1998 Château de Pez, Saint-Estèphe

Chateau_de_Pez_1998

The Bordeaux wine classification is a complex one, with much controversy. It’s good as an indicator to likely good wines but should by no means be seen (as it often appears to be by many critics) as a definitive list of what’s good and what’s not. The classification is revisited so infrequently that it cannot possibly give a true indication to the quality of wine year on year. That said there are some consistently good performers which shine out and deserve their recognition and place and that is the idea of the classification – to recognise wines that are consistently good and of a consistent quality.

The classification started with the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris, when Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for France’s best Bordeaux wines which were to be on display for visitors from around the world. The red wines were from first to fifth growths (or crus), and the white wines, (which at the time were much less important) and consisted of the sweet varieties Sauternes and Barsac and were ranked from first great growth to second growth.

Since that time several successful and unsuccessful attempts to change the classification have occurred. Many of the leading estates from the Médoc appellation that were not included in the 1855 classification are classified as Cru Bourgeois, a classification system that has been updated on a regular basis since 1932 (banned in 2007), and reinstated in 2010. The wine in this post falls into that category, so let’s look at that in a little more detail.

In 2003 the original list of 444 estates in the Cru Bourgeois classification was reduced to 247 and divided in to three tiers. Exceptionnel (9 properties), Supérieurs (87 properties) and straight Bourgeois (151 properties).

In 2010 the controversial 2003 classification was annulled instead introducing a flat single tier classification of Cru Bourgeois. Of 290 producers who applied 243 were awarded the classification.

While the new Cru Bourgeois classification was being prepared, six out of nine of the former Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel decided to remain outside the new one-tier classification, instead forming a group named Les Exceptionnels. Members of this group are Château Chasse Spleen, Château Les Ormes de Pez, Château de Pez, Château Potensac, Château Poujeaux and Château Siran.
Château de Pez is located across the road from Château Calon-Ségur ( a third growth Cru in the original classification) which is in the north of the Saint-Estèphe region. Château de Pez is one of the leading Bourgeois Exceptionnel wines of the Médoc and is believed by many to deserve a higher classification. The wines it produces are consistently good and well rated yet inexpensive due to its current classification level.

In the 17th century, the château was owned by the Pontac family who also owned Château Haut-Brion (a first growth from the Graves region). Today the château is owned by the champagne house Louis Roederer.

So after learning about the complex history and heritage of this wine, is it any good?

I always enjoy drinking aged wines as they’re much more willing to share their flavours and qualities, and this is even more the case with Bordeaux wines. Their structure and make-up lend themselves well to aging and benefit greatly from the time to break down the tannins of the thick skinned Cabernet Sauvignon grapes so widely used in the varietal, developing complex flavours which in their early years seem harsh and unapproachable.

In the glass this wine has a dark garnet red and very opaque colour (even held to the light there is very little translucency) and very little lightening at the rim considering the age.

On the nose I get scents of strawberries and plum as well as a little vanilla and almond essence/extract. Developing further is a woody nose and a subtle sweet tobacco fragance.

In the mouth you can taste the tannins although they are soft and pleasant. The wine has good acidity which gives it length on the finish. It’s less fruity than it smells but gives a little cherry flavour. More obvious are the earthy tone which give it a more sophisticated complex structure.

Although it might sound obvious this wine would pair best with red meats, (with a medium fat content). I drank this with a leg of lamb and it worked perfectly, but would also work well with roasted or grilled beef. The tannins and high acidity mean it would also likely hold its own with a nice pink duck breast. This wine would be less suited to slow cooked meats, particularly stews/casseroles.

The wine is by no means diminishing but I’m also not sure it has anything else to give. A solid performance at the price and exceptional value for money but it’s more memorable because of this price/value for money rather than its stand alone qualities. I’ve tasted better examples of good Bordeaux, both which have cost more and at a similar price point but nothing at less in terms of price to quality. It’s a wine I would purchase again and would surely enjoy but not one I will spend my time searching for.

Summary

  • Price: €35 a bottle
  • Producer: Château de Pez
  • Origin: Saint-Estèphe, Médoc, France
  • Style: Aged, quality Bordeaux with good tannins and not yet deteriorating.
  • Food pairing: Red meats, in particular lamb, and grilled or roasted beef ( nothing too fatty), pink duck breast.
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