The history of Sauternes began at the 17th century, with the very influential Dutch traders. Very fond of white wines, they favored their production and encouraged the winegrowers to improve the quality of the wines. But the arrival of Sauternes wines in the courts of Europe during the nineteenth century, gave nobility to Sauternes. Then the gourmets, especially the great gourmet Brillat-Savarin, who raised the Sauternes as a key element of the refinement of French cuisine, by combining it to the pleasure of fine food. In this way, Sauternes has gradually become indispensable during festive meals.
A legendary wine
The success of Sauternes has not been made in a day, and many legends illustrate its history.
Robert has often told his grandchildren the following legend: “In the autumn of 1847, the Marquis of Lur-Saluces, owner of Yquem, was invited by the Tsar of Russia to a hunting party, and ordered his employees not to harvest in his absence. But the hunting party dragged on, and on his way back, he realized with horror that the whole vineyard was affected by rot. In spite of this sad fact, he decided to harvest these wilted grapes by Botrytis. To everyone’s surprise, the result was exceptional: an extraordinary sweet wine with a great aromatic richness. ” This is how Sauternes was born, fruit of providence …
A vineyard of terroirs
The Sauternes appellation is located 40 km South of Bordeaux, between the left bank of the Garonne and the Landes forest. The vineyard covers about 2200 hectares spread over five communes that follow the Ciron, a small river that flows slowly in the Garonne. On the right bank the communes of Preignac, Fargues, Sauternes and Bommes, constitute the Sauternes appellation. On the left bank, Barsac, is a singular commune because of the nature of its soils.
A special situation
This appellation, with its very particular situation, benefits from a pleasant ocean micro-climate: winter is cool and rainy, spring is mild and wet, but sometimes affected by late frosts. Then, hot summer days and cool nights allow the grapes to mature gradually. But autumn actually reveals the microclimate of Sauternes. The Ciron valley creates thick morning mists which, blocked by the forest of the Landes, spread on the vineyard and enable the emergence of Botrytis Cinerea on the grapes. Then, when the morning ends, under the influence of the sun, the sky and the fog clear, the air gets warmer and the precious noble rot can develops.
The Noble rot, miracle of Mother Nature
In this particular situation, the Botrytis, fond of water and heat, attacks the grape skin. A disruptive but extraordinary veil appears on the drying out berries. Over time, its flesh gets more and more concentrated in sugar, and candied fruit aromas appears, characteristic of Sauternes wines.
Feared everywhere else, rot is providential in Sauternes, and brings an amazing aromatic explosion, gives richness to the wine, and strengthens the acidity.
Nevertheless, noble rot causes low, random productions, and a more difficult vine growing. Indeed, according to the vintage, Botrytis Cinerea can offer us this wonderful noble rot, as well as a gray rot that need to be eliminated. More than anywhere else, meteorological influence and work in symbiosis with nature are important, especially during the harvest period.
Excess or lack of water can disrupt the proper development of botrytis. Excessive moisture does not allow evaporation. In this case, Botrytis can deviate into ” gray rot ”. It is then undesirable for the grape, spoils it, and gives unpleasant aromas to the wine.
On the other hand, a too dry vintage does not allow the development of noble rot. Fortunately, nature often does things well.
showered with medals
Since 1964, Château Haut-Bergeron has recorded no less than 118 medals, including 68 gold medals, which makes it the most rewarded winery of Sauternes.
The role of women during the war
The role of the spouses has always been important alongside the winemakers, but it became a determining factor during the successive wars. This is the case of Fernande Lamothe who assured all the difficult tasks in the vineyard for several years while her husband Gaston and his employee Adrien, had been called to fight in 1939.
1942 and 1945 were two beautiful vintages.
Jean Paul Kauffman
During his 3-years detention in Lebanon, the journalist writer Jean-Paul Kauffman said that he often used to dream of good wines and among others a certain Haut-Bergeron. In his book ” Voyage à Bordeaux ” he wrote after his release, he talks about our estate and its owner ” The excellent Robert Lamothe ” …
The child of the house
Adrien Lafabrie was a 12-year-old boy born in 1919 in a modest family, when our family welcomed him. Imprisoned during the war at age 19 for 5 years, when he was released, he returned to the farm and fell in love with Germaine, an employee of the Château. Together, they got married at Haut-Bergeron, and lived not far from the winery. For more than 50 years, Adrien and Germaine worked tirelessly for Haut-Bergeron. When he died, Adrien went to join eternity while drinking a bottle of Haut-Bergeron.
Gratifying for Haut Bergeron but dishonest
For a few years, an unscrupulous wine merchant was coming to buy Haut-Bergeron in order to sell them. It was working very well : indeed, he was dressing our bottles with labels, capsules and caps of one of the most famous Chateau of the appellation! An effective way to make a good living, but fortunately, justice has quickly solved this problem.
In 9, great vintages
Did you know ?
For Château Haut-Bergeron, almost all years in 9 are exceptional years!
1929, 1949, 1959, 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, 2009.
Some years deprived of Château Haut-Bergeron
In viticulture and especially in Sauternes, Mother Nature reigns. We often had the opportunity to check this fact : the years 1927, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1941, 1944, 1951, 1954, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1965, 1974, and 1993 were deprived us of Bergeron (or very few bottles on certain vintages).
In order to unify the vineyard and facilitate the work of viticulture, we have made in recent years an exchange of parcels of equivalent quality with our illustrious neighbor Yquem. A 60-ares plot ares that we cherish preciously
Robert, an exceptional man
Robert Lamothe has been one of the main actors in the dynamics of Haut-Bergeron during the last 50 years. But his role in the profession and interprofession was also decisive. The highest responsibilities at the Syndicat and at the Maison du Sauternes, his involvement with the CIVB, the INAO and the FDGVB were hailed in December 2005 by the Chevalier medal and then the Commander of the Mérite Agricole, awarded by the minister of the agriculture of the time.
Our “old ladies”
Following the catastrophic episode of Phylloxera, some rows of vines have fortunately survived. These vines, we call “our old ladies”, are today more than 100 years old ! Guarantors of the past, we pay them special attention, and their grapes, collected with the greatest care, have been dedicated to a special cuvée since 1996. The vines are 100% Sémillon and they are the great pride of the Château. Surprisingly fresh, precise and balanced, endowed with a wide aromatic palette and an endless length, this exceptional nectar with a honeyed taste will make you feel like you are a bee the time of a tasting.
A plot of exception
In 1990, the property expanded thanks to the purchase of a plot located between the two branches of Ciron. It’s a small island !
Unique in Sauternes ! Ideally located, this plot benefits from a prodigious development of noble rot !