Tag Archives: Pauillac

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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.

Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Philippe Remond

A successful Marathon for Pichon Baron

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Last Saturday was the 32nd Marathon du Médoc. As usual, we fielded a strong Pichon Baron team, of widely divergent sporting experience and ability, but all animated by the same enthusiasm for the event.

We were thrilled that one of the members of the Pichon Baron team, Freddy Guimard, won the race, with an excellent time of 2:25.

Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Freddy Guimard

This was the first time that Freddy ran with us, and his first Marathon win. He is the French champion over ten kilometers, and clearly a superb and determined athlete, but also entered magnificently into the spirit of things here, happily trying wines from Pichon Baron, Suduiraut and Quinta do Noval at dinner the night before.

I would like to say that these wines had a performance enhancing effect, but if this were so, it would be hard to explain why my half marathon time the next day was slightly longer than his complete marathon victory time.

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Freddy running past our property, wearing a crown and his tee-shirt Pichon Baron
Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Freddy Guimard
Freddy with some Victory magnums of Pichon Baron after the race

Freddy was with us because our long standing friend Philippe Rémond, many times winner of the Médoc marathon, who has run in the Pichon Baron team for years, and who trains the French running team today, brought him to Pichon with a group of friends who run regularly in our team. It is both an honour and a pleasure for all of us at Pichon that this star of French athletics should be a regular visitor to the chateau and a lover of Pichon Baron and its wines.

Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Philippe Remond
Philippe Rémond with the Pichon Baron team before the race. My son Charles (in my arms) enjoyed the ambiance but decided not to run this year

Also in the Pichon Baron team was Yves Bruneau, the butcher of Bages, pictured here passing Pichon at an early stage of the race, as you can see from the fact that not many glasses have yet been poured.

Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Yves Bruneau
Patricia Doré encouraging Yves

Yves arrived in second place in the veterans category, and we were very proud to have him in our team.

Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Christian SeelyI came past somewhat later. This picture gives the entirely misleading impression that I am walking, whereas of course I have merely slowed down in order not to bump into Ruth Santry who is taking the photograph. The great thing about any picture taken during a race is the huge number of people visible in the background. This means they have been running even slower than me, or if you like, I am winning this part of the race. The several thousand people who have gone before rather more rapidly are of course not visible.

Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Marine Castel, Nicolas SantierWe served Les Griffons 2014 at Pichon, in wine glasses of course, to all the runners who felt like a restorative at kilometer five. Nicolas Santier and Marine Castel were among the volunteers who looked after the several thousand runners who took us up on our offer.

Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Pichon Baron volunteers with musiciansTo serve wine correctly to so many people is quite a logistical operation. Here is the magnificent group of Pichon Baron volunteers, to whom all thanks are due, together with the musicians.

It was, as always, a great day, a magnificent celebration of life and wine.

Chateau Pichon Baron - 32nd Marathon du Medoc - Philippe Rémond, Christian Seely, Jean-René Matignon Here I am at the end, clearly relieved that the running part is over, enjoying the post marathon lunch with Jean-René Matignon and Philippe Rémond.

© Château Pichon Baron – images: Ruth Santry

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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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Bordeaux – The 2015 Vintage En Primeur

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En primeur tasting frenzy is now calming down. Although officially a one week event, in fact it lasts quite a bit longer. It is a time of the year I always enjoy, a wonderful opportunity to taste the wines of others, but above all to taste our own wines with visitors from the wine world from all corners of the physical globe, and to hear what they have to say. This is always fun, but the 2015s have been particularly enjoyable to taste and to talk about.

Enough has already been written about 2015 for it not to be a particularly original revelation to say that I think it is an exceptional year. Above all I find the wines in general hugely enjoyable, hedonistic and exciting. I found it enormous fun to be tasting them, which is not always the case at this stage of their evolution. I think that it was a year that gave the opportunity for a wide diversity of expression, and within the general framework of excellence there is great stylistic diversity, from the exuberant and seductive ripeness of the right bank, to the purity, depth of fruit, freshness and structure of the great wines of the left bank. The Sauternes also are wonderful: harmonious, elegant, balanced, with complex and pure Botrytis. And there are some extremely good dry whites. So in general a generous, satisfying year, a magnificent illustration of the dazzling multifaceted wealth of pleasure that Bordeaux has to offer in an outstanding vintage.

We are of course producers on the left and right banks and in Sauternes. During en primeurs week I tasted the wines with Pierre Montégut at Suduiraut, with Jean-René Matignon at Pichon Baron and with Diana Berrouet-Garcia at Petit-Village. We recorded on film our conversations and their thoughts about their wines and the vintage. This week I will post over three days these short clips, in the hope that it will give something of the feeling of tasting the wines with the people who made them.

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Tomorrow we will start with Pierre Montégut at Suduiraut; on Wednesday we will go to Petit-Village with Diana Berrouet-Garcia; and on Thursday we will finish with Jean-René Matignon at Pichon Baron.

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