If there is an up-and-coming region in Bordeaux then surely it is Castillon? This appellation lies just to the east of St Emilion, and the two are in fact directly contiguous; the limestone plateau that runs eastwards through the St Emilion appellation carries on through Castillon, and the two are thus very similar in terms of terroir. In an era when there is an increasing need for affordable Bordeaux it is to regions such as Castillon that we should perhaps look first, and it seems plausible that big names in St Emilion might be the best placed to make the most of the cheaper land and favourable soils just down the road. Thus it should come as no surprise to learn that Stephan von Neipperg, surely best known for his admirable portfolio of St Emilion properties which includes Château Canon-la-Gaffelière, La Mondotte and Clos de l’Oratoire, has a very good foothold in this appellation, at Château d’Aiguilhe. The wines of this property display the rich and textured Neipperg style and frequently perform well when lined up against more illustrious and more expensive St Emilions in blind tastings. This is certainly an estate worth knowing about whether your desire be good value, good quality, or both.
As with many right bank estates there are hints of ancient history here, everything from the usual suggestions of a Roman settlement to the more exotic, including a rumour that this was an outpost manned by the Knights Templar, who guarded the route taken by pilgrims through Castillon on their way to Santiago de Compostela in modern-day Spain. The name Château d’Aiguilhe first crops up in the 12th century, and the ruined château at Aiguilhe (pictured below) dates to the 13th century. This is certainly a domaine with a significant history, matching any in ‘old’ Bordeaux, Graves and Sauternes, and easily outclassing the majority of the classic left bank estates.
At this time of course the estate would not have been dedicated to viticulture as it is today. This only came in latter times, and early on in its life the land around Château d’Aiguilhe would have seen mixed activities, everything from the rearing of livestock to arable farming. It was also very possibly an important stronghold during the Hundred Years’ War between England in France, lying on the border between French and English territories. This would explain the fortified nature of some parts of the estate.