During our short October break, a group of 11 Global MBA participants took a trip to the beautiful city of Bordeaux. We chose this city because of its easy access from Paris (just over two hours by train) and because there are beautiful cultural attractions both in the city and within an hour’s drive.
Coming from a hospitality background and having a personal passion for wine, I took the initiative of organizing a winery tour in Saint-Emilion. With a majority of our MBA cohort coming from outside of France, having the possibility of discovering the beauty of France, including its culture, cuisine, and savoir-faire is part of what had drawn participants to joining ESSEC Business School. This prestigious appellation sits on the right bank of the Dordogne river, and I chose to bring our group to Saint-Emilion because we could visit a winery as well as explore the charming medieval town, which has the same name as the appellation.
Booking a winery visit was not an easy task! The grape harvest season was completed in September; however many wineries were busy at work with the vilification processes - plus, many staff members were also taking a break over the same period as we were!
I finally managed to secure a winery visit at Chateau Troplong Mondot, which is a Premier Grand Cru Classé, or First Classified Growth (one of 19 Chateaux in Saint-Emilion having this distinction).
The hospitality manager of Chateau Troplong Mondot, Réjane Roumy, a highly professional and passionate individual, hosted us warmly. The winery tour began with a background story of the families, which had owned the Chateau over the centuries. Réjane also proceeded to introduce the geographical features of the estate and shared some insight into their harvesting techniques, which included the use of horses. Being perched on a hill, Troplong Mondot overlooks the landscape of Saint-Emilion, including the medieval village. With 33 hectares of vineyards, Troplong Mondot is one of the biggest estates in the appellation. The estate is fortunate to have both chalky and silex sediment, which helps the wine obtain its rich concentration.
The vineyard visit was followed by a tasting of three vintages of Chateau Troplong Mondot: 2015, 2006 and 1999. The wine was spectacularly well structured, with an elegant balance of tannins and aromas of berries and truffle. We were incredibly grateful that the chateau had opened these wines for us to discover. A key takeaway from Réjane was that what one should look for in a wine, above all, is emotion.
The timing seemed perfect as the sun came out just as we were finishing our tasting… and the sight of the autumn colors of the rolling vineyards was simply breathtaking. Being able to simultaneously enjoy the visual and the gustative beauty of Saint-Emilion was a memorable experience, to say the least!
Our experience in the Saint-Emilion vineyards will remain a beautiful memory for our group for several reasons. First of all, several among us are part of the Hospitality Management and Luxury Brand Management majors, with fine wine being relevant to both fields. Secondly, as true ambassadors of ESSEC Business School, it is important to have a good understanding of the French culture, of which wine is an inherent part. Lastly, for several amongst us, being able to discover a new region of France while strengthening the bonds with a group of classmates hailing from all over the world was truly an unforgettable experience.
We are very much looking forward to the next opportunity to visit another French winemaking region.