Your Wine IQ

Pauillac


Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Bordeaux Right Left Bank Right Médoc Right  Pauillac


Pichon Longueville

The Château Pichon Longueville. Photo by Benjamin Zingg. License: Creative Commons SA 2.5 Generic.

Pichon tanks

Spotless steel tanks in Château Pichon-Longueville.
Photo by Kassander der Minoer on Wikipedia.
License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.

Pauillac, the home of several of the world's most famous wines, is an inauspicious small village in the Médoc. Pauillac's land area, a little less than 8.8 square miles, is highly optimized for wine production and accounts for a rather disproportionate amount of fine, expensive wine in Bordeaux.

Other than the wine industry, Pauillac has little to differentiate it from other Bordeaux villages. Despite a beautiful maritime climate and pretty view, only 1,274 people live in Pauillac. Many of them are somehow involved in the business of wine production.

History

Just like the rest of the wine villages of the Médoc, Pauillac was first converted into winemaking territory in the 1700s, when foreigners saw promise in the marshy land and undertook a lengthy excavation of it. Immediately, it became obvious that Pauillac's particular land had something significant to offer.

During the 1850s, the Rothschild family saw promise in the Pauillac land, and their investments in two châteaux turned out to be immensely profitable. Although the Rothschilds had other wine investments, such as Château Clarke, their influence in the wine world was largely felt through those two purchases. Brilliant management of the châteaux saw an increase in quality, and the Rothschild land has remained optimized to a maximum degree over the years.

The prestige of the properties was immediately elevated by the classification of Lafite-Rothschild as a 1er cru and Mouton-Rothschild as a 2er cru, in the 1855 Médoc classification. In 1973, Mouton was brought up to first status after a reconsideration of the wine's quality. There was some controversy that a wealthy member of the Rothschild family had cajoled authorities into raising the ranking, yet 40 years later the wine clearly deserves its status.

Pauillac was made an AOC in 1936, one of the original batch to achieve appellation status. Since its official distinguishment, Pauillac's fame has only increased, and wine from there is almost always expensive now. Some bottles command astronomical prices well in excess of $1,000.

Climate and Viticulture

Of course, the maritime climate of Pauillac is very similar to that of the Médoc in general. It is estimated, however, that the slightly higher elevation in Pauillac makes much of the difference. Increased gravel content in the soil makes Cabernet Sauvignon richer and more full-bodied, and many purists consider the grape to be at its prime in Pauillac. These subtle differences, as well as high-end wine production techniques, make Pauillac's wine immensely long-lived.

Grape Varieties

Wine labeled under Pauillac AOC is required to be red. Really only a few grapes are prominent, with Malbec and Carménère practically insignificant at this point.

Major Producers

Latour 2

A view from the Château Latour property.
Photo by Kassander der Minoer on Wikipedia.
License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.

No less than 18 of the 61 classified wines are located in Pauillac. Pauillac lays claim to three of the five 1ers crus, making it the primary region for top-quality wine. Top-quality wine, however, also means very high prices, and the less expensive 2ers, 3ers, 4ers, and 5ers crus are not dominated by Pauillac so solidly. Only 2 of the 2ers crus and 1 4er cru are from Pauillac, and there are no 3ers crus in the village. No less than 12 5ers crus, however, are located in Pauillac, some of them underrated and others fairly modest. Of course, nonclassified wines can also be good. Of these, Château Pibran deserves special mention.

Three of the five 1ers crus in Médoc are from Pauillac.

Only two of the 14 2ers crus are located in Pauillac.

There are no 3ers crus in Pauillac, while only one house, a Rothschild investment, has 4er cru status.

Chateau d'Armailhac

Château d'Armailhac.
This photo is in the public domain.

Twelve of the eighteen 5ers crus are from Pauillac. Although Lynch-Bages is the most well-known and underrated, others can provide bargains to people who want to sample the appellation's flavors without paying an audacious price.

Subregions

Although there are some very small villages within Pauillac, very few of them make a significant difference. Pauillac land is generally so preferable, and the classified wines there so dependable (with, of course, some exceptions), that any detailed location of the château in question would probably be rather irrelevant. Careful buyers are better off learning the classification and rating pedigree of the wine they are thinking of buying.

Lafite 2

Bottle and glass of Lafite-Rothschild with cheese. Photo by Renzo Grosso. License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.