Video reports from Pichon Comtesse and Pichon Baron

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

20 March 2016

It was great to visit both Pichon estates late last year, to prepare an article that I wrote for Decanter, as published in the April 2016 issue.

The always gorgeous Pichon Baron estate

Dear friend and celebrated author Jane Anson contributed tasting notes.

In deference to the publication, I only post my tasting notes after the article went to press, based on a visit with Jane to Pichon Comtesse, where we were welcomed by director Nicolas Glumineau and on a visit on my own to Pichon Baron, where I tasted through many wines with director Christian Seely who also walked me through the vineyard.

Vertical tasting with Jane Anson organised by Pichon Comtesse director Nicolas Glumineau

As you can see, I include here some video recordings from both visits as well as some pics.

Christian Seely points out the fine terroir of Pichon Baron, in a glorious setting with the nearby Latour, Leoville Las Cases and of course, Pichon Comtesse.

He also discusses the merits of the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

Over lunch with Glumineau, who had worked previously at Chateau Montrose, Jane and I appreciate the 1975 and 1985 as well as the 1989 vintages.

We had a great time at the estate, tasting through many wines before lunch.

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Tasting through many vintages of Pichon Comtesse with Jane Anson

As you can read in my Decanter article, the styles of both Pichons are quite different and – lo and behold – tend to reinforce the tired cliché of “feminine charm” chez the Comtesse and “masculine power” chez the Baron…

Well, my tasting notes reflect that notion, in any case.

And I love both estates. Tasting notes in bold I like in particular, when red and bold even more, when underlined, too, a kind of nirvana…

Pichon Baron 

2010: A glorious wine, monumental yet not monolithic or glossy in a modern sense. A wine that will take 10 years to reveal itself, to approach its so called drinking window. But in November 2015, it displayed wet stone and graphite, with plenty of cassis fruit. There is a certain airiness to it, that makes it fresh, even if the tannin index is very high. Full bodied, and a long finish.

2009: What sumptuousness here. Very fruit driven and rich, as compared with the 2010, which I prefer. The 2009 is a great vintage, no doubt. It has full body and loads of tannin for aging, like the 2010, but the 2010 has just a bit more freshness for an overall better balance. At this stage the 2009 – in spite of the welcome nature of the vintage – comes off just a bit hard on the finish and needs time in bottle to be fully ready – give it at least until 2020. I own six bottles of this, so I am encouraged by Jane Anson’s 98 point rating. I think she liked it more than I did, so let’s see how it develops!

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Two superlative wines.

2008: An excellent wine, savory, rich, with a certain “Pauillac” seriousness but already giving up some charms. Lovely bright red fruit, tannic finish. Seely said that the 2008 is a bit more precise and full bodied than the similar styled 2004.

2005: The wine is just beginning to show how darn good that vintage was in Bordeaux. Slightly closed upon opening, but with time in glass, the layers of depth on the palate began to show themselves. Certainly full bodied, quite tannic but also bright. Give it another five years for it to truly enter its early drinking window.

2002: Lovely wine, always performs better than most people would think, given the terrible August month. September brought ripeness and it shows, with bright red fruit and a substantial mid palate leading to a clean and smooth medium plus finish.

Pichon Comtesse

2014: Some 14% of press wine was used for the 2014, which remains a superb vintage for me as it is very fresh, brisk yet substantial and elegant. The 65% Cabernet Sauvignon lends grip and cassis flavor, while 22% Merlot adds some richness. For Glumineau, a prototypical Comtesse. And Jane and I totally agreed with respect to its potential…

2012: Quite full bodied and fresh, the blend of nearly 60% Cabernet Sauvignon with nearly 30% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

2010: Glumineau prefers the 2010 to the 2009, for its better balance, and I see his point. Yes, it is a bit more structured too, as the 2009 seems to echo the loose-y goosey aspect of the 1989 that I had tried a few years ago in New York at a double vertical of the two estates. The 2010 seems to have a bit more spice to it, as well.

2009: There is a certain elegance to this wine, certainly more so than the Baron across the street, which has more evidently foreboding tannin. The Comtesse conveys red fruit freshness as well as some of the darker fruit aspects one expects from the rich 2009 vintage. Quite a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon at 75% with 20% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot.

2005: Parker graded this 86 points upon release, and I think he was wrong, because the wine is full of elegance and freshness and not without substance. As you can read in my article, Glumineau suggested that it could “perhaps” do with more density but it comes down to splitting hairs. Bottom line is that it is rich and savory.

2004: What a gorgeous basket full of fresh fruit on the nose. Much fresher than the 2003 and more balanced with substance on the mid palate, fairly full bodied although lacking the depth and concentration of a greater vintage like 2010 or 2009. The blend has just over 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and the 36% Merlot lends richness, with the rest being Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.

2003: What a creamy and seductive nose! There are dark fruits and also some black truffle aspects, already tertiary aromatics and flavors. On the other hand, the finish is fairly abrupt as compared to the other wines we tried at the estate. No Cabernet Franc in this vintage.

2000: A full bodied offering, but not quite as elegant and graceful as the 2005 for example, closer in style to the 2004 in fact. A very good showing but not on the top of my list among the wines tasted today.

A great pair, the edge goes to the 1996

1996: Yet again, this vintage proves its muster. Dominated by 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, it comes across as juicy, fresh and substantial and has an overall polished feel – and indeed, as Jane Anson wrote a bit more “precise and pulled together than the 1995” … Tertiary notes do include crushed tobacco and a touch of mint leaf, with plenty of dark berry fruit, leading to a long and delicious finish.

1995: I recall having enjoyed this at a Decanter Fine Wine Encounter nearly 10 years ago, and it has softened since then but still seems a touch tougher than the 1996 even if it has far more Merlot, at 40%. It is a delicious wine, however, and I do think it just needs more time for the somewhat harder tannins to soften. I had the same impression when I opened a bottle last year at home with my sister, who absolutely loved it.

Over lunch with Nicolas Glumineau, I did not take careful notes, but we enjoyed a sexy 1989 vintage, very sensual and inviting, with tertiary aromatics; a 1985 that conveyed more brightness and focus, perhaps touch more balance, even if it was not quite as seductive as the 1989 – and a 1975 vintage that proved excellent for a wine nearly 40 years old: savory, elegant, substantial and smooth.

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