Grower Producers from Bordeaux
Scenes from the vineyards at Château le Coteau
When seeking “modestly priced Bordeaux”, we look for grower producers. Riding the wave of enthusiasm for Bordeaux that was generated at BurdiGala, Eric Asimov wrote last week about the recent turn-around in the general perception of Bordeaux from “widespread dismissal” to championed “underdog”. And while we certainly do not disparage the general climate that Asimov detailed, we do wish to illuminate the fact that one needn’t settle for “lesser appellations” when seeking moderately priced Bordeaux wines from grower producers.
One of eight small family owned properties still residing in Margaux, Chateau le Coteau has remained steadfast in maintaining its ground, while its peers have succumb to joining the ranks of the larger Chateaux in the area. In the family for generations, Chateau le Coteau is owned and cultivated by Eric Lèglise who learned the property and his cellar techniques from his father who inherited it from his father before him.
After earning a degree in viticulture oenology in 1990, Eric took over the property in 1993, and in 2001 he constructed a new winery and cellar. With a staff of five, including his mother and himself, Eric produces just over 2,000 cases for his ever growing market, hand harvesting and manually selecting the clusters and grapes in the vineyard.
Located in the town of Arsac, with plots that are just a pips’ throw from the Grand Crus Château Rauzan-Segla and Chateau Margaux, Le Coteau consists of 11.6ha of 30+ year old vines that were planted by his grandparents and parents. Composed of Garbonne gravel, the soils here are poor and the farming is organic, not certified. Planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (65%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (8%) and Petit Verdot (2%), the vineyards are plowed, to encourage natural grass and weeds, and fertilized with organic composted plant materials. Encouraging biodiversity in the vineyards, Eric has an affection for the insects that populate his land, hosting a selection of images on his website.
Further north, Chateau La Fleur Haut Carras is home to 20 different parcels in Pauillac, with a variety of different sub-soils. One of the last family owned properties in Pauillac, La Fleur Haut Carras produces just 2,000 cases annually from 4ha under vine that neighbor the likes of Cos d’Estournel, Lafite and Mouton. With 35-year-old vines planted to gravelly limestone, vigneron Albert Tiffon is a local farmer, a “genuine salt of the earth guy,” says our French Portfolio Director Patrick Burke, who makes stellar wines.
Hailing from Civrac en Médoc, Chateau d’Escurac was once considered worthy of classification as a Medoc fifth growth, and was temporarily classified as a Cru Bourgeois Supérieur. “Year in and year out, d’Escurac is a major over-achiever and the 2009 is no exception,” wrote Robert Parker. “Their 2009 reveals more punch, density, and richness than usual, and the wine’s suppleness as well as its cedar, black currant, herbaceousness undertones, medium to full body and fleshly style will offer attractive drinking over the next 7-10 years.”
In the Landureau family since 1934, the vineyard area totals 22ha, with 23-year-old (on average) vines planted to clayey, gravel soils. Practicing lute raisonnée, Jean-Marc Landureau maintains natural grasses in the vineyard; de-stems his fruit, and ages the wine for 12 months in barrels, one-third of which are new.
“At the beginning in our classification of Gironde wines, we put those of Mr. Pépin d’Escurac amongst the Medoc fifth growths. We will keep them there, because in our view they deserve it, even if this far too modest owner wants to relegate himself to the class of good bourgeois growths.”
– Excerpt from the journal Le Producteur 1839