Behind the Vine: Julia Gazaniol of Chateau de Parenchere

Brittany from Vino Vagabonds traveled to Bordeauz and spent time talking with Julia Gazaniol from Château de Parenchere about her incredible family history, growing up in Bordeaux, places in the region that are her favorite and how she's making her mark on the wine world. 


Julia Gazaniol
Tell us about the Chateau and your family's history.
My grandfather Raphaël had purchased Parenchère when he came back from Morocco in 1958. He was already growing vines there and had created one of the first real brands of Moroccan wines : “Chaud Soleil” (“Hot Sun”). He was a pioneer,  but had to leave his achievements because of the independence of the country. Then, he came back to France, and fell in love with Parenchère, where he had to recreate everything once again, as the lands were left without much care. He saw that he could do a lot of things at Parenchère and grew plums, walnuts, apples, peach trees, and vines. My father followed, and decided to concentrate on the vines, as they were his own passion, and he dedicated himself to revealing the amazing  Terroir of Parenchère. It was him who gave to Parenchère the international recognition it now has.

Most people dream of growing up on a Château in Bordeaux; what was it like, and what is 'Bordeaux' to you?
As you saw, Parenchère is actually quite far from Bordeaux, at the easternmost reaches, bordering the Dordogne department (the Périgord region). This land here is quite wild, very hilly, a lot of forest and few constructions. I think that here you learn to live life very simply, with a very down to earth philosophy. I know that when you arrive to Parenchère, with this big Château, you can have the opposite idea, but the reality is different. The only thing is that, when you are a child with 8 cousins and 160 hectares of playground with woods, the hide and seek game is quite challenging!

At what point did you realize that you wanted to become professionally involved in the family business?
I have always liked wine. Since the age of 12/13 years old, I was already enjoying it and I learned quickly my father’s tasting approach to wines. I was thinking about doing other things, but finally ended up giving him a help after my studies, and then stayed. I think it is quite hard to leave this domain when you are caught into it.

What is your role and what do you do for the Château?
I am managing the sales. We sell the wines in about 30 countries, so my role is to get the best distribution I can.

You grew up surrounded by Bordeaux wines, but have traveled a lot to the States to do business; what are your thoughts on the wine industry in the US compared to France?
I enjoy very much the approach that American customers have to wines. As you know, in France, and particularly in Bordeaux, the system is stuck by this appellation system, where basically your selling price is set by the exact place the Château is located in. As being a “simple” Bordeaux Supérieur, we suffer from this as people still rely on this system to judge a wine. In the US, I believe American people trust their own taste and judge a wine on itself, not by what is on the label. Also, you have such a large choice of wines now in America and your culture of wines is quite large that most of you have tasted wines from the whole world. This is really not the case of France as most French customers don’t even know, for example, that our neighbor Germany makes great wines!

What is your favorite part of your job?
This is easy to answer: my travels! Discovering new countries, new people, new ways of living, new ways of thinking. This job is a job which has the most amazing personal approach. Wine is magical as nearly all people working in this field are also very curious (in the good sense), very “human” we would say in France.

What advice do you have for people traveling to Bordeaux?
I think it is great if you want to get the full story to come and see big classified chateaus and also some small producers too. It is very interesting to talk to both. Just avoid the month of August as the winemakers are on holidays, and winter time which is not so fun either. It’s much better to call in advance if you want to visit an estate as they will make time for you. You must take time to visit the city of Bordeaux, which is now gorgeous. You have to walk across the old town where you will see some amazing little squares and beautiful stones. La Tupina is our favourite restaurant, where you have very typical food with great products. It is also lovely to see St Emilion in the evening (when there are not too many tourists)!

And finally, what is your favorite wine quote?
The sentence I find the most poetic about wine is this expression by the French writer Frédéric Dard about the Château Yquem: “De la lumière bue”. A bad translation I guess would be :  ”Light that you drink”.  Because our work is not just a transformation of a grape, there is something almost magical in our relationship to the earth.

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The Big Heat #33 Mark Payne and Andy Pates- Top Influencers in Chicago

Mark Payne and Andy Pates
Owners, Cream Wine Company

The greatest influence on local wine menus is probably exacted by Southern Wine & Spirits and Wirtz Beverage. However, if you prefer not to drink your wine by the jug, Cream is your friend. Their portfolio of small-batch and biodynamic grower/producer winemakers is one of the best in town, plus they work social media better than a gaggle of 13-year-old girls sharing the stories behind their excellent portfolio.

Check out the link and full details by Michael Nagrant

La Cartuja Priorat-My Recent Love Affair

"The best part of my job running a wine bar, besides meeting some of the coolest people in Vegas, is tasting wines from all over the world. Every week I discover a new wine that has me shouting from the rooftops, "This is the new wine love of my life!" Then the next week my recent love affair is forgotten in the wake of another new wine that wins my affection. As of late, I find myself more and more falling into the arms of Spanish wines, whose seduction is subtle and echoes an old world charm. Spain has over 29 million acres of vines and is the third largest nation, in terms of wine production. Those 29 million acres are planted with over 600 varieties of grapes. Wow! I could explore Spain for years, falling in love again and again, and still never try all the wines they have to offer As you may know about me, I am certainly willing to give it a try. The good news is Spanish wines can also be very affordable, so drink as many as you can find in your quest for wines. My recent exploration has led me to two love affairs I feel are worthy of mention.




The fine wine is Bodegas La Cartuja Priorat 2008. Priorat is a country in Catalonia, Spain whose red wines are traditionally 100% Garnacha or a blend which can only include Garnacha, Cariñena, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. La Cartuja is a blend of all but the Cariñena. I had been curious about the wine and was looking forward to my first taste. The color was bright red with violet around the edges. My nose was tickled with cherry and herbs, which as I took a sip, became more distinct with black cherry, sage and minerals. The finish was a little dry but left my mouth juicy like a nice long kiss. I am no expert on typical Priorat wines, but i was easily wooed by this little gem."

Read more about Jennifer Gaydeski's Spanish love affair.

Norman Farm-Made Cider from The Art of Eating #87

Just over a century ago, the French drank much more cider than they did wine. In Normandy, as in neighboring Brittany, cider had always been the beverage of choice, but when the pest phylloxera eliminated most of the country's vineyards, the inhabitants of other regions changed their drinking habits, and cider became fashionable even Paris. Apples had been introduced to Normandy in the 1500s, probably by wandering pilgrims from the northern coast of Spain. The Norman climate is oceanic, mild and damp, hard on grapes but ideal for apples, and the high humidity ensures lush, green grass. Not surprisingly, the region's five departments also produce much of France's milk, butter and cheese. Until the 1960s, apple trees covered much of the Norman landscape. Cows grazed under their branches during most of the year, and when the fruit fell in autumn, it was collected from the ground. Much of it was sold to the region's large industrial cider producers and distillers, although a portion was kept on each property to be crushed, pressed and fermented in large oak casks. 

By the 1970s, however, cider suffered from an antiquarian, folkloric image. Beer and pastis had become France's preferred bar and cafe drinks, and a decade later, many of Normandy's apple trees had disappeared, toppled by storms or ripped out to make way for more lucrative grain. The only remaining commercial producers were a few large industrial houses. Then, at the same time Normandy was running out of its famous fruit, milk quotas, introduced in the mid 1980s, drastically cut dairy income. In an effort to solve both problems, the government began subsidizing the planting of orchards on dwarf rootstock, whose trees would give marketable fruit in just our years. The apples were sold to the industrial houses, which bottled and shipped cider. But when the economic slump of the early 90s caused apple prices to drop, growers invested in equipment and began to ferment and bottle their own. The cidre bouché, or bottled cider, made by small growers began hitting restaurant menu boards. 

Like Champagne, traditional cidre bouché undergoes a second fermentation in bottle. But unlike Champagne, cider is not normally disgorged upon release, that is, the leesy sediment left from the secondary fermentation is left in the bottle along with some active yeast cells. Cider gets much of its personality from the kinds of apples used and the terroir. Most small Norman producers have between 20 and 60 varieties of cider apples. These apples fall into the four major categories: sweet (high sugar and low tannin), bittersweet (good sugar and moderate tannin), bitter (less sugar and lots of tannin, and acidic (less sugar and a bracing acidic lift). having a range of varieties creates not only a more complex taste, but it also ensures differing flowering times for steady pollination and an extended harvest. Soil and climate play major roles in the vigor of a tree and the sugar in its apples. Finally, the sugar remaining in the cider at bottling time determines its style - doux, demi-sec or brut.

The Outsider
The Mayenne department is not part of the one-time province of Normandy but was created out of parts of Maine and Anjou after the Revolution. "Before that," Eric Bordelet told me, "the Pays de la Loire began where the land flattened out some 30 kilometers south. Today, we are technically in the Loire, but the granite and flint soils, pear trees and cider culture all reinforce the fact that we are closer to Normandy in character."

Bordelet, in his mid-forties, grew up on the farm where he now lives and where his father used to raise cows and make cider. But when Bordelet completed his schooling, he left the farm, traveled, and landed ultimately in Paris, where he was sommelier at the Michelin three-star restaurant L'Arpège. There he came to know some of France's top wine producers, none of whom had more impact on him than the late Didier Dagueneau of Pouilly Fume. From the man he still refers to as his mentor, Bordelet learned that although the primary quality come from the harvested fruit, ever facet of work in the cave needed to be studied as well and not left to chance.

Bordelet decided to return to his native property and make cider, yet with a totally different approach than the one he had known growing up. He planted a large apple orcharf on dwarf rootstock, choosing varieties he had researched rather than those recommended by cider's governing body and by the national agricultural research organization. Bordelet farmed organically from the start and eventurally became biodynamic. Eschewing harvesting machines, which he felt damaged the fruit, he employed a large team of pickers during the autumn months. "My first vintage was 1992, but it wasn't until 2001 that I felt that I reached a certain competence and got it right." He differs from many other producers in that, to enhance aromas, he cools the must to low temperatures before fermentation begins, clarifies the cider through racking rather than filtering, and uses indigenous yeasts even during the prise de mousse.

"I haven't been immune to Brett," he said, recalling a problem with the yeast Brettanomyces in a vintage half a decade ago. "To prevent this from happeing again, I bought my own bottling line, modified it, and made sure to clean it obsessively at the beginning of each bottling," he told me, knocking the wood of his desk for luck. "Fortunately, we haven't had problems since."

Nearly every producer in the region has heard of Bordelet, the one who "sells his cider cher" - expensive. But few have actually tasted it. Truth be told, his ciders are on a higher level than most others in the region; they have concentration, focus, balance, finesse and, above all, delicious flavors of ripe apples and subtle spice. They come with modern labels and foil capsules and bare vintage dates on the label or cork. Most of Bodelet's cuvees are delicious to drink a year or two after release, but one bottling in particular, Argilette, grown on soils combining clay, silt, schist and decomposed granite, can age like some top wines. A 2001 was replete with honeyed Sauternes-like flavors of apple, apricot and cinnamon. Its lovely underlying acidity ensured that it still had another couple of years of life ahead of it.

The Future
A strength of farm-made ciders is that they are very versatile with food. With their wide range from dry to sweet they go with most kinds of meat or fish. They even stand up to smoky flavors. They're delightful with strong, creamy cheese like Camembert and Livarot, which are often difficult matches for dry wines. They're refreshing at lunch - and any meal - because of their low alcohol. They come from small, artisan producers with individual points of view, have a sense of place, and encourage thought and education at the table. 

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