Elegance and value from Pessac-Leognan


This, our third and final installment of Jancis Robinson's value picks for 2008 Bordeaux, focuses on one region: Pessac-Leognan. Unlike last weeks installment where we took a spin through some of the satellite regions of Bordeaux, this week Jancis has identified a few wines from this great appellation. Long held in the highest regard for their wonderful fine wine full of dusty minerality, tobacco and smoke nuances, Pessac-Leognan has benefitted from the recent revitalization of Bordeaux and is now producing some amazing values to complement their grandest wines. I have long been a fan of these elegant, complete wines that offer the finest aromatics of the Medoc with a silky elegance that has few rivals.

Graves is the Medoc's mirror image on the inland, south-eastern side of Bordeaux and the other major 'left bank' appellation. Like the Medoc, much of it is based on gravelly soils (hence the name of this wine region, which was famous even before the Medoc). Pessac-Leognan is an appellation created in 1987 to include all of the Graves' most famous chateaux, the greatest of which are actually in the southern suburbs of the city itself: Ch Haut-Brion and, once a great rival and now under the same, American ownership, Ch La Mission-Haut-Brion just across the road.

As well as making firm, dry wines with the sort of minerally, 'warm bricks' overlay often found in red Graves, these properties also produce a full-bodied, oak-aged dry white wine needing lots of time in bottle (called Laville-Haut-Brion in the case of La Mission's white), which is typical of the Graves region too. Less glorified properties in the Graves proper along the left bank of the river Garonne can provide appetizing reds and some much more interesting dry whites than the Bordeaux norm. - Jancis Robinson

Pessac-Leognan in 2008

Pessac-Leognan was the first appellation I tasted on arrival in Bordeaux this year and really made me sit up and take notice. The wines were just so beautifully balanced - ripe without being heavy, refreshing without being skinny, with just the right amount of tannin to promise even greater things in the future in most cases. This seems to be true for the lesser wines as well as the most famous. This is an appellation that is too often overlooked. - Jancis Robinson

Chateau Baret 2008 Pessac-Leognan
The delightfully fresh scents that characterize this vintage, plus attractive ripe fruit and great, silky, natural texture. What's not to like? Good value for the medium term. Relaxed - not one of the most ambitious but...a good drink! Drink 2011-18 - Jancis Robinson

Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt 2008 Pessac-Leognan
This up and coming property is close to the famous Domaine de Chevalier and is owned by Ch Malartic Lagraviere whose owner is lavishing great care and attention on it - to good effect. A little fuller than some of its neighbors and chock full of pleasure. Drink 2012-18 - Jancis Robinson

Ch Bouscaut 2008 Pessac-Leognan
Something a little 'singed' on the nose and then a hint of leafiness on the palate. Lots of ripe tannin and then very fluid texture with lots of juice. Pretty ambitious and persistent. Drink 2015-23 - Jancis Robinson

Chateau La Garde 2008 Pessac-Leognan
Big merchant Dourthe pours an amazing amount of money and effort into making a splash with this wine. All stops have been pulled out on this one. Lots of freshness and excitement and some extremely expensive oak! A bargain wine that has been given the cru classe treatment in the cellar without a doubt - and seems to have been picked pretty late. Drink 2013-20 - Jancis Robinson

Outstanding white wines as well

I have always admired Pessac-Leognan's whites as much as their reds. While I do count La Mission Haut-Brion among my top handful of Chateaux in Bordeaux, the very best whites of the region really do stand alone atop any hierarchy of the dry white wines of Bordeaux. While I love the exquisite aged examples from these finest producers there are so many delightful whites worth taking a look at that it's not surprising that some of the producers recommended above also have a very fine white in their portfolio.

Chateau Laville Haut Brion 1999

Bouscaut Blanc 2006

While these 2008's will only be offered as futures for the foreseeable future the wines from the exceptional 2005 vintage are on the shelves now. If you want to get an idea as to the style of Pessac-Leognan or any chateau in particular I urge you to try and track down one of these wines. Even at this modest price point you'll find wines of uncommon power from 2005 which will certainly reward cellaring and may in fact require an additional year or three in the cellar to begin to show at their best. And if you ever have the chance to try La Mission Haut Brion seize it! It was one of my Bordeaux epiphany wines and it may very well be yours too!

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  • Snooth User: pompyb
    435933 48

    I recenlty chanced upon 2006 Seigneurerie d'Olivier du Chateau Olivier Pessac-Leognan while I was in Paris. I LOVED it so much I bought a couple of Malartic Lagraviere back with me. Dying to try them but need for them to rest a few months... or years!

    Apr 23, 2010 at 1:56 PM

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