Created in 1987, the Pessac-Léognan appellation, located close to the city of Bordeaux, is the largest in the Graves and constitutes the region’s northernmost third. It is the only one in Bordeaux to produce both renowned red and white wines. This reputation has enabled Pessac-Léognan to halt urban sprawl, stop the decline of its vineyards, and helped restore them – like at Château Seguin.
The new appellation’s rapid rise is due to the fact that it encompasses all the estates that were designated Crus Classés de Graves in 1959, and it is entitled to two names: both Graves and Pessac-Léognan. The Pessac-Léognan appellation covers 1,300 hectares in the villages of Cadaujac, Canéjan, Gradignan, Léognan, Martillac, Mérignac, Pessac, Saint-Médard d’Eyrans, Talence and Villenave d’Ornon. Three quarters of the wines are red and one quarter white.
Cabernet Sauvignon comprises just under 60% of the area under vine. What makes Pessac-Léognan’s terroir so special is that it dates back to the late Tertiary/early Quaternary periods, when the former mouth of the Garonne river left behind river stones and gravel of various kinds mixed with clay, sand, hardpan, limestone and shell marl. These form the soil of the famous Graves de Bordeaux.
The word graves (meaning ‘gravel’) takes on special meaning here because the unique terroir also includes white, red, pink, and ochre-coloured quartzite and quartz, as well as jasper, flint, lydite, and more. The variable thickness of the soil (often from 20 cm to 3 metres, but over 7 metres at Seguin) and non-uniform occurrence of gravel in the subsoil offers a wealth of possibilities and options that account for the diversity, character, and nuances of Pessac-Léognan’s fine wines..
Poor gravelly soil ideal for winegrowing
The vines still need nourishment. The gravel deposits in Pessac-Léognan form the appellation’s hilly topography, with rises that provide excellent natural drainage. This drainage is enhanced by a well-developed hydrographic network of small waterways, tributaries of the Garonne (the Peugue, Eau Bourde, Eau Blanche, Breyra, and Saucats). The vines are never drowned, and their roots sink deep into the subsoil for the water they need.
After water comes fire – reflected sunshine
River stones, pebbles, and gravel on the surface soak up heat during the daytime and slowly release it at night. This contributes to slow, even ripening.
In addition, influenced by the nearby ocean and benefiting from the protection of the large Landes pine forest to the west, Pessac-Léognan has a mild, temperate microclimate with regular rainfall. This microclimate is conducive to producing exceptional wines.