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Château La Tour Blanche

Château La Tour Blanche

The origins of Château La Tour Blanche are somewhat mysterious. Records indicate it has been in existence since at least the 18th century, although the seigneurie of La Tour Blanche predates this by several hundred years. It was a seigneurie that rested in noble hands, as during the 17th century Jean Saint-Marc, seigneur of La Tour Blanche, was the trésorier général for Guyenne.

During the centuries that followed the land and estates came to Jean-Alphonse de Saint-Marc (died 1730), who bequeathed it to his son, Jean-François de Saint-Marc de Razeins (1691 – 1784). There is a small two-storey château on the property, now dwarfed by more recent additions to the estate, possibly inhabited by this noble family, but sadly there are no records to inform us of when this house was erected, nor who was responsible. It is only during the 19th century that the story of Château La Tour Blanche begins to really take shape, beginning with Pierre Pécherie, and then Frédéric Focke.

Focke ‘Discovers’ Noble Rot

With the Revolution the property passed into public ownership as a bien national, after which it was sold to Pierre Pécherie. He made no particular mark on the estate, and he subsequently sold it on, this time to Frédéric Focke (1768 – 1855). Focke, a négociant, bought the estate and its 20 hectares of vines from Pécherie in 1815. Focke was of German origin, and has been credited by some with being responsible for the introduction of sweet wine production to the region, naturally based on his experiences with the great sweet wines of the Rhine. This is of course an erroneous belief, as it is widely accepted by acolytes of Sauternes that the sweet benefits of botrytis were already well known by the 19th century, and examples of 18th-century Château d’Yquem – predating Focke’s miraculous ‘discovery’ by more than a hundred years – provide good evidence of this. It is, however, widely accepted that Focke planted some Riesling, alongside the Semillon, in his new vineyard.

Château La Tour Blanche

Nevertheless, although we must cast doubt upon Focke’s role in the development of Sauternes as a whole, he did play a major part in the history of Château La Tour Blanche, and he was probably responsible for the estate’s high ranking in the 1855 classification of Sauternes and Barsac, when it was placed at the top of all the premiers crus, and thus immediately behind the sole premier cru supérieur Château d’Yquem. This status would seem to suggest La Tour Blanche is capable of great things, and we should perhaps expect the estate today to be turning out wines on the same quality level as Château Climens, Château Coutet, Château Rieussec or Château Suduiraut. Although the modern wines are of high quality, I think few would rank them so highly; was the estate over-rated in the mid-19th century, perhaps? Or is it just not performing as it could today?

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