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La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs

To the grace of Russian art

Five years ago, the estate La Grace Dieu des Prieurs, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, was bought by Andreï Filatov, a Russian businessman passionate about art and chess. Then entrusted to architect Jean Nouvel to be given a facelift and to Louis Mitjavile to build up a demanding wine. All packaged in Russian paintings.

If the name of the chateau refers to the Cistercian discretion and austerity from the time of penitential prayers to the grace of God, it should now change its epithet and destiny. Disturbing, eclectic, daring, somewhat profane ... that is what now characterizes this small property of 9 hectares where the Russian flag flies. The new vinification cellar, circular, is probably the most surprising: on the ground, a psychedelic anamorphosis whose reflection in the stainless steel vats reveals the face of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in weightlessness and Bacchus, the new God at Grace Dieu des Prieurs! Outside, a fresco in which the harvesters of the estate are presented in photographs. And under the vathouse, two cellars are inserted into a crypt of glass and concrete, evoking the underground galleries of Saint-Émilion. A metal walkway connects to the belvedere while a glass chapel welcomes the tasters. That is how the architecture of the estate has been requalified. Incredibly fluid and technically irreproachable, combining stone, concrete, glass and metal. On the wine side, Louis Mitjavile, a famous winemaker, is in charge of the supervision of the production. “Everything has been entirely redesigned: the way the nine hectares of vineyards are farmed, in particular by reducing inputs. We have reduced the yields, changed the way of pruning from Guyot to Cordon de Royat to homogenize. We harvest at maturity, we have installed a weather station to be closer to our vineyards. The grapes are sorted on the stocks, destemmed and put directly into the vats. Next year we will be working on our own yeasts. When the vinification is finished, the juices are immediately blended. There is only one type of élevage in a single type of barrel with one type of toasting. Nothing is downgraded. It is the bias, the philosophy. Making only one wine is where we perceive the style, the personality of the property. We are not in search of originality, it is a work that aims for excellence,” says Louis Mitjavile. It was with the 2014 vintage that the new team inaugurated the new destiny of La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs, in a packaging far from traditional codes. The bottles take on the form of the first Bordeaux bottles of which Tsar Nicolas was fond, and also include on their label paintings of Russian artists with one of the twelve paintings drawn each year from the collection of the Russian Art Foundation - plus another reserved for magnums. The packaging is clearly for collectors, as are the special cases including a chess game. 30,000 bottles of the Russian Art Collection will be produced on average each year for high-end markets, with a price of €180 to €215 per bottle.

Bénédicte Chapard