Driving north through the Médoc from the vineyards of Margaux to those of St Julien takes you through some of the lesser-known communes of Bordeaux, including three that contribute to the Haut-Médoc appellation. These are Arcins, Lamarque and Cussac-Fort-Médoc, and while all three have their merit the latter, which comes just before the road ascends the great gravel beds of St Julien, is perhaps the most interesting.
The land here is low-lying and marshy, the road in parts elevated above the surrounding landscape as if it were part of a levée. In noting this before long you will realise, as the road crosses over yet another drainage channel filled with silt-laden water on its way to the Gironde, why this vinous no-man’s-land between the two grander appellations exists. The highest quality grapes come from warming, well-drained gravel, not water-logged soils such as these. Look around, though, and in parts you will still see some vineyards, particularly where the land rises a little above the marshy base, little pockets of gravel deposited many millennia ago providing momentary relief, a point where elevation and drainage suddenly works in the vine’s favour.
Among these vineyards there are some real insider’s wines, from estates that regularly turn out wines of fine quality, but thanks to the lack of a grand appellation, and the fact that none are ranked in the 1855 classification of the Médoc, are usually also great value. One estate that fits this description is Château Lanessan.
As with many estates in Bordeaux the name is that of an ancient proprietor, and although information on the Lanessan family is very sparse one document from 1310 refers to both the property and the family. It was this year, on January 15th, that Dame Paironne la Montagne, the widow of Henry de Lanessan, sold the estate to the Sieur de Blaignan. Sadly, there is no other information about the family, or what happened to the estate thereafter.