Florence Cathiard: Uncorked
Florence Cathiard has owned and managed Château Smith Haut Lafitte with her husband Daniel since 1990. The pair met while in the French ski team in 1960s and Florence was a former VP of the advertising agency McCann Europe.
You’ll have to guess, but I missed a sublime vintage by only three months.
What bottle sparked your love of wine?
Daniel and I married very young, right after the French national ski team when we used to drink nothing but red Bordeaux. We did not know much about Grands Crus at the time, yet I still remember the Léoville Las Cases 1961 and the Figeac 1955, two bottles which sparked our love of wine.
Ambition or talent – what matters more?
One ought to have both to succeed. Talent without ambition will be kept hidden, like a cèpe under autumn leaves; it will slowly fall apart if it does not offer itself to the eyes and palate of others. As for ambition without talent, it is just pathetic… and it’s all too common.
What would you be as a wine?
Undoubtedly a red – either a Haut Brion 1989 or a Smith Haut Lafitte 2009.
Where are you happiest?
Bicycling through my vineyard, which I do every day as my office is 200 meters from my home which is 300 meters from the Château. And all year round whatever the weather as I have this great Mary Poppins device to support my umbrella.
What’s your greatest vice?
I would say Impatience, but you should ask my team.
Best advice you ever got?
‘Impose ta chance, serre ton bonheur,va vers ton risque: à te regarder, ils s’habitueront’ by the poet René Char. [Roughly translated: Impose your good fortune, keep hold of your happiness and embrace risk. They’ll be watching you and will get used to it.] It’s a motto I often tell my grandchildren hoping it will inspire them as it inspired me.
Your cellar’s underwater, which bottle would you dive in and save?
A Smith Haut Lafitte 1878 in its “soufflé à la bouche” bottle.
What’s the best & worst thing about the wine business?
The best is that it is such a complete business : there’s culture in agriculture, art in the artisan and ethics in the aesthetic. It is captivating and fulfilling at the same time.
The worst is when there is a bad critics’ comment about the wines, one cannot help but being touched by it, personally.
Personal satisfaction (Parker points)
From 75 – 100, depending on the day
Desert island vine?
Ideally Cabernet – the king of grapes, but Daniel and I actually own a 50 hectare ‘desert island’ on the Garonne near Smith Haut Lafitte, and for ten years we have planted non vitis vinifera vines.
Which wine would you like served at your funeral?
I would like my Smith Haut Lafitte red and white 2010 to be served. So no worries, they are really young and won’t be ready to drink for a long while!