In Bordeaux, the Guinaudeau name might be most strongly associated with Pomerol these days, as Jacques and Sylvie Guinaudeau have operated the tiny precious vineyard at Château Lafleur (read more here) since the 1980s and, along with their son Baptiste and daughter Julie, have had sole control since 2001. However, the Guinaudeau home is actually on the Right Bank of the Gironde estuary, at Le Grand Village, near Mouillac in Fronsac.
Although Jacques Guinaudeau is descended from Henri Greloud, who acquired Lafleur in 1872, his branch of the family has owned Château Grand Village since 1650 and he and Sylvie occupy the house on the domaine. (Baptiste and Julie live at Lafleur but are very much involved with activities at Le Grand Village.) The estate is highly selectively planted - only a little over a third of the land is planted to vine. Other parcels provide the ideal soil and biodiversity for nurseries - where massale selection cuttings from Lafleur are cultivated. The rest produces cereal crops, serves as grazing for cattle or left as woodland. It is viticulture in harmony with agriculture and nature - nothing is forced.
The 17.8 hectares which are suited to viticulture have exceptional clay and chalk soil, and are planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. In previous centuries, one of the most highly regarded terroirs in Bordeaux, Fronsac is today typically associated with simple, rich and rustic wines but the Guinaudeau family is challenging that assumption with wines which are classy, elegant and deeply mineral - evoking both the clay topsoil and the limestone deep below the ground. By expressing the terroir so elegantly, they aim to raise Le Grand Village’s status from Bordeaux Supérieur to Grand Cru.
Since taking control of Château Lafleur, Jacques and Sylvie - and now, Baptiste and Julie - have applied the techniques that have worked so well in the Pomerol vineyard to their equally cherished Château Grand Village as well. They lavish just as much attention on their home vineyard and the 15-strong Lafleur growing and winemaking team works on these releases as well.
Although there are many more vines than in the 4.5 hectares of Château Lafleur, each plant is examined and treated individually - pruned, de-budded, de-leafed or thinned out in summer, according to its specific needs. Picking is done by hand, as is sorting and selection.
Château Grand Village Rouge is a Merlot-dominant blend with Cabernet Franc, macerated for 23 days in cement vats. After malolactic fermentation, the wine matures for 15 months in oak. Although delicious in its youth, with a burst of berries and well structured tannins, it will age in the bottle for years. It is certainly beyond Supérieur. Château Grand Village Blanc - Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon in different ratios, depending on the year - is fresh, lively and very drinkable.
The latest development at Château Grand Village is a project led by Baptiste and Julie Guinaudeau. Having planted Sancerre-cloned Sauvignon Blanc vines (in addition to Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc), they decided to use the resulting fruit in isolation to create Les Champs Libre. Since its first vintage in 2013, this limited bottling has been a huge hit. It is fermented and aged in new oak barrels from the Taransaud cooperage in Cognac, wrapping the sharp steel of Sauvignon Blanc in silk. Although available in tiny numbers, Les Champs Libre is available in the UK through Armit Wines, thanks to a relationship with the Guinaudeau family which has lasted more than 25 years.
Also available, under the Guinaudeau Family Vignerons umbrella is the G’Acte series of wines. The massale selection nursery - planted by Baptiste and Julie in 2009 with Cabernet Franc and Merlot cuttings from Château Lafleur - is maturing impressively. The family records its development each year - the viticultural equivalent of pencil height marks on a door frame - by producing modern, poised wines called G’Acte 1, G’Acte 2 and so on. As time goes on, these statements should record Fronsac’s return to prominence in Bordeaux. Certainly Château Grand Village deserves higher status than Bordeaux Supérieur.