Oz Clarke, not an unknown visitor at Château Bauduc, tells the story as well as anyone else. Writing in Bordeaux (Pavilion books, 2012 revision) he declares “It’s a dangerous thing for a young man to have too much cash in his pocket“, quoting the modern-day proprietor of Château Bauduc, Gavin Quinney. Gavin, according to Oz, “woke up one morning to find he had bought a château“. Having met Gavin several times, I have learnt that this tale is not too far from the truth!
Gavin’s start at Château Bauduc may have had a somewhat chaotic air to it, but there is no doubt in my mind that he and wife Angela have made a great success of Gavin’s surprise purchase. Today this is a model estate for Bordeaux, the white wines clean cut and vibrant, the reds increasingly good. And yet they remain affordable, prices no doubt dampened by the absence of a grand appellation; we are in generic Bordeaux and Entre-Deux-Mers territory here. It is no surprise that they have garnered a loyal following, the wines listed by famous restaurateurs, and those not snapped up by Gordon Ramsay and the like sell out via Gavin’s online direct mail-order business, largely to a UK clientele but also much further afield.
Before continuing on to look at Gavin’s tenure, however, I will first attempt to sketch in some of the rather sparse history of this modern-day Bordeaux success story.
It seems somehow appropriate that Château Bauduc is today under English rule, as responsibility – albeit tangentially, perhaps, but responsibility nevertheless – for the estate’s existence can be laid at the feet of a representative of the English crown, as long ago as the early 14th century. The man in question was Amaury III de Craon, a politician and diplomat who somehow managed to juggle two seemingly contradictory roles, as a representative of Edward II of England in Aquitaine (which had been under English rule since the marriage of Eleanor d’Aquitaine to Henry II in 1152), and as a sénéchal in the service of the French king, Philippe IV, in Anjou. This was in the run up to the Hundred Years’ War, so there was the occasional rattling of both Anglo and French sabres; Craon’s diplomatic skills must have been considerable.
In 1312 Amaury III de Craon set his mind to the construction of a town in the forests on the isthmus of land today known as the Entre-Deux-Mers, which lies between the Garonne and the Dordogne. At the point where the Bordeaux-Sauveterre and Libourne-Cadillac roads met a fortified town, know locally as a bastide, soon came into being. Before long it was a bustling town famed for its weekly market and six annual fairs. The town still stands today, and Créon (an obvious derivative of Craon) is larger and busier than ever, and it still hosts a weekly market seven centuries after the first. And on the very edge of this town, in the middle of an estate of pasture and vineyards, stands the very attractive Château Bauduc.