Château Bélair-Monange, the emblematic Saint-Emilion vineyard adjacent to the village and overlooking the Dordogne river valley, began its remarkable viticultural journey in the 17th century: in 1691, the property was already renowned for its wines.
Owned for over 200 years by the Canolle de Lescours family, the vineyard began blossoming in earnest in the 18th century, under the influence of first Jacques François Joseph Canolle de Lescours, 2nd generation at the helm of the property, then of his son, François Antoine Joseph. On the eve of the French Revolution, the wines of Bélair were sold at two or three times the price of other “grands vins” from Saint-Émilion. As early as 1802, part of the wine produced was bottled at the Château, an extremely rare practice at the time.
In the 19th century, the distribution of Bordeaux wines continued to formalize. Official and unofficial classifications emerged to catalogue the wines that were recognized at the time. Thus in 1850, from the very first edition of the Cocks & Férêt guide, Bélair crowned the list of the Premier Crus of Saint-Emilion.
An important chapter for the property concluded at the end of the 19th century: the stone quarries, a vast labyrinth spanning five stories and 86 km of galleries under the vineyard, mined commercially since at least the 15th century, were permanently closed.
In 1916, the property was acquired by Mr and Mrs Dubois-Challon, who undertook in turn to maintain the wine’s natural elegance and pedigree.
In 2008, Christian and Edouard Moueix fulfilled the ambition of their ancestor, Jean-Pierre Moueix, by acquiring Château Bélair, renamed Bélair-Monange in honor of Anne-Adèle Monange, mother of Jean-Pierre Moueix. A complete restoration of the property was subsequently launched.
In 2012, the vineyard was expanded with the addition of parcels from Château Magdelaine, a contiguous Premier Grand Cru Classé, owned by the Moueix family since 1952.
The most urgent task was the consolidation of the quarries that had been seriously weakened by 500 years of irregular exploitation. A colossal undertaking: four years of work were necessary to reinforce the pillars eroded by generations of random mining practices.
At the same time, a precise study of the soil and genetic history of the vineyard was conducted in order to best prepare the second crucial task: the replantation of time and age-worn vineyard parcels. We were particularly attentive to giving the soil time to rest (for five years on average) and to allowing for a reconstitution of the microbiological life so essential to the vineyard’s natural balance.
The third task, the most visible but ultimately the least crucial for the vineyard and the wine, was the renovation of the existing buildings and the construction of a new winery. The first chapter spanned ten years, starting with the Château, originally built in 1750 on the site of an ancient fortress, followed by the different buildings that constituted the hamlet of Villeneuve. An important center of life in the Middle Ages, the semi-troglodytic dwellings were renovated and converted into housing for employees working on the property.
To the west of this hamlet we are currently completing the final phase of this restoration project: the creation of a new winery, designed by the Swiss architects, Herzog & de Meuron, conceived around the specificities of this exceptional site.