Pessac Léognan Wines
Pessac Léognan was created in 1987 as a break away from Graves and is centred around the villages of Pessac, Talence and Léognan. This is the reason why châteaux such as Smith Haut Lafitte and Carbonnieux still bear the title of Grand Cru Classé du Graves though they now lie within the Pessac Léognan area. Pessac Léognan is north of Graves and its vineyards cover 3,300 acres. It produces superb wines and contains many of the top châteaux. In fact Pessac Léognan is home to the only Graves château listed as a first growth in the 1855 Médoc classification – Château Haut Brion. Most of the wines it produces are red but Pessac Léognan is also known for producing some of the finest dry white wines of Bordeaux. The famous clairets (Bordeaux's own rosé) were first made here. It is also Bordeaux's most urban wine area - part of it is surrounded by the campus of Bordeaux University.
Terroir and Grapes
Pessac Léognan has an exclusive terroir which is based on gravel ridges (Graves takes its name from the gravel it lies upon). The soil also has distinctive tiny white quartz pebbles that are found in all the best vineyards. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay. The climate is milder than to the north of the city and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. Grapes grown are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot for the reds and Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc (which must be at least 25% of the blend) for the whites.
Red wines from Pessac Léognan have a powerful bouquet. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. The whites have aromas of orange blossom, boxwood and passion fruits. The sparkling quartz gravel imparts a minerally, smoky, earthiness to the wine. The white wines are well structured and age well, as do the reds.
Famous Chateaux and Recommended Wines
Chateau Haut Brion
Château La Mission Haut Brion
Château Haut Bailly
Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Château Pape Clement
Château Haut Bailly is located along the Left Bank of the River Garonne in the commune of Léognan. It's neighbours are Châteaux La Louviere and Carbonnieux. In 1872, Alcide Bellot des Minières, purchased the estate of Haut Bailly on the advice of Cardinal Bonnet, Archbishop of Bordeaux. A man with a passionate interest in using scientific methods to improve viticulture, des Minières was a legendary figure, known to his contemporaries as “King of Wines”. Des Minières was much opposed to grafting his French vines onto phylloxera-resistant American root stocks – something that was being done in most other Bordeaux vineyards. He believed this would result in wines of lesser quality, and although some American graft stock was later planted, Haut Bailly still has 15% of its old vines dating from the pre-phylloxera period. Thanks to his drive, huge energy, and meticulous attention to scientific detail, prices for Haut Bailly rose to a level similar to those of the Bordeaux First Growths – Châteaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux, and Haut Brion. Today Haut Bailly is owned by Robert and Elizabeth Wilmers who have restored the château and invested in new wine making equipment. Château Haut Bailly is one of the most respected vineyards of Bordeaux.