Although most of those estates ranked in the 1855 classification lie within the famous communes of St Estèphe, St Julien, Pauillac and Margaux, there are five (discounting the obvious exception of Château Haut-Brion) that do not. Perhaps most notable of these is Château La Lagune, the highest ranked of the handful, and the southernmost classed growth estate of all the Médoc. Then comes Château La Tour Carnet, a quatrième cru, another property which has been turning out some interesting wines in recent years. Down at the level of the fifth growths, however, there are three; the frequently good value Château Cantemerle, the less frequently sighted Château Belgrave, and lastly Château Camensac. Although not the most furtive of wines, for many years (looking back a long time) Château Camensac had the dubious honour of being the cru classé châteaux with which I was least familiar. A reputation that was less than exciting, together with an isolated location west of St Julien set back from the road (unlike nearby Château Belgrave and Château La Tour Carnet, which both occupy more prominent positions), have both helped to keep Château Camensac in relative obscurity.
Over the past ten years my frequent trips to Bordeaux for the primeurs and to taste other vintages, or to check out the harvest have since increased my exposure to the wines of this château. They certainly merit discussion. Before I come to them, however, we should take a look at the history of this domaine. Although the modern era really only began in the 1960s, its position in the 1855 classification tells us that this vineyard has been in production for many years, indeed for centuries. The history is somewhat obscure, but I have done my best to elucidate it.
Sadly it has proven difficult to pin down the origins of Château Camensac, there being no information on this little piece of the Haut-Médoc during Medieval times. Authors publishing during the 19th century, such as Alfred Danflou, indicated that the property was once a dependence of the seigneurs of both Beychevelle and Lamarque, although where this information came from is not clear.
It is only during the 18th and 19th centuries that the early story of Château Camensac really starts to take shape. More many years the proprietors were the Copp family, who can be traced back at least as far as Clément Popp, a négociant who probably (provided I have the right Clément Popp) held the seigneurie of Suau, in Caprian, a commune in the Entre-Deux-Mers. He acquired this title when he bought the château there, sometime around 1750, in the dying says of the Ancien Régime. In addition a Joseph-Clément Popp appears in land-registry documents as early as 1777, although whether this is the same individual, or a son or other relative, is not apparent.