From the plateau of Saint-Julien, one can spot Château Talbot in the distance in the midst of an ocean of vines, parks and tall trees.The estate has a rich history. Its name originates with Connétable Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, governor of Guyenne as well as being a famous English military commander, who was defeated at the battle of Castillon in 1453. In 1855, at the time of the Médoc and Graves growth classifications ordered by Emperor Napoleon III, Château Talbot was promoted as a fourth classified growth of Saint-Julien. For several decades it belonged to the Marquis of Aux and was the purchased in 1918 by Désiré Cordier.
At the dawn of the 20th century, Désiré Cordier confided in the pages of one of his notebooks, probably the most valuable advice that a man who loves the land and vines can give to his children and future generations: “As a simple wine grower who is passionately attached to his vines, it pleases me to convey the efforts undergone to obtain these essentially natural and famous wines, whose perfection and health benefits are a subject of legitimate pride to all of us. It is a well known fact: to be and to remain the owner of a well respected vineyard, one must be endowed with a real aristocracy that identifies itself with the vineyard and the wine. Everything must be sacrificed for this, beginning with interests (…). In order to be a grand cru owner, you must in some way be in love with it… ”His son Georges and then his grandson, Jean, succeeded him as the head of the estate. Under their guidance, Talbot became one of the most famous growths in the Bordeaux region.Following the death of Jean Cordier, his daughters Lorraine and Nancy, took over the reins of Talbot. Enriched with the still vivid memory of knowledge and experience of past generations which preceded them, Lorraine and Nancy worked together to do justice to this Grand Cru with all the talent and respect that it deserved. Today Nancy Bignon Cordier, her husband Jean-Paul, their children Philippine, Marguerite and Gustave Bignon pursue the story of Talbot; a long history which has always united with passion the destiny of a family to that of a vineyard.
The totality of the 110 hectares of the Château Talbot vineyard surrounds the estate house and stretches north, all the way to the border with the Pauillac appellation. Planted on a terroir of fine Gunzian gravels with a core of fossil-rich limestone, which form draining hilltops, one finds a large majority of red vines (105 hectares) and a small acreage of whites (5 hectares).The impeccable management of the vineyard is one of the most irreproachable in the Medoc. The wines, supervised by Nancy Bignon-Cordier, with the valuable advice of enologist Eric Boissenot and consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt, are consistently rich while remaining extremely elegant. The smooth taste and their silky tannins make it possible to drink them young as well as after prolonged aging. With time they develop a delicate, complex aromatic bouquet with tones of cedar and Havana tobacco.
The reds are dominated by the Cabernet Sauvignon variety (66% of the cultivated surface), the variety of choice in the Médoc, particularly in Saint Julien. This variety provides tannic structure and power. With 30% Merlot, the wines become rounder and more suave.To improve this alchemy of varieties and terroirs, the petit-verdot (4%) provides a delicate touch, like spices in fine cuisine. A difficult variety to tame, it can prove an incredible asset in outstanding vintage years. It is particularly pampered at Talbot, as Nancy Bignon-Cordier has a weakness for this enfant terrible.For the whites, the grape variety is composed of 80% Sauvignon and 20% Semillon.
The harvest is performed by hand, with no fewer than 120 cutters. This step, crucial in the making of a great wine, is subject to numerous selective sortings. Initial grape selection is performed by hand on the plant, the second when the grapes arrive at the vat house. Transported in crates, the grapes are then de-stemmed and only the most impeccable berries are then selected by optical sorting, or densitometric Tribaie. This detailed work of craftsmanship and strict plot selection provides the wines with a great aromatic purity and immense precision.
Both wooden and stainless steel vats are used to vinify, which complement each other, and are chosen depending on the plots of the patiently ripened grapes. At Château Talbot, wine combines both the past and the future; respect for tradition and technological evolution live in perfect harmony. The outcome of the combination of techniques, soil and the people who passionately work it, is wines loaded with character, harmonious, complex with the promise of beneficial longevity.
Unique in its conception and built to near perfection, Château Talbot’s new cellar, designed by Bordeaux architects Nairac and Vacheyrout, is certainly one of the most original. Finished in 2012, the cellar will surely earn itself a place among the greatest examples of wine architecture in Bordeaux, through its scale and designIt covers 1,500 square meters and stylistically, the interior can be interpreted in two ways. It is, at once, a gigantic forest of tens of concrete trees that link the floor to the seven-meter high ceiling. Each tree is made up of four pillars that form one mass at the base but open out as they rise, like a hand reaching to the sky and opening its fingers to support the caisson or spider web ceiling. On another level, the design resembles a vine plant pruned in the old gobelet style. The walls, for example, are lined with a thin layer of aluminum – a soft, shiny glaze that bathes the cellar in light and gives it depth. Striking to look at, it also hides the machinery that (silently) operates the energy and temperature control systems. No fewer than 1,800 barrels are lined up in the cool, dimly lit cellar, maintained at 17°C, where the wine matures for 18 months. The choice of cooper, the length of aging in wood and the pace of racking vary, depending on the style and evolution of the various lots. Regular tasting of the wines determines these choices.
After the grape harvest, this is the most delicate operation. It requires a great sensitivity, a knowledge of the vineyard to understand the future evolution of the new wine. The blending is orchestrating the symphony of many parameters: grape varieties, parcels, age of vines, barrel type, new or old... With the help of the oenologist Eric Boissenot and the consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt, Nancy and Jean-Paul Bignon, surrounded by their entire team, seek the ultimate authenticity and harmony for the Talbot wines.