“Chateaux Montrose is a wine that has always possessed First Growth potential. It has one of the most glorious expositions in all of Bordeaux, with a view of the Gironde (and unusual for Bordeaux, one single block of vines totalling 235 acres).” Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #214
Driving along the D2E4, just north of the infamous village of Pauillac on the banks of the great Gironde estuary, you will find the gentle slopes of vines leading up towards the horizon on your left and the entrance to Chateau Montrose. During the summer months from May on wards, bright colourful cosmos flowers stretch over the low-levels at the entrance to help Mother Nature encourage the busy insects and bees to do what they do best – help creating a truly romantic atmosphere as you make your way upwards towards the Chateau itself.
This was our third visit to the property – our first was back in 2005, before Martin Bouygues (the French tele-communications giant) purchased the estate a year later and invested in areas (over €55m) that were necessary to take this well loved estate to the next level. It is said that after drinking a bottle of the estates’ 1989, Martyn Bouygues instantly fell in-love with the wine – so much so that he and his brother Olivier wanted ownership! From that point on, it seems the continued changes brought through their investments, including the most recent appointment of ex-Mouton Rothschild’s administrator – Herve Berland, shows commitment and a will to achieve even greater things for the future.
The centre piece, quite literally for this project lies beneath – the new cellars. This was his first project for the property and it is truly an immense sight.
There is great emphasis on an eco-friendly profile for the estate – with a high environmental quality; ‘low-energy’ consumption buildings; a geothermal refrigeration system; a photovoltaic production of about 400kw on the whole site; an ultimate aim to limit the reliance of ‘city-water’ by recycling rain and ‘used’ water over time.
«The river has a decisive influence on the Montrose vineyards. It is impossible to make great wines under extremely hot or cold conditions. It is necessary to note that the finest Médoc wines generally come from vineyards along the river. In the past, the river was essential for shipping these wines. Centuries ago, gabarres, or large flat-bottomed barges transported Médoc wines to shippers in Bordeaux. From there, fast Dutch sailing ships took these wines to countries in Northern Europe and spread their reputation far and wide». Jean-Bernard Delmas
As of 2014, the vineyard is completed with 60% cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The current average age of the vines is at 41years; in-line with the strategy of ‘re-planting’ and aims to keep this average in excess of 40 years.
The vineyard lies in northern Medoc. As mentioned, the land slopes gently towards the great river, where the tide and sheer amount of its surface acts as a ‘shield’ against the severe elements Mother Nature can cast upon the region; softening the frost in the winter and cooling the summer heat. In the summer months, the large stones found in the topsoil (said to have originated from mountains in Massif Central and the Pyrenees), absorb heat from the sun and release it slowly at night, helping to ripen the grapes.
Each year since 1973, the estate employs a team of Spanish pickers who travel from a small village in the heart of Andalucia, Spain. With only one leader, the team are dedicated to the Chateau to complete the harvest. Marie Guyonnaud, our host for this visit, ensured us they not only work hard, but party hard once the work has been done!
Two days before our visit, Robert parker published (Wine advocate #214) his notes on a vertical tasting (1920, 1935, 1945, 1953, 1958, 1970, 1976, 1982, 1989(from his own cellar), 1990, 1996, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010) which took place at the chateau earlier in June. As well as re-affirming his admiration to the Montrose style and their ageing ability, he re-graded all these vintages; with up-grades of note to the 1989 (98+), 2003 (99) and the 2010 which he awarded his perfect 100 points! As is the norm, the up-grade on the latter to 100 points sent traders buying this stock wherever available and consequent price rises on what is left!
Old wooden vats at Chateaux Montrose – now redundant and used as only a back-drop for corporate events.
As luck would have it………………We were fortunate and thankful that we were able to taste both Montrose 2010 and La Dame de Montrose 2010! Needless to say, both Oliver and I were left gobsmacked by the Montrose 2010 – a splendid wine and true classic Bordeaux style; both elegant and noble. The ‘Dame’ 2010 was a little more discreet, bringing recurring notes of raspberry and a hint of vanilla and chocolate. Alongside the Montrose, we were offered the sister, Chateau Tronquoy- Lalande 2010. Great precision of fruit with silky tannins that showed excellent balance between finesse and matter! All three wines were a testament to the whole operation under the teams at both chateaux.