Pichon vs Pichon NYC

New York, United States
Tasted Friday, January 22, 2010 by PanosKakaviatos with 770 views


Several BBers and friends got together last Friday evening 22 January at Rothmann’s Steakhouse in NYC.

Here video highlights; sorry about the Godfather basement lighting:

Participants: Ben Aneff, Avner Ben-Gera, Leo Frokic, Jim Gallagher, Ben Goldberg, myself, Angel Kennedy, Jamie Manley, Christie Wong and special guest Thomas Do Chi Nam, who subsequently found work at Chateau Margaux!

I had just been to the 2007 UGCB tastings - with some decent wines - and earlier that day also for a double vertical of Domaine de Chevalier and Haut Bailly, with vintages spanning 1990 to 2007. I would love to write all my notes here, but will "soon" be revamping my website and will put them there.

First off, many thanks go to Thomas Do Chi Nam, winemaking director at Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande, for joining us (a few years after this, he would be at Chateau Margaux). He brought no less than two bottles of the 1982 vintage which neither I nor Avner had ever tasted before, so that was a heavenly surprise.

Participants each brought a bottle (or two, or three). Special thanks to Ben Goldberg for bringing I think five bottles, also to help out a couple of participants who did have any Pichons to bring.

Second, many thanks to the restaurant for providing a very user-friendly space - a fine table in the back - and excellent and easygoing service from sommelier Tom Gannon and his servers. For high quality steak, fine appetizers and desserts, the price was more than right. Tom had also participated in a vertical with Clive Coates in April 2009 spanning four decades, so he was keen to taste the wines at our dinner. He is a wine lover’s sommelier, truly engaged with and thoroughly enamored by wine.

Finally, thanks to Brad Coelho who recommended the venue, but could not participate.

Ben Goldberg proposed a blind comparison and bagged both sets of bottles. So we went from one vintage to the next comparing wines “A” with “B”. In some cases (2000), it was fairly easy to recognize which was which. In others (1995), less so. But ending with the 1982 was a religious experience.

Flight 1 (2 Notes)

Flight 2 - Pichon vs Pichon 2004 (2 Notes)

Conclusion: Both are very nicely made, but I suspect that the Baron just needs a bit more time. There was something more jagged about it, however and I could not help but feel that the Comtesse conveys a more supple nature. Slight edge to the Comtesse (wine B).

Flight 3 (2 Notes)

2003 pause. Jamie brought a bottle of Leoville Barton 2003 and I brought a mystery bottle of 2003, which I had wanted to try with keen wine geeks

  • 2003 Château Léoville Barton

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien

    Very cedar like and rather open but also lots of fine substance on the palate. This is a lovely wine that can be enjoyed now but will improve of course with time in bottle

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  • 2003 Château Sipian

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc

    100% Petit Verdot, special cuvee by a Medoc producer Frederic Mehaye, Chateau Sipian. Although it shined at a private dinner in Bordeaux last autumn, it was firmly outclassed by the Leoville Barton. Interesting still to drink a 100% Petit Verdot, which needs heat to ripen (hence its creation only in hotter vintages like 2003 of course but also in 2005).

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Flight 4 - Pichon vs Pichon 2000 (2 Notes)

Conclusion: Both wines very well made, but the edge to the Baron. The Comtesse seemed to have just a bit too much of that green aspect for my taste, and I have been the first to defend roasted vs raw green pepper in small quantities in wines. Perhaps the nose of the Comtesse is more interesting than the Baron’s seriousness, but I think it may prove more age worthy: A duo to revisit in another 10 years if all goes well! Baron wins.

  • 2000 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    The nose was full of character and complexity, with dark fruit, cassis, wet stone, graphite and I would say a border between roasted green pepper and green tobacco. Most could tell that this was the Comtesse and not the Baron, because of the flamboyant nose.

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  • 2000 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Foreboding and rich. Yes, there was a bit of vanilla on the nose, perhaps still under the influence of the oak (but here I am not so sure, because it was not overtly oak-derived, that vanilla aspect!). I found the palate much smoother than the 2004, but also more concentrated if just as tannic, but with riper tannins. This wine was just lovely in a more classic Pauillac sort of way.

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Flight 5 - Pichon vs Pichon 1996 (2 Notes)

Conclusion: Thomas Do Chi Nam said that the 1996 serves as much a prototype for the 90s at Lalande as the 1982 does for the 80s. The 1996 constitutes a great success for the Comtesse, which overshadows the Baron. Perhaps like the 2004, give this Baron a little time and it should blossom nicely in later years. Clearly Comtesse (wine B).

Flight 6 - Pichon vs Pichon 1995 (2 Notes)

Both were tighter than the 1996s. We guessed A to be Lalande, and it was, primarily because the A had just a bit of that tobacco so associated with Lalande but also perhaps because of that seductive aspect on the nose. While I liked both rather equally, opinions differed. Leo found the 1995s generally more elegant than the 1996s, but most of us - including Thomas - found the 1996s more ready to drink now. Jamie thought the 1995 Lalande to be the clear winner. No clear edge

Flight 7 - Pichon vs PIchon 1989 (2 Notes)

Conclusion: Now Avner found both 89s to be younger tasting than the 96s and 95s. I agree with him for wine B (Baron) but disagree completely for wine A (Comtesse). In terms of current drinking, the Comtesse likely wins. But I think that the Baron has a greater potential for future cellaring and is also a very profound bottle of wine. No clear edge.

  • 1989 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Now this was a wine that provoked some controversy. While my first impression, caught on tape, was effusive: cinnamon spice, dark fruit, cedar and blood red orange on the finish, Ben Aneff was likely the least enchanted, going so far as to call the nose slightly dirty. At first whiff, I could not disagree more, but when compared to the glory of the 1996, I could understand. To some extent. Perhaps there was a "slutty" aspect to the nose, but I fell for it, hook line and sinker. Not as impressive as the 1996, but endearing.

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  • 1989 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Much less expressive than Lalande. But more foreboding and powerful on the palate. My first impression was not as positive - the nose was not as expressive - but time in glass gave this wine time to open.There is brooding power here that screams Pauillac: and you have to love it, if you like Pauillac.

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Flight 8 - Pichon Comtesse de Lalande 1982 (1 Note)

  • 1982 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Now here was a wine that totally impressed. Thomas had brought two bottles because he was worried about bottle variation. Indeed, I suspect that the first bottle was just a bit more open and easy than the second, but both lived up to Robert Parker’s “perfect” point score. A perfect example at least of great Bordeaux: the 1982 Pichon Lalande showed verve yet richness and exhibited various aromas and flavors, very appealing, delicious and complex. The finish was long, and I just wish I had not enjoyed the wine as quickly as I did. It was a wine moment that I still keep repeating in my head now as I write these notes, wishing that instead of writing about it, I could be drinking more. In any case, a beautiful way to end a wonderful evening. WOTN

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