Château Beychevelle is a large and striking property set in its own beautiful park that dominates the view as one drives north to Saint-Julien on the Route des Châteaux. Its label recalls the legend that all ships sailing past the estate were required to lower their sails (baisse voile) in homage to the resident Duc d'Epernon, who inherited the property through marriage, and who served as Grand Admiral of the King's navy under Henry III.
The château, with its wonderful view of the Gironde, was rebuilt in 1757, in a rather elaborate style, but the wine has remained understated, and a fine example of modern Saint-Julien. The estate is managed by Philippe Blanc, a man who is passionate about Beychevelle, and he has, along with the estate's owners, moved it firmly towards environmentally friendly practices, and, from 2005, to certification by Terra Vitis and Agriculture Raisonnée.
It is a diverse terroir covering a large area, with one parcel actually at Cissac in the Haut-Médoc but named as a part of St-Julien by official decree for as long as it is owned by Beychevelle. Under Philippe's direction there has been a change in approach, with much denser plantings, tighter yields and more rigorous selection of what ends up in the grand vin. About 40% will now find its way into the second wine, Amiral de Beychevelle. This care and attention has enhanced the quality of the wine and lent better balance and ripeness to the fresh an elegant style that has always displayed an ability to age well.
Beychevelle was one of the first Bordeaux wines to be greeted enthusiastically, indeed insatiably, by the Chinese market thanks to the image of the dragon-prowed ship on its label alluded to above, and hence the higher prices of recent years.
Incidentally, Château Beaumont, a perennial members' favourite, is under the same ownership as Château Beychevelle.