One of the most promising vineyard sites in the entire St Emilion appellation lies just to the southeast of the town where, on the edge of the St Christophe plateau, we find a beautiful south-facing slope of limestone and clay. Although this slope continues on to the east for some distance, and there are in fact many châteaux taking advantage of it, this first section nearest the town is completely dominated by Château Pavie. This is of course the Côte de Pavie, and the château of the same name, so recently refurbished by proprietor Gérard Perse, sits proud in the mid-slope position, a glittering icon of marble and gilt, an island in a surging sea of green vines.
So dramatic is the new Château Pavie it is all too easy to overlook the diminutive and rather pretty ‘doll’s house’ château that sits just above it, on the edge of the plateau, looking down upon its more prestigious neighbour. But this domaine is surely worthy of our attention, as everything about it suggests it should have a great reputation. To start with, it has this coveted position on the limestone plateau, similar to that enjoyed by some of the greatest names of the appellation, such as Château Ausone or Château Belair-Monange, which are not that far away; if you follow the contours of the Côte de Pavie round towards the town these two châteaux soon come into view, on the opposite side of the valley. It is also much smaller than Château Pavie, so the vineyard would be amenable to micro-management, perhaps akin to the work at Le Dôme or Château Lafleur, where vineyards are tended as if they are gardens. Lastly, since 1997 this little estate has been in the hands of a very wealthy proprietor, one who has the financial ability to invest in this domaine. And the identity of this proprietor? It is of course Gérard Perse again, the proprietor of not one but both of these Côte de Pavie domaines.
Indeed, there has been much investment here during the past few years, the château (pictured above) having had a make-over and the adjacent chai being completely refurbished. The wines, however, remain firmly overshadowed by those of Château Pavie, both in terms of quality and also price (although these are still very expensive bottles). This may therefore be a domaine worth considering by those who like the Perse style, and whose bank balance doesn’t quite stretch to the cost of a bottle of Pavie. This profile looks in detail at the wines of this estate, backed up by my own opinions and tasting notes, but as usual I start with some history.