One of the oldest properties in the Medoc, specifically in Pauillac, the history of Grand-Puy-Lacoste is captivating in many ways. The name Grand-Puy, mentioned in documents from the Middle Ages, comes from the ancient term “puy”, meaning “hillock, small height”. The vineyards of Grand-Puy-Lacoste sit on outcrops with a terroir similar to that of the Medoc’s first growths.
Dating back to the sixteenth century, the first owner on record was M. de Guiraud, a member of the Bordeaux Parliament. Passing along female lines of inheritance, Grand-Puy’s name has been changed numerous times through marriage. It wasn’t until, seven generations later, that Guiraud’s great-great-great granddaughter, Marie-Jeanne de Saint Guirons, married Francois Lacoste, and the name stuck. Their son, Pierre-Frederic Lacoste, inherited the property in 1844, and was deeply committed to improving the quality and reputation of his family’s estate. In 1855, the same year as the famous 1855 Classification of Bordeaux at the Universal Exposition in Paris, Lacoste rebuilt the Chateau and was officially recognized as higher status by its inclusion in the official listing of Bordeaux’s Great Classified Growths as a “fifth growth”.
The Lacoste family maintained control of the property until 1920, when the First World War had a devastating effect on the winemaking families in Bordeaux. Elie and Edouard de Saint Legier d’Orignac, grandchildren of Pierre-Frederic Lacoste, were destitute and had to sell the estate, ending almost five centuries of family ownership.
The estate then fell into the hands of the colorful Raymond Dupin, a rich negociant and a well known figure in Bordeaux society. A passionate man, with a love of wine, he presided over the Council of the Medoc Great Classified Growths, and brought a very personal touch to Grand-Puy-Lacoste. In 1978, without direct descendants, he decided to sell the domain, but wanted to personally choose his own successor. Jean-Eugene Borie, a frequent guest at Dupin’s lavish parties, a “real Medocain”, was a professional with children interested in winemaking who would continue working the property; an easy decision for Dupin. After selling the property, Dupin became close friends with Jean-Eugene’s son Francois-Xavier and his wife Marie-Helene and visited the chateau frequently. He remained a welcome visitor until his death in 1980.
The Borie Family
The Borie name has long been associated with skilled winemaking of the highest quality. At the end of the nineteenth century, Eugene and Emile Borie created a negociant firm, seeing vast potential to develop a thriving economy in rural Bordeaux. They travelled to develop their market, and eventually purchased cellars in Pauillac, specializing in shipping wine to Normandy, northern France and Belgium, while their competition focused on the British market. Their prosperity and reputation grew. In 1901, Eugene and Emile decided to build their own cellars and age wine themselves, and vineyard sites including Chateau Saint-Gemme, a Cru Bourgeois in Saint-Laurent, just southwest of Saint-Julien. Now they were not only negociants, but also winemakers themselves.
Collaboration between brothers passed down to the next generation as well, when Eugene’s sons, Francis and Marcel when to work for their uncle Emile when their father passed away. Upon their return from the First World War, they purchased Chateau Batailley, a fifth growth in Pauillac, becoming Borie Freres. In 1939, the brothers decided to form their own company and each took over one-half of Chateau Batailley. Francis’ part became Chateau Haut-Batailley, now owned by his daughter and managed by Francois-Xavier Borie. Two years later, Francis bought Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, a second growth in the 1855 classification.
The second growth, Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, became Francis’ and his son, Jean-Eugene Borie’s, focus. Upon his passing in 1953, his son took over the estate, creating a reputation of quality and brilliant winemaking for the Borie name.
It is not surprising that when Raymond Dupin was looking for someone to take over Grand-Puy-Lacoste, he thought of his friend Jean-Eugene Borie. After acquiring the estate in 1978, Jean-Eugene’s son, Francois-Xavier became the vineyard manager; his challenge: to wake up this “sleeping beauty”.
Vineyards and Viticulture
Situated in Pauillac, one of the Medoc’s six communal appellations along the Gironde estuary’s left bank in Bordeaux, France, Grand-Puy-Lacoste possesses a number of benefits from the classic terroir. Pauillac itself boasts eighteen properties classified in the 1885 classification. It is separated from Saint-Estephe to the north by the marshy area of Breuil, and from Saint-Julien to the south by the hollow formed by the Juillac stream.
The plateau of Grand-Puy Lacoste is west of the village, above the hamlet of Bages. The outcrop rises to around 20 meters above sea level, the aspect of the subtle slopes are favorable for vineyard management. The estate comprises 90 hectares, 58 planted with vines, entirely located around the Chateau. Since the Borie’s acquisition of the estate, they have been patiently replanting the vineyard area. There is now balance between young and old vines, the average age being 38 years.
The soils found in the vineyards of Grand-Puy-Lacoste are gravel, which ensures an excellent drainage of rainwater. There is rich history found in Bordeaux, and part of it lies in its soils. The gravel found there is a product of the quaternary era, when stones brought from the Pyrenees by the Garonne were deposited along the banks of its estuary, the Gironde. Today, they mix with sand and clay to form “gravel outcrops” called “jalles” in the local dialect, which drain water to the Gironde. The gravel soils are well-suited soils for quality vine-growing as they have the advantage of absorbing heat during the day and releasing it to the grapes at night, eliminating excessive variations in temperature and promoting even ripening in the grapes.
The vineyards of Grand-Puy-Lacoste are planted on deep gravel soils, developing extensive root systems. As a late ripening variety which needs a longer time period to reach maturity, Cabernet Sauvignon is best suited for the gravel soils, as the heat given off helps accelerate its growth. The domain is planted with 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc; Cabernet Sauvignon gives Grand-Puy-Lacoste wines their backbone, Merlot and Cabernet Franc add nuance to the assemblage.
The location of Grand-Puy-Lacoste allow it to greatly benefit from the Maritime climate of Bordeaux, influenced by the proximity of the Atlantic and the Gironde estuary. The climate in Pauillac is balanced by great sunshine, hot summers and mild winters. Winds coming from the ocean create a particularly favorable microclimate as they cross the coastal pine forest and slow down as they meet air currents from the estuary, introducing a measure of humidity to the atmosphere characteristic of Bordeaux. The finest vintages are always a product of a hot and dry summer, followed by a late growing season.
In the vineyards, Francois Xavier is deeply committed to very precise management. During the last twenty years, he cut chemical treatments in half, eliminated insecticide usage the past ten years, and was able to restore the natural fauna to the vineyard. The soil has always been worked manually, with no herbicides, and the use of double guyot pruning.
During harvest season, a first “green harvest” is done, while grapes are still unripe, to bring yields down around 40 to 50 hectoliters per hectare. Each year, the date of harvest is carefully determined to achieve the best possible maturity. The grapes are picked by hand and gently transported in crates to keep them intact until they reach the vat house. The grapes then pass on two vibrating sorting tables before de-stemming.
Second Label: Lacoste-Borie
Grand-Puy-Lacoste’s second label, created in 1982, consists of wines not selected for inclusion in their fifth growth. Where Grand-Puy-Lacoste wines are made to age, Lacoste-Borie wines are made for drinking young. Reasonably priced, this wine allows you to appreciate the liveliness of Pauillac and beauty of Grand-Puy-Lacoste’s style very simply.
- Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2005
- Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2007
- Lacoste-Borie 2006
- Lacoste-Borie 2009
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92 Points, Robert Parker. “Pure crème de cassis, licorice and spice are all present in this wine from Xavier Borie. Medium to full-bodied and ripe, with sweet tannin and a nicely textured mouthfeel, this is a beauty that should continue to drink well for another 15 or so years.”Add to your collection