Château d’Aiguilhe is an estate located in the Côte de Bordeaux Castillon, a relatively new appellation in the French wine region of Bordeaux.
Owned by wine entrepreneur Stephan von Niepperg since 1989, this producer is famous for its rich and opulent Merlot based blends.
The word “aiguille” in French means “needle” or “peak”. It is not by chance that the historic châteaux overlooks the Dordogne from this peak on the surrounding hills. Unfortunately, the original chateaux burned down in the early 20th century.
It’s history dates back to the start in the 13th century, when it was constructed as a fortified farm due to its strategic position on the political geography of the times. During the Hundred Years’ War, for example, the land owners used to switch sides according to political tendencies and conveniences between the French and the English, as the châteaux was located on the frontier of the two territories.
In the 18th century, viticulture was promoted by the Leberthon family. The Leberthones were deeply involved in the local Bordeaux community, including being members of the regional parliament. The first step of the creation of the estate as we know it today, however, has to be credited to Etienne Martineu in 1920, when he purchased the land and opened the estate under the name Château La Fleur d’Aiguilhe.
The name ultimately changed in 1989, when the German wine entrepreneur Stephan von Niepperg acquired the estate. Von Niepperg also owns estates in Bordeaux and St Emilion, with his portfolio including Canon La Gaffeliere, La Mondotte and Clos de l’Oratoire.
At the time of the acquisition, the estate was not in its best shape as vineyards desperately needed replanting and many its facilities needed renovation, particularly the cellars. Most significant was the change of the grape profile of the estate, with Cabernet Sauvignon being completely replaced by Merlot.
The 2001 vintage is widely thought to be the estate’s turning point, which was recognised by many as “sumptuous”, setting the high bar for which they have maintained in the years that followed. Today, Château d’Aiguilhe is a fine producer to explore for those that enjoy rich, opulent wines.
Despite the size of the Château d’Aiguilhe estate, which measures over 110 hectares, only half of its surface is planted with vines, which covers just 50 hectares. The main grape varieties cultivated are Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%).
Yearly production is around the 10,000 cases mark, vastly dominated by the rich, opulent Merlot based blend of Château d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Bordeaux Castillon, as well as the more fruity second wines of Seigneurs d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon.
From 2015, the estate produces a very small amount of the white wine Le Blanc d’Aiguilhe.
As a consequence of the deep replanting process demanded by Stephan von Niepperg in 1989, the average age of the vine stocks at Château d’Aiguilhe is 28 years. Because of the south-facing sun exposure, the vineyards are located on the plateau on the upper hills of the property. The soil is characterised by clay-limestone and clay-loam, ensuring efficient natural water regulation.
This peculiar terroir ensures ideal conditions for high quality winemaking.
The approach of Château d’Aiguilhe to viticulture is based on a sustainable, biodynamic method. In the estate there is no space for chemicals and during harvest the grapes are handpicked and allocated to small crates to avoid bruising.
The sorting process is carried out both before and after the removal of stems, before the grapes are transferred into a combination of tanks made from cement and oak vats for fermentation by gravity. Depending on the vintage, the process takes between 25 and 30 days.
Ageing ordinarily lasts between 15 and 18 months, with the exposure of the wines to new oak barrels being limited to 50%, which changes depending on the vintage. Before bottling, processes of fining and filtering can be performed, but only if necessary.
In 2015, a further step in the renovation of Château d’Aiguilhe was completed, adding nine shortened, cone-shaped concrete vats to the cellars.
Wines from Château d’Aiguilhe are renowned for being rich and opulent. The flagship of the estate is recommended to be laid down at least 3-5 years before drinking, with at least one hour in a decanter for the wine to open up.
Older vintages often do not need so much decanting, just enough to remove potential sediments. The maturity peak of these wines usually occurs between 4-15 years of age.
For you, we selected a 2014 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Bordeaux Castillon.