Monday March 29th
Chateau Pichon Baron
Our first appointment is at the majestic 2nd growth Pichon Baron in Pauillac owned by AXA Millesimes where Technical Director Jean-Rene Matignon is there to greet us warmly.
First up is the second wine Les Tourelles from 2009, but the main event is of course, Pichon Baron itself. The blend is 67% Cabernet and 33% Merlot and the result is an impressive start to the day. What I am looking for is concentration of fruit from this vintage and accessible tannins which provide structure to the wine, but don’t completely cloak and overwhelm it.
So this ticks all my boxes. The wine has great colour, a core of creamy black fruit and spicy notes which carry through to a long finish. Moreover, the tannins are juicy and velvety rather than astringent and tough. If this is the start of things to come, it bodes well. I’d give it 15/20.
Interestingly, Jean-Rene points out that the tannins are the highest that they have ever been at Pichon Baron. But because they are so ripe, they don’t intrude. The alcohol is also up there at 13.8%, but it doesn’t feel too hot on the finish.
We also have time to taste Chateau Petit Village from Pomerol, which is also part of the AXA stable. This is equally impressive, if not more so. The nose is jammy and full, while the palate is rich and beautifully sweet with integrated oak and ripe, generous tannins. The alcohol is higher at 14.5% - unusually high, but I think this will be a feature of many Right Bank Chateaux this year when the Merlot ripened easily and to high sugars. But the trick will be to keep the wines balanced and not too hot. Petit Village has managed this very well. For me, it’s a good score of 17/20.
And just before we go, we have time to taste the 2009 Suduiraut too from Sauternes. It’s another lovely wine and a pleasure to finish with such a sweet and luscious wine. Again, the balance is the key between the sweetness and acidity. Bravo!
From Pichon Baron in Pauillac, we head south down to Margaux and drop in Rauzan-Segla where the negociant Ulysse Cazabonne have a broader range of wines from right across Bordeaux. First up is Cantenac Brown from Margaux,. It has deep colour and has impressive density but lacks sweetness and definition (12/20). Unfortunately, the Lascombes is also a bit disappointing. To my palate, it has been over-extracted – something that we’ll have to watch out for this year.
The 2009 Marojallia is better. Also deeply coloured and opaque with more sweetness and lovely cassis fruit. There’s also a bit of cedar and great cashmere tannins. My only concern is a slightly hot alcoholic finish. (13/20).
However, John Kolassa has made two terrific wines at Rauzan Segla and Canon. The former is masculine and firm, while the latter is ripe and luscious with violets and density. It’s also 14.5% but wears it well.
Better still though is the Pichon Lalande which is showing better than its neighbour. I give it 16/20. Anthony Barton’s Leoville-Barton is also a success – classical, elegant and minerally. Last but not least, I quickly taste the Smith Haut-Lafitte. This is the best of the lot so far – sweet, full, rich with no hint of bitterness – and great length.
So that’s it for this morning. A good start for sure and there’s plenty more to come. This afternoon, we go to Palmer, Latour and Haut-Brion. I’ll keep you posted!!