CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

The Bordeaux vineyard and Surrey pubs putting wine on the menu for European relations

PUBLISHED: 16:14 18 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:16 25 September 2018

Rustic dreams at Château Carbonneau (Photo: Matthew Williams)

Rustic dreams at Château Carbonneau (Photo: Matthew Williams)


When one Surrey pub group were looking for a new wine to set them apart from the crowd, their search led to the gates of the family-owned Château Carbonneau near Bordeaux. More than one year on, it’s a relationship which continues to blossom

The Napoleon III-style conservatory with flags flying (Photo: Matthew Williams)The Napoleon III-style conservatory with flags flying (Photo: Matthew Williams)

There is an understandable excitement in the air about the 500 or so vineyards blooming into ever more award-winning life in England, but this is rather put into perspective when flying over the Bordeaux region’s 7,000 or so châteaux.

Within minutes of leaving Begerac airport, you notice every crossroads is burgeoning with signs pointing out variations of oenophile heaven. The fields you weave through are largely hidden under a blanket of vines.

We arrive during the height of harvest season and everywhere you look pickers and their unwavering machinery are bustling away among row upon row of future vintages.

The beautiful estate is a working vineyard and B&B (Photo: Matthew Williams)The beautiful estate is a working vineyard and B&B (Photo: Matthew Williams)

I’ve joined Mark Williams and Mark Robson, co-founders of the Surrey and Hampshire-based pub group Red Mist Leisure, for an insider’s guide into why they go direct to the producer for some of the stars of their wine lists.

It was on the strength of a tip off by Liphook’s General Wine Company that the pair originally decided to fly out to Château Carbonneau in Pessac-sur-Dordogne.

Almost immediately, they fell for the impressive property with its French and New Zealand flags flying proudly over the Napoleon III-style conservatory.

Mark Williams, Wilfrid Franc de Ferriere and Mark Robson (Photo: Matthew Williams)Mark Williams, Wilfrid Franc de Ferriere and Mark Robson (Photo: Matthew Williams)

As soon as they tasted the exceptional range of affordable wines and chatted with the château’s passionate owners, Jacquie and Wilfrid Franc de Ferriere, they knew they’d found their match.

Deals were struck and their eight pubs have been serving Margot (white), Classique (soft red), Séquoia (medium red) and Lulu (rosé) for a year and a half now.

“Having gone straight to the source, it means we are able to put some really excellent wines on the menu at a fraction of the cost to our customers – and we’ve also got a great story to tell along with each bottle,” says Mark Williams.

Pierre Franc de Ferriere explaining his latest experiments (Photo: Matthew Williams)Pierre Franc de Ferriere explaining his latest experiments (Photo: Matthew Williams)

“As well as selling more than 8,000 of their wines a year, it’s also a great opportunity for us to bring our managers over to discover more about the wine making process and instil some of Jacquie and Wilfrid’s passion into their own work. It’s proven really inspirational, and they’ve also visited us in Surrey and Hampshire to help educate the staff further.”

It really is a fascinating story too. While the chateau produces up to 120,000 bottles a year these days, it could have all been so different without an entrepreneurial whim and a lot of hard graft.


Grapes ready for harvest (Photo: Matthew Williams)Grapes ready for harvest (Photo: Matthew Williams)

A grand vin tradition

While Château Carbonneau is 150 years old and the Grand Larousse encyclopaedia referred to its “great wines of Bordeaux” in the 19th century, the vines were pulled when economic crisis hit after World War One.

When Wilfrid inherited the family estate 25 years ago, it was a shadow of its former self. Despite living in New Zealand at the time, where the couple had married and started their own young family, they decided to move back to France to see if they could revive the estate’s fortunes.

And so it begins... (Photo: Matthew Williams)And so it begins... (Photo: Matthew Williams)

With three children in tow, Jacquie and Wilfrid arrived in Gensac to find one-and-a-half working bathrooms, ancient plumbing and some dubious 1970s decorating efforts, as well as an old winery filled with 100 years of collected rubbish.

Not the most promising of starts then but, not to be disheartened, they set about replanting the vineyard and restoring the château so that it could welcome guests again.

The pair launched their first vintage in 1996 and have never looked back. As well as producing six wines these days, their beautiful home is now a successful B&B guesthouse with five-bedrooms, a wine bar and a rustic tea room.

Grapes being juiced at harvest time (Photo: Matthew Williams)Grapes being juiced at harvest time (Photo: Matthew Williams)

“It hasn’t always been easy and we’ve had to work very hard to get here but we’re extremely proud of what we’ve achieved so far,” says Wilfrid. “We produce our own grapes, crush them and then make our own wine from them all on the estate. We don’t buy in any grapes or juice from elsewhere. It is so important to respect the château name and it really helps with the consistency of our wines too.

“My job is to use my palate to connect the vintages. As such, I think there’s definitely a signature to my wines. I guess I was excited by the challenge when we first moved back here. It’s such a wonderful location and I was desperate to prove that the estate had a great terroir. I’m very lucky Jacquie has backed me all the way.”

The current incarnation of Château Carbonneau recently celebrated their 20th anniversary of wine making with a vertical tasting of their Sequoia vintages (a full-bodied red that takes its name from the 40-metre high tree that welcomes you to the estate). It was a welcome surprise for all that the original 1996 wine proved to be the star of the show.

Wine fresh from the vat (Photo: Matthew Williams)Wine fresh from the vat (Photo: Matthew Williams)

Bringing things up to the modern day, they’ve added a new crémant called Life of Carbonneau to their range. Made using Semillon grapes rather than the usual Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the result is more like a prosecco than Champagne but it’s eminently quaffable.

Perhaps due to the well travelled nature of the family, the Franc de Ferrieres aren’t afraid to stray from the traditions of Bordeaux wine-making and their youngest son, Pierre, is lined up to take over from Wilfrid when the time is right.

A charismatic, open-minded and infectiously inquisitive young winemaker, he’s already working on new projects that may bolster the Carbonneau range in the coming years.

Future vintages being aged in barrels (Photo: Matthew Williams)Future vintages being aged in barrels (Photo: Matthew Williams)

“I like to learn from winemaking methods from around the world and so, while I have so much respect for the traditions of this part of France, I’m really intrigued by what we can achieve by experimenting with different grape varietals and production techniques,” he says. “Things are always changing and it’s such an exciting industry to be involved in. I feel privileged every day.”

Suffice to say, it’s easy to see why the Red Mist Leisure team chose to fly the Carbonneau flag. While they remain keen proponents of a love local philosophy and their drinks lists are packed full of Surrey and Hampshire creations, it’s refreshing to see the care, attention and friendship that goes into this overseas relationship.

With European politics strained, this is one French connection that promises to only get better with age…

• Rooms at Château Carbonneau start at €105 per night in low season (March, April, May and October, November). For more about their wines and rates, visit

More from Surrey Life


With The Great British Bake Off back on our screens the nation is falling in love with baking once again. Head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park, Sarah Frankland, tells us about what it takes to make it as a professional

Read more
Yesterday, 10:51

Wrap up in your favourite coat and scarf, grab your sparklers and a warming drink, and enjoy one of these fantastic firework displays taking place in Surrey for bonfire night

Read more
Yesterday, 10:49

Home to outstanding architecture, ambitious community projects and arts ventures that are putting these villages firmly on the map, East and West Horsley are among our county’s most desirable addresses

Read more
Yesterday, 10:43

Chertsey’s best-kept secret, the Great Cockcrow Railway, steamed into a half-century this year

Read more
Yesterday, 10:34

A taste of Korea has swept into the beautiful market town of Godalming as Bada sets out its stall with a tapas-style fusion of seafood, traditional dishes and spice

Read more
Mon, 16:06

With friendship as the central theme in Adele Parks’ new book, Zoe Richards met up with the bestselling author and her publisher, Kate Mills, to find out how these two Surrey dwellers have discovered a successful working relationship, and become firm friends too

Read more
Mon, 11:37

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend: art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Mon, 00:00

As the twilight falls, the magic begins… There’s something for everyone at Christmas at Kew – and we’re giving you the chance to win one of five family tickets for two adults and two children to the Preview Night of Christmas at Kew on Wednesday 21 November 2018

Read more
Friday, October 12, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Good table manners have long been a source of national pride but in this modern age of social media are our longstanding traditions being left behind? Rebecca Younger visits the stately Beaverbrook estate for a lesson in British etiquette

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The spookiest time of the year is fast approaching! We pick some of the best events to celebrate Halloween in Surrey

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From well kept secrets, to chilled out locations, Redhill is a good spot for a bite to eat. We round up some of the best restaurants…

Read more
Monday, October 8, 2018

From October 11 to 14, the great and the good of professional golf will tee up at Walton Health Golf Club for the 2018 British Masters. We shine a spotlight on the club as it ends an extraordinary year

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search