Château de Villambis
AOC Haut Médoc, Cru Bourgeois
This property, which has been classified as a Cru Bourgeois since the title was first created, lies in the commune of Cissac, precisely 8 km due west of Château Lafite Rothschild in Pauillac. The vineyard covers 40 ha in one block which extends south in front of the château, and the terroir is a mix of sand and gravels over a clay-limestone subsoil, typical of the interior of the Médoc peninsular as we move away from the Gironde estuary and into the cover of the oak and pine forest that stretches west, across to the Atlantic coast. Planted to a mix of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and managed according to the lutte raisonnée approach, harvesting is done by hand and vinification follows traditional methods, in a mix of concrete and stainless steel tanks.
Up to this point Château de Villambis is much like any other property in this part of the Médoc. However, the day-to-day running of the property is fundamentally different. The property belongs to a charity, or association, which bought the estate in the early 1980’s and helps mentally handicapped people to integrate normal society through work. Philippe de Roeck, the Belgian vineyard director, worked as régisseur at the world-renowned Grand Cru Classé Château La Dominique in Saint Emilion, before crossing to the Left Bank and taking up the reins at Château de Villambis. Nowadays he runs a team of experienced viticultural professionals alongside care managers and their many handicapped workers.
The atmosphere at Villambis is relaxed but busy, there are always plenty of people around and there is a tangible positive energy between the co-workers, who undertake everything from pruning to picking and packaging. They even like to get involved in label design through an annual art competition, the Prix Villambis, whose winning artist sees their work reproduced on the back of the bottle.
This vibe can also be found in the wines which are fresh and supple, the Merlot-dominated blend making them approachable when young but able to age for a decade or more. They are drinking wines, designed to give pleasure and to accompany the typical cuisine of the south west, red meats, cheese, salad – or of course the local speciality, magret de canard.
This property is part of the Vertuvin group of wineries, representing many of France’s great wine regions, each one owned and managed by ESAT charities. These offer work to local mentally handicapped people within a protected environment, overseen by experienced industry professionals and dedicated care staff. By undertaking all the usual activities associated with wine production, from pruning to packaging, workers gain a variety of experiences and an invaluable sense of accomplishment, leading to a richer quality of life.
|Château de Villambis, Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois, 2009|
|Château de Villambis, Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois, 2011|
|Château de Villambis, Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois, 2012|