Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003, James Suckling’s wine of the year for 2010

Delighted that James Suckling has chosen the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003 as his wine of the year for 2010.  I love this wine, which although extravagantly ripe and exuberant, is still recognisably a Pichon Baron, with all the balance freshness and structure you expect from Pichon. As it ages in the bottle I think the terroir is asserting itself more and more over the years, and although lovely to drink now it is settling down to become a great bottle for ageing. To read more, click here to get James’s article on Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003.

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003

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Harvest 2010 – Conditions in general

Now that we have had some time to taste and retaste the wines of the remarkable 2010 vintage in Bordeaux, it is time to post a harvest report. The rumours you may have been hearing are perfectly justified: 2010 is an outstanding year in Bordeaux. I give below a summary of how things went in all of our vineyards, in Bordeaux and elsewhere.

Bordeaux – grape sorting at Château Pichon-Longueville - Pauillac

Bordeaux – Grape sorting at Château Pichon-Longueville - Pauillac

In Bordeaux, even if the end of spring and summer were relatively dry, the vines showed no signs of stress.The harvest of 2010 has given birth to a vintage that will undoubtedly take its place at the summit of any vintage classification, with an exceptional maturity. From an analytical point of view there are record breaking levels of ripeness in terms of sugar levels and also of polyphenols. In a somewhat different style, it will unquestionably bear comparison with its predecessor, the great 2009 vintage.

A great year for the dry whites and the reds, but also for the liquoreux, with a perfect late arrival of botrytis that enabled us to harvest an impressive 2nd and 3rd trie.

In the Languedoc, summer was extremely dry. Thanks to our first year of installation of irrigation on half the Belles eaux vineyard, we were able to optimise quality. Here also, 2010 will be a lovely year.

Burgundy - The harvest at Domaine de l’Arlot - Nuits Saint Georges

Burgundy - The harvest at Domaine de l’Arlot - Nuits Saint Georges

Burgundy was a little less fortunate, with a terrible winter and severe frosts that caused severe damage in certain climates, leading to a reduction in yields that an irregular floraison did nothing to help. Very low yields therefore, but a beautiful maturity for these 2010, and some lovely wines in spite of the difficulties earlier in the year.

Tokaj – Disznókő – Picking of the Aszú grapes

Tokaj – Disznókő – Picking of the Aszú grapes

No drought in Tokaj, rather the contrary, with 800 mm of rain between april and mid September. A difficult year with a lot of disease problems, very weak “sortie” and a chaotic floraison, all combiing to give us an historially low yield. But the Aszús we were able to harvest will enable us to produce all the same a harvest in the style of 2004, aromatic and vivacious, with a structure marked by finesse and elegance rather than by power.

Douro - Quinta do Noval – Foot treading in the lagares

Douro - Quinta do Noval – Foot treading in the lagares

In the Douro we harvested an impressive volume of the kind not seen since 2007. This significant production gave all the same wines that are very pure, elegant, aromatic and structures, both for Port wine and for Douro reds.

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The Marathon du Medoc at Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

Last Saturday was the 26th Marathon du Medoc. We participate very actively in this event. Château Pichon-Longueville Baron  has twice hosted the giant “Soiree des Mille Pates”, the dinner for 1500 or so Marathon runners that takes place the night before – the last time was last year in fact. I love this event, and have been running in it myself, on and off (very slowly, and not always to the end!) since 1991. It is a very joyous occasion, a celebration of the Médoc, of its Chateaux and its wines, and an affirmation of the idea that a moderate and regular consumption of wine is not only perfectly consistent with a healthy and active lifestyle, but is a natural and harmonious part of such a life. I do not think there are many puritans or teetotallers among the 8,800 participants, some of who showed a fairly unbridled enthusiasm for our product, and yet each one of them has had to submit themselves to a sustained programme of training in order to be there on the day.

Marathon du Médoc: Château Pichon-Longueville team

We have a Château Pichon-Longueville Baron team, seen here on the steps of the chateau on a beautiful morning last Saturday. Many have been coming for years. Please note in the centre of the line up the distinguished journalists Jean Francis Pécresse and Philippe Maurange in jungle costume (Tarzan and Jane in fact).

Marathon du Médoc: Christian Seely in front of Château Pichon-Longueville

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron was at Kilometre 17 this year, which made it a perfect place for me to stop, my training programme probably having been the least rigorous of all the participants. But I had a great time running that far, and enjoyed the opportunity to taste wine at the various chateaux we passed on our way through Pauillac and St Julien. At Pichon we poured Les Tourelles de Longueville 2008, which showed very well, and seemed to be appreciated by the thousands of runners who enjoyed the chance to taste our wine, served as you can see in wine glasses. I am not actually drinking two glasses but holding my wife’s while she takes the photo.

Marathon du Médoc: the band “Banda Biez Bat de Bassussary” in front of Château Pichon-Longueville

The wine tasting was accompanied by the band “Banda Biez Bat de Bassussary” seen here in the picture with various members of the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron team who worked very hard to serve the thousands of wine tasters in front of the chateau under the able direction of Corinne Michot on the left.

Marathon du Médoc: Ruth and Sophie Santry, Marie-Louise Schÿler, Théodore et Christian Seely

Disguises were the order of the day! Here are from left to right Ruth Santry, her daughter Sophie, a beautiful Schtroumpf who mesmerised my sons, Marie-Louise Schÿler who ran a very fast Marathon, and then in the front row, Theodore Seely and myself.

It was a wonderful day, perhaps a little hotter than one might have liked, but the weather was typical of the lovely sunny days we are enjoying here in Bordeaux this September which are providing perfect ripening conditions of the 2010 vintage, which is shaping up to be very good indeed. More of that when we visit the vineyards next week.

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Beginning of harvest in the Douro

Last week saw the beginning of harvest in the Douro for Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Romaneira. Things are looking very good at this early stage. We had an unusually large amount of rain in the spring, nearly double our usual annual rainfall. This created its own problems at the time, with a lot of repair work necessary on terrace walls that collapsed during this period, but it did have the positive effect of replenishing the reserves of water in the soil. This has meant that in spite of a hot and sunny summer, the vines are in great condition, with no visible heat stress. I was in the Douro for the last ten days of August, and days were warm and sunny, but night were fresh, always good for the grapes. Before harvest began we spent several days visiting the vineyards.

Here are António Agrellos and Jose Eduardo Costa from Noval, visiting a Syrah plantation at Noval.
Here are António Agrellos and Jose Eduardo Costa from Noval, visiting a Syrah plantation at Noval.

 

We had the pleasure of the company of the renowned Portuguese wine writer Jose Salvador, seen here in a parcel of Noval with António. In the background in the distance you can see part of the Romaneira vineyard, with the two Quinta buildings of Romaneira, housing the Quinta dos Sonhos Relais et Chateaux hotel.

We had the pleasure of the company of the renowned Portuguese wine writer Jose Salvador, seen here in a parcel of Noval with António. In the background in the distance you can see part of the Romaneira vineyard, with the two Quinta buildings of Romaneira, housing the Quinta dos Sonhos Relais et Chateaux hotel.

Here are Quinta do Noval’s first grapes from 2010, Viosinho in this case.

Here are Quinta do Noval’s first grapes from 2010, Viosinho in this case.

The first grapes to be harvested at Noval were actually white ones. We planted a small area at the top of the Quinta with Viosinho and Gouveio five years ago and both parcels gave great results this year. We harvested the Viosinho last Saturday the 28th. It is the first time we have made a white wine (unfortified) with 100% Viosinho, and the must tasted delicious on Saturday evening. Watch this space for news of a new white wine from Noval next year.

Here are Romaneira’s first grapes of 2010 (Tinta Roriz)

Here are Romaneira’s first grapes of 2010 (Tinta Roriz)

The first grapes to be picked at Romaneira were red: Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesa to make the Romaneira Rose wine. We were in the vineyard last week to choose the grapes for this small production high quality rose that is one of the more unusual elements of the Romaneira portfolio.
 
Here is Adelino Teixeira, our agronomist at Romaneira, clearly pleased by the quality of the grapes.

Here is Adelino Teixeira, our agronomist at Romaneira, clearly pleased by the quality of the grapes.

And here is my wife Corinne, who vinifies our Rose, also clearly happy with the quality of the grape she is tasting, they were both talking to each other across the vines as I took this one.

And here is my wife Corinne, who vinifies our Rose, also clearly happy with the quality of the grape she is tasting, they were both talking to each other across the vines as I took this one.

Of course these first pickings are for unfortified wines, and there are several weeks to go before the Port wine harvest gets under way, and many of the Portuguese grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional with which we also make unfortified wines still need some time. But the potential is there for a great year in the Douro. I shall be going back before the end and will post up more news.

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Who serves the wine consumer best? Families or corporations?

I participated in this very interesting debate during the 2010 edition of the Symposium of the Institute of Masters of Wine which took place in Bordeaux last June.

We were on after lunch, always the worst time, so we kept it friendly and light hearted, in the hope that the audience of MWs and MW studients would stay awake. It ended up being a lot of fun. You can watch my contribution on video below.

To see the whole of the debate with Sylvie Cazes and Eduardo Chadwick speaking for families, and Margareth Henriquez joining me with a vigorous defense of corporations, click here.

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