I remember very clearly the first time I set eyes on Château d’Arsac. I was travelling by car, and gently nodding off. I was not driving (just in case you were wondering), but was in the back seat, and the end of a long day of tasting was drawing near. We were a group of maybe six or seven, travelling north, each of us looking forward to dinner, a glass or two from the Médoc, and hopefully a good night’s sleep. Before the tasting merry-go-round would begin to turn once more, tomorrow morning, and we would do it all over again.
We were heading up the Médoc along the D208, not the most obvious route north but if memory serves correctly we had turned off to travel cross-country, towards Margaux. If I remember correctly the intention was to pick up the D2 there to drive past some of the region’s most famous châteaux, as it was the first time in Bordeaux for one or two in our party. It was not my first time in the region, but it was my first time along this road. Surveying the landscape as it whizzed by, something caught my eye.
“What the hell is that?”, I thought out loud.
I am not sure if this was the reaction proprietor Philippe Raoux desired when he installed La Diagonale d’Arsac, a huge girder made from COR-TEN steel sculpted by the renowned artist Bernar Venet, who also has work residing at Château Haut-Bailly, and gracing the label of the 2007 vintage from Château Mouton-Rothschild. But I believe it is the reaction often invoked, along with the occasional suggestion that the builders really should have tidied up before they left.
You have to get a little closer to appreciate one other very interesting feature of the château; the central section of roof has a strange translucency to it. Tiles once fashioned from traditional slate have been replaced by glass, an innovative design concept replacing the original roof which was destroyed by fire. A fire which perhaps tells you something of the history of this property, which has not been an easy one. To follow it we should first go back to the estate’s very early days, in the 12th century.