The Caves and Entrepots de Moulis (Moulis Cellars and Warehouses) were built in 1871 in the heart of the Upper Médoc, next to the Moulis railway station. At the time, the owners were the Petit-Laroche family, 19th-century wine merchants, whose head office was located 104 cours Saint-Louis in Bordeaux.
The family chose the location near the station because horse-drawn carriages had only a short distance to cover to load their wines on trains travelling to destinations throughout Europe. As Messrs Petit Laroche put it at the time: “The purpose of the Entrepôts de Moulis Company is to market, both in Bordeaux and abroad, Médoc wines stored in cellars built by the company opposite Moulis station, a central location between Margaux, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe”.
The magnificent freestone building originally covered 3,000 m². It was built “with painstaking care and all the perfecting conducive to excellent cellaring of wines. A vast corridor or wall walk goes around the building and access to the cellars is only through side doors preceded by other doors referred to as windbreaks. Chimneys closing by means of sliding blocks are installed in each compartment to facilitate the evaporation of gases.” These huge cellars for the time housed a 180,000-litre vat room, 9,000 barrels and 300,000 bottles.
In 1875, the year of his marriage, J. Petit-Laroche offered his wife the construction of a fine residence opposite his Médoc cellars as a wedding gift. The work was done by the Marian brothers, contractors in Moulis, and the result was the Chateau as we know it today.
The Chateau is a bold and unusual architectural combination that appears to blend several styles, in the same way as Médoc wines are crafted from a blend of several grape varieties. The profuse decor, reminiscent not only of the Renaissance, but also of the middle and end of the 17th century, make the building an excellent example of the eclectic architecture found in the Médoc at the end of the 19th century, before the crises suffered by the vineyards in later years (grape phylloxera, downy mildew,… for more information, click on Phylloxera or mildew).
The Chateau Maucaillou building is listed in the “Bordeaux Châteaux” inventory collection.
At the same time, J. Petit-Laroche created a new wine estate in the localities known as “Maucaillou” and “Caubet”, with an area of one and a half hectares, named Chateau Maucaillou.
“Maucaillou” means “mauvais cailloux”, the French for bad stone, as the term was understood by the farmers of the middle ages, given that this type of gravel plot was not suitable for growing cereal, the main source of livelihood at the time. It was later discovered that such gravel outcrops constituted an ideal terroir for highly expressive vineyards.
Such were the beginnings of Maucaillou, an exceptionally talented vineyard, given that since 1889 its wines have constantly been in the limelight throughout the world, during contests and “blind tastings” among professionals.
The philosophy of Chateau Maucaillou can be summed up in this maxim:
"A Grand Cru Classé, I cannot be
A Cru Bourgeois, I deign not be,
Chateau Maucaillou, I am."
Some faultfinders have considered, incorrectly, that the maxim is a mere plagiarism of that expressed by the late Philippe de Rothschild for his Chateau Mouton Rothschild, prior to the reclassification of the latter in 1972 from second to first place in the hierarchy of the Médoc Grands Crus Classés.
"A Grand Cru Classé, I cannot be": Chateau Maucaillou can never be included in the 1855 classification of Médoc Grands Crus for the simple reason that the classification has never been modified since its creation and that Chateau Maucaillou was created in 1875 only. The Association of Great Classified Growths (Grands Crus) has never accepted a new member in the official classification of 1855. This is really a pity for Chateau Maucaillou, given that many wine writers have regularly equated it with an 1855 Médoc Grand Cru Classé (see the “read in the press” section).
"A Cru Bourgeois, I deign not be": Chateau Maucaillou was officially classified as a “Cru Bourgeois" in 1932. Always anxious to be part of a serious classification, untainted by any bias, Chateau MaucaillouU abandoned the Cru Bourgeois Classification of 2003, that was, in fact, officially cancelled subsequently.
"Chateau Maucaillou, I am", because Chateau Maucaillou remains and must always live on as an exceptional growth appreciated the world over. Perhaps, when all is said and done, it does not need to appear in a new intermediary classification to ensure its reputation and promotion.