Chateau Carbonnieux & Thomas Jefferson
Château Carbonnieux and Thomas Jefferson’s Visit in 1787
Jefferson himself said it best: “…so ask the traveled inhabitant of any nation, In what country on earth would you rather live?—certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest & sweetest affections and recollections of life.—Which would be your second choice?—France.”
In 1740, the estate was sold to the monks of the Sainte-Croix abbey in Bordeaux and a new era began for Carbonnieux. Initially purchased to be ‘a mother earth’ for the abbey, the Carbonnieux estate soon became the major investment of the Benedictine monks who did not hesitate to borrow huge amounts of money to take their Carbonnieux growth to the very top of white Graves wine ranking. Don Galléas was one of the first to blend varieties and to bottle wine which made it easier for it to be transported and kept for longer before being drunk. His vinification methods and his cellars were among the most modern in the region. In the ranking of the Guyenne Intendance, published in 1776, the white wines of the “Aux Bénédictins de Carbonnieux” were very much appreciated. Although the “premier cru de Pontac” (Haut-Brion) was the reference for red wines at the time, Carbonnieux by far led the ranking of white wines from Guyenne. Thanks to the talents and entrepreneurship of the Benedictine monks from the Sainte-Croix abbey for half a century, the domain flourished and the famous bottle with the Saint Jacques shell attained worldwide renown, from Constantinople to the United States.
In the spring of 1787, Thomas Jefferson, American ambassador to France, future president of the United States, gastronome, and wine lover went on a European tour. He travelled for three months around the south and the west of France and in the north of Italy. His stay in Bordeaux from May 24 to May 28 was a particularly important part of the trip. He visited the most prestigious Châteaux in the Médoc and Graves regions, including Château Carbonnieux which at the time, was owned by Sainte-Croix Benedictine monks. Today, in the Château park stands a pecan tree over 30 meters high and with a circumference of 4.50 meters; an historic monument. Its age, 225 years is said to correspond to Thomas Jefferson’s visit. The Château owners have always referred to this tree as Jefferson’s pecan tree, and it still takes pride of place in the inner courtyard today.
Original text by Professor Bernard Dalisson