France-Amérique: What is an angélus, which lent its name to your château?
Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal: L’angélus, or the Angelus, is a Catholic prayer celebrated three times a day at 7 a.m., noon, and 7 p.m. It is a popular prayer that has punctuated the daily lives of hundreds of millions of farmers, laborers, pieceworkers, and harvesters over the centuries. Given this heritage, it has a stark, earthly, rural symbolism sublimely reflected in Millet’s famous painting The Angelus. In this piece of art, you can almost feel the humility and devotion of a couple of farmers in the middle of their field. In the heart of the Angélus vineyard, where sounds are naturally amplified, you could hear the bells ringing to announce the prayer in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. The bell on the label of the Château Angélus bottles symbolizes this origin and moment of reverence.
What does the American market and wine culture represent for you?
The American market represents around 30% of the distribution of our wines. The United States supported the success of our estate from the 1980s onwards, preferring quality and the dynamism of the vineyard over the old classifications that had become irrelevant by then. Our countries are different in many ways, but we have a shared historical and cultural foundation and complementary sensibilities. The U.S. owes a lot to figures such as Montesquieu (a Bordeaux native!), Lafayette, and Tocqueville, while France owes just as much to figures like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson (a connoisseur of Bordeaux wines!), and, more recently, Dwight Eisenhower.
Could you tell us a funny anecdote about your time in America?
I was in Seattle when I tasted the oldest Angélus anyone had ever offered me. An American importer wanted to impress me and, imagining quite rightly that I had never sampled this vintage, served me a 1928. It was as delicious as it was moving!
Interview published in the October 2020 issue of France-Amérique. Subscribe to the magazine.