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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.

New impetus

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.



An exceptional terroir

Located in Pessac, near Bordeaux, Château Pape Clément is divided into three major plots with distinct characteristics and several smaller plots scattered around the village.

The geological base

The Tertiary Age bedrock (Oligocene Period) is composed of asteriated limestone forming the backbone of the Bordeaux terroir. On the lower left bank of the Garonne, it is covered by a fine, more recent layer of terrain from the Miocene Age (Tertiary Period). These are the faluns of the Bordeaux region, a soil-type characterized by pulverized shell debris. On this base lies the alluvial gravel layer, known as graves, a large mass of round blunt pebbles, coated with a finer mixture of primarily sand and clay.


The Graves : the power of the terroir

Château Pape Clément is located on the oldest of the alluvial terraces, known as the Pyrenees graves. Dating back to the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene Periods, it was spread over the substratum in torrential flows. The soil has several geographical origins: the mountainous Atlantic Pyrenees, the Pyrenean piedmont and the eastern Massif Central. Furthermore, three types of soil – tawny Chalosse sands, multicolored clays, and siliceous graves – can also be clearly distinguished. The originality of the Château Pape Clément lies in the presence of a thin top-layer of more recent Garonne graves, dating from the Günz Glacial Stage, deposited there one and a half million years ago.

Western sands

Toward the west of the estate, the graves were buried beneath a layer of eolian sand from the Landes region which spread in the late Quaternary Period, forty thousand years ago. This thick, 30-50cm layer provides the vines with a frugal yet balanced water supply.

Clay to the east

To the east, the proportion of clay increases. Clay retains water better, and diffuses it slowly. Hence, the vine matures in conditions of moderate water stress, without being exposed to sudden, extreme drought.

The leaner soil to the north

To the north, the gravel-sand terraces are particularly low in clay and organic material. On this lean and porous soil, the vines may suffer increased water stress. Full maturity is reached when a balance between the plant and grapes is maintained by special pruning.

Iron contribution

The high iron content in the subsoil and groundwater contributes to the soil's personality. According to experts, the iron content explains the spicy, smoky bouquet characteristic of Château Pape Clément wines.

The vineyard


Red varieties (57 hectares)

The red vines are divided into 60 % Cabernet sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Cabernet sauvignon is mainly planted on the gravel and sand-and-gravel areas. It brings the blend its tannic structure guaranteeing healthy aging in bottles. Merlot, meanwhile, is better adapted to clay soils, and produces round, rich and velvety wines, dominated by ripe fruit. Note that over 60% of the vines are over 25 years old, including a large proportion over 40 years old. The presence of old vines brings extra finesse and elegance.


White varieties (3 hectares)

45% Sauvignon blanc, 45% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle.

With their very different characters, these three grape varieties bring the blend its finesse and rich complexity. The Sauvignon, especially, a lively variety with fresh, fruity, invigorating notes, brings the acidity and structure necessary for the good aromatic expression of all white wines. Semillon produces fat, suave wines, with notes of ripe fruit and honey, giving the blend its ability to age in bottles. Muscadelle, meanwhile, brings a special, intense touch, which contributes to the complexity of the palate.


Plantation: the competition principle

Vines are planted at high densities, between 7700 and 9000 plants per hectare. This highly competitive environment, as well as the choice of low-vigor rootstock, naturally weaken the plants and create the optimal conditions for ripening. Grass is planted in-between the most clay-rich sections, further increasing competition for water between the plants.


Pruning and thinning: recreating the natural order

Pruning is carried out in winter according to the “Guyot double” technique, without downward spurs, providing two canes, each with three buds. After the buds burst, only the three most exposed and best distributed branches are left on each cane after debudding. A build-up of vegetation is not allowed. As the ripening phase approaches, the foliage is thinned by hand to create an ideal micro-climate for the clusters, providing the right air flow and light. While the lower leaves are removed, the fruit themselves are not exposed to direct sunlight, as this may cause burnt and over-ripe aromas. Leaves are first thinned on the least exposed side of the plants in June. Then in August, leaves are removed from the other side. The clusters are thus gradually acclimatized to light and good air-flow naturally slows the development of undesirable fungi.


Cluster thinning: as soon as the grapes appear,

Between two phases of leaf removal, the clusters too are thinned (known as the “green harvest”) to remove the substandard clusters. The misplaced clusters, which are too high or too close together, are removed first. Then, as the grapes ripen and take on color, clusters that would be too late for harvest are also removed.


Customized harvests

Following much observation and analysis – of subsoil, soil, leaves, and grapes – throughout the year, each task is carried out at the optimal time according to the plot. Hence we naturally set separate harvest dates for each.

The harvest team may vary between thirty to a hundred people depending on the day, according to the number of parcels deemed to have reached perfect maturity. During harvest, participants carry out an initial selection. For white wines, the important criterion is the golden color of the clusters. It is thus common for a plot to be harvested in two or even three successive sessions, with several days to a week between them. White grapes are only picked in the morning before outside temperatures get too high so as to preserve aromas and prevent oxidation. The grapes are hand-picked and placed in small crates to prevent compression and premature juice extraction.






Reconciling a wealth of tradition and cutting edge techniques, Château Pape Clément wines are made to meet the highest quality standards. Separate vinification. Small vats are used to enable the separate vinification of grapes from different plots on the estate. The grapes can thus express their full diversity. The distinction between the grapes becomes the basis for blending each vintage.


Meticulous manual destemming

The separation of the grapes from their stems is carried out entirely by hand. Here, rather than removing the stems from the fruit, we remove the fruit from the stems grape-by-grape.This operation is very labor-intensive but does enable us to obtain whole grapes only, without undesired extraction or early release of juice.


Gentle pressure

For the white wines the crates are emptied manually into a pneumatic press. The pressure is slowly increased, without breaking up the press-cake, so as to extract only the purest of the juice. The must is directly transferred to barrels by gravity, without pumping.


Fermentation: the contribution of oak Château Pape Clément's red wines are vinified in oak casks. This favors uniform fermentation, unlike steel vats which are prone to temperature variations. Maintained between 29 and 30°C during fermentation, then between 27 and 29°C during maceration after fermentation, moderate temperatures allow for gentle extraction of tannins and color. Before the wine is drawn off, fermentation varies between 20 and 35 days depending on the evolution of taste in each vat.

The white wines are fermented entirely in French oak barrels. The lees are stirred to maintain them in suspension in order to develop body and character. The proportion of new oak barrels varies between 70 to 100% depending on the vintage. The remainder is vinified in one-wine-old barrels. This enables us to preserve the balance between the three grape varieties and the aromatic contribution of the barrel aging process.


Egg-white fining

Some batches may turn out to be too cloudy, so we clarify the wine using beaten egg whites as fining. This attracts and precipitates any suspended particles, which fall to form a sediment on the bottom of the vat.

  The art of blending

Blending aims both at achieving the concentration and complexity worthy of the greatest wines, and to maintain, from vintage to vintage, the unique qualities of Château Pape Clément, characterized by smoked and spiced notes, fruity aromas and a rich and elegant body. Thus, the blender can slightly vary the proportions of the grape varieties to find the right balance that brings the most attractive harmony of palate, and the best potential for bottle-aging.  


Aging suitability

For red vintages, wines are casked into new barrels by gravity, without pumping. During aging, malolactic fermentation takes place and lasts between 18 and 20 months. Barrels are selected from eight different cooperages so that the oak note is as delicate and discreet as possible. In order to prevent them from drying, white wines are kept in barrels for no more than 12 months, then the barrels are maintained at a low temperature for a month. This clarifies the wine naturally and avoids chemical or physical treatment during bottling.


6 different wines with 74 vintages

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