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Five minutes with Carine Bailleul, Champagne Castelnau

Published:  03 August, 2021

Having recently succeeded Elisabeth Sarcelet as Champagne Castelnau’s chef de caves, Carine Bailleul, who worked alongside Sarcelet since 2003, shares how her wine journey ended in Champagne with Lisa Riley

I think my first experience with wine was scientific. At 16, our science teacher made us study the fermentation of Clairette de Die, a sparkling wine from the region I grew up in. It was this exposure that got me hooked.

Then, as part of my graduate studies, I learnt about the role of an oenologist: it was a revelation. I was fascinated by the power of the invisible and the alchemy of smells and flavours. Again, I think this links to my ultimate scientific fascination with wine, how such fervent smells, flavours, and essences can result from such a natural product and through specific winemaking.

I have incredible memories of a red Hermitage tasted at the Tain cellar. The sweetness of the tannins enchanted the velvety aromas on my palate. That day, I knew I wanted to make wine. But it was at Champagne Castelnau a few years later, while tasting a magnum of 1990 Champagne, that I realised I wanted to make Champagne. The draw was very powerful, it was like a spell had been cast over me.

The inheritance of expertise is the cornerstone of our business.The passing of time remains the same each year but the rhythm is constantly changing. Now it’s up to me to continue to conduct the symphony started years ago by my mentors and, over time, to add new notes to the Castelnau score.

I attribute the inheritance of my winemaking skills in great part to Elisabeth Sarcelet, whom I have been working closely alongside since 2003, starting as an intern at Champagne Castelnau to now.