Business and family. For us, the two have always been inseparable – now more so than ever. Castel Estates and Vineyards are run by three generations working hand in hand. The first - Pierre Castel’s generation - ensure that the company's founding values are never compromised. The second, featuring Alain and Philippe Castel, specify the strategic focus for the properties at all levels. And the third generation continue the adventure: Sophie Castel and Verena Raoux manage external relations while Alexis Raoux is responsible for Sustainable Development policies. This is an important way of nurturing the flame that has always inspired us - but more importantly, a way to - boldly, respectfully - bring all our properties alive.
Castel is an extended family in the broadest sense of the word. Our technical team – just as committed as we are - are part of it: Nine managers devote their time every day to the upkeep of Castel’s 19 estates and vineyards. Some look after several properties; others focus on just one. There are no hard and fast rules. What counts is a good knowledge of the terroirs - and passion. The spirit of the team echoes the spirit of the properties - respect for the individual, leading towards our common goal.
Castel Estates and Vineyards is an adventure built on diversity. The properties are diverse, as are the characters that work in them - and the skills we need to support them. We employ consultant oenologists to work alongside our managers, and call on their expertise to help enhance our wines. By surrounding ourselves with experts, we remind ourselves of our own humble position in this great world of vine and wine. And because our work takes time, our partnerships are sustained in the long term, vintage after vintage.
When did you join the Jurade?
I was invested in September 2016, and although as Manager of External Relations for Châteaux & Domaines Castel – and therefore Château Montlabert – I am used to representing our various properties, I take my investiture very seriously. Wearing the official robe made the ceremony even more meaningful, and I have now declared my loyalty to Saint-Émilion
How did you feel during the investiture?
I was impressed by how important knowledge transfer is to the Jurade – whether it’s between generations to hand down their values, or by sharing Saint-Émilion wines with the public. I felt as if I had an important role to play.
Has a career in wine always been your vocation?
Not really, not to start with. As part of the family, I’ve naturally been immersed in the world of wine since early childhood, but after leaving school I wanted to go into forensic medicine. It was only after taking a Business Studies course in the UK, then working for a while in the hotel and tourism industry in Spain that I realised maybe my vocation lay in the lifestyle sector. I adore gastronomy and sommellerie, and can’t think of anything I’d enjoy more than representing the family properties.
How did you come to join these prestigious associations?
In my role as ambassador, I represent all the family properties including Château Arcins and Château Ferrande. Both have been chosen to join the Commanderie du Bontemps, and Ferrande is also a member of the Union des Grands Crus. The aim of both associations is to promote the wines and their terroirs, and both need the energy of their members to ensure that all activities are carried out effectively. I am very proud to be a part of this initiative.
What exactly is your role within these organisations?
The general idea is the same: to make a significant contribution to raising the profile and boosting the image of Bordeaux’s finest wines. Working together, our common goal is to help the word’s wine professionals, press and distributors to find out more our wines and the people who create them, and we are confident that collaborating in this way will benefit us all.
So it’s a mark of recognition for these properties?
First and foremost, it’s a responsibility. It’s quite a commitment to be seen as one of the region’s highest-profile ambassadors. And yes, it’s a very significant sign that the investments we’ve made in our properties in terms of quality have not gone unnoticed. Finally, it’s also an opportunity, because taking an active part in the promotional activities organised by the associations also promotes our wines – although that’s an opportunity we haven’t taken full advantage of just yet…
Out of all the wines produced by Castel Family properties, which are your favourites, and why?
Château Montlabert 2009, without a shadow of doubt … I first tried this wine in the summer of 2016, served with my wife’s signature dish of lightly caramelised rack of lamb with roasted vegetables. I experienced layer upon layer of flavour, with marked black fruit and spices, a harmonious palate and well-rounded tannins. It added a touch of velvet to our meal. A moment of pure gourmet delight!
How did you become a ‘patron’ of the 3rd the Châteaux & Domaines Castel Young European Sommeliers Cup competition?
I think it’s vital to support young people – they herald the revival of our profession.
As I live in the UK where the competition was held, I naturally wanted to take time out to support this important event in the sommellerie calendar. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would like to thank Castel very much for their involvement.
If you had to describe Castel in just a few words, what would you say?
A major French wine producing company - that dares to be different!
How did you first come across Domaine de la Clapière?
I have always been involved with the world of wine; it’s a passion that was handed down to me by my family. In fact, my grandfather was one of the founders of the Castel business, and I have worked there since I was fifteen. In 2006, when my husband and I were looking for a vineyard property and somewhere to live in the Languedoc, I came across Domaine de la Clapière. We had been thinking about it for a long time, La Clapière finally made us take the plunge. The gorgeous location, the potential of the vineyard, the history of the property - it was love at first sight!
What makes La Clapière different from other Castel Estates and Vineyards properties?
As well as being the family’s only property in the Languedoc, La Clapière has a splendid vineyard which perfectly reflects the rich abundance of this terroir. The alluvial terraces combine free-draining gravel soils with rocky outcrops, offering amazing possibilities for planting different varietals. We have also created an area which we call the Centre for the Study of the Vine, a one-hectare plot dedicated solely to planting new varietals. It’s like an open-air laboratory, and has contributed to really getting the property moving forward. Today we make seven wines, each with a distinctive personality, be they red, white or rosé.
The expression you use to define the spirit of La Clapière is “L’art de se retrouver” - the art of ‘finding oneself’. What exactly do you mean by that?
It means a great deal for us. First of all, it means finding the spirit of friendship we want our wines to convey. Our wines are easy-drinking wines, made for pleasure - they tell a story of charm and freshness. It also refers to the property’s stunning environment: the 63 hectares of vineyards, wheat, olive groves and woodland hide a typical manor house surrounded by grounds with venerable old trees. It’s somewhere for us to live as a family, where those closest to us come to visit, and where we have set up guest accommodation...and finally, it evokes the idea of going back to our roots, of making wine like it used to be made, involving listening and showing respect for the terroir. This is something we do with the help of Terra Vitis.