Château de Saint-Cernin is a 12th century feudal castle restored in 1875, set in the heart of the Périgord region of France, close to the city of Bergerac. It is at the top of the little village of Saint-Cernin-de-Labarde, counting some 200 souls, overlooking the valley of the River Conne.
Out of the original eight 14th century towers, only two are still standing today. The remains of a third tower can be found on the western buttress. The west wing still has two square turrets, one of which has an impressive « à la romaine » staircase and a beautiful Renaissance door. As early as the 12th and 13th centuries, the chronicles of the time recount the terrible attacks against the people in the castle from coalitions of the surrounding areas.
The region then became the property of the King of England.
The Hundred Years War broke out in 1337, destroying towns and castles, which in turn belonged to the English, then to the French army. The Périgord was liberated in 1450 by the troops of Charles VII.
Château de Saint-Cernin belonged to some members of the nobility who can be traced back to 1417. It is a majestic edifice which has been home to wine production for centuries, as reflected in the designs above the fireplace of the main dining-room.
LOCAL WINE HISTORY
Vineyards in Périgord date back as far as Roman times. Château de Saint-Cernin is precisely set in the “Périgord Pourpre” (Purple Perigord) describing the colour of the red wines produced in the area around the city of Bergerac. The history of the local wines is linked to that of its river, the Dordogne, which was the only means of transporting wines down to nearby Bordeaux from where they were sent all over the world.
Robert Wessman, an Icelandic businessman, bought it at the beginning of the 2000s with the ambition to bring it back to its former splendour and to produce world class wines in very select quantities.
His partner, Ksenia Shakhmanova who co-owns the winery, is an experienced gourmet and knowledgeable taster. She co-manages the business and participates in all the key stages of the life of the vineyard with an important impact on the quality of the wines and their packaging.
James de Roany acts as CEO and cellar-master.
Philippe Mathias is the technical and vineyard manager.
Vine-growing and winemaking
The plots we cultivate are spread over 3 distinct geographic zones in order to have very typical wines and to allow “haute couture” “assemblages” (blends) realized with the help of Gérard Basset, World Champion Sommelier, assisted by leading oenologists.
The grapes are vinified by plot in very small stainless-steel tanks and are systematically destemmed before undergoing a cold maceration to extract a maximum of fruit. The wines undergo a short passage under new French oak. To reach the maximum quality, we conduct an exceptionally severe sorting in the vineyard as well as in the cellar to keep only about 10% of the volumes produced. It is the association of an exceptional terroir, a drastic selection, very modern high-end wine-making equipment and the know-how of great specialists that makes it possible to obtain wines of truly exceptional quality.
Merlot is the main grape-variety planted at Château de Saint-Cernin, giving outstanding subtle wines with deep aromas of black fruits such as blackcurrant and blackberry.
We use Cabernet-Franc grapes to complement the Merlot and give green pepper, raspberry and violet hints.
Depending on the year, Cabernet-Sauvignon may be added in small quantities to give strength and structure to the wine and enhance its aptitude for aging as it is very rich in tannin and color. It is remarkably robust, of great distinction and intense aromatic complexity.
We occasionally add some Malbec grapes to bring a touch of pepper and spice in less sunny vintages.
The local terroir gives top quality wines, and this is not really a surprise because the vineyard is on the same latitude as Saint-Emilion, just a little further east, i.e. with a little less maritime influence (lower rainfall and higher temperatures) which gives even more concentrated wines than those of its prestigious neighbour. This concentration is even more important as the subsoil is very calcareous which causes the roots to draw their water and nutrient resources very deep, sometimes down to 5 or even 6 meters. This gives exceptional vine-growing conditions and very typical wines.
The plots we have selected are known to be among the best in the region. We have been able to study their soil quality by performing vertical tastings over twenty years.