Visitors to St Emilion will find that, unless they arrive very early, the road leading up to the town, on which there sit several notable properties including Château Canon-la-Gaffelière and then Château La Gaffelière, soon becomes congested with parked cars. Day-trippers quickly realise that they have to park well down the road, and then undertake the long walk up the hill to the town. There is an obvious solution to this unexpected disappointment, and that is to forego a visit to the town and to come back on another day having gotten out of bed a little earlier. It will be worth it as this will give you more time to enjoy the town, its twisting cobbled streets, its monolithic church, the wine shops, and there are some good dining opportunities here too, meaning a long and leisurely lunch will be on the cards. And there is a bonus; having made the decision to come back to the town on another day, you now have a free day to go exploring the vineyards instead.
Take a right by the aforementioned Château La Gaffelière and you will be heading roughly east away from the town on the D245, which runs at the foot of the côtes of the St Christophe plateau (named for St Christophe des Bardes). This is a section of St Emilion that can sometimes be a little overlooked, as too many people obsess over great estates within and around the town itself, or to the west on the St Martin plateau. This is despite the fact that there is some superb terroir here, with beautiful south-facing slopes of limestone and clay. Testament to this is the first château we pass which is Château Pavie, quickly followed by Château Larcis Ducasse, both of which boast premier grand cru classé status, the former elevated to level ‘A’ in 2012.
Continue on, and the number of such highly ranked estates soon drops off, perhaps because the more eastern parts of the St Christophe plateau are cooler, making the production of great wine a little more challenging. Nevertheless there are some noteworthy names along this road, and the next that you will pass by is Château Bellefont-Belcier. This is an estate that hit the news in 2012 when it was the first cru classé estate in Bordeaux to be purchased by a Chinese investor. It is an estate with which we should perhaps be more familiar. This profile looks at the story of Château Bellefont-Belcier, and its wines; I begin first with its history, and the Belcier family.