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Château Ripeau

Edmond’s anvil watches over Ripeau

New labels, cultural revolutions, new setting: the new owners want to propel the wines of Château Ripeau into the future and at the top of the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé appellation. The Grégoire family, under the protection of the anvil, now presides over the destiny of the estate.

Paolo Basso et Julien Salles

The Grégoire family never separates from its anvil, present today in the square tower of the estate, an amazing architectural building that overlooks Cheval Blanc's wave and Jean Faure's organic vineyards. It became the coat of arms of a family whose path was forged on values of determination and tenacity. It belonged to the grandfather Edmond Grégoire who was a farrier, native from Charente, who founded the Grégoire company, then to his son James who turned the small family business into the world's leading manufacturer of harvesting machines. After the sale of the company in 2000, James acquired Château de La Rivière (AOC Fronsac). In 2013, the day after the sale of Château de la Rivière, James Grégoire was carried off by a tragic accident. He wanted to invest in a more prestigious property and unfortunately did not have time to witness the acquisition of Château Ripeau by his sons. Today Cyrille and Nicolas Grégoire and their wives are at the control of this area of 16 hectares in one piece, next to the largest. Julien Salles, assisted by enologist Claude Gros, is responsible for awakening this sleeping beauty on blue clays, the treasure of Pétrus.

New setting and cultural revolution are programmed. Soil analysis, restructuring of the vineyard, 40,000 feet replanted with a new density, drainage of the plots, new type of pruning to guide the flow of sap, and new technical orientation in the respect for man and the environment. The horse replaces weedkillers, mating disruption the insecticides and biocontrol products the fungicides. Not to mention the installation of a weather station on the property to help define precisely the dates of treatment. This management system is integrated into the Environmental Management System (EMS) of the Bordeaux Wine Interprofessional Body to obtain the ISO14001 certification.

In the cellar, same requirement according to the philosophy “a tank, a plot”. Ultra selective sorting now allows the harvesting of “caviar”, crushed directly above small inverted truncated vats (72 hl, 62 hl and 52 hl), used to allow a better aromatic preservation thanks to a softer and more delicate extraction. Each tank, equipped with a double thermoregulation system, allows precise and controlled work at all stages of the wine making process. For the rest, malolactic fermentations are undertaken in barrels of different sizes and types of toasting. “Each bottle is numbered, engraved and sold by the Bordeaux trade half in France and export markets. We are positioned on a luxury market. The bottles are presented in silk paper,” says Julien Salles. The estate is divided into 2 cuvées: Château Ripeau with 35,000 bottles (38 euros ex cellar for the 2016) and 25,000 bottles for Tour de Ripeau (about 18 euros), with a nuance on the 2017 since 80% of the crop froze. “We are at the beginning of the story,” says Julien Salles. The Grégoire saga is just beginning in the land of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé.

Bénédicte Chapard