Chateau Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse sits high on a hill overlooking the isthmus of the River Dordogne and the surrounding patchwork of vineyards. The view is breathtaking and at night you can even see the lights of the city of Bordeaux from the terrace. In the Middle Ages this domaine was known as ‘the peak where the cuckoo sings’ (Peycoucou) and was owned by the monastic order of Cordeliers. These were Franciscan monks who followed the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi (1181/2 – 1226). Being renowned for his love of all God’s creatures, St Francis even preached to the birds, so its rather fitting the Cordeliers made their home on the hill where the cuckoo sang.
The Cordeliers gained their name on account of their traditional dress of a large brown or grey coarse cloak fastened with a knotted cord belt. They built the small church of Saint Martin that now leans against the present chateau’s stone walls and they grew vines here in the Middle Ages. In 1338 they expanded into the town of Saint Emilion itself, establishing a monastery within the city walls. The remains still stand as the Cordeliers Cloister and sparkling wine, Cremant de Bordeaux, is made there nowadays.
In the 17th Century the Gères family took over the vineyards on the cuckoo’s hill from the Cordeliers and in 1722 Jeanne de Gères married into the de Carles family, owners of Chateau Figeac, Haut Sarpe and Tauzinat l’Hermitage. It was Count Jacques de Carles (1724-1803), Lieutenant General of the Armies of King Louis XVI and also a General under Napoleon, who named the vineyards Chateau Beausejour in 1787. ‘Beausejour’ translates to ‘Beautiful Days’ and its thought the General named it for the happy memories he had of the estate.
In 1847 Beausejour was sold to Pierre Ducarpe and in 1869 he divided it between his two heirs (a brother and sister) and split into two properties: Chateau Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse and what is now Chateau Beausejour Becot. Today Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse is still owned by the same family, now in their 9th generation at the chateau.
The 17 acres of vineyards neighbour those of Chateau Angelus and Chateau Canon and wines are aged in the limestone quarries beneath the chateau. Classified as a First Growth (Premier Grand Cru Classé B) since 1955, the chateau was given a further boost in 2009 when the family entrusted wine making to some of Bordeaux’s top consultants: Nicolas Thienpont (who manages several estates including Chateau Pavie Macquin), Michel Rolland and Stéphane Derenoncourt.
Their input and expertise have had a dramatic effect and the wines are now at the top of their game – both the 2009 and 2010 received a 100 point score from Parker and the 2011 a 92 – 94+. The 2012 vintage tasted in barrel received a 93 – 95+ and having tasted the wine it is well worth looking out for. If you are interested in acquiring some of the wines from the ‘the peak where the cuckoo sings’ you will find these vintages available at Interest In Wine.