The magnificent fortified castle overlooking the Gironde Estuary has its origins in the 11th century.

First built to defend the Médoc from Viking invasions by sea, Château de Lamarque was also subject to fierce assaults by the English during the Hundred Years’ War. While documents date the vineyards from the 15th century, wine production only became established after the French Revolution. In 1839, the estate passed into the hands of the Comte de Fumel, whose family were former owners of Margaux. Today, it is his descendant Pierre-Gilles Gromand- Brunet d’Evry and his wife Marie-Hélène who manage de Lamarque with great intelligence.

The 38ha of vineyards, 35 years old on average, lie away from the castle in three main parcels, each on one of the gravelly croupes for which the Médoc is famed: the main plots lie close to Moulis, with Poujeaux, Chasse-Spleen and Maucaillou as neighbours, while another is opposite Malescasse just to the south on the way to Arcins. In the cellar, de Lamarque is a bastion of tradition: vinification is in stainless steel and cement vats, each plot fermented separately. The tanks are often ‘bled’ by up to 15% to improve concentration without too much extraction and a little press wine may be blended in if thought necessary to further improve structure. The wine is aged for 18 months in Allier oak, 15% new each year, and is bottled without filtration. Pierre-Gilles says: ‘The philosophy of our vinification is based on respect for the fruit: every aspect of the winemaking process is managed smoothly.’

I have known the Gromand d’Evrys for many years and have always found de Lamarque to be one of the most reliable of the very good Haut-Médocs that are found between Margaux and St-Julien. Perhaps its aristocratic lineage helps, and while the wine is anything but modern, it is completely up-to-date. Every vintage, good and less good, is reflected in the finished wine, which can be drunk at five years in lighter vintages and another decade for the classics.