“A First-Class Second Cru”… it’s hard to improve on Wine Spectator magazine’s description of Château Pichon Lalande! The estate, which is now in the hands of the Rouzaud family (Roederer group), has benefited from the efforts of a succession of owners whose passionate efforts have gradually elevated it to “super second” status.
Consistency and reputation: it takes a woman’s touch
The estate can trace its origins back to 1694. In 1850, following the death of the Baron de Pichon Longueville, his Pauillac estate was split between his two children. His daughter, Virginie de Lalande, gave her name to the estate; and an unusual division served to make a clear distinction between her own portion and its twin. Eleven of its seventy-three hectares of vines were located in the commune of Saint Julien, lending the wine an inimitable refinement. Virginie Lalande and her brother, the Baron Raoul – the new owner of what would be known as the Pichon Longueville Baron – vied with one another in promoting their own interests. A woman of authority, with a real passion for wine, Virginie was single-handedly responsible for the estate’s rise and ultimate success. It remained in the hands of its founding family until 1925, when it was acquired by Edouard and Louis Miailhe. From 1978 to 2007, another great lady held sway: May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, the daughter of Edouard Miailhe. A Grand Chancellor of the Academy of Bordeaux Wine, she was nicknamed “La Générale” – a reference to her husband’s military career. The feminine symmetry between May-Eliane de Lencquesaing and the Countess’s own reign a century earlier could hardly be more perfect. What’s more, the long tradition so passionately upheld by Pichon Lalande is closely echoed in the tenderness and affection with which connoisseurs have always regarded the estate’s wines.
Renaissance under the Rouzaud family
The Rouzaud family, which has owned the estate since 2007, has laboured tirelessly to continue the work of the family it succeeded. Under the leadership of Nicolas Glumineau, assemblage (blending) takes place between December and January, overseen by Frédéric Rouzaud. Major vineyard restructuring works have been carried out, in conjunction with soil/subsoil mapping studies, to achieve perfect harmony between grape variety and soil. In addition to the dominance of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape (61%) confirmed by these mapping studies, Merlot also plays a significant role in the blend, enhancing the wine’s suppleness – especially in its youth. Pichon Comtesse’s grand vin thus perfectly combines the concentration of a Pauillac with tannins of marvellous distinction. Its exceptional terroir, overlooking the Gironde river, equips it well to withstand harsh winters and hot summers. Part of an elite circle of the truly great Bordeaux wines, it has the potential for 10-30 years’ keeping.
Nicolas Glumineau: a technical director with a thousand lives
In 2012, Nicolas Glumineau – a young oenologist who learned his art in the laboratory of the eminent Denis Dubourdieu – took up the reins of the Pauillac second cru classé, having formerly worked as a geneticist, an opera singer and a soldier in Bosnia. Arriving at Pichon-Comtesse, his aim was to “rediscover the excellence of the wines of the late 1980s”. The legendary vintages of 1982, 1986 and 1989 are now facing competition from the remarkable trio that is 2016, 2015 and 2014… a fact surely attributable to the meticulous blending work that has struck such a fine balance between the distinctive power of a Pauillac and the essentially feminine character of Pichon.
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