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Chateau Talbot Invests to the Future

Jean-Paul BIGNON lives at Chateau Talbot surrounded by the vines. The estate is both a winery and a family home.

Nancy BIGNON-CORDIER is proprietor of Chateau Talbot. Her great-grandfather, Desire CORDIER had purchased the Saint-Julien Fourth Growth in 1917.

Story & Photos By Ch'ng Poh Tiong

"The name comes from an English military commander (Connetable John TALBOT, Governor of Guyenne Province and Earl of Shrewsbury), who fought at the Battle of Castillon where the English were defeated and Aquitaine became French again after 300 years, " informed Jean-Paul BIGNON.

The whole of Aquitaine, including Bordeaux of course, had become English following the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II in 1152. That is one of the reasons why the English, and then the British, have always had such a connection with the wines of Bordeaux, even after the Battle of Castillon in 1453.

Interestingly also, the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II produced Richard I (their third son), King of England, nicknamed 'Coeur de Lion' or 'Richard the Lionheart'.

As for John Talbot, there is no evidence that he had actually owned the wine estate named after him. In fact, no one seems to know how it got its name.

The name 'Talbot' had already appeared on maps in the 18th century. During that time and the 19th century, it was owned by a French aristocrat, the Marquis d'Aux de Lescout. Accordingly, the estate was called Chateau Talbot d'Aux and was classified as a Fourth Growth under the 1855 Medoc Classification.

Then followed a short change of ownership until 1917 when it was purchased by Desire CORDIER who, in that same year, also bought Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey in Sauternes. (In 1984 Lafaurie-Peyraguey was sold to a French multi-national company named the Suez Group).

Earlier in 1915, Cordier had also already acquired nearby Second Growth Chateau Gruaud-Larose, also in the commune of Saint-Julien. Actually, Gruaud-Larose had been spilt up into two separate properties and Desire Cordier had first to purchase one part in 1915 and the other in 1935, finally re-uniting the historic estate, a tribute to his lasting legacy.

Chateau Talbot was managed by Desire Cordier's son Georges, who later passed it down to his own son Jean CORDIER. The latter died in 1993 and the estate then went to his daughters Lorraine and Nancy.

The sisters put together a team and oversaw Chateau Talbot for more than 15 years. In the spring of 2011, sadly, the untimely passing of Lorraine CORDIER was announced.

Today, sister Nancy BIGNON-CORDIER and her husband, Jean-Paul BIGNON, live at, and oversees, the Saint-Julien estate.

Chateau Talbot, at 107 hectares, is a sizeable estate. The vineyard surrounds the chateau and stretch north, all the way to the border with Pauillac.

Although red wine dominates (102 hectares), a white called Caillou Blanc is also produced. Because the Saint-Julien appellation is only reserved for red, the white wine of Chateau Talbot is just AOC Bordeaux.

"My grandfather loved white wines and was one of the first to replant white wine in the Medoc. With a majority of Sauvignon, and a hint of Semillon, Caillou Blanc is raised in the manner of a Burgundy. The wine is very aromatic and has a lively personality, " informed Nancy Bignon-Cordier.

The vineyard plantings are to Cabernet Sauvignon (66%), Merlot (26%), and Petit Verdot (8%) for the red; and, Sauvignon Blanc (75%) and Semillon (25%) for the white. The average age of the vines is 43 years. The soil is made up of fine Gunzian gravels and fossil-rich limestone which are ideal for drainage. Harvesting is by hand and given the size of 107 hectares of vineyard, no fewer than 180 harvesters are needed.

Vinification is in wooden vats and stainless steel tanks. The different plots in the vineyards are fermented separately and following fermentation, Chateau Talbot is aged in about 50 to 60% new oak from eight different coopers for an average 14 months. Depending on the vintage, the grand vin will make up 50 to 60% of total production. A second wine, which first appeared in the 1960s, is also produced. This is called Connetable Talbot.

The eminent Jacques BOISSENOT and Stephane DERENONCOURT are consultants.

Chateau Talbot is constructing a new ageing facility which can store no less than 1500 barrels. Expected to be completed in 2013, it will be one of Bordeaux's most stunning above ground cellars.

As for the wine, Chateau Talbot strives for richness, elegance and complexity in the same glass. While approachable relatively young because of the silky fine tannins, the wine also possesses ageing capability.

All Rights Reserved · The Wine Review · 2013