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The delicate touch of Croix de Labrie


Château Croix de Labrie is the outsider amongst the Saint-Emilion Grand Crus, a home-made garage wine which has since become a rare wine much sought after by hoards of wine lovers. This 3.5 hectare garden-vineyard, currently seeking organic certification, has been run for the last five years by its wine-grower owner, Axelle Courdurié supported by her husband Pierre, who looks after the commercial aspects.

Axelle Courdurié

Is there something special about being a women wine-maker?
Yes, I would say it brings a delicate touch. I have a certain maternal side in the way I do things in the 'chai'. As regards the wine-growing, I am not so much in search of an extraction or the kind of opulence that my male counter-parts might be looking for; it’s not so much a muscled approach for me, it’s more a case of intuition. I can see what’s fragile, I try to bring balance.

From the grape-vine to the bottle, which stage do you like the most?
What I really like, is to be in the middle of my grapevines, to feel their roots under my feet, observe the plants and the insects which are the clearest possible indication of the vineyard's overall state of health. And I love pruning. Each vine gets individual treatment. I prune "Poussart"-style, I restructure everything, I cut shoots, I heal the wounds, I saw the larger branches, always thinking ahead to the next harvest. Our job is to conserve the vines. Everything comes from pruning and from the grape itself. I love my vines, and when I am with them I feel more in contact with the essentials, with the earth.

In the current climate where consumers are seeking an identity when they choose a bottle of wine, what identity do you offer?
By changing how we cultivate, the wine has gained in minerality and freshness. Croix de Labrie has become more precise, tight, refined with an added hint of liquorice and a menthol-like after taste. It's all about details, we have reconsidered our choices of barrels, different for each group of vineyards, we have adopted softer wine-making approaches. Today our wines have come to resemble us and are closer to what we have set out to do. Our wine has character. It has an identity, a quality and a soul.

What are your future projects?
We will continue to maintain our difference and our search for excellence in the three wines we make, each from its own 'terroir'. We have recently brought in Hubert de Boüard to get another complementary vision of our activity. As for the commercial development, Croix de Labrie has thus far been largely distributed as an export wine and we would like to hit the French market a bit more, by being present on the tables of the best restaurants and on the shelves of the top wine-merchants.

Bénédicte Chapard