Château Couhins: Tasting & Drinking

Thinking back to all my experiences with Pessac-Léognan, the châteaux with which I was first acquainted were Château Olivier and Château Carbonnieux. For many years afterwards, as I also got to know the likes of Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Château Pape-Clément, both Château Couhins and Château Couhins-Lurton remained mysteriously elusive. Scouring the lists of restaurants and wine merchants alike, I never encountered a bottle. On reflection, having researched the history of the domaine, this is perhaps only to be expected. Following the decline in the second half of the 20th century the vineyard contracted to just 2 hectares, half that of Bordeaux micro-estates such as Château Lafleur or Château L’Église-Clinet, and the proprietor at the time had little interest in working what was there.

Through the 1980s and the 1990s the domaine clawed its way back into a position of relevance to the Pessac-Léognan appellation, and to wine drinkers everywhere. This renaissance began after the estate came into the ownership of the INRA. Even so, production remained very limited, especially when it came to the white wine, the white varieties even today accounting for a minor part of the vineyard. It should perhaps come as no surprise, then, that it was in Bordeaux that I first encountered the wine. My memory tells me it was the 2006 vintage, but my memory is obviously fraying at the edges a little, because my notes below make plain it was the 2009 vintage. In more recent years I have also spotted the red wines, once or twice anyway.

The estate seems to enjoy a greater reputation for white than red, and certainly when I have tasted one against the other I have always been more drawn to the white. To be fair, though, some recent vintages in Bordeaux have favoured white over red, and I have tasted far more of the white than the red, and so there is some confounding bias here. Of recent vintages I think the 2010 Blanc showed best, although the 2006 Blanc was also of good quality. Both are, of course, good vintages for the white wines of Pessac-Léognan. It is naturally a very fresh style of wine, being mostly Sauvignon Blanc with a small quantity of Sauvignon Gris blended in. The Semillon currently goes into the second wine, but I expect as the vines mature this fruit will find its way into the grand vin. I look forward to seeing what effect that has on style and quality. (29/4/15)

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