Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

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Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

5th Cru Classe, 1855

33250 Pauillac
+33 5 56 59 06 66
www.chateau-grand-puy-lacoste.com

Location: AOC Pauillac, on the plateau of Bages with Château Lynch-Bages on one side, Château Batailley and Château Lynch-Moussas on the other.

Production: 55 hectares in a single block of vines.

Five things you didn't know about Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste:

- GPL is one of few classified chateaux on the Left Bank where the family still lives on the property (I’m struggling to think of many others – Kirwan, Langoa Barton, Léoville-Las Cases are among them). It is also one of the very few to have vines which are unaltered in size or location since the 1855 classification.

- The same team of harvesters (although we can expect that the next generation have mainly taken over by now) has been bringing in the grapes for over 50 years – all coming from the small village of Valdepeñas de Jaén in Andalucia, southern Spain.

- The same family owned GPL (although under a succession of different names) for almost four centuries, from the 1600s to the early 20th century.

Image © Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

- In the park outside the chateau, three statues of herons represent the three Borie siblings. Until 2003, they were all equal shareholders in the family estates, but today, eldest brother Francois-Xavier runs GPL and Haut-Batailley, and younger brother Bruno runs Ducru-Beaucaillou (and shares ownership of it with his sister).

- The former owner of GPL, Raymond Dupin, was a well-known gastronome, and kept his own flock of sheep on the estate to make the local delicacy; milk-reared Pauillac lamb.

Current owner: Francois-Xavier Borie, working alongside his father Jean-Eugene since 1978, then managing director since 1992, with full control since 2003.

Most notable previous owner: Pierre-Frédéric Lacoste. Not the first of the Lacoste line to own the estate (that was his father Francois, who married Marie-Jeanne de Saint Guirons), but the one who made the most impact, working hard in the mid-19th century to improve the quality of the vineyard and vines, and owner when GPL was named a Fifth Growth in 1855. It was this Lacoste who built the current chateau building, also in 1855.

Other chateaux owned: Francois-Xavier is also director of Chateau Haut-Batailley, owned by his aunt Francoise de Brest-Borie. His brother Bruno Borie owns Second Growth Ducru Beaucaillou, but shares ownership of it equally with his sister.

Commercial strategy: 100% négociants, 95% en primeur through the traditional Bordeaux market place, with Borie attesting to his belief in the system ('you have to get on a train while its passing' says Borie today).

Second wine: Lacoste-Borie (mainly from young vines of the estate, still large majority of Cabernet Sauvignon).

Through the centuries:

The origins of the estate, originally Chateau Grand-Puy, date back the 16th century, when its first vines were planted by Monsieur de Guiraud, a member of the Bordeaux parliament. Over the next few centuries, it went under several other names, mainly because although it stayed in the same family, it was handed down through daughters who then changed their name upon marriage. The most usual name that we see in the archives is Grand-Puy Saint-Guirons. During the 19th century, Marie-Jeanne de Saint-Guirons married Francois Lacoste, and the chateau became Grand-Puy-Lacoste. The estate remained in the Saint-Guirons-Lacoste family until 1932, when the deprivations of World War I and the Crash of 1929 forced a sale, ending four centuries of ownership. The estate was bought by Raymond Dupin, a wine merchant who lived in Bordeaux and a known gastronome, who kept his own flock of Pauillac lamb at GPL.

Dupin loved the estate, but he neglected it towards the end of his tenure, and had no children to take over. He was very clear, however, that he wanted it to go to someone who would treasure it, and who had a family to pass it down to, and in 1978 asked his close friend Jean-Eugene Borie if he would be willing to buy it. The Borie family had owned wine estates in Bordeaux since 1890 (since Eugene Borie, great grandfather of the current generation, bought Chateau Caronne Ste Gemme in AOC Haut-Medoc – Francois-Xavier’s cousin Francois Nony still owns it). The sale was agreed.

Consultant: Eric Boissenot

Plantation and vineyard work:Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Franc (5%), average age 40 years, with some dating back to the 1940s, planted to 9,000 vines per hectare.

Image © Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Vinification: Things are pretty traditional here, but with great precision over the past few years. Full de-stemming of berries, double berry sorting. Long maceration, 60-75% new oak for 16-18 months. Consultant Eric Boissenot says, 'Since Francis-Xavier has spent all of his time at GPL, the wine has gained in precision, and serious work has been carried out in the chateau, cellars and vines'.

Terroir: Things are pretty traditional here, but with great precision over the past few years. Full de-stemming of berries, double berry sorting. Long maceration, 60-75% new oak for 16-18 months. Consultant Eric Boissenot says, 'Since Francis-Xavier has spent all of his time at GPL, the wine has gained in precision, and serious work has been carried out in the chateau, cellars and vines'.

Recent improvements or changes:

As soon as Francois-Xavier became sole proprietor, he began building a new wing to the chateau, and oversaw construction of new cellars between 2004 and 2007, improving the technical facilities and installing 40 vats varying from 60hl to 180hl in size. He is currently building a new underground bottle storage cellar, built around a double spiral staircase with units for 50-60,000 bottles.

Since April 2010, Borie's eldest daughter Emeline has worked alongside him, as director of marketing. She is a trained in a business school added with masters from the Organisation Internationale de la vigne et du vin (OIV), and is joined since the 2012 vintage by a research and development manager, Christel Spinner, in charge of fine-tuning technical decisions.

Recent Decanter scores:

2012 en primeur – 17.75 points/20
2011 en primeur – 17.5 points
2010 en primeur – 18 points
2009 en primeur – 18 points
2008 en primeur – 17 points

Average bottle price in UK: £30-£65, depending on vintage.

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