John Brunton’s Bordeaux Women Winemakers Trail


Travelling across the diverse Bordeaux appellations to meet women wine makers for this Trail has been a revelation. It is crystal clear that the outdated image of the world of wine being dominated by a male mentality is  far removed from today’s reality, where women are a forceful and successful presence.

Not just those who took the responsibility to run family estates or changed career to start their own winery, but throughout the business; from cellar masters, vineyard workers and highly-skilled tractor drivers to creative marketing and commercial input, expert buyers for Bordeaux’s famed wine merchants, respected oenologues and highly skilled laboratory technicians to environmental experts on organic cultivation, biodiversity and agro-ecology. But this is not something that has happened overnight and each of the vigneronnes who tell their story below offer a fascinating insight into the long, often complex journey they have taken to achieve the same recognition and acceptance that used to be automatically bestowed on their male counterparts. Now it is an equal world for everyone working in the Bordeaux châteaux and vineyards. 

Marie-Hélène Levêque, Château de Chantegrive 

As Hélène and Françoise Levêque stroll through the Italianate gardens outside their cellar it is like watching a defilé of historic women in Bordeaux winemaking. Back in 1967, Françoise and her husband sold the family stamp collection to purchase a tiny 2 hectare vineyard on the border of the Graves and Pessac-Léognan appellations. She became France’s first woman president of a Syndicat du Vin, while the estate has expanded to 100 hectares. Hélène recalls how “my mother shook up all the old-fashioned vignerons by turning the Syndicat into an efficient marketing organisation to promote the region’s wines.  At 86 she is still living here, helping me with tastings and administration.” Hélène had a career as a hospital nurse before coming back to the family domaine where ”I am fortunate to be advised by a wonderful oenologue, Hubert de Boüard. He is open and listens to me, respecting my ideas, which is not what I have always encountered in the very male world of the wine cellar where vigneronnes are rarely listened to. I think men do not really like being employed by women, being told what to do by women. It was the same when I was a nurse working alongside male doctors, though I should stress that  male winemakers have always been very welcoming.”

She has recently bought an adjoining château with 15 hectares of vines and a  cellar filled with cement tanks and enthuses that “it seems the perfect opportunity to try a different winemaking style.

I always try to be open to change. Here in the Graves we have many women successfully running wineries, and although I am happy when my wines win awards at new vigneronne competitions like Concours Mondial des Féminalise, I just don’t have the time to join official organisations promoting women winemakers. All my efforts have to be concentrated here at Chantegrive.”

Bérangère Quellien, Château Lusseau

Driving through the vineyards of the Graves appellation, just after Ayguemorte, a small side road plunges into thick forest, eventually coming to an end right in front of the gates of Château Lusseau. The present building dates back to around 1800, surrounded by a single 7 hectare vineyard that has been certified organic since 2010. The estate was bought by Bérangère Quellien’s great grandfather in 1870 and she is the third generation winemaker. 

“Here we are women working together with other women,” she says with a mischievous smile. “Myself, Delphine in the vineyard and cellar, our oenologue is a women, even our mascot Great Dane, Prada, is female. Marie-Neige, my mother is 82 now,  living here in the château, and we call her La Dame de Lusseau, still charming visitors when she conducts wine tastings.” 

Bérangère rules over a wonderfully chaotic garage cellar where she produces a mix of classic blended Graves wines contrasting with La Bérue Déglinguée a funky 100% Merlot, picked extra ripe, macerated, not aged in wood and sporting arty labels and an unconventional Burgundy-style bottle. The chai is filled with old barrels, stainless steel vats and cement tanks, a functioning 1926 hydraulic grape press, while dozens of paintings by her father and grandfather decorate the walls. She recalls how, “I grew up with parents who were both doctors and vignerons, working 7 days a week all their life.  When I decided to come home and run the vineyard, I wanted to valorise my parents efforts, to stop selling our wonderful wine in bulk, to become certified organic as soon as possible. And more recently, I am working to protect biodiversity using agroforestry by planting trees and hedges.

I am determined to break Bordeaux codes of winemaking, to show everyone that we can do someone different here, something innovative. So maybe you can say that rather than a feminist I am rebel.”

Angélique Armand, Château La Rame 

The tiny hamlet of Rame sits high above the Garonne river looking down on the vineyards of the small appellation of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, while across the river sits Sauternes and Barsac. They are all part of Bordeaux’s “Liquoreux Land”, appellations prized for their intense and rich  sweet wines.

The very determined owner and winemaker, Angélique Armand, spent 15 years working with her father before taking over, and admits they see wine differently. “He still advises during barrel tastings and for blending, but when we disagree I use a food/wine analogy; his is a generation that loves to eat daube de boeuf, blanquette, cassoulet, whereas today we want ceviche, sushi, veggies. And it is the same with sweet wines – he wants something heavy, explosive where one glass is enough, where I am looking for finesse, elegance, even acidity. And my wine, well, after one glass you end up drinking the whole bottle. That way liquoreux wines can survive in the future.” And her philosophy has been vital for the survival of this 50 hectare estate. “My first move was to stop selling in bulk to merchants and take control ourselves of sales and distribution, especially targeting overseas markets. Here in Sainte-Croix-du-Mont we have a unique terroir where vines grow on ancient oyster fossils, but we don’t have the historic renown of a Sauternes château. So I follow the strategy of exporting to countries like the UK where consumers judge you on the quality of your wine and not your famous name.”

Though self-trained, she  oversees the vine, cellar and blending,  convinced that, “women are maybe better at making a great sweet white wine because we understand the subtlety and complexity that is necessary, because women are more determined, more demanding, ready to take time to be a total perfectionist. Although my father always used to say I was too slow in the cellar!.”

Sandrine Piva, Château des Seigneurs de Pommyers 

Driving through the bucolic country lanes of Entre-deux-Mers it is easy to miss this magical medieval château tucked well back off the road between fields and vineyards.

It is actually a sprawling fortified village surrounded by ramparts and military towers, with a chapel, dovecote and mill, built by  English King Edward I. But when Jean-Luc Piva bought it in 1989 the buildings were all but abandoned. Today the estate is run by his daughter Sandrine, with a 23 hectare certified organic vineyard and a brand new state-of-the-art cellar.  She is quite a feisty lady, who started here as a salaried employee after training as an accountant.

“I have no diploma in agriculture or oenology, so it took time working on the estate before I was ready to take over, after many years being helped and guided by my father. But I actually think it was an advantage not to have studied winemaking, being told exactly what you must do all the time. I am someone very open to people’s opinions, very curious.” Her father recently passed away and after realising his dream of the new cellar, she is now determined in the future to capitalise on the enormous potential of the château for festivals and seminars, marriages and chambre d’hotes.

Enthusiastically opening bottles of their large range of organic wines, she recalls how, “as a vigneronne, my relations with male vineyard workers were not easy at first. But over the years, not only have I won their respect, but many of the older generation  have retired and the new younger generation are much more open to working for a woman. It is just a question of time, being patient and proving yourself as a capable winemaker. You have to be transparent, to prove that you are hands-on running the winery, not hidden away in the office.” 

Claire Buffeteau, Vignobles Buffeteau

Spanning two château properties in the heart of Entre-deux-Mers, Claire Buffeteau proudly states that their 30 hectare vineyard “is a history of women, beginning with my great grandmother who first made the wine here in the 1920’s.” Claire’s father was an oenologist and wine buyer until deciding in 1998 to devote himself totally to the estate while she grew up in Bordeaux, studying medicine.” Just before graduating I decided I was not really cut out to be doctor. My father had just expanded the estate, needed someone at his side, so 8 years ago I joined the winery and we are now finally entering the period of a handover. I have just made my first cuvée,  ready for the challenge to take over. And I know already what changes I want to look at: reorganise our work methods to have more advanced planning, I don’t want to increase the vineyard, but rather look at the idea of reducing the number of vines, and then to see what a biodynamic approach  can offer, as well as the potential of no sulphite wines.”

Claire admits that she has been confronted with some difficult situations as a woman, “for example, when another vigneron comes here and calls me ‘the secretary’, or ‘daddy’s little girl’, which certainly does not please me. Then I pestered my father to teach me everything about driving tractors, but for 6 months nothing ever happened. Then my boyfriend joined our team, and surprise surprise,  he was taught in one week! Well I can assure you that a woman can drive a tractor just as well as a man.” Claire also echoes the thought of several other women winemakers, that, “maybe we do things slower, but only because we are more careful, more perfectionist than men.”

Bérangère Tesseron, Chateau Larrivaux

Just across the boundary from the Saint-Estèphe appellation, Château Larrivaux is an enchanting property, where the same family has been making wine since 1581, always overseen by women.

Since 2005 that woman has been Bérangère Tesseron who trained as a lawyer specialising in the wine business before succeeding her mother and aunt at the château.

She oversees a rambling 80 hectares estate bursting with a natural biodiversity that extends across parkland, woods, fields, quarries and 15 hectare vineyard producing 90,000 bottles of elegant Haut-Médoc a year. “I did not go to a winemaking school,” she admits, “so the technical parts of the work are something that I literally had to learn every day. Fortunately I am not a conflictual person who has to have the last word, so I can ignore people who treat me as an idiot, and prefer to bide my time. You can’t arrive in the cellar aged 24 and start making decisions if you don’t  have winery experience. Today, though, I am happy both driving the tractor or pruning in winter, and tasting and blending in the cellar. In fact, I see myself more as a gardener and the château’s vineyard is my vegetable garden, where I personally take care of each vine.” When Berangere’s mother and aunt ran the estate all the wine was sold directly to merchants while the technical director, Christophe Barbeyron, was basically left to run things as he wanted. “it took a while to forge a relationship with Christophe, but we got through the early problems and he is still here today 17 years later.

We make a great duo, and he says the château is like his own vineyard. Of course I have my little tactics, like during tastings, saying ‘well I know nothing of course’, which annoys my husband. But it is just part of my  daily diplomacy.”

Corinne Chevrier, Château Bel-Air La Royère 

The daughter of a Cognac vigneron and distiller, Corinne Chevrier left her native region for the rural Blaye appellation where she runs a highly innovative 14 hectare organic vineyard. Opening bottles in her tasting room, she is an infectious  bundle of energy and enthusiasm, recounting how, “when I started to run the château on my own in 2012,  well I didn’t even know how to drive a tractor. Up till then, I was seen as just “the wife”. Fortunately people around here knew and accepted me, and today there are more and more women working in the wine business, from female tractor drivers, to oenologists to vineyard workers.


Here the team is 90% female, though it is because of practical considerations not because I think of myself as a feminist.” But she is definitely someone in love with the world of wine, “because I am always innovative, always questioning, not afraid to follow the latest fashion, nor to create my own fashion that others will then fashion.” Apart from her classic Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux range, Corinne has experimented with a Sauvignon orange wine, invested in terracotta amphorae, planted a parcel of the ancient Bordeaux grape Castets, and even created a special Rosé cuvée in honour of the Ukraine refugee family she hosted for 6 months. “I love being a vigneronne because each year is like starting afresh – one year it is wood-aged style, today cement and amphorae, now light wine with less alcohol. And then there is my favourite Malbec grape, which I champion above all else. It has now been upgraded from an ‘accessory’ to  a principal grape in the blending for Blaye wines, and for me this is like the illegitimate child having his aristocratic title restored. So I decided the grape merited cuvées that are 100% Malbec, provocatively  bottled Burgundy-style to stand out.”

Isabelle Chéty, Château Mercier 

Sitting at the long wooden table of Château Mercier’s homely tasting room, Isabelle Chety enthusiastically recounts how her parents were pioneers of wine tourism in the Côtes de Bourg and Blaye region. She and her brother, who together run the substantial 50 hectare estate today, are the 13th generation, and she proudly holds an ancient portrait of a long gone ancestor, Alida, whom she just named her recently-born daughter after.

But Isabelle has made a very strong personal mark on the wines being made here today. “I only came back to join my brother when I was 35, and straightaway  I asked my father to leave running the estate to us. I always follow my passion as I am someone who accepts confrontation. When I was young, I grew up being “ la fille de’ my father, viewed like that by uncles, cousins, my grandparents. That was why I left, and today that is why I create my own style of wine.”

Her innovative cuvées certainly stand out, from her beloved collection of 33 amphorae ageing a Merlot from a vineyard with ruins of a Gallo-Roman villa, to Atmosphère,  a Bordeaux blend without sulphites, or a rare Côtes de Bourg white. Isabelle experienced a whole different life before coming back home, travelling across the globe in the challenging world of luxury hotels and restaurants. She eloquently recounts how, “when you are born into a winemaking family you are both privileged and spoilt. Living in a natural environment, raised by happy parents who follow their passion, eat and drink well, enjoy relative financial security. But this was all too easy for me, so I headed off at 19 to travel the world.” Today though, sitting round the family dining table, enthusiastically talking recipes with her mother, new wine ideas with her brother, she has clearly found her place back in the family winery.

Florence Prudhomme, Château Saincrit

When you first meet Florence Prudhomme it can come as a surprise that in a former life she was a high-powered female executive in charge of a Bordeaux factory that produced 7 million bottles a year of anisette.

Today she is casually dressed in jeans and waistcoat, coming out of her wine cellar followed closely by her faithful dog, Estey. Château Saincrit is a rustic domaine just by the banks of the Dordogne river, producing both classic Bordeaux Supérieur wines and  surprising new cuvées, one without sulphites, another aged only in stainless steel.

The manor house is a comfy family home surrounded by vineyards with an idyllic wooden terrace on the highest point where Florence brings wine tourism guests for tastings and food pairings. She recounts how, ‘I bought the château 20 years ago because I wanted to change my life, to reconnect with nature after living for years in big city Bordeaux. I started small, but took advantage of the friendly winemaking community here by learning to taste alongside my fellow vignerons who are always getting together to discuss their wines. I discovered a real sense of community, which increased when a group of friends founded a woman’s wine association, Les Bordeaux Amazone, to make a statement that women can join forces to sell each others wine without any competition between us. And I am not sure it is like that for men.”

Today, she is intent on becoming more autonomous rather than relying on hired workers who do not always want to let her impose her own ideas. “Having worked with a large male factory workforce I have no complexes of being a female winemaker, but as I was not born into this life, did not study oenology, I  can still have problems getting what I want from my workforce. However, let us be clear, that is because I come from a different world and not because I am a woman.”


Ecluse 52

Driving through the Sauternes and Graves vineyards to where the sleepy Garonne canal flows into the grand river to discover this bustling bistrot along a tree-lined bank moored with barges and pleasure boats.

Chef Dara creates tasty dishes that interpret traditional recipes with a fun creative twist like grilled octopus with a tangy chorizo sauce or foie gras served with poached pear and onion jam.


The latest Bordeaux foodie hotspot, hip Ganache offers a seductive mix of classic and creative cuisine, inventive cocktails and their very own artisan ‘chocolatier’, producing chocolate truffles and pralines, cakes and tempting desserts for the restaurant menu. 


Château de la Tour

Just outside the medieval town of Cadillac, this friendly family-run hotel is a great base for days out wine tasting and sightseeing.

Lovely park and swimming pool, with a dynamic Vietnamese woman chef who offers both subtle  fusion inspired dishes and Bordeaux classics like oysters from Arcachon and a juicy entrecôte steak. 

John Brunton’s Bordeaux Social Initiatives Wine Trail


The Bordeaux wine scene is about to enter a pioneering era with the inaugural year of a new initiative for corporate  responsibility that bears the name ‘Bordeaux Cultivons Demain’. This sets down a guide for environmental, economic and social responses in today’s climate, for everyone from small vignerons to grand châteaux, wine merchants to Caves Coopératives, And those choosing to adhere will be independently audited, eventually leading to the awarding of an official label. But this is just the concretisation, the tip of the iceberg, of a new responsible mentality has been taking root in Bordeaux for many years, be it for protecting biodiversity or worker’s welfare, combating climate change, diminishing not just pesticides but carbon footprint, respecting the soil, flowers, pollinators, bats and birds.

And this concerted ecological impetus has already seen a phenomenal increase in the percentage of Bordeaux vineyards with at least one certified environmental approach – be it organic, biodynamic, High Environmental Value or Terra Vitis – from 35% in 2014 to 75% in 2021. Today, just look at any châteaux winery website and there are new sections dedicated to ecology, biodiversity or agroforestry initiatives, then look around at  the walls of  tasting rooms and there are now a row of serious industry certifications alongside the usual gold medal diplomas from wine competitions. This Trail takes a tour of the 7 of the pioneers of this new philosophy, each one with a different story to tell. 

Château de la Rivière 

This stunning Renaissance château, which dates back some 800 years, is a landmark stop for wine lovers visiting the Bordelais, both for its palatial interiors and wines aged in stunning subterranean grottoes that stretch for 25 kilometres below the castle. Situated in the heart of the Fronsac appellation, overlooking a 65 hectares vineyard and the Dordogne river, the domaine had been overseen for 25 years by its genial director and oenologue, Xavier Buffo, who has long been at the vanguard of implementing social and environmental initiatives.

The château’s 20,000 annual visitors are given an educational explanation of projects like Natura 2000 that safeguard bats, the perfect natural insect repellent, as there 8 rare species nesting in the cellar caves, as well as the protection of biodiversity   through planting hedgerows, fruit trees and leaving swathes of their woodlands wild to attract vital pollinators like wild bees. But his greatest efforts have concentrated on aiding the local community. “I wanted a project that could  involve local villages, businesses and neighbouring wine makers,” explains Xavier, “while at the same time giving widespread publicity to La Rivière.


The solution was Le Confluent d’Arts, our very own festival. The first one was in 2017, headlined by a famous-name musician to attract attention, numerous local bands and singers, street theatre even inside the chateau itself, food trucks and a wine bar showcasing all the winemakers in our commune. We ask schools to participate with a project to decorate the château, and around 60 locals volunteers  help run the festival. It is genuine community effort, drawing 6,500 people”

Château de la Dauphine 

This perfectly preserved 17th century château dates back to 1750 when it was one of the homes of the wife of King Louis XV, hence its name.

Today La Dauphine is surrounded by a 66 hectare certified organic vineyard, producing elegant Fronsac wines, making use of a creative mix of raw concrete tanks and terracotta amphorae. The estate’s director, Stéphanie Barousse, enthuses about their signature, highly original project that perfectly illustrates the three pillars of Bordeaux Cultivons Demain; Environment, Social, Economic.

”We have revived the ancient  tradition of “transhumance”, bringing a flock of 200 sheep down from the Pyrénées, along with their shepherd. They stay in our vineyards from October to May, eating all the vineyard weeds while leaving their natural, ecological manure for fertiliser, while to reduce carbon footprint, we do not use the tractor. From the social side, well the sheep certainly bring a smile to our workers faces, it brings us in touch with local villages who all want to see the sheep in action, while it permits the shepherd economically to work the whole year rather than taking an alternative second winter job. And then there is economic. Obviously we no longer need to buy manure to fertilise the soil, while the breeder saves money as these are young sheep that neither give milk nor reproduce yet, so it stops them being an economic burden. We work with five breeders and this pilot year has been such a success that next year it will be 400 sheep and 8-10 neighbouring châteaux have told us that they would like to participate too.” The château is closely involved with surrounding villages,  trying to recruit young locals as workers while organising regular school visits, alongside a host of simple but important daily actions; raising chicken to save food waste, building bee hives, and improving vineyard working conditions by providing effective earplugs and protective glasses. 

Vignobles Rousseau 

Imbetween  Saint-Emilion and Lussac, the Rousseau family’s modern cellar vinifies and ages wines from 5 different chateaux, spanning Pomerol, Lalande Pomerol and Lussac alongside a large production of Bordeaux Superior, totalling some 400,000 bottles in all. The cosy tasting room resembles most Bordeaux châteaux, with a wall proudly covered with official-looking certificates, but instead of announcing wine competition medals, as is usually the case, these are all recognition of initiatives related to Corporate Social Responsibility.

Winemaker Laurent Rousseau proudly shows of his qualifications for the sustainable measures of  Terra Vitis and HVE, High Environmental Value, as well as Professional Equality and Diversity in the Workplace and one rarely seen in wineries, for  Food and Safety. He explains that, “these initiatives have had a very positive effect on my business. The Food and Safety certificate has literally opened up the United Sates, where I now sell a large part of my 300,000 bottles of Bordeaux Supérior, because an importer there can place them in a major supermarket chain that insists on this regulation.”

The winery is a pioneer in the treatment of its dirty water effluence, used to irrigate a huge plot of bamboo, creating compost and encouraging biodiversity. And on a purely human scale, Laurent has a long history with the local community aiding reinsertion of handicapped people into working life. “The concept,” he explains, “is that handicapped people, mental or physical, from a local centre, are given the chance to be useful in our workplace, allowing them to finally discover some self-respect. So they work in the vine, pruning and harvesting, while in the cellar they help with packaging and labelling. They do what they can, when they can. While one of my workers might take 300 minutes to label 600 bottles, it can take four of them all day. No matter, they have their place in our workforce.”

Château Phélan Ségur 

In the heart of the Médoc’s  Saint-Estèphe appellation, this imposing château is imbued with history since its vineyard was planted by Irish wine merchant Bernard O’Phelan in 1805. While Bordeaux oenologue Michel Rolland still consults on their wines, the day-to-day running of the château has long been overseen by Véronique Dausse and cellar master, Fabrice Bacquey, who for many years have instigated actions both to protect the estate’s biodiversity and develop agroforestry through the planting of hedges and trees.

In terms of social initiatives, Phélan Ségur have enthusiastically participated in Les Vignerons du Vivant, a projects to attract new people to work in the world of wine. After demonstrating simple but essential social skills – punctuality, politeness, respect – candidates must pass a three month trial period to see if they are ready to work and live as a vigneron, then stay for 12 months that combine an immersion in the daily life of the estate, complemented by a series of in-depth meetings with experts in environmental  fields ranging from biodynamics, working the soil and plants, sustainability, nourishing the vine.

Lolita Tyl, originally from Paris, completed the course, received both her certificate and was awarded a job at the château. She reflects that, “it was the perfect way to discover if I liked the life of a winemaker, while gaining knowledge and skill at the same time. For sure, not everyone can handle this kind of work, but I love it and want to stay on here. I enjoy working in the cellar, but my dream would be to become a ‘chef de culture’. That is what was great about the course – it opens your eyes to biodiversity and sustainability, you get to be mentored by amazing experts, and all that is very different from how you are taught at a normal oenology or agricultural school” And  Véronique enthusiastically adds that, “what this project creates is not just a job but a vocation, which is what we need in the wine making industry.”

Castel Frères Blanquefort Bordeaux 

The world of Bordeaux wine is by no means limited to grand châteaux,  independent vignerons and smallholder Caves Coopératives. There are also the historic ‘négociants’ wine merchants, who are responsible for producing and marketing millions of bottles of Bordeaux wine. The family-owned  Castel Frères operates both as a merchant and vigneron, but their vast operation in the industrial zone of Blanquefort is where the company has been active as a founder member of the committee formulating the Bordeaux Cultivons Demain guide.

Chai des Etablissements Castel à Blanquefort.

Some 300 people are employed at the plant, which can process 15 million bottles a year, stocking some 50,000 barrels, while over 200 winemakers  supply them with wine. Stéphane Mischler is responsible for these initiatives and outlines how, “we accompany our  vignerons right from the vineyard to the cellar. Accompany in the sense of the physical presence of our own oenologues giving advice, and as a company by persuading them to work in an environmentally-responsible manner. Concretely, we ask them to adhere to Terra Vitis certification, in our opinion, the only specifically vineyard cultivation certificate, in contrast to classic organic certification which covers to all elements of agriculture. Terra Vitis also addresses the important issues of water  consumption, carbon footprint, and social issues.” For the Blanquefort workforce, the company has set up 4 action groups to develop social ideas. Everyone is a volunteer, ranging from an office secretary, to a worker on the bottling line or a cellar man.

“We call  each one  a Tribu, named after a grape variety,” explains Stephane, “so Sauvignon  tackles the issue of training, while Merlot thinks up ideas to socialise with our suppliers, like inviting 70 of our vignerons for a convivial tasting in the barrel room.

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And Petit Verdot looks at biodiversity in the workplace, which we are increasingly vegetalisizing; growing vines on the rooftop, creating insect boxes, developing a picnic area among the trees growing outside the factory.”

Château Lagrange 

When the Japanese whisky giant, Suntory, bought this signature Saint-Julien château in 2003, they began 40 years of investment and commitment. Today an immaculate 142 hectare vineyard is entirely harvested by hand while virtually each individual parcel is vinified in its own stainless steel vat before blending. The dynamic young director, Benjamin Vimal, testifies that Suntory is a company that has always respected its corporate social responsibilities. “But taking part in developing the Bordeaux Cultivons Demain guide has made me rethink many things, allowing  me to learn collectively from people running other wineries, such as one that is expert at managing the consumption of water.”

Reportage test d’exosquelette au Château Lagrange

Benjamin has prioritised the classic problem of chronic back pain of vineyard workers, describing how “we recommend physically warming up muscles in the morning, like a sportsman, and now propose Exoskeletal jackets, that may resemble Robocop but really support the bottom of your back. The vest costs us around €1000, but there is much less sick leave.” Lagrange is also one of the founding Médoc châteaux for the Ecole de la Vigne, the Vineyard School, project. Benjamin reiterates the problem cited in every vineyard, “that it is  always difficult to find people to work on a wine estate, and the School has been a very successful solution. We specifically targeted the local community, people who might never have thought about working at a wine château. A 2 year commitment offers the chance to learn skills, to get a certificate, and most importantly to get a job at the end.”

One of Benjamin’s present team, Julien Charbleytou, comes from the School’s programme. “I worked as a stone mason in Bordeaux and now I am a qualified tractor driver out in the vineyards. They even let me help out in the cellar as well, so who knows where I will end up in the future.”

Château Luchey Halde 

Most people living in Bordeaux have no idea there is a genuine château vineyard right inside the city limits, but then this is a winery unlike others for many reasons. The château was producing wine back in the 18th century, but was acquired by the military in 1920, who pulled up the vineyard. A century later, with the land still officially in the Pessac-Léognan appellation, local community pressure stopped plans for building redevelopment, and the estate was purchased by the Ecole Sciences Agro of Bordeaux. They replanted a 23 hectare vineyard, used today both as a living laboratory for their students and commercial winery.  Pierre Darriet has been the director since the beginning, and stresses that, “our vineyard is in the centre of the city, but we have only been here since 2000 and are the newcomers, arriving after the creation of a modern urban development. So our immediate aim was to communicate and interact with the local population.

Just look out of the window from the tasting room – the view is directly onto the vines where neighbours are always walking their dogs, jogging or hiking. Everyone has a genuine access through the vineyard. We email locals explaining our plans for sustainability, and put up warning flags well before we start doing vineyard treatments.

And we will soon create a vegetable garden providing quality food for surrounding kindergardens, and work alongside a local conservatory to protect the local breed of Landes ponies by putting aside 4 hectares for them to graze on. And let me stress, this is no greenwashing project created for photo-opportunities, as we plan a long-term association with the conservatory by adding goats, donkeys and sheep to our polyculture.” Pierre is clearly concerned about future environmental problems, and admits that “my biggest concern for the future the unsexy issue of controlling and diminishing our consumption of energy. So I am proud that we sell 40% of our production locally in the Gironde area. So no huge carbon footprint like exporting to USA or Japan.” 


Casa Gaïa

More than a restaurant, the Casa Gaïa is whole project devoted to sustainable, organic, seasonal cuisine; a genuine ‘locavore’ philosophy where the kitchen works directly with local farmers, fishermen, cheese and wine makers.

This relaxed cantina in the centre of Bordeaux  proposes an ever-changing menu with dishes like wood-roasted  locally-fished octopus served with a creamy chickpea purée.


One of the top new foodie addresses to open in Bordeaux, the relaxed ambiance of this casual diner belies the research the chef Romain Corbière has done to create dishes that can work perfectly as sharing plates and also are perfectly complemented but the sommelier’s wine pairing suggestions; stingray and caper salad with a fruity Bordeaux Blanc, a to-die-for chocolate dessert and a luscious glass of Loupiac.  


Le Château Roquefort

In the heart of the Entre-Deux-Mers vineyards and forests, this ancient fortified château dates back to the 13th century. But the present owners, the Bellanger family, could not be more modern when it comes to welcoming wine tourists to their home.  Apart from tastings, wine and food pairing experiences, cooking classes and a guided naturalist tour, you can stay overnight in their luxurious guest suite, La Maison de Léo.