A fusion of French wine and Russian culture captures global attention
Between 2014 and 2017, Chateau La Grace Dieu Des Prieurs, which is based in Bordeaux’s Saint-Emilion commune, underwent a remarkable transformation aimed at preserving French winemaking traditions while introducing process innovations to achieve the highest quality of wine. The entire process was supported by Andrey Filatov through his Art Russe Foundation, whose name now appears on the chateau’s wine labels. At the start of Vinexpo Bordeaux, we caught up with Laurent Prosperi, director of Château La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs, and asked him about his background and the Château’s makeover.
You bring a wide range of life experience to your role – how has it helped prepare you for Art Russe’s unique challenges?
My past experiences have been quite wide-ranging, starting in teaching, followed by the hotel business, and I also have experience in the property industry, in particular managing high-end properties on the Côte d’Azur. I have also worked for government, in the office of Édouard Balladur, the former French Prime Minister [1993–1995]. All of these experiences have allowed me to hone key attributes, including organisational skills, perseverance and performance — but the one that has been the most important is discipline.
THE GOAL IS TO SHOWCASE THE IMPRESSIVE ART RUSSE COLLECTION, IN PARTICULAR ITS MASTERPIECES, THROUGH GOOD FRENCH WINE THAT IS SOLD AROUND THE WORLD.
What are the unique challenges of running a chateau?
I think being disciplined prepares you for the big challenges. One of the foremost challenges of this project has been to preserve the estate’s authentic tradition while introducing modern innovations.
I have approached it like the role of a conductor; my aim is to bring together leading experts and let them express themselves individually while working collectively as a whole. Architect Jean Nouvel, our wine and vineyard consultant, Louis Mitjavile, and the team that I put together on the estate are a group of passionate individuals.
How would you describe your management style?
I try to be consistent and disciplined in my work. I have a zest for life. My philosophy, and what I love, is to be at the heart of a team. I like to build a group of people that all strive for excellence. I think my hotel experience has helped shape my ability to vocalise our mission.
I have a management style that favours giving people a degree of autonomy. I believe that empowering people helps them to develop, enjoy their work and contribute new ideas. We discuss things before organising tasks, but everyone’s sense of ownership is important.
WE ARE VERY PLEASED WITH THE FIRST VINTAGES THAT WE HAVE PRODUCED. ALL OUR HARD WORK IS STARTING TO PAY OFF.
How do you incorporate Art Russe’s wider objectives?
Art Russe aims to promote Russian and Soviet art through wine. We have a partnership with the Art Russe Foundation in London, which exhibits more than 400 artworks dating back to the 19th and 20th century. Each year before the bottling process, we meet with the foundation and Art Russe founder Andrey Filatov to choose the 12 art labels that will be carried on bottles of wine for that year.
The goal is to showcase the impressive Art Russe collection, in particular its masterpieces, through good French wine that is sold around the world. It’s an innovative way to bring greater recognition to these important works of art. It’s a novel approach that fuses French and Russian cultures, and notions of tradition and modernity.
We often talk about feeding the senses, and the pleasures of food and wine mixed with the sensory enjoyment of art adds a new dimension. This sensory mix of smell, taste and sight has the power to be an extremely alluring combination. In addition, we play music during the production process of the wine, when it is in the casks and vats. It provides a sense of tranquillity and a warm atmosphere, as well as pleasure and elevation of our souls. I think the music helps the winemaking process, and, of course, being Art Russe, we play classical Russian scores by excellent composers, such as Repin and Lugansky!
How do you measure success?
The estate was acquired in 2013, so we have done a lot of groundwork on the introduction of wines. I think that our success will be measured by our future accomplishments and achievements. I consider success in the broadest sense, which includes commercial success and recognition. If we are able to achieve high sales and our wine becomes known throughout the world, this will allow us to gauge our success. And, of course, we want as many people as possible to enjoy our wine; that is our underlying meaning of success. In the future, our first aim is to create an excellent wine that will be enjoyed and acknowledged all over the world, and, in terms of development, to be able to produce exceptional wine every year. That is our aim. We are very pleased with the first vintages that we have produced. All our hard work is starting to pay off.
Hall 1 / Stand D245
Photo: Laurent Prosperi, Director, Château La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs