Château les Grandes Murailles
The seeds for the town of St Emilion were sown in the 8th century, when a hermit settled in the woods. Named Emilion (sometimes this is written Emilian, or Aemilio), this hermit monk soon developed a bit of a reputation for miracles. His acts attracted disciples, and before long his cave was surrounded by a pious monastic settlement. He eventually died in 767, and after his death the monks who had followed him here commemorated his life by carving out the monolithic church around which the town of St Emilion grew up. By the 12th century, St Emilion – as it was now named – was the second largest town in the region after Bordeaux. With its monastic origins the town was a magnet to various religious groups, which accounts for the numerous churches, monasteries, priories and convents dotted around the town. These include the Collegiate church and cloisters, the Cordeliers cloisters, the remains of the Ursuline convent and there was also a great Dominican monastery situated near the top of the town.
This once grand monastery served as a temporary place of refuge to French troops during the early stages of the Hundred Years’ War, and sadly this ultimately secured its fate, which was near-total destruction. Today only one ruined wall (pictured below) still stands, towering above the surrounding vineyards and the nearby town. The tiny plot of vines that sits in the shadow of this great wall – or grande muraille – have unsurprisingly been named for this monument, and have been known as Les Grandes Murailles since at least the 19th century.
The Grandes Murailles vineyard would eventually take on an identity of its own as Château les Grandes Murailles, in the hands of the Fourcade-Reiffers family, before eventually being absorbed into a neighbouring estate in 2022. This profile is the story of the domaine up to that rather sad end.
The first piece of evidence concerning the existence of Château les Grandes Murailles appeared in Le Producteur Bordelais, which was published by a local négociant Lecoutre de Beauvais, in 1841. At this time the proprietor of this diminutive estate was noted to be Pierre-James Coste-Costy (born 1813), a sous-lieutenant in the 6th cavalry regiment, and who was subsequently made an Officier in the Legion d’Honneur in 1885. There was clearly active viticulture here at this time, and being so close to the town I suspect there had been for many centuries before this. The domaine won a gold medal in an exposition in Paris in 1867, proof that there was noteworthy wine being made here.