Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Wine Journey: 1982 Pichon-Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande

The author is engaged in a quest, a journey in the footsteps of the Master (Sommelier) Andrew McNamara who, as it has been told, in days of yore, slew 115 bottles of very good wine -- the so-called Wines of the Decade.  Today's tale relates the pursuit, capture, and tasting of that vibrant beauty, the 1982 Comtesse de Lalande.

The story of Chateau Pichon-Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande, stretches back to 1689 when the Rauzan family bought plots in Pauillac.  The core Pichon vineyard was established after some plot exchanges with it s famous neighbor, Chateau Latour.  The new Napoleonic wine laws were responsible for the Pichon Vineyard being broken up into the Baron and the Comtesse, as it could not be passed on to a single heir while other possible heirs were alive.  The Lalande family retained ownership of its portion of the Pichon Vineyard until a sale to a consortium led by Louis and Eduoard Mailhe.  After a few twists and turns, the estate eventually cane under the control of Eduoard's youngest daughter, May-Eliane, and she quickly upped her stake from 55% to 84% by buying up the shares of other consortium members.  The Chateau was sold to the Rouzaud family (owners of Louis Roederer) in 2006.

The chateau owns 75 hectares of vines (up from 40 hectares at the beginning of May-Eliane's tenure), 64 hectares of which are in the Pauillac commune and the remainder in St. Julien.  The soil is gravel over clay and some deeper limestone and sandstone.  The vineyard is planted to 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Petit Verdot.  The grapes are hand-harvested and then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks.   The juice is allocated between the flagship and the chateau's second wine (Reserve de la Comtesse) after which the flagship wine is placed in 50% new French oak for 18 months.

The 1982 vintage has received widespread acclaim.  The winery refers to it as an exceptional vintage.  Robert Parker (November 1998) said "This has been the most sumptuous, delicious, and profound 1982 to drink over the last 5-6 years."  James Suckling  of Wine Spectator said "This has always been a great wine. I marvel at it each time I taste it."

This wine was bought online.  This is not a great time to be shipping wine into Florida so I had it shipped in next day air. I did not get into the office for a few days so it was languishing in the hallway outside my office.  I was very concerned.  I picked it up at the office on Friday and headed directly to our Antonio's tasting event.  They were going to be tasting this blind.

When I arrived at the venue, only HlyTerrroir and Keith M. had arrived.  I had not brought a bag with which to cover the wine so HlyTerroir lent me one (He is always prepared.).  I opened the wine without decanting and placed it on the table.  The top of the cork was covered in a greeninsh moss and the cork came out in four separate pieces.  I was concerned.  The locale filled up very quickly as this was going to be another farewell to Robert and Allison. 

The wine was a stunner from the word go.  There was very little evidence of bricking; the lighter-red  color was consistent throughout (I can see why the word claret was used in the early days by the British to describe Bordeaux wines.) .  It had a great nose.  The fruit had receded into the overall framework and the secondary characteristics were on full display.  Saddle leather. Cigarbox. Cardamom . Cedar.  On the palate the wine was very well balanced, exhibiting a full, round mouthfeel and good integration of all the elements.  It was like a Fred Couples golf swing: smooth, elegant, with a long finish and complete balance throughout.  "This is an epiphany wine."  "This is why I do this."  "This wine is begging for a roast tenderloin or a rabbit."  Those were some of the comments issuing from an awed round table.

This is, without a doubt, the best wine I have tasted in the series to date.


  1. Why did I have too be so hung over to miss this! Wow great notes