Bordeaux has countless châteaux – 7,196 to be exact. How do you even choose when there are so many options? Our quest to discover the best, and when we say best we mean not only wine but also wine tourism – led us to Château Saint Ahon in the Médoc.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Montesquieu? He lived during the Age of Enlightenment, a period of time in the 18th century when an intellectual and political movement that modernized Europe. Montesquieu was born here in the Aquitaine region, not far from Bordeaux. He was best known as the founding father of sociology.
You might ask why I am giving you a bit of a French history lesson. It’s because our very own world famous Montesquieu was the owner of Château Saint Ahon in the 18th century.
Unfortunately, the château was destroyed during the French Revolution. It was reconstructed under Napoleon and restored in 1875. Just 20 minutes outside of Bordeaux in the community of Blanquefort, the château is now listed as a “Remarkable Monument”.
The château had a long history of owners, with the Count and Countess Bernard de Colbert becoming the 67th owners in 1985. It’s been a family run affair ever since, with the Count and Countess’ daughter and son-in-law joining the family wine estate business in 2003.
Château Saint Ahon is now one of the last wine estates in Blanquefort.
You might have also heard of the famous 1855 Classification. It was created under Napoleon as a way to collect all the products that make France famous. For many political reasons at the time, all of Bordeaux’s “best” red wines were selected from the Médoc, though not all châteaux from the Médoc were included.
The 1855 Classification is historic and has never been revised, with one exception: Château Mouton Rothschild was able to improve their classification from a second growth to a first growth in 1973.
Cru Bourgeois is a classification created in 1932 essentially to include châteaux that were not included in the 1855 Classification. Though not as high quality as the Classed Growths, Cru Bourgeois is still a high quality wine.
The classification was annulled by a French court in 2007 and thereafter all use of the term “Cru Bourgeois” was banned. The classification was significantly reformed and was once again introduced in 2010. Though, unlike the 1855 Classification, Cru Bourgeois is awarded each year.
It takes about two years from the vintage for Cru Bourgeois to publish the classification for that vintage. So when it was reintroduced in 2010, it applied to the wines made from the grapes harvest in 2008 – otherwise known as the 2008 vintage.
Château Saint Ahon has been the proud recipient of the Cru Bourgeois classification every year since 2009.
Château Saint Ahon also opened their winery and barrel room to visitors in 2009. The guided tour, which is available in English or French, takes visitors through their process of sustainable farming, the wine making and aging processes.
Of course, the visit ends with the best part: tasting Château Saint Ahon’s wines. And if you’ve brought the kids along, they won’t be left out. They get grape juice to enjoy.
There’s also a small boutique where can purchase vintages from several years, as well as local products from nearby producers like honey and marmalade.
Our favorite part, aside from the wine tasting, was the visit to the Mirabel Gardens. It’s a looping discovery trail you follow for about 1 kilometer that winds through the vineyards, around the stately château and through the woods.
There’s explanation panels in both French and English full of interesting information about Bordeaux, Cru Bourgeois, the wine making process and even the oak trees and barrel making process. Each panel has a QR code that you can scan with your phone to get even more information.
With the ducks, goats, mascot donkey and horses, there’s plenty to keep kids entertained. There’s even a playground where they can burn off energy, so it’s apparent Château Saint Ahon definitely designed their visits with family in mind.
Know Before You Go