This blog is all about where photography meets family and the things or places that are personal or meaningful to us. So what happens when photography meets family, meets the land, meets wine and the location is a sun filled corner of France’s Languedoc region?
Heading east out of the walled city of Carcassonne and a few kilometres from the Canal du Midi, there is a turn off the D235, down an avenue of old pines. At the end, nestling behind an olive grove and set among extensive vineyards is Château Canet, a small family-owned estate and home to the Lemstra-Bakes. More than home in fact - it’s a way of life for they have set themselves the task of not only creating a range of exceptional wines but turning the property into a hub for wine-tasting, local tourism, art and culinary events and functions. They are helped in this ambition by a dedicated team, an extended family almost, some of whom have been established in the region for generations.
Last year I had the happy task of photographing the property. It was a commercial brief - pictures were required for the website, for marketing material and for use in presentations to wine buyers. The images needed to show off the wonderful wines, the facilities and the gites (yes, you can stay there too). The great thing about working on this kind of project are all the strands that need to be pulled together; nature’s form in the land, the vines and the wine; technology with the machinery, the stainless steel, the process; and above all, the people that make it happen: Floris and Victoria with their children Oliver and Charlotte; Jane at front of house; Denis and Cyril in the vineyards and Philippe and David blending and bottling; Nathalie the oenologist; Emilie in the office and Emilio keeping everything in order throughout the extensive grounds. (And not forgetting the dogs, Dudley, Elliot and Salut!)
There is an energy and purpose to the state-of-the-art winery that is quietly balanced by the serene setting of the house, vines and countryside. However, as impressive as the technology may be and as beautiful as the situation of the house is, the most important story lies with the people behind it all and their passion in a shared vision.
And what better way of showing the human side of such a personal business than photography? Carefully put together, a collection of photographs has a narrative quality that brings out a story, in this case a story of a remarkable enterprise - and one that will be fascinating to revisit in years to come. Such a documentary becomes more valuable over time, much like a good wine, in fact.
You can see more of Château Canet here.