Léa Rodrigues-Lalande: young, female, winemaker.
But five years later, her parents take up the challenge of bringing the Château de Castre back to life. “There were barely 15 hectares of vines and I remember that it rained inside the winery,” Léa recalls. After more than two years of work, the Rodrigues-Lalandes were finally ready to harvest their first crop. Léa remembers this event as if it had taken place yesterday. She was seven years old, and it was the year of the World Cup, a summer of elation in the stadiums… and in the vineyards.
“Our family came from all over France and Portugal to help us harvest. Roland, the cellar master, kept saying: Don”t pick rotten grapes! He said it so often that at the end of the day we poured a bucket containing all the rotten grapes over his head! It was a happy moment, and it profoundly marked me.”
Another moment of happiness: 1998 is also the year that the family won the Grande Médaille d’Or at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles for the first vintage of the Château de Castres.“My mother didn”t believe it… and that”s when my parents knew what they wanted to do: make wine.”And this is how the story of the Rodrigues-Lalande winegrowers began.
Today, they own four châteaux, two in the Graves and two in Pessac-Léognan, about fifteen red and white wines. Léa now lives in the very first château, the Château de Castres.
Yet, as a child, nothing indicated that the young girl would take over the family business. “I didn”t have a particular dream… I just know that I was creative, curious, and I liked maths.” Later, she studied accounting, like her mother. But office life didn’t attract her.
As soon as she graduated, she left the profession to begin her career in the wine business, like her father. “Today it has become my passion. And I can”t thank my parents enough for guiding me down this path. I know why I get up every morning.”
The young woman likes to break the daily routine, she enjoys never knowing how the day will unfold: “To let yourself be surprised by the winery, to observe the vines and taste the blends… and, mostly, to place your hands in the soil. Because what counts above all is the quality of the grapes. I am an earth woman.”
With these words, Léa Rodrigues-Lalande takes a look at her hands: “I don”t have a French manicure, that”s for sure.” It has to be said that Léa never hesitates to work in the vineyards alongside her employees. “It”s important to show others that you can do the work in order to be more credible with the teams…”
Credibility is undoubtedly an essential issue for this 26-year-old woman, one of the youngest winegrowers in the Bordeaux region.
“Today many young women play the female card, a sweet, seductive wine… But I am not a woman who makes wine: I make wine AND I am a woman”, concludes Léa Rodrigues-Lalande, confidently. Her deep voice does not betray her youth. Instead it seems to mask her femininity, her candour, and to help assert herself in an often-masculine world.
For her, “To taste and share a bottle of wine is to participate in the history of the wine’s creation and the work of the men and women who created it: it is the best way to pay tribute to them.”
The future of the Rodrigues-Lalande wines is in good hands – they are down to earth and purposeful.