Standing on the steps of Château Cheval Blanc, on the occasion of my first ever visit to the château, I surveyed the expanse of vines that lay before me with a sense of wonder. I felt like an explorer, discovering new lands for the first time, and as a consequence my mind wandered, as I tried to relate my feelings to those of mankind’s early adventurers, the discoverers of the New World. In my mind I likened my experience to that enjoyed by the first European explorers as, more than five centuries ago, they set foot on the soils of the Americas for the first time. Alright, I know I hadn’t really ‘discovered’ this landscape, and that thousands if not millions of people had gazed with wonderment at this very scene long before I had ever arrived here. And I also know that there was no chance of me discovering my fortune here; there was no city of gold waiting for me, just beyond the horizon. What lay before me would never be mine, by any means.
Looking on the bright side though, neither will history regard me as a pillaging conquistador, killing millions with the deadly combination of measles, influenza and the sword, joyfully massacring the local population in order to take their land and gold. So, visits to Château Cheval Blanc ain’t all bad, I guess.
These days, visits to St Emilion’s most famous first growth are more likely to involve a survey of the surrounding landscape from the rooftop garden of the new chai than the front steps. And why not; the view is so much better. Although in truth most of my visits are now so fleeting – a mad dash in, ten minutes to taste, a mad dash out – that stopping to admire the view is seldom part of the story. Nevertheless, when I do have the chance, I always take a moment to look out upon the vineyards, and the châteaux beyond the appellation boundary, in the appellation of Pomerol. There before me sits the understated Château La Conseillante, the pointed roofs of Vieux Château Certan beyond, and most obvious of all, in the foreground, with its chai painted an uncertain shade of ruddy pink, Château L’Évangile.
One of the leading domaines of Pomerol, Château L’Évangile is today a first growth outpost on the right bank. The property is in the hands of Domaines Rothschild, the same branch of the family that own Château Lafite-Rothschild (which also has a curiously pink chai – I can only assume there was a sale on at the local paint shop). It is a domaine in which I know many in the wine trade have a great interest, not just for its association with the number one premier grand cru classé estate of the Médoc, but for the quality of the wine. I have often thought that this wine comes in a rather more austere style than many of the rather more seductive wines of the appellation I have tasted, but that is perhaps why it appeals so much to my (mainly British) colleagues. Whatever your opinion of the wines, this is certainly a domaine worth knowing about, and I think many would rank it near the top of the appellation. This profile looks at its story, the proprietors, the vineyards and its wines.