DFWE 2011: Pichon Comtesse de Lalande Masterclass

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Six vintages of Pichon Comtesse de Lalande spanning over 30 years pleased many a palate in a master class hosted by Sylvie Cazes and Mark Bingley MW. Cazes drew attention to a brand new era for this venerable second growth Pauillac.

Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2011 - Saturday

So long associated with Chateau Lynch Bages, Cazes had been appointed managing director of Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, which belongs to the Champagne house Louis Roederer.

Even more recently, Philippe Moreau was appointed winemaking director, replacing Thomas Do Chi Nam, who had left to join Chateau Margaux as technical director: “Which we consider a compliment,” Cazes told participants.

Cazes said that quality will not only be maintained, but improved. One of the first things Moreau did was to cancel the practice of “prix fait” in the vineyard, which meant that workers were paid by how fast they worked per vine.

Cazes explained that such a practice promoted quicker working habits and was perhaps not the best way to assure quality. She also announced denser plantings for some parcels and decreasing use of weed killers.

Participants enjoyed a charming 2007, a seductive 1989, and a series of Pichon vintages ending in “5”, from a rather imposing and not ready to drink 2005 to what Cazes called a "classic Pauillac" 1975, with cigar box aromas and flavors.

“A wine for British palates,” remarked Danish wine consultant Kayne Steadman, who preferred more youthful 1995. The tasting offered something for everyone, including neophytes like Gaulaleh Eagle, a beginning wine blogger, who had never heard of Pichon Comtesse before. “The scale was impressive, and I learned so much,” she told Decanter.com.

In addition to the six Pichons, participants sampled four vintages of Chateau de Pez and a pair of Reserve de la Comtesse, the second wine.

Panos Kakaviatos