An important tasting was held at the Cave Vila Viniteca in Barcelona in June 2015, attended by the owner of the cave Joaquim Vilà and his team and four of the key tasters from La Revue du vin de France. The results have just been published in the issue 600 of the magazine (April 2016)*. Joaquim Vilà brought together (buying the wines on the Place de Bordeaux) the wines of the Premiers Crus of Bordeaux and seven other properties, mostly Seconds Crus they considered to be challengers.
The vintages tasted were 1989, 1996, 2001 and 2010.
The châteaux were: Ducru-Beaucaillou, Haut-Brion, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Léoville Las Cases, Margaux, La Mission Haut-Brion, Montrose, Mouton Rothschild, Palmer, Pichon Baron, Pichon Comtesse de Lalande.
The wines were tasted blind by the panel. I quote from Roberto Petronio’s summary of the results for La Revue du vin de France:
“The most serious of the outsiders to the Premiers Crus is incontestably Pichon Baron. It has to be said that since its purchase by AXA Millésimes in 1987 the property has been transformed and its terroir expresses itself fully in a style that is unanimously recognized.” (…)
“Pichon Baron’s nobility raises it to the highest possible level.” (…)
“This is the most serious challenger to the Premiers Crus. To find it in this position is only an half surprise, given that we have been able to appreciate the extraordinary quality of the wines made here for the last two decades.”
Tasting scores for all the vintages were collated to create an order. The result of this was that Pichon Baron finished in fourth place, behind three of the Premiers Crus, but ahead of two other Premiers, and ahead of all the other challengers. Château Pichon Baron 2010 actually finished ahead of all the other 2010s.
To emerge ahead of all the Premiers Crus and all the other distinguished challengers was particularly satisfying for this vintage, which was very important to us at Pichon as we consider it to be a particularly pure expression of the Pichon Baron style, the result of many years study of what our finest terroirs can give.
This is obviously encouraging for us at Pichon Baron. As the tasting showed, Pichon has been making great wines again since AXA Millésimes acquired the property in 1987. But the success of the 2010 is particularly striking, as it is confirmation of the potential for greatness of the grand terroir at the heart of our property.
Since 2000 we have pursued a strategy of extremely strict selection at Pichon Baron, reducing the average quantity of Grand Vin produced by half, with the aim of making Pichon as great as it can possibly be. The basis of our strategy is the fact that at the heart of Pichon’s vineyard lies the great plateau of deep gravelly soils, overlooking the vineyards of Latour on the other side of the road in Pauillac, and Léoville Las Cases just opposite in St Julien. This area of undulating ground of deep beds of gravel has a claim to be considered the greatest terroir in the world for the cabernet-sauvignon grape.
By reducing the amount of Grand Vin we make, concentrating our blend on wines produced from this great parcel of land, we have aimed to make a wine of quality equal to the best anywhere. We have always known that this was a long term project, and that it might take decades before the change in quality at Pichon Baron was fully recognized. But in recent years people have begun to notice what we have been doing, and a tasting event such as this is an encouraging consecration of our efforts.
One swallow does not make a summer. One successful tasting does not conclusively prove anything. But I trust and hope that there will be others with similar results in years to come. One of the wonderful things about running a great estate such as Pichon Baron is that the story is never over. When one vintage has safely been harvested, we start to work on the next one. We may take pleasure in the judgement on our wine of people who appreciate these things, but we always know that next year will bring new challenges, new opportunities to try to go even further. We have a clear idea of what we are trying to do at this great property, and we will continue on this path, encouraged along the way by recognition such as that of this remarkable tasting in Barcelona.
* For more information on this tasting: http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2016/03/tasting-ranks-chateau-margaux-first-among-equals
Images credits: @Château Pichon Baron, deepix, P.A.T, Vinexia