IF Margaux is elegance and flowers; vinified potpourri, and St. Julien vinous garam-masala (Indian spice mix) then Pauillac is a leather-couch-ed cigar-room. From a lithe Margaux, to a irreverently flirtatious St. Julien, we go to something with brawniness and a whopping punch of tannins, brown spices and all the preciously Englihsh descriptors so often associated with claret: dark cassis, fresh pencil shavings, tobacco, cedar etc.
In truth, I have always said that Pauillac is the proto-typical Bordeaux: it has the litany of flavours and aromas that are what most people talk about when they talk about Bordeaux.
Paulliac of course also boasts three of the five First Growths: Chateau Latour, Mouton-Rotschild and Lafite; although here the difference in character has more to do with there they are relative to the two contiguous appellations on its borders; St. Julien to the south and St. Estephe to the north.
Herein is the intriguing thing about these estates, Chateau Latour located at the most extreme south of the appellation (a frog could jump from Latour’s Pauillac vinyards to the adjacent vinyeards of St. Julien Chateau Beychevelle with little to no effort)-( a small estuary, the Ruisseau de Juillac serves as the borderline between the two). In contrast Chateau Lafite is located ath the most northern extreme of the appellation; the venerable estate is a stone’s throw away from Chateau Cos d’Estournel almosty literally across the street. Between the southern most vineyards of the appellation which include those of Chateau Batailley, the Pichon-Longuevilles (Baron and Comtesse) there is a wide spance of mostly Cru Classe Vineyards with, going from South to North (Chateau Latour towards Chateau LAfite) one passes by Pauillac’s other infamous names: Chateay Beychevelle, Lynch-Bages, and after a bit of a break when in the northern part of the appellation Chateau Pibran and more notably Pontet-Canet.
I go through this painful recounting to illustrate a point and that is that we currenly, for the sake of the 1855 classification and our own sanity have divided up the northern Medoc into four major appellations (five if you count Haut-Medoc) but the truth is that even within Paulliac (a mere 8 kilometers or so top to bottom)there does exists ‘sub appellations’ if you will and some subtle differences between estates depending on when they are on the map and the subsoil’s. Here I refer to the differences (slight as they may be) between the wines of and around St. Lambert whifs of mild spice but heaftier, Bages and Pauillac proper, and further north when they become more angular (in a good way) in Pouyalet. But this is getting a bit excruciating. These variations are less notable in St. Julien as most of Estate’s vineyards are plots scattered across the appellation and through blending you end up with a faitly consistent set of wines, regardless of the estate, in different degrees of excellence. Some of that also goes for Margaux (which boasts several little-known ‘pseudo-sub appellations’), Pauillac less so.
Okay- if you’re new to the Bordeaux game forget all the BS above: just know this: Pauillac= powerful, red and brown flavors, proto-typical Bordeaux, drunk best after a decade or two depending on the estate and vintage. Overall 2009 Pauillac shined with far less inconsistencies than Margaux’s minefield
If you like smoking jackets and cigars (and most of you do…) then you’ll like Pauillacs. Pauillacs are smoking jackets, cigars and velvet slippers personified.
The following is a list of wines from the Pauillac region from the 2009 vintage. The wines were all tasted March 29th in a controlled temperature room out of Riedel wine glasses. The wines were not tasted blind. All wines were barrel samples. Any exception to the above are noted. Notes by Alejandro Ortiz.
O/P: Ok/ Poor
VG: Very Good
E: Excellent (an intermediary between Great but not Fantastic)
The first sub rating a “+” or “-“ is given for original impression on the nose and palate followed by a subsequent sub-rating for it’s overall performance within its rating.
- Chateau Grand Puy-Ducasse
- Muscled red fruit, deep and penetrating, tobacco et al: typical Pauillac.
- Ch. Haut-Batailley
- Improving every year- very very nice.
- Second Tasting @ UGC Tasting: GR—
- Bing cherry, earth and very French.
- Ch. d’Armailhac
- Never been a huge fan preffering Clerc-Milon’s playfulness more but this was beautiful, again typical Pauillac nose and taste. Will last!
- Second Tasting @ UGC Tasting: G/VG+–
- Velvety with a core of brambly red fruit and earth.
- Ch. Clerc-Milon
- Lighter than I ever remember it, lithe and pretty- but not great.
- Second Tasting @ UGC Tasting: VG++1
- Very different than first tasting- much brighter. Buy.
- Ch. Croizet-Bages
- Cedar, pines with nice red fruit- wow, what a great value!
- Ch. Haut-Bages Liberal
- Best in a while although it is a very consistent estate- incredibly balanced, supple, red velvety fruit with a core of gaminess. Beautiful.
- Ch. Lynch-Bages
- Muscular and a tart black fruit background but ostensibly a beautiful wine.
- Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste
- Lots of tobacco and deep red/brown fruit.
- Le Petit Mouton
- Not great (obviously)
- Ch. Pichon-Baron
- Lilac, pink fruits, flower and an overall smooth and silky texture- beautiful! Fabulous, best in years!
- Second Tasting @ UGC: FA+–
- Third Tasting @ Chateau Pichon-Baron: FA++-
- Ch. Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
- Exceptional, my god! Could be confused with a Margaux, so beautiful, so much perfume. Amazing, velvet, red and purple fruit, a strong bouquet of Croatian wild lavender (ok, this may sound like bullshit but I was in and out of Croatia during this time and trust me that’s what it smelled like). Amazing, fabulous.
- Second Tasting @ Chateau Pichon-Longueville Lalande: FA
- My goodness, what consistent magic. This, guys, is frightingly exceptional with an undying finesse, great structure and a nearly infinite finish. Very impressed!
- Third Tasting @ UGC: ?
- This was so great, and I was so excited, I cannot read any of the notes I wrote about it, I can make out one expletive however.
- Second Wine: Reserve de la Comtessee: FA
- Tasted several times and always absolutely fabulous. Try the Latour challenge with this too (see below Latour notes).
- Ch. Forts de Latour
- Holy enamel-peeling-tannins Batman! This boy’s huge! Together with almost every second label this year; there is such a conserted effort being paid to their quality and makeup that there surpass some off vintages of the Grand Vins, moreover they are wines onto themselves usually coming from plots of vines entirely dedicated to their production (as opposed to being blended from the Grand Vin’s leftovers). Spectacular, muscled—I challenge someone out there to serve this blind to a so-called ‘wine expert’ fifteen years from now and I will wager a small car, right here and now, if he doesn’t think this is a Chateau Latour!
- Ch. Latour
- A brooding monster, monolithic, tobacco-dark-chocolate and dark tarry tobacco-dripping wine. Immense, beautiful and could very qualify as a “nuclear holocaust wine” (see previous posts here). Unbelievable.
- Ch. Mouton
- Better than I’ve tasted in a while, MUCH better
- Ch. Lafite-Rothschild
- Ethereal and magical as always, stupendous.
Overall Impression of the Pauillac 2009
- GR-FA : great to fantastic
Yes- while I didn’t remember before looking over my notes to write this post that Pauillac certainly provided some of the most memorable wines of the vintage. Moreover it did so consistently. From top to bottom the wines were exuding elegance within the broad-shouldered power that is common to all Pauillacs. These are wines that have upwards of 20-30 years worth of girth and power—but revisiting the irresistibly dismembered 1982’s it’s really anyone’s guess whether wines have been refined to the point of limited longevity. Still these all have a while. Notable, again, because it’s an overall trend this vintage was the high quality of the second labels with some, like Forts de Latour and Comtesse de Lalande being fabulous and complex wines on their own. If investment is what your after then the advice is always simple: buy from the top, and with Pauillac buy a lot and fearlessly.
If you are buying to drink, look for some early maturers like Clerc-Milon, Lacoste-Borie (second wine of Chateau Grand Puy-Lacoste), Lynch-Moussas, and Chateau Bernadotte because the big boys have a long long way to go.
2009 Pauillac Top 3:
- Chateau Latour
- Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
- Chateau Lafite-Rothschild
2009 Pauillac Underdogs (buy to surprise)
- Chateau Haut-Batailley
- Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal/ Chateau d’Armailhac
- ANY AND ALL SECOND LABELS