Cornishman in Bordeaux

I’m a long way from home and in a business way out of my comfort zone. However, it’s an enormous privilege and to many people, a dream career. I’m a winemaker and chateau owner in Bordeaux. 2012-10-23 09.44.55

i bought Chateau Civrac in 2006 after a career in technology and working coincidentally in many wine making regions of the world. It may have been a midlife crisis or it may have been an attempt to be involved in something more real: more satisfying in life. Maybe it was just an attempt to do something that would leave a mark.

Chateau Civrac was a run down 18th century imagechateau on the right bank of Bordeaux. Surrounded by 25 acres of vineyards in the less fashionable appellation of Cotes de Bourg. It’s a beautiful part of Bordeaux. Not the flat low lands of the Medoc. Cotes de Bourg is a hilly, Roman influenced, almost Tuscan looking region. Civrac lies 5 minutes from Bourg in the surrounding rolling hills.

2012-10-04 11.29.31Our aim was to make a contemporary wine here. Soft and fruity and not like the traditional robust reds that the region was more well known for. Our aim was also to produce for an international market, not a traditional domestic one. All this has meant a complete rethinking of the way in which we make wine and the way in which we present it.

The Cotes de Bourg is also an interesting place to make wine as it has the highest percentage of Malbec plantations in Bordeaux. Malbec, although planted by the Romans, normally only used in small amounts, is a spicy and beautiful colored grape, capable of making wines with rich color and spice and ideal for modern fusion cuisine.

We make our wine in a very natural way. that means winemaking by hand, tending the vines by hand and only using machinery and treatments when necessary. This of course makes production costs higher but it shows in the taste. When you come and visit us, our vineyard is not manicured to oblivion. its a natural place and we hope that the wines we make, whilst contemporary, taste like where they come from:  they are free from additives and chemicals that other mass produced wines contain. just grape juice and yeast. simple and natural.

IMG_06062014-04-04 10.01.46

Im an outsider in Bordeaux but that sometimes helps. Bordeaux is such a traditional place that if you have been brought up there then you can be constrained by that tradition. Being an outsider, and a Cornishman at that frees you from that constraint and being Cornish can actually make you something of the agent provocateur.

Mark Hellyar Chateau Civrac –


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