What do Château Gloria and Château Saint-Pierre have in common? Well, they’re both in Saint-Julien, to start with, and are practically neighbours. One is an 1855 cru classé, the other is a highly coveted ‘unclassified’ property. We had the chance to talk to Jean Triaud to find out more about these superb domains.
Châteaux Gloria and Saint-Pierre are two properties in the Médoc closely linked by their shared owner. The Martin family founded Château Gloria between the 1930s and 1960s in a region where they also own Château Saint-Pierre, a 4th grand cru classé since 1982. This ensemble isn’t even the whole of Henri Martin’s collection, since he also runs Châteaux Haut-Beychevelles Gloria, Bel Air Gloria and Peymartin. Altogether, these domains cover a little over 100 hectares of land.
The Martin family’s history in the Médoc can be traced back as far as three centuries, since Henri’s father and grand-father both worked for Château Gruaud-Larose. Today, Henri Martin has passed the torch on to his daughter Françoise and her husband Jean-Louis Triaud, as well as his grandchildren Vanessa and Jean Triaud. Together they keep the family’s legacy going, notably from Château Gloria and Château Saint-Julien, the properties at the heart of their work.
Château Gloria is a history that sets it quite apart in the Médoc since it is a property that was created from scratch. Henri Martin put the domain together between 1930 and 1970, parcel by parcel, vine by vine, with these largely sourced from 1855 grands crus classés like Château Gruaud-Larose and Branaire-Ducru. 37 hectares of the 50 across this domain are made up of grands crus. And the château itself is a real heirloom, having served as the family home for generations.
As you have probably worked out, this château couldn’t be included in the 1855 classification since it quite simply didn’t exist at the time. However, the quality of its terroirs and the work of the team there make it a property of the highest standard. There aren’t many domains you could describe as ‘little gems’ in the Médoc, but this is one of them. And wine lovers are wise to this, appreciating the domain as much for its superb quality as for its pleasing prices.
Château Saint-Pierre was founded in the 17th century and its vineyard is considered to be one of the oldest in the Médoc, with archives showing that there was a wine growing property called ‘Serançan’ here belonging to the Marquis of Cheverry from 1693. It was the Baron of Saint-Pierre who gave the property its current name when he bought it in 1767. After his death, the property was split in two for the inheritance of his daughters, with these two halves then cultivated separately from that point on. The domain was nonetheless part of the 1855 Médoc classification, ranked in fourth place.
The two halves were properly reunited in 1922 when brothers Pierre and Charles Van den Bussche bought the whole domain together, apart from the winery – this became property of Alfred Martin. Around 60 years later, a purchase of the property in 1981, followed by the two vineyards, brought the whole domain well and truly together in the hands of the Martin family. Henri Martin summed it up like this: ‘it took me 60 years to cross the 100 metres separating Gloria from Saint-Pierre!’
In the context of this region, Château Saint-Pierre is unusually small with its 17 hectares, and it has the rare quality of discretion within the Médoc’s list of dazzling properties. A hidden jewel in Saint-Julien…
The two domains have much in common. As we have said, they are owned by the same family, and they also share the same winery, renovated in 2008 with a modern, aluminium building designed to welcome new technological equipment. This includes thermo-regulated vats with automatic pumps for greater precision, optical sorting lines, and drones used to survey and analyse how the plants are progressing. The latter device is particularly good for helping to choose just the right moment to harvest. But Jean Triaud reminds us that “Whilst the same material is used, the techniques are individualised (pumping over, vinification length, maturation…). We want each cru to retain its own identity. In terms of maturation, for example, Gloria matures for 12-14 months in around 40% new wood, whereas for Saint-Pierre it’s around 16-18 months in 50% new wood.” And, of course, th vats are separated by property. The use of technology in this way increases the precision of the wine whilst also easing what can be difficult, manual labour.
Terroir and vegetation are the main elements that differentiate the châteaux. At Saint-Pierre, 80% of the vines are situated directly around the property on a gravelly plateau next to the Garonne, a soil particularly good for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. This makes up 85% of the property’s grape varieties. The vines are, on average, 40 years old. As for Gloria, the vineyard is a bit more scattered across the appellation, offering more diversity in the expression of different terroirs. 65% of the grapes grown are Cabernet Sauvignon, alongside Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, on vines with an average age of 30.
When it comes to tasting the wines, they are not at all the same. Jean sums it up like this: “It is often said that Gloria is a very charming wine, whilst Saint-Pierre is more powerful, needing more time to reach maturity and possessing better ageing potential. I would say that Gloria has optimal balance after 10 years, whereas it’s more like 15 years for Saint-Pierre”. When we asked whether the evolution of vinification methods in recent years was about altering the style of the domains’ wines, he responded “only in a very nuanced way. There have certainly been some changes, like a reduction in the use of new barrels, but these are very careful changes as we want to hold onto our style, not deny our identity. For us, making wines for long ageing is a big part of who we are and is one of Bordeaux’s biggest strengths. We wouldn’t want to abandon that, as it’s one of the main features our loyal clients look for. What we’re really trying to produce is something quite paradoxical: a wine that can be aged for a long time but also enjoyed in its youth, which is why collecting the grapes at their perfect ripeness is of utmost importance. This is perhaps a bit easier in our appellation, which finds a happy balance between the roundness of Margaux and the power of Pauillac”.
In terms of environmental recognition, the two domains have HVE 3 certificates (Haute Valeur Environnementale), but they don’t want to take this any further for the moment. “We have our own way of doing things, where we take ideas from organic growing, biocontrol and sustainable agriculture, but we don’t like to shout about it. It’s not a marketing ploy, it’s what we do first and foremost to protect our terroir in the long term, as well as our teams and our clients. We plant hedges to encourage biodiversity, we’ve installed beehives, and we’ve banned all toxic substances, pesticides and weed killers.”
Never wanting to miss out on a chance to be indulgent, we asked Jean about his favourite food and wine pairings. With a Saint-Pierre, he recommends something rather classic like grilled ribs, game and red meat. He likes to be a bit more playful with the Gloria cuvées, trying it out with fish in the fruitier vintages like 2008 or 2012.
Henri Martin wines for sale
Château Gloria produces generous and structured wines typical of the Saint-Julien appellation. The result of a classic vinification, they are strong in colour and character. Expressive, supple and round on the palate, they deserve a few years of ageing to flourish.
Château Saint-Pierre is a cru classé that exudes intense aromas of dark fruit, bringing a mouthfeel that is dense and chewy. This is a powerful wine with a certain finesse to its tannins. It should be aged in the cellar for quite some years before enjoying alongside grilled red meat or game.
What do the guides say?
RVF: Put together patiently, parcel by parcel, in the second half of the 20th century by Henri Martin, Gloria is a strong character amid the Médoc’s crus non classés. This is a reputation that endures, as demonstrated by the most recent cuvées. Always accomplished, colourful and concentrated, this cru has been difficult to fault over the last decade. It ages harmoniously, but less patient wine lovers will be able to enjoy it after just five years.
RVF: This cru classé has long been the lesser known of the Saint-Julien appellation. It was bought in 1982 by Henri Marti, who succeeded in restoring the property and its vineyards to their former glory. A team made up of Françoise, his daughter, and Jean-Louis Triaud (her husband), as well as their children and Rémi de Constanzo, the winery manager, have all contributed to the evolution of this cru in recent years. With the use of new vinification tools, it improves vintage upon vintage with a purity that it formerly lacked.