Château Pierre-Bise, 2017 Update

For the first time ever this year I tasted the wines of Château Pierre-Bise without catching sight, even for a split second, of Claude Papin. I first met Claude perhaps fifteen years ago, give or take a year or two, when I visited the domaine for the first time. We took a tour in the vines, stopping to look at some parcels not too far from the cellars. To be honest I could hardly understand a word he was saying, as at the time I knew about three words of French. I had a lot to learn, not just about wine. But Claude didn’t mind. Either that or he just didn’t realise, my appreciative nods and grunts perhaps enough to convince him that I was completely fluent in his native tongue.

Since then my linguistic ability has improved somewhat, so much so that I can at least keep up a conversation with my French neighbour, who is not a viticulturalist but a retired stonemason, a delightful gentilhomme who does throw out some novel words for me from time to time. Having said that, on some occasions I still have difficulty understanding Claude. He weaves complex viticultural philosophies in rapidly flowing euphonic speech bursting with contractions and liaisons (you see, I have learnt some French) which, while they would no doubt be pleasing to the ear of Henry Higgins, are rather more difficult for lesser mortals – myself, and presumably Eliza Doolittle too – to grasp.

Château Pierre-Bise

This year, however, I did not even have the chance to practice. For quite a few years Claude’s sons René and Christophe have been taking a much more active role in the domaine. René Papin (pictured above) tends to work in the cellars and certainly seems to have taken on the role of presenting the wines, while Christophe Papin spends more of his time in the vines. Claude is now certainly taking a back seat, and this year René was flying solo. René comes across as a very thoughtful, meticulous young man who I suspect will work very hard to maintain the high standards set by his father. Certainly the most recent vintages which he poured give no cause for concern. His comments on the wines, less effusive than his father’s, are also rather easier to follow. So while I didn’t learn any new words here, I did learn quite a lot about his way of working, and about the wines themselves.

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