Beaming bright red, like a single ruby gemstone amidst a sea of lush green vines, is the state-of-the-art winery of Chateau La Dominique, at once a beacon of modern winemaking in the Saint-Emilion appellation and a one-of-a-kind addition to Bordeaux’s majestic architectural landscape. Since its acquisition by the Fayat family in 1969, this Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe has experienced a remarkable renaissance, continuously evolving and adapting from one vintage to the next. A studious, sustainable approach out in the vineyard is coupled with a search for balance and precision in the cellar, where revered Bordelais winemaking traditions are blended seamlessly with the newest innovations. The wines of Chateau La Dominique combine the best qualities of both Saint-Emilion and Pomerol terroirs in wines that flood forth aromas of ripe red fruit, black pepper, truffles and forest floor.
While the Château La Dominique of today stands as a true embodiment of modern Bordeaux, this magnificent Saint-Emilion estate actually boasts a history dating back to the 16th century, when it was called “Durieu.” In the early 17th century, the property was acquired by the Glenne family and subsequently named “Dominique” by Dominique Glenne in 1618. In the mid-19th century, a merchant by the name of Henri Greloud purchased the estate and added the article “la” to the name of the chateau. He is believed to have done so out of love for the Caribbean Island of Dominicata (named “La Dominique” in French). By 1862, the Chateau La Dominique estate totaled 17 hectares.
It wasn’t until 1969 that Chateau La Dominique, a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé, entered the most glorious chapter of its history, following its acquisition by Clement Fayat from its previous owners, the Baillencourt family, who also owned Chateau Gazin. When Fayat first purchased this property, it consisted of a manor house and a few neglected vines, badly in need of attention. A diligent and proactive individual with strong ties to the land stemming from his family’s roots in nearby Correze, Clement Fayat evaluated the improvements that would need to be made both out in the vineyard and in the cellar of Chateau La Dominique, and quickly got to work.
Through tremendous investment, the estate was completely restructured. A new, thorough analysis of the soil was carried out. A drain system was put in place. In 1975, the vat house was outfitted with brand new stainless steel tanks, a rare innovation at that time. The estate was expanded to its current 29 hectares and the vineyard developed with more Cabernet Franc planted.
In 2012, the Fayat family embarked on a grand project: to construct a brand new, state-of-the-art winery, which would shine as a beacon of modern Bordeaux winemaking while also maintaining harmony with its surrounding natural environment. Clement Fayat enlisted the help of Pritzker-prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel, who – motivated by this opportunity to add his signature touch to the Bordeaux landscape – drew up plans.
Two years later, the project was complete. Building upon the original stone winery, the new structure features a two-way mirror façade, which symbolically blends the vines outside with the new vat room inside the building. The outer walls of the winery are covered with horizontal metallic strips, which create a reverse mirror effect, reflecting the sky and vines in 6 alternating shades of red, representing the nuances in a glass of Chateau La Dominique wine.
The famous, open-air La Terrasse Rouge (or red terrace) situated above the winery also features a kind of pool covered in red glass pebbles, resembling grapes waiting to be crushed, whose three different shades represent the three principal grape varieties planted on the property. The Chateau La Dominique winery is today known as one of the most stunning buildings in Bordeaux, at once a highly functional, modern winemaking facility, popular wine tourist destination and architectural masterpiece.
Today it is Clement Fayat’s son, Jean-Claude Fayat, at the helm of Chateau La Dominique, moving forward his father’s dream with the same passion and determination. He works closely with Gwendeline Lucas, who became General Manager of the Vignobles Fayat in 2017, and Technical Director Yann Monties.
The 29-hectare Chateau La Dominique Grand Cru Classe de Saint-Emilion vineyard is situated in Bordeaux’s Saint-Emilion appellation, northwest of the village of Saint-Emilion, on the border of the Pomerol appellation. The chateau is located just a stone’s throw away from some of the Right Bank’s best-known estates, including Cheval Blanc, Chateau Figeac, Chateau la Conseillante and Chateau l’Evangile.
The Chateau La Dominique terroir is quite unique in that it combines two different types of soil. The northern side of the estate is situated on the Pomerol plateau, characterized by clay-gravel soils. Here, the warm gravel provides ideal conditions for later-ripening grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and lends a certain density and concentration to the finished wine. Meanwhile, in the south, the clay-limestone soils typical of St.-Emilion can be found along with patches of rare blue clay soil, which contributes a beautiful finesse, tension and a fresh minerality to the estate’s wines.
As a way to stay in tune with the terroir, the team at Chateau La Dominique has been continually restructuring the estate vineyard since 2006, adapting each grape variety and clone to the terroir that best suits it. The estate even has its own massal selection vine nursery aimed to promote Cabernet Franc, which provides the wine with its fine attack and signature freshness on the palate.
Overall, the estate vineyards are planted with 81% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Recently, 0.8 hectares of Malbec have also been planted as a way to experiment with this historic variety. In order to reduce environmental impact, the vines of Chateau La Dominique are cultivated by means of a sustainable viticulture, with a profound respect for the region’s biodiversity and a preferences for natural vine treatments over potential harmful chemicals. In fact, five experimental hectares of the estate vineyards are today fully organic. The chateau currently holds the ISO 14001 certification and has qualified for the High Quality Environmental (HQE) standard.
“Precision” is the key word, when it comes to winemaking at Chateau La Dominique, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe. The fully gravity-fed, high-precision vat room is home to 22 73-hectoliter temperature-controlled, truncated and cone-shaped stainless steel vats, designed with a gentle extraction in mind. After the grapes are meticulously sorted twice and crushed, each plot and variety is vinified in a separate vat.
In order to achieve balance in the finished profile, the wines are aged for a period of 14 months in a variety of aging vessels. While the exact proportion changes with each vintage, roughly 60% of the wine ages in new oak barrels and the rest in barrels of one previous vintage, stainless steel vats, amphorae or egg-shaped vats made of polymer material, depending on the specific character of each batch of wine. Finally, the blends are created with balance in mind.
Viticultural and winemaking techniques at Chateau La Dominique are constantly being re-examined in order to best adapt to the character of each new vintage. Since 1977, Michel Rolland has been involved as a consultant at Chateau La Dominique, lending the team his expert advice on each new vintage.
Displaying a bright red color in the glass, the wines of Chateau La Dominique combine the best qualities of the Saint-Emilion and Pomerol terroirs. Aromas of ripe red fruit flood the nose at the wine tasting, along with subtle hints of spices, licorice, black pepper, truffle and earthy nuances of forest floor. On the palate, the wine shows a straightforward attack, unfurling a round texture, generous body and silky tannins on the palate. The wine’s luscious, full flavors linger long on the palate. This is a wine to be enjoyed in its your or age for several years. The Chateau La Dominique First Wine represents roughly half of the estate’s total production.
The other half goes into their second wine, Le Relais de La Dominique, whose debut vintage was 2009. While this wine received just as much care and attention as its older brother, it is produced from the younger vines of the chateau and contains mostly Merlot, which results in a fruitier, more approachable profile.
With the new winery finished in time for the 2013 vintage, the Chateau La Dominique team has ushered in a new winemaking chapter at the estate with a style that focuses on finesse and elegance over boldness and power. The past few vintages of Chateau La Dominique clearly display this change in style, especially the 2016, whose gorgeous stewed fruit aromas and smooth tannins offer a remarkably elegant expression of Merlot.
The year 2020 will represent a significant milestone in the history of Chateau La Dominique, which will reveal the 50th vintage produced at the estate by the Fayat family: the 2019.