Good Value High Quality Bordeaux Wine: Chateau Montjouan

Chateau Montjouan is a wine with personality. It’s stylish, elegant and beautifully balanced – definitely a cut above its peers and well worth trying for yourself.

The 2006 Chateau Montjouan Tradition, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux is a very dark crimson with rich flavours of cassis, blackberries, cedar, cigar box and spice with a little hint of pepper. The tannins are well integrated and the wine is supple with good length.

Chateau Montjouan has been in the hands of the Yung family since 2003 and I highly recommend it. The family have three other estates in the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux and Cadillac: Chateaux Grimont, Sissan and Tour Saint Paul.

The Montjouan vineyards are relatively small and cover only 20 acres and lie in Bouilac – a small village that sits right on the bank of the River Garonne. Bouilac is only a mile or so from the City of Bordeaux.

The little village is clustered with mansions and chateaux that hail from a time when the merchants of Bordeaux were prospering from their trade at the Port of the Moon and built beautiful properties on the hillside at Bouilac as country retreats.

Chateau Montjouan is also a wine with a story. Wine makers will tell you that there is a story behind every bottle and sometimes the story behind the smallest and least known chateaux can be quite surprising. The little known Montjouan has a link to one of the most famous places in Bordeaux . . .

Chateau Montjouan‘s vineyard lies on clay gravel and chalk and actually overlooks the river. The vineyard is ancient, dating back to the 1500s but local legend has it that it may date back further for the chateau and its vineyard are reputed to have been owned by ‘Blessed’ Pey Berland (c1375 – 1458).

Berland was born a peasant in the Medoc but rose to fame as Archbishop of Bordeaux in 1430, wielding immense power at a pivotal point in French history.

During Pey Berland’s tenure France and England were in the throes of the last years of the Hundred Years War. His reputation is that of an intelligent and wise man who remained modest and took great care of those in need.

Initially he supported the English in their struggle against the French to retain Bordeaux but he was appalled by the martyrdom of Joan of Arc. Twice he went to plead with Henry VI of England but his endeavours fell on deaf ears so he transferred his allegiance to Charles VII, King of France.

Berland went on to become one of the most influential figures in Medieval Bordeaux and was instrumental in bringing about the submission of the whole province to the French Crown, and with the ending of the Hundred Years’ War.

Before Berland’s rise to Archbishop he was pastor of Bouilac and in 1413 he decided to fortify the 6th century village church so that it could serve as a refuge in case of alarm.

His family owned property in the foothills of Bouilac and Berland purchased a vineyard near the church to supply wines for Mass and lived in a country house called Potager de Jouan which gave its name to Chateau Montjouan.

In Medieval times the clergy, monks and nuns used potagers to provide flowers, medicinal herbs, fruit and vegetables for the inhabitants of the church, abbey or monastery. Potagers were quite different to English kitchen gardens as they geometric and often included an arbour or a trellis of vines. So it seems that Chateau Montjouan‘s wines were used for communion nearly 600 years go.

Many of Pey Berland’s works live on – he founded the University of Bordeaux in 1441, Saint André Hospital and a number of colleges and secondary schools. He bequeathed all his books to the college he established in his birth town of Saint Raphael and he also created a fund to help purchase books for poor students at other institutions.

The lasting landmark that most people associate with him still stands – the bell tower that he had built at Saint André Cathedral, known as the Tour Pey Berland. He is remembered with affection by the people of Bordeaux and his name is still honoured today!

So, next time I am in Bordeaux and hurrying across the Place de Pey Berland that stretches in front of the great cathedral and its tower I will think of the little vineyard at Montjouan and its elegant wine. If you’d like to try the 2006 you’ll find it available at Bordeaux-Undiscovered available with free delivery if you order a case of 12 wines. Cheers!

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