Christian Seely’s flagship estate continues to go from strength to strength. This ‘super second’ with wonderful vineyards just across the D2 from Latour has been on something of a roll; a roll they seem intent to continue. Recent showings at Southwold have been very impressive as have recent scores from Robert Parker. Stylistically at the opposite end of the spectrum from neighbour Pichon Lalande, Pichon Longueville is much more massive and speaks of soft, lush fruit and gloss. Although somewhat modern in appearance, with bottle age the wines take on classic Pauillac characteristics, but retain their generosity. The 2011 is the result of severe selections and gentle extractions; yields are a paltry 30 hl/ha due to the drought. Merlot suffered more in the dry conditions, so the blend incorporates 82% Cabernet Sauvignon; the balance being Merlot. There is a terrific bouquet of purple fruit and liquorice. The palate is packed with sweet chocolaty fruit: soft, sumptuous, sexy; this has plenty of sweetness and concentration to complement the gravelly tannins. Another superb Pichon Baron.
The two Pichon Chateaux stand guard at the entrance to Pauillac from St Julien. These two formidable structures on opposite sides of the D2 are two of the most iconic building of the Medoc and two of the most iconic wines. AXA Millésimes, the current owner has overseen the resurgence of this venerable estate. After some lacklustre wines in the 70s and 80s, AXA bought the property in 1987 and enlisted the help of Jean-Michel Cazes have rebuilt the Chateau’s reputation. Jean-Michel stepped down in 2000 and Englishman, Christian Seely has taken the reigns and continues to push the quality level still higher.
Of the 73 hectares of vines, 65% are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% with Merlot. Jean-Rene Matrigon chooses to vinify plot by plot using small fermentation vats and wines are typically aged in 80% new oak barrels. Stylistically, Baron appears to be less classical and more opulent than neighbour Pichon Lalande, however, in bottle the wines adopt a more orthodox Pauillac character. In recent years, Baron has excelled at Southwold tastings and from barrel tastings, with critics and merchants alike heaping praise on the wines – this is an estate at the very top of their game.
The Cabernet Sauvignon domanates the appellation, in fact some might justifiably call Pauillac the most classical expression there is of Cabernet based Claret. It is sandwiched between St-Julien to the south and St-Estèphe to the north, a stone’s throw from the Gironde Estuary. The excellent drainage of the intensely gravely soils are the key to quality, producing some of the world’s most long-lived wines. The First Growths of Latour, Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild are found here, while other great Châteaux include Pichon Baron, Pichon Lalande, Pontet Canet, Lynch-Bages and Grand-Puy-Lacoste.