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Château Smith Haut Lafitte prepares to host King Charles

King Charles III and Queen Camilla will tour Château Smith Haut Lafitte when they make their long overdue state visit to France this week.

They were scheduled to visit Paris and Bordeaux in March, but the trip had to be postponed after protests over the French government’s pension reforms turned violent.

The three-day state visit can now finally proceed as planned, so the royals will be greeted with a remembrance ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe today (Wednesday).

After laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, King Charles will process down the Champs-Elysées to the presidential palace for one-on-one talks with President Emmanuel Macron.

The royals will then head south to Bordeaux on Friday, where they will meet emergency workers and communities impacted by last year’s wildfires.

They will also visit the 78ha vineyard of Château Smith Haut Lafitte in the Pessac-Léognan appellation, which is renowned for its pioneering focus on organic farming.

Florence Cathiard, co-owner of Château Smith Haut Lafitte and president of the wine tourism board, told decanter.com: ‘It is a huge honour to be selected for the visit, and it will be a great pleasure.

‘I have always been a fan of King Charles, ever since I met him at his last polo match at Ash Farm 20 years ago. We talked together, and he knew my wine.

‘We talked about organic wine and biodiversity. I am sure he does not remember me, as he meets so many people, but he was a real inspiration to me. He was really ahead of his time with organic farming and biodiversity.

‘At the time, not many producers were doing organic farming. We did not have anyone to guide us, but we took inspiration from him, and he gave me the confidence to pursue it.’

Cathiard was full of praise for the work King Charles has done at Highgrove House, his family residence, which she calls ‘my dream farm’.

‘Everything is beautiful and organic, and the king does not have 200 gardeners – he gets his hands dirty, he manages it. I said, if he can do this, we can do this.’

Château Smith Haut Lafitte is now famed for its emphasis on organic production, biodynamics and sustainability, along with the quality of its wines.

The estate produces its own solar energy, while it also captures any carbon emissions it emits and converts them.

Sodium fermentations are resold for the production of spirulina, while the grape pomace is valorised and used in the production of cosmetic creams. The Cathiards’ eldest daughter, Mathilde, founded the Caudalie cosmetics brand, which uses active ingredients from the vine.

Florence Cathiard – who bought the estate in 1990 along with her husband Daniel, a former skiing champion who represented France at the Olympic Games – believes that Château Smith Haut Lafitte was selected for the visit due to King Charles’ penchant for biodiversity and for wines that are ‘the expression of a living terroir’.

‘I believe they considered four châteaux,’ she said. ‘Some of them I respect, so I was afraid we would not be chosen, but it is a great honour.’

She revealed that the estate has already received six visits from Buckingham Palace officials, who have conducted extensive security checks in preparation for the event.

Around 200 gendarmes and police officers are expected to descend upon the area, along with royal security services, to ensure the visit proceeds smoothly.

King Charles and Queen Camilla will spend 1-2 hours at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. They will visit the red wine cellar and tour the vineyard, where the harvest is currently underway.

‘We are disappointed by the yield this year, as it was a difficult vintage with the mildew, but the grapes are perfect and the quality is high,’ said Cathiard.

The royals will witness the pigéage in action, and they may have the chance to help out with the process.

They will also be shown around the estate’s 17th century chapel, and they will then climb the estate’s iconic 14th century tower for a circular view of the estate, which is surrounded by 75ha of forest, preserving the biodiversity of the area.

Twenty members of staff will be on hand to meet and greet the royals, who will then be given a tasting of the finest magnums from Château Smith Haut Lafitte’s private cellar.

They will be given prestigious wines and organic honey produced on the estate at the conclusion of their visit. ‘We hope it will be a nice visit for King Charles and Queen Camilla,’ said Cathiard.

A palace spokesperson said: ‘The State Visit will highlight the strength of the UK’s bilateral relationship with France, demonstrating the many ways the two countries are working together, whether that be to promote and protect biodiversity, combat climate change, strengthen security and defence ties in response to the conflict in Ukraine or recognise outstanding literary achievement.

‘Their Majesties’ visit will also include engagements highlighting sustainability and the power of community – key themes of importance to the citizens of both our nations.’


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