Within the commune of St Emillion, Bordeaux, three different churches each ring their bells thrice – once at 7am, then at noon and, finally, 7pm – every day. They’ve done so for the past 600 years under orders from Pope Callixtus III to remind the town to pause and give prayers as protection against an invading Turkish army. The best place to hear these three bells happens to be within the vineyard of Chateau Angelus, an estate named for said bells.
It’s on this piece of land that the Bouard family has been making wine for over 200 years – earning the Grand Cru classification in 1954, and joining the esteemed ranks of Premier Grand Cru Classe A wineries – of which there are just four – in 2012. Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal, the eighth generation of the Bouard family, currently manages the winery. Since joining the family business, she’s brought her own touches to the winery, including redesigning the bottles and buying a restaurant for the estate.
One of the most interesting projects that the estate has embarked on in recent years though, is the usage of dedicated vines for its second wine, Le Carillon de Angelus. While most wineries will use cuvees not selected for their final grand vin blend, Chateau Angelus is producing dedicated grapes for their second wine in order to create a label with its own character – a wine that’s softer, more fruit-forward, and readily drinkable at a younger age.
The Peak speaks to Bouard-Rivoal about ongoing projects, family, and running one of the most esteemed estates in Bordeaux’s right bank.
Why did you guys decide to make Le Carillon de Angelus with dedicated parcels – unlike typical second wines?
We thought we could achieve a greater quality, with the intention to produce Carillon as a Grand Vin in its own right. We’ve made dramatic progress; Carillon now has its own terroir and identity.
What are some projects you launched with the estated that you are most proud of?
Enlarging the vineyard and going green. I am also quite proud of having introduced my own sensibility to the wine: a bit more elegance and a hint of additional freshness while preserving its amazing depth, purity and tension.
What have been some of the steps that the estate has taken to combat the effects of global warming?
We are fortunate enough to have soil that’s perfectly suited to a temperature rise. Basically, we simply reduce de-leafing and bring forward the mechanical weeding.
Your father saw the potential of marketing Bordeaux wines in China decades ago. Where else in Asia do you see potential?
In pretty much every country actually. The upper class tends to grow globally and has a real thirst for the finest.
What are your thoughts on the current market for Bordeaux in China?
The market is still dynamic, but it has matured. It has become more selective and more demanding, too, but with great opportunities for dynamic brands and companies.
Cabernet Franc plays a big role in establishing the character of Angelus. Do you see any potential in the new grape varieties that have been allowed into Bordeaux to contribute to the wine?
I do by all means! Cabernet Franc is a key aspect of Angelus – and a part of our DNA. We do tend to move towards higher proportions of Cabernet Franc, but can only plant some on terroirs where it will fully blossom. Luckily, Angelus has one of the finest possible terroirs for Cabernet Franc.
Regarding other varieties among those recently allowed (arinarnoa, castets, marselan, and touriga nacional), this could be interesting, but it is not something we can imagine in the near future. We will need to experiment extensively first as we do not implement anything new at Angelus that we have not experimented with before on another of our estates on a mid- to long- term cycle. We are cautious with what we do at Angelus as we want to stick to the estate’s DNA.
What are your hopes for future generations taking over?
Well, I just hope that, when the time comes, my children will be willing and capable. It is my responsibility to make sure they develop the right skills and sensibility and, above all, be hardworking, responsible and committed to the family.
However, at the moment, my older son (who’s four) wants to be a fighter pilot and his younger brother (who’s three), a pirate. So we are not yet ready to have them considering a career in wine – although they will beg for a sip when they see my husband or me have a glass!
(Related: Wines from Thailand? Yes please)