“Open door” in the world’s most famous sweet wine region
First published in the Gilbert & Gaillard International Magazine
An open sign hangs on the wide blue gates of Château Closiot. “When we are at home, we are always ready to receive visitors even at harvest-time” says Françoise Sirot-Soizeau, third generation owner of this four and a half hectare property, which lies just outside the village of Barsac, in the sweet wine producing region of Bordeaux.
It is not difficult to find Closiot as it is neighbours with the most well-known grand Barsac properties of Château Climens, Coutet and Doisy-Daëne, all estimed first growths in the 1855 classification of the Medoc and Sauternes-Barsac. Originally its vineyards were part of Château Coutet.
Although itself unclassified, Château Closiot has their same privileged Barsac “terroir”, the red sandy clay soils that lie on top of a limestone bedrock which gives a fresh, minerality and finesse to these sweet wines that is unique. It is the magical “pourriture noble” which naturally occurs in this region that super-concentrates the sweetness and the acidity producing the citrus, apricot, white peach and honey flavours found in these wines.
Château Closiot is not like its majestic neighbours. It is smaller, more welcoming, cosy even. This fits with Françoise’s “open-door” philosophy. “In the past, perhaps we were not accessible enough to our customers,” she says. “And we put too much focus on the rare and mystic qualities of these wines. Today sweet wines are considered luxuries, only to be enjoyed on special occasions.”
Today Françoise and her husband Bernard are doing their utmost to change these preconceptions about the world’s most famous sweet wine. They offer “chambre d’hôte” accommodation and organise wine and art weekends where artists display their work in the atmospheric wine barrel cellar. Tastings and “vigneron” meals take place in the château’s attractive beamed rooms overlooking the vineyards.
Their dynamic internet site attracts many people to visit the property. Seasonal recipes encourage customers to try their wines with a range of dishes from prawns with asiatic spices, to grilled scallops or goat’s cheese tart. Today sales to private individuals make up 55%. The rest is exported direct to Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Sweden by the couple.
Françoise took over the property in 1988 from her parents, “I did not want to sell. I was born here, it would have broken my heart, so I took on the challenge.”
“The costs of labour are very, very high” she confides, “the quantities we produce amount to a single glass per vine (compared to a bottle for dry white or red wine), and we harvest very late into the autumn when the risk of a single deluge can wipe out the harvest. It is a real challenge. You have to have a real passion to produce these wines. Sometimes I feel we are the “poor impassioned artists” of the wine world!”
At harvest a team of 15 pickers hand-select individual grapes that are ready for picking passing through the vineyards several times over four weeks. These pickers are valued by the owners who know the difference to the quality they make. The same team return year after year. Their photos line the walls of the barrel cellar like film stars.
It is not unusual however for the daily lunch gathering to swell with passers-by attracted by the ambiance and the open sign on the gate.
Françoise & Bernard Sirot-Soizeau
Tel; + 00 33 5 56 27 05 92