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Meet the Families of Graves and Pessac-Léognan, the Original Bordeaux

Meet the Families of Graves and Pessac-Léognan, the Original Bordeaux

There’s a tendency to group the wines of Bordeaux together as though it’s one, homogenous wine region. “I drink a lot of Bordeaux,” you might hear a wine lover say. And yet, the home of some of the world’s most celebrated wines is a true mosaic of distinct personalities and stylistic nuances begging to be discovered. 

Bordeaux Graves Sauternes

One of Bordeaux’s prime regions to know is Graves-Sauternes, comprising the historic appellations of Graves, Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, and Barsac. The area is home to more than 450 winegrowers known not only for celebrated Classified Growths like Château Yquem and Château Haut-Brion, but also approachable and memorable everyday bottlings produced by a new generation of modern winemaking talent. 

While the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac alone could fill the pages of dozens of articles, the dry, still wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan are just as compelling – with many hidden gems to discover that over-deliver on quality and value.

The Gateway to Bordeaux

Map of Graves Sauternes | Graves-Sauternes

Before even considering the many ideal natural factors with which Graves and Pessac-Léognan have been spoiled, a quick look at a map of Bordeaux will show you how perfectly situated the Graves-Sauternes region is. Set along the left bank of the Garonne River, it’s a mere stone’s throw south of the vibrant city center of Bordeaux, accessible by a short train ride or drive to experience the region’s idyllic landscape and warm hospitality. 

Climatically speaking, Graves-Sauternes has it all. The marine influence from the nearby Atlantic Ocean to the west moderates the climate, yielding mild winters, warm summers, and little risk of frost. The cool Ciron River meets the warmer Garonne, creating the perfect misty mornings needed for the development of botrytis, the necessary “good” fungus that produces the unforgettable sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac. Lastly, the vast Landes de Gascogne pine forest protects the region from Atlantic storms. 

Graves is named, unsurprisingly, for its gravelly soils, one of the region’s most defining hallmarks. The soils are a mix of shingles, broken stone, gravel, clay, sand, chalk, and shell deposits created by the flow of the Garonne. The combination of a high level of quartz in these soils, along with great drainage, and an ability to reflect heat contributes in no small way to the remarkable character, depth, and structure of the wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan.

The Subtle Art of Blending

The dry wines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan are mostly blends. Reds are blended from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Carménère, and Petit Verdot, and the whites from Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, and Sauvignon Gris. Like actors in a play, each grape has a specific role in the final wine, some leading and some supporting, all uniquely important for balance, structure, and aromatics. The resulting wines are not only approachable, but also able to deliver that rare combination of quality, uniqueness, and affordability, in particular vis-à-vis other, better-known Bordeaux appellations. Many are age-worthy while others are more immediately friendly and ready to drink now. 

It’s All in the Family

Nearly all great wine regions are blessed with certain “good genes” in soil and climate that favor them to produce exceptional wines. However, it is the people behind the wines that make a region truly special and prompt us to fall in love with the appellation. The area of Graves-Sauternes is particularly blessed in this aspect, boasting a rare generosity of spirit that defines the families and their approach not only to winemaking but to hospitality. While many of the families of Graves and Pessac-Léognan have extensive lineage in Bordeaux, there is an undeniable boutique feel to the region, with personalized attention, approachability, and warmth at every turn. And, with estate ownership comes an immense pride in and stewardship of the land; many estates are either fully certified in sustainability or working toward organic, natural, biodynamic, or sustainable practices, and proprietors speak emotionally about the importance of preserving the land and their legacy for future generations.   

Since these families are, in many ways, what have come to define the heart and soul of Graves and Pessac-Léognan, let’s get to know a few of them.

Meet the Chatin Family

Château de Respide 

Chatin Family in their vineyard | Château de Respide

It’s impossible not to fall in love with the Chatin family when looking through photos of them in the winery and vineyards at Château de Respide. It seems every picture features the beaming faces of their three sweet, red-headed children who look perfectly at home among the vines. It’s no surprise that first generation winemakers Pierre-Edouard and Amélie readily share their passion for the vine with their children in hopes of them growing up with winemaking in their hearts. 

Château de Respide boasts a rich history that dates back to 1630, with stories of many notable families along the way. After taking over in 2021, Pierre-Edouard and Amélie now manage the estate together, with Pierre-Edouard directing finances and marketing, and Amélie in charge of production. Like so many others in the region, sustainability and low-intervention winemaking are at the heart of the Chatin family’s grape-growing and winemaking philosophy. The winery is HVE3 certified, and the family is currently pursuing a program to reduce the Château’s carbon impact. “My husband and I share the same vision of production,” says Amelie. “Oenology at the service of the terroir, tailor-made according to the grape and the must, with as limited additives as possible.”

MUST SIP: CHÂTEAU DE RESPIDE CLASSIC GRAVES ROUGE

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Meet the Perromat Family

Château de Cérons

Xavier and Caroline Perromat | Château de Cérons

The feeling at the Château itself is at once full of gravitas and a palpable coziness that comes from proud stewardship and hospitality, today delivered by Xavier and Caroline Perromat, who took over management in 2012 from Jean and Suzanne Perromat, two great personalities of the wine world. Here one can sip steely, dry, white Graves made from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, elegant red Graves, and luscious, sweet Cérons. The Château’s close proximity to the city of Bordeaux means visitors are a short, direct train ride away from relaxing on the grounds and enjoying one of the many experiences on offer, from outdoor picnics to a private rotisserie meal to an afternoon siesta with wine (we’ll take two). 

MUST SIP: CHÂTEAU DE CÉRONS GRAVES DRY WHITE

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Meet the Dubourdieu Family

Clos Floridène 

Dubourdieu Family | Clos Floridène

Winemaking in Bordeaux has been in the Dubourdieu family’s blood since around the French Revolution, with evidence of them cultivating vines as far back as the late 1700s. A portmanteau of the founder’s names, Denis and Florence Dubourdieu, Clos Floridène today sits on 40 hectares in the Graves appellation and is run by Denis’ sons, Jean Jacques and Fabrice. 

The family’s rich history in the region has cultivated a powerful connection to the land for the Dubourdieu family. This means all vineyard and winemaking practices are centered around sustainability efforts, including the use of “Smart Farming” to improve precision while reducing energy use, HVE (Haute Valeur Environmental) Level 3 (the highest) certification for all wines, and painstaking attention in the vineyard using traditional tillage, organic, manure-based compost, and hand-trellising, leaf removal, and thinning. “Our family of winemakers lives on the estates, and we’re deeply attached to our region,” says Jean Jacques. “We take every possible measure to protect the environment while also attempting to show it at its best advantage with a high attention to detail.”

MUST SIP: CLOS FLORIDÈNE GRAVES BLANC

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Meet the Quellien Family

Château Lusseau


Poppy and Marie-Neige Quellien | Château Lusseau

The Quellien family credits “terroir and savoir-faire” as the driving forces behind Château Lusseau’s legacy. This savoir-faire was built over the span of more than 150 years in the region, most recently by doctors Marie-Neige de Granvilliers and Jean-Thomas Quellien and their three children. Daughter and lawyer Bérengère took over in 2000, and soon after began the transition to organic farming — a hallmark of the Château today — using manual harvesting, mechanical weeding, and pesticide-free production, as well as natural fertilizers, and copper and sulfur instead of chemicals and synthetics to counter disease.

Berangere Quellien | Château Lusseau

Quality over quantity is the name of the game for Château Lusseau as the family lovingly farms their seven hectares of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon to create artisanal wines that reflect the nuance and personality of each unique vintage. “I would characterize our wines as being imbued with femininity, modernity and non-conformism, while preserving the typicality, authenticity, and original elegance of the wines,” shares Bérengère. “Lusseau puts fruit at the heart of the debate and makes each vintage a new adventure.”

MUST SIP: CHATEAU LUSSEAU CUVÉE BARRIQUE

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Meet the Lacoste Family

Château Ferran

Paul & Charlotte Lacoste | Château Ferran

Once owned by famous French philosopher Montesquieu who grew vines on the estate in the 18th century, the 70-hectare, HVE3-certified Château Ferran in Pessac-Léognan sits amidst vines, cow-dotted meadows, and a forest of 100-year-old trees. The property has been owned by fourth generation Philippe and Ghislaine Lacoste since 1999 and managed by son Thibault and daughter Olivia since 2018.

With three generations involved in winemaking at Château Ferran, virtually everything the Lacoste family does at the winery is with an eye to the future, including naming plots after the children and involving even the youngest family members in harvest. “Generation after generation, the environment becomes more and more important at Ferran, and we believe our children will continue in that direction,” says Thibault. “Our priority is that our children can grow in a very diverse and healthy environment.” 

MUST SIP: CHATEAU FERRAN PESSAC-LÉOGNAN ROUGE

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Meet the Gervoson Family

Château Larrivet Haut-Brion

Gervoson Sisters | Château Larrivet Haut-Brion

Château Larrivet Haut-Brion was first acquired by the Gervoson family in 1987. Now owned by Philippe Gervoson, his wife Christine, and his three daughters — with Bruno Lemoine at the helm of management and winemaking, and daughter Emilie handling the estate’s public relations — the Château is a stunning example of the new and innovative wine culture that is developing not only in Pessac-Léognan, but in France as a whole. 

In addition to offering a fresh take on wine experiences like blending labs and food and wine pairings, the Larrivet Haut-Brion team is also experimenting with unique winemaking techniques as part of their modern vision for the estate. This includes the use of clay amphorae for both fermentation and aging of some of the estate’s elegant wines.

MUST SIP: CHATEAU LARRIVET HAUT-BRION PESSAC-LÉOGNAN RED

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For a deeper dive into Graves-Sauternes, and a chance to meet more of the remarkable families of Graves and Pessac-Léognan, visit this comprehensive guide to the region and fall in love with the people behind these wines, as we have.