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01 June 2011

Bordeaux: “Roederer Masterclass” - de Pez & Pichon-Lalande


No, they don’t just do Champagne (Port, California…): this was the slightly serious title coined for a special tasting of Louis Roederer’s Bordeaux estates organised by the Circle of Wine Writers on 17 May 2011. We were served two flights: one of the 2007 vintage across five labels and the second an enlightening vertical of Château de Pez. The latter is considered a rising star of Saint-Estephe in the northern Haut-Médoc region and sits alongside their other Château here, Haut-Beauséjour (they’re both located on the western side of the S-E appellation). And heading south, there’s Château Bernadotte, which lies just within the Haut-Médoc AOC bordering Pauillac and a few kilometres west of Roederer’s star estate, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (to give it its full name) purchased in 2006. Found just up the road from comparatively dour looking Latour, Pichon Lalande really does look the part as the full monty ‘f-o’ Château with its glorious pointy tours and imperial splendour (pic.).
The odd titbit of info on vintage conditions or winemaking has been included in my notes on the wines, paraphrased from what Sylvie Cazes or Mark Bingley MW told us: MDs of Roederer’s properties in Bordeaux and UK agent MMD respectively, who led the tasting. I’ve again used my ‘new-fangled’ simplified scoring system of one, two or three ‘ticks’ (good, very good, fabulous); or just plain 1 to 3 for the wines below.

2007 vintage

The Roederer team ended up taking four weeks to pick everything at all their estates in 2007, as September turned on the sunshine again after a wet August and generally cool summer. So it paid to wait this year, as it often does in Bordeaux. The problem was the top châteaux were on such a roll of good vintages, high demand and hence corresponding prices; that a lot of people had to pay through the nose for these wines, if they wanted to secure some on release. The traditional trade is now backing them as a pleasant surprise and an attractive elegant vintage for drinking now or within a couple of years or so. Well, they’re probably right, but this doesn’t really stack up against the kind of prices that suggest all the wines should be nothing but sublime (call me old-fashioned)…

Château Bernadotte 2007 (55% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) – unusually high proportion of Merlot this vintage. Perfumed cedar-y aromas with light damson, morello cherry and dried blackcurrants, maturing savoury notes too vs leafy edges; similar palate with subtle grainy tannins, turning meatier vs underlying berry fruit, medium weight; attractive enough mature fruit vs light grip vs a touch of freshness and elegance, a tad stalky perhaps and fairly short although nice now; ages quite quickly in the glass. 1. About £20.
Château Haut-Beauséjour 2007 (59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot) – showing more toasted coconut oak vs richer cassis fruit, again it’s aromatic and forward with leafy vs savoury notes; has more weight and power with firmer texture vs more substance, a bit longer too and again quite mature now. 1+. £20-£25.
Château de Pez 2007 (60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc) – 40% new oak. Deeper more purple colour, coconut tones; quite concentrated, firm and structured vs riper plum characters; a little more closed up too with coated tannins vs nice fruit, power vs elegance meaning fairly good balance; needs a couple of years still. 1-2. About £35.
Reserve de la Comtesse 2007 (46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc) – 30% new oak for 12 months. Vanilla and coconut dominate the nose/palate then turning a bit leafy, grainy texture with the oak rather carrying the wine while adding texture; over-extracted and a tad hard on the finish. Hmm. This is the only ‘second wine’ from Pichon, which is sometimes sold off if they’re not happy. I’ll say no more. At least £35.
Château Pichon Lalande 2007 (58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc) – 60% new oak for 18 months. Richer colour and nose, leafy edges vs fairly dense blackcurrant fruit, still firm and quite tight actually with oak and extraction much better integrated; yet there are still hints of not-so-ripe vs underlying maturing towards ‘sweet’ fruit, solid but not hard tannins; fair length, classier and attractive now although probably needs 3+ years. 2. About £80.

Château de Pez vertical

2006 (46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) – delicious maturing cassis plum and liquorice even vs lightly leafy tones, quite dense actually and fairly structured, firm yet attractive coating of tannins; tightens up with well-integrated oak texture and good balance in the end, has much more substance than the 07 although not a ‘huge’ wine, just pretty classic. 2+
2005 (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) – more savoury vs herbal red pepper notes vs meatier with quite rich fruit, broodier than the 06 in a way although smokier and more rustic/wilder too, showing a fair bit of development considering it’s only a year older; still dense yet with quite rounded tannins although does have a slight biter twist, concentrated with complex maturing flavours; ‘bigger’ wine than the 06 but less classy perhaps, drinking quite well now. 2
2004 (43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot) – a dry but not very hot vintage, picking took place from 25 September to 10 October. More savoury still and ‘sweeter’ vs intriguing herby berry notes, leafier too with cedary oak notes in the background; has fair power although less substance, tannins are less attractive too although not harsh with nice acidity underneath lending a touch of elegance; it’s longer than you first think, but the oak and alcohol do perhaps rather carry it through. 1(+)
2001 (47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) – a small crop this year and a vintage initially overshadowed by 2000. Intense depth of colour, blacker even yet with browner rim; enticing smoky maturing nose with ‘sweet/savoury’ fruit, still firm with attractive fresh side too vs subtle lush fruit and nice tannins; drinking quite well although has a firmer drier finish well-balanced by complex sweet vs savoury development. 2-3
2000 (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) – picked from 22/09 to 8/10. Similar colour, a touch older looking and much older on the nose and palate; pretty meaty savoury and ageing fast, dry vs sweet tannins, almost beginning to dry out although it’s complex on the finish, punchier too and less well balanced. Drink now. 1-2

‘Mystery’ vintage of Pichon Lalande (revealed afterwards as 1986) – complex herbal vs liquorice vs smoky leather, still alive with very appealing nose; quite mature and meaty vs leafy side vs chocolate, dry tannins with a bit of oomph vs some fresh acidity still; a touch out of balance now but very attractive and looks very interesting alongside the 2000! Quite chuffed with myself as I guessed 1988. 2-3

UK stockists include: Villeneuve Wine (Scotland), Amps Fine Wine (Peterborough), Wholefoods Market (London, Glasgow), the Good Wine Shop (London), Henderson Wines (Edinburgh), Portland Wine Company (Manchester/Macclesfield), Penistone Court Wine Cellars (S. Yorks), Aitken Wines (Dundee), the Wine Cellars (Isle of Man), Harvey Nichols (London), Noble Green Wines (London), Partridges of Sloane Square, Laytons (London), Goedhuis & Co. (London, Suffolk), Selfridges, Four Vintners (London), Upton Wines (Worcester), Francis Fine Wines (Leicester), Planet of the Grapes (London). See their websites (links at the top) for US importers.

More Bordeaux hereCôtes de Bourg and Listrac-Médoc

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