The second part of my piece on the chateaux that are hosting some of the 2012 En Primeur tastings covers Pomerol, Saint Emilion, Sauternes and Barsac.
Chateau La Conseillante – Pomerol
Chateau La Conseillante can trace its history back to 1735 and takes its name from an enterprising woman – Catherine Conseillan – who originally established the vineyard. La Conseillante has been in the hands of the Nicolas family since 1871 and its vineyards are located on a plateau in eastern Pomerol on the boundary with the St Emilion appellation and border those of Chateaux Cheval Blanc and Petrus.
When the Nicolas family acquired La Conseillante they not only gave the label the characteristic shield with a silver border enclosing the letter “N” but the purple cap to symbolize the character of the wine – which has aromas of violets with hints of coffee and vanilla – “violet” means “purple” in French.
La Conseillante is one of the leading Pomerol estates and the 12 hectare vineyard has remained unchanged since 1871. Jean-Valmy Nicolas was appointed co-Managing Director in 2010 (and was recently appointed Marketing Director at Chateau Figeac in St Emilion). A brand new winery (designed by Bernard Mazières) was completed in 2012.
Chateau Soutard – Saint Emilion
Chateau Soutard is a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé and can be dated back to 1513, although the impressive chateau buildings were not constructed until the 18th century.
The owner at this point in time, Jean Combret de Faurie (a clever engineer fascinated by wine making and grape growing) is credited with pioneering the growing of vines in rows – a new technique at the time! He had 30cm furrows ploughed 1.3 metres apart in the limey topsoil that covers most of the estate.
Today Soutard is owned by the French Insurance company La Mondiale – who have made several improvements to the estate; buying Chateau Cadet Piola and merging the vineyards in 2012 (they now cover 23 hectares) and constructing a state of the art winery, complete with subterranean wine cellars in 2011 (designed by Fabien Labarde).
Chateau La Lagune – Sauternes and Barsac
Chateau La Lagune is a Third Growth and lies in the commune of Ludon in the Haut Médoc only half a mile away from the Marais de Labade (Marsh of Labade) in which sits a small lake. Whether this is the last vestige of the lagoon that the château is named for no one seems to know.
The estate dates back to the 17th century and the Chartreuse style chateau building was constructed in 1715 by the renowned architect Victor Louis (who also built the Grand Theatre in the city of Bordeaux).
La Lagune was bought by the Frey family, who acquired Champagne Ayala in 2000, subsequently selling the Champagne house to Bollinger in order to fund their acquisition of the Domaines Paul Jaboulet Aine (Hermitage, Rhone).
Caroline Frey is one of the youngest winemakers – male or female – to take over a classed growth. Since its purchase La Lagune has seen a great deal of work done in the vineyards (which cover 80 hectares and include an unusually high percentage of Petit Verdot).
A new high-tech Cuverie (winery) was constructed in 2004 (designed by architects Baggio and Piechaud who also designed that of Chateau Montrose) and Caroline has recently introduced horse power to plough the best parcels of land – not surprisingly, as Caroline was a champion member of France’s competitive horse jumping team until the age of 22.
I am looking forwards to visiting – and revisiting in some cases – these chateaux and will be posting my En Primeur discoveries and tasting notes on a daily basis whilst in Bordeaux.