Home to three out of five first growths and eighteen total classified growths, Pauillac with its deep, gravelly soils of are well-suited to the cultivation of Cabernet Sauvignon. As the French are ever-concious of matching varietal with terroir, over 60% of the vineyards in Pauillac are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. The dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon is reflected in the wines, at times topping 90% of the blend in the the first growths. Needless to say, these wines are built for long ageing.
In 2005, the combination of a stellar vintage and well-heeled Asians riding the crest of a world economic boom entering into the Bordeaux sweepstakes drove prices for first growths such as Lafite Rothschild into the stratosphere. Prices peaked in 2009 and have moderated a bit, but for most of us, a first growth is rarified air.
Fortunately, beyond the Lafites, Moutons, and Latours, there are some relative values that will provide some classic Pauillac cassis and pencil shavings. Along with a handful of Cru Bourgeois and some fourth and fifth growths, we have a number of second wines, and a third wine in the case of Latour, in our inventory that will provide a lot of pleasure at prices to fit many budgets. Below are some examples available at my location: I have noted my personal favorites based on a price/pleasure ratio.
Chateau Batailley – Fifth Growth with upwards of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend and rarely more than 25% Merlot. Batailley is characterized as smooth and sophisticated, but retains the classic Pauillac masculinity and firmness. Batailley in most vintages provides a good value at a sub-$50 price point. Our inventory consists of the following vintages:
2006 – A real sleeper of the vintage and a sensational effort from the Casteja family, Batailley has turned out a complete, powerful, classic Pauillac, with oodles of black currant fruit as well as hints of new saddle leather, toast, chocolate, and forest floor. Full-bodied,dense, and built for the long haul, this wine should be reasonably drinkable in 4-5 years and last for two decades. 91 Points Robert Parker.
2008 – Wood spice, earth, black currant and sweet cherry characteristics are found in this elegant, medium to full-bodied, surprisingly rich, well-textured effort. From the bottle, it confirms the high quality I noted two years ago from barrel. More forward than usual for Batailley, it is a dark plum-hued wine that requires 2-4 years of bottle age, but should easily last 15+ years. 90 Points, Robert Parker
2009 – The finest Batailley I have had in many years, the dense purple-colored 2009 exhibits a boatload of tannin as well as sweet, caramelized, black currant fruit intermixed with hints of charcoal, cedarwood and smoke, a full-bodied mouthfeel and the aforementioned high, but sweet, well-integrated tannin displaying no jaggedness. Batailley often requires considerable patience as it can be one of the longest-lived Pauillacs. Atypically for Batailley, the 2009 should be ready to drink in 5-7 years and keep for three decades Drink 2017-? 94 Points
Chateau Clerc Milon – Fifth Growth. Since 1970, Chateau Clerc Milon has been under ownership of the family of Baronness Philippine de Rothschild. The blend generally consists of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, with the balance completed with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine is vinified in stainless followed by 18 months in oak. It needs a few years to unwind, but is a consistent performer as its pedigree would suggest.
2006 – …Despite the relatively high percentage of Merlot (44%) combined with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance Cabernet Franc, the 2006 Clerc Milon is dense, rich, tannic, and backward. Surprisingly muscular for this offering, which often exhibits a more precocious side, it offers up abundant amounts of creme brulee, chocolate, cedar, and black currants. This full-bodied Pauillac displays gorgeous purity and depth as well as moderately high tannins in the finish. Because of its freshness, structure, and density, it is reminiscent of a 1996 Medoc. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2028. 91+ Points, Robert Parker.
2009 -This fat, fleshy, dense purple-colored 2009 exhibits abundant notes of creme de cassis, roasted espresso, chocolate, berry fruit and underling hints of high quality, unsmoked cigar tobacco. Composed of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a touch of Carmenere, it reveals plenty of structure and tannin, but the evolved aromatics offer a deceptive view that the wine will be drinkable early on. I do not think this is the case as the tannins kick in once it hits the palate. This seriously endowed, powerful, boisterous, muscular Pauillac should hit its prime between 2017 and 2035. 92 Points Robert Parker
Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste – This is my go-to estate for exceptional value in Pauillac. It often rivals the “big boys” but manages to stay withing reach for those of us who don’t ofter breathe “rarified air”. The blend is classic Pauillac at 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Great pleasure/price performer. Did I say this wine is one of my favorite classified Pauillacs?
2006 Grand-Puy-Lacoste has produced another classic wine with the creme de cassis fruit that I often find in both Mouton Rothschild and Pontet-Canet, yet both of those vineyards are closer to the Gironde River. This wine has a pure personality, with the aforementioned classic creme de cassis notes, medium to full body, beautiful density, purity, texture, and length. If anything, this recalls a hypothetical blend of their brilliant 1995 and 1996. Tannins are elevated, so patience will be required. This was Xavier Borie’s first vintage in his new state-of-the-art winemaking facility. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2027. 92 Points Robert Parker.
2007 – Rated 91 Points, but no tasting notes given.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron – As its name suggests, the Baron is the more masculine of the Pichon Longueville wines. This “super second” growth is made from just over 60% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is firm, fleshy, and long-lived. The meticulous tannic structure of this wine will reward with patience.
2005 – As usual, this superb Pauillac possesses an inky/blue/black color in addition to a big, sweet nose of graphite, charcoal, burning embers, black currant liqueur, and toasty vanillin from new oak casks. Full-bodied with high but sweet, well-integrated tannins, the 2005 Pichon Baron is more backward than the blockbuster 2003 or prodigious 2000. Nevertheless, it is a superb effort whose power, length, and tannic structure suggest it should be at its peak between 2015-2035. 94 Points, Robert Parker
2006 – Closed but promising, this is a tannic, masculine style of wine in 2006, with an inky bluish/purple color as well as aromas of incense, charcoal, smoked meats, and the classic creme de cassis that one finds in the top Pauillacs. The aromatics are still retrained, but the wine is full-bodied in the mouth, tannic, backward, and set for a relatively long life. This is not one of the profound wines from Pichon Longueville Baron, but it is certainly a top-flight success for the vintage. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2028. 92 Points Robert Parker.
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – Following the cliche’, The Comtesse is the more feminine of the two Pichons. The vineyards are planted to 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot with the balance split between Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Nonetheless, it seems that the Comtesse typically has a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon than the plantings would suggest. Still, this wine tends to be supple, smooth, and extremely elegant. As of 2006, Pichon Lalande has been under the ownership of the Roederer Champagne firm, and is certain to be consistently producing wines of extremely high quality moving forward. The Lalande never seems to make it to my shelves as I have a number of customers that cherish this wine. If you are interested, please let me know and I will keep you on the list as additional wines/new vintages become available.
Chateau Pontet Canet – This Fifth Growth has risen to greater prominence in recent years. The vineyards, planted to 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot are almost entirely biodynamically. Whether or not you buy into this holistic approach in the vineyard, the results cannot be denied.
2006 – The 2006 is a wine to stockpile, especially for those in their thirties and forties as it needs another decade to reach maturity, after which it should keep for 30+ years. This vineyard, just south of Mouton Rothschild, has produced an opaque bluish/purple-colored 2006 with an extraordinarily pure nose of graphite, charcoal, sweet creme de cassis, and a hint of scorched earth. Incredible concentration, stunning richness, and a 60-second finish result in a wine that transcends the vintage as well as this estate’s 1855 classification. This enormously endowed, modern day classic is a legend in the making. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2050 95+ Points Robert Parker
Chateau Pibran – Under the same ownership as Pichon Baron, Chateau Pibran, while never a blockbuster, would be considered a “steady” performer. Ratings generally hover in the mid to high 80s, although the wine achieved a 90 rating for the 2009 effort. The blend is nearly 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot which makes it a Pauillac that you can enjoy while you’re waiting for others to unwind. 2006 and 2008 vintages are available and were not reviewed by Parker. I expect a 2009 soon which was rated 90 points
Chateau Haut Bages Averous (2nd Label Lynch Bages) – 2000 and 2003 available
Echo by Lynch Bages 2009 – Formerly known as Haut Bages Averous, the rebranded Echo