Château Guiraud, once known as Château du Bayle, stands proudly as one of Sauternes’ most prestigious domains. Bought by the Bordeaux négociant Pierre Guiraud in 1766, the Château assumed his name. The domain remained in the Guiraud family until 1837 and, in this time, they constructed the Protestant chapel that still stands today in the grounds of the domain. The bottle label design has hardly changed and remains heavily influenced by the Guirauds, the black representing the Protestant and Republican values of the family while the gold inscriptions are a nod to the golden nectar Pierre-Amand Guiraud perfected over the years.
The domain continued to impress until, in 1855, it became premier grand cru classé. Over the years ithas changed hands several times since the Guirauds first handed it over to the Bernard family. After that it was owned by the Maxell family until 1932, when it was bought by Paul César Rival. Again, in 1981 it came into the possession of the Narby family, Canadians of Egyptian origin. The Narbys restored Château Guiraud to its former glory after standards slipped in the 1970s. They hired Xavier Planty in 1988 to manage the domain, a wise choice as in his hands it once again flourished. In 2006, when the Narbys made the decision to sell, Planty managed to form a consortium to buy the château off them and he, Robert Peugeot, Olivier Bernard (Domaine de Chevalier) and Stephan Von Neipperg (Canon La Gaffelière) take the helm to this day.
The domain is situated in Sauternes where its vines, planted to Sémillon (65%) and Sauvignon Blanc (35%), span 100 hectares. It was the first among the premiers grand crus in the 1855 classification to be officially certified for organic viticulture in 2011 but long before that, nature and a respect for biodiversity were the driving factor (planting hedgerows, wild grass in between the vine rows, bird houses and ‘insect hotels’). Their conscientious methods don’t stop in the vineyard and in fact the whole running of the domain is approached from an ecological mind-set, from their choice of energy and water supply to the recovery of carbon dioxide during vinifcation. Yields are extremely low, often as low as 10hl/ha while in the winery, fermentations take place in 90% new oak barrels for three to six months and maturation in oak barrels for 18 to 24 months.
The domain’s grand vin, Château Guiraud, counts for about a quarter of its production while its second wine, Petit Guiraud and its dry white , le “G” de Guiraud, account for over a half. The wines are distributed fairly evenly over France, Asia, America and Europe.
The domain recently opened its own restaurant ‘La Chapelle’.
Wines currently on sale from Château Guiraud
Stylistically, Guiraud is a flamboyant Sauternes: rich, sweet and intensely aromatic but perfectly balanced. When young it displays exotic fruit and citrus aromas but with time it evolves to show notes of saffron and marmalade. A superb wine that ages gracefully.
What the guides have to say about Château Guiraud
- La Revue du vin de France:
This Premier Cru Classé from Sauternes is co-owned by Robert Peugeot, Olivier Bernard (Domaine de Chevalier), Stephan Von Neipperg (Château Canon-la-Gaffelière) and Xavier Planty. Under the skillful direction of Xavier Planty, this domain has produced excellent examples of Sauternes in a great many vintages. The wines are modern, roasted and very open even in their youth, with immense finesse and minerality. The viticultral approach is meticulous, Guiraud being the first among the premiers crus in the 1855 classification to be awarded organic certification. As all crus classés rightly should, the domain respects the natural development of noble rot and Planty uses the least amount of chaptalisation in the winemaking process (Planty is an ardent militant on the matter). The château also produces a notable amount of dry white wine from terroirs in the Bordeaux appellation that are best enjoyed young.
The wines: the Petit Guiraud 2013 displays pleasant bitter flavours such as yellow grapefruit. It is a wine that already drinks well. The 2016 has smoked notes while in the mouth it shows good power and elegance. Balanced, with refined fruit, it is energetic yet delicate.
About the domain: ownership of the château is shared over four people: Robert Peugeot, Xavier Planty (who runs the domain), Stephan von Neipperg et Olivier Bernard. Certified in organic viticulture since 2011, Guiraud continues to impress and surprise with wines that marry mystery and fragility with the classic power of a great Sauternes (perhaps thanks to organic methods?). This seductive paradox has reached new heights in recent vintages where the wines have great aromatic precision. Guiraud is an excellent example of Sauternes and what’s more, comes in at a reasonable price.
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