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by Wendy Narby
In 2012 Château de Ferrand was included in the select club of Grand Crus Classés of Saint Emilion but its long history stretches back over 300 years.
Since its construction, started in 1702, it has only been in the ownership of two families, which may go some way to explain the preservation of this exquisite site, not only the Chateau itself but also the park around the property.
No surprise then that the property was awarded the Best Of Wine Tourism Award for Architecture in 2016.
Baron Bich purchased the property in 1978 and in 2009 added on a modern reception room, which, unsurprisingly given the Baron's talent for design, dovetails neatly with the modernisation of the cellars that date back to Louis 14th.
Situated on one of the highest points of Saint Emilion, up to 100m above sea level, right on the edge of the limestone plateau, the property enjoys stunning views over a curve in the Dordogne valley. These views have been preserved with all power cables and telephone lines buried underground, as befits the UNESCO Heritage site of Saint Emilion. It's not just about the view; the vineyard’s altitude and exposure means cooler temperatures giving an elegance and tension to the wines.
Back to the Château. The classical architecture is built around a courtyard, with a central gallery running between two rectangular wings. Visitors pass through this elegant gallery, with its many windows, to reach the park to the west of the estate. This is one of the largest green spaces in the Saint-Emilion appellation not to be planted with vines, and this on prime Saint Emilion terroir. Here visitors can see the unique collection of ancient trees dating back from over 200 years including some beautiful cedar trees an old Cork Oak, well north of its normal habitat.
The natural environment is as important as the man made architecture; the wooded ridge around much of the estate and copses, thickets and meadows that take up 10 out of the 42 ha of the property all work towards the biodiversity of the estate which has a Terra Vitis sustainable agriculture certification.
In the new reception room, built to give visitors a unique perspective on the winery, the emphasis is all on tasting. Many vineyard visits might spend a lot of time touring the property and finish with a quick tasting - not here. Guests to Château de Ferrand are received by two trained sommeliers who use the wine to illustrate the terroir, the varietals and the wine making techniques but also the history of the property with wines going back to the 2006 vintage including the 2012 - the year of their classification.
The château is happy to receive groups for lunch and diner on beautiful days guests can enjoy the terrace overlooking the vines and the Dordogne valley. If you don't have time to stay for a meal, you can always check-in for one of their gourmet tastings including either aged Comté cheese, selected by local cheesemonger Pierre Rollet, or chocolates, always a winner, especially these Italian high cocoa ones and even Caviar d'Aquitaine - specially chosen to match red wine - yes really!