Château Pichon Baron
The estate was founded in the late 17th Century. This period was known as the Grand Siècle, or "great century", in reference to Louis XIV's 1661 accession to the French throne. In 1689 Pierre Desmezures de Rauzan, an influential wine merchant and steward of the prestigious Latour and Margaux estates, bought plots of vines close to the Latour estate to create Enclos Rauzan. These vines were part of his daughter Thérèse's dowry when she married Baron Jacques Pichon de Longueville in 1694, the year in which the Pichon Baron estate was founded. An illustrious estate, with an enduring reputation, was born. It remained in the same family for generations.
Pauillac’s Château Pichon Baron, formerly known as Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, is ranked as one of the fifteen Second Growths from the Classification of 1855 and is considered one of the "Super Seconds". Pichon Baron and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, its neighbour across the road, started life as the same Pauillac estate. Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville split the property evenly amongst his five children. The two boys received what became Pichon Baron, while the daughters received what is now Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Interestingly, many critics describe Pichon Baron as being masculine and Pichon Lalande as more feminine.
Pichon Baron fell from the hands of the family in 1933 and a lack of investment in the '60s and '70s resulted in a challenging period in its history. However, that came to an end when the property was acquired by the AXA Millésimes Group – owners of Petit-Village, Pibran, Suduirat, Quinta do Noval and Domaine de l’Arlot. They instated Jean-Michel Cazes who revamped the estate massively and in a short time it was once again “producing wines of world class quality” according to Jeff Leve of The Wine Cellar Insider. Following Cazes’ retirement, Englishman Christian Seely took over and in Robert Parker’s words: “the high quality has continued unabated”.
Winemaking and Vinification
At Château Pichon Baron, winegrowing is painstaking and traditional with the unending aim of improving quality and mastering yields. Pichon Baron's planting density is 9,000 vines per hectare. Yield per plot is limited according to age and varietal. Harvesting is done exclusively by hand to bring the grapes to the winery in the best possible condition. Bunches are selected by varietal, vine age and plot. This selection process is of vital importance. It requires a well-trained staff, able to discern the different stages of maturity in the vineyard.
Upon arrival at the winemaking facilities, the grapes are placed in vats. Vinification is a key stage which continues the winegrower's work and reveals the wine's individual characteristics. Vinification comprises a complex maceration process of grape skins and pulp. Fermentation transforms the sugars into alcohol, breaking down the tannins and colours, and drawing out the wine's aromatic components. Maturation lasts between three and four weeks. A wine's success depends on the monitoring of the process - on a daily basis - for each vat. When the wine's malolactic fermentation is complete, the wine reaches a natural state of equilibrium. The vats are emptied and select portions of the wine are put into barrels. The wine is aged in barrels in the semi-darkness of the cellars. It is racked every three to four months, using the traditional candle method, to separate the wine from the lees.
Parcel selection produces a remarkably diverse range of wine profiles. It is this variety that gives the final blends their richness and sophistication. To produce a successful blend, over 40 different wines are tasted in a series of strictly-controlled tastings. Blending is a highly complex procedure which changes from one year to the next, giving each vintage its distinctive character. Upon removal from the vats, the best batches are set aside to make Château Pichon Baron's Grand Vin. Most are initially aged in new barrels made from the finest French oak. Three months later they are tasted again, and the final blend is assembled. The wine slowly adjusts during barrel ageing, which lasts for 18 to 20 months.
The Pauillac Terroir. Pauillac, a Médoc appellation, is located approximately 40 kilometres to the north of Bordeaux, on the left bank of the Gironde River. The land, which features quaternary gravel deposits and the large pebbles and sand that are typical of the appellation, is a winemaking paradise. The subsoil composition allows the retention of water to feed the roots, while the undulating relief of the gravel soils is ideal for drainage. This exceptional terroir has a maritime climate; its proximity to the Gironde estuary lends it an increased mildness. All the right conditions come together to make the Pauillac appellation the most prestigious of Bordeaux wines.
The Pichon Baron estate comprises 73 hectares of high quality gravelly soil. Low in nutrients and with little excess water, this unique soil sparingly nourishes the vines, whose average age is 35 years. The estate is actively committed to protecting the environment to safeguard this exceptional legacy for future generations. The Pichon Baron team is dedicated to producing consistently exceptional wines that are faithful to the spirit of this great terroir. A very strict selection from the older vines on the noblest soils is dedicated to the production of Château Pichon Baron, the Grand Vin of the property, of which the number of bottles is limited in order to produce only the best.
Pichon Baron's vineyard is planted as follows: 65% Cabernet-Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, and is meticulously divided into separate plots. Each plot receives specific care and attention adapted to its particular profile. The terroir's best land - the "Butte de Pichon Baron" - is devoted entirely to the production of the Grand Vin, making up the majority of the blend. It is among the estate's historic plots; it was already in use in 1694, when the wine was first produced.
Pichon Baron also produces two second wines, from other parcels of its vineyard: Les Tourelles de Longueville and Les Griffons de Pichon Baron.