Ding, dong, ding, and a brief pause. From three small countryside churches folded into the fields surrounding Château Angélus in the southwest of France, the sonorous melody then rings more in a total of three successive sets that mark the Angelus prayers throughout the day—at 7am, at midday, and at 7pm. Devotion to, and prayer for, the work ahead that the bells peal for daily was once engraved as a gold bell in a celebration of, and as a vision for, the rise of Château Angélus’ new leadership.
Enter Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, the eighth generation and third woman to head the estate since its founding in 1782 by Jean de Boüard de Laforest in Saint-Emilion. “The commitment for me is almost like a priestly vocation, which I take up with faith, passion, and gratitude,” Stéphanie tells Indonesia Tatler. “We are only the guardians of a history that preceded us and will survive us, so our role is to sustain it in the best condition we are able to achieve.”
As such, in 2012 she didn’t stop at designing that bottle with the golden bell herself, but also renovated the estate to usher in the modern era.
Le Premier, the vintage bottled that year, very much reflects Angélus’ advantage on the south-facing slopes of Saint-Emilion, where summers see concentrated temperatures to develop high-quality grapes worthy of its Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” ranking among Saint-Emilion wines. The natural amphitheatre-shaped area with different soils for the vineyards contributes further to the unique terroir to grow Merlot and Cabernet Franc that create the distinct Angélus style— lush, creamy, and dense, yet fresh and ageing well thanks to the generous mixture of Cabernet Franc.
“Our terroir is now even more unique after expansion in 2013,” Stéphanie explains. “Now we have vineyards between Château Figeac and Château Cheval Blanc, and another near St Christophe des Bardes.” The vines grown on all these plots also contribute to the estate’s Le Carillon d’Angelus label, yet another amazing wine from Château Angélus that is perfectly paired with the superb food at the Michelin-starred Logis de la Cadène in Saint-Emilion. While Logis is both a hotel and a restaurant that Stéphanie oversees, La Maison de la Cadène and Auberge de la Commanderie, which opened in 2015 and 2016, respectively, are newer hotels in town.
Stéphanie will continue the expansion by purchasing Le Gabriel restaurant at Bordeaux’s Place de la Bourse in 2019. She will also open up and grow the distribution channels of Château Angélus outside of France. “We are opening up new markets for Carillon d’Angélus and approaching new segments to create an exclusive identity,” she says. “There is also a reshuffling of distribution to make new priorities of places where we are not present enough, such as Indonesia where we’ve been around for four years.” Armed with more selections of wines from bigger plots, Stéphanie is ready to move forward Château Angélus’ elegant wines with precision and finesse.
To move the centuries-old winery into the modern age requires bold steps, and she takes it all in sure strides, starting from opening brand new cellars to grow into with its state-of-the-art gravity-flow system.
Stéphanie explains that the system produces finer wines and minimalises overhandling by gently extracting colour, tannin, and flavour. “Instead of pumping over the wine throughout stages, the system is build around different levels to let gravity help move the liquid,” she says.
Last year, she paired the new system with organic farming—a move that proved to be even more challenging in the face of today’s climate change. “We’ve used no pesticides for 30 years, and in 2018 we swapped more synthetic products to only sulfite and copper; however, the naturally based products washed off easily when it rained a lot last spring,” Stéphanie says. “Due to the amount of rain, many vineyards suffered from mildew and lost quite a large portion of their harvests.” Château Angélus was on the lucky list to survive with minimal damage, although the question of climate change still hangs in the air.
“The key is to anticipate and adapt based on what nature has given us and listen to its signs,” she says. Stéphanie continues to explain that improvising is important as situations change, and thus unexpected and unique wines will come forth. Through the extremes of rain, hail, heat, and drought, Château Angélus is heading into the future with her devotion at the helm—one goal at a time, from being certified in five years for organic farming and on to the global stage while still keeping its unique qualities.