Château Pape Clément, Pessac, France

The château

The château

One thing I’ve learned after visiting a few wine regions in France is that popes really liked wine.

Designed by Gustave Eiffel

Outbuilding designed by Gustave Eiffel

Château Pape Clément was Clement V’s love. The vineyard was given to him as a gift when he was appointed Archbishop of Bordeaux. It was an ideal grant since the pope (well, back then he was known by his civilian name, Raymond Bertrand de Goth) became deeply involved in overseeing and managing the property and the resulting wine.

Keeping watch over the vats

Keeping watch over the vats

In 1305, de Goth became Pope Clement V. He continued working at the vineyard until 1309, when he was forced to prioritize his papal duties.

On the racks

On the racks

Eventually, Clement V donated the estate to the Church of Bordeaux, who successfully ran it for five centuries. In the late-18th century, however, the vineyard fell into public domain and to a subsequent string of private owners.

Traditional vats, with catwalk and the mixing sticks

Traditional vats, with catwalk and the mixing sticks

The current owner, Bernard Magrez, has run the estate since the 1980’s and has perfected the Grand Cru Classé while adhering to the traditional methods.

Above the vats

Above the vats

At harvest time, hundreds of people are hired to pick and sort the grapes by hand. A few skilled men take very short shifts in harnesses, stirring the lees and (I’m being serious here) trying not to die of asphyxiation. The men are harnessed because they can only survive for a few precious seconds if they fall into the vat. Luckily, there has not been an accident in modern times.

In the cellar

In the cellar

We attended the “Visite du Connaisseur de Vins” for €20/person. The château offers a suite of visits, including lunch with the winemakers.

Tasting room

Tasting room

216 avenue du Docteur Nancel Pénard-BP 164
33 607 Pessac

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