Chateau Canon Expands Vineyards by Purchasing Matras

It’s been reported by Bordeaux Wine News that Chateau Canon has purchased Château Matras, a classified grand cru St Emilion estate, for 8 million euros. Interestingly Liv-ex pointed out in their June Market Report that over the past decade chateaux have been expanding their vineyards:

“Looking at just 20 of the major brands in the neighbouring Medoc AOCs of Pauillac, St Estephe and St Julien (which are also three of the smallest) we find that more than half of them have increased their vineyard area by 10 per cent or more over the last decade – with Montrose leading the field with a 60 per cent rise.

If we go back to 1982 we can find even larger increases, with Pichon Baron effectively tripling its area under vine (from 28 to 91 hectares) by 2010.”

Purchasing other estates and their vineyards within their AOC seems to be the only way that chateaux can increase supply – it’s either that or to try to increase yields rather than lower them. As Liv-ex point out:

“the financial rewards for the lesser chateaux to sell vineyards to their more high-profile peers are massive. Just last year Montrose (a St Estephe Super Second) bought 22 hectares from Phelan Segur (a cru Bourgeois) at the price of €900,000 p/h.”

The sale of Matras is one of the most important wine estate transactions this year in Saint Emilion. Matras has been owned by the Bernard / Gaboriaud family since 1962 – they also own Chateau Bourseau in Lalande de Pomerol.

The 12 hectare (approx 29 acres) estate of Matras has its roots in the Middle Ages, if not earlier. The word Matras comes from a warrior’s armour in the Middle Ages and it means either a crossbow bolt or the warhorse. And by extension, it also designated the soldier who carried this weapon.

It is quite likely that this locality owes its name to a soldier in the Hundred Years War who settled here once the fighting was over. This early resident may well have planted vines.

The fact is this vineyard has a long established reputation since it features on one of the earliest maps, the one made by Belleyme in 1763.

The cellars are located in the old chapel Mazerat, built in the 12th century and the estate was once the property of the of Count de Carles. The Carles family were important not only in Saint Emilion, but also on a national level.

One of their sons, Francois IV de Carle, was appointed “Perpetual Mayor” of Saint Emilion by King Louis XIV in 1694.

Chateau Canon is owned by the Wertheimer family (who own Chanel and also Chateau Rauzan Segla). Cesar Compadre reported that John Kolasa, the director of Château Canon, explained his strategy:

“Matras is our neighbour, which is why we were interested. Moreover, Canon has been undergoing extensive re-organization for the past fifteen years which means that eventually all of our 22 hectares will be used to produce our premium wine.

With the purchase of Matras, we are preparing for the future and this vineyard will be supplying us with our second wine, Clos Canon (4 to 5,000 cases). We will have to wait and see if some of the plots can be included in the premium wine.”

As Compadres says: “Time will also tell if the brand name of Matras (currently sold at around 25 euros a bottle) will continue to exist.” I think its rather a shame if it disappears.

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