Located on a hill of the same name, Château Pech-Céleyran has spent five generations in the hands of the Saint-Exupéry family, who are also famous for the novella Le Petit Prince (written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).
It is located at La Clape, a coastal sub-zone of the Languedoc region bordering Corbières, which gets its name from the Occitan term clapas, meaning 'pile of stone'. The family's 94 hectares of vines are planted on clay and chalk soils on the western slopes of the La Clape hill near Narbonne. The vineyards are soothed by winds from the northwest and the Mediterranean, and are surrounding by fragrant scrubland and pine forests, which the family believes influence the aromatic nature of its wines.
We buy the family's AOC Languedoc La Clape wines, which make up 44 hectares on the upper part of the hill and its plateau. Here the family grows traditional southern French varieties such as syrah, grenache, mourvèdre and carignan for red wine production and bourboulenc, marsanne, roussanne and grenache blanc for its whites.
Current incumbent Nicolas de Saint-Exupéry also runs Domaine Chartreuse de Mougères around 60 kilometres away in the heart of the Languedoc. Originally the site of a Roman villa, wine production here goes back a very long time, and it was also a Dominican monastery for several centuries leading up to the Revolution. Since the early 20th century it has been owned by an order of Carthusian (Chartreux) monks, who began planting vines here in 1935.
The geology of the area is varied, with odd deposits of basalts - the remnant of ancient volcanos - which are highly prized and excellent for growing grapes. Nicolas manages the property's 35 hectares of vines, which are split into 23 separate plots, each of which is tended by the same member of the viticulture team each year to achieve consistent expert care.
20 hectares are syrah, grenache and mourvèdre planted high on a plateau, with the remainder a mixture of vermentino, macabeo, sauvignon blanc, muscat and cinsault planted on gentle slopes surrounding the winery. Each of the 23 plots is harvested and vinified separately, creating a variety of different styles, which can then be blended to make a complex and expressive range of wines year on year.