Arriving at the turning into Château Guiraud, I found my way was blocked. Beyond the gateway lay a long avenue, once part of a Roman road, and thus lined with plane trees. You can’t have a Roman road without plane trees, can you? The driveway leads from the entrance up to the château and other associated buildings, but right at this moment four people were obscuring my view of the estate, and their car was blocking the way. My first impression that they were tourists, two couples, and the number plate on their vehicle suggested their origin was Slovenian. And with Château Guiraud looking resplendent in the autumn sunshine, what better backdrop for their holiday snaps could there be?
Stopping to take a few photographs myself, however, it soon became clear to me that these were no ordinary holiday snaps. For a start, only one of the quartet was the subject, and nobody else stepped into the frame. The subject took up her position. She posed. She pouted. She ran her fingers through her hair, and then posed and pouted some more. I suddenly realised – and before you ask, this was a long time ago, years before the birth of Instagram and the rise of the influencer – that Château Guiraud was the setting for an impromptu roadside fashion shoot. It was one of the more surreal moments of all my visits to the many châteaux of Bordeaux, rivalled only my meeting coypu for the first time, in the grounds of Château Belgrave.
I suspect there are many worse places for a budding model or young actress to be photographed for her portfolio. The château and tree-lined avenue are both charming. But this place is more haut viticulture than haute couture. The Guiraud estate is unique among grands crus classés, being fully certified as organic, once a very rare finding in Bordeaux (although increasingly less so, to be fair), and in recent vintages the wines seem to offer more and more pleasure, perhaps as a result of this change. Many of the developments here are down to onetime-manager and now part-owner Xavier Planty, who has been at Guiraud for well over 20 years. But before Xavier came on the scene, having been appointed by Frank Narby in the late 1980s, Château Guiraud saw many other proprietors, beginning – perhaps – with a man named Bayle.