Château Le Thil (more formally known as Le Thil Comte Clary) is not the best known of châteaux in Pessac-Léognan, but it does have a following among Bordeaux acolytes keen to seek out good quality wines that also offer good value. Sadly, due to an inability to deal with the inheritance of the estate (not uncommon under French law, the crippling inheritance tax the usual key to any failure in passing the estate on from one generation to the next) the de Laitre family have now been forced to sell. And what is worse, the estate is being carved up, with two near neighbours each taking a share.
The lion’s share goes to Daniel and Florence Cathiard, who have done so much to reinvigorate Smith-Haut-Lafitte (pictured below), both in terms of its wines – now picking up maximum scores from the Big Boy in Baltimore – and also the estate as a whole. There have been renovations aplenty, as well as the creation of restaurants, hotel and a spa at Les Sources de Caudalie, run by one of the Cathiards’ daughters. They take 11.6 hectares of the vineyard, the château and parkland. By all accounts the Cathiards have been after the estate for several years; this suggests they have something specific in mind for the estate. The Le Thil vineyards were once part of Smith-Haut-Lafitte, when it was owned by Lodi Duffour Dubergier, onetime mayor of Bordeaux; it was, notably, Duffour Dubergier who signed off the 1855 classification. This suggests to me the vineyards will be absorbed into Smith-Haut-Lafitte; although there is a historical precedence, this seems a shame. If this comes to pass, a once good-value estate will now generate increased volumes of increasingly expensive Smith-Haut-Lafitte instead.
The remaining 5.6 hectares goes to Patrice Pichet, proprietor of Les Carmes Haut-Brion. Pichet only bought Les Carmes in 2011 (which reminds me, I have yet to update my profile to reflect that). He takes 5.6 hectares to augment his vineyard. This is at least a slightly reassuring message; when he acquired the château last year, some expressed concerns that Pichet – a property developer by day – had no intention to continue with viticulture on the estate, and instead develop the property for housing or something similar. This is of course always a concern with those Pessac estates that sit right on the edge of Bordeaux, or indeed are already swallowed up by the suburbs. One year on, with Pichet buying more vines, the concerns raised seem less of an issue today.