"We bought Château la Garde in June 1990, totally seduced by the exceptional quality of the terroir, which is quite possibly one of the finest gravel outcrops in the Pessac-Léognan appellation. Motivated by this ambitious project, worthy of this magnificent terroir, considerable time and finances have been invested and have been rewarded with the increasingly frequent production of delicate, elegant and appealing fine Pessac-Léognan wines." Patrick Jestin~~ Find out more ~~ ~~ Buy this wine ~~
Surface area: 52 Ha
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The origins of the Château date back to the 18th century, when Domaine de “Lagarde” already featured on the “carte de Cassini”, the first general map of France drawn by the Cassini family in 1756. The picturesque Charterhouse, built in 1732, was at that time surrounded by valleys and woods. The “Bourdieu de Lagarde” was then passed down through the Blanchard family, until its purchase in 1877 by the Lacoste family, who were negociants in Bordeaux. Vines were thus cultivated on this magnificent stony terroir and the winery was built in 1881. After the First World War, Louis Eschenauer, a well-known negociant on the Place de Bordeaux at the “Chartrons”, was looking for good quality vines in the Bordeaux area. He became interested in the vineyards around the summit of Domaine de La Garde, which he subsequently bought in 1920, and in so doing became the leading proponent of the wines produced in the Martillac area, where he also owned Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Sometimes referred to as Domaine de La Garde, Clos de La Garde, then Château La Garde, even at this time a crest featured on the estate’s wine labels inspired by weapons thought to be from the region of Aquitaine during the 100 years’ war, displaying the leopard with a lion’s head..
Almost half the vineyard extends across three stony outcrops, with intermittent visible clay, containing varying proportions of sand. One of these outcrops, known as the “Plateau” extends over more than 10ha, and is made up of a layer of large stones in places reaching 4m in depth. The Plateau is ideal for the cultivation of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, which impart complexity and elegant structure to the great wines of Pessac-Léognan. At the base of the outcrops, the stones diminish in size and intermingle with sand, making these vineyard plots the ideal terroir for the production of delicate and fruity Merlot. To the north, an impressively deep chalky vein intersects the property and is the only of its kind in the appellation. This very early-ripening terroir is perfectly suited to the cultivation of Merlot, characterised by abundant aromatic freshness. This calcareous vein stretches from the other side of the stream, where there is a higher clay content and a northerly aspect. Here the terroir is cooler and more suited to white grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. In addition, two complementary, later-ripening parcels made up of clay sandy gravel (30% pure clay), produce powerful, tannic Merlot. Pedo-geological studies carried out at the time the vineyard was remodelled have provided an excellent understanding of the terroir at La Garde, and these, combined with more than 25 years of experience from the Dourthe teams here on the estate, ensure that rootstocks and grape varieties are perfectly suited to each vineyard plot or microplot.
Château La Garde was one of the first properties to introduce integrated viticulture, an approach that produces premium quality grapes with total respect for the environment and for mankind. Studies carried out on the estate have analysed the correlation between grape ripening and the quality of the soil and subsoil, particularly in relation to its water retention capacity. This has resulted in a highly detailed mapping of the vineyard, identifying individual rows or micro-plots within each parcel which reach full ripeness at the same rate. As a result of trials previously undertaken on test plots, coupled with our in-depth knowledge of the vineyard, our teams can now tailor and fine-tune viticultural practices in each zone accordingly. Carefully considered soil management techniques - tailored ploughing methods and green fertilizer - and an environmentally conscious approach to protecting the vineyard (reducing inputs, sexual confusion to combat pests, machine weeding, manual canopy management and yield control) promote harmony in the vine. These painstaking, rigorous techniques play an important role in controlling yields and plant vigour and result in optimised grape ripeness. Severe pruning for example promotes even budburst, while bud stripping, secondary shoot removal, desuckering and leaf stripping improve the circulation of air around the grapes and guarantee healthy fruit. The grapes are harvested selectively on a row-by-row basis, and with meticulous care, ensuring that only perfectly ripe grapes of uniform ripeness enter the tanks.
The grapes are harvested at optimum ripeness. Careful handling of the fruit continues from vineyard through to winery, where the grapes are rigorously protected from damage on receival, with optimum protection against oxidation for the white grapes, using inert gas and dry ice, and selecting only the finest red grapes by hand on sorting tables. The white grapes are vinified and aged in barrels, whilst the reds are vinified in a range of stainless steel tanks, where the size and number of the tanks ensure that each wine parcel maintains its individual character. Equipment in the winery is regularly updated to incorporate the latest innovations, and helps the winemaking team constantly improve methods to select the finest grapes and optimise varietal expression in the fruit. The wines are aged for a 12-14 month period in the underground barrel hall. Barrique selection and the proportion of new oak barrels both meet strict criteria to promote greater fruit expression and overall finesse and balance in the wine.