An old horseracing track located in Bordeaux's Pomerol appellation will soon be producing grapes. Six wine producers bought chunks of the old property at a recent sale and have already begun planting vines. No one has revealed a purchase price, but reports say the lots averaged just under $300,000 per acre, slightly less than the minimum price usually paid for vineyards in this coveted area. Pomerol is currently the second most expensive appellation in France, after Champagne.
The old Libourne racetrack closed in 2009, after hosting three to four races a year for a century. The Libourne Horseracing Society, led by Stephane d’Arfeuille, the previous owner of neighboring Château La Pointe, decided that the complex should be converted into vineyard land rather than sold off to urban developers.
The sale, handled by the national land-registry SAFER, now brings the Pomerol production zone to a grand total of 1,960 acres. Life-insurance company Sogecap, which owns Château Mazeyres, situated on the other side of the highway, bought the biggest parcel of 10 acres. Other buyers include Francois Janoueix, Benoit Trocard, Jean-Baptiste Bourotte, Luc and Marc Maison and Daniel Mouty.
Mouty, the owner of Château Grand Beauséjour, was the first to plant vines on the former racecourse. He is eager to discover the potential of the terroir when it comes to Merlot. “As the land hasn’t be farmed over the past 100 years it is in excellent condition," he said. "Thirty-meter-deep excavations have revealed that it is situated on very interesting layers of red and white gravelly soil."
Benoit Trocard said he is especially pleased about his acquisition as he will finally be able to build a winery within the Pomerol area in line with the appellation’s upcoming production regulations. “It was out of the question for me to construct upon the precious acreage of Clos de la Vieille Église to meet with the Pomerol Winegrowers Association’s new requirements,” he said. He plans to plant Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc on his 4 acres for a second wine, but will also build a cellar and a tasting room.
Alain Moueix, currently the managing director of Château Mazeyres, told a local paper that he has planted the estate’s new 10 acres with both Cabernet Franc, to add backbone to its chief wine, and Petit Verdot, in anticipation of climate change. These new vines will be grown using biodynamic techniques. The track’s ticket booths are located on this parcel and will be kept as a memento of bygone days.
Luc and Marc Maison, who own adjacent Château Marzy, are highly enthusiastic about the extension of their property, the cellar of which is just next to the site. The first harvest of their new Merlot vines will be directly blended with the wine from the estate’s other parcels. They say the acquisition is first and foremost an investment, but it also has sentimental value. “My parents first met at the racetrack,” said Luc.