On the site of an ancient Roman burial mound, Château de la Rivière has a long and colourful history dating back many centuries. The current property - a rather grandiose and stately structure - was constructed in 1577 by Gaston de L’Isle - then mayor of Bordeaux, whose family owned the estate for more than five-hundred years. It has since had a succession of owners, each looking to build on the progress of the last, and since 2013, the Château has been part of the portfolio of Chinese luxury hotel group, Bolian, with Xavier Buffo as executive director. Buffo’s more than twenty years experience at Château de la Rivière and his having worked under three of its previous owners, sees him often described as the ‘estate’s soul’.
The grape varieties here are typical of Fronsac estates with Merlot - which accounts for more than four fifths of the area under vine - supported by Cabernet Franc (8%), Cabernet Sauvignon (6%) and Malbec (2%). A tiny fraction of the vineyard - two hectares or so - are planted with white varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris, with the former accounting for twice the area of the latter. The vines range in age from those planted in the last twenty years, to a small number which are almost a century old. The average age of the vines is thirty-three years and younger vines are planted with a greater density than the older ones.
Château de la Rivière’s Grand Vin is an enticing blend of three or four of the grape varieties in roughly the same proportions as the vineyard. The grapes of the estate’s signature wine are hand picked from its finest soils - on the plateau and the clay / limestone upper slopes. After a stringent sorting process, vinification takes place in steel or wood, followed by a period of ageing in new (60% of production) or used (the remaining 40%) oak barrels. The dominance of the Merlot grape gives Château de la Rivière’s Grand Vin a luxurious texture and roundness, whilst the Cabernet varieties bring structure, complexity and the potential to age.
The estate also produces four other wines - ‘Aria’ - a cuvée of all four varieties with a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon than the Grand Vin, a second wine ‘Les Sources de Château de La Rivière’ (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), a white blend (Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris) sold under the Bordeaux Blanc AOC label and distinguished by its unusually high proportion of the Sauvignon Gris (33%), and a Rosé wine (Bordeaux Rosé AOC).
Named for its location close to the Dordogne, and given the specialism of its current owners in the hotel / hospitality industry, it comes as no surprise to see that Château de la Rivière is leading the way in wine tourism for the region. Tours of the eight hectare underground limestone cellars, tasting packages, fine-dining experiences and luxurious bed & breakfast accommodation at the château are all offered, but the focus remains, to establish the property as appellation leader in the production of fine wines.