Annual Bordeaux Dinner: Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron


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Earlier this week I had the privilege to attend the annual Bordeaux dinner hosted by Panos Kakaviatos (Wine Chronicles) at the restaurant Ripple.  For this year the focus was on the wines of Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron.  To complement the 13-vintage vertical of wines we were joined by Jean-Rene Matignon.  Jean-Rene Matignon has been technical director at the estate since it was purchased by AXA Insurance in 1987.  As the vintages reached back to 1989, he was able to share his comprehensive knowledge.  Jean-Rene Matignon provided a pamphlet on the history of the estate as well as a tasting booklet describing each of the wines served at our dinner.

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We started the evening in the bar side of Ripple drinking glasses of 2000 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut.  With glass in hand of lovely full-bodied lemon flavors I chatted with many familiar wine lovers and met several others for the first time.  The wines were decanted that morning and Panos fortunately revealed there was only one corked bottle.  This meant there were ample pours of all wines included significant pours of the 1989 and 1990 vintages.  As a whole I thought the wines showed incredibly well with attractive and engaging vintage variation.  Of the younger wines the 2005, 2009, and 2010 showed significant potential for future the development.  Whereas the 2005 was quite strong the 2010 had more of everything, including an already significant amount of complexity.  These are wines for future decades.  Of the mature wines I preferred the pair of 1989 and 1990 over the 2000 which came across as more advanced.  The 1989 has entered its mature peak with the 1990 distinctly youthful with its pure fruit, good acidity, and integrated structure.  I suspect this wine will develop even further!

We tasted all of these wines in flights of two and three.  My notes are a bit short this year for, I will admit, for my table spent a good amount of time conversing.  It was a pleasure to not only enjoy the wine and food but Ben Giliberti’s knowledge about Bordeaux and Keith Levenberg’s shrewd observations.  Please find my notes below as well as Jean-Rene Matignon’s comments which I have paraphrased.

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Jean-Rene Matignon: In the 2006 vintage, the Cabernet Sauvignon was very ripe and the wine shows a lot of minerality.  The 2007 vintage experienced a tropical summer with humidity and low ripeness.  The fruit was slowly picked.  The wine is for drinking now.  The 2008 vintage demonstrates a lot of potential.  With low yields and a strict selection the production level was low.  This wine was assembled in the new cellar, built in 2006, that has more space allowing the lots to be kept separate for a precise selection.

2006 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  The nose was dense and meaty with minerally aromas of dark blue and black fruit.  The density continued in the mouth with savory fruit, lifted minerality, and cedar hints in the finish.  The drying structure came out with air but everything was balanced by the lively acidity. ***(*).

2007 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  There was a meaty, bloody nose marked by greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth the tart red fruit had a greenhouse hint before a racy, line of flavor brought more greenhouse flavors. ***.

2008 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Merlot that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  Though tighter in the mouth this retained balance with minerals, blue-black fruit, and fine cola-like tannins.  The wine was fresh with plenty of focus.  Young with a good future ahead. ***(*).

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Jean-Rene Matignon: The 2001 vintage saw a green harvest and produced a wine that is elegant and balanced with very good potential.  The 2002 vintage saw a very cold spring where they lost many berries.  Good weather in September pushed the ripeness into balance but still left a low-yield.  Some green berries made it into the wine.  The 2004 vintage experienced very good, regular weather that provided a big challenge to reduce quantity.  There was a green harvest and the largest quantity of generic wine made.

2001 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 70% new oak barrels and 30% one-year old oak barrels.  This was an aromatic wine with tart red and black fruit, good bright and deep flavors, complex spices, and a long aftertaste. ****.

2002 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot that was aged in 70% new oak barrels and 30% one-year old oak barrels.  There was textured fruit on the nose.  In the mouth there was concentrated red fruit, good wood flavors, and an almost glycerin mouthfeel.  This was easy to drink due to the ripe, young fruit and freshness but the good structure and acidity will allow this to develop further. ***(*).

2004 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  There was a nice expression of black fruit, watering acidity from the start, and a racy nature.  The ripe fruit was matched by ripe, citric tannins on the gums. ****.

Jean-Rene Matignon: The 2000 vintage saw a special blending of the wine with managing director Christian Seely.  This was a vintage for winemaking with the revelation coming after tasting through the tanks and vats.  It marks the beginning of the great vintages, classic for the Bordelais, and a taste for the world.  The 2003 vintage was famously hot and difficult to sort out the very ripe fruit.  For the second wine a second pick was employed.  The 2005 vintage was strict and austere being about terroir and one for our children.

2000 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc that was aged 15 months in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  The fruit showed gentle concentration with a hint of greenhouse, some luxurious fat, and a mineral finish.  One of the softer, more advanced showings of the evening that is drinking very well right now. ****.

2003 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot that was aged in 70% new oak barrels and 30% one-year old oak barrels.  This had ample black fruit flavors, good structure, and a cinnamon spiced finish. ***(*).

2005 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  The precise nose offered blue and black fruit with an earthy hint.  In the mouth the black fruit enveloped the tongue taking on spices, some back-end heat, and drying tannins in the aftertaste of ethereal flavors.  Young with great potential. ****(*).

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Jean-Rene Matignon: The 1989 and 1990 vintages produced from the historic, smaller vineyard on the estate.  The new winery was not built until 1991 so they reflect the raw quality of the fruit.  The 1989 vintage experienced such nice weather that the fruit was picked with students.  There were exceptional berries so it was not necessary to sort as it is recently common.  The 1990 vintage showed the potential of the Pichon Baron fruit producing a fresh wine that will last forever.

1989 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc that was aged for 15 months in 65% new oak barrels and 35% one-year old oak barrels.  There were minerals and blood on the nose followed by fresh fruit in the mouth.  The wine had a rounded edge with attractive incense and cedar notes that mixed with ripe, red fruit. ****(*).

1990 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon and 27% Merlot that was aged for 15 months in 70% new oak barrels and 30% one-year old oak barrels.  The nose was rather aromatic with mature notes.  In the mouth was an easy entry with tart, black fruit, lovely tannins, and good lively attitude.  A very long life ahead of continued development. ****(*).

The dinner wrapped up with a pair of the youngest wines.  Jean-Rene Matignon: This pair also marks the introduction of the optical sorter in 2009.

2009 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  There was an exotic nose of red fruit and Lebanese spices.  In the mouth were tart cherry and pomegranate flavors that show ripe, fuzziness in the finish. ****(*).

2010 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
This wine is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Merlot that was aged in 80% new oak barrels and 20% one-year old oak barrels.  This was an aromatic wine with complex aromas and leather.  The flavors had depth and concentration.  Showing strength in its youth there was plenty of power, ample structure, and clearly all of the components for a great future.  A stunning wine even at the end of a long evening. *****.

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  1. January 25, 2015 at 6:56 am

    Wow. Lucky you! Incredible line-up of wines. I am a big fan of this chateaux and their second wine Les Tourelles de Longueville which is made from merlot on a distinct part of the property with more clay soils (which suits merlot) and is more drinkable at an earlier date.

  2. January 25, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    That was such a fantastic post about your experience and tasting notes. Thank you for sharing!

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