Behind the Vine Interview: Julia Gazaniol of Chateau de Parenchere
This month we traveled to Bordeaux and visited with Julia Gazaniol of Chateau de Parenchère. We spent a few hours talking about her family's incredible history, growing up in Bordeaux, her favorite places in the region and how she's making her own mark in the world of wine. Here's what she had to say:
Tell us about the Chateau and your family’s history in Bordeaux?
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, but you actually did! What was that 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 Chateau?
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.
Being intimately connected to the Chateau and the wines you produce, you must be one of Parenchere’s toughest critics. Which wine is your favorite?
I now love to drink the Cuvée Raphaël 2007. This vintage was very tough to sell as its reputation is (stupidly) quite bad, even though great things were still made by the good winemakers.
To me, this wine is amazing. Very fine, very silky but with a great roundness and amazing aromas. To me, it is a bit more feminine than other vintages as the structure is finer, more balanced too.
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.
Besides visiting you at Chateau Parenchére, where else should wine travelers visit?
Even for people not so keen on wines, 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.