A Family Affair
Paris, France — It is a journey into the Paris that was. The Paris that we all loved. The Thomassin family is celebrating half a century of owning the Château de France, a Pessac-Léognan Graves in the region of Bordeaux. They chose the Au Petit Bouillon Pharamond for a tasting of their 2018 and 2019 vintages, a fine choice of old world decor and fare for here they still serve solely traditional French fare — like snails, terrine, beef Burgundy or potted duck — perfect for pairing with robust yet airy Bordeaux. The Gourmet Gazette, in a new series devoted to family-owned wine estates, brings the Chateau de France story to you. Arnaud Thomassin, the second generation of the family, is currently at the helm of the house bolstered by his sisters Véronique and Virginie.
The vineyards of Pessac-Léognan which earned the highly sought after AOC, the French acronym for Controlled Designation of Origin in 1987, are located in the northern region of the Graves wine producing region of Bordeaux. The forest of the Landes offers the vineyards shelter from the west while the climate here is gentle regulated by the nearby Atlantic Ocean. These are parcels of the good earth that are shrouded in a pre-historic history. The Château de France estate is located on the Grave region’s typical and rare Ferbos soil and possesses vineyards located in the lieu known as le Coquillat whose root means sea shells for the land is riddled with 19-million-year-old fossils from the ground up to the vine plant creating a remarkable earth over the millennia that expresses itself in the red and white wines the house produces here.
The house, in keeping with the age-old tradition of this land, produces both red and white wines. The Château Coquilles Blanc 2019 – AOP Pessac-Léognan is rich, full-bodied yet ethereal, like the age of the earth from which it emerges, a subtle way to accompany smoked or cured fish or buttery snails. The wine brings together the Sauvignon grape variety (80%) with the Sémillon (20%) variety. The Château Coquilles Rouge 2019 – AOP Pessac-Léognan is a light and fruity affair composed of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 60% Merlot. In a nod to the composition of the good earth, a seashell forms the emblem on the bottles of these unique wines with AOP being the acronym for Protected Designation of Origin, the European label for the AOCs.
Meanwhile the house’s emblematic wines are the Château de France vintages. The Chateau de France Blanc 2018 – AOP Pessac-Léognan turned out to be a lively white wine with its Sauvignon (80%) and Sémillon (20%) grape varieties making for a gentle wine. The Château de France vineyard stretches out over the highest and oldest hillsides of the cultivated terraces of Léognan. The red wines are clearly impressive with a fine Château de France rouge 2014 – AOP Pessac-Léognan proving to be the perfect companion for hearty meat dishes while the Château de France white 2018 – AOP Pessac-Léognan was tried and true with marinated trout and two courses later on with the Livarot cheese from Normandy. White wines are becoming popular with the cheese course once the restricted (and restrictive) realm of the reds. Pessac-Léognan is known for the finesse of its white Graves wines.
The vineyards are articulated around the late 18th century Château de France castle which was built upon the foundation of an old manor house whose vaulted cellar remains in place today. The estate received the French label for its sound approach to the environment in 2018 and beehives were installed in the vineyard in 2019.
« We support biodiversity by engaging in practices that preserve and use the natural zones in the heart of our parcels and around our property and so respect the eco-system and beauty of the countryside, » explains estate-owner Arnaud Thomassin.
The house is a member of the Union of the Grands Crus of Bordeaux and the scenic estate is open to visits by reservation.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
98 Avenue de Mont de Marsan
33850 Léognan, France
Tel: + 33 (0)5 56 64 75 39