A young woman’s challenges to juggle the commercial and practical running of a 76 hectare wine estate in the Entre Deux Mers
New website http://www.toutigeac.com
First published Gilbert & Gaillard International Magazine
The day starts early for Oriane Mazeau, young wine producer at the 76 hectare Château Toutigeac in Bordeaux’s Entre-Deux Mers . First job of the day is the instruction of the team of six people of what needs to be done in the vineyards and in the cellars. As with many middle to large sized properties producing generic wine (appellation Bordeaux), there is no luxury of having a vineyard manager (chef de culture) or a cellar manager (maître de chai). Her semi-retired father, Philippe, helps her run the estate.
Much of the rest of the day is then dedicated to the commercial side of the business. It was her father in the 1970’s who took the wise decision to stop selling in bulk and to bottle at the property selling direct to the customer. Bottling facilities at the property gives added flexibility and means that customer’s demands can be quickly fulfilled.
Prospecting: exporting further afield
Seventy-five percent of the property’s production of 600,000 bottles is currently exported to Northern European countries such as Holland, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and also to French Polynesia. Prospecting export markets further afield into North and South America and Asia is a daily preoccupation for Oriane. “The most difficult challenge I face today is juggling the need to travel and the all important face-to-face contact with the requirement to be present to ensure that the property is well-run”.
Incorporating a new generation
Having grown up “en famille”at Toutigeac, 30km south_east of Bordeaux, (her father’s two brothers have properties next door) Oriane took the decision early on to follow the family tradition and studied a BTS of both viticulture and oenology. She chose Spain’s Rioja region to complete her work experience, firstly for the large producers Cune and after the smaller producers of Roda.
“For us here the emphasis is on producing fruity early-drinking wines each year”. Mostly red is produced predominantly from Merlot (with some Cabernet) and ten percent of white wine (Sauvignon, Sémillon and Muscadelle).
“I came back from Rioja with the desire to age our best wines in barrel. It was a challenge convincing my father that the investment was worthwhile. He agreed to letting me have three barrels and we started producing a barrel-aged special reserve called “O”. Today we produce ten times the amount and the wine sells well particularly to restaurants. It gives us a range, wines for every day and for the weekend!”
In the current economic climate there are even new skills to be mastered. “There is an ever-growing need to be able to speak the financial language of the banks and business plans. Fortunately this is where my younger brother Xavier excels”. Currently gaining work experience at an accountancy firm, she hopes he will join her in the running of the estate in the future.
Continuity of wine production at the ancient site
It was a group of monks from the nearby abbey of Sauve Majeure that first planted vines at Toutigeac in the 12th century. As one gazes out from the sitting room of the beautiful “Girondine” chateau, over the rolling hills of vines, there is a feeling of permanence and continuity. Adapting to changing market trends over the years, Oriane represents the fifth generation of her family to produce wine on the site. For sure she won’t be the last.
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