Chateau Larange Story
Updated: Mar 27, 2018
Lagrange's history can be traced back to the Middle Ages when it was know as the Maison Noble de Lagrange Monteil. At that time the name "grange" meant a large estate including houses, a church, buildings for mixed farming, cattle breeding and vine growing. Vine plots still bearing the names "Hospital" and "Chapel" remind us of this today. The viticultural vocation of Lagrange was established in the eighteenth century under the ownership of the famous Bordeaux family de Branne, who then also owned Mouton.
In 1785, during the first known classification, Thomas Jefferson already placed Lagrange among the 3rd classified growths. In 1842, when Count Charles Tanneguy Duchatel, Home Secretary to King Louis-Philippe purchased Lagrange, the domain spread over 280 hectares of which 120 were under vine, producing an average 200 tonneaux (20,000 cases) per year. Duchatel abandoned his political career to devote himself to development of Lagrange. The property greatly benefited from this new energy, both technically (Duchatel was a pioneer in the prevention of oidium and drainage systems in the vineyard) and culturally (famous artists were seen among the guests at Lagrange). The 1855 classification confirmed Lagrange in its place of 3rd growth.
The turn of the century brought a great economic upheaval in the Medoc vineyards. New illnesses such as mildew, oidium and more importantly phylloxera devastated the vines. World conflict, lack of technical and human resources and colder and wetter weather conditions sent Chateau Lagrange into a period of recession. Of the 280 hectares in 1840, only 157 hectares remained when in 1983 the Japanese group Suntory purchased the estate from the Cendoya family who had been the owners since 1925.
The Japanese group, Suntory, acquired the domain when the purchase was signed by the company president, Mr Keizo Saji, in 1983. Marcel Ducasse was then recruited along with Kenji Suzuta to undertake the complete restructuring of the vineyard and a spectacular renovation of the whole estate. This first step was to mark the rebirth of Chateau LAGRANGE.
After thirty years of dedicated work, as well as human and technical investments, Lagrange had once again found recognition amidst its peers and had achieved a certain sense of fulfillment. Today a new tandem, Matthieu Bordes and Keiichi Shiina, have taken over this quest for excellence. A second phrase of investments began with the 2008 vintage, offering Lagrange the technical means to follow its ambitions: The production of refined, elegant and expressive wines, in the best Saint-Julien style. There has also been an evolution of production methods towards a greater awareness of the environment and a reduction of ecological impact on the property. This philosophy is reflected not only in the respect shown for the domain's history, and the nurturing of its truly exceptional Terroir, but also in the unique experiences shared all over the world around a glass of one of Lagrange's wines.
Three main axes are being explored:
- Developing improved production methods while aiming towards a greater respect of the environment and a reduction in the property's environmental impact.
- Optimizing the exceptional terroir through a better knowledge of the soil types and a scrupulous plot-by-plot selection during vinification, thanks to a majority of small capacity vats. During the harvest, great care is taken not to damage the grapes, with handpicking into small crates and an ultra-modern sorting line.
- Valorisation of a site that is truly unique in its history and architecture, opening the property to a larger public.
Terroir and vineyard are the property's treasures. Only very old vines, planted on slopes of gravelly soil several metres deep, can confer on the wines the concentration and elegance that are the privilege of the Grands Crus Classes.
Season after season, everything is done in the vines to ensure that the very best of Mother Nature's
unique heritage will be preserved for generations to come. Each vintage Man's work and climatic conditions combine to reveal all the potential of the terroir.
The vine care methods remain very traditional and most of the work is still carried out by hand. About thirty people work year round in the vineyard to bring the grapes to the desired ripeness. Thinning out, de-leafing, and "toilettage" complete the ancestral vine-care tasks performed throughout the year. The men and women vine workers, often children or grandchildren of families having worked on the property for years, take meticulous care of the vine plot that is allocated to them individually for the length of their career.
Harvest time is of course the height of the year. Frequent analyses of sugar and acidity content, and today even potential polyphernol content, are performed before choosing the optimum picking date for each plot.
The handpicking into small crates, the hand sorting table and the optical sorting line all contribute to the preservation of the grape and improve the quality of selection.
A plot-by-plot traditional Bordeaux vinification is carried out in 102 temperature-controlled stainless steel vats (varying from 40 to 220 hl). 82 smaller vats allow the isolation of certain plots, to respect the potential of each terroir and to adapt the vinification according to the weather conditions of the vintage. Fermentation temperatures never exceed 28 degree Celsius to ensure preservation of the finesse and fruitiness. The pumpovers are also of moderate intensity and limited in frequency for the same reason. The maceration, lasting from two to three weeks, bring more volume to the wines. Since 2007, the property has carried out simultaneously the alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentations thanks to the co-inoculation of lactic bacteria in the must. The technique allows to eliminate the phrase during which the wine is not protected, to reduce the wine handling and to save a lot of energy. The wines are then run off lot by lot into the barrels for ageing.
The blend tastings begin a few weeks later. The proportions of each grape variety and type can vary enormously from one vintage to the next, with different permutations between the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot as well as between vines of different ages and different type of soil. The strict selection during blend tastings often means the production of "grand vin" is limited to less than 40%. The remaining lots are blended to make the second wine, les Fiefs de Lagrange.
The same scrupulous care applies to the barrel ageing. The wines lie for twenty months in the immense air-conditioned cellars. This slow ageing exclusively in French oak barrels, of which 60% are new, bring the wine the desired complexity and elegance.
The wines are fined in barrel using fresh egg whites, in the age-old way. Finally, they are bottled in the property's own bottling room, using the latest technology.