Tag Archives: Bordeaux

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The harvest is under way at Pichon Baron

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We are enjoying a magnificent Indian Summer here in Bordeaux, and with every day that passes the harvest of 2016 becomes more remarkable.

2016 was a year of contrasts, with an extremely wet start to the year, with record rainfalls until June, and then extremely hot and dry sunny weather until September. It was in fact so hot and dry that by the beginning of September we were slightly worried, as the grapes were not as ripe as we would have liked them to be at this stage. Counterintuitively, such prolonged hot dry spells can slow down the process of photosynthesis in the vine and thus impede ripeness in the grapes. At this stage we desperately needed some rain in order to get things moving again in the vineyard, and then a prolonged period of good weather to bring the grapes to full ripeness. We might easily have been disappointed.

Rain when it came was considerable, and in theory at least slightly later than we would have liked. But this vital downpour of 30 mm on the 14th September, followed by 5 mm on the 16th/17th had a very beneficial effect, and has been followed by a prolonged period of ideal weather: cool nights and mornings, and warm sunny afternoons. This has enabled us to take the harvest slowly, picking each parcel at the optimum moment, stopping for a day or two when necessary.  The merlots are now in, and look excellent, with deep profound colour, near record levels of anthocyanes, and perfectly ripe fruit. I have just been tasting the first wines with Jean-René Matignon and I cannot recall merlots with such concentration and structure here before.

 We are now moving on to the cabernets. This was how things looked on the great plateau of Pichon Baron yesterday, Thursday the 6th October.

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The grapes are very healthy, already ripe, and analyses show levels of anthocyanes reminiscent of 2010. They taste wonderful now, but will benefit from just a few days more of these ideal conditions to achieve perfect ripeness and concentration. Next week will be grand cabernet week. We will continue to take our time, and should finish by the middle of the following week, around 18th October, somewhat later than usual. The proof, as always, will be in the tasting when the world comes to Bordeaux next spring to taste the wines, but here at this stage we are extremely happy with what nature has given us over the past few weeks, and we believe that a great vintage is in the making.

Brexit and Bordeaux

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A number of people have asked me for comments on how the recent Brexit vote might affect the traditional strong relationship between the Bordeaux and London based wine trades.

I thought it might be useful to try to put this into context here. Inevitably after such a huge upheaval, there is enormous uncertainty. But a closer look at the situation provides grounds for reassurance.

Inevitably there will be some short term turbulence, chiefly linked to exchange rate volatility, but personally I do not foresee major long term disruption. England and Bordeaux have been trading closely together for many centuries: the British market has a special place in the hearts of Bordeaux producers; and Bordeaux equally has a special place in the hearts of British wine drinkers. That special relationship, which existed for hundreds of years before the European Union, will endure. As an Englishman based in Bordeaux, and a producer of several Bordeaux wines, and equally as an Englishman who fell completely in love with Bordeaux and its wines a long time ago, I feel well placed to say this from both sides of the question. This feeling is reinforced by many conversations I have had both with fellow producers in Bordeaux, and with many fellow English lovers of the wines of the region. I am stating a personal conviction, but also relaying the results of many conversations with people on both sides.

It is also a fact that Bordeaux’s leading export markets are generally outside the EU anyway.

The figures for exports of all Bordeaux wines over the past twelve months show that the UK is fourth in value terms. The other four in the top five: Hong Kong; USA; China; Japan are none of them in the EU. This has not prevented Bordeaux from exporting to them.

If we narrow the analysis and take a look at the top six export markets for premium Bordeaux wines (over 15 euros per bottle ex cellars), it is again worth noting that five of them are not in the EU, and again the UK, in fourth place, is the only EU member (they are in order of value in Euros: Hong Kong; USA; China; UK; Switzerland; Japan).

There is perhaps a medium term political risk linked to the possibility of tarifs being imposed on imports and exports to and from the UK in an initial heat of political bad temper, but this would both be sad and also would benefit only New World producers who would seize the chance of increasing market share in the UK, and I think and hope that far sighted and rational politicians in Europe will do all they can to avoid such an outcome, which would obviously be negative for Bordeaux and indeed for all European wine producers.

One of the things that I love about Bordeaux is that it is an outward looking, global trading city, that long ago accepted the challenge of travelling the earth in order to promote and sell the wines of its surrounding vineyards. The market for the great wines of Bordeaux is a global one: Great Britain is a vital traditional and at the same time modern market for our wines, with an illustrious history, a dynamic present, and no doubt a glorious future ahead as one of the principal markets where the great wines of Bordeaux are appreciated. It is important that the wine drinkers of the UK should know that they in their turn are thoroughly appreciated by the winemakers of Bordeaux: our wines have been drunk in England for centuries and will be for centuries to come. In spite of any short term difficulties, we have a great past and a great future together.

Château Pichon Baron
Château Pichon Baron

 

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Château Suduiraut

 

Château Petit-Village
Château Petit-Village
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Pichon Baron: an important tasting in Barcelona

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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* 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

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Tasting Château Pichon Baron 2015 with Jean-René Matignon (VIDEO)

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I found that Pichon Baron was very true to itself in 2015: grand, powerful and profound, a great Pichon in the classical style. I think of it as a synthesis of the 2005 and 2009 wines, with the freshness, depth, and tannic structure of the 2005, together with something of the seductive ripeness of the 2009.

Here is Jean-René Matignon with his impressions of the wine and the vintage.

If you have trouble watching this video, view the web version here

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Tasting Château Petit-Village 2015 with Diana Berrouet-Garcia (VIDEO)

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This was Diana’s first harvest at Petit-Village: a good beginning. The merlots were magnificent at Petit-Village this year: ripe, profound and seductive. But our old vine cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon were also exceptional and bring freshness and structure to the blend, giving the wine harmony and balance.

An outstanding début for Diana at Petit-Village and an important year for the property.

If you have trouble watching this video, view the web version here

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