Château Ausone

Château Ausone is a Bordeaux wine from Saint-Émilion appellation, one of only four wines, along with Château Angélus, Château Cheval Blanc and Château Pavie to be ranked Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine. The winery is located on the Right Bank of France’s Bordeaux wine region in the Gironde department, close to the town of Saint-Émilion.

The winery also produces a second wine named Chapelle d’Ausone.


Placed on the western edge of 11th century village Saint-Émilion, with elevated vineyards facing south on steep terraces in ideal situation, Ausone takes its name from Decimius Magnus Ausonius (310–395 CE), a statesman and poet from Bordeaux who owned about 100 acres (0.40 km2) of vineyard. It is believed by some that Château Ausone is on the foundations of his villa.

The modern estate can be dated to the 18th century, when it was owned by Jean Cantenat. Later, under the ownership of the Lafargue family, the vineyard was inherited by Edouard Dubois who steered the château through the difficulties of the late 19th century, and in 1916 added the adjacent Château Belair to their estate. The chateaux were run separately, although both age their wine in the Ausone cellars, caves in the limestone cliffs beneath the town of Saint-Émilion.[1] After Dubois died in 1921, his widow Heylette Dubois-Challon and Dubois’ children of a previous marriage who married into the Vauthier family took control over the estate.

Château Ausone presentation card dated 1931, demonstrating the designs of the early 20th century, the label, cork, case and capsule markings.

Ausone was one of a few estates which escaped the terrible frost of 1956, unlike its neighbour Cheval Blanc that lost several years’ vintages. Other neighbours suffered the destruction of their vines. Despite being one of the great names of Bordeaux, Ausone fell into decline until Pascal Delbeck was appointed winemaker in 1976.

For several years Ausone was jointly owned by the Dubois-Challon and Vauthier families. After an unsettling time, feuding in the courts was brought to an end when the Vauthiers bought the Dubois-Challon shares in the mid 1990s. Alain Vauthier became managing director of Ausone, while Heylette Dubois-Challon won the right to live on the chateau until her death in 2003.[3]

Michel Rolland was appointed consultant oenologist in 1995.


The success of the wine produced at Ausone is attributed to a combination of exposure and the soil, a mixture of sand and clay on limestone unique to the district. The vineyard is 7 hectares (17 acres), arranged with the grape varieties of 50% Cabernet Franc and 50% Merlot, planted with a density of 6,500 plants per hectare.Due to the small scale of the vineyards, picking may be done at an optimal moment, usually in two afternoons.

Of both the Grand vin and the second wine Chapelle d’Ausone, the annual production averages little more than 2,000 cases (180 hL).

Château Cheval Blanc

A bottle of the 1981 vintage of Château Cheval Blanc

Château Cheval Blanc (French for “White Horse Castle”), is a wine producer in Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux wine region of France. As of 2012, its wine is one of only four to receive the highest rank of Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) status in the Classification of Saint-Émilion wine, along with Château Angélus, Château Ausone and Château Pavie.

The estate’s second wine is named Le Petit Cheval.


In 1832 Château Figeac sold 15 hectares/37 acres to M. Laussac-Fourcaud, including part of the narrow gravel ridge that runs through Figeac and neighboring vineyards and reaches Château Pétrus just over the border in Pomerol. This became Château Cheval Blanc which, in the International London and Paris Exhibitions in 1862 and 1867, won medals still prominent on its labels. The château remained in the family until 1998 when it was sold to Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury goods group LVMH, and Belgian businessman Albert Frère, with Pierre Lurton installed as estate manager, a constellation similar to that of the group’s other chief property Château d’Yquem.


The vineyard is considered to have three qualities: one third Pomerol as it is located on the boundary, one third Graves as the soil is gravelly, and the remaining third typical Saint-Émilion. The vineyard area is spread over 41 hectares, with 37 hectares planted with an unusual composition of grape varieties of 57% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, and small parcels of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The average annual production is 6000 cases of the Grand vin and 2500 cases of the second wine, Le Petit Cheval.


The Château Cheval Blanc

The manager of Château Cheval Blanc, Jacques Hebrard, was outraged at the evaluation of his 1981 vintage barrel samples made by influential wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. and asked him to re-taste. Upon arriving, Parker was attacked by Hebrard’s dog as the manager stood idly by and watched. When Parker asked for a bandage to stop the bleeding from his leg, Parker says Hebrard instead gave him a copy of the offending newsletter. Hebrard denies that Parker was bleeding. However, Parker did retaste the wine and found it significantly changed from his previous evaluation, and therefore gave the wine an updated evaluation in a later issue of his publication The Wine Advocate.

Château Petrus

Statue decora depicting St.Peter on the wall of the “château” Pétrus.

Close up of wooden wine crate used to ship bottles of Pétrus.

Bottles of Pétrus on display.

A bottle of Pétrus 1982.

Pétrus is a Bordeaux wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation near its eastern border to Saint-Émilion. An estate of limited size, it produces a limited production red wine almost entirely from Merlot grapes, on occasion with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, and produces no second wine. The estate belongs to the family of the Libourne wine merchant JP Moueix.

Although the wines of Pomerol have never been classified, Pétrus is widely regarded as the outstanding wine of the appellation by consensus,[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8] and leads a duo of Pomerol estates of extreme prices, along with Le Pin, that in the modern era are consistently among the world’s most expensive wines.[9][10]


1931 presentation card with the designs of the early 20th century, the label, cork, case and capsule markings.

Originally a 7-hectare (17-acre) vineyard,[1] the estate was owned by the Arnaud family since the middle of the 18th Century,[7] and the name first appears in records from 1837.[5] In the 1868 edition of Cocks & Féret, under listing Crus bourgeois et 1ers artisans Château Pétrus was ranked behind Vieux Château Certan and alongside Château Trotanoy.[4] Some vintages of this period were labelled Pétrus-Arnaud.[9] At the Paris Exhibition of 1878, Pétrus won a gold medal,[3] at a time when such an event had great consequence, establishing a selling price at the level of a Médoc second growth,[4] the first wine of Pomerol to do so.[1]

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Arnaud family founded La Société Civile du Château Pétrus, which offered shares in the company to the public. Around 1925, the owner of the Hôtel Loubat in Libourne the widow Mme. Edmond Loubat began to buy shares in the estate and continued the acquisition progressively until 1949 when she was the sole owner of the domaine.[7][11]

With the end of World War II and the successful 1945 vintage began, according to David Peppercorn, “the great age of Pétrus”.[1] Jean-Pierre Moueix of the Libourne négociant house Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix acquired exclusive selling rights of Pétrus in that year and international reputation began to grow.[11] Mme. Loubat, who also owned Château Latour à Pomerol remained an active vigneronne throughout her life, known for her meticulous dedication to detail and quality, and strong determination that her wine deserved to be priced equal to the great crus.[1][2][7][8]

In the following years the partnership with Moueix efficiently became prosperous.[8][9][10] Pétrus became introduced in the United States,[5] and the wine was served at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947.[12] Mme. Loubat later gifted a case of Pétrus to Buckingham Palace for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.[5]

After the 1956 winter frost that devastated the grape vines of Bordeaux region and killed ⅔ of the Pétrus vineyard,[6] Mme. Loubat decided not to replant but regraft new vines on top of existing survivor rootstocks (the process recépage previously untried in the region[6]), with success, ensuring that the vines’ average age remained high and establishing a tradition that has since been followed.[5][9] Until this year, Pétrus was sold off in cask, as well as in bottle, which came to an end.[4]

Pétrus’ fame in the U.S. grew in the 1960s, with the promotion by Henri Soulé, owner of the Le Pavillon restaurant in New York. According to Alexis Lichine, “[Pétrus] was served at Le Pavillon in the days when Onassis sat at a corner table. After that, Château Petrus became a status symbol, the sort of name dropped by people who wish to imply not only that they know wine but that they are in wine”.[13]

On the death of Mme. Loubat in 1961, the estate inheritance was divided between a niece and nephew, Mme. Lily Lacoste-Loubat and M. Lignac, and a share was left JP Moueix to allow for equality between two heirs thought to be in conflict and ensure Moueix’ continued influence.[6] For a period the estate was represented by the niece,[1][5] but in 1964 Ets. JP Moueix bought the Lignac shares,[11] and at this time the oenologist Jean-Claude Berrouet became permanently attached to Pétrus.[9][14] Prior to this, Émile Peynaud had been employed as a part-time consultant.[15] In 1969, 5 hectares (12 acres) of vineyard were added to the estate, purchased from neighbouring Château Gazin.[1][9][11]

The Pétrus country house.

Following the death of Jean-Pierre Moueix in 2003, his son Jean-François Moueix, head of Groupe Duclot, is the owner of Pétrus and controls distribution within France, while the younger son Christian Moueix, in charge of Pétrus since 1970,[16] is overseeing the vineyard, vinification, marketing and export distribution along with his son Edouard Moueix.[5][9] When Jean-Claude Berrouet retired as technical director after 44 vintages in 2007 he was replaced by Eric Murisasco.[17][18] Berrouet’s son Olivier Berrouet was appointed the new winemaker, and is in training to become technical director as Christian Moueix stated in 2008 his intention to distance himself from Pétrus, limiting his role to that of a consultant.[16]

There is no château on the estate, but rather a modestly sized two-storey country house,[6] with decorations of symbols and keys of St. Peter.[2] Christian Moueix has stated, “Pétrus doesn’t deserve the name ‘château’. It’s just an old farmhouse, really”.[11]


Pétrus vineyards.

The vineyard of Pétrus extends 11.4 hectares (28 acres) and is located on a plateau in the eastern portion of Pomerol. The grape variety distribution is 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.[9]

Located on top of a 20-hectare (49-acre) island mound, the Petrus boutonnière or buttonhole, the topsoil and the subsoil beneath Pétrus’ original vineyards consists of a high percentage of iron-rich clay termed crasse de fer,[1][5][9][11] that differs from neighbouring vineyards where the soil is a mixture of gravel-sand or clay-sand. The 1969 land acquisition from Château Gazin does not sit on top of the buttonhole.[1][5][9]

The average age of the vines exceed 45 years.[5][9] The estate was among the first in Bordeaux to implement green-harvesting or éclaircissage as a way to lower crop yields and raise the quality of the remaining grapes.[6][11] Grapes are hand harvested over two to three days,[9] although the vineyard’s small size permits harvesting to be completed in one day if necessary.[11]

A severe pre-assemblage vat selection is carried out and certain parcels are rejected from the Grand Vin. In modern times, Pétrus is almost exclusively a Merlot varietal wine, with the available Cabernet Franc only applied in infrequent vintages.[6][9] The young wine is aged in new French oak for around two years.[9][11] An average year might yield at most 2,500 cases (230 hl; 5,900 US gal).

In popular culture

  • The producers of the 2004 film Sideways had originally wanted the character Miles Raymond’s treasure bottle to be a Pétrus, which ultimately became a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc. Moueix stated, “Quite a few film scripts cross my desk and I vaguely recall Sideways asking for permission to use Pétrus. I am afraid that at that time, I found the script unexciting and declined”.[19][20]
  • The seventh season finale of Frasier, “Something Borrowed, Someone Blue”, featured the main characters receiving a 1945 Château Pétrus, appraised on-sight by Frasier Crane as “one of the rarest bottles in the world”, as a gift from the widow of their recently deceased doorman Morrie. The characters deduce that he must have saved it for years waiting for an occasion he deemed special or appropriate enough, eventually dying without having opened it, and themselves vow not to make the same mistake. The bottle is gifted between them several times over the course of the episode.[21]
  • A bottle of Chateau Petrus, 1946, is mentioned in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode “Tuxedo Hill” (May, 2002) as being worth $11,000.00[22]
  • It is sold at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino alongside the $5,000 burger, the “FleurBuerger 5000″.
  • Château Petrus was consumed by Hercule Poirot in “Death on the Nile.”
  • Councilman Richmond offers a glass of Pétrus Pomerol ’77 to Detective Linden in Ep. 12 of the US TV series The Killing.
  • In “Rendezvous”, an episode of television series Alias, a cultured captive requests a glass of 1982 Chateau Pétrus.
  • A guest at a stately bed and breakfast is offered drinks on house by a woman looking after the house. He asks for a red wine and the waiter is told to grab “the shortest name in the cellar as they are usually cheaper”. The guest is presented with a bottle of Petrus which is claimed as “good enough, bring another up for later.” Heartbeat (U.K. television series) in the episode The Open Door.
  • A bottle of Petrus is seen over the nightstand of Johny Marco’s room in the movie “Somewhere” directed by Sofia Coppola.
  • In Cabin Pressure (radio series) “S02E07 Cabin Pressure at Christmas” a wealthy business man brings a bottle of Petrus 2005 on board the plane, requesting for it to be served to him. The airplane owner decides to give him some stock wine as “everyones palette is shot at 35000 feet” and gifts the bottle during secret santa.

Château Latour

Château Latour is a French wine estate, rated as a First Growth under the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. Latour lies at the very southeastern tip of the commune of Pauillac in the Médoc region to the north-west of Bordeaux, at its border with Saint-Julien, and only a few hundred metres from the banks of the Gironde estuary.

The estate produces three red wines in all. In addition to its Grand vin, Latour has also produced the second wine Les Forts de Latour since 1966, and a third wine, simply named Pauillac, has been released every year since 1990. An impériale (six-litre bottle) of Château Latour sold for £135,000 in 2011.[1]


The site has been occupied since at least 1331 when Tor à Saint-Lambert was built by Gaucelme de Castillon, and the estate dating to at least 1378.[2] A garrison fort was built 300 metres from the estuary to guard against attack during the Hundred Years’ War. The tower, the name mutating with time to La Tour en Saint-Mambert and Saint-Maubert,[2] gave its name to the estate around the fortress and was in English hands until the Battle of Castillon in 1453, and its complete destruction by the forces of the King of France.[3] The original tower no longer exists, but in the 1620s a circular tower (La Tour de Saint-Lambert) was built on the estate named after Simon Ledwidge and though it is actually designed as a pigeon roost, it remains a strong symbol of the vineyard. Though two centuries apart, this building is said to have been constructed using the original edifice.[2]

Vines have existed on the site since the 14th century,[4] and Latour’s wine received some early recognition, discussed as early as in the 16th century in Essays by Montaigne.[5] Near the end of the 16th century, the estate’s several smallholdings had been accumulated by the de Mullet family into one property.[4]

From 1670 began a lineage of connected family ownership not broken until 1963,[3] when the estate was acquired by the de Chavannes family, and passed by marriage to the de Clauzel family in 1677. When Alexandre de Ségur married Marie-Thérèse de Clauzel, Latour became a part of his vast property, to which he also added Château Lafite in 1716, just prior to his death. In 1718 his son Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur added Château Mouton and Château Calon-Ségur to his holdings and began producing wines of great quality.[6] The widespread reputation of Latour emerged at the beginning of the 18th century when its status was established on export markets such as England, alongside chateaux Lafite, Margaux and Pontac.[2][3]

With the death of Nicolas-Alexandre Ségur in 1755 the estate was divided among four daughters, three of whom inherited Latour in 1760,[4] and with absent landlords, Latour was managed by a regisseur charged with efficient administration and thorough correspondence with the owners.[2] Receiving more care than under the late owner whose favourite had been Lafite, Latour improved in the later half of the century, and later became a favourite of Thomas Jefferson, then minister to France, when he categorised La Tour de Ségur as a vineyard of first quality in 1787.[7]

With the onset of the French Revolution, the property became divided.[5] The Comte de Ségur-Cabanac fled France and his portion was auctioned off by the state in 1794, passing through several owners. The estate was not reunited until 1841, when the family succeeded in a plot to put the estate up for sale, and eventually emerged after an auction having regained the 20% shares owned by négociants Barton, Guestier and Johnston.[3] The Société Civile de Château Latour was formed in 1842,[5] exclusive to the family, who then had become shareholders.[2]

A bottle of 2003 Château Latour.

Ahead of the International Exhibition in Paris, the selection of Latour as one of the four First Growths in the Classification of 1855 consolidated its reputation, and ensured its high prices. The present château was completed in 1864.[2][3]

Modern history

Château Latour presentation card dated 1931, demonstrating the designs of the early 20th century, the label, cork, case and capsule markings.

In 1963 the estate finally left the Ségur family, then named de Beaumont, when the heirs sold three-quarters of the Château Latour shares to the British interests of the Pearson Group under control of Lord Cowdray, with shares owned by Harvey’s of Bristol. Henri Martin and Jean-Paul Gardère were appointed as managers which brought about substantial innovations.[3] Investments were made in research, vineyards were expanded by acquisition and replanting, the chai was extended and Latour became the first of the first growths to modernise their whole production, replacing the old oak fermenting vats with stainless steel temperature-controlled vats.[2] The second wine with fruit from younger vines was initiated, and fruit for the grand vin was decided to come exclusively from the vineyards shown on the plan of the domain from 1759. Martin and Gardère formally resigned from the Conseil d’Administration in 1987, ending a 24-year era.[3]

In 1989 Latour was purchased by Allied Lyons for around £110 million, but in 1993 returned to French ownership when bought by businessman François Pinault for £86 million when it became part of his holding company Groupe Artemis.[8]

In December 2008 it was reported that the investment bank Lazard was offering the estate for sale.[9] The Sunday Times speculated that among the interested parties were wine mogul Bernard Magrez, with actors Gérard Depardieu and Carole Bouquet,[8] in a transaction which would bring one of the five first growths under the control of a resident Bordelais for the first time in several decades.[9]


The estate has 78 hectares (190 acres) of vineyard, of which a 47-hectare (120-acre) portion near the château is named l’Enclos, where fruit exclusive to the grand vin is grown. The composition of grape varieties is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, and 2% of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.[2]

The grand vin Chateau Latour, typically a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, with the remainder Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, normally has an annual production of 18,000 cases. The second wine Les Forts de Latour, typically 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, has an average annual production of 11,000 cases.[2]


Château Haut Brion

Château Haut-Brion

Château Haut-Brion is a French wine, rated a Premier Cru Classé (First Growth), produced in Talence just outside the city of Bordeaux. It differs from the other wines on the list in its geographic location in the north of the wine-growing region of Graves. Of the five first growths, it is the only wine with the Pessac-Léognan appellation and is in some sense the ancestor of a classification that remains the benchmark to this day.

In addition to the grand vin, Haut-Brion produces a red second wine, from the 2007 vintage renamed Le Clarence de Haut Brion in place of the former name Château Bahans Haut-Brion. There is also produced a dry white wine named Château Haut-Brion Blanc, with a limited release of the second dry white wine, Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion, renamed La Clarté de Haut-Brion after the 2008 vintage. Since 2003, Domaine Clarence Dillon’s daughter company Clarence Dillon Wines has also released the Bordeaux brand wine named Clarendelle.


Although grapes are thought to have been grown on the property since Roman times, the earliest document indicating cultivation of a parcel of land dates from 1423. The property was bought by Jean de Ségur in 1509, and in 1525 was owned by the admiral Philippe de Chabot.[1]

The estate Château Haut-Brion dates back to April 1525 when Jean de Pontac married Jeanne de Bellon, the daughter of the mayor of Libourne and seigneur of Hault-Brion, who brought to him in her dowry the land.[1][2] In 1533 bought the mansion of Haut-Brion, while construction of the château was begun in 1549.

1649, Lord Arnaud III de Pontac became owner of Haut-Brion, and the wine’s growing popularity began in earnest. The first records of Haut-Brion wine found in the wine cellar ledger of the English king Charles II. During the years 1660 and 1661, 169 bottles of the “wine of Hobriono” were served at the king’s court. Samuel Pepys wrote in The Diarist, having tasted the wine at Royal Oak Tavern on April 10, 1663, to have “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with”.[1][2][3][4][4]

In 1666, after “The Great Fire”, the son François-Auguste, opened a tavern in London called “L’Enseigne de Pontac”, or the “Sign of Pontac’s Head”,[5] which was according to André Simon, London’s first fashionable eating-house.[2][6] Jonathan Swift “found the wine dear at seven shillings a flagon”.[1]

By the end of the 17th century the estate amounted to 264 hectares (650 acres) of which some 38 hectares (94 acres) were under vine.[2] The wine was often sold under the name Pontac, though since the Pontac family owned numerous wine estates that could use the name, it is often impossible to tell when a wine came from Haut-Brion.[2] Sometimes also spelled Pontack, another Pontac estate at Blanquefort which produced white wine would also often go by this name.[1]

English philosopher John Locke, visiting Bordeaux in 1677, spoke of Haut-Brion, “…The wine of Pontac, so revered in England, is made on a little rise of ground, lieing[sic] open most to the west. It is noe thing but pure white sand, mixed with a little gravel. One would imagin it scarce fit to beare anything..” On the cause of its increasing costliness, he stated, “thanks to the rich English who sent orders that it was to be got for them at any price”.[1][4] The German philosopher Hegel was also enchanted with the wine of Pontac, though it is unknown if his orders were for other de Pontac wines of Saint-Estèphe.[7]

With the death of François-Auguste de Pontac, François-Joseph de Fumel, a nephew by marriage, inherited two-thirds of Haut-Brion with a third coming to Louis-Arnaud Le Comte, Lord Captal of Latresne. The de Fumel family also at one point owned Château Margaux.[1]

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, then American minister to France, came to Bordeaux. On May 25 he visited to Haut-Brion, describing the terroir, “The soil of Haut-Brion, which I examined in great detail, is made up of sand, in which there is near as much round gravel or small stone and a very little loam like the soils of the Médoc”.[4] His notes placed Haut-Brion among the four estates of first quality, with the entry, “3. Haut-Brion, two-thirds of which belong to the Count de Fumel who sold the harvest to a merchant called Barton. The other third belongs to the Count of Toulouse; in all, the château produces 75 barrels.”[8] Haut-Brion became the first recorded first growth wine to be imported to the United States, when Jefferson purchased six cases during the travels and had them sent back to his estate in Virginia.[9]

As a consequence of the French Revolution, in July 1794 Joseph de Fumel was guillotined, and his holdings were divided.[1][4] Posthumously, de Fumel’s nephews obtained a pardon for him as well as the restitution of the confiscated property, but they left France. In 1801, they sold Haut-Brion to Talleyrand, Prince of Benevento, owner of Haut-Brion for three years.[1][2]

A less prosperous period followed between 1804 and 1836 under successive ownership of various businessmen,[1] until Joseph-Eugène Larrieu bought Haut-Brion when it was sold by auction. In 1841, by buying the Chai-Neuf building from the Marquis de Catellan, he brought the estate back to the former size of the estate up until the death of François-Auguste de Pontac in 1694.[1][3] Larrieu’s family owned Haut-Brion until 1923.[2]

In the classifications of 1855 ahead of the International Exhibition in Paris, Château Haut-Brion was classified Premier Grand Cru, as the only estate from Graves among the three established First Growths of the Médoc. The prices of Haut-Brion in the 19th century were consistently higher than those of any other Bordeaux wine.[1]

Modern history

Château Haut-Brion presentation card dated 1931, demonstrating the designs of the early 20th century, the label, cork, case and capsule markings.

After a series of unsuccessful owners during difficult times,[3] the American banker Clarence Dillon bought Château Haut-Brion on May 13, 1935 for ₣ 2,300,000. Several unverified anecdotes surround the acquisition, as Dillon was believed to also consider buying châteaux Cheval Blanc, Ausone or a majority share in Margaux, but didn’t care to make the trip on a rainy, chilly day, and chose Haut-Brion for its proximity to Bordeaux and riding facilities. One account claims Dillon never got out of the car.[6]

Dillon made his nephew Seymour Weller president of the new company “Société Vinicole de la Gironde” (later Domaine Clarence Dillon S.A.), who held the position for five decades. Weller restored the park, cleaned the chais, and installed electricity along with new vinification equipment. He retained Georges Delmas, the régisseur and director of Haut-Brion since 1921, and former manager of Cos d’Estournel.[6][10]

Haut-Brion first began using its distinctive bottle, emulating designs of old decanter models, from the 1958 vintage which was released in 1960.

Georges Delmas retired in 1961, and was succeeded by his son Jean-Bernard Delmas, born at the estate, instigating a number of renovations.[3][6] In the 1960s, Haut-Brion was the first of the great growths to innovate with new stainless steel fermentation vats.[2][4][11] Clonal selection research was begun in 1972, in collaboration with INRA and the Chambre d’Agriculture.[2][12] Insisting that great wine cannot be made with only one clone, Jean-Bernard Delmas has stated, “You need an assemblage of excellent clones”, adding, “We know where each plant is located”. At Haut-Brion, each hectare contains 10 to 15 different clonal selections.[4]

in 1975, at the age of 83, Seymour Weller retired as President of the company. His cousin’s daughter and granddaughter of Clarence Dillon, Joan Dillon, then Princesse Charles de Luxembourg and later Duchesse de Mouchy, replaced him. In 1976, the 1970 vintage of Haut-Brion ranked fourth among the ten French and California red wines in the historic “Judgment of Paris” wine competition.

The fierce competition that had existed between Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion over several years,[3] which rose to a peak in the 1970s and early 1980s, ended when Domaine Clarence Dillon acquired La Mission in 1983.[13]

From the 2007 vintage, in connection with the 75-year anniversary of Dillon family ownership, the red second wine Château Bahans Haut-Brion was released under the new name Le Clarence de Haut-Brion.[13] The name Château Bahans Haut-Brion had been in use for at least a century, and over a period it was sold without a declared vintage.[2] Starting with the 2009 vintage, the white second wine Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion was renamed La Clarté de Haut-Brion.

Manager Jean-Bernard Delmas retired in 2003, and was succeeded by his son Jean-Philippe Delmas. Prince Robert of Luxembourg who has acted as an administrator at Haut-Brion since the age of 18, became in 2008 Président Directeur Général of Domaine Clarence Dillon.[10]


Château Haut-Brion

Château Haut-Brion devotes 48.35 hectares (119.5 acres) to red grape varieties, with a distribution of 45.4% Merlot, 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, and 2.87 ha (7.1 acres) to white grape varieties, distributed with 52.6% Sémillon and 47.4% Sauvignon blanc.[14]

The vineyards are elevated, up to 27 meters, somewhat above the Bordeaux norm. The soil consists of Günzian gravel and some parcels have high contents of clay. All the vineyards are located in a cluster near the château itself and on the other side of the main road.[12]

The selection of optimum rootstocks and clones has been a large task at Château Haut-Brion, pioneered by Jean-Bernard Delmas, which has greatly contributed to the quality of the plant material in the vineyard. The long-term aim has been to lower yields, not by green-harvesting but by ensuring healthy and balanced vines. The average age of the vines is approximately 35 years with the oldest parcels dating back to the 1930s, planted with an average vine density of 8000 vines/ha.[12]

Harvesting takes place by hand and each parcel is worked by the same team of workers to increase the teams’ familiarity with the individual vines. The harvest of the white grapes takes place very early due to the proximity to the city of Bordeaux which results in a warmer microclimate and thus earlier ripening. The white grapes are picked as late as possible, sorted and then pneumaticly pressed in whole bunches. There is no skin contact and fermentation takes place in oak barrels with indigenous yeast.[12] After sorting in the field, the red grapes are destemmed, crushed and moved to a special double-tank with fermentation taking place in the top and malolactic fermentation in the bottom, using gravity to move the wine. Previously ageing took place in 100% new oak casks lasting 18 months. This has been reduced to 35% new casks and wine destined for the second wine Le Clarence is aged in 25% new oak. The white wine is aged in 40-45% new oak for 10–12 months.[12] Château Haut-Brion has its own cooperage.

The annual production ranges from 10,000 to 12,000 cases (900 to 1,100 hL) of the red grand vin Château Haut-Brion, and from 650 to 850 cases (59 to 77 hL) of Château Haut-Brion Blanc. Of the second wines, the red Le Clarence de Haut-Brion previously named Château Bahans Haut-Brion, has a production of 5,000 to 7,000 cases (450 to 630 hL), and the white La Clarté de Haut-Brion, previously named Les Plantiers du Haut-Brion, has a production of 1,000 to 1,200 cases (90 to 110 hL).

Château Mouton Rothschild

Château Mouton Rothschild

Château Mouton Rothschild is a wine estate located in the village of Pauillac in the Médoc, 50 km (30 mi) north-west of the city of Bordeaux, France. Its red wine of the same name is regarded as one of the world’s greatest clarets. Originally known as Château Brane-Mouton it was renamed by Nathaniel de Rothschild in 1853 to Château Mouton Rothschild. It was the first estate to begin complete château bottling of the harvest.[1]

The branch of the Rothschild family owning Mouton Rothschild are members of the Primum Familiae Vini.


The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 was based entirely on recent market prices for a vineyard’s wines, with one exception: Château Mouton Rothschild. Despite the market prices for their vineyard’s wines equalling that of Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Mouton Rothschild was excluded from First Great Growth status, an act that Baron Philippe de Rothschild referred to as “the monstrous injustice”. It is widely believed that the exception was made because the vineyard had recently been purchased by an Englishman and was no longer in French ownership.

In 1973, Mouton was elevated to “first growth” status after decades of intense lobbying by its powerful and influential owner,[1] the only change in the original 1855 classification (excepting the 1856 addition of Château Cantemerle). This prompted a change of motto: previously, the motto of the wine was Premier ne puis, second ne daigne, Mouton suis. (“First, I cannot be. Second, I do not deign to be. Mouton I am.”), and it was changed to Premier je suis, Second je fus, Mouton ne change. (“First, I am. Second, I used to be. Mouton does not change.”)


Château Mouton Rothschild has its vineyards on the slopes leading down to the Gironde Estuary, in the Bordeaux region, mainly producing grapes of the Cabernet Sauvignon variety. Today, Château Mouton Rothschild has 203 acres (0.8 km²) of grape vines made up of Cabernet Sauvignon (77%), Merlot (11%), Cabernet Franc (10%) and Petit Verdot (2%). Their wine is fermented in oak vats (they are one of the last châteaux in the Médoc to use them) and then matured in new oak casks. It is also frequently confused with the widely distributed generic Bordeaux Mouton Cadet.


see also List of Artists who have created a Château Mouton Rothschild label and Labels 1945-present

Baron Philippe de Rothschild came up with the idea of having each year’s label designed by a famous artist of the day.[1] In 1946, this became a permanent and significant aspect of the Mouton image with labels created by some of the world’s great painters and sculptors. The only exception to date is the unusual gold-enamel bottle for 2000.

To celebrate the hundredth birthday of the acquisition of Château Mouton, the portrait of Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild appeared on the 1953 label. In 1977, Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother visited the château and a special label was designed to commemorate the visit.

Twice in the history of their special labels, there have been two used for the same year. The first occurred in 1978 when Montreal artist Jean-Paul Riopelle submitted two designs. Baron Philippe de Rothschild liked them equally so he split the production run and used both designs. The 1993 Mouton label, a pencil drawing of a nude reclining nymphet by the French painter Balthus was rejected for use in the United States by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.[2] As such, for the U.S. market the label was made with a blank space where the image should have been and both versions are sought after by collectors. The popularity of the label images results in auction prices for older and more collectible years being far out of sync with the other first growths, whose labels do not change year to year.

The most recent label, for Mouton’s 2009 vintage, is the work of Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor.[3]

  • 1975

  • 1983

  • 1990

  • 1991

  • 1992

  • 1993

  • 1994

  • 1995

  • 1996

  • 1998

  • 2000

Business dealings

In 1980, the vineyard officially announced their joint venture with Robert Mondavi to create Opus One Winery in Oakville, California. The 1990s saw large-scale expansion in the Americas under the leadership of President Cor Dubois, with the region eventually contributing almost half of the company’s turnover. In 1997, Château Mouton Rothschild teamed up with Concha y Toro of Chile to produce a quality Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wine in a new winery built in Chile’s Maipo Valley: The Almaviva.

The operation is today run by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. In June 2003, the vineyard hosted La Fête de la Fleur at the end of Vinexpo to coincide with their 150th anniversary.

Judgment of Paris

The 1970 vintage took second place, and was the highest ranked French wine, at the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris wine competition.

Château Margaux

The reconstructed Château Margaux completed in 1812

Château Margaux, archaically La Mothe de Margaux, is a wine estate of Bordeaux wine, and was one of four wines to achieve Premier cru (first growth) status in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855. The estate’s best wines are very expensive. The estate is located in the commune of Margaux on the left bank of the Garonne estuary in the Médoc region, in the département of Gironde, and the wine is delimited to the AOC of Margaux.

The estate also produces a second wine named Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, as well as a dry white wine named Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux which does not conform to the Margaux appellation directives.


The estate has been occupied since at least the 12th century, with the site occupied by a fortified castle known as Lamothe or La Mothe (from motte, a small rise in the land), and wine under names such as “Margou” and “Margous” was known in the 15th century,[1] but it was with the arrival of the Lestonnac family in the 16th century that wine production became of particular importance, and in the 1570s Pierre de Lestonnac expanded the property and cleared many of the grain fields to make way for vines.[2]

The lineage of ownership was to continue in a relatively direct path from the Lestonnacs, though through the female side, with proprietors’ names such as d’Aulède, Fumel, d’Hargicourt, including an alliance of marriage with the Pontac family of Château Haut-Brion in 1654, which became crucial to the inclusion of Château Margaux among the four first growths.[2]

By the beginning of the 18th century, the estate comprised 265 hectares (650 acres) with a third devoted to viticulture, which is nearly identical to the modern layout.[3] As with many of Médoc’s châteaux, the early 18th century saw the wine develop from a pale watery drink that faded within only a few years, to the dark, complex liquid that has been stored in cellars ever since, and a transformation was largely due to an estate manager named Berlon, who revolutionised techniques of wine-making by introducing novel ideas such as banning the harvesting in the early morning to avoid dew-covered grapes and subsequently dilution, and acknowledged the importance of soil quality in the various terroir found on the estate.[3]

In 1771, wine from the estate became the first claret to be sold at Christie’s,[3] and upon visiting Bordeaux in 1787, Thomas Jefferson made note of Château Margaux as one of the “four vineyards of first quality”.[4]

A bottle of Château Margaux 1994.

Following the French Revolution, the owner Elie du Barry was executed by guillotine and the estate expropriated, eventually becoming the property of the citizen Miqueau who neglected its care and maintenance. Briefly rescued by Laure de Fumel, she was soon forced to sell, and in 1802 the estate was purchased by the Marquis de la Colonilla, Bertrand Douat for 654,000 francs.[2]

The estate’s old château was torn down and completely rebuilt when Douat commissioned one of Bordeaux’ foremost architects, Guy-Louis Combes, to create the buildings in the First Empire style,[4] the mansion for the Marquis to move into by 1812.[2]

It was sold in 1836 to the Spanish nobleman Alexandre Aguada, Marqués de la Marismas, for 1,350,000 francs, followed by a period responsible for most of the mansion’s decorations. It was sold by the Marqués’ son to Vicomte Pillet-Will in 1879, an era that ended in 1920 with the sale to a syndicate initially headed by the broker Pierre Moreau.[2]

Château Margaux presentation card dated 1931, demonstrating the designs of the early 20th century, the label, cork, case and capsule markings.

Large portions of shares in the estate were bought by the Bordeaux wine merchant Fernand Ginestet (then owner of the adjacent Château Lascombes) in 1925, and the family share was gradually increased to allow his son Pierre Ginestet to take complete ownership in 1949.[3][5] In 1965, Pierre Ginestet controversially declared a new estate policy that the vintage year would only be affixed to great vintages, while selling the wine of lesser years as non-vintage wine, like the customary practice of Champagne.[1]

Modern history

Following the Bordeaux economic crisis of 1973, the Ginestet family were forced to sell Château Margaux.[4][5] An attempt by National Distillers & Chemical Corporation to acquire Château Margaux was vetoed by the French government on grounds that the estate was a national treasure.[2][5] (This has since been reported as a Coca-Cola Company effort prevented by French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.[6])

A successful acquisition took place in 1976 by French grocery and finance group Félix Potin, headed by Greek André Mentzelopoulos for a sum near 72 million francs,[2] or $16 million.[5] Mentzelopoulos transformed the vineyard through restoring the neglected vineyard, chais, and mansion and the consultancy of oenologist Émile Peynaud.[4] By the time of Mentzelopoulos’ death in 1980, Château Margaux was considered substantially restored to its former reputation, with the 1978 and 1979 vintages declared “exceptional”.[2]

At the beginning of the 1990s, an exchange of shares was negotiated with the Agnelli family but the management remained in the hands of Mentzelopoulos’ daughter Corinne Mentzelopoulos. In 2003, Corinne Mentzelopoulos bought back the majority stake and became the sole shareholder of Château Margaux.

A bottle of Château Margaux 1787 holds the record as the most expensive bottle of wine ever broken, insured at $225,000.[7]

Margaux Hemingway received her given name from this wine.


Barrels in a Château Margaux chai.

Ancient bottles in the Château Margaux cellar.

The domaine of Château Margaux extends 262 hectares (650 acres), of which 87 hectares (210 acres) are entitled to the Margaux AOC declaration. 80 hectares (200 acres) are planted with 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, with 2% Cabernet Franc and Petit verdot.[3] 12 hectares (30 acres) are cultivated with Sauvignon blanc to make the dry white Pavillon Blanc.

The average annual production of the Grand vin, Château Margaux, is 150,000 bottles, while the second wine Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux has an average production of 200,000 bottles. The dry white Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux has a production of around 35,000 bottles, and must be sold under the generic Bordeaux AOC as the cultivation of Sauvignon blanc does not fall under the directives of the Margaux AOC. The remainder of the production, what is determined to be “lesser grapes”, is sold off in bulk.[3]

Château Lafite Rothschild

Château Lafite Rothschild

Château Lafite Rothschild label from the 1999 vintage

Château Lafite Rothschild is a wine estate in France, owned by members of the Rothschild family since the 19th century. The name Lafite comes from the Gascon term “la hite” meaning “small hill”.

Lafite was one of four wine-producing Châteaux of Bordeaux originally awarded First Growth status in the 1855 Classification, which was based on recent prices. Since then, it has been a consistent producer of one of the world’s most expensive red wines.


Situated in the wine-producing village of Pauillac in the Médoc region to the north-west of Bordeaux, the estate was the property of Gombaud de Lafite in 1234.[1] In the 17th century, the property of Château Lafite was purchased by the Ségur family, including the 16th century manor house that still stands. Although vines almost certainly already existed on the site, around 1680, Jacques de Ségur planted the majority of the vineyard.

In the early 18th century, Nicolas-Alexandre, marquis de Ségur refined the wine-making techniques of the estate, and introduced his wines to the upper echelons of European society. Before long he was known as the “Wine Prince”, and the wine of Château Lafite called “The King’s Wine” thanks to the influential support of the Maréchal de Richelieu. Towards the end of the 18th century, Lafite’s reputation was assured and even Thomas Jefferson visited the estate and became a lifelong customer.

Following the French Revolution, the period known as Reign of Terror led to the execution of Nicolas Pierre de Pichard on 30 June 1794, bringing an end to the Ségur family’s ownership of the estate which became public property.[1] In 1797 the vineyards were sold to a group of Dutch merchants.

The first half of the 19th century saw Lafite in the hands of the Vanlerberghe family and the wine improved more, including the great vintages of 1795, 1798 and 1818. On 8 August 1868, the Château was purchased by Baron James Mayer Rothschild for 4.4 million francs, and the estate became Château Lafite Rothschild. Baron James, however, died just three months after purchasing Lafite. The estate then became the joint property of his three sons: Alphonse, Gustave, and Edmond.

The 20th century has seen periods of success and difficulty, coping with post-phylloxera vines, and two world wars. During the Second World War the Château was occupied by the German army, and suffered heavily from plundering of its cellars. Succeeding his uncle Élie de Rothschild, Lafite has been under the direction of Eric de Rothschild since 1974.

The record price at auction for a bottle of wine ($156,000) was for a 1787 Chateau Lafite which was once thought to be owned by Thomas Jefferson.[2] The authenticity of the bottle has been challenged, and the controversy, which is still unresolved, is explored in the 2008 book “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”, by Benjamin Wallace.

Recently the 2008 vintage produced a world wide increase in price of over 125% in 6 months from release, which in turn has come to push some Asian countries to the top of the list of worldwide markets in which investment grade wine is purchased.[3]

In early November 2012 police in Wenzhou Province China seized nearly 10,000 bottles of Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, but they suspect the stash of wine is counterfeit. Lafite is very popular among China’s nouveau-riche, but it is believed that up to 70% of Chateaux Lafite Rothschild in China is fake. If genuine, this particular collection could be worth up to $16 million (US).


The vineyard is one of the largest in the Médoc at 107 hectares, and produces around 35,000 cases annually, of which between 15,000 and 25,000 are first growth. Its vines are around 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot, whereas the final wine is between 80% and 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% and 20% Merlot, and up to 3% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Occasionally exceptions are made, such as the 1961 vintage which was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.


In addition to the first growth, around a third of the wine is released as a second wine under the label Carruades de Lafite.[4]


Across all vintages Lafite Rothschild is one of the most expensive wines which can be bought. It has proved a profitable wine for investors, with the price of its 2005 and 2000 vintage fetching over £10,000 per case. Futures contracts for the 2008 Lafite Rothschild have returned investors over 100% on their investment within two weeks during May 2009.[5]