The history of Château Sigalas-Rabaud may be traced as far back as 1660, when the estate was under the ownership of the de Cazeau family, who held tenure here for over 150 years before the property was sold. From then onwards, the Sigalas-Rabaud story has been one of division, functional if not complete reunion, expansion and then division once again, eventually giving rise to the properties that we know today as Château Sigalas-Rabaud. This division also led to the birth of Château Rabaud-Promis, which lies adjacent to Château Sigalas-Rabaud atop a small rise in the Sauternes landscape, just around the corner from Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey. I can’t help feeling, on looking at the two properties, that Rabaud-Promis came off slightly better in terms of the grandeur of its château but, as we all know, its the quality of the soils, the skill of the vineyard manager and the technical director, and of course the ultimate quality of the wine that really matters. And as far as quality goes, in recent years Sigalas-Rabaud has certainly been in the ascendant.
The Rabaud and Sigalas Families
Château Rabaud (the spelling could vary, with Rabeau being one alternative) began life with the Rabeau family, but when Madame Peyronne de Rabeau married Antoine de Cazeau in 1660 the estate came to him as part of her dowry. The property remained in the hands of its new owners through several generations, the family overseeing the construction of a château, in a low-lying chartreuse style, designed and built by the renowned architect Victor Louis (1731 – 1800), sometime around 1780. This château would eventually be the modern-day Château Sigalas-Rabaud.
During the French Revolution the proprietor Guillaume-Joseph de Cazeau fled, only returning once the Terreur had ended. The property was ultimately sold in 1819 by Pierre-Hubert de Cazeau, mayor of Bommes. The new owner was Gabriel Deyne (died 1869). Deyne (here again there are alternative spellings, including Deyme and Deymes) must have worked to maintain the quality of the wine he produced, as under his tenure the property was ranked as premier cru in the 1855 classification of Sauternes, when it was listed as Château Rabeaud. (the name has clearly evolved as the centuries have passed).
The first Sigalas comes into the story in 1863, when Deyne sold the estate, now amounting to about 50 hectares, to Henri Drouilhet de Sigalas (1814 – 1894). From this point on the name appeared on the label, although as Château Rabaud de Sigalas, of Bommes (remember, this is before the appellation contrôlée system was introduced in the 20th century), rather than Château Sigalas-Rabaud. During Henri ‘s tenure he also purchased Château Peixotto, a 10-hectare property classed as a deuxième cru which was purchased from its proprietor Alfred Ribet in 1872. This new vineyard was absorbed into the Rabaud holdings, Château Rabaud somehow maintaining its premier cru status despite the inclusion of these lesser vineyards. As many around Sauternes, Bommes, Fargues, Barsac and Preignac are only too happy to tell you, the Médoc 1855 classification was based on price, but the Sauternes 1855 classification was based on terroir. In this event, however, the system seems to have broken down.