A chat with... Florence Cathiard, Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Bordeaux J'Adore - - Châteaux Tours -

The sym­me­try be­tween wine and art is an­other com­pelling draw for these clients, a con­vic­tion cham­pi­oned by châteaux-own­ers such as Florence Cathiard of Smith Haut Lafitte. We met to dis­cuss her duel pas­sions of art and wine.

What was the cat­a­lyst for the ar­rival of art­work in your vineyards?

Sculp­tures started to ap­pear amongst the vines of our château over 10 years ago, the first ar­rival was a gi­ant bronze hare by Barry Flana­gan. Of­ten it is as re­sult of per­sonal en­coun­ters that either my hus­band Daniel or I have had with an artist. Some­times we com­mis­sion work, as was the case with the metal­lic sphere by Chuck Hober­man

which spreads out like a vine flower trans­form­ing into a grape.

Tell us about your project which fea­tures work from lo­cal artists?

We wanted to ex­tend the area for ex­hibit­ing art­work into the for­est border­ing our vineyards and so we in­au­gu­rated the Land’art path in June 2017. Spread across 8 hectares of wood­land, it in­cludes sculp­tures by Du­rante & Se­gond and Vin­cent Mauger, all com­pletely ex­posed to the el­e­ments. De­signed to ap­peal to the 5 senses, visi­tors are ac­tively en­cour­aged to play mu­sic on the wooden struc­tures of Jose Le Piez’s ‘Is­land of Sounds’. Like­wise the witch’s stone seat from the Lan­des for­est and its mossy sur­round­ings are too tempt­ing not to touch.

How do you en­sure that the art­work in­te­grates with the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment?

On the Land’art path, the artists are free to choose the lo­ca­tions for their mas­ter­pieces. The ‘Vor­tex’ spi­der web is hid­den in the trees, but some such as ‘La Bac­cha­nte’ are not so easy to miss. The rusty gi­ant safety pin, in the form of the ‘Gen­er­a­tion Gap’ by David Mid­dle­brook blends well with the wooden win­ery where grapes from younger vines are vini­fied. Oth­ers such as the bronze struc­ture of crin­kled pa­per by Wang Du are deliberately placed so as to be thought-pro­vok­ing.

How do you align your col­lec­tion of sculp­tures with your ac­tiv­ity of pro­duc­ing wine?

We be­lieve that there are many con­nec­tions to be made be­tween wine con­nois­seurs who also en­joy art and art lovers who ap­pre­ci­ate wine. Ex­pos­ing the art­work in a type of open air mu­seum al­lows us to also make a link with the phi­los­o­phy of the wine­mak­ing at Château Smith Haut Lafitte – re­spect for the en­vi­ron­ment and bio­di­ver­sity. Dur­ing the “When art meets vines” tour, visi­tors walk through the grav­elly vine­yard plots of Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and learn about their life­cy­cle, all the while pass­ing sculp­tures. The un­guided tour of the Land’art path cul­mi­nates at the Scented Gar­den and the Tisanerie (a fra­grant store­room for dried plants such as net­tle and chamomile) which helps to ex­plain the bio­dy­namic prac­tices we are adopt­ing to treat our vines. Of course, visi­tors on both of these tours taste our wines at the end!


Florence Cathiard.


Sphère by Jordi, at the start of the Land’art path at Château Smith Haut Lafitte.

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