My answer to someone asking if I’d like to buy eleven (straight from the domaine) back vintages of classic Bordeaux at ridiculously good prices would be an unflinching, unwavering vote in the affirmative. I'm aware that there are people out there who don't share my robust enthusiasm for the region, viewing it as passé or, even worse, boring! But what makes wine so much fun for me is that: 1) it's very subjective and 2) there's always an opportunity to change someone’s mind on a subject, region, or specific varietal. The best part of anything is often the discovery. Anyway, about Maison Blanche...
With the family having roots in the Bordeaux area for 300+ years, it's safe to say that what Maison Blanche may lack in notoriety it makes up for in consistency and perseverance. The house as we know it began in 1875, a product of the union of the Constant and Pineau families. Amélie Constant and Octave Pineau built an elegant white stone home that was a stark departure from the blond stones found throughout Saint-Émilion at the time. From there, Chateau La Maison Blanche was born.
In 1917, the land was passed down to their son André, a doctor who managed the property from a distance. André passed away in 1923 and everything went to his son, Fabien, who was then handicapped by a serious wound suffered in World War I and forced to sell. Just as luck seemed to be at an all-time low, Jean Barroy purchased the land from the Constant-Pineau family, only to turn around and sell six years later after several disastrous vintages. Then 1938 comes around and Louis Rapin from the Marmandais takes the helm and his endeavor leads to the resurrection of Maison Blanche. His ingenuity leads to expansion. The size of the house on the grounds is doubled, the farm buildings refurbished, and the vineyards replanted. From 1938 to 1959, Rapin’s vision for Maison Blanche was fully realized and became a model for excellent Bordeaux. From there, his son-in-law, Gérard Despagnes, took over and doubled cellar space, shed off useless land, and created another six hectares of land under vine.
The domaine of Maison Blanche is currently run by Nicolas Despagnes, who took over from his father in 1999. Nicolas immediately began pushing for organic and biodynamic certifications, both of which he now has, a true rarity in the region. His wines are blends of Merlot and Cabernet Franc that hang on the edge of ethereal. They're enchanting, classic, and provide tremendous value. They're real, natural Bordeaux. And they remind you of the reasons that Bordeaux has been held in high regard for so long and why we are fighting for people to fall in love with it all over again. In that fight, we always begin with the White House.
- Eric Moorer