Relatively secluded, surrounded by its vines, in a place far from the worries of the outside world, Château Belles-Graves is a small glimpse of what one person’s paradise might be like. Idyllic pastures, vineyards, and gardens decorate the landscape, and the focal point is a beautifully-tended labyrinth made of vines in the gardens of the château. Moreover, the property is rich with history: the vineyards here date to at least the 16th century, when they first appeared on a map of the region, and the building’s edifice as we know it today dates back to the 18th century, before the French Revolution. Though the ownership has changed several times, the old Domaine du Drouilleau, as it was once known, finally settled in the hands of Jean and Hermine Theallet in 1938. Until his death in 1997, Jean’s first cousin, the famed explorer Jacques Cousteau, would visit each year to taste the new vintage before resuming his travels out at sea. It is the Theallets’ grandson, Xavier Piton, who runs the seventeen-hectare estate today and receives guests at the château’s highly-recommended chambres d’hôtes. Keep it in mind for your next vacation.
Situated in Lalande de Pomerol, just north of Pomerol, Belles-Graves produces Merlot-dominated wines with a lush, velvety texture and very fine tannins. The vineyards average forty years of age and are planted on slopes that descend to the east, south and west of the estate. Though they sit just across a small river from some of the famous estates of Pomerol, their greatness comes from their own terroir of varied clay and gravel where flint, quartz, and mica offer distinct mineral components to each parcel. Yields are kept low, the maceration is long, and the wines are never filtered. The final blend consists of 88% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc. The finesse and subtlety that characterize this wine are matched by its complexity and depth. In Bordeaux’s sea of oft-criticized, overly-expensive, and even over-rated wines, it is refreshing to find a domaine, a château, whose wine is far from banal and whose price point feels comfortable.