After spending a few days in the famous vineyards of Saint-Emilion, our journey continues in the Côtes-de-Castillon. The appellation is formed by a range of small limestone hills, which begins east of the
Saint-Emilion plateau rising from the right-bank of the Dordogne and is bounded by the Côtes-de-Francs to the north and Bergerac to the east. The scenery among the valleys is picturesque; a varied
landscape popular with walkers and wine-lovers alike. A mild Atlantic climate and the limestone-clay slopes provide ideal growing conditions for the 3000 hectares of vines primarily Merlot with the Cabernets
Franc and Sauvignon and a little Malbec. The wines are very similar in style to their neighbours in Saint-Emilion, average prices are much lower, and many are now competing in quality with the grand crus.
Marie-Jo Lavau, the proprietor of this family-run wine estate in the Côtes-de-Castillon is pleased that we have found the property before the winter nightfall (there are at least two châteaux of the same name within 15km). She and her husband Christophe give us a quick tour of the guest accommodation; a comfortable annex that serves as a small self-catering apartment for up to three people, and a recently restored three-bedroom gîte that sleeps up to six.
She suggests that it might be better to give us a full dégustation of the property's wines in the morning but hands me a bottle of their top Côtes-de-Castillon wine, Cuvée Prévanche 2004, to go with our supper. The wine is the perfect accompaniment to a simple meal of rillettes, duck pâté and celery rémoulade and serves as our first taste of one of one of Bordeaux's best kept secrets; the juicy and structured Merlot-dominated wines of the Côtes-de-Castillon.
|Early the following morning the bare vines are shrouded in mist. After a quick stroll in the vineyard we are treated to a horizontal tasting of four wines from the
2004 vintage. The 'côtes' wine Cuvée Classique,
from 90% Merlot, is clean and fresh with pleasant red fruit aromas. Its oak aged counterpart, Cuvée Prévanche, coming from vines with an average age of 40 years and matured in 25% new oak releases toasted
and spicy notes and reveals a sound but supple structure. The Lavaus also have a vineyard just over the parish boundary in Saint-Christophe-des-Bardes that contains 0.7 hectares of grand cru rated
Saint-Emilion vines, botled as Clos d'Hortense.
|The second wine, Château Brisson, from the same year is lighter in style and softer. The business is a
family affair and Madame Valade's sister accommodates guests of the Château in her home near the property.
Lise Gonin is an impeccable B&B host and fount of local knowledge. Breakfast includes fresh home-made specialities, great coffee and real English tea. She has three double
rooms, one of which has a private bathroom, the other two having shared facilities. Evening meals aren't served, but there are a couple of good, inexpensive restaurants in nearby Castillon-la-Bataille.
|Staying with the Lirands is like staying with friends. The guest accommodation has a lived-in, unfinished feel but one that makes you feel quite at home. It's easy to see why some of their visitors stay longer than
intended. Chrystelle speaks fondly of one particular guest from overseas, 'We had a visitor from Canada here last year looking for an overnight stop during a cycling tour. He ended up staying for a month and
paid his keep by working in the vineyard.'
No one should leave this property empty-handed - even the Canadian cyclist went away with a bottle of La Roche Pressac tucked into his pannier!
|In the late 1950s Jean-Albert Robin purchased the property and, by selling the main castle buildings, invested in the development of the
vineyards and winery.
Today, Château Puisseguin Curat is still in the hands of the Robin family and is managed by brothers Jean-David and Jean-Francois. Madame Robin manages a 3-bedroom gîte in an annex of what used to be the 19th century vineyard workers' lodgings.
From the gîte, one looks out onto the castle, the tower and the clay-limestone slopes of the vineyard, planted to 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet
|'We have quite a good topography here,' says Silvain with typical Gallic understatement. We look out over the vines that cover the entire hillside down to the river 100 feet below. The property overlooks this
wonderful panorama, as do the four guest bedrooms in the west wing of the main house. Officially registered as a Gîtes de France chambres-d'hotes this is a B&B with a difference. The rooms are furnished and
decorated with antiques and each has its own en-suite bathroom. In the summer breakfast is served on the terrace overlooking the formal gardens and the labyrinth made entirely from young Merlot vines.
Saint-Emilion's neighbours are graced with a landscape rich in well-managed vineyards and well-made wines. The appellations are relatively young; Cotes-de-Castillion for example only achieved AC status in 1989.
As such the market for these wines is still developing and many offer good value for money. This gives the canny wine-buyer an opportunity to find great wines that compete in quality but not in price with their
grand cru cousins. The B&B's and gîtes here also offer value for money, even compared to the formulaic roadside motels seen all over France, and there are few better ways of tasting and buying wine than while
staying at the château.
Addresses and tariffs
Château Terrasson, 33570 Puisseguin
Tel: +33 (0)5 57 56 06 65
firstname.lastname@example.org (winery), email@example.com (B&B)
GPS Ref: 0734-4980
B&B 60 euros - 80 euros per room per night. Table d'Hote 22 euros per person
Château Grande Maye
Rouye, 33350 Belves-de-Castillon
Tel: +33 (0)5 57 47 93 92
GPS Ref: 0720-4977
B&B 45 euros - 50 euros per room per night
Château La Roche Pressac
3 route de Saint Colombe 33350 Saint-Magne-de-Castillon
Tel: +33 (0)5 57 40 48 24
GPS Ref: 0731-4972
B&B by arrangement
Château Puisseguin Curat
Curat, 33570 Puisseguin
Tel: +33 (0)5 57 40 61 29 (winery) +33 (0)1 49 70 75 75 (Gîtes de France)
GPS Ref: 0723-4976
B&B 333 euros - 510 euros per week
Tel: +33 (0)5 57 51 09 61
Restaurant la Fontaine de Manon
57 rue Victor Hugo, Castillion-la-Bataille 33350
Tel: +33 (0)5 57 40 24 48
Traditional, family restaurant.
Hôtel Restaurant Le Phenix
24 Place Pierre Orus, Castillion-la-Bataille 33350
Tel: +33 (0)5 57 40 00 14
'Plat du jour' workers' dining room.
Restaurant Le Petit Palais
Le Petit Palais 33570
Cheap, authentic, workers' menu.
Wine Tourism Information:
Syndicat Viticole des Côtes-de-Castillon
6 Allées de la République, Castillion-la-Bataille 33350
go to part I - St Emilion