Château de Cérons


Cérons is part of the trio of sweet wine appellations located on the left bank of the river Garonne. It has historically played the part of runt of the litter to its more influential neighbours of Sauternes and to Barsac. Probably unfairly described by one notable critic as the least important sweet wine region in Bordeaux, it would be true to state that a degree of apathy and depressed pricing have discouraged vignerons from investing here. As a result, it has become more of a buffer zone between the production of red and white wines of the Graves (of which it is an enclave, and to which most château owners here now concentrate on) and those of Sauternes and Barsac.

At the time of establishing the appellations in 1936, anxious to consolidate their position as the most influential region in Bordeaux for sweet wines, the vignerons of Sauternes created their own delimitation of the vineyards. Politically, Sauternes is part of the jurisdiction of Barsac, which also includes the communes of Cérons, Preignac, Bommes and Pujols-sur-Ciron.

It was The Marquis Bertrand de Lur Saluces of Yquem fame who played the most influential part in the organisation of the boundaries which saw both Cérons and Pujols-sur-Ciron excluded, although the Sauternais elected to include the commune of Fargues, which is located within the jurisdiction of Langon. So much for the concept of terroir being at the heart of the French appellation system. Local politics was most often the deciding factor.

Regardless, all three received their appellation status on the same day: 11th September 1936.

Within this delimitation, Barsac has the peculiarity of having rights to its own appellation but also enjoys the option of declaring its harvest as either ‘Sauternes’ or ‘Barsac’, whilst the other communes only have the rights to use the word ‘Sauternes’. In other words, all Barsac wines are Sauternes, but not all Sauternes can be Barsac…

In theory, the Cérons appellation extends over 80 hectares, incorporated within the three communes of Podensac, Illats and Cérons. The reality is that much less is now dedicated to making sweet wine and today it represents less than 5% of the total production of that of Sauternes.

One more anomaly is that at the time of drawing up the laws for the appellation, the maximum yield was set at 40hl/ha, as opposed to the 25hl/ha agreed for Barsac and Sauternes. This higher limit is seldom met, barely achieving half that figure. Equally, yields in Sauternes and Barsac are also only around half what is dictated by the appellation.

Cérons shares the same three permitted varieties as Barsac and Sauternes: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. Prior to the mid-17th century, that was not necessarily the case, since the deliberate and commercial use of botrytis affected grapes dates from after the Middle Ages.

The typical ‘recipe’ for all three appellations is around 75% Sémillon, with 20% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle. Sémillon was more widely planted after phylloxera with Sauvignon Blanc falling out of favour, due mostly to the fact that its tight bunches with thicker-skinned berries are much less prone to the development of botrytis. The variety is more likely to desiccate rather than to ‘rot’. The Muscadelle is used more of a seasoning in the final blend. Although not (as the name might suggest) wildly aromatic, it can be blowsy in isolation and, as a variety, it is also prone to grey, rather than noble, rot.

The soils are gravelly, silicious and clayed land sitting over a bed of limestone. Drainage takes place naturally on the terraced slopes and presents no real issue, although the generally flatter land here does tend to reduce the influence of the development of botrytis.

Château de Cérons

The Château de Cérons is only one of two properties in Bordeaux permitted to share its name with that of the appellation the other one being Château Margaux.

A vineyard has existed here since the time of Christ and is apparently documented as being the first place for vines to be planted in the Bordeaux region. Its proximity to the Garonne (the village had its own port) meant this was a logical site to plant vines.

The château itself is a historic listed manor house is in the centre of the village, facing the small 12th century church. The property is the ‘purist’ remaining example of Chartreuse architecture in the Bordeaux region and dates from the 17th century. It is currently in the process of being fully restored.

Chartreuse is the French word for a Carthusian monastery. From the fifteenth century foreign merchants had been forced outside of the walls of Bordeaux where they were free to trade with the wines of the ‘Haut Pays’ (regions such as Cahors and Gaillac), ensuring that they could not be mixed illicitly with ‘real’ claret. These merchants established themselves on the Quai de Chartrons, separated then by a small, unbridged rivulet. The name ‘Chartrons’ arose since the land here had previously been colonised by a group of Carthusian monks, driven out of their home inland during the Hundred Years War.

The property is under the ownership of the Perromat family, who have nine generations of winemaking in the Graves region behind them. It was purchased by Jean Perromat (an ex-mayor of Cérons) and his wife, Suzaan in 1958. Today, it is their winemaker son, Xavier, and his wife, Caroline (a former nurse) who have charge of its legacy.

There are a total of 30 hectares of vines planted, of which between 5 and 8 hectares ‘depending on the climate and cash flow’ are dedicated to the Cérons appellation. Three hectares are located directly at the rear of the château and enclosed by a stone wall. Apparently, this was once a larger property but was divided when the main road between Langon and Bordeaux was constructed in the mid-19th century.

The vineyards are divided equally between red and white varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for Graves Rouge and the ‘standard’ proportion of Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle for the white wines, with the addition of a little Sauvignon Gris (rather than Muscadelle) for the Graves Blanc.

The Graves Blanc is based on around 70-75% Sémillon, 20-25% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Sauvignon Gris. No oak, no malolactic fermentation, the wine is blended around six months after the end of vinification and then bottled for early release. Despite being enjoyable in their youth, the wines also have the capacity to age for a few years.

The current release, Graves Rouge 2020, is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This blend may change given the conditions of the year. It has been known that some vintages could be 100% varietal wine. The wine undergoes a cold soak before a long, slow fermentation on the skins. There is no addition of SO2 until just before bottling.

Cérons appellation wines are made in around nine years out of every ten, the notable exceptions being 1991 (the year of the great frost) and 2023 which was just generally miserable. Here the blend is likely to be around 70-80% Sémillon with 5% Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc making up the balance. The objective is to produce wines with around 70g/l residual sugar. Each variety is vinified apart in barrel, with the equivalent of one barrel per day being picked during the harvest season. With no malolactic fermentation, the wines are aged in wood for around two or three years before bottling. In the early years of Jean Perromat’s tenure, the wine often stayed in barrel for up to five years, as much a function of the low demand for this style of wine.

The estate will be fully organic with the 2024 vintage.

Chateau de Cérons Cérons pack shot 2019 fiche
Chateau de Cérons Cérons pack shot 2011 fiche
Chateau de Cérons Cérons pack shot 2009 fiche
Chateau de Cérons Graves White pack shot 2022 fiche
Chateau de Cérons Graves Red pack shot 2020 fiche