Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Tour and Tasting at Château de Fargues, Sauternes, with Prince Eudes d’Orléans - Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
The story of Château de Fargues in 1306 when a nephew of Pope Clement V, Cardinal Raymond Guilheim de Fargues bought the property and built a fortress with solid walls and rough stones not at all resembling what we imagine of a “Château”. For more than 500 years, the estate is in the same hands since it had been acquired through marriage by the Lur-Saluces family, a powerful aristocratic family of Southern France, who also owned Château Coutet and Château d’Yquem, among others, until the end of the 20th century.
Château de Fargues is a very large estate of mixed farming with 425 acres of land: 250 acres of woods, a system of artificial ponds, a breeding area, cattle pastures, about 65 acres of arable crops and 62 acres under vine. However, producing a “Sauternes” only started in the late thirties of the 20th century when the father of the current owner Marquis Bertrand de Lur-Saluces converted 25 acres of vineyards from red varieties to Semillion and Sauvignon-Blanc. Alexandre de Lur- Saluces continued the work of his father and today 42 acres are planted with white varieties. The vineyards are farmed with respect to the soil; there is no use of herbicides, as fertilizer the cow manure is used instead.
Our host was Prince Eudes d’Orléans, 3rd in line of the throne, should a monarchy be reinstituted in France, who is the Managing Director at Château de Fargues.
Château de Fargues
Château de Fargues produces a noble-sweet Sauternes wine that was not classified in 1855 for the simple reason that the property did not make any wine at the time. After more than 500 years, the owner is still the Lur-Saluces family, which also owned Yquem for more than two hundred years. Not surprisingly, the two wines are quite close in style, if only for the reason that both wines receive identical care and attention to detail in the vineyard and in the cellar.
Alexandre de Lur Saluces: At Château de Fargues, nature and man work together to produce perfectly ripe grapes subject to the capricious effects of Botrytis cinerea. This microscopic fungus concentrates and multiplies the aromas found in the two grape varieties grown at the château, while reflecting the unique characteristics of its terroir. This mysterious alchemy and an extraordinary combination of factors accounts for the rare and precious Sauternes made by Château de Fargues – an invitation to an uncommon pleasure, a delicious taste experience, a special moment to share, and a time to celebrate…
Paradoxically, Château de Fargues has one of the shortest histories for producing sweet wine, but one of the longest of all the Sauternes châteaux. The château was built in 1306 by the Cardinal Raymond Guilhem, nephew of Bertrand de Goth, elected Pope Clement V in 1305. In 1472 Isabeau de Monferrand, heiress of Château de Fargues, married Pierre de Lur. The family name became Lur-Saluces after Jean de Lur married the daughter of the Marquis de Saluces in 1586. Today it is Alexandre de Lur-Saluces who is at the head of the property.
Wine production at the château only began in the nineteenth century. The first mention of it in the famed book on Bordeaux wines by Cocks and Feret is in 1893, and it concerns red wine. Throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, the size of the vineyard diminished. It was only around 1935 that Bertrand de Lur-Saluces, Alexandre’s uncle, planted white grapes.
The first vintage (1943) sold under the name Château de Fargues was bottled in 1947, and 1964 was the first year in which no Château de Fargues was produced. This is because the quest for perfection precludes making Sauternes in keeping with Fargues high standards in each and every vintage. When it is felt that quality is wanting, the painful decision is made not to bottle any wine at all under the château name. This was the case in 1972, 1974, and 1992.
Perpetuating Bertrand de Lur Saluces’ implacable focus on quality, his nephew Alexandre accelerated the estate’s transformation and renovation. As he did previously at Yquem, he refurbished and readapted all the buildings, and renewed the winemaking equipment necessary to make great Sauternes.
In 1982, he installed the first winepress adapted to grapes in Sauternes, in 1989 the ageing cellar was renovated and enlarged, in 1996 a second back-up press was acquired, in 1997 the fermentation cellar was refurbished, and in 1998 a new room was built to house the winepresses and vats. In 2005, a third winepress was put in and in 2006 a semi-underground storage cellar was constructed at the same time as new offices.
So, from the 1930s when the first hectare and half of white wine varieties were planted, Château de Fargues had come a very long way… A few more hectares of vines were planted each decade. By the mid-1990s, the vineyard reached over 13 hectares. The average life span of the vines at Fargues is 60 to 80 years. In 2000, the first white wine vines were replanted. At Fargues, standards are such that vines need to be at least 7-8 years old to make wine worthy of the grand vin. Starting from that age, they produce grapes that, when botrytised, succeed in revealing the characteristics of each vintage.
Today the property stretches over 170 hectares, but only 17 of them are planted to vine on top of a mound near a pine forest to the east of the Fargues commune.
The grape mix is 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon. There is a diversity of soil types here but in general the soil, like in great vineyards, is poor, composed of chalk and stony gravel with a sub-soil containing clay. The microclimate of Sauternes works its wonders here in the classic mould, but the harvest is on average 10 days later than Yquem. The production is tiny with yields even smaller than those at Yquem. All the recent vintages of the emerging 21st century have been particularly successful. The only problem remains the rarity of the wine because of the small production of only 20 000 bottles per year.
Wine Searcher Prices (in US$ per bottle)
The visit was most interesting. Thanks Prince Eudes d’Orléans.
Postings on the Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France (Posted and Forthcoming)
Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours 2016, France
Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France
Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy
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