France’s oldest wine estate goes on sale

4th March, 2016 by Rupert Millar

The 1,000 year-old Château de Goulaine in the Loire Valley, reputed to be France’s and one of Europe’s oldest wine producing estates, has been put up for sale.

de goulaine muscadetHowever, although the château and its grounds are up for sale, the real estate agent’s description contains no reference to any vineyards or winery being a part of the offer.

Situated just 10 miles outside Nantes, the château complex occupies a site that dates back to – and has been owned, almost uninterrupted, by the same family – the 10th century AD.

The castle’s cellars date to this period although the current building ‘only’ dates back to 1480, with extensions that were added in 1520 and 1630.

The original castle stood on Breton side of the frontier marches between the Duchy of Brittany and the Kingdom of France. Along with the castles of Nantes and de Clisson, it formed a formidable bulwark against French incursions into Brittany.

Despite being a military outpost for much of its life the castle has always had vineyards and a winemaking heritage. Although the exact date when the family switched to commercial production is unknown, the fact it has been making wine continuously since at least 1000AD makes it France’s and one of Europe’s oldest wine producers.

Today it is one of the last of the famous Loire châteaux, which still has a commercial wine business and it produces Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine and a little Vouvray and Sancerre bottled under the ‘Marquis de Goulaine’ label. They are wines that have been enjoyed by two of France’s most famous kings, Henry IV and Louis XIV, both of whom stayed at the château while travelling to Nantes during their reigns.

Costing an estimated €7-10 million, the sale does include gardens, parkland, a moat and a large butterfly aviary. The estate is not wholly private either, the château is open to the public as a museum and parts such as the cellar are available to rent for weddings and other events. There is also a small museum in the old stables dedicated to the LU biscuit company, which was founded and is based in Nantes and produces some of France’s most popular treats such as the ‘Petit-Buerre’. The biscuits were first produced in factories owned by the de Goulaine family hence its presence at the site.

The eventual buyer will be only the third owner in the château’s history. Aside from a brief interlude between 1788 and 1858 when it was owned by a Dutch banking family, the château has only ever been owned by the de Goulaines.

The family has the rare distinction of displaying the impaled coats of arms of the kingdoms of France and England on its own coat of arms.

This came about when Mathieu de Goulaine was sent by Geoffrey II, the Duke of Brittany, to act as mediator between Geoffrey’s father, Henry II of England, and Philip II ‘Augustus’ of France, probably at some point in the late 12th century (around the 1180s) when Geoffrey and his brothers were warring against their father and allied to Philip.

One Response to “France’s oldest wine estate goes on sale”

  1. 40 years in the wine industry says:

    Such a fantastic place. I was so fortunate to have visited with Robert de Goulaine there 38 years ago and will never forget it. The oldest tower was built in 985, and the various sections were added by each generation over many centuries. So sad to see them sell.

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