The Beautiful Stones
The September sun shone magnificently upon walls of this majestic Classified 2nd Growth Chateau – designed by Parisian architect, Paul Abadie for Bertrand Ducru, who purchased the estate in 1795. Ducru invested in the whole estate; vineyards as well as cellarage benefited from up-grades made at the property and were rewarded when the Chateau received Second Growth status in the 1855 Classification in the Medoc.
Looking out towards the Gironde, one can easily soak up the tranquillity and drift back in time to the days even before this magnificent building was built. Ducru Beaucaillou is one of the oldest wine making estates in the Medoc. Records go back to the early part of the 13th Centaury for this St. Julian property, but it wasn’t until 1795 when Bertrand Ducru took ownership that we know more details of the evolution that has taken place since.
After over seven decades, Ducru sold the estate to the wife of a well known and respected Bordeaux merchant and negociant Nathaniel Johnston – for no less than one million French Francs. This was an enormous amount of money to pay for such a property – however, Johnston had the foresight to develop the estate even further. He began by re-planting some of the vines as well as further investment in the cellars. Together with Ernest David (the estate manager), Johnston experimented with various aspects of viticulture – creating ‘Bordeaux Soup’ – a blend of lime milk and copper sulphate – made to tackle the ever present mildew that daunted the Bordeaux estates each year. The ‘soup’ was so successful that vineyard owners all over the world adopted the solution to fight against the disease.
Unfortunately, after huge amounts of losses – caused primarily by the global meltdown of the ‘Great Depression’, Johnston was forced to sell the property to another Bordeaux merchant family, the Desbarats. Yet it seems at this time, owning such properties became a most challenging and resource draining prospect. The estate exchanged hands once again a little over 10 years later to a certain Francis Borie. – Another well known and regarded merchant who held experience and passion in the ownership of other vineyards in Pauillac. Francis Borie decided that this would become his legend and so pass onto generations of his family.
Bruno Borie, direct descendant of Francis, is responsible for the transformation and quality that Ducur Beaucaillou is indebted to. Like many estates, the selection of only the finest grapes is used for the Grand Vin. In the 1980’s, the estate produced approximately 20-25,000 cases each year. By the 1990’s, this was reduced to 15-20,000. Since 2003, when Bruno Borie took full management, this figure has now been reduced further to approximately 9-11,000 cases per vintage. It seems that Ducru Beaucaillou are now firmly at the top of their game. It is clear that the quality of wine matches their more esteemed Medoc neighbours of First growth stature. From 2000-2011, the wines have received an average score of 94/100 from the respected US critic Robert Parker Jr. This level of recognition has not been un-noticed by savvy investors; who see the estate’s wines to hold real value. In fact this average score over the same period matches the great First growth Mouton Rothschild – from where their Cellar Master, Rene Lusseau, learnt his trade for five years before spending the last 30 years at Ducru Beaucaillou.
During a ‘Bordeaux Blend’ (2009 vintage) ‘Blind-Tasting’ held in September 2013, over 30 wines from across the globe were pitched against each other; including Super Tuscans Ornellaia and Solaia, California’s Dominus, the finest from Australia, Chile and South Africa – as well as First Growth properties Mouton, Lafite and Latour. Ducru Beacaillou came out top!
During our visit, we were honoured with a personal tour by Monsieur Lusseau – during which he shared fond memories of his time at the great First Growth estate mouton Rothschild. However, his pride and joy clearly lies firmly amongst the beautiful stones at Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou, and the many ‘children’ he has helped raise! – A metaphor he uses for all the wines he has helped create over the past thirty years.
Cool for Cats……. During our visit it was Cellar Master, Rene Lusseau, who guided us through the Chateau grounds and cellars, as well as inside the great building itself. Joking at some of the Fine Art that is installed within and beneath the majestic palace – his favourite and probably the oddest I have come across in any Chateau was the ‘illuminated Cat’. Hanging in the cellars that sit directly beneath the Chateau, a ‘neon’ cat stands (bouncing a ball) on guard against any vermin that dares enter the building. Rene jokingly mentioned that since the ‘cat’ had been there – no vermin had been found!