When Mark and Fran Dean bought their French farm house in 2008 they never intended to become winemakers. The beautiful detached property, which faces south across the vineyards of Entre Deux Mers, was their dream home and the fact that it came equipped with winery buildings and several hectares of vines was incidental. The previous owner continued to manage the vines and as Fran explained, ‘we would sit on our terrace watching people working in the vines and think “how hard can it be?”’.
Several years later, the winemaker’s family sold their principal chateau and vineyards to Chinese buyers and with the money released he bought his own property near St Emilion. The opportunity arose for Mark and Fran to take over the running of the vineyard themselves. Initial research told them it was not going to be easy, but that there was a wealth of local goodwill which would help them get established. They were also able to call upon help from professional oenologists and they joined a co-operative allowing them to share big machinery with other wine makers.
The first couple of years were challenging – their winery (or ‘chai’ in French) needed equipping so stainless steel vats, pumps, a grape press and other equipment had to be bought. Their vineyard was not recognised as a chateau in its own right, so Fran had the challenge of negotiating French bureaucracy, thinking of a name and designing a label. And then there was the not insignificant matter of managing the vines and their ‘terroir’ throughout the year
Now, Fran and Mark have a system. Mark manages the outside activities – caring for the vines and making the wine. And Fran is responsible for admin and marketing. Their wine has already won awards nationally and the 2015 vintage looks promising.
The vineyard is not for sale – but their wine is. Check out their web site: http://www.chateauastrelus.com/