April 4 - Lunch at Pichon Longueville

by Chuck Hayward

I cannot reiterate how well these’05’s are showing. Please refer to the complete set of tasting notes, but in short I thought the ’05 Pichon Longueville was a beauty. Very complex, spicy offering with notes of truffles, espresso, and a very long finish. Probably 94-96 points.

Since Christian came on board in ’00, he has really made a big commitment to quality with a long term vision that fits well with insurance company AXA Millesimes. He has the financial backing to afford the long term outlook and therefore can make qualitative improvements like cutting yields and replanting vineyards, as well as other expensive improvements throughout the winemaking process. For example, Christian says that the Chateau is now producing 220,000 bottles versus 360,000 bottles in the 90’s. Of the 70 hectares of the estate, only 40 hectares make it into the main label and the rest are for the Les Tourelles label.

Along with the main Estate, Christian oversees Le Petit Village, a property in Pomerol. Again, there is a renewed commitment to quality here. In 2004, 20% of the vineyard was torn out so that is could be properly replanted in order to create more consistency. Christian, in his own words, is ‘paying more attention to Petit Village’…and it shows.

After our tasting of the ’05, ’04, ’03, ’02, ’01, and ’00 Pichon Longueville as well as a few of the Petit Village, Suduiraut, S de Suduiraut, and Pibran, we proceeded to lunch at the chateau, a beautifully prepared meal accompanied by equally stunning wines. We started with the ’93 Laurent Perrier Brut – very delicate and fresh, with nice notes of citrus and minerals. With the first course of Cod with peppers and diced spicy sausage, we had the ’04 ‘S’ de Suduiraut (Suduiraut’s dry white wine). Medium-bodied, it was quite round and rich with notes of apple and vanilla. Next we had duck in a reduction with chorizo along with mashed potatoes and green beans. This was paired with the ’98 Petit Village and then the ’89 Pichon Baron. With cheese and dessert we had the ’62 Quinta do Noval Nacional, where Christian has been the Director since 1994. Wow, what a treat! This was served blind and most of us guessed it was a ’70 or ’77, or even an ’85…but certainly not the ’62. This was a baby! A medium light ruby color, it was full-bodied, with rich fruit flavors and silky tannins. Christian says they only have 82 bottles left (that is…after we drank this one).

FYI, next we walked across the street to Pichon Lalande, where the wines were really a big disappointment…at least relative to its neighbor.