For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Château Barde-Haut
A medieval town, Saint Emilion was classified as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999.
Saint Emilion is a beautiful winegrowing region where, for nearly 1,000 years, generations of men and women have devoted themselves to producing an exceptional wine.

It is with the benefit of this rich heritage, and with a view to preserving our ancestors’ legacy, that we perpetuate the winegrowing tradition at Château Barde-Haut. In this 250-year-old property, we are enthusiastically committed to working to high standards to offer great wines from past, present and future vintages.

Because we are living in a period of change, in which the future depends on how we live and consume products, and because we can all play a role on our own scale in this change, the use of renewable resources has been one of our priorities in the management of this modern, responsible winegrowing operation.
If you could invent an extraordinary terroir, you might create something like château Barde-Haut.

A south-facing amphitheatre, it has a limestone base that is covered with a superb, very robust layer of clay.

When the clay is saturated with water, the limestone absorbs the surplus and stores it, making it available again to the vines again in the event of a drought.

An arrangement between the elements that enables the vines to combat harsh conditions, and surpass themselves to offer the rich, concentrated fruit whose expression characterizes the great wines of Saint Emilion’s limestone plateau.
The wine of Château Barde-Haut offer an admirably balanced dialogue between power and freshness, resulting in a product of rare elegance.
A.O.C. Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé
Château Barde-Haut 70 000 bottles
Surface of production 16,89 ha
Soil Clay covering limestone
Subsoil Limestone, Plateau of Saint-Emilion
Grape varieties 80% Merlot - 20% Cabernet Franc
Soil culture Sustainable, Biological control, Certified High Environmental Value 3
Harvest Hand picked
Fermenting vats 50 hl - 150 hl concrete and stainless steel tanks
Barrels & Ageing New french oak barrels, 18-24 months
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Bols Blue to Bordeaux: Barde-Haut

Many moons ago, around 1999 if I have my dates correct, I was invited to an impromptu lunch at the much-missed Hanover Bar & Grill, a rather dingy basement steakhouse that boasted decent Antipodean wines, a boisterous atmosphere and models from the Vogue head office opposite, picking at their salad. This was back in the day of long liquid lunches, when workers staggered back to their Mayfair offices and snoozed away the afternoon. A Bordeaux merchant introduced me to a young Hélène Garçin-Cathiard, then riding the crest of a wave after her 1998 Clos l’Église received a score that got her telephone ringing 24/7. Not wishing to tar all my friends in Bordeaux with the same brush, but she was different. She brimmed with joie-de-vivre, you felt that you could invite her out clubbing and she’d drink you under the table. She was a breath of fresh air and became one of the first Bordeaux proprietors I got to know well. Since then, she has hardly changed, indefatigable, feisty and funny with enough energy to solve the current fuel crisis, energy that she expends onto her properties, giving them a sense of momentum.

I visited her Saint-Émilion estate, Château Barde-Haut, last June, to conduct a comprehensive tasting of her properties together with her husband Patrice Lévêque. For this tasting we focused upon Barde-Haut, Clos l’Église and Poesia. Readers should note that their fourth property in Castillon, Château d’Arce, is well worth seeking out. Just to spice things up, the vintages were not revealed until after the tasting. 

“My first vintage was 1997,” Garçin-Lévêque tells me before broaching the first bottle. “I arrived in Bordeaux the previous year. Before that, I was at school and then I went to work in Canada. I was selling Bols Blue in clubs. I had a lot of fun. My family bought Clos l’Église at the end of 1996 and oversaw the élevage of that vintage, though we had to transfer the barrels to Haut-Bergey as we had to completely overhaul the cellar. So, the 1997 Clos l’Église was the first vintage that we made at the château.”

Hélène and Patrice Garçin-Lévêque. Notice the rare sight of a Bordeaux winemaker in work overalls instead of tailored suit.

I asked how she met her husband and became Garçin-Lévêque? Her better half is really a Burgundian at heart, one of the few winemakers you can guarantee will be upon his tractor whatever time you visit. Most Bordeaux proprietors would not know how to turn the tractor ignition on, let alone manoeuvre it through the vines for hours on end. Personality-wise they are yin and yang, her husband more laconic, a pensive winemaker who is constantly questioning his approach. Garçin-Lévêque answered my question in a typically candid fashion: “Patrice came to visit Château Haut-Bergey in 1996, and I told him ‘you need to take me out’ because his mother wanted to buy some land from us next to Chantegrive.”

Over the years, I have had many discussions with the couple about the use of consultants. In the past, they appointed Michel Rolland to assist from 1998 to 2001, Dr. Alain Reynaud until 2014 and then Thomas Duclos. But that has changed. “There are no consultants now, just Patrice,” she tells me. “It was very interesting to work with consultants, giving advice and informing what is going on around us, though they did not make final decisions. Now, we exchange ideas with many different people, but we have a clear vision of what we want to do at all our properties.

Barde-Haut is a landmark on the Saint-Émilion landscape with its distinctive rusted-iron exterior and wind turbine perched on the winery roof used to generate a small amount of power. The Lévêque family acquired this Saint-Émilion property in 2000, though its history stretches back to the 18th century. The lieu-dit of La Barde makes its appearance in Cassini’s map commissioned by Louis XV in the 1750s and then in Pierre de Belleyme’s map of 1770, located in the southeast of Saint-Émilion. The Lévêques invested heavily in the property to exploit the south-orientated 16.89-hectare amphitheatre of vines, the oldest of which dates from 1955 having survived the following year’s devastating freeze. Neighbours include Troplong-Mondot and Tour St.-Christophe that lies on the opposite. Here, the clay soils lie over limestone bedrock that lends Barde-Haut low pH levels. The grape varieties currently comprise of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, a massal selection courtesy of Clos l’Église, with emphasis on organic viticulture. The winery was completely refurbished in 2010. The wine is fermented in 50hL to 150hL concrete and stainless-steel vats before maturation using 80% new French oak for between 18 and 24 months.

With respect to the wines, I feel that earlier vintages are swayed by consultants’ advice a little more than I would like. These tended to be quite dense and assertive Saint-Émilions determined to make an impression. As such, they can sometimes lack a little grace. The turnaround was clear to see in this vertical, from the most unexpected vintage: 2013. I was astonished just how good this off-vintage Barde-Haut showed, and it seems to put wind in the sails of subsequent vintages. It is as if being born in a maligned growing season, the 2013 is not as preoccupied proving how good it is and consequently it exudes something more refined and natural. Almost immediately, the 2015 and 2016 Barde-Haut show the delineation and poise that was previously missing and that has carried through to more recent vintages, despite the warm summers. Here, the limestone terroir plays a crucial role in imparting the acidic spine in the 2018 and 2019.

The distinctive winery of Château Barde-Haut.