The Pichet Group, owners of Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion and part of Chateau Le Thil, have continued to invest in wine making and have expanded their vineyards with the purchase of 42 acres (17 hectares) of Chateau Haut Nouchet in Pessac Leognan from the Briest family, for 11 million euros. The Pichet Group is owned by Patrice Pichet, a successful real estate developer based in Pessac. The company employs 800 people and has a 400 million euro turnover.
Pichet bought Les Carmes Haut Brion in late 2010 / early 2011 for a record breaking sum (the chateau is adjacent to the First Growth Chateau Haut Brion) and enlarged the vineyards with the purchase of 13.8 acres from Chateau Le Thil in June 2012 (the chateau, park and remaining acreage were purchased by Daniel and Florence Cathiard of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte). The grapes from Le Thil are to go into making a new wine: Les Clos de Carmes Haut Brion. In February of this year it was announced that the Pichet Group, has commissioned the famous French designer Philippe Starck to design a new winery, barrel cellars and reception area at Les Carmes Haut Brion.
Pichet’s recent purchase, Chateau Haut Nouchet, brings their vineyard holdings up to 69 acres (28 hectares). The Briest family have held on to 17 acres (7 hectares) of white grapes (Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc) as well as the brand name ‘Chateau Haut Nouchet’ and will continue to produce a white wine. The Pichet Group will use their newly acquired acres of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon in their new wine Les Clos de Carmes Haut Brion alongside their grapes from Chateau Le Thil.
The Briest family have owned Chateau Haut Nouchet since 2008 but before that the estate was owned by Lucien Lurton and his son Louis from the well known negotiant house (wine merchants) Lurton et Fils. When Lucien bought the property in 1973 the vines had been uprooted and the chateau was a state of disrepair (and had narrowly avoided being turned into a housing estate). The Lurtons recognised the huge potential of the property, carefully restored the vineyards (they were certified organic in 1992) and built a new chai and cuverie.
Haut Nouchet is situated in Martillac – a little commune with Roman roots. According to local legend Martillac takes its name from a Roman temple dedicated to the god of War, Mars. Apparently during the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar a Roman general became bogged down in the wetland surrounding the area. Miraculously the ground hardened beneath the hooves of his horse and he was able to break free of the marsh. In gratitude a temple to Mars was erected on the very spot to give thanks.
Haut Nouchet lies between Chateaux Latour Martillac and de Cruzeau on a gravel plateau at an altitude of 50 metres, crossed by the Milan stream. The chateau dates back to the 1830s and has an arboretum, with a mix of many tree species. It was inherited by Marcel Vayssière, Senator for the Gironde in 1860 and won gold medals at the Universal Exhibition in London in 1908, Bordeaux in 1907 and Brussels in 1910. However the crises of the two World Wars led to the estate’s neglect until it was rediscovered by the Lurtons.
Stéphanie Derenoncourt will continue as consultant oenologist at Haut Nouchet along with his protege Simon Blanchard. Following the 2013 harvest there are plans to replant 10,000 vines per hectare over the next three years.