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Over the centuries

photo du CHATEAU

Dating from 1648, Château Bel Air is one of the oldest properties in the famous Saint-Croix-du-Mont appellation. Indeed the Meric family has worked this generous land for over ten generations. The property was formerly called Vilatte which is one of the oldest known neighborhoods of the town.

Without needing to mention the ancient tribes which occupied the region in former times, we know that the Romans occupied an area which corresponds roughly to the Bordeaux region of today, building villas and introducing the vine, until then cultivated in Narbonne and Italy.

Following this period of colonization which lasted until the second century AD, this rich land soon became the object of envy and rivalry. It was subjected to countless conquests and invasions for centuries. In the XII century, Aquitaine was lost to the English crown when Eleanor of Aquitaine divorced Louis VII and brought her duchy as her dowry to the king of England, her new husband Henry Plantaganet. Aquitaine remained under English rule until the middle of the XV century. Part of this immense duchy, the land of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, which is located in what is called the Entre Deux Mers, was already known for the excellent wines produced on its slopes and hills that were particularly popular with the English. In order to protect themselves from French incursions a fortress named the Château de Tastes was built.

This castle enabled the monitoring and protection of goods being shipped along the Garonne. From 1316 to 1342, the King of England granted various privileges and franchises on the sale of wine within the "jurisdiction of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont." Thus enjoying a greater degree of autonomy, commerce developed of which the wine trade played a major part. But this prosperous period was punctuated by the constant extortions by the French which marked the gradual regaining of the kingdom to which Aquitaine was finally reinstated in 1453. The wine industry continued to flourish in the period that followed, according to writings of the XVI century. Henri IV called on Dutch expertise to drain the marshlands and other fellow countrymen were quick to follow these pioneers. Interested in the production of white wine which was the basis for preparing their national liquor, they first exported it and then planted vineyards themselves. It was they who introduced the new technique: the sulfur treatment. This involves burning a wick impregnated with sulfur inside the barrel. This stops fermentation while allowing residual sugars to be retained.

In the seventeenth century, Bordeaux belonged mainly to the parliamentary bourgeoisie or rich merchants who had "houses in the fields" built for themselves in this attractive area, surrounded by vineyards, both for rural leisure purposes and as winegrowing properties. According to legend, a knight returned to his vineyard from a crusade, to discover the benefits of noble rot on grapes, but there is no precise date to tell when exactly this took place. We onle know that at the time it was usual to harvest very late, resulting in a very rich wine requiring several years ageing in barrel.

This brings us to the second part of the nineteenth century when the vineyards of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont were hit by a phylloxera epidemic. This had a devastating effect on many vineyards in France. Fortunately measures were taken to limit the amount of damage done. The wine trade was maintained and wine was continued to be shipped by river. Today the wines of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont are still as popular as ever and with the help of interprofessional organisations which through their various activities ensure their promotion, the appellation remains protected.

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