I’m lucky to have friends who share my passion for good wine, so there aren’t too many bottles of Jacob’s Creek or Gallo Brothers turning up when we meet for dinner – or in this case a leisurely Sunday lunch at Graeme’s place. I came clutching a bottle of the ever reliable Urbina Seleccion Crianza ’99, but was delighted to have this completely trumped when Suzie arrived with some very serious claret.
Pichon Longueville Baron is one of the so called “super seconds”, that is to say an over-performing 2nd growth in the arcane but often still accurate Bordeaux “Cru Classé” system. This is right up the morning claret’s boulevard, being a cabernet sauvignon dominated, age worthy wine. 1997 was a tricky year in Bordeaux, with variable wines at best, but the upside of that is that they are ready to drink a lot younger.
This already looked pretty mature in the glass, with telltale brown tints at the edges. A whiff of exotic spices, subtle smoke and cigar box aromas gave way to full, ripe, plummy fruit in the glass. This was surprisingly rich for the vintage, with a very nice balance between sweetness, well mannered tannins and acidity. Certainly not a boisterous or “heavy” wine, but drinking wonderfully well and quite possibly at its peak.
All in all, an excellent effort for the vintage, or indeed, just an excellent effort full stop!
As readers will recall, I have a slight obsession with how and where value is to be found in Bordeaux, and this wine demonstrates one slant on that dialectic. To the layperson perhaps, £50 – £60 is a lot to pay for a bottle, but for a 14 year old wine of this quality, richness and complexity I think it is something close to a bargain. This is especially true when compared with more recent vintages – the 2009 and 2010 will be well over £100 a pop, by the time they are bottled, let alone when they are ready to drink.