Very soon I will visit Chateau Cordeillan Bages!
It is an 18th century chartreuse house converted into a luxury hotel and restaurant, where Michelin starred Chef Jean-Luc Rocha’s inventive cuisine, is paired with the wines of Chateau Lynch-Bages and perhaps another winery owned by the Cazes family, Château Ormes de Pez in Saint-Estèphe.
As much as I’m looking forward to the food and wine pairing, I’m looking to tasting the new vintage of Lynch-Bages (and hopefully some older vintages as well, and will share my notes with you). It had been the first wine I bought at auction and I’ve tasted through the various vintages here in New York. I am also looking forward to meeting Jean-Charles Cazes, whom I will have dinner with on Tuesday April 3.
About the history of Chateau Lynch-Bages
At the gates of Pauillac, the Lynch-Bages Estate owes part of its name to the ancient hamlet of Bages, which for centuries was home to generations of winemakers.
The area of “Batges” is mentioned as early back as the sixteenth century in the terriers (estate records) of Lafite yet its wine history began in the eighteenth century when, in 1728, it became the property of Chevalier Pierre Drouillard, Treasurer General of Guyenne, who bequeathed the estate to his daughter, Elizabeth, who was then the wife of Thomas Lynch. The property thus passed into the Lynch family for seventy-five years.
Then known as the “Cru de Lynch”, the property was sold in 1824 to Sébastien Jurine, a wine merchant from Geneva who had newly moved in Bordeaux. Under the stewardship of his young son, André-Louis, it was classified among the Cinquièmes Crus in the prestigious 1855 Classification.
In 1862, “Jurine Bages” was sold to the brothers Cayrou wine merchants who restored the estate’s name, which has remained unchanged ever since as “Lynch-Bages.” In the 1930’s a member of the Cayrou family, General Félix de Vial, leased the vineyard to Jean-Charles Cazes, who was already in charge of Château Ormes de Pez in Saint-Estèphe.
Cazes would go on to purchase both properties on the eve of the Second World War. Lynch-Bages has been run by the Cazes family ever since.
About the terroir of Chateau Lynch-Bages
Located in the heart of the Médoc in the northwest of Bordeaux, the “Pauillac” Appellation covers some 1,200 hectares located directly on the outskirts of the town of the same name, along the estuary of the Gironde.
It has three of the four Premiers Crus Classés of the Médoc, and fifteen Crus Classés in 1855, which together represent more than three-quarters of the production of the town.
The soil is made of gravel whose composition and porosity ensure an ideal drainage. You can almost taste it in the wine.
Consisting of large ridges of very pure gravel, the town is bisected from east to west at its centre, by the Pibran marsh and the Gaët channel, which flows into the Gironde. On either side of this drainage caesura are two large plateaus with vineyards to the north (Lafite, Mouton-Rothschild, Pontet-Canet etc.) and to the south (Latour, the two Pichon vineyards, Lynch-Bages etc.).
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot are the grape varieties of Pauillac. The majority of these are cabernets, with a large predominance of Cabernet Sauvignon, which give the wine its bright color, subtle flavor and great aging potential.
Since 2006, the attention paid to the agricultural heritage of Lynch-Bages has become even greater. A large massale selection initiative of plants unique to the property has been undertaken. It helps to preserve the genetic heritage of the vine cultivation over time, thus sustainably ensuring the specificity of Lynch-Bages vineyard. A reasonable turnover of the plots by grafting is also underway, a technique that involves using the roots of existing feet and thus to refine the planting and improve the matching between varietals and soil types.
Entirely done by hand, the grape harvests demand a complete mobilization of the technical teams of Lynch-Bages, aided by some 250 seasonal workers.
In the weeks preceding the harvest, the 110 parcels that comprise the estate are regularly checked by chemical analysis, visual observation and berry tasting monitoring. With satellite photography, an intra-plot analysis of the vineyard enables a precise qualitative ranking of the vineyard and a very fine collection of those grapes having reached full maturity.
A weather station in situ helps to refine the expected timing of the harvest as well as the size the mobilized workforce, allowing a high reactivity, making it possible to make a decision on the date of the harvest, extending it as far is needed. The Merlot grape harvest takes two days as it is early ripening, often followed by a break of several days. The Cabernet grape harvest can be properly done in eight to ten days.
Improved sorting tables set up in the vineyard contribute to the quality of the harvest. This early manual sorting is very efficient because it targets intact grapes. Everything is then done to limit damage to the grapes when transporting the harvest. The delivery to the vats is handled with great care, gently, always aimed at preserving the integrity of the grape and its aromatic potential.
The specific characteristics of the vinification of white grapes demand that the grapes brought to the vats must be impeccable and protected against oxidation. The harvest takes place over a limited period and only early in the day to take advantage of the morning freshness. The manual sorting on mobile tables at the centre of the plots is followed by a meticulous transport in small refrigerated containers to protect against any damage to the aromas.
Château Lynch-Bages is primarily known for its eponymous red wine, of which approximately 25,000 cases are made in an average year. The malolactic fermentation takes place mainly in large stainless steel tanks, and the wine then spends about 15 months in oak barrels (of which some 50-60% are new) before bottling.
As of 2008, the second label of Lynch-Bages will be called, “Echo de Lynch-Bages”. A third wine has now been added, called “Pauillac de Lynch-Bages”.