Remembering The Lady of Grace – Christine Valette

I had come across a very sad news few days ago, the far too young at aged 57,  Christine Valette-Pariente, owner of Chateau Troplong Mondot in St Emilion passed away from cancer after a long illness on March 28, 2014.   Christine Valette, lady of class and grace , surely will be missed by everyone in Bordeaux and around the world.

Christine and Xavier having lunch with their picking team at Troplong early October last year (2013)
Christine and Xavier having lunch with their picking team at Troplong early October last year (2013)

I was with the Christine and her husband Xavier Pariente during the harvest early October just few months ago.  A beautiful day under sun, we were having lunch with their picking team at their restaurant – Les Belles Perdrix before we start picking again in the afternoon for the Merlot.  Christine looks stunningly graceful and beautiful as always, and with the family, we were all having such a great time chatting away.  After lunch, we said farewell to each other, I said I wish to see her real soon hopefully in HK one day and she told me I should be back and pass good time again with the family sooner than later.

the 2013 picking early October at Troplong
the 2013 picking early October at Troplong
A really good day for the picking at Troplong this past summer
A really good day for the picking at Troplong this past summer

In fact, Troplong Mondot became synonymous with Christine.  Christine was Troplong.  The Valette family has owned great terroir of  33-hectare Troplong Mondot for almost a century, and Christine had run it alongside her husband Xavier Pariente since 1981.   She is responsible for all the successes that it has achieved in recent years.

Under Christine Valette’s direction, the estate began picking later, reducing yields, increasing new oak.   (From my personally time this past summer during the harvest, I experienced their careful timing in the picking for different grapes varietal; careful picking by hiring experienced pickers; the use of optical sorting machine and attentions to details in the process of wine making etc.)   Troplong in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 were deliciously powerful yet sensuous, stunning with great charisma that I can’t keep my hands off the wine.   The quality of the wines produced at Chateau Troplong Mondot with Christine’s non stop efforts, hard work and determination, earned a promotion for the property to Premier Grand Cru Classe in the reclassification on St Emilion wines in 2006.

lunch I joined with Christine and Xavier with their picking team during harvest in 2013 October
I was joining Christine and Xavier with their picking team during harvest in 2013 October

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I had the good fortune of visiting Chateau Troplong Mondot in 2007 the first time.   I was excited and almost too stressed about finally visiting one of my most favorite wineries.   It was not until I stepped into the estate, warmly greeted by Christine, Xavier and their daughters,  started off the night with some champagne at their backyard admiring the beautiful sunset that I found myself relieved.  They are one of those wine family who would take you in as if you are one of their family members, and that was one of the reason I started to really get to learn more about Troplong at a personal level if it wasn’t too late.   After the aperitif, we had dinner at their family house, I was being seated between Christine and Xavier.   I remember vividly that there was a painting of birds on cover of the menu.  I lifted it up and asked who made such a beautiful drawing and Xavier proudly gestured to Christine, “It was Christine, she likes to make drawing for the menu in most of our dinner with guests here”.   Christine then, gracefully returned a warm smile.  Since then, Troplong Mondot is one of the estates I visited the most in these past few years  and I was very blessed to get to know the family and be welcomed by them same time.

The family to me, is one of the most genuine wine makers in Bordeaux which could be rare.  Spending time with the family was one of the greatest moment that I can remember of.  Words fall short of expressing my sorrow…The charm and warmth of the Valette family will never be forgotten.

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