“[N]ot to be pursued”: 1975 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron
Earlier this year I attended an Annual Bordeaux Dinner where the focus was on the wines of Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron. Tutored by Jean-Rene Matignon, technical director, we tasted 13 vintages back to 1989. It was in 1987 that the Bouteiller family sold the estate to AXA Insurance so all of the wines served were made under the new regime. Last week I tried a bottle of the 1975 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac which was made under the Bouteiller family.
According to Clive Coates, the Bouteillers are direct descendants of the wine-steward to Louis XIV. With long connections to Bordeaux the family acquired Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron in 1933. With the death of Jean Bouteiller in 1961, the quality of the wine fell. Agreeing with other writers, David Peppercorn noted there was a “lack both of consistency and of real quality” throughout this period. Clive Coates attributes this drop in quality to the “rapid turnover of maitres de chai” as well as the lack of a bottling hall. Apparently the wine was bottled in the courtyard by a contractor regardless of the temperature.
It would seem, then, that the odds were against my bottle given it was from the very heart of this depressing period. Edmund Penning-Rowsell and David Peppercorn do not even comment on this wine from the 1975 vintage. Tasted at 12 years of age, Michael Broadbent noted it was “easy, quick-maturing wine…not to be pursued.” He later commented that this vintage was “controversial because of their high tannins” with barely a rating of three out of five stars.
My hope was that the tannins would give it a fighting chance. And they did! Upon removal, the cork was proper with sweet scents. Not knowing how the wine would react, I did not decant. The wine itself opened up after an hour then declined by the third. For a good portion of this time it was aromatic with savory, somewhat rounded flavors. It is true that the finish was short but it presented enough of a complete wine to be satisfied. This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
1975 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac – $10
Shipped by Rineau. Imported by The Rineau Wines Co. This wine is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that was fermented in cement and epoxy-resin lined tanks. Alcohol 11%. Bottom-neck fill. There were sweet aromas with cedar hints. In the mouth was a sweetish start that became rounded with some weight. The wine developed a savory touch, with cedar notes, salivating acidity, and a shorter, drier finish. The structure came out in the end, showing a spicy bit. ** Now.