Sandrine Giraud inherited the Château Vieux Faurie that belongs to her family for now four generations. Her great-grandmother purchased 1 hectares (2.5 acres) in the 1920’s as a side investment while she was a personal cook. She was farming the land and sold her harvest to the négoce in order to complement her incomes. Her children, Sandrine’s grandparents, copied her model and extended their vineyard to 3 hectares (7.5 acres). They also took care themselves of the farming to sell their production to the négoce while having a full time job.
The next generation, Sandrine’s father, was the first one to bottle his wine (vintage 1975) and, most of all, acquired other parcels that are now classified Saint Emilion Grand Cru. He was also the first one to work full time as a vintner. Even though it was a time where the trend was to tame the nature by over exposing it to synthetic chemical products, Sandrine’s father was already conscious about how short sighted this vision was. He always favored a reasonable agriculture by using small dosage or skip them depending on the vintage. This mindset was transmitted to Sandrine, who saw her father as somebody who simply understood what being a farmer is: building up a sustainable relation to safe keep a patrimony and a quality of product.
Sandrine would have chosen the life of a teacher as it is her passion to learn and transmit the agricultural techniques and knowledges. Nevertheless, she joined her father in 1988 to work full time with him. Together, the produced only one wine back then and purchased more land for a total of 7.5 hectares (18.5 acres). This last plot should be included in the Saint Emilion Grand Cru appellation in the near future.
Her father retired and Sandrine is now the sole owner. She produces only a single wine and, until, she met Celerier’s Cellar, would sell the vast majority bottled to the negoce without putting her label.
Her passion lies first and foremost in her vines and her terroirs. She plows, prunes and harvest entirely by hand while her neighbors favor synthetic and mechanical interventions. The vines from her Saint Emilion Grand Cru parcels are more than 70 years old. They required delicate maintenance that only a patient and delicate hand could provide. While she imposes on herself only mandatory labor by hand, she also confesses that it is not the most cost efficient solution. Nonetheless, Sandrine is driven by what is best for the plants: set up the most stress free environment. She chooses the path that makes sense to her and she enjoys over the pragmatic business approach.
On her parcels of Saint Emilion village, 70% of the labor is done by hand while, until now, she had a single employee who would complement with some mechanical intervention to plow the land. Since the vines are younger and the plots are bigger, it would be impossible for the 2 of them to realize all tasks in said time for the harvest to happen without a problem. He just retired and Sandrine is now facing a new challenge. Nowadays, labor is only willing to work on the mechanical tasks, forsaking the manual work. This mindset is quite incompatible with Sandrine’s.
This is why her goal is to personally farm and produce wine from her 2.5 hectares parcels in Saint Emilion Grand Cru while leasing the other plots. She favored working in close contact with her oldest wines that wouldn’t survive a mechanical maintenance. These plots are located a thousand feet away from Château Cheval Blanc and Château Cap du Mourlin. The soil is made of mineral rich sand with scattered iron pigmented dirt. These soil allows the vines to bring elegance in a simplicity fashioned by collectors who enjoys long aging yet ready to drink wines.
Sandrine, as she liked to describe it herself, enjoys wine that are traditional and simple. But rest assured, “simple” doesn’t mean “simplistic” but “honest”. For her, simplicity comes from dropping all gimmicks that are meant to cover the flaws of a harvest or a wine making process. You cannot start without proper foundation in the vineyard: the best fruits obtained through dedicated hand labor. Once everything harvested by hand, the clusters are lightly destemmed and pressed. Every vintage is different so are the vinification. The alcoholic fermentation starts in stainless steel vats with or without natural yeast depending on the vintage. After a few days, when the malolactic fermentation starts, she settles to extract the musk and the wine is put into French oak barrels. The portion of new barrels vary depending of the vintage. The aging also vary depending on the vintage and the characteristic of the wine usually 15 to 24 month.
This method is very traditional to the right bank and Sandrine adapts it depending on what her vines delivered every year. For her, the wine needs to be round with all elements integrated and let the quality of the fruits upfront. This way, her wine are ready to drink and also meant to be aged for a long time. It is indeed not simple to do simple wine but Sandrine would not do it any other way. At Celerier’s Cellar, we believe in her vision and project, and help to achieve it by buying all her production of Saint Emilion Grand Cru to make sure she has plenty of time to live her passion and improve without stress her vineyard and wine.