Tue 29 Jul 2014

A Tale Of Two Pichons: Tasting Notes

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Sebastian Payne MWI recently took the opportunity to taste back vintages of a fine clutch of favourite Bordeaux châteaux with their winemakers. The excuse was a piece I was writing for Decanter Magazine’s July Bordeaux supplement.

Here are some vintage notes for those lucky enough to own any of these wines.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

The two Pichons face each other across the D2. Pichon-Lalande’s château on the Gironde side overlooks first growth Latour, though most of its vines are further inland. Its reputation and popularity with Society members is founded on excellent vintages of the eighties after the charismatic May-Eliane de Lencquesaing took over the property in 1978. She sold it to Champagne Roederer in 2006.

Pichon Lalande1995: 40% merlot gave this charm and softer, gentler mid-palate than some wines of the vintage and 15% cabernet franc, unusually high for Pauillac, has kept it fresh and lively if a touch herbaceous. Quite ready.

1996: Very blackcurrant cabernet-sauvignon bouquet (75%), though less ripe than modern vintages and less rich and more forward than their 1986. Midweight. Drink now.

1998: Fragrant, delicate, cabernet franc elegance (15%) and charm. Use now.

2000: Now showing a touch of green pepper and boxhedge on the nose, though the palate is fine and stylish. Keep 5 to 10 years and hope this mellows. 50% cabernet sauvignon, 34% merlot, 6% cabernet franc, 10% petit verdot.

2001: Seductive, creamy, expressive and lovely to drink now. One of the best Médocs of the year and finer than its opposite neighbour Pichon. Now to 10 years.

2004: Another super success of the year with classy bouquet and style. In its first phase and still improving. Now to 10 years.

2005: Closed and unexpressive now but concentrated. Keep at least 8 to 10 years.

Pichon LonguevillePichon-Longueville (previously known as Pichon Longueville Baron) is quite a different Pauillac, more muscular and massive. The heart of the vineyard, and since 2000 the only part that is used for the first wine, is recognised as one of the finest terroirs in the commune. Pichon Longueville was bought by AXA Millesime in 1987, who brought much-needed investment to a sadly run-down estate, and who also added more vineyard between 1991 and 1993. Yields in the nineties were much higher than today and it shows in the wines. Since Christian Seely arrived in January 2001 selection has been rigorous and quality has risen in an exciting way.

1995: Fully mature, full traditional Pauillac. You can feel the tannins still but it will not improve further.

1996: More complex than 1995 with sweeter cabernet fruit (70% cabernet sauvignon) and more charm. Now at best.

1998: Old-fashioned style, not fully ripe with noticeable acidity. Use now.

2000: Classic Pauillac with rich ripe fruit. In its ‘first phase’ and still improving.

2001: Fragrant ‘cedar-box’ bouquet. Quite forceful but fresh and very enjoyable now though just outshone by Pichon Lalande. Drink now.

2002: Insider’s tip. Proper Pauillac, dense, rich, restrained but ‘grown up’ and good for 20 years.

2004: Delicious to drink now, though still improving with lovely balance and freshness.

2005: Will be a great wine but now closed. Balance, fruit and freshness and vitality were kept in a big tannic year. Wait until 2020.

Comments

  1. Roger Straiton says:

    Very interesting. Drank the 1999 Pichon Lalande the other day (bought from you). Showing beautifully on the day – fully mature and very polished. Classy wine from a less than brilliant vintage.

  2. John Lamond says:

    Am a great fan of Pichon-Lalande. Still have some ’75 which didn’t start drinking until 1993! It is GORGEOUS and still probably has a further 15 years life left in it.

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