Few great wines can boast seven centuries of history and trace their origins back to a pope.
Château Pape Clément, located in Pessac, near Bordeaux, owes its name to its most famous owner—Pope Clement V. Born in Villandraut in 1264, Bertrand de Goth was appointed Bishop of Comminges in the Pyrenees on 28 March 1295, a position he held until 1299, when he was appointed Archbishop of Bordeaux by the Pope.
With his appointment, he received Pessac vineyard as a gift, then known as the “de La Mothe” vineyard (a name referring to its elevated terrain). The archdiocese's archives provide a number of details about the Bertrand de Goth's deep involvement in his vineyards and his constant search for the most rational and efficient equipment for both the vineyard and cellars. His work was continued by the Church whose efforts turned Pope Clement's concern into a model estate.
5 June 1305, cardinals met in conclave in Perugia and elected Bertrand de Goth as successor to Pope Benedict XI, who died in 1304 after 11 months of reign. The new Pope adopted the name Clement V and chose Lyon for his coronation. In 1309, Clement V entered Avignon, the city he had chosen for his papal court, thus breaking with Rome, a hotbed of power struggles.
From 1305 to 1309, the Pope continued managing his vineyard with all the care that made it so special. 12 December 1309, his papal duties prevented him performing this task and he decided to donate the estate to the Archbishop of Bordeaux, Arnaud de Canteloup. To Clement V, entrusting his vineyard to the Church of Bordeaux meant bequeathing it to eternity, while allowing Pape Clément's vines to thrive over the centuries to come.
During the long period that Château Pape Clement was administered by the Archbishop, modernism and technical progress made it a pioneering estate, one of the special features of which was its early harvest. We now know that the vineyard was one of the first in France where vine stock was planted in rows to facilitate tilling. This was tantamount to a horticultural revolution as plants had previously been scattered around plots.
The Revolution and the challenges of nature
In the late18th century, the archdiocese of Bordeaux was dispossessed of its assets and the vine bequeathed to it 500 years previously fell into the public domain. Owners succeeded one another and, in turn, were forced to fight against the various scourges afflicting French vineyards at the end of the 19th century—powdery mildew, downy mildew and phylloxera.
Among them was Jean-Baptiste Clerc, a wine trader from Bordeaux, who acquired the property in 1858, and turned it into a model vineyard. It was he who confirmed the renown and finesse of Pope Clement's wines, and was rewarded with the gold medal from the Gironde Agricultural Society and the Great Medal from the Ministry of Agriculture at the World Fair of 1878, two highly coveted distinctions.
It was also Clerc who built the chateau which was redesigned by the heirs of the subsequent owner, Monsieur Cinto, another Bordeaux merchant, producing the building we know today.
8 June 1937, a violent hailstorm destroyed almost the whole of Château Pape Clément's vineyard and, in 1939, it was bought by Paul Montagne, an agronomic engineer, who, when the war finished, set about restoring it and reinstating it to the status it deserved.
Thanks to these efforts, Château Pape Clément regained its radiance and managed to resist the onset of urbanization and the development of housing in a village where, at the start of the century, there were only two thousand inhabitants and fifty winegrowers.
In the 1980s, Bernard Magrez, an entrepreneur passionate about wine, took over the Château and built an unprecedented international reputation for the Grand Cru Classé. Ever since, Bernard Magrez has deployed every means possible to ensure that Château Pape Clément's exceptional terroir continues to flourish through time and to express the finesse that has made its wines so famous.
2009 was an exceptional year, Château Pape Clément's crowning glory, the year when it was awarded the legendary 100/100 score from the world-famous wine critic Robert Parker, writing a new page in the history of exceptional wines.
Thanks to relentless work, constant exploration and a remarkable terroir, Château Pape Clément continues each year to delight wine lovers with its exceptional quality.