Graves estate Chateau Millet goes under the hammer in a public auction next month, in news that has sent minor shockwaves through Bordeaux.

Millet has long been regarded as one of the jewels of the Graves – and 20 years ago was enormously successful, exporting all over the world. But since the death in 1990 of former owner Henri de la Mette, the 19th century chateau has been the subject of various disputes.

The 82ha estate comprises Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

The chateau’s listing in Feret’s Bordeaux et ses Vins says that its wines ‘transcend frontiers’: Margaret Thatcher served the 1985 (whether red or white is not specified) to the first president Bush at a Downing Street dinner.

In his Pocket Wine Book 2005, Hugh Johnson characterises the chateau with a single brusque adjective. ‘Useful Graves’, he notes.

The exact reasons for the sale are being kept firmly under wraps, but are believed to date back to a FF10m loan that Henri de La Mette took out a number of years before his death, and which remains unsettled.

‘This is sad news for a chateau with a noble history. I hope it will go to someone who will preserve its spirit,’ said Marie-France Theron, owner of a neighbouring chateau and, along with Henri de la Mette, a former mayor of the Graves town of Portets.

The reserve price has been set at €1,220,000, with three open days – April 28, May 4 and May 17 – set between now and the auction date of May 19.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux