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Pichon Baron: The Importance
Pauillac’s Château Pichon Baron, formerly known as Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, is ranked as one of the fifteen Second Growths from the Classification of 1855 and is considered one of the "Super Seconds", defined by Jancis Robinson as “best-performing wines that are not actually First Growths”. Located in the heart of the Médoc, it is the next door neighbour of Château Latour and its appearance is one of the most iconic and fairy tale-esque in all of Bordeaux.
Pichon Baron has been described by Robert Parker as “one of the finest values in top-class Bordeaux”, a sentiment that Neal Martin appeared to concur with in his assessment of their 2015: “I don't mind saying it, but this wine is as good as a First Growth. Though prices might not suggest it, wines such as these blur the qualitative lines between ranks of the 1855 classification.”
Top quality leadership over the last few decades has caused, in Robert Parker’s words, a “dramatic turnaround in quality” and now this “historically great Pauillac is achieving ever-greater heights”.
Pichon Baron: The Insight
According to Neal Martin: “Château Pichon-Baron is a powerful, tannic wine…” that ranks “with some of the best in Pauillac”. Some of the wines of the 60s and 70s have been accused of lacking lustre, but as Neal Martin says: “This is undoubtedly a château that has really found its own identity since the late-80's and under the aegis of Christian Seely, is asserting itself as a Pauillac wine to be reckoned with. It has not become a speculative commodity and prices rarely enter the realms of more prestigious estates, which is all the better for those who do not chase labels and adore fine claret.” Later picking, stricter selection, more new oak and the introduction of a second wine in the late 80s resulted in excellent vintages for the Grand Vin in 1989, 1990, 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010 and many more since.
A second wine, Les Tourelles de Longueville, was introduced in 1986 with grapes coming from the Saint Anne plot. Not only is this an excellent and approachable wine in its own right, but it also offers a reasonably priced window into this château. With more Merlot in the blend, as Neal Martin puts it, this wine “has one eye on commercial appeal”.
In 2012 Pichon Baron introduced another second wine: Les Griffons de Pichon Baron. Quite unusually for Bordeaux, this high-end second wine uses some grapes from the estate’s oldest vines grown on gravel soils, which are also used for the Grand Vin.
Pichon Baron: The Background
Pichon Baron and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, its neighbour across the road, started life as the same Pauillac estate. Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville split the property evenly amongst his five children. The two boys received what became Pichon Baron, while the daughters received what is now Pichon Lalande. Interestingly many critics describe Pichon Baron as being masculine and Pichon Lalande as more feminine.
Pichon Baron fell from the family in 1933 and a lack of investment in the 60s and 70s resulted in a challenging period in its history. However, that came to an end when the property was bought by the AXA Millésimes Group – owners of Cantenac-Brown, Petit-Village, Pibran, Suduirat, Quinta do Noval and Domaine de l’Arlot. They instated Jean-Michel Cazes who revamped the estate massively and in a short time it was once again “producing wines of world class quality” according to Jeff Leve of The Wine Cellar Insider. Following Cazes’ retirement, Englishman Christian Seely took over and in Robert Parker’s words: “the high quality has continued unabated.”
Pichon Baron’s 73 hectares are planted on gravel soils with predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, roughly one-third Merlot and a little Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. 40 hectares of the oldest and best vines are used for the Grand Vin.
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