For wine lovers – Pessac-Léognan / a wonderful tasting at Auberge Saint Gabriel
Pessac-Léognan – Ask your average wine lover, what images sprout their minds and you will get a plethora of answers. Some like my wife, will say the great wines of Pauillac and the feminine Chateau Margaux. Others will make a great reference to the great wines of the right bank ( Pomerol and St-Emilion). Finally, a sommelier student will recite to you the 1855 Classification like a bible passage.
All of the above is a true image of Bordeaux, put putting the flashy images aside, Bordeaux makes some of the greatest wines of Earth. Love or hate it, the region is here to stay despite the bad public image that it has. But that’s another story which really does not concerns for us for this scope of this article.
Beyond classified growths, Bordeaux has so much to offer to the wine drinking community. For instance,there are the affordable wines of Bourg and Blaye, the satellite wines of the Libournais and the nectars of Pessac-Léognan, which is the scope of of my article.
For the occasion of the 30 years anniversary of the appellation, I had a chance to participate in a Pessac Léognan masterclass led by Laurent Cisneros, Vice President of the appellation. The conference took place in L’Auberge Saint Gabriel It was a marvelous occasion to discover some of their exemplary wines and learn about the region as well. Following the class, there were some wine-food accords to demonstrate the versatility of these Bordeaux wines prepared by Jean Benoit Hinse, sommelier of the Auberge Saint Gabriel.
The Appellation of Pessac-Léognan was formally established in 1987 in the old region of the Graves de Bordeaux, formerly the Banlieu Prévôtale ( Provostal Suburb). Birthplace of Bordeaux viticulture, the appellation includes 70 Chateaux located on a exceptional soil formed by the constant shifting of the Garonne river millions of year ago. The geology and the and the blessed microclimate contributes to the development of fine wines.
Pessac-Leognan is a red wine appellation. Only 20% is consecrated to the production of white wines of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. The reds are made with your typical Bordeaux varieties that include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Putting aside, the fabled Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, there is an excellent breadth of choice at the saq. The monopole offers 84 references from $23 to 100+. Names such as Château de Cruzeau or Château de Rochemorin provide a solid drinking experience for under $30 bucks.
Master Class wines
The following is small report on the wines presented at the Masterclass. The selection was done according to availability at the SAQ. Although not the cheapest, they illustrate the best of the appellation
The Château Gazin Rocquencourt 2012 ( SAQ # 12933289, $42.00) was a ravishing example of a varietal Sauvignon Blanc. This white Bordeaux was fermented in barriques and the aging only saw ⅓ new wood for 11 months , to preserve the freshness in the wine.
Mesmerizing nose bringing to mind fennel, macadamia, acacia with a touch of daikon. Deep and elegant, on the palate it displayed an aromatic palette of nuances such as white peach, white grapefruit and delicate notes of white pepper. Fresh with a delicious crispness, It worked well with a Scallops Ceviche, the wine showing off enough character to handle the pungent bite of the coriander in the dish.
On the other hand, the Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2011 ( SAQ # 11750819, $138.75) was thought provoking demonstrating the organoleptic heights that Sauvignon Blanc can achieve. However, the Chevalier has 20% Semillon and ages 7 additional months in Barrique bringing more depth and concentration to the wine.
A flourishing nose displaying notes of honey, chamomile and confit mandarine peel. Oak a supporting actor contributing with coconut, curcuma species. On the mouth, this is a very racy wine with a great chiseled minerality and power. A finale that remind me of pure gunflint and spearmint. It was outstanding match with a tuna tataki with avocado and sesame seeds. The wine helping to create a tahini like sensation in the dish and the richness of the tuna providing a counterbalance to the power in the wine.
Next was a series of red wines.The Château de Rouillac ( SAQ # 12224669 $51.50) a fine assemblage of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Merlot. Rouillac was aged 18 months in ⅓ new barriques, so you barely feel in the wine.
A nose very much Bordelais alike. High strung notes of cassis, black plums, fountain ink, tar and seaweed. On the mouth, ample and quite expansive on the mouth with polished tannins. Complex flavours as well bringing to mind roasted herbs, iron, graphite and game notes. Harmonious and very long in the mouth with satiny tannins. An elegant match with a beef tartare with parmesan shavings and roquette salad. My overall impression was that the Rouillac brought out the spicy flavors of the tartare and made shine the roquette flavour as well.
A noble Château LaTour-Martillac 2012 ( SAQ # 13202437. $35.00), a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Martillac is a bolder wine than the Rouillac, since it ages in slightly more new wood (40%) and it uses Petit Verdot. This grape step up the game by bringing bolder spicier flavors and tannins to the wine.
Distinctive notes of graphite and bell pepper. With time cigar box aromas develop as well. Full body with a satiny palate and silky tannins. Lovely retronasal flavors of leafy blackberries, cacao and roasted bell peppers. Very long finale. It was a fantastic with a wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil. The overall combination of flavours brought a crescendo of texture and earth notes in my palate.
For the grand finale, the climax of the tasting was Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2012 ( SAQ # 12044043 $362). If you have a lot of cash to spend, you can get the 2011 which retails for a whopping $1440.
A powerful nose. On the nose dark ripe black fruits ( cassis, black cherry). With time in the glass, fine notes of pipe tobacco, Umbrian black truffles and roasted herbs develop. On the mouth, despite its vigors and concentration, it has a sublime elegance. Multilayered with complex flavours of Szechuan pepper, cacao and smoked habanero peppers. Very long finale with a menthol aftertaste. Perfect match with grilled lamb chops in a crust of fine herbs.