A rebel in the most traditional region of them all
- Olivier Cazenave is a rare breed... the most radical wine grower you'll find in the historically posh and stuffy Bordeaux region.
- He developed a taste for wine aged 17, but Olivier didn’t realise he could turn his passion into a career until he was 40. He started making wine in 2003, in the middle of a downturn in the region “you would have to be crazy to buy a property in Bordeaux in 2003”.
- Olivier may hail from an ultra-famous wine region, but you probably haven’t heard of him... and that’s a good thing. He’s one of the region’s best kept secrets and he wants to prove that you can find outstanding value in Bordeaux.
Map of the Vineyard
First, you would have to be crazy to buy a property in Bordeaux in 2003. Indeed, everybody talked about crisis – and still talking today- poor sales and price decrease. It’s true, this is exactly what is happening, but with ten years in the wine business I realised that it’s possible to sell good wines, less expensive, but they are sold. So, I worked on this goal without too much presumption, with the desire to produce a tasty and affordable wine. I am tired of all of these cuvees well made but too much expensive to prepare, and in terms of quality, finally often standardized.
At Château de Bel, it’s the total opposite of these famous wines. Everything turns around humility and common sense: the size of the property, the localization, the house, our limited means and especially the desire to produce a self corresponding wine.
In 2003, after endless searching and visiting, my wife and I came across this property, and from that moment, it was clear that it would be this one and no other as not only did it match all the (sometimes silly) criteria we had set ourselves but it also had an extra advantage…
This indefinable feeling, the one that makes this place perfect. The Dordogne, flowing nicely, brings us an incredible diversity of lights and brightness at every hour of the day.
At this moment, we had almost everything. The estate, the vineyards, the cellar, only the winemaker was missing!
Thanks to my past job, I knew the final product, the wine we prepare, assemble and finally put in a bottle to sell it. I just had basic knowledge about how to make a good wine. I spent six months in winemaking and oenology school in Montagne Saint-Emilion to learn more about winemaking.
And finally life teaches you that everything is possible, that a city guy who doesn’t know many things can success if he wants to success. I also realised that help is fundamental and I can’t count how many people I must thank!
I wanted to do everything during the first year in order to learn and discover as much as I could.
Today, I know the value of each task in the vineyard or in the cellar. I still have the cellar under my control but I chose a competent worker for the vineyard. He works three times faster than me which gives me time for other activities, such as writing this note for example…
Being a winemaker isn’t only about knowing the vineyard and its growth, the wine and its mechanism or driving a tractor. It’s also about learning to work on its own, when everything goes wrong – from machine dysfunctions to unreachable technicians – human nature provides capacities you wouldn’t expect.
It was my case in many situations, such as mechanic, chemistry, biology, and especially wine administration (source of wealth and inventiveness)!
Since 2016, all of our vineyards are cultivated with biodynamic agriculture, with Anne Calderoni and Thomas Le Gris de la Salle’s support with the aim of providing our land and wine with the natural and radiance characteristics they deserve.
It truly is a new adventure in which our conception of rationality must evolve and open up to new influences: those of cosmos – obviously – but also of life itself by taking into account that everything around us is alive and communicates. This might be a somewhat chaotic speech but it is true – come see us to understand it better.
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