Interview With The Owner Of Château Civrac – Alex Gibson

28th May 2024

Interview With The Owner Of Château Civrac Alex Gibson

In this exclusive feature we speak with Alex Gibson, the incredible owner and winemaker of Château Civrac, in Bordeaux, France, let’s find out a little about his life in the wine industry.

It’s Great To Speak With You, Alex, Can You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself & How You Became Involved In The Wine Industry?

“My partner Grace and I settled in Bordeaux in late 2016 after living together in Australia.

Up to this point, I had only been a wine enthusiast, and frequent visitor to wine regions, ever since working a harvest in the Barossa Valley during my gap year.

In preparation for a new career in winemaking, I attended classes at the University of Bordeaux and did a handful of internships in the area.

We visited Chateau Civrac in early 2017 and were immediately struck by the natural beauty potential of the place, but only concluded the purchase two years later.

The decision to invest in Côtes de Bourg and finally Château Civrac was based on the potential of the terroir, and to be part of a community of young and dynamic winemakers. Côtes de Bourg is also the Malbec capital of Bordeaux, and as a native of Argentina, this was also a strong selling point.

Around the same time, my partner Grace left her prior career in corporate finance to pursue her own dream of founding Cafe Eriu, a cafe/restaurant in Bordeaux”

Can You Share With Us A Little About The History Of Château Civrac And Any Plans For The Future?

“Vines in the area were planted by the Romans 2000 years ago, and at the time the port town of Bourg was used to ship the wine out via the Gironde estuary.

The farmhouse and cellar at Château Civrac date back to the early 1800s, but fell into disrepair following WW2. When we took over the property in 2019 it had been through a couple of successive bankruptcies and had largely fallen into neglect. We managed to put a new roof on the house just in time to save the structure, and with time and hard work managed to salvage 70% of the old vine plots on the vineyard.

In the vineyard, we practice low intervention viticulture and do much of the work, including all harvesting, by hand. We don’t use herbicides, carcinogens or mutagens (sans CMR). We also don’t use synthetic fertilizers, preferring to seek a natural balance of the living soil with cover crops and regenerative grazing using sheep.

We harvest by hand in small crates used to transport the grapes to our cellar. This ensures good selection in the field (any rot remains on the vine) and the skins remain unbroken until they reach the crusher. I do increasingly use wild yeast, starting with the 2020 Amphore Indigene cuvee up to the entire harvest production in 2023.

For our first harvest in 2019, we decided to make a small batch of Cremant exclusively labelled for Cafe Eriu, using a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to make a dry Blanc de Noir. Because of the Covid-19 shutdown, we had to find other customers for this wine, and since then we have kept the ‘Eriu’ label (a customer favourite) but have begun increasing production and exporting the wine.

The cremant harvest typically happens at the end of August, about 3 weeks prior to the red wine harvest, before the potential alcohol surpasses 11%, and with a higher degree of acidity. One tradition we have kept for the Cremant is to pick the grapes with a convivial group of friends and neighbours, starting at 6:30am and concluding with a long-table lunch catered by the Cafe Eriu chef.

While we were able to save many of our old vines, we have also been installing new plots, favouring Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Albarinho.

We aim to steadily increase our Cremant production, maintaining the Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, ageing on lies for 24-30 months and as a Brut Nature whenever possible.”

Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?

“Growing up in Argentina in the 1980s sparkling wine was much rarer to come by than it is today. Back then special occasions were usually marked by popping a bottle of dry cider, which I’d be allowed to take a sip of at Christmas dinner. My first encounter with proper sparking wine would have come later, most likely when I was working my first harvest in the Barossa Valley.”

When It Comes To Pairing Your Sparkling Wine With Food, Do You Have Any Favourite Combinations That You Would Personally Recommend?

“Our Eriu Cremant is a crisp dry sparkling, with some delicate stone fruit aromas combined with a hint of brioche due to extensive ageing on lies. It pairs well with seafood, raw oysters being amongst my personal favourites.”

Can You Share With Us One Of The Most Memorable Experiences You’ve Enjoyed With A Glass of Bubbly?

“I once helped crew a vintage sailboat in the Round Britain and Ireland yacht race. After 2 weeks at sea, we successfully made it to the finish line and were presented with a bottle of Champagne on the dock. It was the hardest earnt sip of Champagne ever, after half of the bottle was sprayed over the skipper.

Also very memorable was sampling my own very first vintage prior to degorgement. we sampled the finished wine with the help of a couple of sommelier friends at different dosage levels, and were delighted with the consensus to leave the 0g sugar (Brut Nature)”

Thank you, Alex, for sharing your story and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Photo Credit belongs to Alex Gibson, Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.