I attended B21s Bordeaux Tasting at their facility in Tarpon Springs (FL) and, while there, sat in on a Chateau Pavie vertical tasting led by Jeffrey Davies, noted American-born Bordeaux negociant. The wines included in the tasting were the 1998, 2000, 2003, 2004, and 2005.
In his opening remarks Davies indicated that, in his opinion, the 2005 Pavie was superior to the 2000 and that the 2009 may surpass both. The '09s had an incredible growing season, according to Davies, with warm days contributing to increased ripening and cool nights allowing for long hang times and acidity retention.
The vineyard lies on three soil types depending on slope position: Clay at the highest levels; clay mixed with gravel on the mid portion; and gravel and wind-driven sand on the lower parts of the slope. These soils all lie on a bed of limestone.
The 37-hectare (90 acre), single-block property, is one of the largest in St. Emilion. It is planted to Merlot (70%), Cab Franc (20%), and Cabernet Sauvignon(10%). The Cabernet Sauvignon, a relative newcomer to the vineyard, has been planted as a hedge against global warming. Merlot, the prime varietal in the wine, goes soft in hot climates but the addition of small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon can "stiffen the spine" of the Merlot. According to Davies, Pavie tore out contributing Merlot vines in order to plant the Cabernet Sauvignon.
The chateau practices green harvesting and leaf thinning (allows direct sunlight to fall on the grapes) and picking and sorting is done by hand.
The cellar was built between 1998 and 2000. Fermentation occurs at ground level while aging proceeds in a sub-ground-level area. The cellar contains 20 temperature-controlled vats, one for each of the 20 vineyard plots. The shell-within-a-shell nature of the cellar construction allows the air needed for heating or cooling to be circulated in the area between the shells. Ageing is done in 80-100% new oak. The barrels are used once in Pavie and then sent off to one of the other Perse properties where it is used once more before being sold. Malolactic fermentation is done in the barrels so as to provide a better marriage between the wine and wood.
At tasting, the '98 vintage had a round mouthfeel and exhibited elements of dark earth and sandalwood. The 2000, the vintage which put Pavie on the map as a result of a Parker 100 score, had graphite, coffee, mocha, heavy tannins, and a great finish. Davies thought that the wine was still a baby and stated that it was the least-evolved of the St. Emilion 2000 vintage. The '03 showed very ripe fruit, an exotic character, and great length on the finish. Davies saw the 1998 and 2000 as being terroir-specific but felt that the '03 was definitiely vintage-specific. The '04 exhibited overripe black fruit and some char (the result of high toast on the barrels -- Davies). The 2005 was a tannic monster and is slightly deconstructed at this time. Davies is certain that Parker will upgrade this wine when he re-reviews it.
Prior to doing the Pavie vertical, I had tasted the '02 vintage in the larger Bordeaux tasting. This wine was on Table 1 and was one of 19 wines on the table, to include Canon La Gaffeliere, Clos Fourtet, Lynch Bages, and La Croix St. Georges, among others. It was simply the class of the table. I liked the Pavie and ordered some of the 2000s.