The largest and most famous Pouilly-Fumé vineyards have been in the hands of the Comte Lafond and Ladoucette families since 1787 when the Comte Lafond purchased the region’s largest wine-growing estate from the illegitimate daughter of the French king, Louis XV.
Like many families with famous vineyards, winemaking was not their principal activity but merely a hobby. The Lafond and Ladoucette families were bankers, and some were governors of the Banque de France, the major French bank at the time.
After the difficult years of the French Revolution, they set about reorganizing the estate and cellars, and did it so well that Pouilly-Fumé gained a name for quality and became Napoleon's favorite white wine.
The vines thrived and progressed for 100 years, but at the end of the 19th century the French vineyards were attacked and virtually destroyed by the phylloxera fly. The family began to replant with a new strain which could resist this terrible scourge. However, two world wars prevented them from restoring the vineyard to its former size.
It was in 1972 that Baron Patrick de Ladoucette took over the vineyard. He was the first member of the family to concentrate exclusively on wine producing and began a series of investments to increase the importance and diversity of his vineyards. For two hundred years, the Ladoucette wines had been produced by the family for prestige reasons only.
In 1975, he created a private reserve of Pouilly-Fumé, the Baron de L. Bottled in a replica of a heavy 18th-century bottle, it was the first such private reserve for a white wine. This wine has been acclaimed everywhere, and is considered to be one of the best Sauvignon Blancs in the world.
Baron Patrick then extended his activities to Sancerre, and later, in 1980, bought a vineyard in Vouvray. In 1985, he acquired Albert Pic, one of the best-known Chablis houses.
There was one guiding thought behind all these investments: to be able to produce the best white wines from each of these three major grape varieties. Since each vineyard in France concentrates on only one grape variety, it was important to invest in regions where these varieties were grown and were of the finest quality. In France each wine-growing region cultivates a specific variety; the Chardonnay in Chablis, the Sauvignon Blanc in Pouilly and Sancerre and the Chenin in Vouvray. Consequently, Baron Patrick had to buy into each major vineyard, which is why each house now produces one very specific type of wine.
This is what Baron Patrick has been working on over the past twenty years. In the years to come he intends to make similar investments in red wines with the same goal in mind of producing the best wines from each major grape variety. He began three years ago by buying a vineyard of Pinot Noir in Sancerre, and more recently, some Cabernet Franc in Chinon. The red wines from these two vineyards are produced respectively from these two varieties.
The philosophy behind Baron Patrick’s policy has been to bring out the quintessence in the wines from well-defined vineyards which have enjoyed international recognition for more than two hundred years.