Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-JulienThe name of this property has a twofold significance: beaucaillou means 'beautiful stone', and is a nod to the multi-coloured pebbles throughout the vineyards here, while Ducru was added to this château's name in 1795 when it was bought by Bernard Ducru. The time he spent running this property is significant in its history: it was thanks to this man's vision and improvements in the vineyards that Ducru-Beaucaillou earned its second growth status in the 1855 classification.

The property's reputation was fully established under the ownership of the Borie family who purchased it in 1941, and particularly by Jean-Eugène Borie, who was responsible for the wine between 1953 and his death in 1998. His elder son, Francois-Xavier, managed the estate in Jean-Eugène's later years but from 2003, for inheritance reasons, Ducru was inherited by his younger brother Bruno and sister, Sabine. Francois-Xavier now runs Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Haut-Batailley.

Ducru-Beaucaillou is blessed with a marvellous situation on the famous, deep Günz gravel overlooking the Gironde in the Saint-Julien appellation. It is not just the incomparable views that recommend this position: the river helps to moderate the climate, and the cabernet sauvignon vines - which form the major part of the vineyard - ripen early and well each year.

There are 75 hectares of vines in total, with an average age of 35 years; however the total estate covers 245 hectares in all, including parklands, pastures and forests. The vines are meticulously managed and grapes are all handpicked.

Bruno Borie has raised the quality (and the price) with greater selection but still retains the wine's key qualities: elegance, freshness and charm. There had been a blip in quality between 1988 and 1994, when contamination of the cellar by TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole, which is responsible for the wine fault commonly referred to as 'corkiness') tainted at least part of the vintage. However, the cellars are now completely free of this trouble and it remains consistently one of the greatest examples of Saint-Julien each year.

The blend varies from vintage to vintage, but tends to be around 90% cabernet sauvignon and 10% merlot, as Bruno doesn't believe that other common Bordeaux varieties like cabernet franc and petit verdot thrive here. The wine ages for 18 months in up to 90% new oak. Unusually, the cellars are directly below the château so the wine's wonderful aromas are always within reach.

Ducru-Beaucaillou is known as much for its finesse as its power and is one of the most harmonious clarets of the Médoc. It also improves immeasurably with considerable ageing: it isn't generally recommended to approach the wine before 12 to 15 years has passed, but it will keep for 40 years, and potentially even longer.

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