Tag Archives: 2009

The first tasters have begun to arrive in Bordeaux to taste the great 2010 Vintage

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First echoes from Bordeaux itself have until recently been fairly muted, I think because people have hesitated to say that we have in our hands for the second year in a row a very great vintage year. But it is unquestionably the case. I thought it might be useful to try to give a personal impression of the different personality of the two years, specifically in the case of the wine at Château Pichon-Longueville Baron.

There are parallels in the past, notably in 89 and 90 when two great years followed in succession, then as now with quite different personalities, and with fervent partisans of one year or the other according to personal taste. Obviously, people have asked about the parallel with these years when one considers 09 and 10, and I think it is fair enough to make the comparison, but with the significant difference of the way we work in the vineyards today, the great properties accepting significantly lower yields and in general making much stricter selection between Grand Vin and second wine today. I believe that both 09 and 10 can be compared with the great pair from 89 and 90, but I am quite convinced that they are significantly greater in quality.

It is fortunately not my job to write tasting notes of wines on a regular basis: we have very skilled and dedicated journalists for that, but for what it is worth I give here my appreciation of the Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 09 and 10 wines, in the hope that the kind of words used to describe the wines will at least give a feeling for the stylistic differences between the years. I don’t feel the need to say which I prefer, for the good reason that I am not sure yet that I know, but I am quite certain that these are two very great years for Bordeaux, and I am very glad, along with all the team here, to have lived through them.

Here is a picture of Jean René and me enjoying our deliberations on these two great wines.

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron : Jean-René Matignon, Technical Director (left hand), Christian Seely, Managing Director (right hand)

So here is the result of my deliberations with Jean-René Matignon and Daniel LLose as we tasted the two wines side by side and attempted to define the difference in style between the two

Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2009: “Silky, velvety, very harmonious, balanced and long. Full unctuous, sweet, subtle ripe fine fruit, both powerful fine and delicate. Voluptuous, racy, classy.”

And Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2010: “ A very lively fresh structure, tonic, strong muscular tannins, but fine and balanced, wild intense red and black berry fruit, explosive, deep complex and long. We have rarely seen so much richness allied with so much freshness. Extraordinary equilibrium, astonishing for its concentration.”

I hope this gives some idea of how we feel about these wines. Clearly I love them both. We shall now see what the world has to say. And then we shall hopefully be able to enjoy retasting and comparing them both for decades to come.

For a fuller understanding of what made the 2010 Vintage so special, I suggest that you make a link to the following address:


This will lead you to Bill Blatch’s vintage report, which is a remarkable analysis of the year and of the wines. I think it is quite brilliant and I thoroughly recommend it. For those of you who do not know Bill, he is a much liked and greatly respected Bordeaux negociant with an encyclopedic knowledge of Bordeaux, its wines, and the characteristics of each vintage year, thanks to his decades of meticulous note taking. This report on the 2010 vintage will give you some idea of the depth of his knowledge and passion for Bordeaux and its wines.

Primeurs Week in Bordeaux

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Last week the world descended on Bordeaux to taste the 2009 vintage. This is one of the most hectic weeks of our year, with a constant stream of visitors throughout the day and usually a dinner every night, but it is one that we look forward to.

Although one can make an argument that there are more appropriate times in the life of a wine to make a judgement of its real intrinsic quality than the month of March after the harvest, the reality is that this is what everyone tries to do.

Judgements are made about the quality and style of the year, and about the relative performances of the individual properties. For us as producers it is a time of excitement and anguish. The result of all that we have been doing in the vineyard and the chai is held up to the scrutiny of the wine world. We of course have our own ideas about our wines, but we are probably too passionately engaged with what we are doing to give a truly objective judgement ourselves (although we try our best to do so). So it is down to our visitors to give us their verdict, whether they are journalists or members of the world wine trade. Will they confirm all that we believe to be true about the quality of our wines? Will they notice what we have been trying to do?

The place where we receive most visitors is the tasting room at Pichon. I spent time last week at Petit-Village as well, but a couple of days were spent at the Pichon tasting room. It is a fascinating and very enjoyable experience to taste our wines with different visitors throughout the day, and to hear what they have to say about the wines and the year. Some of course say nothing, usually the journalists. In this case, one receives the visit, one tries to gauge the reaction by the enigmatic facial expressions of the taster in question, and then one waits to read what they have to say. However, enough people have expressed themselves openly to confirm the general impression that 2009 is a great vintage, and the “buzz” about Pichon, Petit-Village, and Suduiraut has been highly positive. Now we must wait for the verdicts to roll in to give a composite picture of the wine world’s judgement of the vintage and of our wines.

For what it is worth, I love the 2009 vintage. I have tried to taste everywhere I could and I believe there are some very beautiful wines out there. The ones I like best are those that I consider to have captured the essence of the 2009 vintage at their properties. These wines have a lovely purity of fruit, intense concentration, but are marked above all by a harmony and balance, and an extraordinary elegance and silkiness of tannins, perfectly enrobed by the fruit, in spite of the very high level of tannins that are analytically in the wines. There are some that have pursued a more extractive route, and their wines are marked by more obvious tannins but also extreme concentration of fruit, and I think that 09 will be a year marked by stylistic differences between those who have pursued elegance and finesse and those who have gone down a more power driven route. But in  general the wines are wonderful, and I think the opinion seems general that it is a great year for Bordeaux. So much attention is focussed on the amazing reds this year that it is easy to forget that 2009 was also a great year for Sauternes. The Suduiraut is one of my favourite wines ever from the property, with extraordinary richness and complexity, but marked, in the same was as the best red wines, by the wonderful balance and harmony  and elegance of the year.

We received a group of distinguished journalists at Petit-Village for a group tasting of the UGC wines of St Emilion and Pomerol. One of the advantages of hosting such a tasting is the opportunity to talk to so many journalists during one visit, but the other is the opportunity it gives one to slip into the tasting room after they have gone and taste all the wines oneself. I tasted them all first with their labels showing, making copious and detailed tasting notes (purely for my own benefit), and then tasted them all again blind, making tasting notes again. I then tried to reconcile the two sets of tasting notes. If you have never done this kind of thing, I recommend it as a rather disconcerting exercise in humility! But it is fascinating to see the differences in perception in the two cases. Probably in an ideal world one would always taste twice, once blind and once not: there are obviously positive things to be said about both methods.

Naturally, while the world is concentrating its attention on the 2009s, life goes on in the vineyards and chais.  I took these two photographs of the first buds of 2010 at Petit-Village while the 09s were being tasted. Spring is in the air, and it feels very good after what has been an unusually hard winter, not just in terms of the weather.

first buds of 2010 at Petit-Village
First buds of 2010 at Petit-Village

first buds of 2010 at Petit-Village

Blending session at Pichon for the 2009

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This is always an exciting time of the year. Although it is getting dark and cold, with winter drawing in, we have the fruits of the year’s sunshine with us in the form of the wines of the vintage. We start to taste the different lots at around this time, and will meet again several times before we decide on the final blend sometime in January or February. This morning we were tasting as usual all the different lots from the Pichon vineyard. 35 different lots of wine, all from distinct parcels of the vineyard with their individual personality. The challenge is to find the perfect blend for the Grand Vin of Pichon, at the same time ensuring that Les Tourelles will maintain its distinctive style.

Although our blending decisions are made on the basis of collective tasting, it is remarkable how each year certain parcels consistently make up the Grand Vin and certain others consistently are chosen for Les Tourelles.

Here is the Pichon tasting team: from left Alexandra Lebossé, Daniel LLose, Jean-René Matignon, Eric Boissenot, Jacques Boissenot, Christian Seely.

Blending session at Pichon for the 2009

As you can see we are feeling in a good mood about the 2009s, which are magnificent. At this early stage we can only make a first approach at the final blend, but the Pichon Grand Vin will undoubtedly be one of the great Pichons, showing already great purity and intensity of ripe fruit, and a lovely balance and freshness.

This is a more serious photograph showing Boissenot père et fils in action together with Daniel LLose.

Blending Session at Pichon for the 2009

2009 was great here in Bordeaux on both the left and right bank for the reds, but also in Sauternes. I will report in due course on early impressions at Petit-Village and at Suduiraut.

Why launch this blog?

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Today we finally go live with this blog. Welcome and thank you for taking the time to visit.

As MD of AXA Millésimes I am responsible for a number of vineyards, in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc, Hungary and Portugal. I spend a large part of my time visiting them all, and I hope that this blog format might be an interesting way of revealing to interested wine lovers something of what we do, and of the life of the vineyards and of the people who devote their time to looking after them.

I shall try to post something regularly, and I very much hope that these postings will stimulate some questions, to which I shall try give useful answers, the aim being to make it as interactive as possible so that you can have a real feeling of accompanying me to the vineyards and get some feeling of  what goes on, and what is involved in the elaboration of  a Grand Cru wine.

We are going live now following the 2009 harvest. It has been a great year in Bordeaux, for the reds, Right Bank and Left, and also in Sauternes.  It was also a great year in Burgundy, of which more later. I started writing up a couple of things when I was in Portugal during august, so I post them up now, below, backdated as it were. But as from now, postings will go up as and when they happen.

I hope you will enjoy the site, visit regularly, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Christian Seely

Harvest at Pichon

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Harvesters in front of Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

2009 harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the plateau at the heart of the Pichon Baron vineyard

These pictures show the harvest of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on the plateau at the heart of the Pichon Baron vineyard. Very old vines on deep beds of gravel give Cabernet of wonderful finesse and purity. With the very low yields that we practise here, and the precision of the work that takes places in the vineyard, beautiful wine is made from these vines every year, but some years are more special than others, and it looks as though 2009 will be one of those. Summer was hot and dry, and by the beginning of September we were beginning to be just a little worried: was there enough water in the soil for the vines to continue to do their all important work in the last few weeks to bring the Cabernets to full maturity? And then we had a weekend of rain, that put everything right. Slowly and steadily over the past few weeks the Cabernets have been ripening before our eyes. We knew that the Merlots were spectacular, but to make it a great vintage the Cabernets had to come round. And they did. You will see the results in the 2009 wines, which I think will be among the greatest of Pichons.

Grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background

 Grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background

Here you see the grapes being harvested on the Cabernet plateau with the towers of Pichon in the background. Watch this space: the 2009s will be something special.

2009 harvest at Pichon