Thursday, 20 September 2012

TN : Chateau Olivier 2000, Grand Cru Classe de Graves, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France

This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.

In the case of Chateau Olivier, records indicate the presence of a building on the spot where the chateau now stands as long ago as the 12th Century, and by the mid-14th Century the property was occupied by the d'Olivey family, as evidenced by documents describing the marriage of Rostang d'Olivey to Elizabeth de la Lande, heiress to nearby Chateau de la Brède, in 1350. The property remained with the family for centuries, a long and successful tenure which even survived a sustained challenge from Bordeaux councillors who had taken over the neighbouring seigneurie in 1409. This must surely have been the longest running legal dispute in the late Medieval Ages, as the matter was not concluded until 1680, despite the intervention of at least one monarch. Perhaps unsurprisingly the dispute was settled in favour of the proprietors, although by this time the property had passed down the female line after the last Olivier due to inherit the estate chose to enter the priesthood instead. The Lasserre family thus took on the estate, and by marriage it then passed in 1663 to Pierre Penel, Baron de la Brède, by virtue of his marriage to Marie Lasserre.

With the ensuing years the estate changed hands numerous times, firstly passing to the daughter of Marie and Pierre, who married Jacques de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. They sold it to Bernard Joseph de Malet, a local parliamentarian, and there then followed a litany of landlords; Lestard, who did much to improve the chateau, making it less of a fortified castle and more of an elegant country house, then Legris, Souberrie-Dugarry, Sergent-Bardwich and Fousset, none of whom did so much as plant a vine, before finally passing to Count Charles-Joseph Maurice d'Etchegoyen in 1846. The new tenants refurbished the chateau yet again, carrying out extensive modifications, and added viticulture to the activities of the estate, which also included forestry and husbandry. The end result of the extensive renovations of Lestard and then D'Etchegoyen (what stands today is largely of the 18th and 19th Centuries) may not be to everyone's taste, nevertheless the chateau remains an impressive and perhaps attractive building, hidden in a clearing in the woods, and surrounded by a moat. After D'Etchegoyen, Olivier was sold to the Bousset-Salvat family, although they in turn yielded to Alexandre Watcher. Then by virtue of the marriage of Agnew Watcher to Jacques de Bethmann in the early 20th Century, the German De Bethmann family took control, and this is a responsibility they still hold today. The most recent incumbent is Jean-Jacques de Bethmann.

The Olivier estate amounts to 220 hectares the majority of which is forest, pasture and grazing land, with the vineyards amounting to 50 hectares in all. Under De Bethmann the vines were leased to the Eschenhauer firm, although this arrangement ceased in 1981, Eschenhauer eventually losing their exclusive distribution rights in 1987. Today the estate is managed by Laurent Lebrun, who holds sway over all the vines, which are planted on a complex composition of terroirs, including Gunzian gravel, clay and limestone, with areas of quartz, flint and other minerals. Chateau Olivier is just one of six chateau entitled to produce both red and white wines under the Graves classification of 1959, although under Eschenhauer the focus was most certainly on the white wines. Since then, however, plantings of red varieties have increased, and although relatively young in comparison to the established white vines they now constitute the greater part of the vineyard. There are now 38 hectares of red varieties, 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, with an average vine age of 25 years. What is more, with the clearing of trees and the establishment of new vineyards, on ancient plots identified from 18th Century maps, the area planted to red varieties is set to rise considerably.

The planting density is relatively high at between 8000 and 10000 vines per hectare. Practices in the vineyard and winery are modern, with the vinification of the red overseen by Guy Guimberteau, a student of the illustrious Emile Peynaud. The fruit is sorted both at harvest, which is manual, and in the winery, before temperature-controlled fermentation, typically between 25 and 30 degrees for the red. The must is vinified in steel, with cold maceration before fermentation, and with some optional use of the press wine. The wine then sees a year in oak barrels, of which one third are new each vintage. The resulting grand vin has a production of about 6000 cases per year. There is also a second wine produced from aliquots not deemed suitable for the grand vin, La Seigneurie d'Olivier du Chateau Olivier.

Colour : Brown notes, cassis

Aroma : Blackcurrant, talcum powder, dried herbs, vanilla, plum

Taste : Dark fruits, violets, talcum powder like tannins on finish, plums, slight licqourice, slight wood on finish

Alcohol : 12.5%

Price : 349 SEK

Mark : B

Website : Chateau Olivier

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