Château Gruaud Larose, Saint Julien, France

The barrels are painted with wine since drops inevitably spill during sampling and fining.

The barrels are painted with wine since drops inevitably spill during sampling and fining.

I’d never tried a Gruaud, but during research this château came up a few times as producing solid, well-regarded wines. That sounded good, then I discovered that it is an organic winery, which set it apart in this region where production is steeped in tradition.

Cement vats

Cement vats

The tower

The tower

Our tour group had eight people, and we received a thorough overview of the winery and the production. We climbed to the top of the tower, which overlooked the vineyards, the employees’ houses and the neighboring areas.

Steel vats

Steel vats

This is a relatively small vineyard (80 hectares) with gravel soil, which makes it ideal for grape-growing. Its perch on the commune’s highest plateau exposes it to constant wind, and the adjacent tree-filled marsh helps with drainage.

View from the tower

View from the tower

The 300-year-old château has some impressive, modern touches to ward off pests.

Instead of using pesticides, capsules with female butterfly pheromones are interspersed among the vines. Male butterflies not only pick up the mating signals, but are inundated by them, causing such confusion that the male butterflies flee. Since there is no mating, no pesky grape worms are born.

Another ingenious contraption is a machine that breaks up hale, the great enemy of vineyards. Apparently, you can control the weather. The machine identifies via radar any impending hale and emits a signal that breaks it up before it can damage the plants. Understandably, the neighbors are also big fans of this device. I was too far away to get a good shot of the machine.

The tasting

The tasting

Of course, the visit culminated with a tasting. We sampled two wines. We bought a few bottles and our tour fee was applied to the total, which is always nice.

This visit lasted two hours and cost €15/person.

Château Gruaud Larose 33250 Saint Julien Beychevelle

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