Chateau Poitevin, is a young by Bordeaux standards having been founded in the 1950’s. Since 1991, under the direction of Guillaume Poitevin, it has rapidly made a name for itself. By 2003 it was among only five chateaux promoted into the ill-fated Cru Bourgeois re-classification. The Cru Bourgeois classification was reintroduced with 2008 vintage with a new selection process where wines were blind tasted by an independent panel. Again, Chateau Poitevin was among the selected chateau. Further, Decanter magazine rated their 2008 vintage four stars and 8th best out of 137 Cru Bourgeois tasted.
Chateau Poitevin is located in the commune of Jau, Dignac & Loirac, near the northern tip of the Medoc. It’s slightly cooler here and therefore later ripening than the appellations of Saint Estephe, Pauilla and Margaux located further south in the Haut Medoc. It’s only fifty miles from the city of Bordeaux this but this part of the Medoc is very rural. Clive Coates describes the landscape in “The Wines of Bordeaux” as “peacefull but bleak, rural and remote”. Here you find fields of wheat, simple homes and importantly, small canals. Through much of the 17th century much of this area was marshland. With the expertise of Dutch engineers the marshes were drained revealing gravel, clay and chalk soils and in some areas, limestone sub-soils making it suitable for vineyards.
Sleepy appearances aside this is the most exciting area for affordable Bordeaux. A generation ago the most famous wines of Bordeaux were expensive but still accessible to most wine drinkers. Today, one bottle of Chateau Latour 2009 sells for $1500. So for all of us who love the classic Bordeaux flavors of cassis, blackcurrant and cedar we can now look to Cru Bourgeois chateau like Chateau Poitevin who make modern wines that are reasonably priced.
Chateau Poitevin has 39 hectares (80 acres) of vines on alluvial - gravel soils with clay sub-soils. As Guillaume explained during my visit, the days of chateaux producing green, unripe and tannic Bordeaux are over. His objective is to make modern wines from healthy, properly ripened grapes. To do this he uses vineyard management techniques, which are not, complex but do require resources. These include high density planting at 5500 vines per hectare. The use of cover crops to create competition for nutrients and water. Green harvesting grape bunches to reduce yields. Removing leaves as needed in July and August to promote ripening.
Grapes are harvested on a parcel-by-parcel basis then hand sorted to remove damaged or unripe grapes. Stainless steel vats are used for a cold maceration and settling of the must followed by a low temperature fermentation at 28°C maximum for a gentle extraction of fruit and tannins. Wines are aged for 14 months in oak barrels of which 30% is new oak.