Château La Pointe
Pomerol is a place of small vineyards and small estates, not normally graced by anything so grand as a château. Most have nothing more than a collection of functional, often single-storey buildings. Many sit so low that I sometimes feel that they are perhaps trying to look inconspicuous, blending in, shrinking into the ground. The vineyards they accompany are often tiny, the average size being something in the order of 5 hectares. But there are exceptions to this rule; such as one estate which has a vineyard more than four times the average size, complete with an attractive two-storey château and several hectares of formal gardens, including a collection of centuries-old trees.
The château in question is of course Château La Pointe, one of the largest estates in this particular corner of Bordeaux. But there is something else that marks out this domaine as different besides the size of the vineyards and the grandeur of the château, and that is the proprietor. Even with other Pomerol giants, such as Château Nenin, the man in charge has Bordeaux running through his veins. Château La Pointe, however, is a rare right-bank example of a corporate Bordeaux outpost. In 2007 the d’Arfeuille family, proprietors here since at least the 1950s, sold up. The new owners are Generali France, an insurance company, looking perhaps to emulate the successful work of AXA Millésimes at near-neighbour Château Petit Village. Under their direction the estate has seen a rapid turn-around, and the wines are now very successful. Before looking at the state of play here today though, I delve first into its history.
Château La Pointe: History
The exact origins of Château La Pointe are not clear, although there is evidence to suggest that the estate dates to at least the 18th century, and that there was probably active viticulture at this time. This would make Château La Pointe one of the older estates in the Pomerol region, as the shift from polyculture to a vinous monoculture only really took hold in the middle of the 18th century, continuing through to the early years of the 19th century. Perhaps we should not be so surprised that this is such a venerable old estate, as it enjoys a prominent position very close to the modern-day outskirts of Libourne.
The most obvious piece of evidence for the age of the estate is the château itself (pictured above), which dates to the end of the 18th century. It was built in the Directoire style, a short-lived Neoclassical movement which takes its name from the French government – the Directoire – that ruled in the post-Revolutionary period between 1795 and 1799. It indicates that the proprietors were at this time already wealthy, although it is likely that this wealth originally came from some source other than viticulture. The proprietors at the time seem to have been the Chaperons, an old Libourne family long-established in the region. Even at this time the estate was said to cover 21 hectares, a similar size to today, although how much of this was planted to vines is not known.