Chateau Prieuré Lichine, the Margaux Fourth Growth Grand Cru Classé, has acquired nearby Cru Bourgeois Chateau Pontet Chappaz from the RCR Group. It’s thought that the 18.5 acres (7.5 hectares) of Pontet Chappaz vineyards will be absorbed into those of Prieuré Lichine. The small vineyard at Pontet Chappaz is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a small amount of Petit Verdot – and produces about 40,000 bottles a year.
The RCR Group was founded in 1962 and today they own 23 chateaux representing 1364 acres (552 hectares) of vineyards across the appellations of Bergerac, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux Blanc, Côtes de Castillon and Côtes de Bourg, Montagne Saint Emilion, Saint Georges, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Médoc, Saint Estèphe and Margaux. Chateau Pontet Chappaz lies in the Margaux village of Arsac.
The vineyards of Chateau Prieuré Lichine cover 170 acres (68 hectares) and the chateau lies north of the village of Cantenac near the town of Margaux, neighbouring the Second Growths Chateaux Brane Cantenac and Palmer. I have always enjoyed Prieuré Lichine’s wines – in my opinion they have more to offer than many other Margaux wines at the price. The chateau itself has very ancient roots and was originally a Priory (the Priory of Saint-Didier de Cantenac) founded by the Saint Augustin canons of the Abbey of Vertheuil around the year 1000.
In 1444, the wines produced at the Priory were considered to be of such quality that they were taxed at the same rate as the wines of Hermitage and Clos de Vougeot. The chais at Prieuré still contain part of the Priory’s original structure dating from the 16th century.
In 1951 the château was sold to Alexis Lichine (a renowned authority on wine, an entrepreneur, and an author – who also played a key role in promoting the labelling of wine by its grape variety in the 1940s).
Lichine restored the chateau, improved the vineyards, modernised the vinification techniques and rebuilt the ancient Priory. He expanded the vineyards up to 143 acres by purchasing land from the neighbouring chateaux. His shipping organization, Lichine & Cie. in Margaux became a leading exporter of first quality wines and he also became part owner and manager of Chateau Lascombes.
Lichine revolutionised his chateau in more ways than one. In the 50s châteaux were often owned by absentee landlords with managers in place overseeing the vineyards in their stead. Lichine was different – Prieuré Lichine was always a home and a hive of activity. He was one of the first to throw open his château doors to visitors and offer wines for tasting. Visitors could also wander round the château itself and in this way Lichine demystified wine making.
Lichine died in 1989 and now his château is owned by the Ballande Group but despite his château being sold, Lichine will forever be a part of it. Thanks to a Government dispensation, he was buried on a little knoll in the centre of the vineyards – the perfect place for such an enlightened man who did so much for the world of wine.
You can still visit the chateau by appointment throughout the year, it runs a shop that offers a wide selection of gourmet products and also has a Chef on site so you can discover the best pairings between dishes and the wines of the chateau: http://www.prieure-lichine.fr/