“ You need to cherish the people that you love while you still have them and if you have the change, have a good glass of wine with them.”
From Rollercoaster to Success; a story that combines Bordeaux wine, a passionate lady and Chateau Cadaulan: Chantal Smeets at TEDxRoermond.
When my parents bought Chateau Cadaulan in 2004 as a place to live when they would have retired from their very busy business life, I had never thought I would one day live there, let alone make wine. As we slowly restored the property my parents dream of retiring on the French countryside came closer and closer and I grew very fond of the Chateau. In 2008, thunder struck when my mother, aged 50, suffered a massive heart attack. During ten days we were in an emotional rollercoaster as she fought for her life. On 19 January 2008, in the first month of what was to be her retirement, she passed away without ever having regained consciousness. We were devastated, but as our winery was operational and we had no winemaker; there was a lot of work to do. As my father could not even physically go to the Chateau, for him the embodiment of his shattered dreams; my partner and me drove back and forth over the weekends to tend to matters. This however was very stressful, let alone time consuming so when he asked me if we should not pack our things and go live at the Chateau to get things going, I immediately said yes. 2 Weeks later we lived in France. At first it was very close to how I imagine hell; I had to sort out customs, fight French language and habits and of course; I continually missed my mother. Being an alpha oriented person with degrees in law and English; I suddenly had to know the chemistry of winemaking as harvest was approaching fast. You can imagine how much I slept in that period. Luckily we had our French winemaker friends to turn to for advice. After the first harvest things slowly got better; I started to love my new career and became more and more at ease with it, now I would not know what else to do with my life! However, there was more change at hand as I noticed that even though times change in the wine world; our winemaker friends stood still. I therefore started consulting with them; making a product driven by consumer wants and needs rather than Bordeaux tradition. While doing this, myself, the person least fit to teach in this universe and abroad, as I use to put it also became a teacher in wine. The past 5 years have definitely been the most turbulent, stressful and difficult of my life. However they were also the most rewarding interesting and surprising. So, times have changed and I had to change with them in many ways. However; I am proud to live a small piece of my mother’s dream for her whilst having made it my own.
Chantal Smeets, born in a small town in Limburg, the Netherlands, is despite her young age a superior winemaker. Besides, as a lady, she owns and runs a wine chateau in the Bordeaux region in France. In 2004, her father bought Chateau Cadaulan so he would have something to do after he retired. But after the very sudden and unexpected death of her mother everything was unsettled. Chantal moved, together with her non-French speaking husband Martijn van Munckhof, four dogs and 14 parrots, to France to run the Chateau. Chantal, who from a young age had followed several wine courses, hired a wine-expert to help them with their first harvest. However, she followed wine course after wine course in order to deepen her knowledge. At the moment, she is studying to get a master of wine, the highest possible degree in the world of winemaking. Only 7% of the students graduate. Chantal strives to make pure wines, quality wines, produced following modern methods but with respect for tradition. That is why she keeps investigating how to continuously improve. This learning process takes time and even more passion.
Chantal Smeets uit Echt is ondanks haar jeugdige leeftijd al een superieure wijnmaker en heeft als dame bovendien een eigen wijndomein in de Bordeaux. Haar vader kocht in 2004 Chateau Cadaulan om iets om handen te hebben als hij met pensioen ging. Maar na het plotselinge overlijden van haar moeder stond alles op losse schroeven. Daarop verhuisde Chantal, samen met haar partner Martijn van den Munckhof die niet eens Frans sprak, vier honden en 14 papegaaien naar Frankrijk om het Chateau te runnen. Chantal die al jong allerlei wijncursussen had gevolgd, huurde eerst een wijnexpert in om hun te helpen met de oogst, maar ze is zich steeds verder blijven verdiepen. Ze is nu bezig met de opleiding tot master of wine, de hoogste haalbare graad in de wijnmakerswereld. Slechts 7% haalt de opleiding. Chantal wil optimale en zuivere wijnen maken, kwaliteitswijnen, volgens moderne me¬tho¬des, maar met respect voor traditie. Daarom gaat ze nauwgezet te werk in het hele productieproces, van veldwerk tot bot¬telen, Ze onderzoekt hoe ze din-gen, hoe klein ook, kan verbeteren. Dit leerpro¬ces vraagt veel tijd en geduld. En heel veel passie.