Château Pichon-Baron: Tasting & Drinking

I once thought of the Château Pichon-Baron style as being one of complete contrast to sibling Château Pichon-Lalande, a wine which has enjoyed a very strong following for many years because of is sensual, seductive nature. Pichon-Baron, meanwhile, was long reputed to have a more structured, reserved although not quite reticent style, a counterpart to Pichon-Lalande perhaps. Whereas elements of this remain true, I do not think it is today very apt to think of the wines of Pichon-Baron as being made in this sober, schoolmasterly image.

Today the wines of Pichon-Baron are more silky, more refined, more elegant, and this is despite the fact that they remain focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, this variety accounting usually for more than 70% of the blend. That such elegance can be found using this variety betrays the quality of the terroir in my opinion – it is only on the great gravel mounds of the Médoc that such quality can be achieved. The Merlot largely grown on more distant plots in Sainte-Anne, a section that lies further to the west beyond Château Batailley, is now destined for the sélection parcellaire Les Tourelles, while ‘lesser’ Cabernet Sauvignon from the main Pichon-Baron vineyards is channelled into the new second wine, Les Griffons. So today Château Pichon-Baron remains a very substantial wine, but it comes with an undeniable charm and elegance as well; it is no surprise that these bottles have become immensely popular with lovers of good quality Bordeaux.

On a different level, Pichon-Baron has a special resonance with me, as this estate was the source of one of the first bottles of classed growth claret I ever purchased, the wine in question being the 1983 vintage, which I picked up at a price well under ten pounds per bottle (those were the days….). I must confess I wasn’t very impressed when I drank it, this perhaps reflecting my own limited understanding of Bordeaux at the time, not to mention the fact I did not even own a decanter, as much as Pichon-Baron’s somewhat less than enthralling performance during the 1980s, as I did enjoy another bottle rather more when I finally opened it over a decade later.

More recent vintages, however, have shown much more character and depth.

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