Château Clarke is inseparable from the Rothschild family, its values and passion for wine, and has benefited from its expert attention and creative vision over the past 50 years. While the first evidence of viticulture here dates back to the 12th century, this Médoc jewel has just emerged from three years of major work to elevate it once again to the rank its origins had destined it for. Thanks to the imperatives and investment of a family, the excellence of its terroir – at long last revealed – and the expertise of its teams, Clarke now appeals to 21st century tastes and meets all modern-day challenges.
1973: the year when it all began
A visionary, builder and wine enthusiast in the manner of his illustrious family, Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1926-1997) – the co-owner of Château Lafite Rothschild – harboured a secret dream: to one day own an intimate and discreet, still unknown vineyard, which he would make into his own masterpiece. As part of a monumental project, he restored the estate, built new facilities, redesigned and replanted the entire 55-hectare vineyard as one single parcel. He also relaunched Le Merle Blanc de Château Clarke – a white wine born at the end of the 19th century, long before the resurgence in the fashion for Médoc white wines. Thus it was that Château Clarke became the cornerstone of his winemaking adventure.
The property was passed on to his son Baron Benjamin (1963-2021) and his wife Ariane, who reinvented Baron Edmond’s legacy and undertook to complete the metamorphosis of the property and its wines into true Médoc icons.
2023: the end of a large-scale project
Between 2020 and 2023, 18 million euros have been invested in renovating, optimising and creating the most efficient technical wine-making systems as well as in accelerating the vineyard’s restructuring to adapt it to the effects of climate change.
With an eye to enhancing the estate’s unique excellence, craftsmen and artists have also participated in improving Château Clarke’s ecosystem, including vats, wineries, gardens, tasting and reception rooms.
« Our commitment has always been characterised by boldness and the courage to act and reinvent » says Ariane de Rothschild, President of the Edmond de Rothschild Group.
New vat room, new cellar
From May 2020 to June 2023, led by Bordeaux architects Philippe Ducos and Alexandre Rougier, the historic winery has benefited from major improvements: new roof, new insulation, new air conditioning, new aesthetics. 50 new vats with capacities from 5 to 160 hectolitres, corresponding to the 50 Clarke parcels, have been installed, and receive the harvest via a gravit feed. These vats keep the batches separate for as long as possible, ensuring the most diversified palette possible at the time of blending.
In the fully-renovated wine barrel cellars, the wines are aged for 16 months, 2/3 in new barrels and 1/3 in barrels that have only been used once before, under perfect temperature, ventilation and humidity conditions. Lastly, a new underground winery is used for press wines, which make up between 8 and 12% of the final blend of the wine.
The 2022 vintage was the first to benefit from these brand new facilities.
“Château Clarke is an elegant, dense, powerful, fresh wine with extremely silky and precise tannins. Its qualities emerge while it is still young, and become more marked over the years. Thanks to plot-by-plot vinification, gentle extraction and precise blending, made possible by the new technical equipment, it has increased in complexity, precision and length.”
says Fabrice Darmaillacq, Estate Director who arrived in 2016.
Inside, outside: art and soul in harmony
The historic Château Clarke winery, the Merle Blanc winery and the new tasting room have enjoyed a makeover under the talented hands of Jean-Nicolas Boulmier, painter and decorator, and Gilles Chabrier, craftsman, artist, engraver and glass sculptor.
For the side walls of the Clarke winery, Jean-Nicolas Boulmier has designed a very geometric look with vanishing lines, which amplifies the elevation of the setting, while the layout brings to mind the plots on the estate in a sequence of colours ranging from ivory to black-brown. The back wall, like a huge abstract canvas, is emblazoned with a patina interwoven with orange, contrasted with petrol blue and white.
More intimate in size, the Merle Blanc winery is adorned with matte black and white gradient-effect patinas. Finally, behind its sandblasted glass doors, the new tasting room opens out onto a panoramic view of the grapevines. The huge eight-metre-long table harbours tricolour oak marquetry. Above, the light fitting, inspired by a drawing by Ariane de Rothschild, recalls the wild energy of vine tendrils; this contrasts with the wine wall with bottles displayed in orderly straight lines, like the rows of a vineyard.
At the foundation of the Edmond de Rothschild Heritage international winery portfolio led by Boris Bréau, Managing Director Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Wines, Château Clarke is a brilliant demonstration of the merits of long-term commitment when it comes to vineyards and wine. It is today the Médoc emblem of Edmond de Rothschild Heritage, headed and created by Ariane de Rothschild with the intention of bringing together all the Edmond de Rothschild group’s art of living activities.
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