A Glass of History
Photograph by theswedish/sxc.hu
Grapes have been grown at Château d’Issan since the 12th century when a wine from d’Issan was allegedly served at the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry Plantagenet in 1152. The marriage united England with the French regions of Aquitaine, Anjou and Normandy under one rule and sparked the long involvement of the British in France’s most famous wine region, Bordeaux. The present château dates back to the 17th century and is one of the most beautiful in Bordeaux – "a veritable sleeping beauty" castle complete with turrets, climbing rose vines, and a surrounding moat.
In 1723, Château d’Issan’s wine was sought out by the Prince of Wales and later became a favorite of Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria. It was also recognized by Thomas Jefferson and classified a "Third Growth Margaux" in 1855. This illustrious history gave way to Château d’Issan’s motto: “For the Table of Kings and the Abode of the Gods.”
Since 1945, Château d’Issan has been owned by the Cruse family. At that time, only two hectares of vines were still under production, and the château, winery, and cellars were in disrepair having been ravaged by WWII and neglected by the previous owner. The Cruses were well-equipped to restore d’Issan after having come to Bordeaux from Denmark in the early 1800s and establishing a prosperous business as wine merchants and owning such famous châteaux as Pontet-Canet, Rauzan-Ségla and Giscours. Today, Château d’Issan remains family-owned and under the direction of Emmanuel Cruse, named after his grandfather who originally bought the estate.
I had the pleasure of spending a day with Emmanuel and his wife, Virgine Cruse, at Le Bernardin in New York City where we tasted his second label called Blason d’Issan, which included vintages 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.
The sit-down tasting and seminar with Emmanuel Cruse was a memorable experience. It is always nice to re-visit vintages to see where the wine is in it’s life cycle. The majority of wine that goes into Château d’Issan is Cabernet. Depending on the growing season and what works the best, the Cabernet Sauvignon is anywhere between 60-69% Cabernet and the Merlot makes up the difference. During the harvest they have approximately 100 grape pickers each year. 55% of Château d’Issan is put into new barrels for aging.
Theresa Rogers Matthews has been in the wine industry—on the import, distribution and retail side—for 31 years. Her years of experience have taken her around the world, finding wine gems and tasting thousands of bottles while getting to know the wine producers and wine makers personally. Theresa was the cellar master for the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in Manhattan for a number of years. For the past 20 years she has owned Horseneck Wines located in Greenwich.
25 East Putnam, Greenwich
Photo by: Melani Lust