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Top Chateaux 

The Greatest French wines

Chateau Ausone

Chateau AUSONE - Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A

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 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

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2nd Wine : Chapelle d'Ausone

 

Chateau Angelus

Chateau ANGELUS - Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A

The estate has been owned by the Boüard de Laforest family since the Domaine de Mazaret was bequeathed to Comte Maurice de Boüard de Laforest in 1909, and expanded by the acquisition of Clos de L'Angélus in 1926 and a plot from Château Beau-Séjour Bécot in 1969. The name refers to the three Angelus bells audible from the vineyards, coming from the chapel at Mazerat, the church in Saint-Martin de Mazeret and Saint-Émilion.

Hubert de Boüard de Laforest joined the family business at Angélus in 1976 having concluded studies under Émile Peynaud at the Faculté d'Oenologie in Bordeaux. Along with several modernising changes, the practice of maturing in new oak was begun in 1980.  The estate has been classified as a Premier grand cru cru classé (A) since 2012, was previously a Premier grand cru cru classé (B) since 1996, and was before that classified as Grand cru classé.

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2nd Wine : Carillon de l'Angelus

 

Chateau Lafite Rothschild

Chateau LAFITE ROTHSCHILD - Pauillac Premier Grand Cru Classé

The quality of Château Lafite Rothschild needs no introduction. As early as 1815, Abraham Lawton had already designated it as leader: “I ranked it as being the most elegant and delicate, with the finest body of the three (leading wines)” he qualified in 1855. As to Château Lafite's attributes found in all vintages, it was an enlightened amateur that summed it up best by saying “...whatever the case, all the Château Lafite wines have an almond and violet aroma!”

Cabernet Sauvignon 80 to 95%, Merlot 5 to 20%, Cabernet franc and Petit Verdot 0 to 5%. Note that there are a few differing cases such as vintage 1994: 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot, vintage 1961: 100% of Cabernet Sauvignon.


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2nd Wine : Carruades de Lafite

 

Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Chateau MOUTON ROTHSCHILD - Pauillac Premier Grand Cru Classé

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, 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. But Mouton does not change.")

Baron Philippe de Rothschild came up with the idea of having each year's label designed by a famous artist of the day. 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.

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2nd Wine : Le Petit Mouton

 
Chateau Latour

Chateau LATOUR - Pauillac Premier Grand Cru Classé

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

From 1670 began a lineage of connected family ownership not broken until 1963, 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. 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.

With the onset of the French Revolution, the property became divided. 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. The Société Civile de Château Latour was formed in 1842, exclusive to the family, who then had become shareholders.

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.

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2nd Wine : Les Forts de Latour

 
 

Chateau Margaux

Chateau MARGAUX - Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classé

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. 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.

In 1771, wine from the estate became the first claret to be sold at Christie's, and upon visiting Bordeaux in 1787, Thomas Jefferson made note of Château Margaux as one of the "four vineyards of first quality"

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

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. 12 hectares (30 acres) are cultivated with Sauvignon blanc to make the dry white Pavillon Blanc.


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2nd Wine : Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux

 
 Chateau Haut Brion

Chateau HAUT BRION - Pessac-Leognan Premier Grand Cru Classé

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. In the 1960s, Haut-Brion was the first of the great growths to innovate with new stainless steel fermentation vats.

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, which rose to a peak in the 1970s and early 1980s, ended when Domaine Clarence Dillon acquired La Mission in 1983.

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.

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.

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2nd Wine : Bahans Haut Brion / Clarence de Haut Brion

 
 Chateau Cheval Blanc

Chateau CHEVAL BLANC - Saint-emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A

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.

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2nd Wine : Le Petit Cheval

 
 

Petrus


PETRUS - Pomerol

Originally a 7-hectare (17-acre) vineyard, the estate was owned by the Arnaud family since the middle of the 18th Century, and the name first appears in records from 1837. 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.

With the end of World War II and the successful 1945 vintage began the great age of Pétrus. 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. 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.

There is no château on the estate, but rather a modestly sized two-storey country house, with decorations of symbols and keys of St. Peter. Christian Moueix has stated, "Pétrus doesn't deserve the name 'château'. It's just an old farmhouse, really".

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Chateau d'Yquem

Chateau D'YQUEM - Sauternes Premier Cru Classé Superieur

After the 1968 death of the Marquis Bernard de Lur-Saluces, the château was run by Comte Alexandre de Lur-Saluces, a minority (7%) owner. The Comte inherited a typical annual production of 66,000 bottles a year. After the 1973 oil crisis, demand fell and prices plummeted. The price of a bottle of d'Yquem dropped to 35 francs; prices began to rise only in the 1980s.

Under the Comte's leadership, "tractors replaced horses, collapsing cellars were renovated, and unused acreage was planted", with production in good years reaching 100,000 bottles and sales about $10 million.

On 17 May 2004, the Comte retired and was replaced by the current managing director of Château Cheval Blanc, Pierre Lurton. The Comte had been known for being particularly dedicated towards maintaining quality, going so far as to reject an entire batch of the wine if he did not like the results of a randomised testing.

In July 2011, an 1811 bottle of Château d’Yquem sold for £75,000 ($117,000) at the Ritz in London to a private collector, to become the most expensive bottle of white wine ever sold.


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2nd Wine : Y d'Yquem