Our approach to the Bordeaux market has served us well over the years. Rather than engaging with futures or brokers or the world of the classified growths, we adopt the same grower-focused lens in Bordeaux that we employ in Burgundy and elsewhere, seeking out small farmers with an intimate connection to their land and working to cultivate an audience stateside as their sole US importer. While such vignerons may predominate in Bordeaux’s farther-flung and less-prestigious sub-zones, we have been fortunate to find such partners in the most hallowed appellations of the Left Bank—folks quietly plying their trade amidst the highly monied grands châteaux.
In the face of the ever-increasing commodification of high-end Bordeaux, however, to keep such a modest operation going seems to defy all odds, and indeed several of our long-term Left Bank relationships have ended when the growers retired and sold their land to a much larger neighbor: first with René Rabiller’s Château La Peyre in Saint-Estephe in the mid-2010s, and more recently with Bruno and Pascale Rey of Moulin de Tricot, whose beautifully understated Margaux and Haut-Médoc formed a cornerstone of our Bordeaux portfolio for over two decades until their retirement in 2020.
There is truly no Bordeaux like Margaux, and to find a grower in this special appellation whose sensibilities align with our own is no easy task. We were overjoyed, then, to encounter Christophe Landry’s Château des Graviers, in the commune of Arsac. The fifth generation of his family to work the vine in Margaux, Christophe took over operations at Graviers in 1995, gradually expanding from six hectares to the 18 hectares the estate encompasses today, and converting fully to biodynamic viticulture. His rigorous approach to farming and his thoughtful, rather complex cellar regimen yield Margaux of intensely vivid, supple fruit supported by honest yet ultra-fine tannins and exquisitely etched minerality. The supreme elegance one reads about in textbooks yet so rarely encounters in more muscular versions of the appellation is on full display in Christophe’s wines.
Christophe Landry’s spacious and carefully designed cellar allows him to vinify each parcel separately by variety and to move the wines solely by gravity, which helps preserve the fruit’s purity.
All six red grape varieties are in play at Château des Graviers, and Christophe takes a different approach to the vinification and aging of each one: Cabernet Sauvignon, which comprises just over 60% of the estate’s surface, is vinified traditionally—fully destemmed and macerated on its skins with occasional punch-downs and pump-overs; Merlot (a quarter of the plantings) is destemmed but vinified with a portion of the ripest stems added back, which helps regulate alcohol levels; Cabernet Franc (around 5%) undergoes carbonic maceration; Malbec and Petit Verdot (roughly 4% each) are fermented at a low temperature and very gently extracted; and the 2% splash of Carmenère is vinified in open-top 600-liter barrels. Christophe’s spacious and carefully designed cellar allows him to vinify each parcel separately by variety and to move the wines solely by gravity, which helps preserve the fruit’s purity.
The aging regimen at Graviers is nearly as complex as the vinification, with Christophe employing variously sized oak barrels (only around 25% of which are new) for the majority of the elevage, as well as a handful of clay amphorae and a few strikingly shaped hexagonal concrete vessels. The proportions and the tactics vary from year to year based on vintage characteristics and the way the wines are evolving, as Christophe rejects formulaic aging and relishes the process of gradual discovery. Despite Christophe’s experimental streak, however, the wines of Château des Graviers are always poised, harmonious, and deeply evocative of Margaux’s unique gravelly terroir—devoid of hardness or rusticity but also without undue polish. We welcome them into our portfolio with open arms.
Entirely estate fruit
Various methods depending on grape variety: punch-downs, pump-overs, carbonic maceration
225-liter barrels (25% new), 600-liter barrels, clay amphorae
Minimal, added only after malolactic fermentation