Bourdeaux Region of France – Part 1

The history dates back to the formative days when vines were planted for the first time by Romans in the Bordeaux region. In this article, we will take a look at different aspects of that region like winemaking, soil, contributions of Robert Parker, and much more.

Birth and Early Bordeaux Wine History

Romans were the first to plant vineyards after they conquered the area in approximately 60 BC. Their name for it was Burdigala. There are still a number of Roman ruins in the area. In the present day, whether you are on the Left Bank, the Right Bank or the Graves region, you will find ruins. The Romans were prolific builders and they built to last. The Palais Gallien amphitheater is in the best shape and the most complete of any of the ruins in Bourdeaux.

Fountain Detail Bordeaux
The history of the Bordeaux wine region dates back to the ancient Romans

Bordeaux, or should we say Burdigala was already becoming well known as a wine producing region as early as the first century AD. The wine was distributed to citizens and Roman soldiers in Britain and Gaul. Amphorae fragments that mention the Bordeaux wine have been discovered in Pompeii. There are still Roman ruins that vineyards have been planted around throughout the St. Emilion region. The Bordeaux region was superb for cultivating grapevines for wine production because it offered a combination of the correct soils, marine climate and an easy way to transport wine through river transport by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers to the Roman territories.

The Garonne and Dordogne merge to form the Gironde which flows to the Atlantic. From there sial to the various Roman territories. Using boats was far more efficient because they could carry far more than a wagon and usually could go faster as well.

It is thought that the Romans brought the first vines from Spain, especially likely would be vines from the Rioja region.

Bordeaux & England in the Very Beginning

In 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine of the Duchy of Aquitaine married the Henry Plantagenet who would later become the king of England known as Henry II. During the royal wedding ceremony, Bordeaux wine was served. Because of this marriage, the English king controlled more of France than the French king did. In fact, the English king, Richard the Lionhearted, son of Eleanor, could not speak English. He only spoke French and Latin. Late in the 1300s, Bordeaux was already a large city and had become the capital of Aquitaine; second after London.

The city had the second highest population of the cities under the British Monarchy. In 1302,England started toimportBordeaux wine purposely for the king’s pleasure from St Emilion. During that time there was no wine trade in Medoc. The superior quality of Bordeaux wine, royalty and England form the epicenter of the Bordeaux history. The king of France exempted taxes on the trade of wine to help its advancement.

Bordeaux & England Marriage

The marriage between the two (King Henry and Eleanor Aquitaine) resulted in Bordeaux being owned by England for more than 300 years. The end of the more than a hundred years of war (116 years precisely) in October 1453 had already seen the wine lovers in Britain discover the Bordeaux wine.  Eleanor’s son Richard the Lionheart and King Henry the second had made the Bordeaux wine their daily beverage. The fact that Bordeaux wine was good enough for the king definitely meant it is good for the king’s royal officials. This saw Bordeaux wine sell publicly. Since then the trade of Bordeaux wine began to expand rapidly and taking the importance of trading with England to the next level. Twice every year hundreds of merchant ships from Britain sailed to Bordeaux to exchange different British products for wine.

Wine City Bordeaux
Bordeaux is most famous of the French wine regions

The History of Château Pétrus and Its Wine Pétrus

Château Pétrus is an 11.4-hectare wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation of Bordeaux, France. Its production of red wine is mainly made from Merlot grapes. The estate is owned by Jean-François Moueix and his children.

While Pétrus is famous as one of the world’s rarest and most expensive wines, it had quite a humble beginning.

Pétrus History

The history of Pétrus is not well documented but records show that it dates all the way back to 1750’s, making it one of Pomerol’s earliest established vineyards.

The name Pétrus comes from the hill of Pétrus, where it is located. However on a more historical note, the property belonged to a Roman named Petrus during the ancient Roman times. This is evident in the wine’s logo which is a Greek counterpart of St. Peter, “Petros”.

Voisin to Loubat and Moueix

Like many of the Bordeaux estates, the then 7-hectare vineyard was sold and resold countlessly over the past years. From Pierre Voisin to the Brilhouets, it was eventually sold to the Arnaud family in 1770. The Arnaud family owned the estate for more than a century. By 1917, they had to sell the property and a shareholding company was setup. In 1923, Madame Loubat, owner of the famed Hotel Loubat in Libourne began to buy the estate shares. Eventually, she became the sole owner of the property in 1945.

During this time, Madame Loubat shared a contract with Jean-Pierre Moueix of the wine making house named Ètablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix. It was their partnership that gave Pétrus its international reputation today.

Ownership Turnover and Expansion

When Madame Loubat passed away in 1961, her niece, Mme Lily Lacoste-Loubat and her nephew, M. Lignac inherited Pétrus. However, she also left a share to Moueix, ensuring his continued influence on the estate and its wines. Three years after Madame Loubat’s passing, M. Lignac sold his share of the Pétrus to Moueix. It was in this year, 1964 that he brought in Jean Claude-Berrouet, who was the winemaker for the whole Moueix portfolio.

In 1969, Moueix added 5 hectares to the once 7-hectare vineyard, vastly increasing its size to 11.4 hectares. After his death in 2003, his son, Jean-François Moueix inherited Pétrus. Meanwhile, his other son took charge of the production. Meanwhile, Olivier Berrouet inherited his father’s place as Pétrus’ winemaker.

Jean-Pierre Moueix was once the owner of Chateau Fonroque in St. Emilion. When he discovered that negociants disliked his wine, he established his very own negotiant company to help sell his own wines. It was out of need that the largest, most important negociant companies for Pomerol was born.

Today, their portfolio boasts of ownership in La Fleur Pétrus, Hosanna, Trotanoy, Latour-Pomerol, La Grave and Lagrange. Pétrus has been described by connoisseurs as having an otherworldy taste. Rich, powerful and concentrated, it has characteristics of truffles, chocolates, Asian spices, and ripe, creamy, black fruits. It’s no wonder a 750mL bottle of this wine costs an average of $2, 630. That is a lot of money for a bottle!

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