NEW YORK - Prince Robert is president of Domaine Clarence Dillon and the fourth generation of the Dillon family to manage the First Growth Château Haut Brion. Since he became Managing Director in 2002, he founded their distribution company Clarence Dillon Wines; launched Clarendelle, the range of super-premium branded Bordeaux; undertook extensive renovations at both Château Haut Brion and Château La Mission Haut Brion; and in the last two years, has acquired two great Saint-Emilion properties Château Quintus and Château L'Arrosée. His business requires extensive travel all over the world from his home base in Geneva.
Where were you born?
I was born at our family home, the Château de Fischbach in Luxembourg.
What was your best memory growing up?
I loved the castle, a beautiful house in an idyllic and bucolic setting overlooking woods, farmland and the small village. We lived with my parents, grandparents, one aunt and two cousins. Family and guests visited often and stayed in the house with us. It was wonderful to be so close to my grandmother, the Grand Duchess Charlotte, and other members of our extended family. The atmosphere was akin to a mini Downton Abbey, but without all of the pomp and grandeur. Our lifestyle was very simple and down to earth, but with a permanent staff and infrastructure that are now part of a bygone era.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Where/what did you study?
Luxembourg: Larochette, Belair...then Worth Abbey a boarding school run by Benedictine Monks in Sussex, England. I spent one year living in London, to complete my education, taking classes there and at Oxford, as well as my A level exams. I left the UK at seventeen. Later, I attended Georgetown University in Washington D.C. for two years and a number of art schools, studying sculpture. My informal education came through years of travel: many extended car journeys; studying in Florence, Italy for five months; travels in the Middle East and North Africa; a seven month trip driving to South America; six months in India and Nepal; living in Central America and New Mexico and more. Travel remains a great passion.
Any formal wine training?
No. All of my training has been through a lifelong affiliation with our estates, a great passion for wine and my deepened involvement with our family company, starting in 1993. Although none of my family have ever lived in Bordeaux, I spent time at the estates on a regular basis given my parents' responsibilities there, especially over two summers in 1972 and 1973 when my mother was in the process of entirely renovating and furnishing Château Haut-Brion. I fondly recall all of the smells, sights and sounds of those days...and especially the kindness of the people that worked at the estate.
What are your views on agriculture: Sustainable? Organic? Biodynamic?
My view is to make the best wine possible, while limiting any chemical treatments to the bare minimum. Pascal Baratié our Chef de Culture has made great strides in this direction over his 25 years at the company.
What instantly brings a smile to your face?
Being smiled at. It is amazing how we can all positively affect our environment with a smile.
What instantly makes you frown?
Ditto! I could wax lyrical about likes and dislikes...but I do not think that you have enough space in this interview.
Outside wine, what is your passion?
I have many. Family, nature, art, anything creative (I have a strong need to create), travel, and writing. I was once a screenwriter.
What was the last music you downloaded?
I am very fortunate to be involved with the Montreux Jazz Festival. Every year I discover new bands and then listen to their music. Over the last two nights I attended concerts of artists I had not seen before: Of Monsters and Men (I was familiar with their music) and Alex Hepburn (last night's discovery)! Wonderful festival and a great moment to share with my wife and children! Unfortunately, the festival recently lost its creator and our friend, Claude Nobs. His best gift, and the best way to celebrate his memory, is through the festival's continued success. 2013...Mission accomplished! Claude loved wine and I was pleased to have been able to receive him at Château Haut-Brion. Last year one of my favorite new bands was Alabama Shakes. Last summer we were also able to enjoy Bruce Springsteen (amazing concert), Jay-Z and Kanye West. I love many kinds of music with Opera being high on the list.
What's your guilty secret?
What are you craving right now?
Early to rise, late to bed; burn the candle at both ends?
Late to bed...and 8 hours of sleep.
How do you keep in shape?
I try to run regularly. I loved running the New York Marathon a few years ago; I would like to do it again. I love walking in beautiful places. Some of my favourite memories are walking holidays in Switzerland and Austria with the family and a five week trek in the Himalayas...solo.
Diet or eat everything?
I try to be careful. Food and wine are part of my true passions and obviously part of my professional life...so in my world this can be challenging.
My wife and I are fortunate to be coming up to our 20th anniversary in January!
One daughter and two sons: Charlotte, Alexander and Frederik.
Favourite place to vacation?
Favourite hotel in the world?
Recent Safari trip to Botswana. Magical camps of on average only nine tents.
Favourite local hotel?
In Vevey, Montreux or Lausanne. A number of great established hotels on Lac Leman.
Favourite city to visit?
Favourite wine/vintage from your winery?
Haut-Brion and Mission 1945.
Favourite wine/vintage, that is not yours?
There are too many to mention. All of my favorites would be in France including but not limited to: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Côtes du Rhone, Alsace. I seek typicity, depth, elegance, complexity and subtlety...all hallmarks of a palate formed by the wines of Domaine Clarence Dillon.
If you can choose your perfect last supper before leaving this world, what would it be, who would it be with and what would you drink with it?
Fine French cuisine and wine. Family and close friends in a beautiful, quiet and natural setting. Music before and after.