Along the length and breadth of the Haut-Médoc appellation, pockets of gravel give vignerons hope, and ultimately wine drinkers joy. During the centuries that have passed since the first vines were planted to the north of Bordeaux, this gravel has been mapped and rigorously remapped, with geological surveys delineating where one bed of gravel gives way to the next, and where that second bed gives way to the Médocian marshes, remnants of the mosquito-infested marshland that dominated the landscape here four or more centuries ago. Today, we all know (or we should know) where these gravels, and these pockets of hope, can be found.
Some of these gravelly Haut-Médoc vineyards lie in obvious places, circling the more prestigious appellations of Pauillac and St Julien, or in the stretch of land between Margaux to the south, and St Julien to the north, while others are scattered in a seemingly more random and disparate fashion. They all have some features in common though, in particular the fact that, for the most part (all but five such vineyards in fact), they are excluded from the 1855 classification. This, in combination with the less prestigious Haut-Médoc appellation, is an inherent disadvantage when it comes to marketing and pricing their wines. Which of course makes these ‘orphaned’ gravelly vineyards good hunting grounds for drinkers, while being of little interest to investors.
The land around Lamarque, a gravel bed which lies in that stretch of land between Margaux and St Julien, is particularly interesting in this respect. This mound of gravel is defined by the Estey de Tayac (to the south) and the Jalle de Cartillon (to the north), two drainage channels that run down to the Gironde and which have over many years whittled away the gravel, leaving Lamarque sitting on an isolated mound. At the gravel bed’s highest point sits one of the Haut-Médoc appellation’s most notable domaines, Château Malescasse.