High up on one of the prettiest hillsides of Saint-Émilion at nearly the highest point in the appellation, two vastly different châteaux sit side-by-side. The modern orange and black Château La Croizille is remarkable for its architecture, and couldn’t be more different from the neighboring traditional Château Tour Baladoz. Both are owned by the De Schepper family, and the unique visit to this panoramic spot in Saint-Émilion includes a tour and tasting of both wineries.
The History of Château La Croizille and Château Tour Baladoz
Château Tour Baladoz has existed since the 16th century, though not always under the name of Château Baladoz, and not a lot is known about its history before the De Schepper family purchased it. The name “Baladoz” first appeared in Le Producteur in 1841, and then was included in the first edition of the book about Bordeaux and its’ wines named Cocks et Feret in 1850.
At that time, the estate was known simply as Château Baladoz. It wasn’t until 1922 that the name changed to Château Tour Baladoz to reflect that a tower had also been built on the estate.
A letter dated April 26, 1950 was written by Emile De Schepper to his wife back in Ghent, Belgium. It essentially said he’d fallen in love with the estate and saw potential for it. He was to take ownership the next day.
It was quite a bold move to purchase a wine estate. Though Emile De Schepper’s family had much experience with producing liqueurs and spirits back in Belgium, this was the family’s very first vineyard.
It was clearly a successful venture into wine making, since the family went on to purchase a total of five estates in the Bordeaux wine region. They purchased Château Haut-Breton-Larigaudiere in Margaux appellation in 1964, Château Tayet in the Bordeaux Superieur appellation in 1994, Château La Croizille in the Saint-Émilion appellation in 1996, and Château Lacombe Cadio in the Bordeaux Superieur appellation in 2003.
Even less is known about Château La Croizille. The estate has existed next door to Château Tour Baladoz since the end of the 19th century. When the estate came up for sale in 1996, the De Schepper family purchased it. The plots of vineyards were kept, though a new, modern winery was built in order to have the most cutting-edge technology for the goal of producing exceptional wines.
The Visit at Château LA Croizille
Château Tour Baladoz and Château La Croizille enjoy one of the highest points in the Saint-Émilion appellation. The two Saint-Émilion Grand Cru estates have just over 13 hectares of vines between them, with 8.4 hectares mostly planted on the plateau for Château Tour Baladoz and an additional 5.05 hectares of the only terraced vineyard in the Bordeaux wine region for Château La Croizille.
Beginning just outside the traditional château, you get a look at the clay-limestone resting on solid rock in a unique terroir wall that has been dug out. It’s unusual you would get such a look at the soil layers like this, even though terroir is so commonly talked about when it comes to Bordeaux wine.
Inside the traditional winery you learn about Château Tour Baladoz’s vinification methods. The maceration happens in the combination of concrete stainless steel vats.
Moving on to the barrel room, you see where the wines ages in French oak barrels for 12-15 months before bottling.
Château Tour Baladoz has a relatively small production of just 45,000 bottles and the traditional winery is like that of many small family-run producers throughout the Bordeaux wine region.
Sitting side-by-side with Château Tour Baladoz, the tour continues on with the modern Château La Croizille. It’s unique for both the modern architecture with the orange and black tasting room jetting out over the vines, and for the being the only terraced vineyard in Bordeaux.
It’s the state of the art technology in Château La Croizille that is impressive, and the majority of the tour takes place in the modern winery. While the grapes are still harvested by hand, a mechanical sorter is used.
After de-stemming and crushing, the grapes are vinified by their parcel in the thermo-regulated stainless steel vats. Processes like the pumping over and fermentation are explained while overlooking the impressive vat room.
Even the barrel room is vastly different than that over in Château Tour Baladoz. The 100% new French oak barrels, where Château La Croizille ages for 18-24 months, are artfully racked in the basement cellar.
There’s a second cellar on the upper level alongside the tasting room where artwork is interspersed with the barrels. It’s tough to decide which of the two barrel rooms is more eye-catching.
The tour finishes with a tasting of two wines: Château Tour Baladoz and Château La Croizille. The wines are enjoyed in the overhanging glass tasting room with a spectacular view overlooking the terraced vineyards below.
You can also opt for a picnic lunch at the château following the tour. The picnic lunch includes a salad, baguette sandwich, chips, seasonal fruit and dessert along with a glass of wine.