Chateau Pavie Macquin is rapidly climbing the ladder to stand with the greats, thanks in part to some inspired pioneers, gifted wine makers and a splendid terroir. Dubbed a ‘Cinderella’ by Nicolas Thienpont, the estate’s manager, this chateau is no longer in the shadows. Nicolas has made it his mission to reveal the hidden beauty of this estate.
The Thienpont family is a viticultural dynasty in Bordeaux and are proprietors and managers of leading châteaux (Le Pin, Vieux Chateau Certan) and négociants. Nicolas manages several estates including the Saint Emilion First Growth (Premier Grand Cru Classé B) Chateau Beausejour Duffau Lagarrosse. He took over running Pavie Macquin in 1994 alongside the great winemaker, Stéphane Derenoncourt.
It was Chateau Pavie Macquin that started the career of Derononcourt in 1993. Whilst the 1993 vintage was a disastrous year for most chateaux, Derenoncourt produced a great wine for Pavie Macquin that year. Thus began his rise to fame (he now consults for some 60 wine making estates around the world).
Under their combined efforts Pavie Macquin was promoted to First Growth (Premier Grand Cru Classé B) in 2006 and has kept its elevated status in the most recent Saint Emilion Classification of 2012. However Pave Macquin has another winemaker in its past that every vineyard in Bordeaux pays hommage to . . . its founder, Albert Macquin.
Albert Macquin was born in 1852, at Chateau de Villeceaux in Jaulnes, Seine et Marne, which is now a classified historic monument. Initially farmers, the family had become increasingly wealthy and acquired this beautiful chateau around 1832. The revenue was sufficient to allow Albert to study Law. But with the opening of the Agronomic Institute of Paris Grignon in 1874, Albert abandoned Law to study Viticulture. With 100 hectares of vines and farmland at Villeceaux his interest in wine making had begun at an early age. At this period in time the vineyards of France were in the deadly grip of phylloxera and Albert would famously become known as a pioneer in the battle to save them from devastation and the wine makers from ruin.
As an agronomist, during his study trips, Albert learnt the new techniques involving grafting the phylloxera resistant American rootstock onto the French vines. We don’t know why Albert chose Saint Emilion to begin his life’s work – perhaps he was concerned that France might lose these ancient vineyards forever. We do know that in 1885 Albert bought Chateau Maisonneuve in Saint Georges Saint Emilion as the starting point for his great project. He later added to the vineyards there with his purchase of Chateau Saint Georges in 1887 (these two properties are now known as Chateau Macquin and are owned by Albert’s grandson and his wife, Denis and Christine Corre-Macquin). It was here that Albert set about the extraordinary task of establishing a School of Grafting. He employed up to 40 people and in the first year he produced 20,000 grafted vines. In 1886 the number produced had risen to 200,000 and in 1888 he produced over 1 million. These grafted vines were sold locally to 150 owners but Albert also took them all over the Medoc, to Cognac and to Southern France.
Parcel by parcel Albert increased his vineyards to produce grafted vines and, of course, wines. In 1887 he bought Chateau La Serre (which still exists but was sold off in 1948, its current owners are the d’Arfeuille family) and a plot of vines named Puygenestou, owned by Count Jean-Léo de Malet-Roquefort of, what would become, the First Growth (Premier Grand Cru Classé B) Chateau La Gaffeliere. (La Gaffeliere’s original name was Puygenestous-Naudes.) Also in the same year Albert bought Pavie-Chapus from Ferdinand Bouffard (whose plots were later consolidated into Chateau Pavie, First Growth (Premier Grand Cru Classé A)) and part of Chateau Pavie Pigasse (the remainder of which is now Chateau Pavie Decesse). It is these vineyards that are now known as Chateau Pavie Macquin, which is now owned by Albert’s other grandson and his family: Benoit and Bruno Corre, Marie-Jacques Charpentier and their children.
Albert did not stop there – he rented vineyards from Domaine Drouilleau in Lalande de Pomerol (now Chateau Belles Graves, owned by the Theallet Piton family, cousins to the famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau) and from Chateau Fombrauge (now owned by Bernard Magrez of Chateau Pape Clement). He also bought his best friend, Andre Villepigue, Chateau Figeac in 1892. In 1899 Leon Galhaud, owner of Chateau Tertre Daugay (now Chateau Quintus, owned by the Dillons of Chateau Haut Brion) helped to manage the winemaking at Albert’s estates. At the turn of the century Albert even made a trip to North Africa looking to buy vineyards there and it is reported that Albert purchased the lease on the stunning, but now ruined, Chateau des Tours on the eve of his death in 1911.
He was an incredible man and remains for posterity the saviour of the Saint Emilion vineyards. It’s amazing to think that Pavie Macquin’s ‘Cinderella Wine’ has such a pedigree and that, at last, her beauty is finally being revealed.