Graves-sauternes,

Bordeaux J'Adore - - Contents - CARO­LINE MATTHEWS

The golden girl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The well known wine maker of Bordeaux's num­ber one château is at home in the south­ern Gironde A LOVE OF WINE CAME LATE TO SAN­DRINE GARBAY. DE­SPITE BE­ING BORDE­LAISE, HER DE­CI­SION TO STUDY OENOL­OGY IN HER HOME TOWN was driven by a keen in­ter­est in science and, be­fore she joined famed Château d’yquem in 1994, she was more at home in a lab­o­ra­tory than a win­ery. Dur­ing her time as cel­lar mas­ter of this ac­claimed Premier Cru es­tate, she has wit­nessed a change in own­er­ship, great vin­tages such as 2001, 2009 and 2011 and the open­ing of the château to vis­i­tors. She lives near Lan­gon in the south­ern Gironde.

There are a num­ber of fe­male wine­mak­ers in Sauternes. Do you think there is an ad­van­tage to be­ing a wo­man when mak­ing sweet wine?

It is true that there are a few of us mak­ing wine in this area. Si­galas Rabaud, Cli­mens and Suduiraut all have women in this role but I do not be­lieve that it is nec­es­sar­ily eas­ier for me to make Sauternes just be­cause I am fe­male. There was a lot of me­dia at­ten­tion around my ap­point­ment as it seemed at odds with the tra­di­tional im­age of the château but for Alexan­dre de Lur-saluces it was a nat­u­ral choice, maybe given the role that his an­ces­tor Françoise-josephine played in the suc­cess of the es­tate.

‘Si­galas Rabaud, Cli­mens and Suduiraut all have women in this role but I do not be­lieve that it is nec­es­sar­ily eas­ier for me to make Sauternes just be­cause I am fe­male.‘

You worked with him for 10 years dur­ing which time LVMH pur­chased the château. How did that change af­fect your role?

The Lur-saluces fam­ily had owned Yquem for al­most 300 years so it was nor­mal for the staff to share Alexan­dre’s re­gret that the château had been sold. How­ever, it was tes­ta­ment to the

re­gard with which LVMH held the wine­mak­ing team that, fol­low­ing the ac­qui­si­tion, ev­ery­one re­mained. The tran­si­tion was helped by the fact that Alexan­dre stayed in his post for an­other five years be­fore Pierre Lur­ton ar­rived. There was a dif­fer­ence in that both had to­tally op­po­site man­age­ment styles, but this did not im­pact on my work in the cel­lar.

What do you en­joy most about your job?

Al­though it can be a time of great stress, I re­ally en­joy the au­tumn pe­riod and the cre­ation of a new vin­tage. Of course there are dif­fi­cult years such as 2012 when we had to de­cide to forgo mak­ing Yquem due to in­suf­fi­cient qual­ity, but over­all the at­mos­phere and en­thu­si­asm of the har­vest is the high­light of the year. Tast­ing older vin­tages is also a mem­o­rable moment, the most emo­tional be­ing a small sip of the 1806 with its cof­fee, dried fruit and spice flavours!

Per­haps less well known than the vine­yards of the Mé­doc and Saint-emil­ion, the Sauter­nais are of­ten an af­ter­thought for vis­i­tors to the re­gion. What is there to at­tract them to the area? There are al­ready a num­ber of châteaux in the ap­pel­la­tion which have in­vested in wine tourism and along with our neigh­bor Château Guiraud, we are open for vis­its by ap­point­ment 7 days a week. It is also pos­si­ble to wan­der the grounds of Château d’yquem and visit our bou­tique without prior ar­range­ment.

The nearby vil­lage of Sauternes is a con­ve­nient place for lunch and the in­for­mal Auberge des Vignes of­fers great value. There are ru­mors too of plans in the near fu­ture to open a ho­tel in the vil­lage and a restau­rant in a clas­si­fied growth château. Head­ing to­wards the river, the town of Lan­gon with its Miche­lin-starred restau­rant Claude Dar­roze is an­other at­trac­tive op­tion for lunch and I would rec­om­mend their 3-course Bistronomique menu sit­ting on the tree-lined terrace. The land­scape around that bend in the river is par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful and one of my fa­vorite spots from which to ad­mire it is Verde­lais on the right bank. For­merly a stop­ping point for pil­grims en route to north­ern Spain, it of­fers stun­ning views of the Garonne val­ley. There is a great sense of tran­quil­ity too in the old ceme­tery in the vil­lage where the post-im­pres­sion­ist pain­ter Toulouse-lautrec is buried. His old fam­ily home where he died, Château Mal­romé is a few kilo­me­ters away and also open to vis­i­tors. Closer to the river, the me­dieval town of St-macaire with its nar­row streets and well-pre­served houses is also worth a trip.

Fur­ther south in the Gironde, Bazas and its 14th-cen­tury cathe­dral is a draw for many vis­i­tors, some who travel to the town by bike, along the cy­cle path join­ing the re­gion to the Arcachon Bay. Trav­el­ling in the di­rec­tion of the coast, the 80km path crosses a sec­tion of the vast Lan­des pine for­est, pass­ing the lakes of Hostens, be­fore ar­riv­ing at the port of Biganos. An­other way of dis­cov­er­ing the Lan­des is via the river Ciron, ac­ces­si­ble by ca­noe or kayak from Bommes but for those who are less sporty, there is the op­tion of a horse­back ride through the woods and vine­yards, with an all-im­por­tant sweet wine tast­ing at the end.

‘The land­scape around that bend in the river is par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful and one of my fa­vorite spots from which to ad­mire it is Verde­lais on the right bank.‘

◆ L’auberge des Vignes

23, rue Prin­ci­pale, Sauternes, 05 56 76 60 06

◆ Hô­tel Restau­rant Claude Dar­roze

95, cours du Général-le­clerc, Lan­gon, 05 56 63 00 48

◆ Château Mal­romé

Saint-an­dré-du-bois, 05 56 76 25 42

PHOTO QUENTIN SALINIER PHOTO GÉRARD UFÉRAS

Château Mal­romé. Château Yquem.

PHOTO GER­ARD UFERAS

San­drine Garbay.

PHOTO SYLVIE MELLIES

Bazas Cathe­dral.

PHOTO THIERRY DAVID

On the path cross in Verde­lais.

PHOTO CLAUDE PRIGENT

A room at Hô­tel Restau­rant Dar­roze.

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