Château La Tour Carnet

The appellation system is an inconsistent master. Sometimes it speaks with authority and consideration, carving out vineyards in meticulous detail. And in the same vein it can also be open and receptive, amenable to change. The vineyards of Burgundy are the most obvious example, grand cru separated from premier cru by invisible barriers which sometimes take the easy route, coursing down roads and paths, but sometimes they cut right across vineyards, rows of vines on one side enjoying elevated grand cru status, taking all the limelight, casting a long shadow over the ‘mere’ premier cru also-rans next-door. These also-rans can, of course, apply for promotion to grand cru status; it will most likely be a long and weary process, but there is a precedent for promotion in place. It can be done.

Château La Tour Carnet

Elsewhere, however, the appellation system makes no sense, boundaries drawn in the most lazy fashion. More often than not this reflects the communal approach, when eligibility for an appellation is based on where one commune ends, and another begins. While this is administratively simple, it can often bear no relation to terroir or the potential of the domaine in question. Just to the west of the commune of St-Julien-Beychevelle, in St-Laurent-Médoc, is one of Bordeaux’s best examples of just such a distinction. To the east of the boundary lie the vineyards of St Julien, specifically those of Château Lagrange. To the west we have the Haut-Médoc appellation, and here we find clustered together Château Belgrave, Château Camensac and Château La Tour-Carnet. It is the same sandy gravel on both sides of the boundary, and these châteaux are St Julien in all but name. And they are worth knowing about.

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