Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Vertical Tasting with Nicolas Glumineau

Taberna del Alabardero
Tasted Wednesday, October 18, 2017 by Keith Levenberg with 791 views

Introduction

Pichon-Lalande is probably my favorite chateau in Bordeaux, all things considered. It's close to what I see as the Platonic ideal of Pauillac, even moreso than the first growths except perhaps Lafite. This vertical did exactly what a vertical is supposed to do in giving you a frame-by-frame demonstration of how those characteristics emerge and evolve all the time. The young vintages are all deeply-pitched black-fruited beauties with that textbook "pencil shavings" character on the nose and palate. It starts out heavier on the cedar, with a bit of age turns more minerally (the part we've all started calling graphite -- sorry, John), and then when near maturity the intensity cubes itself and it's practically explosive with metal shavings. It's a classicist's Bordeaux (also classic cabernet) that's not afraid to show a streak of green and it was interesting to see this characteristic segue from ripe peppers to brush or tapenade over time. Even in the lighter vintages the fruit stays deep and mostly black-pitched.

Flight 1 (4 Notes)

  • 2010 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 94 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Softly scented with some toasty barrel and a bit of primary berry sweetness. Wonderful texture here -- it has an undulating, velvety mouthfeel, the type of thing Tanzer likes to call "pliant," not at all the bigfoot heavyweight 2010s can sometimes be. The tannin is mostly masked by a saturating intensity of blue- and black-tinged fruit. Going back to this after the 2009, it does feel more thickly fruited and broad-shouldered, and I mildly preferred the detail of the '09, but this should make for a pair of vintages that everyone loves to compare with each other over the next few decades, much like '95 and '96.

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  • 2009 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 95 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Very different from the 2010, starting with the nose, which doesn't have any toastiness here but does still have a snap of green herb, which was a bit surprising to see both in light of the warm vintage and the changes at the chateau, with Nicolas mentioning that they're cutting down heavily on the proportion of petit verdot, which had been responsible for this characteristic in past vintages. I loved it either way. The fruit here is much less primary than the 2009, also less monolithic, which leaves enough negative space to show multiple layers of baroque detail. In comparison to the 2010, it is slightly more of a clenched mouthfeel, but *only* in comparison to the 2010 -- objectively, this is quite open knit. I love the spine on this and even the faint echo of green pepper on the finish. A classic Comtesse.

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  • 2005 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Everyone was curious to try this next to the 2009 and 2010 as Parker had famously called this vintage of PLL a dud. Unfortunately this tasting was inconclusive. It certainly doesn't stand out as somehow weaker in material but it is also a bit further along the road and harder to get a read on. The fruit is still deep-pitched and ripe, seems basically in the same weight class as the other vintages. It does have a slightly ashy, tannic edge, and I can't say whether that's an issue with the fruit or just a matter of being a little closed down.

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  • 2003 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 88 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Nicolas said the chateau's proximity to the river was key this vintage. That said, this vintage alongside any other combination of vintages on the table will have you singing that song from Sesame Street, "One of these things is not like the other ones...." It's a perfectly good wine, maybe even a perfectly good Bordeaux, but it tastes nothing like Pichon-Lalande. Not much aroma. On the palate, the fruit is sweet and squishy, uncharacteristcally on the red-fruit side of the spectrum. All sweet cherries and doesn't really show much else until the finish which has a touch of cedar.

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Flight 2 (4 Notes)

  • 2002 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    I didn't care for this wine on release, but I have found this vintage very enjoyable lately in general and surprising to the upside, so was curious to see what's become of this one. Not quite ready for primetime, though. The nose is mostly cedary with a sweet fruity backdrop - still quite youthful. On the palate, however, it feels kind of bony and lacking flesh, pretty much in line with the early vintage reputation as perhaps excessively structured. A very spinal and crunchy mouthfeel. In every lineup there's always something that just seems to get lost in the mix. Today, that's this one.

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  • 2000 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 97 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Now we're on a whole 'nother level. I have loved this wine since day one and tonight is no exception. It's the first vintage in the vertical I would describe as intensely, and I mean *intensely*, aromatic. There is some green pepper in there but it is segueing to a more developed, more piercing olive tapenade thing, to the point that the scent brought to mind a Cote-Rotie. On the palate, this is more stacked and layered than anything else tasted so far. That Pauillac lead pencil character is so intense (and more evolved) that it's like tossing around a mouthful of metal shavings. The greenness on the nose is mostly overpowered by all the other stuff on the palate, but it does get more acute and snappy later on in the night, almost like a Loire profile, but few Loire reds are quite so regal as this. Nicolas did not quite hide his dislike for this wine. This is one of the last years with a (relatively) large proportion of the old-vine petite verdot - end of an era.

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  • 1996 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 96 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Aromatics I can only describe as "dark." There are also some of those Pauillac lead-pencil scents in there. Similar sensation on the palate -- deeply pitched black fruit with serious echoes of metal shavings on the back end. Later on in the night the aromas pick up an almost truffly character and the fruit complexion turns a brighter red. This was leaner than the 2000 but compensated for the smaller scale with its sheer piercing drive.

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  • 1995 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 92 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    I love 1995 Bordeaux in general, but I've had these wines together a couple times now and each time seem to prefer the 1996. The aroma was more diffuse than the '96. On the palate, it feels broader and markedly more tannic -- drier and dare I say somewhat closed. It lacks the piercing fruit intensity of the '96 but has a strong mineral element that initially seems like a mouthful of concrete (and about as monolithic) but eventually bloomed into that familiar mix of metal shavings and black fruit. This vintage in particular really needed the food to show itself and will need some more cellar time to feel as comfortable in its own skin as the '96. Nicolas mentioned that this is an atypically merlot-heavy blend for the chateau, 45% cab sauv, 40% merlot, and 15% cab franc.

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Flight 3 (5 Notes)

  • 1989 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 95 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Somewhat surprisingly -- since this was not the only super-ripe vintage in the mix -- this was the only wine to show any sur-maturite on the nose, with a bit of figginess. On the palate its more straightforward black fruit finishing with those familiar metal shavings on the back end. It's a good companion to the '85, with a lot of similarities, this one being more glossy and thicker and gummier in texture. But it doesn't color outside the lines -- it's linear and well-defined. Nicolas says this is a vintage he likes to pour in blending trials as a demo of the style they're shooting for. Can't find much fault in that.

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  • 1985 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 96 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Shocker. Not sure I have ever had this vintage before. But this was easily my second favorite of the flight after the '82 -- and it did not lag the '82 by all that much. It is at the next stage of maturity compared to the '89 -- still featuring that same pitch-black fruit complexion but the palate more brothy and savory. The lead-pencil note is heavier on the cedar. This is delivering all the rewards of bottle age -- the tertiary flavors, integration, and texture -- with none of the details starting to fade. In other words I think we caught this at its absolute high point.

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  • 1982 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 98 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    This has been a bucket list wine for me for ages. So thrilled to finally get to try it, from pristine chateau stock no less. Wonderful aromatics that have gone totally past the fruit -- mushroom broth and cocoa nibs and other stuff savory and delectable, eventually picking up some nuttiness too. On the palate it feels more slender than the '85 or '89, practically waifish, but it more than delivers in class what it lacks in size. The texture is buttery smooth, the material fine as silk. All the flavors in the aroma are present on the palate too, with that cocoa nib thing adding darker grooves to a fruit base that's actually not quite as pitch-black as some of the other vintages. One of the main draws here is that this is a wine with everything. Practically anything you could taste in any of the other vintages is here, somewhere, though so well-integrated and harmonious it's difficult to point and pick anything out. The other big draw is its pure finesse. There is more to this wine than to any of the others, but all of that is spun out from material that's noticeably leaner than the others and impossibly fine. A Burgundy drinker's Bordeaux.

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  • 1978 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 93 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    This tastes much better than it smells. The scents are like a dusty old attic, no fruit left at all or barely even any wine for that matter. So I was pretty shocked to taste it and see that it's actually pretty great stuff. The fruit is still quite vivid, reddish at first but then it turns to that characteristic deep black pitch. Even as it was freshening up in the glass I would take a whiff and find that same stale nose -- strangely incongruous. What I especially liked here was how all the characteristic Pichon-Lalande elements were on a base of material here that had developed that thick, sticky savor that only comes with serious bottle age, like the wine was marbled with layers of warm, oozy wagyu beef fat. The '85 was the only other vintage to have this characteristic, but not so completely as this one. Nicolas mentions this is the first vintage made by May-Elaine de Lencquesaing after inheriting the chateau and considers it a classic Pauillac with its "minerality of the graphite and the cedar box."

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  • 1975 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 89 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Smells better than the '78, but doesn't taste nearly as good. Aromatics are classic and fully mature, a very perfumed cedariness. On the palate it's red-fruited and plump, but also kind of edgy. Nicolas thinks that after several years of rot-plagued vintages, everyone picked the grapes early in '75 just to be safe, though he does consider this one of the successful ones. Me, I've had better. It does start to get a little bit more in line with the '78 with more time in the glass, but not nearly enough.

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Flight 4 (3 Notes)

  • 2015 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    This was just bottled, but still tastes like a barrel sample. Total primary fruit bomb nose. Black-fruited palate. Plumper and sweeter than the 2016 and bigger in scale, but also more diffuse.

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  • 2016 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    Barrel sample. But not the Grape Soup that a lot of barrel samples can be. This was actually less primary on the nose than the 2015, though just as intense and explosive, and it's developed enough to show off serious structure. Inky concentration with fruit as dark as asphalt. Not quite developed enough to show a whole lot of personality -- really this is just the backdrop -- but very promising just the same.

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  • 2014 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 95 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    This kicked off an interesting succession of new vintages that kind of reminded me of a sequence like '08-'09-'10 with each one richer and more dense than the one that came before. This one is the only one of the three that's actually a finished wine, though, and offered up a whole array of detail not discernible in the newer vintages on a graceful, feminine frame that I'm not sure either the '15 or '16 will ever match. Didn't take careful notes on this as it is basically consistent with the full bottle I got to focus on a couple months ago, but I loved this. This also has the virtue of being seriously bargain-priced -- still widely available at $99 and it's going to be very hard for me to spend more than $99 on anything now when the alternative is "...or I can buy more 2014 Pichon-Lalande."

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