With its picturesque old villages, endless acres of vines and majestic châteaux dotting the scenery, Medoc blew us away. Going in, our expectations were high. Arguably the most renowned red wine region in the world, Medoc is home to prestigious wine villages (Pauillac, Margaux, St-Julien and Estèphe) and châteaux (Margaux, Mouton, Lafite, Latour to name a few). It’s also home to one of my favorite food bloggers, Mimi Thorrison. Mimi’s vintage-inspired picture-perfect life on instagram and her blog painted such a beautiful picture of the region and her quaint French life in the countryside. I couldn’t wait to step inside the fairytale…
It was a beautiful, sunny Thursday morning when we left the bustling city of Bordeaux for the endless vines of Medoc, eager to understand the stories behind the wine we were about to taste. Our first appointment that day was at Château Pontet-Canet.
Located in Pauillac, the largest town in Medoc, Château Pontet-Canet was granted cinquième cru (fifth growth) status in the 1855 classification. Like most chateaux in the area, the vineyard has predominantly cabernet sauvignon grapes, complemented by merlot and a trace of cabernet franc and petit verdot. The thing that makes this château so unique is its deep respect for the vines and the earth; which can be seen in the way they farm the vines to the aging of the wines.
Back in 2004, Pontet-Canet began a mission to transition to sustainable farming. Their vision for the future took a page from the past, when a small portion of the vineyard was ploughed with horses versus tractors. Gradually increasing their horsepower over the years, Pontet-Canet aspires to fully transition to horses in the near future. The grapes from the Château’s 81 hectares are handpicked each harvest season, with 200 pickers on hand to help out.Their forward-thinking mindset doesn’t stop at the vines; to better magnify the richness and flavours of the soil (and to reduce the influence of oak on the wine), ⅓ of Pontet-Canet’s production is aged in concrete amphora, with walls lined with soil from the vineyard.
Highly recommend a visit! (Note: reservations are required for the tour).
Château Pichon Baron
Our second (and last) appointment for the day was at the prestigious Château Pichon Baron, a deuxième cru (second growth). Pichon Baron’s estate is impressive – the main château architecture was inspired by the renaissance and its turrets embody the charm of France’s beautiful fairytale châteaux.Pichon Baron’s current owner, French insurance company AXA Millésime, recently invested in restoring the chateau to its former glory. In addition, they made a number of much-needed optimizations to the winemaking equipment. What you see on the surface is only the beginning – the recent enhancements included a new subterranean barrel cellar, located directly underneath the reflection pond. Interestingly, the pond at ground level helps cool the barrels beneath it.
Pichon Baron owns a number of parcels of land in the area, each with a distinct flavour profile. Grapes from each plot are harvested separately and put into separate vats. It’s during the blending process that the grapes are tasted together. This important procedure is one that changes from one year to the next and one where the best grapes are reserved for the Grand Vin (the 1st wine). Château Pichon Baron is also a must visit in Medoc.
Our two châteaux visits in the Medoc definitely left us wanting more… we will definitely be back to visit again 🙂