Our visit to Chateau Pichon Lalande

The following is a post from our blog exactwines.com about our visit to Chateau Pichon Lalande on our recent trip to Bordeaux.

We were looking forward to visiting Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac, because a friend of ours, Nicolas Glumineau, is the new General Manager and Winemaker. We have gotten to know Nicolas over a six-year period from a Bordeaux dinner that is held every year in Seattle, where he represented Chateau Montrose. In late 2012, Nicolas left Chateau Montrose, where he was Technical Director, to run Pichon Lalande. Clearly, it is a great opportunity for him - but not without its challenges.

Upon arrival, we were surprised to see just how much work they had done on the construction project. They were in the process of building an entirely new state-of-the-art vat room, barrel room and winemaking facility, and harvest was looming large, just as they were putting the finishing touches on things. In fact, we had planned our trip thinking that we would be touring during harvest, but it was turning out to be a very late season this year.

We had to laugh as Nicolas toured us around, when we marveled at his luck with the timing of the harvest, he simply replied, “it was in the contract!” The new vat room is an impressive site - in fact, I found it to be easily on par with Cos d’Estournel, which everyone throughout the region raved about as being a technical marvel. It was clear that Pichon Lalande had decided to reinvest a huge amount of money into their winemaking facility, to join the ranks of the elite few Chateaux in Bordeaux that combine the world’s best technology, with the traditional wine making practices and expertise. The build-out has been estimated at roughly $21 million - I cannot wait to taste the future wines that will be made at Pichon Lalande.

As we walked through the construction site, we stood in a gallery off to the side of the vat room that overlooked not only the vineyards below, but looked down on Chateau Latour. Not a bad view for the planned events that will take place in the space in the future.

Nicolas was a very charming host, and we couldn’t have appreciated the time he spent with us any more if we tried. In the midst of what was clearly a very busy time for him, he took the time to welcome us with a wonderful lunch, spirited conversation about the region and some really spectacular wines.

For lunch we enjoyed:

2010 Pichon Lalande - Dark blackberry fruit on the nose. In the mouth, deep dark velvety blackberry fruit fills every millimeter of your mouth. The wine has excellent acidity and very fine tannins that lead to a beautifully long sweet dark fruit finish that doesn’t want to end. All I can say is, wow! This wine has so much going on, I cannot wait to see how it evolves over the decades to come. In ten years, once the secondary characteristics start to show, the complexity of this wine is going to be a really show-stopper. Pichon Lalande has knocked it out of the park with their 2010 Grand Vin and I have no doubt that it will still be drinking well 40-50 years from now. This is definitely a wine to look for.

2003 Pichon Lalande - A warm, dark fruit nose. In the mouth, it tastes like a warm deep dark blackberry fruit pie, with just a hint of alcohol. Decent acidity and mostly resolved fine tannins are making this wine drink well now, with a nice long dark fruit finish. This wine will not age like the 2010, but it is a pleasure to drink now and over the next decade or so.

1996 Pichon Lalande - This is a deep dark red color with a garnet rim. The nose of spicy red and black fruit just soars from the glass, you could smell it just sitting on the table in front of you. In the mouth, the sweet red and black fruit flavors are very complex with baking spices, tobacco, cedar and a slight green pepper note. The wine has very good acidity keeping everything lively in the mouth, but at the same time is very smooth. The very fine tannins are mostly resolved and the wine has a very long complex spicy/sweet dark fruit finish. The 1996 is an absolutely beautiful wine today and will continue to age gracefully for the next two decades. As stunning as the 1996 Pichon Lalande is though, I think it will be ultimately surpassed by the 2010. If I had to describe the wines of Pichon Lalande with one word, it would be elegance.

Time flew by at lunch - before we knew it, it was time to head out the door to Chateau Palmer. The food, wine and company was so good, we were loathe to leave, though we knew that the show was far from over for Nicolas, who still had much more work to do! We know that Nicolas will do great things at Pichon Lalande and we hope to come back to visit him again soon.

Posted from Day Seven, Second Stop: Lunch at Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – Exact Wines 12-17-2013

Pichon Lalande is probably my favorite chateau, and until recently, it was affordable for the quality as it often challenged the Firsts (for my tastes) at about 1/3 to 1/4 the cost.

Did you discuss their replanting and the shift to a much more cabernet-heavy mix? As I recall, the cabernet will go from ~55% to 75% when the new vines are fully incorporated. It’s a pretty radical makeover of the wine.

Pat & John - Yes, I agree with you that Pichon Lalande can and has produced wines that will compete with the first growths, but at a much lower price point. I have really enjoyed their wines over the years and I look forward to seeing what they will produce in the funture. I didn’t know that Pichon Lalande replaced a lot of merlot vines with cabernet vines, going from 55% to 75% cab in the blend is a big difference. There was so much going on and we talked about many things with Nicolas during the tour and over lunch, but this was not one of them. John, do you know when the vines were replanted? Was it started when Sylvie Cases was running things or once Nicolas came in? From what I gather, people were not exactly happy with how Pichon Lalande did as far as rankings for the '08, '09 and '10 vintages campared with their peers. Anyway, even if the style ends up being different from before, I think we can expect some great wines to be made with Nicolas in charge. I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Bordeaux, to stop by and see Pichon Lalande. Their new wine making facilities are amazing and second to none. Thanks for your comments.


It’s a pretty sharp shift in the plantings:

Cabernet Sauvignon - 45% → 61%
Merlot 35% → 31%
Cabernet Franc 12% → 4%
Petit Verdot 3% → 8%

They’re changing rootstocks as well, according to this article.

John - Thanks for the information. Yes, that is a noticable difference from before. I will be curious to see how their wine turn out, if they will keep that elegance that I associate with the Chateau. I think we will have to wait for a good vintage to really compare though.


My favorite Chateau. I am too long in the tooth to be buying new vintages though.

Bob - that sounds like a nice problem to have.


Pichon Lalande is a work in progress. As I mentioned in the article, the goal is to move to a more Cabernet Sauvignon intensive wine with 61% of the vines committed to Cabernet Sauvignon. I think the process started in earnest in 2008, when the new owners took over.

If you peruse my tasting notes, you can see that from 2000-2004, the wines were closer to 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. That changed with the 2005 vintage on a going forward basis for the Grand Vin.

As the climate continues getting hotter, this is probably a good move.

Jeff & John - I just noticed that the Petit Verdot percentages listed are backwards. It should be listed as 8% → 3%.

Jeff - thanks for your input on this. I was not sure when this shift in style started and was not aware of it until John mentioned it above.


Bob - I am sorry, but I miss-read your post. I thought you were saying that you were too long in your position with Pichon Lalande in your cellar, not too long in the tooth. I understand what you were saying now, so sorry for the comment. I think it would be a good problem to have TOO much older Pichon Lalande in the cellar and the makings of a great party.


That is correct on both counts Bob. Too old to buy and cellar new ones and happy to have plenty to drink now. Just wish I had more left of 82, 83, 85, and 89. Up next the 96’s maybe in a few years. Last one I had was just starting to turn the corner.

Bob - depending on how cold your cellar is, the Pichon Lalande 96’s are drinking well. They are much more open than the '96 Pichon Baron. If you have a quite a few of the '96 in your cellar, I would say open one and enjoy it. Life is too short.


I had one a few months ago, still needs a bit more time to get to my personal sweet spot. I am not hoarding them, I will drink them all before they or me for that matter, go over the hill. [cheers.gif]

Bob - nice to hear. I am holding on to mine as well, but will start drinking them by 2020.