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
About the Author
Alistair is a UK based Master of Wine who began his wine career working for many years in export management for wineries in Chile and Argentina. He currently works internationally as a consultant, writer, judge and educator, and in 2019 became the South American wine correspondent for one of the world's most respected wine publications, jancisrobinson.com. In 2005 he moved back to the UK and worked in all aspects of the wine trade, from managing, buying and consulting for wine bars and restaurants to importing and wholesaling wines.
He passed his WSET Diploma in 2012, and was awarded the Derouet Jameson Award for top Diploma student. He then enrolled on the Master of Wine programme that he successfully completed in 2017. He is a regular contributor to consumer and trade magazines such as Decanter, Meiningers International, Harpers and Drinks International. As a judge Alistair is a Panel Chair for IWSC, Decanter World Wine Awards and is the President of Cata d’Or Wine Awards, South America’s longest standing wine competition. Alistair is currently writing a wine guide on the wines of Latin America. Alistair’s other passions are food, rugby, languages, skiing, running and being dad to his awesome girls.