During this year’s en primeur tastings I visited Pichon-Lalande, and there met Sylvie Cazes. As we tasted the latest vintage (or at least a barrel-sample approximation of it) I listened to Sylvie’s view of the recent history of Pichon, which she divided into three eras.
According to Sylvie, the first of the three Pichon-Lalande eras was under the direction of May-Eliane Lencquesaing, who took control of the estate in a very firm manner in 1978. Her first act was to buy out four of the other associates, thus acquiring 84% of the stock in the property, and so it was clear who was in charge. She then employed her nephew Gildas d’Ollone to manage the estate, as well as Thomas Dô Chi Nam to make the wine. The quality was tip-top, and when you hear people recount their experiences of great bottles of Pichon-Lalande that they have drunk, it is generally this era that they are referring to.
Then, she says, came the second era, a decline, as May-Eliane Lencquesaing lost interest in the estate and it was put up sale; as she courted with potential buyers the property appeared to languish, and in such circumstances quality can often slip, perhaps unnoticed. This was certainly Sylvie’s implication; the wines of this era were not so good.
Era three, of course, is the time of Roederer, who acquired the property in 2007. And it was all-change at Pichon-Lalande; Thomas Dô Chi Nam had already left for Margaux, and Gildas d’Ollone, who essentially ran the property under May-Eliane’s watchful gaze was soon put out to pasture, and in early 2011 Sylvie Cazes was drafted in to do the job, even though she already had significant responsibilities elsewhere, including on the Lynch-Bages board of directors, as president of the Union des Grands Crus, as well as being active in local politics. And then there was the new Bordeaux Centre of Wine Culture as well, no small task.
Which may explain why, yesterday, while I was engrossed in the Bordeaux 2008 vintage (more on that at a later date) at the Institute of Masters of Wine, it was announced that Sylvie was stepping down from her role at Pichon-Lalande. And that means she will be stepping down from the presidency of the UGC as well. The official line is that she has other projects to concentrate on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a reference to the Cultural Centre, on which I posted back in February.
It does make for a rather short ‘era’ though, doesn’t it? Having joined the Pichon team in February 2011, and with her departure scheduled for December 2012, that’s a little less than two years. The post at present remains unfilled from January 2013; prospective applicants might want to have a word with Sylvie first, to get the low-down on what working for the Rouzaud family in Bordeaux may entail.