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Come to Bordeaux and meet the young generation of wine makers and vineyard owners who are making changes in Bordeaux and are keen to meet their clients face to face.

Originally from Limoges, just north of Bordeaux, Magalie and Thibaut Decoster made the vineyards of Bordeaux their home 15 years ago when they purchased Clos des Jacobins in 2004. Having studied business and marketing in France and England, they nurtured their dream of becoming wine makers. Early in 2017, they took over Château de Candale and Château Roc de Candale. As champions of the French lifestyle, they continue the tradition of welcoming visitors to Chateau de Candale, sharing not only the wines but also the local gastronomy. Nestling in the foothills of the famous limestone slopes of Saint Emilion, this tiny fairy-tale chateau has a restaurant with a delightful terrace looking across the Dordogne valley. It is the perfect place to discover their range of wines and others from the region right at the heart of this UNESCO heritage site.

Just up the road the latest generation of a well-established family is also bringing a new perspective to the region. The De Schepper family are not new to Bordeaux, their wine portfolio includes a total of five Bordeaux properties and a negociant house and now the third generation is talking over. Alongside her cousin Olivier; Hélène de Schepper is the latest member of the family to join the team. She has been in charge of Wine Tourism for the group since 2013, winning the global Best of Wine Tourism in 2015 for Château La Croizille, the latest addition to the family's Bordeaux portfolio. After the purchase in 1996, renovation work was concentrated mainly in the vineyard, but late 2012 saw the opening of the new gravity-fed wine cellar. The design of the new chai is inspired by the clay and limestone terroir, so typical of this part of the appellation. The most spectacular innovation, for the visitor, is the tasting room, suspended high above the vineyard with a 180° view across the valley. For here you can see perfectly not only how beautiful the rolling hills are in this part of the appellation, but also, with excellent drainage and sun exposure how well they suit vine cultivation.

As an agricultural engineer, Pierre Cazeneuve has a passion for 'agro-ecology'. Although he had been working at the family vineyard, Chateau Paloumey, since the 2015 harvest, he took over management of the property in 2018. Already in 2016, he started restructuring the vineyard, converting to organic production. The 2020 vintage will be their first certified organic vintage. He is passionate about two things; recreating and preserving biodiversity but also becoming an integrated part of the local community. Bringing the two together he works closely with the local school, inviting classes of pupils to the vineyard and getting them involved with projects such as replanting hedges amongst the vines. This open door philosophy has established Paloumey as one of the leaders in wine tourism in the Médoc.  Their proximity to Bordeaux helps, but they have a great story to tell. The vineyard was uprooted in the 1950s and left idle until 1989 when Pierre's mother, Martine Cazeneuve, bought it and replanted bringing it back to 34ha. It is now a leading Cru Bourgeois and has been since the 2003 classification. They won a Best of Gold in 2011 and in 2015 they doubled the number of visitors and are now number one on Trip Advisor for the Médoc. Working alongside Pierre, Adeline Wartmann looks after wine tourism, using her ten years experience in Napa to bring a business to consumer philosophy to the property, developing direct sales to visitors. Axel Marchal has now joined the team as consultant oenologist, as Pierre considers him to be the best new 'young gun' wine maker in Bordeaux.

Château Fonreaud is another Cru Bourgeois in the Médoc, in Listrac. The region is known for being very flat but Fonreaud is on the highest point of the peninsula, 43m above sea level. A family property since 1962, it was purchased by Léo Chanfreau when he arrived from wine making in Algeria. His innovations and renovations were ahead of their time and now the third generation:niece Marion and nephews, Guillaume and Loïc are building on his legacy. They still use the original cement vats, now renovated, but have added their own signature with ultra modern stainless steel, inverted vats. It is worth a visit just to see the high tech cellar, which resembles a trendy dance floor rather than a classic Bordeaux cellar. To help visitors discover the property and its wine, they have created a treasure hunt through the vines for the young, and young at heart, as well as more classic visits including lunch in the elegant 19th century Napoleon III chateau that dominates the vines.

From the vines to the cellars to the table, the young men and women of Bordeaux are making the most of modern research and innovation. It is not an easy balancing act to innovate whilst respecting both the natural environment and the long-standing traditions that have made the region famous.  This new generation are rising to the challenge.

by Wendy Narby