La Tour of St Emilion – Balestard la Tonnelle, ready and waiting…

We all know a wine property named after its famous tower (Latour) in Pauillac on the Left bank way up in the Haut Médoc wine country. Well here is another one but on the Right Bank, in fact in walking distance of the famous medieval village of St Emilion.

The famous tower or Tonnelle of this 10 hectare estate dates back to the 15th century and it gave its name to this ancient property, Balestard La Tonnelle that is located right on the top of St Emilion’s prestigious limestone plateau.

It is owned and run by the Capdemourlin family that date back in St Emilion as many years as its tower. It is one of the oldest families of the area with the 12th and 13th generations involved today. Balestard was the name of one of its early owners, who was a clergy man.

Its certainly easier to get to than Château Latour. In the future due to vast recent investments in its winery and 100 or so covers in this second to none food and wine tasting space with its stunning terrace overlooking Bordeaux’s most beautiful wine village, its about to get itself and its distinctive tower securely on the wine map of top destinations to visit.

A label that is unique with its poetry written by François Villon dedicated to this wine and on the label since the 19th century.
Double lined stainless steel vats for efficient cold soaks and temperature control
Grapes fall by gravity and push down by a automatic pigeur

The wines of this ancient estate are delicious, complex and powerful in a restrained elegant way.The ‘terroir’ of all of this estate is a thin layer of clay overlapping the famous limestone plateau which is one of the world’s best terroirs. Made of seashells and particularly star fish (les asteries) that have been crushed and calcified over millions of years, this mother rock gives the vines a tough time and makes them work hard to grow few but very concentrated grapes. At the same time it acts as a sponge feeding the vines through capillary action a few drops of water at a time in the driest of summers.

Shallow red surface clay and limestone rock just beneath

The Capdemourlin are one of St Emilion’s oldest and also own Château Capdemourlin just off the plateau and Roudier in the satellite appellation of Montagne. Currently it is the 12th and 13th generations that run the estate.

Saint Emilion being the first ever vineyard registered with Unesco, the new winery and buildings are absolutely in keeping with the historical buildings of the area.

The traditional entrance of this ancient estate
….contrasted with the new buildings

The attention to detail is second to none in each area including the winery, barrel cellar and also the other spaces such as the professional kitchens, tasting areas, boutique and large dining space. The architect is Claude Marty (Reignac, Fieuzal) but the Capdemourlin family have left no detail to chance studying and selecting the materials, colours and designs that are modern yet classy – they have a passion for Tuscany and one can see it even in the elegance of the furniture selected from there.

The stunning terrace (with more seating) gives a panoramic view of nearly 360° of the ancient village of St Emilion and the undulating hills covered with vines that surround it. I am so excited to have such a venue so close to the village itself. There is lots of potential in the future for all manner of food and wine events.

All the works were completed in time for last year’s futures tastings that they were set to host. What a shame it would have been a perfect premier. With Covid this year again the world’s wine press and buyers will have to taste at distance. We were lucky to be some of the very few who have yet seen the quality of the workmanship that has gone into this estate. It certainly has a pedigree terroir and position on this prestigious plateau and it is perfectly poised and ready to have some further recognition.


We tasted the three vintages 2016, 2017 and 2018 of the Capdemourlin’s three properties.

Château Roudier, Montagne St Emilion

2016; juicy raspberry notes of a medium slightly evolved wine with a black tea dry finish

2017: smokey notes and cherry flavours in this fragrant wine

2018: black fruits such as blackcurrant, floral nose and rich dark chocolate on the palate, slightly dry finish

Château Capdemourlin, Grand Cru Classé St Emilion

2016: minty notes and cherry, plum fruits, minerality

2017: vanilla savoury spicy cedar medium body

2018: black fruits, concentrated, gourmand, thicker, long finish

Château Balestard la Tonnelle, Grand Cru Classé St Emilion

2016: liquorice, aniseed, tobacco, fresh black fruits on the palate, complex wine with slight almond stone notes

2017: blackcurrant, mint, dark chocolate, black cherry, black tea, medium body with long finish

2018: gourmand aromas, plum cake rich on the palate, thick fruitiness, very complex with notes of blueberry and spice on the finish

Barrel cellar
Tasting area

Many of their neighbours (and further afoot in St Emilion) are still in the throws of renovating and constructing (Troplong Mondot, Trottevielle, Belair, le Dome to name a few) to ensure the desired position when the new league table is announced in 2022 of the reclassification of Saint Emilion (they have just recently ended contesting the last classification that took place in 2012). I have never seen so many cranes towering above this tiny medieval village. There was a big change in 2012 which meant that the appearance of your property played an important part in the judging – the wine for Premier Grand Cru Classé today represents only 35% of the total marks. Hence the rush to keep up with the Jones.

Figeac has just finished their constructions (I have yet to see it). They are contending to be an A, rightfully so in my opinion with their wines just getting better and better and more and more pure. But what does my opinion count for, or anyone elses? The lawyers are already rubbing their hands!

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