Château Trotte Vieille, 1949 – 2019

It is a warm and hazy autumn afternoon in 1948. Three years have now passed since World War II came to an end, and the process of building and reinforcing Europe’s fragile peace is still ongoing. It was only a few months ago that Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom signed the Treaty of Brussels, intended to prevent the cycle of aggression and war in Europe flaring up once more.

France had seen more than its share of the fighting, and it still bore the scars. Recovery is slow. The country lies in a state of economic devastation, with industry, livelihoods and indeed lives destroyed. The weather was not helping; the winter of 1947 had been particularly bitter, and there are food shortages; bread, which had never been in short supply during wartime, had been put on ration in 1946.

Against this backdrop of hardship people are trying to rebuild their lives and businesses. In this vein, a négociant named Marcel Borie and his young son-in-law, Emile Castéja, have struck out for a meeting, to complete on a purchase of wine. In their company is a gentleman named Déjean, a local broker. Déjean is something of a character; dressed in the style of a dandy, he was once described by the author Bernard Ginestet as having “the finest waxed moustache in the department”.

Château Trotte Vieille

On their way up to Château Troplong-Mondot, presumably for an appointment with Alexandre Valette who had acquired said property in 1936, they pass by the forlorn frame of Château Trotte Vieille. This property seems to carry the weight of the war on its shoulders; the facilities lie in a state of near-dereliction, and the majority of the vineyard is divided between a number of inheritors none of whom seem remotely interested in taking the property in hand. They are perhaps more concerned with getting their hands on their daily bread than with rescuing this white elephant.

It is a sorry sight.

In the yard in front of the cellars, the three travellers espy a worker, cleaning barrels. Having struck up a conversation with him, the trio come away with a small prize; two flacons of the 1947 vintage, recently bottled. After concluding their business at Château Troplong-Mondot they head for a local inn to take their lunch; inside Borie pulls the cork from the first of the two bottles, and finds the wine to be uncommonly good. He enquires of Déjean if Château Trotte Vieille might be for sale. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its condition, it turns out that it is.

And so Château Trotte Vieille comes into the hands of Marcel Borie, whose descendants still run the estate today. And having driven and even walked past the estate many times over the past twenty years, I have sometimes wondered if the cellars, next to the rather bijou château, are not the exact-same facilities that Borie, Castéja and Déjean called upon all those years ago. They are far from derelict, of course, but they always had a certain drab and weather-beaten air to them. As if they had come through a war, and seen little care since. Which is, perhaps, at least partly true.

Although there is certainly nothing drab about these newly refurbished cellars today.

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