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Former Bond girl Carole Bouquet now runs a winery on Pantelleria

Actress Carole Bouquet likens her sweet wines to haute couture

French actress Carole Bouquet is best known for her turn as Bond girl Melina Havelock opposite Roger Moore in the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, and as a model for French luxury fashion label Chanel in the 1980s and 1990s.

But the 59-year-old has also been running a winery, Maison Carole Bouquet, on the island of Pantelleria in the Strait of Sicily since 2005.

Though she is based in Paris, she fell in love with Italy while visiting it on holiday and for film shoots.

Her winery produces a Passito di Pantelleria, a raisin wine typical of the southern Italian region where the winery is located, and a Sangue d'Oro, a higher expression of the same wine, which is available for sale here.

Bouquet, who is in Singapore as part of a promotional trip, likens her wines to the high-fashion clothes she once modelled for Chanel in the 1980s. She tells The Sunday Times: "It's the haute couture of wine. There's no way you can speed up the whole process."

As with couture fashion, the process of making Passito di Pantelleria is a painstaking one.

The Muscat of Alexandria grape vines are grown in soil that is 70 per cent volcanic and 30 per cent limestone and clay. They are handpicked from vines grown "en terrases", or on terraces at various levels in the vineyard. Each terrace is surrounded by a low wall of stone to protect the vines from the wind.

"You have to climb the terraces and bend to pick the grapes," she says, adding that the process cannot be mechanised for this reason.

Once the grapes are selected, half of the batch is laid on the ground to dry in the sun for two to three weeks, and turned every two days, in a process called "passerillage". They are then added to fermenting wine from the other half of the harvest, resulting in the rich, sweet wine.

Another similarity to haute couture is that the wines are produced in extremely limited quantities - only eight to 15,000 bottles every harvest.

Bouquet admits that, in the beginning, being an actress and not a wine-maker by trade, she was not taken seriously.

"But to them, I said, just drink it, then we'll talk."

Now her wines are served in some of the best restaurants in Paris, including those owned by famous chef and restaurateur Alain Ducasse. In Singapore, they are available at restaurants such as one-Michelin-starred Japanese- Italian restaurant Terra. The Sangue d'Oro also retails at $108 via wine distributor Sarment.

While her wine is sweet, Bouquet prefers it not to be classified as a dessert wine, which is typically enjoyed at the end of a meal. Instead, she says it is best enjoyed as a pre-meal aperitif, served very cold (around 11 deg C) with a bit of Parmigiano or Comte cheese.

"You can even have red wine after. It doesn't stay on your palate as if you have just had a sweet," she says.

Sweet wines are not as popular as red, white and sparkling wines, but she hopes to keep them alive.

"My dream is that it will become normal to have a passito as an aperitif instead of always having champagne or a sparkling wine," she says. "Not only for my wine but also for every sweet wine. If not, they're all going to die. That's the only way we're still going to be alive in a few years."

That said, she has no grand plans to become a mass wine producer. "I don't want to conquer the wine world," she insists.

She is also limited by the 6ha of land she owns and adds that she cannot produce any more wine than she already does. "If I produce anymore, it'll be bad wine. I have enough wine from Pantelleria that is made out of love and that's it. It's going to stay like that."

When she talks about her wines, it almost feels like she would rather be on her property with her team.

"From now until the end of harvest in September, I should be in Pantelleria," she says, almost longingly.

The Cesar Award-winning actress, who also starred in Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object Of Desire (1977) and Bertrand Blier's Too Beautiful For You (1989), is still working in films.

"I've a movie starting at the end of August and I'm trying to push it. But everybody knows I'm lying. They know it's because I want to be at the harvest," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 23, 2017, with the headline 'Bond girl likes it haute '. Print Edition | Subscribe