Dating back to 1000 AD, it was a major stopping-off point in the Médoc for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The monks tended the vines as well as the souls of the parishioners and pilgrims.
The vineyard survived the revolution and the chateau was classified as a 4th growth in the 1855 Medoc, Graves and Sauternes classification. By the 1950s the effects of Phylloxera, mildew and economic crises meant only four hectares were left in production.
Alexis Lichine purchased the vineyard in 1951 and spent almost 40 years bringing the estate back to its former glory. He was a pioneer of wine tourism in Bordeaux, one of the first to open the doors of the chateau to the public for tours, to taste and buy wines but also to welcome guests in the chateau around the table of the old kitchen dating back to the middle ages – the very room that the monks used. The perfect marriage of history and innovation.
When Alexis died in 1989, he was buried amongst his precious vines and his son, Sacha, took over. He continued this tradition of hospitality, building a new cellar and boutique with a heli-pad on the roof!
Under the ownership of the Ballandre family, since 1999 the warm welcome continues. Chateau Prieuré Lichine is perfectly placed to be a one-stop introduction to the Margaux appellation. At the heart of the appellation, it is on the border between the villages of Cantenac and Margaux. The vineyards of the estate are spread across the different soils types of this large appellation perfectly illustrating the diversity and complexity that the terroir brings to the wine.
The visit is unique; you will discover three generations of concrete vats. The original vats from the 1950s are in the courtyard, now decorated with a display of fire backs collected by Alexis Lichine.
In the cellars, the love affair with concrete continues with new vats from 2013 both square (with the Prieuré blue signature) and tulip shaped. Back in fashion with winemakers for their thermal inertia, cement makes for some of the coolest vats in Bordeaux.
Prieure Lichine has one of the most tempting wine boutiques in the Medoc, as well as the range of wines from the property they offer wine related paraphernalia to please the whole family. They offer a choice of tastings following the visits from food and wine matching, vertical tastings and blind tastings. My favourite is the terroir tasting. As Chateau Prieuré Lichine has plots of land across the various terroirs of Margaux, you can discover the different personalities of the single varietals from the different plots and bring them all together to discover the importance and complexity of blending – the Bordeaux signature.