Pétrus – An Unofficial First Growth of Bordeaux's Right Bank

When considering the unofficial lists of “First Growths of the Right Bank” in Bordeaux, Chateau Pétrus must be included.  Pétrus is located in the tiny commune of Pomerol on the right bank of the Gironde River.  The wines of Pomerol have never been classified, but there is no doubt that Pétrus is in the highest echelon of wines produced there.  It is also one of the most expensive wines sold anywhere in the world.  While the name of the estate is Chateau Pétrus, there is no grand Chateau on the premises.  There is a modest two story house on the property.  Perhaps because of that, or perhaps just due to its reputation, the wines are often just referred to as Pétrus.  The name is homage to St. Peter whose picture appears on the label.

view counter

Pétrus does not have the long history of many of the great Bordeaux wines.  Thomas Jefferson most likely never drank it.  The estate property was originally owned by the Arnaud family since the mid 1700s.  At that time, the estate was 17 acres.  The name Pétrus can be found in records dating back to 1837.  In 1868 Chateau Pétrus was ranked in quality behind two other Pomerol estates:  Vieux Chateau Certan and Chateau Trotanoy, as listed by Cocks and Fèret, one of the leading Bordeaux reference’s of its day.  In 1878, Pétrus won a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition.  Although its pricing was not yet at First Growth pricing, it was equal to that of the Second Growths and the highest price wine from Pomerol. 

In the early 1900s, the Arnaud family offered shares of Pétrus to the public under the Societe Civile du Chateau Pétrus.  Mme Edmond Loubat, the owner of Hôtel Loubat, began to buy some of the shares, starting in 1925 until 1949, when she became the sole owner of Pétrus.  With the end of World War II, 1945 also brought a sensational vintage to Bordeaux and the right bank in particular.  It also brought Jean-Pierre Moueix to the estate. 

Moueix owned a nègociant house in the Bordeaux commune of Libourne.  In 1945 he acquired the exclusive rights to sell Pétrus.  It proved to be a fruitful partnership with Mme. Loubat.  Moueix marketed Pétrus worldwide, eventually adding it to the US market.  The wine was served at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.  It was also a favorite of the Kennedys. 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

The 1956 vintage was devastating in Bordeaux.  A killer winter frost destroyed two-thirds of the vineyards at Pétrus.  Any surviving vines were regrafted with new vines.  That was also the last year that some of the production was sold off in cask.  Selling off by cask and letting the customer (usually a nègociant or distributor, but sometimes a customer) bottle the wine at their leisure was historically often done.  As wineries wanted better control over the finished product, this practice was eliminated.  Of course, it required more resources to bottle and then store the wines until they were ready for market.  Today, almost all wineries bottle their own wine. 

Mme. Loubat passed away in 1961, one of the greatest vintages ever for Pétrus.  The estate was divided between a niece, Lily-Paul Lacoste-Loubat and nephew Monsieur Lignac, with Mouiex being given a share to serve as a tie breaker (if needed) and to keep his influence for the estate.  In 1964 Moueix bought the nephews’ shares.  That same year, Jean-Claud Berrouet became the oenologist.  In 1969, the estate was expanded when twelve acres were purchased from Chateau Gazin.  In 1970, Christian Moueix (Jean-Pierre’s younger son) took control of the operations at Pétrus .  Eventually Jean-Pierre Moueix was able to buy Mme Lacoste-Loubat’s shares, leaving him firmly as the sole owner of the company. 

Jean-Pierre Moueix died in 2003 and his older son Jean-Francois Moueix was left control of Pétrus.  As part of this, he controlled distribution within France.  Christian Moueix continues to oversee the vineyard, winemaking, marketing and exports.  In 2007, Jean Claude Berrouet retired as the technical director and was replaced by Eric Murisaco.  Olivier Berrouet, Jean-Claude’s son, became the new winemaker.