Chateau Olivier is in contention for one of the oldest properties in Bordeaux. Bordeaux wine historians believe the estate dates back as far as the 11th century. Some ancient remnants of the original buildings can be seen close to the east pavilion on the lower portions. Those ancient beginnings are how Chateau Olivier is actually one of the few castles in the Bordeaux region. There is even a moat and drawbridge as well. Chateau Olivier is worth the trip to see.
The next era for Chateau Olivier came into being like many of the top Bordeaux chateau, through marriage and a dowry. In 1663, Pierre Penel, the Baron of La Brede married Marie de Lasserre. She was the daughter of the lord of Olivier. Her dowry was that vineyard that we know of today as Chateau Olivier.
In 1882, there was a catastrophic fire and Chateau Olivier needed to be rebuilt. The new owners chose a Troubadour style, which was unique for not only Graves, but in Bordeaux as well. In 1867, Chateau Olivier was purchased by the mayor of Bordeaux, Alexandre de Bethmann. The de Bethmann family, which has their ancestral roots in Germany, own a very large banking operation, Bethmann Bank. Chateau Olivier was not the families first foray into owning a Bordeaux vineyard, at one point in time, they also owned Chateau Gruaud Larose in St. Julien . Chateau Olivier continues to remain the hands of the de Bethmann family today. Almost a century later, Chateau Olivier was officially listed as one of Gironde’s Sites Pittoresques and became a protected structure. In 1953, the chateau, its outbuildings, moat and fountains, were all classified as historic monuments.
For a period of time, the negociant firm of Eschenhauer managed the wine making and sales, under a lease agreement which was terminated in 1981. Jean-Jacques de Bethmann managed Chateau Olivier until July, 2012, when he passes away. He was ably succeeded by his son, American born and educated, Alexandre de Bethmann, who has overseen a noticeable increase in quality, especially in their white wines.
While Chateau Olivier is quite large at 220 hectares, only 50 hectares are under vine. The remainder of their of land is devoted to trees, forests and grazing land. The terroir of Chateau Olivier is gravel with clay and limestone in the topsoil, that is common to the Pessac Leognan appellation. Underneath that, you find more gravel, sandstone, rocks, sand and limestone. The vineyard is planted for the production of both red and white wine grapes. The red wine grapes are planted in the gravelly, sandy soils. Most of the white wine grapes are planted in the cooler, limestone and clay terroir.
For the red wine, 38 hectares are planted to an even split of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot , with the remainder being taken up with 10% Cabernet Franc . This shows a marked increase in Merlot in the vineyard since the 1990’s. Previously, Cabernet Sauvignon occupied close to 70% of the grapes planted for red wine. On average, the vines are close to 25 years of age. The vines are planted to a vine density that ranges from 8,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare. Newer plantings are being done at the higher levels of density.
For the white Bordeaux wine of Chateau Olivier, 12 hectares of vines are planted to 55% Semillon , 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle . Interestingly, while vineyards planted for red wine grapes are often changing their plantings over the years, most vineyards with white wine grapes, seem to stay the same. That is not the case, as the amount of Semillon has been decreased by 10%, while the Sauvignon Blanc has been increased by 10%, since the mid 1990’s. Those vines are old with an average of 40 years of age. The vines for both red and white wine are planted to a vine density that varies from 8,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare. Extensive replanting has been taking place in the vineyards, so the younger vines are now planted to the higher levels of vine density.
Chateau Olivier Winemaking
For the production of the red wine of Chateau Olivier, the wines are vinified in temperature controlled, stainless steel vats. Malolactic fermentation takes place in tank. The wines of Chateau Olivier are aged in an average of 30% new French oak barrels for between 12 and 14 months.
To produce the white wine of Chateau Olivier, 33% of the berries are allowed skin contact before fermentation. Vinification begins in tank and is finished in French oak barrels. The wine is aged on its lees for 9 months before bottling.
The large estate of Chateau Olivier produces close to 20,000 cases of red Bordeaux wine per year and 3,000 cases of white Bordeaux wine per vintage. There is a second wine that is sold under two names, La Seigneurie d’Olivier and Dauphin d’Olivier.
Serving and Decanting Chateau Olivier, with Wine, Food, Pairing Tips
Chateau Olivier is best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift. Young vintages can be decanted for 1-2 hours. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. The wine will also gently warm in the glass, releasing its aromatics. Older vintages might also need decanting, for both aerating and to remove the sediment. The red wine of Chateau Olivier is best served with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes. Chateau Olivier is a perfect match with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, salmon, mushrooms and pasta as well as cheese. The white wine of Chateau Olivier is a perfect wine to serve with shellfish, sashimi, sushi, all types of seafood, chicken, veal and cheese.