The En-Primeur Insider: Sixth Edition, with Alistair Cooper MW
Pauillac: The Gem of the Left Bank
The Left Bank of Bordeaux is littered with famous names, both villages as well as estates. However, it’s widely accepted that the most famous village and home to three of the five lauded First Growths (Lafite, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild) is Pauillac. Here Cabernet is king and is famed for producing powerful, concentrated and intensely cassis laden wines with cigar box, pencil shavings and graphite characteristics. These are the most long-lived of the wines of Bordeaux and are blessed with a strong and fine tannic backbone to aid in this respect. For me the most beguiling quality of Pauillac is the development that happens in bottle, with such aromatic complexity coming with age.
Pauillac is blessed thanks to both it’s soils as well as it’s proximity to the Gironde estuary. The famed warm gravel soils maintain their heat to help the grapes along in late-ripening years. They are also free draining which can help in the damper years get rid of excess water and prevent dilution of the grapes. The proximity to water which provides warmth can be key in certain years (such as 2017) where spring frosts can be a problem. Pauillac is also more undulating than the other great neighbouring villages (St Estephe, St Julien and Margaux) which allows for many different exposures and thus expressions of Cabernet.
Located directly next door to Mouton-Rothschild we find it’s sister estate and fifth growth - Chateau d’Armailhac. And if you want a piece of Mouton at a snip of the price, then look no further. The gravel soils here have a slightly higher proportion of sand, meaning the wines are a little less robust and powerful than it’s bigger brother. This, along with it’s higher percentage of Cabernet Franc than Mouton also means that they have beautiful aromatics and drink a little earlier which is a bonus in my book. It is an estate that I have long admired and have several vintages tucked away in my cellar – and it’s performance in 2020 looks very smart indeed.
- Alistair Cooper,
Master of Wine & Esteemed Critic