Bordeaux

Château Les Barraillots

Chateau Les Barraillots is the last small and independent wine producer in the village of Margaux and one of only a few “Crus Artisans” in the Margaux appellation. The vineyard was obtained from Palmer and Durfort in 1928 and 1933. It is situated among the highest elevations in the commune and the soil type is permeable gravel. The modest house and winery are a quarter of a mile away, on the outskirts of town, literally on the other side of the tracks. The Martin family used to raise dairy cows there, not only for the income derived from the milk, but also for the manure used in the vineyard. Yannick Martin, who took over from his father in 2014, told me that growing up he spent way too much time repairing fences. Although Yannick still uses exclusively cow manure as fertilizer, today the cattle are gone and he has more time to concentrate on his wine production.

Château du Grand Bos is located in Castres, in a part of the Graves appellation where one finds some of the oldest Bordeaux vineyards dating from 2,000 years ago. The vineyard lies near the old Roman road named “Chemin Gallien”. The Château is listed as a leading estate in its commune in editions of Cocks & Feret going back to 1868. The vineyard, whose soil is composed of very deep gravel, ceased being cultivated in the 1950’s and when M. Vincent bought the property in 1988 it was in poor condition. M.Vincent had sold his property in Saint Estephe, Chateau La Haye, with the idea of retiring but instead immediately set out to replant and restore the vineyard as well as the Château. The winery was further renovated in 2005 when the underground cellar where wells had been dug in the 17th century, was refashioned into a pristine barrel room with lots of natural humidity. The vineyard totals 18.5 hectares with 15 hectares in red grapes and 3.5 hectares in white grapes. Through the purchase of his neighbor’s well established vineyard, M. Vincent achieves an average vine age of 30 years, with certain parcels being between 40 and 50 years old. The vineyard ground is worked throughout the year, including “chaussage et dechaussage”, a traditional method of protecting the vine over the winter by covering the base of the plants with soil just after harvest and then removing it in the spring. The vines are pruned using the “guyot double” method with each cane limited to four buds. Yields are controlled through “ébourgeonnage” bud pulling and then if still necessary “vendange en vert” green harvesting. M. Vincent does not use herbicides or pesticides in his vineyard. Since 2020 the vineyards are in conversion to organic certification.

“Graves wines, like the region, are seldom obvious, they tend to be undramatic, undemanding and gentle; with much that may be revealed to the discriminating.”
– Wines of the Graves, Pamela Vandyke Price

“Today, Graves is one of Bordeaux’s most dynamic areas. The biggest revolution has occurred in the quality of Graves dry white wines. Graves white are now more aromatic, fresh and well made; some of them with a distinctly exotic edge, with tropical fruit and a New World tang.”
– The Bordeaux Atlas, H. Duijker & M. Broadbent

The Graves region is often referred to as ‘the cradle of Bordeaux wine’ and has been described as a beauty asleep in her woods and forests. Since the Middle Ages, the city of Bordeaux and its outlying areas have had vineyards and these areas are today part of the Graves appellation. The appellation’s reputation owes much to Chateau Haut Brion which was well known by the early 17th century. Our own Thomas Jefferson, speaking of the Graves white wines, wrote in the late 18th century “those made in the canton of Graves are most esteemed at Bordeaux”. Since then the fame and fortune of the Graves has been eclipsed by the Medoc region with which it shares its geological origin, namely beds of gravel soil washed upstream from the Pyrenees. To the west, the forests of the Landes shelter the Graves region from the Atlantic Ocean. It is, though, to the eastern shore along the Garonne river that the world’s attention turns. It is here, on a fairly narrow strip of land between the river bank and the encroaching forest that one finds vineyards that for centuries have supplied wines to popes, kings, presidents and more importantly, now to us all.

Château Magneau is an ancient property that has been run by the Ardurat family since before the reign of Henri IV. It is located in the historic commune of La Brède, a mile from the historic moated castle where Montesquieu was born. Today, Chateau Magneau is run by Henri Ardurats and his two sons Jean-Louis and Bruno along with Jean-Louis’ wife, Brigitte, who is responsible for the sales. Jean-Louis is in charge of the vineyards as well as the winemaking. He continually works on the expression of his wines by farming parcels of land individually and then vinifying each separately according to its intrinsic character. A modern winery was built in 1980 and a new barrel cellar in 1996. From one generation to the next, the Ardurats have passed on the philosophy of “quality before profit” and they have been recognized by an exhaustive list of awards. In 2002, they received the Trophée des Crus de Graves, an award which is given by colleagues and which recognizes only a few chateaux from the entire appellation. The Ardurats farm 41 hectares of land with deep gravelly soil in the heart of the Graves appellation. Farming is done without the use of chemical insecticides and harvesting is done both by hand and by machine. Before entering the winery all grape bunches are hand sorted to insure the highest quality of fruit. The Ardurats are a member of Terra Vitis, an organization that certifies the practice of sustainable agriculture as well as high standards for the wine’s vinification.

Château La Clotte-Cazalis has belonged to the Lacoste family since 1779. For forty years prior to 2001 they leased their vineyard to another family who was responsible for farming it and had the rights to the harvest. In 2001 Marie-Pierre Lacoste and her mother, Bernadette, decided to take on the responsibility themselves and started producing a wine from their land. Their vineyard of 5 hectares is located in the commune of Barsac. It is planted with 95% Semillon and 5% Sauvignon Blanc and the vines are all more than 50 years old.

Château Loupiac-Gaudiet dates from the 15th century and has been the property of the Sanfourche/Ducau family since 1920. In 1920, when the Ducau’s bought Chateau de Loupiac, they already owned the neighboring vineyard called “Gaudiet” and in this way created Chateau Loupiac-Gaudiet. The estate is situated in the village of Loupiac high above the Garonne river and directly across from the appellations of Barsac and Sauternes. The soils are a mixture of clay and limestone and the vines, 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, are mostly 35 to 50 years old. The vineyard is planted on a steep hill and the Sanfourche’s alternate between plowing the rows and leaving ground cover in order to prevent erosion. Harvesting is all done by hand and it is done in stages to allow botrytis to fully affect the grapes. In an average year, the harvest takes 5 weeks with only 14 days being used for picking the grapes. The grapes are picked with a potential alc. of 17%, resulting in a finished wine of 13.5% alc. and 60 grams RS. After fermentation the wine remains “en cuve” for some months before being bottled. The château does not mature its wine in oak and is able to produces a wine that expresses the delicate flavors of botritys and the pristine balance of a wine with moderate alcohol and lively acidity.

This property is situated outside the village of St. Michel de Lapujade which lies at the southern extreme of the Entre Deux Mers region. Lapujade translates as the hillside and the vineyard is a bucolic setting of rolling hills with soils of chalky clay and boulbenes (an old and fragile decarbonized chalky clay). The Boissonneau family has owned the property since 1839. Since 2007 the vineyard has been farmed organically and the domaine is in transition to being certified organic in 2011.

Jean-Francois Meynard and Christelle Gauthier produce wine from three different Bordeaux appellations, all close to the Dordogne River; Côtes de Castillon, Saint Emilion and Entre-Deux-Mers. Both of their families have roots in their villages going back to the 19th century. Jean-Francois and Christelle have transformed their family’s business from selling grapes and wine in bulk to selling estate bottled wines.

Côtes de Castillon is located on the eastern border of Saint Emilion. It became an independent appellation in 1989, before which it was classified as Bordeaux Superieur “Côtes de Castillon”. Until 1920 the wines were labeled as “près Saint Emilion”. The appellation takes its name from the town of Castillon La Bataille where in 1453 a battle took place that ended the 100 year war with England. The vineyards are a geological extension of those encountered in Saint Emilion with some good sites on the upper plains as well as the more classic hillsides and elevated plateaux.

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Jean-Francois Meynard and Christelle Gauthier produce wine from three different Bordeaux appellations, all close to the Dordogne River; Côtes de Castillon, Saint Emilion and Entre-Deux-Mers. Both of their families have roots in their villages going back to the 19th century. Jean-Francois and Christelle have transformed their family’s business from selling grapes and wine in bulk to selling estate bottled wines.

Château Platon is located in the small village of Sainte-Radegonde, close to the Dordogne river in the northeast section of the Entre-Deux-Mers. Jean-Francois Meynard and Christelle Gauthier farm 10.5 hectares with nine hectares of red grapes and one and a half hectares of white grapes. The vineyard has belonged to Christelle’s family since 1907. The red grapes are mostly Merlot 65%, with 35% being a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.The average age of the vines is 40 years and the plant density is 5,000 per hectare. The vineyard lies on a plateau which is one of the highest points in the Entre-deux-Mers and has an excellent exposition.

Read winemaker’s comments Bordeaux Vintage Reports

Jean-Francois Meynard and Christelle Gauthier produce wine from three different Bordeaux appellations, all close to the Dordogne River; Côtes de Castillon, Saint Emilion and Entre-Deux-Mers. Both of their families have roots in their villages going back to the 19th century. Jean-Francois and Christelle have transformed their family’s business from selling grapes and wine in bulk to selling estate bottled wines.

Jean Francois farms 2.5 hectares of vines in the St Émilion commune of St Étienne-de-Lisse. It is one of the 13 communes that make up the AOC St. Émilion and is situated in the eastern part of the appellation. Jean-Francois’ vines are on the higher slopes of the commune and have clay-rich calcareous soils. The vineyard is planted to 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. The vines have an average age of 45 years.

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Lying just to the north of Pomerol and separated by the narrow Barbanne stream, the Lalande-de-Pomerol appellation comprises a thousand hectares of vines in the villages of Lalande-de-Pomerol and Neac.

These vineyards date from the 11th century when the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, the Knights of Malta, established a residence for the pilgrims en route to and from Santiago de Compostella and introduced the cultivation of grapes to the area. Prior to 1925 the wines were all labeled as Pomerol, but decrees were passed at that time separating the vineyards of Pomerol from those of Lalande-de-Pomerol and Neac. In 1954 the vineyards of Neac were incorporated into the Lalande-de-Pomerol appellation.

Situated in the “lieu-dit” Chevrol, the Chateau Vieux Chevrol vineyard lies on the Neac plateau overlooking the vineyards of Pomerol, a terroir long considered the most privileged of the appellation. The Champseix family has made wine at Vieux Chevrol for many generations and continues to do so in a traditional manner -which would now be called “natural.” Wine Traditions has worked with two Champseix generations: first with Jean-Pierre, whose understanding of and veneration for his land are at once inspired and inspiring. In 2016, his son Michel took over and immediately set out to get the vineyard certified organic. I remember visiting the estate in April of 2016 when Michel was experimenting with an array of cover crops that had grown very tall and completely overtaken the vines. I turned to Jean-Pierre, and said that he must be very proud of his son, to which he responded with his usual understatement and impeccable timing “yes, but perhaps this time Michel has gone too far.” The winery was certified organic in 2019.

Saint-Emilion is one of the most beautiful wine producing villages in the world. It is nestled into the same limestone hills that provide the unique ground for the illustrious vineyards that surround it. The local architecture is built from the quarried limestone and features roofs of earth toned tiles giving the town an historic charm that is “postcard perfect.”

The Delol family has owned the Domaine Chante-Alouette-Cormeil since 1818 and Chateau Gueyrosse since 1862. Since 1995 the wine has been made by Samuelle Delol who took over from her father Yves. Perhaps it is the 200 years of farming or perhaps it is the personal philosophy of Samuelle and Yves, but the viticulture and winemaking practices are old enough to be new again, literally. The farming is organic and the wine making non-interventional. As a way of celebrating 200 years of organic farming, Samuelle has decided to apply for official certification. Recently, the vineyards were certified “Bee Friendly”. There is nothing flamboyant or out of balance with Samuelle’s wines. Grapes are hand harvested and then pressed in a traditional basket press from the 1940’s. The wines ferment with their indigenous yeasts and macerations last between 3 and 5 weeks. In their youth, the wines are discreet and Samuelle says that it is not until after 10 years that the wines start to reveal themselves. It is fortunate and rare to have families such as the Delol’s who are willing to keep stock in their cellar for more than a decade before releasing wines to the market. The Delols are admired by many of the old guard aristocracy of Saint-Emilion vignerons for their refined aesthetic and commitment to craft at the highest level but they have largely escaped the notice of the press. For the experienced Bordeaux drinker or someone interested in discovering the style of wine that made Bordeaux internationally recognized centuries ago, these wines are a rare treat.

Saint-Emilion is one of the most beautiful wine producing villages in the world. It is nestled into the same limestone hills that provide the unique ground for the illustrious vineyards that surround it. The local architecture is built from the quarried limestone and features roofs of earth toned tiles giving the town an historic charm that is “postcard perfect.”

The Delol family has owned the Domaine Chante-Alouette-Cormeil since 1818 and Chateau Gueyrosse since 1862. Since 1995 the wine has been made by Samuelle Delol who took over from her father Yves. Perhaps it is the 200 years of farming or perhaps it is the personal philosophy of Samuelle and Yves, but the viticulture and winemaking practices are old enough to be new again, literally. The farming is organic and the wine making non-interventional. As a way of celebrating 200 years of organic farming, Samuelle has decided to apply for official certification. Recently, the vineyards were certified “Bee Friendly”. There is nothing flamboyant or out of balance with Samuelle’s wines. Grapes are hand harvested and then pressed in a traditional basket press from the 1940’s. The wines ferment with their indigenous yeasts and macerations last between 3 and 5 weeks. In their youth, the wines are discreet and Samuelle says that it is not until after 10 years that the wines start to reveal themselves. It is fortunate and rare to have families such as the Delol’s who are willing to keep stock in their cellar for more than a decade before releasing wines to the market. The Delols are admired by many of the old guard aristocracy of Saint-Emilion vignerons for their refined aesthetic and commitment to craft at the highest level but they have largely escaped the notice of the press. For the experienced Bordeaux drinker or someone interested in discovering the style of wine that made Bordeaux internationally recognized centuries ago, these wines are a rare treat.

When leaving Libourne and traveling west on the “route départementale” toward Bordeaux, one must cross the narrow Isle river just before it merges with the Dordogne. Beyond the bridge, the meandering Dordogne emerges on the left of the road and the vineyards of Fronsac become visible on the right. The appellations of Fronsac and Canon Fronsac are considered the “historic birthplace” of great Libournais (right bank) wines and the village of Fronsac and its idyllic surroundings have many historical claims going back to the days of Charlemagne. The vineyards are laid out on hillsides and high plateaus that overlook the Dordogne River and its tributary, the Isle. Together the two appellations have 1,050 hectares under vine; 800 in Fronsac and 250 in Canon Fronsac; slightly more than Pomerol and one fifth the amount planted in Saint Emilion. The average size of a Fronsac estate is uncharacteristically small by Bordeaux standards. Despite having established a great reputation by the 18th century, in recent times the wines of Fronsac and Canon Fronsac have been largely overlooked and underappreciated.

Chateau Villars is in the northeast corner of the Fronsac appellation, in the village of Saillans. It has been owned by the Gaudrie family since the beginning of the 19th century and is now run by Thierry Gaudrie who represents the sixth generation. Thierry has brilliantly carried forward the same tradition of quality that won his grandfather Octave a gold medal in 1907. The estate covers thirty-six hectares with thirty hectares under vine and the rest divided between meadows and forest. The hillside property faces southwest and the soil is primarily a mix of chalky clay over “Fronsac” sandstone.

The Blaye appellation takes its name from the main town of the region which is strategically situated some 50 kilometers downstream from Bordeaux on the right bank of the Gironde estuary. The town of Blaye has a rich and frequently bellicose history with military encampments being built there as early as 25BC by the Romans. The town has also been historically, an important stop along the pilgrimage road to Compestella, serving as it still does today, as the port for crossing the Gironde to reach Bordeaux. Today, the wine appellation is called Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux and together with Côtes de Castillon and Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, forms a triumvirate that includes “Côtes de Bordeaux” in their names. The Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux appellation spreads from the town of Blaye throughout 39 villages and is a quiet region with a mix of vineyards, crops, forest and prairie.

Château Les Vieux Moulins is the property of Damien Lorteau. He took over in 2010 from his parents and grandparents. He inherited 20 hectares, 11 in the village of Reignac and 9 in the village of Anglade. In acknowledging the difference between the terroirs, Damien produces two wines, one from each village. His vineyards are certified organic and Damien has increased the density in his vineyards so that nearly all the parcels have 7,000 plants per hectare. His winemaking philosophy is non-interventional. He allows the indigenous yeasts to ferment the juice and uses very little SO2 throughout the process. Fermentations are carried out in small cement tanks and Damien avoids both pump overs and moving the wine by pump after fermentation. The labels were designed by a Swedish artist named Madlen Herrstrom.