1998 Chateau Pichon Longueville-de-Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse, Pauillac, Red Bordeaux, France.
Well that was fun, the second wine of Chateau Pichon Longueville, one of the super second growths in the famed Pauillac zone of the left bank, this Reserve de la Comtesse 1998 is drinking really nicely and while a touch lean and green, it opens up and provides plenty of well preserved dark fruits, some chewy tannin and a graceful finish. Even better with food and time in the glass, the Reserve de la Comtesse gains aromatics and shows secondary evolution in all areas of the medium bodied palate, but remains firm and in no signs of crashing any time soon with blackberry, plum, hoisin, a elegant porporri of dried flowers, a touch of graphite, cedar, tapenade, lingering kirsch and some loamy earth. You can see some pretty stuff here, but I imagine the Grand Vin is miles better with more depth and concentration, though that said, I was impressed and somewhat surprised that this wine was in such a pleasing place. The Pichon Longueville-de-Lalande wines are now all organic and converting to biodynamics with the grapes being vinified in stainless tanks before seeing close to 18 months in barrel with up to 50% new oak used, with this Reserve de la Comtesse seeing significantly less new oak in most years.

The Chateau Pichon Longueville-de-Lalande sitting in good company set in the famous Pauillac, maybe Bordeaux’s most famous appellation, in Cabernet Sauvignon country and much sought after thanks to its prime terroir and gravelly soils, it is home to three of the region’s fabled first-growth châteaux, with Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Chateau Latour being the headliners here along with a bevy of other notables, including Pontet-Canet and Lynch-Bages and both Pichons. Perched on the left bank of the Gironde River north of the city this area gets the warmth and allows for more Cabernet Sauvignon in the final blends, with Chateau Pichon Longueville-de-Lalande traditionally having about 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot, until recent times when they added much more Cabernet Sauvignon, to bring it up to 65% of their total plantings. The Reserve de la Comtesse, which made its permanent debut in 1973, typically is more Merlot (based) than the Grand Vin, but this 1998 is showing more Cabernet Sauvignon in profile with a good backbone and currant laced character. This Chateau has a checkered past with some big hits and a few misses, but I’ve had good fortune with them, especially the Grand Vin, which was classified in the famous 1855 Medoc rankings, as mentioned, scoring a coveted Second Growth, which is a proud badge to wear, even these days.
($145 Est.) 89 Points, grapelive

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