Gruaud-Larose, a second growth property in the Saint-Julien appellation, is a large historic estate whose size has hardly changed through the centuries.
In the early part of the 20th century it was acquired by Désiré Cordier, mayor of Saint-Julien, and he and his family made a wine which became very popular in the UK, with some outstanding vintages in the 1960s. Gruaud remained in this family's hands until the 1980s, but whilst under the control of large corporations during the next decade its quality did not always live up to its potential. The turning point in its fortunes came in 1997 when it was purchased by the Merlaut family: under the leadership of Jean Merlaut, the family has ensured the property's prices remain reasonable compared with other second growths.
Though a little inland from the riverside Léeoville and Ducru-Beaucaillou, the deep Garonne gravel soil here - perfect for cabernet sauvignon - marks Gruaud-Larose out as one of the Medoc's great vineyards. Jean Merlaut has also introduced various sustainable viticultural practices, such as being one of the first chateaux to ban insecticides, herbicides and pesticides.
The wine tends to be a blend of 61% cabernet sauvignon, 29% merlot, 7% cabernet franc and 3% petit verdot. It spends 18 months in wood, 80% new, and the wine is capable of ageing for between 12 and 30 years.
At best it is full, rich Saint-Julien with great finesse, length and staying power: vintages of the last 100 years and more in the property's cellars prove its ageing ability. Now more than ever Gruaud-Larose is becoming worthy of its motto: 'The king of wines and the wine of kings'.