The first stop of Adam’s Wine of the Week in Bordeaux was Château Lynch-Bages in the beautiful little village of Bages in Pauillac. Lynch-Bages is the jewel of the Cazes family wine empire. Purchased by the late Jean-Charles Cazes, the château is currently under the watch of Jean-Charles’ grandson Jean-Michel and his great-grandson Jean-Charles II. According to the Classification of 1855 Lynch-Bages is a 5th Growth. Despite this, the wines have long been considered by lovers of Bordeaux a “Super 2nd” consistently punching above its weight. In addition to owning Château Lynch-Bages and most of the Village of Bages, the Cazes family also owns Château Ormes de Pez in Saint-Estephe just north of Pauillac.
The cool thing about Lynch-Bages, beside the rows upon rows of barrels of their 2010 vintage in their cellars, is the fact that they have retained a number of the older oak fermentation vats used from the early 1900’s until 1975. It’s amazing that such an expensive and prestigious wine could have been made using such rustic tools for so long. For example, to control the fermentation temperature of the old oak vats the winery workers used to use hot embers placed under the vat to heat up the must or wrap the vats in mattresses soaked in cold water to cool them down. While the thought of doing that today is completely insane, remember that this was the method of choice only 36 years ago!
Lynch-Bages produces 125,000 bottles in an average vintage split between its first wine Château Lynch-Bages and its second wine Château Haut-Bages Averous (made from vines that are too young to be used for the first wine). The second wine has been thankfully renamed Echo de Lynch-Bages. The Cazes’ felt that Château Haut-Bages Averous was a bit of a mouthful.
The tour and tasting was an excellent experience. Our group was lead through the sorting, de-steming, and crushing areas then directed into the fermentation room with its seemingly endless rows of stainless steel vats. The highlight (besides the tasting) was the barrel room. Before me sat thousands of barrels filled with the 2010 vintage which has been already considered an epic vintage by all who have tasted it.
For our tasting we were treated to the 2005 Château Haut-Bages Averous and the 2007 Château Lynch-Bages. The Château Haut-Bages Averous was deep ruby in colour with dark fruity notes of blackberry, blueberry and black currant on the nose. This wine, which is made with an even blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is designed to be more accessible in its youth. Despite coming from the traditionally tannic and long-living 2005 vintage, the Château Haut-Bages Averous had bright fruit flavours and was an amazing look into what the 2005 Château Lynch-Bages would taste like in another 15 years.
The 2007 Château Lynch-Bages was a good example of a well made wine from a very difficult vintage where rain almost washed out the entire harvest. It is in these years that only the best winemakers are able to produce good wine. The 2007 Château Lynch-Bages was very deep ruby in colour and exhibited the same black fruit notes plus the added aromas of licorice, spice, cedar, leather and oak. All of these flavours were present in the palette, while the smooth tannins held the wine together beautifully. It’s a shame that the 2007’s are considered to be a “lesser” vintage. In my opinion this is a great vintage to try the best of Bordeaux. They are drinking well now and much less expensive that the 2005, 2008, and now 2009 vintages…but that’s just my opinion.
Stay tuned for my next post from my visit to Château Pontet-Canet.
I am in full Twitter mode while in France. If you’re not following me yet you can find me at@adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.