Dating back to Roman times, and being one of only four Saint-Émilion producers elevated to the status of Premier Grand Cru Classé, it would seem Chateau Pavie has rather a lot to live up to - and by all accounts, they are holding up their end of the bargain with this year’s vintage.
Since coming under the consultation of renowned Bordeaux-based oenologist Michel Rolland, the Chateau has gained a reputation for vintages of higher concentration and intensity than were yielded in the past - but this year’s release seems to indicate this historic Chateau still has the power to surprise.
Retaining the glamour and panache of recent years, the 2016 has been thrilling and charming critics thus far, with many praising its superior balance and restraint. It is expected to cellar spectacularly, suggesting further delights yet to be discovered.
Is the 2008 Pavie superior to the 2005 and 2000? While that is impossible to know at this stage of its development, it will certainly be one of the three greatest Pavies made under the administration of Chantal and Gerard Perse. Cropped at a very low 30 hectoliters per hectare, the final blend is a classic Pavie combination of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 14.5% natural alcohol is the highest ever achieved at this estate. The inky/blue/purple color is followed by a wine with a concentrated, full-bodied texture, a layered mouthfeel, fresh acids, abundant tannin, and a 50-60-year evolution ahead of it. Compared to the enormous, but backward 2005, the 2008 seems even less evolved at a similar stage. Sweet creme de cassis, black cherry, licorice, and smoky barbecue characteristics combine with a liqueur of minerality that resonates from this terroir that is considered to be among the top dozen or so vineyard sites in Bordeaux. This remarkable offering, from a person who has, thankfully, ignored the petty jealousy and unfair criticism of his administration, is another St.-Emilion for your children’s children. For the fact-mongers, this cuvee was hand-harvested between October 13-21, with the grapes put in small plastic containers. Everything is moved by gravity flow, and there is no fining or filtration following a slightly longer than normal aging (28-30 months) in oak casks. 96-98+/100 Robert Parker Jr.
St.-Émilion is the star of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, north of the Dordogne River. The rich red wines produced in St.-Émilion, based on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, are less tannic and generally more fruit-driven in flavour than the Cabernet-based wines of Left Bank. Merlot thrives on the plateaus high above the Dordogne, where the soil is filled with sand and clay, a perfect medium for creating opulent, fruit-forward wines. With a typically savoury character, St.-Émilion wines are sometimes called the “Burgundies of Bordeaux.” These refined reds, with loads of finesse, are elegant companions to beef, chicken, pork and duck.
The wines of St.-Émilion were not included in the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux, which ranked wines of the Left Bank. In 1955, St.-Émilion published its own classification, based on soil analysis, wine quality and reputation of the properties. Unlike the 1855 classification, St.-Emilion’s system requires properties to continuously prove themselves. The list is revised regularly, most recently in 2012. There are two tiers within the classification, Premier Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru Classé. There are currently just 18 Premier Grand Cru properties and 64 Grand Cru Classé properties.
The St.-Émilion appellation is home to hundreds of individual producers, enhancing the variety of wines made there. Many of the properties remain small, family-run enterprises, unlike the large châteaux of the Left Bank. The area is also the base of France’s controversial micro-châteaux or garagiste wine movement; these innovative winemakers operate outside the traditional classification system, making very high quality (and very expensive) highly extracted wines.