(Published with permission. © 2014 Château Coutet. All rights reserved.)

Château Coutet: In 1787, former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, then ambassador to France, celebrated Château Coutet as the best Sauternes from Barsac. In 1855, the estate was classified as a First Growth and recognized for its continued excellence. Today, as the oldest and largest Barsac estate, Château Coutet stays true to its tradition of distinction and quality.

An English fortress built in the thirteenth century, this citadel with its square tower, a design typical of the era’s military constructions, became a wine producing estate in 1643. Previously owned by the Lur-Saluces family, the property was home to Château d’Yquem’s horse stables, transformed in the late nineteenth century into a 110-meter long cellar (the longest in the appellation). A second round tower in the property’s northern plot, a Château Coutet landmark, was built originally to breed pigeons and peacocks for the region’s Gascon lords. Vertical wine presses from the 1920s, a fourteenth century chapel and a Bordeaux cobblestone courtyard are testaments to the estate’s rich architectural and regional history.

Visit: Wine in France: Aline Baly, third generation owner of Château Coutet, on refinement and distinction in wine from one generation to the next published on A Woman’s Paris®.

Visit: Wine in France: Exceptional food pairings with Château Coutet Sauternes and dry white wines (recipes) published on A Woman’s Paris®.

Traced back to 1643, Château Coutet is one of the oldest vineyards in France’s Sauternes wine region. Standing over the main courtyard, the château’s stout square tower with a flat crenellated top is believed to originate from the late thirteenth century with a design typical of the military constructions from the time of Aquitaine’s English occupation.

A second tower, located in the property’s most northern plot, is another example of the era’s architecture. This Château Coutet landmark was built to breed pigeons and peacocks for the region’s Gascon lords. Further elements from other centuries define the property’s architectural style, including a fourteenth century citadel (“La Sallasse” or “La Salace”) and chapel, as well as two eighteenth century towers. Château Coutet is also home to the longest Sauternes chai (vat room) with a 110-meter long cellar that houses more than 860 barrels, arranged into four single, parallel lines.

Prior to its origin as a wine producing estate, Château Coutet’s history is rather obscure. The first noted owner of the property, Charles le Guérin, referred to as Lord of Coutet, was a counselor at the Bordeaux Parliament. He purchased the estate in 1643 and then passed it on to his nephew, Jean le Pichard, in 1695. The latter’s descendants owned Château Coutet until 1788. It was at this time that the former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson noted Château Coutet as the best Sauternes originating from Barsac. Research indicates that at this point in history the property was producing 135,000 liters. With a production volume comparable to that of Château d’Yquem, Château Coutet’s plots must have extended beyond today’s 38.5 hectares (95 acres). It is also interesting to note that the wines prices were similar to the appellation’s superior first growth at the time.

Alongside Château d’Yquem

Later on, Gabriel-Barthélémy-Romain de Filhot, president of the Bordeaux parliament and a cousin of the former owner, acquired the estate. As a consequence of the French Revolution, Château Coutet was seized by the state of France in 1794 and Filhot was beheaded. However, the French government did not confiscate the estate. As a result, when Filhot’s daughter Marie-Geneviève married into the Lur Saluces family, she brought Château Coutet as part of her dowry. Château Coutet was inherited later on by Marquis Romain Bertrand de Lur Saluces, son of Marie-Geneviève de Filhot and Antoine-Marie de Lur-Saluces. At the time, the Marquis de Lur Saluces was also the owner of Château d’Yquem, Château de Fargues, Château Filhot and Château de Malle and thus the largest producer of sweet white wines in the world. Château Coutet was his only property in the commune of Barsac, where he labeled the wine “VIN de BARSAC de Mr. le Marquis de LUR SALUCES.”

The 1855 Classification

In 1855, in preparation of the Exposition Universelle de Paris, the Emperor Napoleon the III requested that the Bordeaux wine merchants classify the greatest Bordeaux estates according to their reputation. This was accomplished by interpreting the Chateaux prices and quantities traded. This classification not only identified to all the quality of the wines, but also and more important, the exceptional terroirs within each appellation. Château Coutet received its Premier Grand Cru classification as one of only two Barsac properties represented in this particular highly distinguished tier, joined by only seven other Sauternes. Overtime, several estates were divided. Thus, today’s First Growths consist of nine properties.

The Guy Family

Château Coutet remained under the care of the Lur-Saluces family until 1922. For three brief years, the estate was in the care of the Société Immobilière des Grands Crus de France, owners of several classified growths in the Margaux appellation. This transaction separated the estate from Château d’Yquem. In 1925, Henry-Louis Guy, a hydraulic wine press manufacturer from Lyon, purchased the estate. Guy equipped the winery with his vertical presses, still used today at harvest time. He died shortly thereafter and passed the estate onto his widow and her second husband, Edmond Rolland. Managed by Mr. Rolland, it was during this period that the famous “Cuvée Madame” was first made by Château Coutet to honor his wife, Madame Rolland-Guy. This special reserve is only produced under very rare and extraordinary conditions; its most recent release is the 2001 vintage.

The Baly Family

In 1977, the estate was sold to Marcel Baly, an Alsacian who fell instantly in love with the estate during the course of a vacation stop. With a bit of encouragement, Marcel, a true entrepreneur, could not turn down the challenge of transforming himself into a winemaker, even after a lifetime spent in the logistics and hospitality industries. Although Château Coutet was intended to be a retirement project, Marcel realized that leading a first classified growth with over 300 years of history was too great a responsibility. “We might make mistakes, but we do not fail.” Equipped with his vision, determination and an undisputable strength in operations management, as well as his eldest sons, Philippe and Dominique, Marcel committed everything to continuing the estate’s tradition. The Baly team’s first year was focused on observing the vineyard and the various cellar activities. What followed was the placement of a long-term commitment to restoring and re-planting the 38.5 hectares (95 acres) of vines, optimizing all the work processes and operations, rebuilding the cellar and winery and, finally, the château itself. Throughout the eighties, the family stayed focused on these first steps creating a strong technical foundation for today and for future generations. Today, Philippe and Dominique Baly continue their father’s program, accompanied by the family’s third generation, represented by Marcel’s grand-daughter, Aline Baly, Dominique’s daughter.

Baron Philippe de Rothschild, SA

In 1994, Philippe and Dominique Baly signed an agreement with the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, giving exclusive distribution rights to her company, Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. This commercial as well as technical collaboration has accelerated the renewal of Château Coutet’s worldwide reputation. Per this agreement, dated March 22, 1994, Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. is the exclusive worldwide distributor for the totality of Château Coutet’s wines:

Château Coutet, 1er Grand Cru Classé en 1855, AOC Barsac – The estate’s first blend

La Chartreuse de Coutet, AOC Sauternes – The estate’s second blend, first appearing in 1977

La Cuvée Madame de Château Coutet, AOC Barsac – The estate’s reserve: only produced during exceptional years

Opalie de Château Coutet, AOC Bordeaux – The estate’s new dry white, first vintage released 2010.

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux

In 2005, Château Coutet joined the prestigious Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. With 132 members, this group of Bordeaux’s most notable estates travels throughout Europe, North America and Asia to develop traditional and new markets, promoting its members while representing the entire Bordeaux region. In numerous cities, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux coordinates trade, press and consumer events, ranging from tastings to gala dinners. Through its participation, Château Coutet reaches out to its supporters and educates the current and next generations of wine professionals and enthusiasts.

A Unique Terroir

Château Coutet benefits from an exceptional terroir. The vines’ deep roots extract elements from a limestone and clay-based soil, giving the grapes freshness, richness and strength. For this reason the wine carries the name “Coutet,” derived from the Gascon’s word for knife, to signify the fresh, lively and crisp palate that is the estate’s signature style. In their youth, the property’s wines display generous notes of white flowers, citrus fruits, honey and vanilla. Time brings out deeper, warmer notes in which spices combine with exotic nectars and candied fruits. Age also enhances the harmony of its roasted Botrytis character and its distinct aromas to give Château Coutet a delicate and unique bouquet that is unsurpassed.

The “Noble Rot”

Botrytis cinerea is a fungus that concentrates the sugars in each grape via a multi-step interaction with the fruit. The result is sweet nectar that is rich in distinct aromas such as honeysuckle, quince and ginger. This gift of nature is referred to as “Noble Rot” as it is the precursor to a great Barsac-Sauternes. The region’s unique microclimate supports the Noble Rot’s presence and development duea to the morning mists followed by warm, sunny afternoons that enable the mold to develop abundantly.

The Wines of Château Coutet

Château Coutet – Premier Grand Cru Classé en 1855 – AOC Barsac: The Château Coutet vines deep roots extract elements from its terroir to give the grapes freshness, richness and strength. Grape varieties are 75 percent Sémillon, 23 percent Savignon Blanc, and 2 percent Muscadelle.

Chartreuse de Coutet – AOC Sauternes: Since 1977, Château Coutet has been producing its second label, Chartreuse de Coutet, an AOC Sauternes. Hints of honey, almond, citrus, exotic fruits, as well as very ripe, soft apricot, with some floral notes of acacia, characterize its subtle nose. On the palate, the wine is honeyed, round and suave. Its wonderful concentration and broad palette of aromas express the richness of the fruit flavors with orange zest, honey, honeysuckle, ripe fruits and citrus, complemented by toasty notes and some minerality. Full of finesse and elegance, the result is a young, beautiful wine full of vivacity and freshness. Grape varieties are 75 percent Sémillon, 23 percent Sauvignon Blanc, and 2 percent Muscadelle.

La Cuvée Madame de Château Coutet: The origin of la Cuvée Madame de Château Coutet dates back to Madame Rolland-Guy, owner and resident of Château Coutet between 1922 and 1977. During this period, the vineyard workers were in the habit of working unpaid for one day to pick the last remaining grapes from the property’s two oldest parcels, whose berries were super-concentrated. The very small and exceptional cuvée was dedicated to Madame Rolland-Guy. When produced during exceptional years, up to 1,200 bottles of the Cuvée Madame are made.

The Cuvée Madame de Château Coutet is a marvel of concentration and complexity. Displaying a color between gold and amber, the wine first presents aromas of acacia, honey, apricot, quince jelly, pineapple and coconut. What follows are mineral notes: citrus and floral (white flowers). On the palate it allies density and elegance, all with a superb structure and aromatic finesse, with hints of candied figs, currants, peach, quince and spices. The fruit is lush, rich, velvety and dazzling. The finish is excellent, both fresh as well as persistent with a silky texture and a very nice balance.

The Baly family continues this tradition during the finest harvests. The superb Cuvée Madame de Château Coutet was made in 1981, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1997 and 2001 to succeed the memorable 1943, 1947, 1959, 1971 and 1975 vintages. Grape variety is 100 percent Sémillon (berries selected from the estate’s two oldest plots of this varietal; the average age of those vines is 55 years).

Opalie de Château Coutet – AOC Bordeaux: The opal is precious stone prized for its beauty, reflecting light to shine in multiple colors that renders each one an inimitable and boundless expression of itself. Unique in its vivacity and richness, Opalie de Château Coutet is a first-of-its-kind dry white wine from Barsac, produced in limited quantities from the heart of this Premier Grand Cru. The inaugural 2010 vintage of Opalie de Château Coutet is delighting palates with its exceptional refinement and finesse and defining an exciting new style of dry white wine from Bordeaux.

Opalie de Château Coutet comes from the quintessential parts of the Grand Cru vineyards, comprised of fruits selected from a few rows of 40-year-old vines that are planted in the thickest layers of clay and limestone in the estate’s soil, dedicated solely to Opalie production. Along with the local climate, these conditions contribute significantly to the aromatic complexity of the wine. The fruit is harvested manually, using small baskets to collect and protect the matured berries prior to arriving at the cellar.

Château Coutet follows a traditional approach to winemaking, which is enhanced by the estate’s savoir-faire in selecting the perfect fruits. The distinguished flavor of the wine comes from combining in equal parts the body and depth of Sémillon with the elegance of Savignon Blanc. As a result, Opalie de Château Coutet is a memorable, elegant dry white wine with crisp mineral characteristics. True to its classic heritage, this wine is fermented and aged in French oak barrels. The blend consists of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Estate of Château Coutet

Area of the estate: 42 hectares
Area of vines: 38.5 hectares (95 acres)
Density: 7,500 vines/ha (3,000 vines per acre)
Average age of vines: 38 years old
Soil: clay with fine gravel on a limestone sub-soil
Grape varieties: 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Muscadelle
Average production: 42,000 bottles per year (3,500 cases per year, 10-year mean)

– Philippe Baly, Owner and General Manager
– Dominique Baly, Owner
– Aline Baly, Owner and Director of Marketing and Communications

Château Coutet– Premier Grand Cru Classé en 1855 – AOC Barsac
33720 Barsac, France
Tél: +33 (0)5 56 27 15 48

For more information about Château Coutet, visit: (Website) (Email:

Acknowledgements: Natalie Ehalt, Spanish teacher at Hiawatha Academies, Minneapolis, MN and Senior Editorial Manager and writer with A Woman’s Paris.

Aline Baly © Ch. Coutet hiAline Baly, representative of the third generation owner, is currently responsible for the strategic marketing of Château Coutet. She first received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and International Relations from Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA, USA). Then in 2008, she earned her Master of Business Administration, Marketing and mention entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School of Management (Evanston, Illinois, USA). Prior to joining Kellogg, Aline Baly was a marketing specialist for an American multinational manufacturer of equipment and consumables to the life sciences industry. Originally from Paris, she also lived in Boston (USA), Hong Kong (China) and Madrid (Spain). After 20 years of expatriate life, Aline is pleased to finally be ‘home,’ while enjoying many travels around the world sharing with Coutet enthusiasts the essence of its exceptional terroir, refinement and distinction of its wine, not to mention its balance and finesse. For more information about Aline Baly or Château Coutet visit: (LinkedIn) (Email: aline.baly@chateaucoutet.com) (SKYPE: aline.baly) (WeChat ID: ChateauCoutet)

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Illustration copyright ©2012 Barbara Redmond All rights reserved.