The first signs of the occupation of the site date back to Roman times. The castle of Ribonnet was built in the 15th century. Originally, it belonged to the lineage of the Capitouls, influential public figures of the city bourgeoisie. They built the castle there to watch the main routes leading to Toulouse. In fact, its 25-meter high tower provides an exceptional view of the neighboring mountains and valleys. During the French Revolution, the capitouls were forced to flee in order to escape the retaliation of the people. Since then, the castle and its lands have changed hands many times.
The main activities of the Domaine de Ribonnet have always been centered around wine and crops. With 200 hectares of field crops and 24 hectares of vines, the tradition is perpetuated today.
The historical part of the three-hundred-year-old wine cellar adjoins the château. Its modernisation and enlargement were initiated by Clément Ader, the owner of the property, at the very beginning of the 20th century. The engineer built avant-garde vats made of concrete and glass. In 1979, a fire partially destroyed the equipment. During the reconstruction, the Gerber family equipped Ribonnet with more modern techniques. Today, the winery has a storage capacity of 3,000 hectolitres in stainless steel vats and oak barrels. The old vats built by Clément Ader have been transformed into an aging cellar for the barrels.
At the very beginning of the 20th century, the locally famous engineer Clément Ader moved into the castle. This pioneer of aviation left his mark on the estate.
The French engineer, born in Muret, started to become famous in 1890, when he inaugurated the world's first 50-metre flight with his single-engine Eole I.
He improved the vineyard by replacing the plants destroyed by phylloxera with hybrid plants. He also renovated the wine cellar with the construction of storage tanks covered with glass blocks to ensure watertightness (still in place today). From then on, the estate took on a new lease of life.
The financing of his aviation studies, the investments in Ribonnet and the decrease in wine consumption after the First World War ruined him. Shortly before his death in 1923, Clément Ader sold the property to a Belgian family.
The Gerber family
Christian Gerber, originating from a family of Swiss farmers, took over the estate in 1974. He undertook a major project to uproot the existing hybrid plants and to replace them with noble grape varieties. From the 1980s onwards, Christian Gerber's imagination, determination and spirit of innovation led the estate to experiment planting varieties which were uncommon for the region.
His Chardonnay trials were so convincing that the ONIVIN further authorized and even recommended this variety for the south-west. Although trials with other varieties proved to be very interesting, some of them weren’t recognised because of other appellations.
In 2001, Christian Gerber started converting the entire vineyard system to organic farming.