Château d’Arche

Head up out of the village of Sauternes in the direction of Le Haut Bommes – towards Château Rayne-Vigneau, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey and Clos Haut-Peyraguey – and before long a small castellated tower appears on the left-hand side of the road. It is a timely reminder of the ancient history of this region of Bordeaux. To the north Renaissance-style and other exotic châteaux dominate the landscape, the pure and pointed, conical roofs of Château Pichon-Baron over the pale yellow-cream of the region’s limestone, or the golden sandstone and pagoda-style roofs of Château Cos d’Estournel, for example. Here in Sauternes and Barsac, however, many properties have a more defensive, castle-like feel to them; Château Coutet, the aforementioned Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey and Château d’Yquem are all good examples (although not all are as old as they look – but that’s a story for another day). Such estates date from feudal times, when protection against marauding bands of outlaws, or armies of enemy soldiers, was important.

Château d'Arche

So there should be no surprise at seeing a small castellated tower such as this. Except that, upon drawing closer, you will see that this is a very small tower, with generous windows, and it is surrounded by an extensive complex of buildings, not just winemaking facilities but also a rather attractive hotel. This is Château d’Arche, a deuxième cru classé Sauternes estate, and it is not in fact as Medieval as the appearance of the tower might suggest. Much of it was in fact built in the 17th century, and while one small section of it is certainly castellated, an architectural style in sympathy with the region, but to think of it as a feudal castle is perhaps over-stretching it a bit.

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