Higher Ground Offers More Than A Good View at Pichon Lalande

by Chuck Hayward

Higher Ground Offers More Than A Good View at Pichon Lalande

Post by Eddie Wolowski | April 2nd, 2012

Chateau Pichon Lalande

We arrived at Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande, commonly referred to as Pichon Lalande, on a sunny afternoon for a lunch appointment. As we walked up to the estate, we nodded to former stable-mate Pichon Baron across the road (scene of tomorrow night's dinner for some of us). The two estates were once united, but were split amongst siblings in 1850 and classified as Second Growths five years later.

After a Champagne toast with Chateau Director Sylvie Cazes, I sat down to lunch and a chat with Monsieur Philippe Moreau, the new technical director. Previously employed by Chateau de Pez and Chateau Bernadotte, Philippe completed his first vintage at Lalande last year. He was very generous in answering my questions. I have always wondered why Lalande’s wines take on a certain characteristic that is not reflected in the wines of its close neighbors Baron and Chateau Latour. The disparity between Lalande and Baron has always been particularly interesting, not just because of their proximity, but their common heritage alone should warrant more similarity. Philippe first agreed that while yes, the terrior is nearly identical for all three properties, one contrast lies in the technical winemaking style of Lalande - the way that grapes are pressed gently for finesse and not heavily extracted for power.

Pichon Lalande 2011 sample

However, he went on to explain that perhaps the most critical difference is how some Lalande parcels are on higher ground and slightly closer to the water. This variance has a moderating effect, keeping its grape temperatures cooler than surrounding properties during hot days and warmer doing the cold months. That, coupled with strict grape selection and severe sorting under Philippe’s guidance, may help explain why Lalande had such an outstanding vintage this year. Whatever the reason, all these factors helped produce one of the top wines of Paulliac for 2011.

Indeed, the 2011 Pichon Lalande was impressive, displaying the consistent characteristics for which Lalande is known. It showed real elegance and finesse, a silky texture and floral fruit, with just a touch of mint. It managed to have concentration and deep color while beautifully reflecting its terroir. I may prefer this vintage over the 2009.

JJ Buckley staff enjoying a convivial lunch

Lunch perfectly complemented the ambiance - unpretentious and delightful, and ranged from snapper to braised lamb with boiled potatoes. Bottles of 1975 and 1995 Pichon Lalande stood in rows for guests. Both vintages were exquisite, especially the 1975, with its enduring freshness, complexity, and length. Before we left, our generous hosts topped us off with one last refill of both vintages, sealing the afternoon’s celebratory mood. Under its current management and direction, the future for this chateau looks very bright.

Philippe Moreau and me (doing 'le fist-pump')