Bob de Blanc y Dillon de Dill

Robert Parker Jnr pointed out to us, back in 1985, that Ch.Margaux also produced a tiny quantity of white wine. He told us that it is produced entirely from Sauvignon Blanc, and it’s fermented in new oak barrels and bottled after several months ageing under the name Pavillon Blanc de Margaux. While it is the Medoc’s finest white wine, he went on, it’s crisp, fruity, subtly herbaceous and oaky. It is quite expensive, and not in my opinion, worth it’s lofty price tag. I guess in those days Bob was still cutting his teeth on the ins & outs of what’s good and what’s not so good in Bordeaux. Times have changed.

He then went on to tell us about Ch.Haut-Brion Blanc, the 1er Grand Cru Classe (and the only one) Graves Blanc. And how very rare it is, and the price charged for it is absurdly expensive. He tasted it and found the wine to be lush, intense, powerful and quite full bodied. As you know dear sensible reader and lover of all things vinous. Haut-Brion Blanc these days fetches a lot more than it’s vin rouge brother.

As for Les Pavillons (Le Blanc et Le Rouge) de Ch.Margaux, the red Pavillon is still very much at the helm of this market for second wines of the great Chateau. Now, this leads me to this week’s blog and I hope with something new to share with you and to learn here. You may not know this, but the white Pavillon de Ch.Margaux has been produced for nearly over 100 years. Not necessarily as we know it today, as per the label, but Ch.Margaux (1er Grand Cru Classe) always made a white wine. Back in the day most Bordeaux vineyards produced both red & white grapes in the same spot. For blending, sometimes, and also for a white wine. This, Pavillon de Margaux, is one of the oldest Medoc whites that we can still find to drink and enjoy, and not so horribly expensive as Bob was wrongly trying to point out to us in the 1980s (Bordeaux, Dorling Kindersley – London,1985).

But what may suprise you even more is that Pavillon Blanc is infact Ch.Margaux Blanc as Ch.Haut-Brion Blanc is to Ch.Haut-Brion Rouge. Pavillon Blanc is NOT a second wine like Pavillon Rouge is a second wine to Ch.Margaux. Are you following me? I think it’s amazing and with all this new insight I have just completed, with the help of the chateau, a little vertical here for you to wake up the senses, youngest vintage first to the mature vintage, and to bring your attention to what is actually a First Growth Bordeaux Blanc (1er Grand Cru Classe) going under the name of a second wine label. Now, I am sure the lovely people at Ch.Margaux know exactly what they are doing, and have being doing it well for a while now, and maybe it exists purely as a piece of inverted Bordelais wine-snobism, who knows. Nobody ever pointed this out to me, before, and I love it as you really could not make this sort of thing up in 2020. So, there are still suprises and good ones to be found in this unsuprising year of the continued new found plague. Bravissimo!

2019 Pavillon Blanc de Ch.Margaux
The white grapes were harvested from the 2nd to the 12th of September 2019 under perfect conditions. The state of the vineyard was very good and despite the summer conditions, the vines showed few significant signs of hydric stress. We simply needed to carefully and meticulously monitor the balance between sugars and acidities to decide on the best harvest date.
The Pavillon Blanc 2019 is an elegant, delicate and fresh wine, and in some ways resembles the 2017 vintage. The aromas are similarly precise, intense and complex. Over the remaining few months of ageing, the Pavillon Blanc will become denser with a full-bodied attack which, combined with long acidity, is typical of the best Sauvignon white wines. Almost half the harvest was used to produce this very good Pavillon Blanc vintage.

2007 Pavillon Blanc de Ch.Margaux
Never before had so many samples of the Pavillon Blanc been used for the final blend as in this year from different plot selections, from the three successive sortings carried out in each of those plots at harvest and from the different vinification trials. Over thirty six batches made up this crop in which the overall yield was no more than 26hl/ha bla bla. This great diversity obviously reflects the huge efforts that have been made to take the quality of Pavillon Blanc’07 to even higher levels. Drastic selection was made this year to get the best possible results out of a vintage that was particularly favourable.

Everything, or almost everything, conspired to make 2007 a successful year for the whites, from the overall coolness of the summer weather to the outstanding condition of the crop, not forgetting the absence of hydric stres which can sometimes be quite marked in our Virefougasse parcel. The result is a wine of comparable quality, even superior, to the 2006! Rarely has the Pavillon Blanc nose been so intense, complex and deep. Probably never have we felt so much density and power on the palate. As the previous years, the alcoholic degree is very high, but the balance, and especially the freshness on the finish, somehow almost make you forget the level of alcohol.

1996 Pavillon Blanc de Ch.Margaux
One of the greatest vintages of Pavillon Blanc!
Never before have the grapes achieved such a high degree of sugar, and in general, such concentration. This surprising result is certainly due to the very unique climatic conditions that prevailed at the end of the summer, both very dry and cool with a persistent north wind. The Pavillon Blanc 1996 is a particularly powerful and concentrated wine with amazing length on the palate. Today it is remarkable for it’s freshness and complexity.

1989 Pavillon Blanc de Ch.Margaux
This is one of the biggest & best vintages of Pavillon Blanc. This was the first time, perhaps, that the Sauvignon grapes had reached that exceptional level of ripeness that enables them to rise above the vegetal-type aromas, often considered as typical of the grape variety. In fact, it was in 1989 that we first began a strict control of yields in the white wine plots, which have not exceeded 30 hectolitres per hectare since. This low yield favours, when weather conditions permit, both concentration and the ripening of the grapes.
Today, Pavillon Blanc 1989 is, without any doubt, fully mature and is tasting remarkably well. We can only advise you to drink it, even though we know that it will remain good to drink for some more years.

There you go for an almost end of year, October piece of inspiration. You can probably still purchase 3 or 4 bottles of Pavillon Blanc de Ch.Margaux for only 1 bottle of Ch.Haut-Brion (Graves) Blanc, in today’s market. I just did and have listed them on the website (do we still call it that?). Available as usual Under Bond @ LCB VT today.

At home I have been up to all sorts of mischief in the kitchen. And just the other day disovered how well these 1er Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux Blancs go with fish, especially with the Omega 3 Atomic bomb known as Mackerel (or for our Latin American readers, Caballa). Do try an Ensalada de Caballa (salad), preferably or essentially with some fresh Eneldo (or for our northern hemishere readers, fresh Dill!) , Asparagus and a sprinkling of Green Peas.