Baron Pichon Longueville 2008 or 2009 ? When Wine Ratings Do Not Matter

During a wine tasting in Sauternes I have recently tried the 2008 and 2009 of Baron Chateau Pichon Longueville, a Second Growth in the village of Pauillac, where three of the famous First Growths are located.

For those of you who do not know about the 1855 Bordeaux Classification System, it was established by Napoleon III to create a ranking of wines for the visitors of the Exposition Universelle De Paris. Brokers from the wine industry created five growths according to their commercial value and reputation.

The 1855 classification, which included mostly reds from the Medoc region, has remained the same over time, expect for a few changes. Nowadays it strongly influences wine prices worldwide, just like scores from wine critics do. In particular, Robert Parker has been the main player in the wine industry through his grading scheme, which mostly favoured rich, oaky wines. Let’s have a look at his rating of these Grand Vins, the vintage and some of my tasting notes.

2009 (67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot)
The 2009 vintage  has been always considered among the best, even the “greatest” by some. Wines with powerful ripe fruits are very much typical.
Parker gave 98 points to the Baron Pichon Longueville 2009. He noted that it was the greatest vintage of its kind since 1990 and that would be at its best between 2018 and 2045.
I have truly enjoyed this 2009 with aromas of red and black fruits, and a touch of black pepper. Very smooth and with and a long length in the mouth. Definitely, it was ready to drink. Its average price? 170 euros (ex-tax), according to the accredited source Wine Searcher.

2008 (71%Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot)

2008 was not exceptional as 2009, but still a fine vintage. Cabernet Sauvignon ripened late and wines had good ageing potential and freshness.
Parker gave it 95 points, praised it for powerful structure and noted that would age well for over two decades. Average price is 118 euros (ex-tax).
I have enjoyed the 2008 for its complexity, with an incredible array of blackberry, creme de cassis, chocolate, tobacco and liquorice. Great concentration and density. High and powerful tannins, yet smooth.

The wines, though coming from the same producer and with only a small difference in the blend, are quite different, with the first showcasing purity of ripe fruits and smoothness, while the second focusing on concentration and structure. Both are outstanding wines.

Personal considerations
Whether one wine gets 95 or 98 points is irrelevant. I believe that what counts is the emotions that a wine can provide individually, its expression of terroir, and the story it has to tell. Yes, of course, some wines are outstanding, others are good, or just acceptable. Wines, though, are also complex, and cannot be defined or described well trough a points system.


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