THE STORY OF CARBONNEAU
Before the 19th century:
The name Carbonneau comes from the production of wood charcoal – probably in the Middle Ages. The region was covered by an oak forest which has been replaced over the years by diverse cultures – including vines.
19th century, the family BACHAN :
Jacque FOUIGNET-VERBACLE, is the oldest owner of Carbonneau that we know. One of his descendants, Blanche FOUIGNET, married Jean-Jacques BACHAN in 1878, who was the mayor of Pessac-sur-Dordogne at the time.
The couple undertook the construction of the chateau around 1860. The location was carefully chosen over an abundant and shallow water source and well still in use today. The architecture and the orientation of the chateau were carefully chosen with the south facing terrace and living rooms overlooking the park. The wine cellar is half-buried which keeps the temperature constantly cool in summer.
MR. BACHAN, who loved gardening decided to build a heated glass conservatory for his wife in the style of Napoleon III. Conservatories were very fashionable at the time. There used to be a magnificent example in the “Jardin des Plantes” in Bordeaux, but unfortunately it hasn’t withstood the years. Here at Carbonneau the conservatory is still intact. Only the heating system was dismantled for its lead and copper during the War.
Arriving at Carbonneau, we can also see the round pond with its sloping bottom and small fountain. It’s the ‘foot bath’ which was very important to cool the feet and legs of the horses after work in the fields;
Several majestic trees still bear witness to this era:
In front of the chateau a beautiful “Séquoia Gigantea” – Californian Big Tree and behind it an “Osage Orange Tree”
In the park, the remains of an enormous Magnolia (which survived the impressive storm of December 1999), and near the pond, a beautiful Chestnut Tree and higher up majestic As
The end of the 19th century marked the “Golden Age” of the Bordeaux wine. At the time, the Grand Larousse mentioned Château Carbonneau as one of the “great wine of Bordeaux”. The wines were aged in Bordeaux barrels of 225 liters. They were then transported by ox carts to the broker and trader shops installed on the quay of Pessac-sur-Dordogne. From there the wines were loaded on the “gabares” (flat barges) which descended the Dordogne to Libourne to end in the wine cellar of the great traders of Bordeaux.
As the BACHAN family did not have any direct descendants the property was sold after the First World War and the economic crisis of 1929 forced the new owners to pull out the vineyard
20th century,RAY and FRANC DE FERRIERE family :
Wilfrid’s mother, Olga RAY first came to Carbonneau with her parents (Harold and Claude RAY) in 1937 aged 12 years old. They arrived from New Zealand where they had emigrated after the First World War in order to clean and run a dairy farm in the north island. Unfortunately, her father Harold went blind and they decided to return to France.
Claude, Olga’s mother knew Paris very well. Her father, the General CHEMINON, still lived in Vincennes. He had met and married a young Russian aristocrat, Eugénie de MASSALITINOFF, during his military career. During his years at the prestigious Polytechnic School in Paris during the 1880’s General CHEMINON had become firm friends with the General SIBEN. The girls of these two generals, Claude and Paulette, were the best of friends.
On return to Paris in 1937, Claude found her friend Paulette who had married a brilliant young engineer named Yann FRANC de FERRIERE, originally from the Périgord. Although they lived most of the year in Alsace, they still owned properties in the South West of France. It was during a visit to their friends that Claude and Harold came upon Carbonneau which was for sale. Years of hard work ensued, as did the Second World War and in 1946 Paulette and Yann’s eldest son, Jean married Claude and Harold’s daughter Olga. Jean and Olga chose not to farm Carbonneau and Claude remained on the property until her death in 1983.
In the summer of 1985, Jacquie, who was a teacher from New Zealand came to visit friends staying with Wilfrid and his family. Three years later we were married in New Zealand where we spent five years before coming back to take over the property in 1992 with our three small children in tow. Here began the vineyard replanting plan, the modernization of the wine-cellar, the restoration of the castle to welcome guests.
We decided to perpetuate together the “bon vivre” of Chateau Carbonneau. Our family has a long tradition in the Périgord on the FRANC de FERRIERE side and a strong New Zealand connection through Jacquie and the RAY family. Our children are the third generation of New Zealanders to live at Carbonneau. Rather an achievement when one considers that New Zealand and Carbonneau are both about 150 years old.