Wine Travel Awards is presenting an interview with Christophe Defays, a son of the great actor and renowned winemaker Pierre Richard. Mr Defays runs a winery Château de l’Évêque which became a WTA nominee in the nomination “The Visiting card of the Country” in the category “Must Visit”.
Mr Defays, your winery on the Languedoc coast is particularly attractive for tourists – due to the star name of Pierre Richard, and, certainly, your fans – because you have built a successful career as a musician. How often and how many tourists (if possible, kindly provide general figures) do visit Château de l’Évêque?
You are right! The Domaine de l’Évêque receives a lot of visitors for the reputation of its owner and the quality of its wines. We welcome tourists to the cellar all year round, but the biggest influx is in the summer between June and September, as the estate is located near the seaside resort of Gruissan. We estimate the number of visitors at 20,000 per year.
What do such visits mean to you – is it an opportunity to get immediate feedback from a consumer, to serve wine on the spot, a way to promote wine or an additional load, though like a mission to develop the region and wine consumption culture?
We receive both amateur and professional visitors and indeed the tasting at the cellar allows us to discuss with our customers about our wines, our novelties, our work and to get their feedback directly. You can find their opinions on our social networks and you can see that overall, they are often very satisfied with the welcome and the quality of our wines. They buy at the domain during their visit and most of them place a new order online via our website, once their stock is sold out. This is a great satisfaction for us, especially as it is a real pleasure for all our team to share these moments of tasting and exchange with our visitors, to whom we pay a lot of attention. We are happy to help them discover or rediscover the wines of our region and our fabulous terroir of Corbières. For thirty five years now, Pierre Richard by his work, has been part of a qualitative progression for the recognition of Corbières wines, and he is now (I think) with other great wine growers of our region, one of the most worthy representatives.
Today, they talk about the wineries practicing organic winemaking, the principles of sustainable development. Which of these trends is relevant to you?
Our estate, Domaine de l’Évêque is certified by the HVE/HEV label (agriculture with high environmental value), and we are currently considering the possibility of switching to organic farming in the near future.
Researchers suggest that wine tourism is becoming more and more of a cost-effective occupation for wineries. Sometimes, it even generates higher income than direct sales. How are you doing in this field (leaving the pandemic period aside)?
The estate is located in a very touristic area and Pierre Richard’s image attracts a lot of people to the estate, especially in the summer season when Pierre Richard signs its bottles twice a week. Outside of these two summer months, we are actually more “oeno”(wine sales) than “tourism”.
Could you tell us about the three most striking sights in your area. We have visited a fish restaurant on the bank of a pink lagoon, can you please tell us a few words about it and some others located nearby?
Concerning my favourite sights, I cannot recommend enough one of the most famous and emblematic restaurants in Gruissan, “La cambuse du saulnier”, in a supernatural setting of reddish salt tables under a blue-saturated sky, populated by pink flamingos and other wading birds.
Pierre likes to come regularly with his family to taste their seafood with his owner Mr Gabanou.
There is also in Narbonne “les grands buffets” of Mr Privat, a very close friend of Pierre Richard and the owner of an exceptional restaurant, as much for its museum decor as for its excellent service and the incredible diversity of its cuisine. You can enjoy the world’s largest cheese platter in a restaurant. In January 2020, the restaurant entered the Guinness Book of Records. These two restaurants, like certain films, are “big show” restaurants on a giant screen and we are delighted to be part of their cast.
You are a musician, and Pierre Richard is a movie star. In this regard, did you have any thoughts to attract tourists with musical evenings, creative meetings conducted in the vineyards? If so, can you kindly share your experience.
The reputation of Mr Pierre Richard and the quality of his wines are such that we do not want to attract cutomers with other services (of an artistic nature for instance) which would take us away from our work which is above all wine.
We remain focused on our work as winemakers with all the requirements that this implies, the show has other demands and we refuse to mix everything.
You, Pierre Richard, and your entire family – how often do you travel? Can your travels be called a journey along the wine routes, and do you take interest in wine while travelling? Which countries are the most attractive to you in terms of wine tourism and why? Probably, I should mention here that France is beyond competition and does not count 🙂
We now all have different activities within our family and schedules , which limits the possibilities of travelling.
My brother Olivier and I have participated with our father in several of his theatrical tours in France and abroad. We were musicians on stage, which gave us the opportunity, after the show, to taste the wines of the region in which we were. It was in a way our wine route and we made many miles.
Now the great pleasure of the family is to meet during the summer at the Domaine de l’Évêque for lively and noisy meals, served with selected wines, often generously offered by our clients, in a beautiful spirit of sharing.