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Chateau Castera is in the North of the Medoc, past the appellation of Saint Estèphe. It is worth the trip. As you travel north, there is a change in the feel of this region and a change in the soil. Mixed in with the famous Medoc gravel, you will start to see clay and some sand - this explains why many of these wines have a higher percentage of merlot, giving them an approachable elegance.
Heading towards the tip of the peninsula, you could be forgiven for thinking it is the end of the earth up here, - but you would be wrong. There is a long and very vibrant history here thanks to its position near the banks of the Gironde estuary where it heads out towards the Atlantic Ocean.
The strategic situation of protecting the waterways down to the city of Bordeaux explains the area's rich feudal history and Chateau Castera is no exception. What is exceptional is that Castera has the archives to prove it, lovingly preserved over the years by the various owners.
In 1355, during the Hundred Years War, the English Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, took Castera and Henry IV of England also confiscated it. The tower built in the square English style remains as a souvenir of this time.
But it wasn't all war; the Arsac family, important wine traders during the 14th century, owned the property and Marguerite, the widow of Jean d'Arsac, married Etienne de la Boétie, the famous poet and founder of French political philosophy. He was a lifelong friend of Michel de Montaigne, another of France's most famous poet philosophers. Michel de Montaigne was a frequent visitor to Castera, so much so his brother, Thomas, married de La Boetie's daughter.
It also has a feminine history; in the 18th century, the aristocrats and the bourgeois of Bordeaux bought properties in the Medoc, planting vines in earnest and built themselves chateaux. In 1760, Marie-Anne de Verthamon, became owner of Castera buying it with her own money. Under her ownership, the Château saw a transformation from a defensive site to a home with the addition of galleries and the chapel you can still visit today. Sadly, the Phylloxera epidemic that devastated the vineyard, put an end to the Verthamon dynasty, but Castera survived.
The current owner, Thomas Press, is passionate about this history of the Château. In 2011 he restored the medieval tower to house the exhibition of the estate’s unique private archives for visitors to enjoy.
Today it a huge property covering 200 ha of vines, forests and meadows with the charming Château, chapel and tower at its heart, surrounded by a landscaped garden and a park with centuries-old trees. Thanks to this, Château Castera won Best Of Wine tourism awards in 2008, 2010 and 2011 for Art and Landscape. In 2018 it holds Gold Best Of Award for Art and Culture. The award is not uniquely for preserving the cultural past of the Château but also embracing the future with a permanent exhibition of the works of contemporary metal sculptor Vincent Libecq.
There is of course the wine. Chateau Castera is a Cru Bourgeois of the Medoc and the elegance of the architecture is reflected in the wine, crafted with the help of oenologist Eric Boisenot.
Intimate groups are welcomed to discover the wine making and taste the wines but if your passion is for history choose the Heritage Tour. This includes a private visit to the tower that houses the château archives going back to the 15th century.
History, wine, philosophy and culture all in beautiful surroundings, as I said, it's worth the trip.
By Wendy Narby