Interview with Étienne CHARRIER, Technical Director of Château Prieuré-Lichine
For this new podcast of Au Micro de Bacchus, I am delighted to welcome Étienne Charrier, Technical Director of Château Prieuré-Lichine, grand cru classé 1855 located on the Apellation Margaux.
Étienne CHARRIER tells us about his career, his job as Technical Director and how he arrived at Château Prieuré Lichine. He explains what his job consists of, the missions in the cellar and in the vineyard and the necessary skills. We discuss the subject of eco-responsibility within the castle and its methods to always be at the forefront of winemaking advances. He also presents Château Prieuré-Lichine, Grand Cru Classé 1855 and the next projects to come.
Finally, we end with the famous personal section! 👍🏻
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Hello everyone, I am delighted to meet you for this new episode at the MICRO of Bacchus where I go to meet personalities of the wine world
Today we are going to interview Etienne Charrier who is the technical director of Château Prieuré Lichine. I hope you will know a little more about this wine business.
Welcome hello Pauline I am delighted to welcome Pireuré Lichine to get to know and talk about the job of technical director.
And yes because at the Micro de Bacchus, we go around all the facets of the wine industry. And to be a technical director you have to be an oenologist. But first of all, can you tell us what your background is?
I arrived at Château Prieuré Lichine in 2009, I am an oenologist by training.
Class of 1999, Promotion Rosan Ségla surprisingly. And in 99 young graduate, life in front of either I go two years in South Africa to learn the different grape varieties, learn to vinify Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinotage their traditional grape variety there. I returned to France in Pomerol on the right bank as cellar master at Château Mazeyres for 8 years. And in 2009 an opportunity to arrive at Prieuré Lichine to start at the level of the cellar is gradually take the technical direction of this Grand Cru Classé.
So you left the right bank? Isn't it too regretless anyway?
And yes I crossed the rubicon indeed! I was young
What is your job?
Being a technical director is a job with many varied facets and a daily life that does not call for routine. He's kind of the conductor. I work as well with the teams of the vineyard and with the teams of the cellar to find the best balance to make the beautiful blends that are identity of the great wines of Bordeaux.
There is also for about ten years everything that is quality, you are also responsible for quality of the property?
So the objective also by being technical director, is to bring to life environmental certifications and all this great section: Quality Hygiene Safety Environment and it is a prerequisite today indeed to develop great wines.
And so Etienne to be an oenologist and technical director what skills do you need to have, other than biology, chemistry, that you are obliged to have at the faculty?
Of course, it takes a scientific background to understand what we are talking about when we talk about winemaking, when we talk about the choice of rootstock, grape varieties, soil analysis. It takes all this baggage but also a sensitivity, an appetite for the world of wine, for tasting. It also takes a significant amount of management to know how to adapt teams. It's really a collaborative, collegial work with vineyard teams, cellar teams, consultants… for the sake of general harmony.
What do you like best about your job?
What I prefer is a period that I like enormously, it is the period of harvest and winemaking. There is an activity, an emulation we feel the culmination of the work of a year in the vineyard. It's a new challenge that starts with the winery teams to get the best out of the grapes. It is really this period of 3 weeks / 1 month between the harvest and the vinifications that is the most exhilarating part.
And the part you like the least? You can say the administrative
No, it's actually the office work, we are not in the field where we have to do administrative work. But it's part of the job and we do it.
When you are a technical director, does eco-responsibility have an 'important' role? We talked a little bit with quality control, are there any things in particular that you are putting in place here?
Eco-responsibility is something that actually happened several years ago now in production. It is a question at each stage to know how to be eco-responsible. There are a lot of voices when we talk about eco-responsibility it calls for a lot of notions. We at Château Prieuré Lichine, we decided to obtain the HVE3 certification, an environmental certification that certifies that we are respectful of a set of specifications. We can trace our different actions whether in the vineyard or in the cellar and in the future of the products elaborated.
Is it heavy to set up?
That's a lot of training to follow and pass on to the teams.
So you were talking about training to be HVE3, so we're going to switch, today how do you do to always be at the new timer? How do you make yourself aware of everything that is happening today?
To be at the forefront of novelties, it requires natural curiosity in terms of innovation. So we have the chance today with the digital world to be able to have access to a lot of information. There are meetings in trade shows: vinitech, vinexpo, even at the packaging level… The morning of oenologists is a great time to exchange with different stakeholders who have different problems. There are plenty of opportunities to receive answers to everyday questions about the operation.
So we must remain permanently open to the world.
Indeed the chakras open.
So has Covid had an impact on property?
It had an inevitable impact. Not so much at the production level since the teams are outside and we have found operations quite compatible with the constraints of Covid. Where we were more impacted is on our wine tourism activity where we had to set up gauges, pass controls and an adapted welcome.
And on the other hand level of sales at Prieuré Lichine everything goes to trading so no problem for that?
So a large part of the production is actually sold via the Place de Bordeaux. But we have an activity with the shop that is not negligible. We have set up a completely new click and collect system that has had its small success.
Fine thank you! So maybe you have a new project? What can a technical director have as a new project in wine estates?
New projects there are necessarily every year either on experiments with a choice of barrels or a choice of route on a particular plot. If I have to release a major project that is close to our hearts here, it is to see the culmination of the entire restructuring plan initiated in 2015-2016 and young vines that will arrive in full force of age in 2023-2024. It's to really see what we will manage to get out of these vines in the blend of the Grand Vin, that's a pretty exciting project yes.
So this is a project that lasts 6-7 years. It takes a lot of patience.
A lot of patience and yes but it is something that is prepared in the long term to adapt the tool, to set up at the level of the plots and the right routes so that the vine feels good where it is and make good wines.
A little zoom on the property, in which you have been working for all these years, the ChâteauPrieuré Lichine. What is the appellation?
At Prieuré Lichine it's been thirteen years that I've been there, it's in the Margaux appellation, it's a grand cru classé 1855: 4th grand cru classé.
What is the grape variety?
The grape variety is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, big dominant Cabernet Sauvignon, not so huge, there is a lot of Merlot. There is 40% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot
What is the size of the property?
The estate extends over 70 hectares of vineyards and all the particularity of Prieuré Lichine is to be really on all the communes of the appellation. The vineyard is not in one piece, it is really 70 hectares spread over the five communes. So it is a major asset where we have a spread in the harvest dates that allows to be really precise to each on each island.
Okay so 70 hectares, the winery must be huge?
In 2013 we built a vat room that allows us to be quite precise about the parcel selections today.
And it belongs to whom Prieuré Lichine?
It has belonged to the Ballande group for more than 20 years. it was bought from the Lichine family in 1999.
Go now Etienne we will go to the Personal section! Are you going to stress too much?
The first question: if you were a wine, what wine would you be? Of course you will answer Prieuré Lichine, but if you choose another one?
In your question, there are many possible answers and not to make jealousI want to say a left bank and a right bank. Memories of the wines that really marked me at times. There is a Las Cases 1995 that I tasted in 2002 and that is absolutely exceptional. And a château latour, a vintage 2000, tasted after 12 years which was of a creaminess and a rather extra refinement.
If you were music, what music would you be?
If I were a music, I am a musician myself and there are sounds that I like a lot where you can combine more traditional instruments and others more modern and more electro. And we have a French artist called Thylacine whom I particularly like who spent two years ago in Krakatoa and who will return next May to the Rock of Palmer. I strongly advise you to go and listen to what is doing.
Ok okay, if you know don't hesitate to put it in comments we'll watch.
If you were a movie, what movie would you be?
If I were a film I thought of the universe of Kapisch which I like very much and in particular a film he shot in Burgundy on the world of wine: a sibling who takes over the family estate. This is the film "what binds us". There is a pretty memorable scene at harvest time where it's very festive, very friendly.
Well, all you have to do is go see this film during your confined evenings or not elsewhere to learn more about wine.
I hope you have learned a lot about the wine industry and that you know a little more about the job of technical director.
Thank you very much Etienne for lending yourself to the game, I hope it has been.
Very well thank you Pauline it was a pleasant interview, good continuation to the Micro of Bacchus.