Unbelievably Youthful Bordeaux From the 1966 Vintage

Today’s Story: Chateau Pichon Lalande

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a historic estate that traces its routes to the late 1600s and ranks as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. I previously wrote about Pichon Lalande when reviewing their 1986 vintage in Bordeaux Battle and the 2003 vintage in Decidedly Opulent Pauillac. To save myself (and yours as a reader) the hassle of reproducing (or reading) such a detailed and lengthy history, I will copy my short previous write-up below.

Pichon Lalande is considered by many to be a classic example of Pauillac, known for its deep, concentrated layers of ripe fruit accompanied by notes of cassis, tobacco, and earth.

With nothing short of a somewhat tumultuous history, Pichon Lalande’s ownership changed hands over the years and earned its name when the founder’s daughter Therese received it as a dowry for her marriage to Jacques de Pichon Longueville. During the 18th century, the estate was dominated by women (Therese de Rauzan, Germaine de Lajus, and Marie Branda de Terrefort) throughout the winemaking process until Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville took over for his mother. In 1850, with his death, the estate split between his two sons and three daughters and ultimately resulted in the division of Comtesse de Lalande and Pichon Baron.

With no familial heirs, Edouard Miailhe and Louis Miailhe purchased Pichon Lalande following WWI. Edouard’s daughter, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, took over management in 1978 and became a prominent ambassador for Bordeaux wines while dramatically increasing quality of her estate. One of her major endeavors, and possibly most famous, was growing the size of Pichon Lalande from 40 hectares of vines to 89. In 2007, however, May-Eliane sold a majority stake of the estate to the Rouzaud family, owners of Roederer Champagne, and management changes as well as renovations took place.

Today’s Wine: 1966 Chateau Pichon Lalande

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 1966 Pichon Lalande is medium garnet in color and moderately transparent. This wine is singing as a pop-and-pour, with the nose showcasing aromas of graphite, cigar box, forest floor, truffle, and peppercorn followed by faint redcurrant, cranberry, dried violet, and green herbs in the background. On the palate, I get notes of pencil shavings, dried tobacco leaf, leather, black tea leaf, underbrush, gravel, and mushroom with cassis and redcurrant poking through. This is still medium-bodied with lively medium acidity, medium (-) dusty tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Best during the first 1-1.5 hours, but honestly didn’t fall apart too much slightly beyond hour 2 (when it was gone).

Price: $350. Provenance is key here, but if proven and you can find this for sale it is absolutely worth the tag. My bottle threw almost zero sediment, the color and structure were both profound, and this drank incredibly youthful given its age. I would’ve pegged this as 1980s if I tasted it blind. Pair this with wagyu filet mignon, earthy mushrooms and/or truffle, or mild cheese.

Decidedly Opulent Pauillac

Today’s Story: Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Another easy one today so I can get off to my Thanksgiving festivities here in the US (and hopefully a short read if you celebrate too). I wrote about Pichon Lalande back on October 28 in my post Bordeaux Battle, which I’d suggest checking out for a 1986 vintage comparison to Leoville Las Cases.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) estate based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Pichon Lalande is considered by many to be a classic example of Pauillac, known for its deep, concentrated layers of ripe fruit accompanied by notes of cassis, tobacco, and earth. For more, check out my prior post!

Today’s Wine: 2003 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 2003 Pichon Lalande is deep purple/ruby in color and moderately opaque. This certainly needed a decant, though the wine came right out of the bottle singing. Once this opened up and warmed from cellar temperature, the wine offered aromas of plum, blackcurrant, slight barnyard, forest floor, cigar box, pencil shavings, rosemary, truffle, and a hint of oak. On the palate this showcases notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, pomegranate, graphite, smokey earth, tobacco, dried underbrush, and limestone. Full-bodied and powerful, this wine has high acidity and velvety medium (+) tannins into a long, lingering finish. Overall this is very ripe and opulent, and probably one of my favorite Pichon Lalande bottlings to date. Though drinking magnificently now, I’d cellar this another 10 years and it’ll live on even decades beyond that.

Price: $180. Though not an inexpensive bottle of wine, Pichon Lalande offers incredible value next to the First Growths and is a wonderful representation of Pauillac. Give this wine a try and you will not go wrong. Pair this with veal, pork, steak, or red game meats (and any mushroom/truffle sauce is a plus).

Bordeaux Battle

Today’s Stories:

Château Léoville Las Cases is a historical Bordeaux estate rated as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Though the estate used to be much larger and is one of the oldest in the Médoc, it was split up between 1826 and 1840 as a result of the French Revolution and came into the Las Cases family as 3/5 the size of the original estate. Luckily for the family, however, their land made up the heart of the domain and therefore consists of the original terroir back to the 17th century.

Las Cases was managed by the same family through the 19th century, moving by inheritance through Pierre Jean, Adolphe, and Gabriel de Las Cases until Théophile Skawinski bought a stake in 1900 to become the manager. Today, Jean-Hubert Delon is the sole owner with the family coming in during the mid-20th century. I encourage you to take a look at the cool video on their website here, which shows the estate’s geographic location as well as a breakdown of the terroir at the domain.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is also a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Pichon Lalande is considered by many to be a classic example of Pauillac, known for its deep, concentrated layers of ripe fruit accompanied by notes of cassis, tobacco, and earth.

Similar to Léoville Las Cases, Pichon Lalande was once part of a much larger estate. As ownership changed hands over the years, Pichon Lalande earned its name when the founder’s daughter Therese received it as a dowry for her marriage to Jacques de Pichon Longueville. During the 18th century, the estate was dominated by women (Therese de Rauzan, Germaine de Lajus, and Marie Branda de Terrefort) throughout the winemaking process until Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville took over for his mother. In 1850, with his death, the estate split between his two sons and three daughters and ultimately resulted in the division of Comtesse de Lalande and Pichon Baron.

With no familial heirs, Edouard Miailhe and Louis Miailhe purchased Pichon Lalande following WWI. Edouard’s daughter, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing took over management in 1978 and became a prominent ambassador for Bordeaux wines while dramatically increasing quality of her estate. One of her major endeavors, and possibly most famous, was growing the size of Pichon Lalande from 40 hectares of vines to 89. In 2007, however, May-Eliane sold a majority stake of the estate to the Rouzaud family, owners of Roederer Champagne, and management changes as well as renovations took place.

Today’s 1st Wine: 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases

66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 4%Petit Verdot; 13.3% ABV

While I’d put the fill level on this bottle between top shoulder and into neck, a pull of the cork showed immediately that we were in for a beautiful, textbook Bordeaux. No need to decant this one, we just let it slow ox in the bottle and glass. In appearance this is still deep ruby with slight garnet rim variation. On the nose, I got aromas of crème de cassis, graphite, pencil shavings, tobacco leaf, and forest floor. Once in the mouth, this luxurious medium- to full-bodied wine shows notes of black and blue fruits, crushed stone, cigar box, and ground green herbs with a hint of black pepper. We get high acidity and medium dusty tannins into a long finish.

Price: $500. Another rare bottle that my generous friend shared (the ’86 Pichon was his too) so we could do this side-by-side tasting. If you can stomach paying the price, this wine is damn near perfect. Pair with steak with a peppercorn or mushroom sauce.

Today’s 2nd Wine: 1986 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot; 12.5% ABV

This is my second bottle of 1986 Pichon Lalande, coincidentally consumed with my same friend who was there for the first bottle. While fill level and provenance of the bottle are good, this seems to be significantly more advanced than the first one (tasted April 2018). Color on this was more light ruby and borderline garnet. After slow ox in the bottle and a glass, the nose offered aromas of stale cranberry, red apple skins, graphite, eucalyptus, chocolate, and pyrazine that unfortunately didn’t want to blow off. Perhaps this needed more air time than we gave it, but regardless it was an overall solid nose save for the pyrazine. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases flavors of green herbs, cigar box, mushroom, black peppercorn, and forest floor. Due to this more advanced stage, the palate certainly showed better than the nose. Medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $250. If you can guarantee the provenance, this is well worth the price. As with any aged wine you take a risk, however to try old Bordeaux and such a classic example of it, the potential reward is there. Pair with steak.

Winner: 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases

The Léoville Las Cases drank with such elegance and class while being a textbook representation of what Bordeaux is and what it should be. I am already hoping and dreaming that I get a chance to taste it again.

Polished Pauillac

Today’s Story: Château Haut-Bages Libéral

Château Haut-Bages Libéral is a winery in the Pauillac AOC of Bordeaux, and one of eighteen wineries classified as a fifth-growth in 1855 (5ème Grand Cru Classé en 1855). The classification came about when Napoleon III, the emperor of France, organized a Universal Exposition in Paris and wanted French wines in an exhibit. The Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce enlisted wine merchants to develop a list of 1er through 5ème wines only, to not overrun the exhibit with wines, and the designations are present on bottles to this day. Some of you may be familiar with the Premier Grand Crus of Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton Rothschild (this was 2nd-growth until 1973), however these wines start at the $100s of dollars and move upward of $1,000 per bottle.

Anyway, Château Haut-Bages Libéral operated under the Libéral family beginning in the early 18th Century and their wine was shared throughout various social and political circles. For the classification of 1855, half of the winery’s vines are next to Château Latour, with the other half being behind Château Pichon Baron. Running forward to 1960, the family behind Château Pontet-Canet, another 5th-growth in Pauillac, purchased Château Haut-Bages Libéral and replanted much of the vines. Ownership changed again, however, in 1982 when the Villars-Merlaut family stepped in and they have been running the winery since then.

Today’s Wine: 2005 Château Haut-Bages Libéral

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot; 13% ABV

2005 was an outstanding vintage for Bordeaux, with the growing season hot and dry as a whole. Though vines struggled at times, rain came at opportune moments, particularly in August and September, to help sustain the vines. Today’s wine shows this vintage in stride and the notes demonstrate classic Pauillac. In the glass, we have deep ruby with not much color variation toward the rim. I let this open up in the glass and decanter for about 30 minutes, which it needed, and drank over the following couple hours. The nose showcases notes of blackberry, cigar box, spice, dried soil, green herbs, and pencil shavings. Moving to the palate, our wine displays blackberry, blueberry, charred earth, ground pepper, and a touch of coffee. Overall not entirely complex and easy-drinking, this Bordeaux is medium-bodied and shows medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium length finish.

Price: $75. I think this is great value for Pauillac, an AOC where wines can run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars per bottle. Pair this with filet mignon, potatoes, and veggies and you can’t go wrong.