French Fancies: Château de Goulaine

Allegedly the Château de Goulaine founded in 1000 is France’s oldest family-run business. The castle, still owned by the Goulaine family, houses a rare butterfly collection in addition to a museum. It hosts various functions, including weddings. Wine is available for sale at the castle’s vineyards.

The Château de Goulaine is a historic château located in the Loire Valley wine region near Nantes, France. The property has been home to the family of the Marquis de Goulaine for over a thousand years. The Goulaine name is also used for estate-bottled wine that is produced at the property.

How it all began

In 12th century, when the Duchy of Brittany was independent, the first Goulaine, Jean de Goulaine, then captain of the city of Nantes, fortified the estate, which is still surrounded by marshes, to defend against attacks from Normans.The Goulaine family was of the old nobility, recorded in the Seventh Crusade (1248).

During the Wars of Religion, the Goulaines fought for the Catholic League – Gabriel, sieur de Goulaine, at the head of fifty lancers, and his brother Jean, Baron du Faouët, took the Châteaux of Trogoff (Plouescat) and Kérouzéré (Sibiril) in 1590. Gabriel was attached to the Bourbon cause having been made a marquis by Henry IV of France.

The Goulaine family’s ownership of the estate continued uninterrupted until 1788, when it was sold to a Dutch banker. This circumstance helped save the château from destruction during the French Revolution. In 1858, the Goulaine family re-acquired the estate and maintains it today.

While it is not clear exactly when the estate vineyard started producing wine for commercial use, rather than just family consumption, the millennium during which the estate of Château de Goulaine has been producing wine makes it the second-oldest known wine business still in existence, after the Staffelter Hof winery in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

The Goulaine winery is believed to be one of the oldest commercial enterprises in the world, and it is considered the oldest European family owned business.The castle estate is one of the last châteaux of the Loire Valley to still be producing wine.

In addition to producing a Muscadet, the Goulaine winery produces a Sancerre and a Vouvray, as well as what is believed to be the first commercial Chardonnay in the western Loire Valley.

Architecture of the château

Château de Goulaine — Wikipédia

The style of the château, under its high-pitched slate roofs, bears some comparison to the central Loire estates of Château de Blois and Château de Chambord. However, Château de Goulaine was built much earlier and in a more conservative style.

Since 1984, hundreds of tropical butterflies are showcased in an aviary, flying freely among tropical plants. This project was initiated by Marquis Robert de Goulaine (1933–2010).


The stables used to house the LU (Lefèvre-Utile) Museum showcasing the art and advertising collection of that brand of biscuits. There were around 500 works of art,  paintings and sculptures dedicated to the brand – amazing! The brand is very important in Nantes because “Le Petit Beurre” biscuits were produced in the family’s factory.

According to American chef Bobby Flay, the white sauce beurre blanc was allegedly invented in the kitchen of Château de Goulaine by the head cook, Madame Clémence Lefeuvre.

All images courtesy of Château de Goulaine

18 Comments on “French Fancies: Château de Goulaine

  1. This one I know very well and it has been sold new owner Hervé Lecesne, a Parisian businessman, is on a future post of mine all of it. Cheers


  2. Pingback: French Fancies: LU – View from the Back

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