The 2019 vintage of Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande points the way to the style of wine the Pauillac estate is developing as it transforms its vineyard and benefits from its new winery, and represents a major step in a multi-year programme along that path, according to Managing Director Nicolas Glumineau.
“First, it’s our best vintage for a very, very long time,” he said in an interview earlier this summer. “2016 was good, ’10 was good too. ’19 is unique. It has everything in terms of what we look for to define the future of Pichon Comtesse.”
The blend was 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc, with no Petit Verdot. “I want to prove we can have 70-75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5-10% Cabernet Franc and still have refined tannins,” Glumineau said.
While the estate, neighboring Chateau Latour and Chateau Pichon Baron, covers 92 hectares (227 acres), only 72 hectares are currently under vine, as a major replanting operation is under way. “It’s a huge project,” Glumineau said. “Since 2012 we have pulled out three hectares of vines every year” and then left the ground fallow for another three. The proportion of vines planted is now 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot.
“We are designing the future of the vineyard,” he said. “From 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, we’re increasing to 65-70%. From 40% Merlot, we’re going down to 25%.” The Cabernet Franc will stay around 7-8% and Petit Verdot around 2-3%, he said. “In this fantastic area where we can make great wines, Pichon Comtesse has always had a unique personality.”
About 50% of the harvest currently goes into the main, or “grand”, wine and 50% into the second wine, La Reserve de la Comtesse, and that’s a ratio that Glumineau is also intending to change. “In three to five years, we’ll start to have more grand vin,” he said, boosting the ratio to 60:40 or even two-thirds to one-third. Current production is about 300,000 bottles, split evenly between the main and second wine. In future years the aim is to boost total production to between 350,000 and 400,000 bottles, he said.
The new winery, which was inaugurated with the 2013 vintage, is making a major contribution to the transformation of the estate, and just had its remaining 12 wooden tanks replaced with conical stainless steel vats.
The 2019 vintage went on sale in June at 104.40 euros ($124) a bottle ex-negociant , down 20.8% from its 2018 release price, according to London-based online wine market Liv-ex. That compared with its 2018 release price of 132 euros, Liv-ex said.
Glumineau said the estate sold between 80% and 85% of its production of both the grand vin and the second wine, with the very strong demand as soon as the wine became available. “We were sold out after a couple of hours,” he said. “The demand coming from the U.S. and U.K. was huge.”
Commenting on the amount released, he said “it’s probably a lot, but this en primeur campaign is definitely effective. The more you sell, the more powerful is your brand.”
He also said that there is a balancing act in pitching the offer at the right level. “Pricing has to be fair,” he said. “All the distribution chain has to earn money.”