Château Galoupet is teaching the world how to drink more responsibly
From reviving an endangered Provençal ecosystem to revisiting wine packaging, Château Galoupet aims to transform winemaking from terroir to bottle
The story of Château Galoupet has all the ingredients of a fairytale: a picturesque Provençal setting, near Hyères on the French Riviera; a vast vineyard abutted by 77 hectares of woodland brimming with flora and fauna; and a fairy godmother in the form of LVMH, which purchased the Galoupet brand in 2019 and plans to make it its next big rosé success. But when managing director Jessica Julmy arrived at the Château three years ago, she found that the vineyard’s soil had been damaged by chemical input, the biodiversity of the forest had been compromised by wildfires, and the neglect of previous owners had left the estate generally diminished. The vines were suffering and, consequently, so were the wines. If this was a fairytale, it was going to take a lot of work to get to the happy ending.
‘I realised it was going to take a decade to get to full capacity,’ says Julmy. ‘The financial considerations for this project were going to be different, and the timing was going to be different, and there was nothing I could do about it. With that in mind, I took a step back and thought, okay, if that’s the case, what we still have is this place. We have Provence, we have the terroir, we have biodiversity. It became clear that success required bringing it all back to local experts and leveraging the expertise they have.’ For Julmy, this meant assembling a team from the surrounding area to reinvigorate the land.
First, the Château reached out to the Conservatoire des Espaces Naturels and the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux to catalogue, à la Darwin, every type of flora and fauna that existed within the land. With the audit completed earlier this year, the Château Galoupet team has embarked on a three-year programme to regenerate those species. So, for instance, rye, mustard and peas are sown between the vines to enrich the earth and attract insects that break down organic matter and help the vines get more nutrients. Small bat houses will be placed in the trees to facilitate the growth of the estate’s 12 different bat species, which help keep the vineyard free from insects that might harm the crop. Meanwhile, trees planted around the vines will grow fruit that birds can eat instead of the grapes.
At the heart of this regeneration is a collaboration with the Observatoire Français d’Apidologie, which has installed 200 beehives on the estate and is just one of the 12 queen bee fertilisation centres in the world. The queens will give birth to bees that will offer an invaluable contribution to the Château’s ecosystem. It is an impressive undertaking that, if it succeeds as well as it promises to, could have a resounding influence on how wine is produced in the region. But what will likely impress customers encountering Château Galoupet is the wine itself, particularly its bottles: uniquely, Château Galoupet’s two wines, Galoupet Nomade and Galoupet Cru Classé, are presented in a plastic bottle and colour-obscuring amber glass bottle respectively.
This radically different packaging is at the heart of Galoupet’s sustainability initiative, but it was a choice that took time to come to. ‘At first, my concern over the packaging was kind of a lesser one,’ says Julmy. ‘The priority was definitely on the vineyard and on the wine itself, but that changed once I saw a study carried out by [climate consultancy] EcoAct for Moët Hennessy saying 40 per cent of a still winery’s carbon footprint is a result of its packaging.’ Thus it became clear the impact of making Château Galoupet organic would be effectively nil without radically rethinking the packaging as well. ‘That has really been one of the most beautiful learnings of the entire project,’ says Julmy. ‘A lot of things are interconnected. Becoming organic is one thing, but organic without lighter packaging has no point. If you have lighter packaging, but a very energy-heavy production, then there’s no point. All of that but you don’t have biodiversity, no point. The topic is exhaustive and totally interdependent.’
Finding packaging that made enough of an impact required an entire upending of preconceived notions of how wine should be packaged. Rosé’s biggest draw in stores is its colour, but clear glass bottles can’t be made from recycled glass. Thus, Château Galoupet has decided to package its higher price point rosé in an amber glass bottle made from 70 per cent recycled glass. At 499g, it is 271g lighter than the average bottle of rosé and thus requires significantly less energy to transport. In an even more radical move, the bottle for Galoupet Nomade comes in a flat-pack bottle upcycled from ocean plastic. Wine connoisseurs might turn their noses up at plastic bottles for fear that it will impact the taste of the wine, but Nomade’s taste is in no way compromised by its packaging. If anything, the bottle is exceptionally convenient. With a screw-top cap and weighing no more than your average water bottle, it is perfect for summer picnics or days at the beach. Again, its weight is significantly less than the average bottle of rosé and its flat-pack format means it can be slipped through letter boxes rather than shipped in boxes.
Yet all the impressiveness of Château Galoupet’s methods would be nothing if the wine didn’t actually taste good. Thankfully, it also delivers on that front. Château Galoupet’s Cru Classé is an ultra-pale, delicate tasting rosé with sweet notes of white peach and the muskiness of almonds. Galoupet Nomade, on the other hand, is a brighter and crisper blend with notes of pink grapefruit and wild berries. While Château Galoupet’s approach is a dramatic departure from tradition, Julmy insists that it should be spoken of in terms of ‘innovation’ rather than ‘progress’. ‘What we’re doing is a contribution,’ she says. ‘It’s not LVMH coming in on its white horse and saving the region. The region already has a lot of expertise, a lot of learnings, and a lot of fantastic developments.’ Château Galoupet is just at the beginning of a long journey to full production, and Julmy is prepared for the pushback she knows she will receive along the way. ‘Some people might criticise us for greenwashing,’ she says. ‘That’s to be expected when you’re a part of a big group like LVMH. But at least I have the faith and the confidence that we’ve honestly looked at all of these facets. Of course, there are certain things that we won’t have answered yet, but we really, really have done everything as thoroughly as possible.’∂