Chateau Camensac

Chateau Camensac

5th Cru Classe, 1855

33112 Saint Laurent Médoc
+33 (0)556 59 41 69

Location: AOC Haut-Médoc, to the east of AOC Saint-Julien next to Belgrave and La Tour Carnet.

Production: 75 hectares.

Five things you didn't know about Chateau Camensac:

- During the rehabilitation of this estate in the mid 20th century, Bordeaux’s most famous oenologist Emile Peynaud took the decision to plant just two grape varieties here – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This is surprisingly rare in Bordeaux, as most estates use three or four varieties in the blend.

- The vineyards have gone from 10 hectares in the early 1960s to 75 hectares today.

- The label depicts a grill pattern in Provencal blue behind the lettering of the chateau name – symbolizing the grilled iron gates of the chateau that are painted the same colour.

- Vines are planted to 10,000 feet per hectare everywhere, even on land which is used for the second wines.

- Owner Jean Merlaut bought last year a majority shareholding in Les Abatilles, a quality mineral water that comes from Arcachon Bay, on the Atlantic coast around 30 minutes from Bordeaux. Like the vineyards, Merlaut said he was happy to be investing in a piece of local heritage. He is also mayor of Baurech, a village in the Cotes de Bordeaux region.

Current owner: Jean Merlaut and his niece Céline Villars-Loubet since 2005.

Most notable previous owner: Elisée Forner, who bought the property in the 1960s and brought it back to life.

Other chateaux owned: Céline Villars-Loubet also runs Chateau Chasse Spleen. The wider Merlaut family also have Gruaud Larose, Haut Bages Libéral, Ferriere and Citran. The Taillan Group (headed by Denis Merlaut, brother of Jean Merlaut, owner of Gruaud Larose) also owns a 100-hectare vineyard in China, called the Beijing Taillan Winery.

Commercial strategy: 100% négociants, sold en primeur through the Place de Bordeaux

Second wine: La Closerie de Camensac.

Through the centuries:

There are very few details known about the origins Camensac, beyond that the name is an old Gascon word and that the existing chateau was built in the 18th century. Only four families have been owners here since the beginning, most notably the Former family who arrived at Camensac in 1964. They were responsible for bringing this near-abandoned estate back to life by starting a renovation plan of the vineyard and winery – and of the 18th century chartreuse building. Since 2005, the notable Merlaut family has taken over, and quality has improved even further, ensuring that a wine that was known for its slightly rustic tannins has been smoothed and fleshed out. Today this is a great value Médoc.

Consultant: Michel Rolland previously, now Eric Boissenot.

Plantation and vineyard work:Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (40%), average age 40 years, planted to 10,000 vines per hectare – everywhere (‘even for the second wine’ says Céline). Only natural fertiliser is used, pruning is severe and used where possible instead of green harvesting, as a method of naturally keeping yields low. Double guyot traditional training method for the vines.

Vinification: Low-temperature maceration in cement tanks, where skins are left in contact with the juice for up to 25 days. Barrel ageing for 15 months (40% new oak), malolactic fermentation carried out in barrel also.

Terroir: Large-sized gravel, on fairly steep slopes.

Recent improvements or changes:

Since 2009, more rigorous selection processes have been put in place for sorting the grapes, and the levels of Cabernet Sauvignon have been slowly heading upwards, giving the wine more structure and ageing-ability.

Recent Decanter scores:

2012 en primeur – 16.25 points/20
2011 en primeur – 15.5 points
2010 en primeur – 16.5 points
2009 en primeur – 16 points
2008 en primeur – 15.5 points

Average bottle price in UK: £20-£35, depending on vintage.

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