Like many châteaux in Bordeaux, the story of Château Pichon Longueville is a complex and historical one. The estate was founded in 1689 by Pierre Desmezures de Rauzan, who, as well as being a wine merchant like many Château owners at the time, was also steward of both the Latour and the Margaux estates. He bought plots of vines close to Latour and created Enclos Rauzan. The name Pichon Longueville came 5 years later when these vines were included in his daughter’s dowry upon her marriage to Baron Jacques Pichon Longueville.
In 1850, just 5 years before the 1855 classification, the property was divided between their 5 children: 2 sons and 3 daughters. Only one son survived; the Baron Raoul Pichon de Longueville, his part of the estate became known as Château Pichon Longueville du Baron de Pichon de Longueville (quite a mouthful). In 1851 Baron Raoul commissioned the imposing château still there today.
The ladies of the family continued to make wine from their inherited vines in the original cellars until they also built their own property across the road. One of the sisters: Virginie married the Comte de Lalande, took over the management of the sisters’ share, built the current château and gave the property her name: The second part, passed down to his three sisters, became the Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. A few years later in 1855 both wines were classed as a Second Cru Classé.
The properties are now under completely separate ownership. Pichon Baron belongs to the Axa Millesimes stable which includes Chateau Suduiraut, first growth of Sauternes, Petit Villages in Pomerol, Chateau Pibran also in Pauillac, and further afield Domaine de l’Arlot in Nuits Saint-Georges, Mas Belles Eaux in the Languedoc, Domaine Disznoko in Tokai and Quinta do Noval in Portugal. Champagnes Louis Roederer acquired Pichon Longueville Comtesse in 2007, so they both remain in serious wine families.
Château Pichon Longueville often pops up on the wish lists of visitors to the region and I have I have to make sure I have understood which one it is they want to visit (sometimes it’s both!)
Distinguishing the two in a blind tasting isn’t as difficult as you might think as the Grand Vin of Comtesse often has a higher percentage of merlot in the blend. However distinguishing the labels could be a little tricky. During a visit last week, I noticed a slight change to the label that makes this just a little bit easier. Since 2012 the Château Pichon Baron label has the name Château Pichon Baron at the top of the label and Baron de Pichon-Longueville around the base whereas on the previous labels Château Pichon-Longueville dominated the top again with Baron de Pichon Longueville along the base. A subtle change perhaps, but an important one for the consumer. The griffons look a little more chirpy too if you look closely.
That is not the only label change in 2012 at Chateau Pichon Baron. They also introduced their new second wine ‘Les Griffons de Pichon Baron’ with the 2012 vintage. Selected during the harvest from the same plots as the Grand Vin, Les Griffons is aged in 60% new oak for 18 months and the label is a modern take on the traditional chateau coat of arms.
This is a complement to, not a replacement of, the current second wine, Les Tourelles de Pichon. Les Tourelles, who’s label was also update recently, is selected from specific parcels in the vineyard, has a higher percentage of merlot and cabernet franc than the Grand Vin and is ready for drinking earlier. It is suggested that the Griffons can be ready for drinking after 3 to 5 years; the wine nevertheless has an ageing potential of about 20 years. So if you see some in the market place it might just be the time to sample it.