Some friends and I recently spent a few days exploring Bordeaux wine country. Having spent the morning at the well-known and much-loved Léoville Barton in Saint Julien, we had planned a slightly lower-key afternoon in the little, little-known commune of Listrac-Médoc. Though not exactly Bordeaux’s most glamorous spot, Listrac is not without its charms. I found some pleasantly surprising examples of new product development, too. Wine tourists looking to experience another side of Bordeaux, this might be the place for you.
Listrac-Médoc is one of six communal appellations in the Médoc, alongside Moulis-en-Médoc and the big four of Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. Geographically, it’s the furthest inland from the Gironde river. It lies to the north of Moulis, itself north-west of Margaux.
Neither Listrac nor Moulis can compete with the big four on name recognition or prestige, to say nothing of wine quality. They haven’t got one classified growth between them, and true superstar properties are few and far between. Of the two, Moulis comes closer, and it has a handful of pretty well-known châteaux including Poujeaux, Chasse Spleen, Maucaillou and Mauvesin Barton.
That leaves Listrac in a rather awkward position, straddling a line between the wines of the higher-end communes and the more modest Médoc and Haut-Médoc zones. This makes marketing wine from Listrac a little tricky, but it’s good for the consumer (or this one, at least): A decent Listrac can represent a considerable trade-up from the entry-level appellations without the sort of price hike you’ll usually get with a Margaux or Pauillac.
After a tasty lunch at the Brasserie l’Embellie restaurant, we took a short stroll around the corner to Château Fourcas Hosten. It’s one of the best-known estates in the appellation, with Château Fonreaud and the Rothschild-owned Château Clarke its clearest rivals.
Fourcas Hosten is owned by the Momméja brothers, famous for the Hermès fashion label. It’s an impressive property hidden behind large iron gates bearing the distinctive crest of a couple of dogs standing, for whatever reason, on their hind legs. Inside, it’s expansive, and its well-kept gardens and a chartreuse make it rather idyllic.
Our guide, Mathilde, was a very pleasant stagiaire in the marketing department. As it happens, she will soon start the same wine marketing MBA program that we were to graduate from that weekend. Good luck to her.
Visiting Château Fourcas Hosten
The tour was fairly classic in structure, ticking all the boxes you’d expect when visiting a Bordeaux winery. I wasn’t surprised to learn that the estate has won several wine tourism awards. Ours was a basic visit package that cost around €8 per person, but there’s a lot more. They offer a range of different visits up to around €20 per person. They’ve made tourism a priority, and it would be interesting to see what the more expensive tours have to offer.
There was at least one other group visiting at the same time as us, though at no point did the two overlap or anybody get in anybody else’s way. Getting that right is a small organisational detail, but it makes a big difference to the visitor experience. I’ve experienced at least a couple of classified growths getting it seriously wrong.
We finished with a tasting of some recent vintages of Château Fourcas Hosten and the second wine, Les Cèdres d’Hosten. We had some interesting discussion with our host. I was particularly interested to hear about the white wine that they have recently launched, Château Fourcas Hosten Blanc.
Making a white wine in the Médoc is rare, and Fourcas Hosten’s white wine makes for an interesting wine marketing case study.
Cave de Grand Listrac
Our final stop of the day was at the Cave de Grand Listrac. It’s the growers’ cooperative in Listrac-Médoc and is just across the road from where we’d had lunch.
My friend Jean-Baptiste had done an internship here during our studies, and he wanted to say hello to his old colleagues. We ended up spending an hour or so inside, and that was all right with me. This was around the tail end of a heatwave in Bordeaux, so any contact with air conditioning was more than welcome.
To call it a “cave” or “cellar” probably doesn’t do it justice, as there’s quite a lot more going on than storage. Unremarkable from the outside, it’s part office, part tasting room, part shop and part winery. This was my second time here, and I’d happily go again. It’s a drop-in sort of place, informal and very welcoming. Thanks to Jacques, Marie-Laurence and their colleagues for the warm welcome. I’d certainly recommend that any passers-by drop in and see what the Listrac appellation is all about.
The Listrac-Médoc growers’ cooperative
The Listrac co-op was established in 1935, making it one of the oldest in Bordeaux. Today, it represents some 40 growers and accounts for around a quarter of overall production in Listrac-Médoc. A member of the Union des Caves du Médoc, they produce and market a range of wines from the appellations of Listrac-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc and Haut-Médoc.
The range is pretty well-priced, and it’s well represented in the store and tasting room. They’ve got plenty of quite good stuff, including back vintages, available for around €10 to €15. We tasted through some of the range, including some Cru Bourgeois estate wines and a rather appealing 100% Petit Verdot.
Marketing a single varietal Petit Verdot is rare anywhere, let alone in Bordeaux. This was the second instance that afternoon of new product development in Listrac. See my post on the co-op’s Petit Verdot for more on that.
Listrac-Médoc is an unusual region in a slightly awkward place, literally and figuratively. I like the people I’ve met here, and I like their wines. Marketing Listrac wine seems like a tricky proposition, though I admire the efforts being undertaken at both Fourcas Hosten and the Cave de Grand Listrac. I will follow their efforts with interest, indeed.
This trip to Listrac was fun, informative, and pleasantly surprising. It was also too brief, so I’ll head back as soon as possible. Spending some more time there should help me get a more comprehensive understanding of the place and how it fits into the overall Bordeaux puzzle.