Traditions or innovations: do we really need to choose? French winemakers are good at both


France is breathing history and is a model of a high class of winemaking, being the birthplace of the finest and most expensive wines in the world. Yet, despite the weight of traditions and regulations, French winemakers successfully integrate modern technologies for viticulture and modern business approach for running their estates. Here‘s the review of the WTA nominees classifying for the Progressive Approach category.


Château Pape Clémens

Château Pape Clémens, an iconic château in the Graves region of Pessac, is all about history — and innovation. This highly esteemed winery from Bordeaux has been nominated for Wine Travel Awards in the Progressive Approach category, and here‘s why.

Château Pape Clément, the history of which dates back to 1252, and the vineyards are currently spanning 32.5 hectares, is a fine model of tradition and history. Yet, this is where drones come into action. Through the use of drones hovering above the vines, the estate engages in meticulous monitoring, collecting rich data that allows for the subdivision of the vineyard into minute sections or microparcels.

This data-driven approach enables the estate to make precise decisions during harvest, selectively picking vines based on their health and growth characteristics. Mr. Bernard Magrez, the owner of Château Pape Clément, as well as Château Fombrauge, a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé, Château La Tour Carnet, a Médoc Grand Cru Classé, and Clos Haut Peyraguey, a Sauternes Premier Grand Cru Classé, is a true pioneer in implementing this technological leap in vineyard management of the historical Chateaux. Château Pape Clément has been at the forefront of innovative practices within the wine industry, continually pushing boundaries and setting new standards. The 60-hectare organically cultivated vineyards predominantly produce Grand Cru Classé and Grand Vin reds, with over 90% of the output divided evenly between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, complemented by a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot constituting the remaining 5%.

Château Pape Clément 15

Great wines, a collection of historical artifacts, an ancient cellar, a beautiful landscaped park and a recently renovated hotel add to the attraction and charm of this respectable Chateau, which is absolutely worth visiting — and voting for!

Bernard Magrez Start-Up Win

Mr Magrez is also the founder of Bernard Magrez Start-Up Win, a unique incubator and community of wine, beer and spirits professionals in the heart of the Bordeaux & Alsace wine regions, promoting innovative start-ups in wine tourism. Wine Travel Awards is a proud member of this incubator — thank you for this opportunity, Mr Magrez! The incubator is also a WTA nominee in the Progressive Approach category — please vote!

Bernard Magrez Start-Up Win

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Château Smith Haut Lafitte most probably doesn‘t need any significant introductions. Since 1990 this treasure of Bordeaux has been owned by Florence and Daniel Cathiard. The 80-hectare vineyard of Château Smith Haut Lafitte is characterized by its 7 red and white grape varieties grown in a single plot. Nicknamed the “Graves of Graves,” the estate owes its reputation to its wines with smoky notes and its Gunzian Gravel soils, rich in pebbles and semi-precious stones, adding a unique touch to the estate’s wines.

The Cathiards, both former ski athletes and true pioneers of Bordeaux‘s wine tourism, create a landscape park with unique sculptures in the midst of the vineyards, as well as the first spa hotel with oenotherapy products and oenocosmetics production. Later on these businesses have been handed over to their children, while the owners of Château Smith Haut Lafitte have concentrated fully on the chateau and vineyards, which are cultivated organically.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte has been nominated for Wine Travel Awards (Art & History Object — please vote here!), as well as another project by Florence and Daniel Cathiard — The Cathiard Vineyard. This Californian winery was founded back in 1885 and purchased by the Cathiards in 2020. The historical winery offers its visitors a variety of experiences.

Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Cathiard Vineyard

At Cathiard Vineyard, one can enjoy Founding Brothers and Hora wines in the harmonious setting of the tasting room or the outdoor pergola overlooking the vineyard, as well as book a personal guided tour focusing on the winery`s history and winemaking philosophy, and a tour of the gravity-fed winery and horseshoe cellar, followed by a tasting of three wines.Another option is to take a scenic drive to the vineyards in an open-air vehicle and explore the couloirs of the terroir on the hillsides, breathtaking panoramic views, sit under the gazebo of a beautiful lake and taste some more wine in the privacy of Florence and Daniel Catiar’s favorite spot. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Please vote for this tourist treasure here.

Cathiard Vineyard

Château Angelus

Last but not least, comes Château Angelus, which has been nominated for WTA‘s History & Art Object category. Recognized throughout the world as one of the leading Bordeaux names, this iconic winery represents the devotion of the family and its team of professionals, focused on achieving excellence and highlighting the matchless nature of its terroir.

Cabernet Franc is the key grape variety for Château Angelus, prevailing in its vineyards. This variety is planted in the lower parts of the estate, the famous foot of the slope, which offers a clay-limestone terroir, which is optimal to Cabernet Franc, combining finesse of texture with great aromatic complexity.

At Angelus, the terroirs demonstrate a perfect balance between climate, soils, water reserves, vines and the people working there. Maintaining this balance, preserving the vineyard and its environment, optimizing resources and enhancing biodiversity are the basic viticultural principles of this Chateau. In 1954, Château Angelus entered the first classification of Saint-Emilion as a Premiers Grand Cru Classe “A”.

This iconic Chateau welcomes visits only from professionals, and only by appointment. Run by a young manager, the daughter of the winery’s owners, Château Angelus also has a farm and a Michelin restaurant. Please vote for this pearl of Saint-Emilion here!

Château Angélus