About this Tasting:
This benchmark vertical tasting was presented by Masterton / Wellington wine man Mike Parker, as part of the celebration of a significant anniversary. Mike has been cellaring Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon since the debut 1989 vintage. I have commented previously (here) on his extraordinary generosity in inviting selected people to (in his unassuming introductory words): share the wines with people who appreciate them and understand them. To facilitate that understanding, Mike had prepared a remarkable 15-page backgrounder on Le Pavillon, including an analysis of the wine’s performance in comparison with other leading Hermitage wines. The 18 participants included a range of people approaching wine from widely differing angles, from the technical / winemaking on the one hand to the avowedly hedonistic on the other.
Mike brought the tasting forward so that Raymond Chan could share in the wines. This was one of the last tastings, and likely the most serious one, that Raymond could attend and fully participate in. Raymond as a wine merchant in earlier years went out of his way to assist Mike in securing these (in some years) rare-in-New-Zealand wines. Others attending included winemakers Clive Paton from Ata Rangi vineyard, Larry McKenna from Escarpment Vineyard, Carol Bunn from Wellington Wine Country, Joel Watson from Luna Estate, John Douglas from Te Hera Estate, and Peter Cowley from Te Mata Estate. The tasting was presented at Stephen Wong MW’s wine school, Wine Sentience in Vivian St, Wellington, with attentive support from Stephen. The wines were tasted in two flights of 12, revealed, from youngest to oldest, the first flight 2013 – 2001 (the 2008 missing, never available in New Zealand), and then 2000 – 1989.
Background to Chapoutier Hermitage Le Pavillon
Hermitage ... ' the manliest French wine', as Prof Saintsbury said in a simpler age (‘Notes ...’, published 1920) ... and, to précis John Livingstone-Learmonth, now the absolute arbiter on matters Northern Rhone in his book The Wines of the Northern Rhone: Hermitage ... the utter majesty of this hillside ... a truly spectacular home for a vineyard ... The Hermitage hill stands as the last declaration of the Massif Central range of the middle of France. Here is the the anomaly of a granite outcrop on the "wrong" bank of the Rhone, its eastern side. …
The Full Up sign applies to the Hermitage vineyards ... Oversupply of Hermitage is anyway impossible because production is severely limited, both by law and by the sheer physical layout of the famous hillside. ... The hill is its own natural boundary, the Rhone at its feet, its main facade set on a bountiful south-facing exposure. ... The main flank, which rises to 344 metres at its summit, is home to the boldest, most tannic wines, notably on the site called Les Bessards. Its neighbours, le Meal and L'Hermite, are Hermitage's other two top sites -- vital elements in the composition of any proper red Hermitage ... Bessards is a mainly syrah site. It is where Chapoutier's Pavillon comes from ... This is where the vine and the terroir combine in full sympathy and expression.
For many people, the world's most definitive syrah wines come from Hermitage. Yield is limited by AOC regulation to 5.2 t/ha = 2.1 t/ac, but producers striving for the finest wines crop at even lower rates. In Hermitage syrah is rarely blended with any white grapes, unlike Cote Rotie. Of the 132 hectares = 326 acres (according to the Oxford Companion to Wine, 2006, now given as 136 ha = 336 acres in the on-line version) or thereabouts in the AOC Hermitage, Chapoutier owns 26 outright, and rents a further 5.5 ha. He owns 9 hectares of the most favoured site, Les Bessards. The Oxford Companion to Wine lists Le Pavillon, which comes entirely from Les Bessards, as one of the four top Hermitage reds.
Chapoutier Hermitage Le Pavillon falls in the now-quite-large grouping of Individual Vineyard wines from the firm. It is made from some of the oldest vines in the appellation, some now of the order of 90 – 100 years: Livingstone-Learmonth records an average age for the Le Pavillon vines c.65 years. Total production of the label varies between 600 and 1,100 x 9-litre cases per annum, varying with the season (and the information source). There are three other Chapoutier Hermitage wines in the Individual Vineyard series, L'Hermite (regarded by some as the pre-eminent wine), Le Meal, and Les Greffieux. They have smaller productions. There is also the village Hermitage, La Sizeranne, some 2,400 x 9-litre cases.
Winemaking for Le Pavillon is not too dissimilar from the other three Individual Vineyard Hermitage wines. It is the granite soil parent material that is the key difference. All grapes are hand-harvested, the website mentioning that over-maturity is sought. Yields are low, often half that allowed within the AOC prescription. For the 1991 for example, Robert Parker records 2 t/ha = 0.8 t/ac. Such low cropping rates in better seasons explain why Le Pavillon is considered by some as a 50-year wine: such wines start with a high dry extract, conducive to longevity. All grapes are de-stemmed, fermentation is all wild-yeasts in concrete (though oak cuves have also been used), cuvaison extends to 35, rarely 42 days, with maximum fermentation temperature now controlled to c.32°. In general, only the free-run juice is used. In some years there is also barrel-fermentation of some of the must. Elevation is usually 18 – 20 months in small oak, with 20 – 40% new depending on season, the balance once and twice-used barrels. The wine is not fined or filtered, and is now organic.
Parker in (1997) described Le Pavillon as ‘the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage.’ With the re-emergence of Jaboulet as a top-notch producer of Hermitage, the continual striving for quality at J L Chave, and Maison Guigal securing their own vineyards in favoured sites including Les Bessards in Hermitage, leading to the emergence of their Hermitage Ex-Voto in 2001, this assessment may not apply today.
Since taking over control, management, and direction of winemaking at Maison Chapoutier, Michel Chapoutier has progressively moved towards organic and latterly biodynamic principles of viticulture for the Individual Vineyard wines, and for much else of the firm's production. He is reported as not chaptalising, or adding acid, in these Individual Vineyard wines, instead seeking a totally natural expression of the vineyard site in each wine each year, but as with all winemakers, sometimes the needs of the vintage may require exceptions. One cannot know exactly. Le Pavillon was first made in 1989, and that vintage was included in this vertical tasting. The winemaking approach as been progressively refined over the years, in particular the use of less new oak, and less toasted oak. The wine has been released each year since inception, a lofty goal but perhaps an unwise one, on the evidence in this tasting.
Conclusions from the tasting:
Syrah is a grape capable of producing floral, fragrant and beautiful wines in its own right. In one sense great syrah can be likened to fine pinot noir (from the Cote de Nuits), but it is stronger and more aromatic. Like pinot noir, the intrinsic beauty of the grape is easily lost in warmer climates, or by over-ripening and thus losing the floral component, or by heavy-handed use of oak. In this set of Chapoutier wines the nett feeling (on my part) was that like Penfolds in Australia, the wines in some years are too much modified by winemaker decisions, and artefact. There is the late-picking the firm favours, a tendency to an oxidative style of wine-making (a phase Penfolds Grange also went through), and then excess oak, and often not ‘neutral’ oak, many wines having a toasty / char component which in time produces leathery and then coffee aromas. Both approaches reduce varietal complexity and accuracy in syrah rendition, and coffee and related odours have no place at all in sensitive / sophisticated temperate-climate red wines. Notwithstanding they are favoured by the unthinking.
On the oak factor, Robinson in 2011 quotes Michel Chapoutier as saying (in London): As for barrel toast - you can never trust a barrel maker. Why you want toast anyway? You don't want spices. People are tired of oaky taste. Nonetheless some of his Hermitage wines taste exactly that way, in comparison with the wines of Chave and Jaboulet. And it is worth remembering that Parker in 1997 quotes Chapoutier as saying that it was his goal to: kill the character of the grape, but bring up the quality of the vines. Whereas to me, the quality of the grapes, and their exact aroma and flavour is paramount. That many latter-day wine-writers endorse coffee notes in red wine merely illuminates the sad fact that too few people nowadays seek varietal accuracy and beauty in wine, preferring instead size, over-ripeness, ostentation, and impact. The contrast with a set of 12 Clape Cornas wines open at the same time, spanning the better years from 1979 to 2015, highlighted the heavy-handed approach in some of the Pavillons, the best of the Clape wines showing superb varietal beauty totally unmatched by the Chapoutiers.
But when all is said and done, to be able to carefully evaluate 24 vintages of a wine of the calibre of Chapoutier Hermitage Le Pavillon, all in one sitting, not only on the day, but on successive days thanks to conserving and settling the decanting dregs under ice, is a rare and privileged treat. Mike Parker provided the attendees with a benchmark experience. And the wine-experience and diverse skills of the attendees enabled an unusual quality of assessment of the wines. A vintage rating, and the summary views of some well-regarded wine-writers on the successive vintages of Le Pavillon in the tasting are shown in the Table.
Vintage Rating, then wine-writer ratings, for Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon ... the first 25 years ... 1989 - 2013
|Robinson||Parker||Wine Spectator||J.L-L 2|
|[ 2008 ] 3||[ 86 ]||[ 18 + ]||[ 93 ]||[ 91 ]||[ ****(*) ]|
|2007||91||18 ++||92 – 94||94||****|
|2001||89||18.5||93 – 95||94||******|
|1997||88||–||96 – 98||88||*****|
1 Wine Spectator in my view has the most carefully thought-through vintage ratings easily available
2 John Livingstone-Learmonth, author of the now-standard reference text on the wines of Northern Rhone Valley
3 The 2008 vintage not in this tasting.
My top wines of the tasting are illustrated with notes below: all the wines are discussed in more detail in the following reviews. Again vintage 2010 proved to be an absolute benchmark year for syrah in the northern Rhone Valley. My nett feeling about the better Chapoutier Hermitages is they are good syrahs, but they do not capture the essence of syrah the grape in the way that the top years of J L Chave Hermitage, Auguste Clape Cornas, and the wonderfully resurgent Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle in the hands of Caroline Frey, do.
The top wines from this 24-vintages vertical tasting of Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon, a 100% syrah wine, were able to be tasted alongside a similar tasting of 12 Domaine Clape Cornas syrahs. The latter illustrated that for the Chapoutiers, winemaker artefact and influence to a degree interfered with finding true syrah varietal quality. However these top vintages of Le Pavillon should please many tasters, especially if new oak is liked. For my top five, the first two bottles are missing. 2005 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon reminds of the 2003 and 2010, but is a little drier and more tanniny, three first places, 18.5. The 1999 shows much of the charm of that supremely elegant year, the wine now approaching full maturity, two first places, 18.5 +. Then on the left, the 2003 the wine of a warm year, which in the Northern Rhone Valley tends to favour syrah varietal expression. It is ripe and rich, not quite as aromatic as the top wines, but approaching maturity and well-liked, seven first places, 18.5 +. Then the 2009, another warm year, and the richest and deepest wine in the set, softer and deeper than the 2010, tending in the modern style, four first places, 18.5 +. And finally the exciting 2010, more aromatic than the 2009, as with many of these wines the exact varietal character of syrah the grape somewhat masked by excess oak, but the freshness of berry exciting, a long-term wine, two first places, 19.
I particularly thank Mike Parker, for his extraordinary generosity in hosting this tasting, plus subsequent discussion on the wines. That is not to say he agrees with my ranking or conclusions.
Livingstone-Learmonth, John, 2005: The Wines of the Northern Rhone. University of California Press, 704 p.
Parker, Robert, 1997: Wines of the Rhone Valley. Simon & Schuster, 685 p.
Robinson, Jancis, and Julia Harding, Eds., 2006: The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford University Press, 811 p.
Saintsbury, George, 1920, 1978: Notes on a Cellar Book. MacMillan, 166 p.
www.drinkrhone.com = John Livingstone-Learmonth, subscription needed for reviews
www.jancisrobinson.com = Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW, subscription needed for reviews
www.robertparker.com = Robert Parker and associates, subscription needed for reviews
www.winespectator.com = various authors, vintage chart, subscription needed for reviews
THE WINES REVIEWED – SYRAH:
‘Prices’ shown below are the current (2018) wine-searcher world value, expressed in $NZ. They give an ‘independent / collective wisdom’ slant on how each vintage is rated by the market at large, with the advantage that it is current value, whereas the wine-writer ratings (in the Table) may be historic. Where known, original purchase price is shown in the ‘admin’ text, noting that the release price for the Chapoutier wines seems to vary with the quality of the season, not inflation, and the final New Zealand price varied with the fluctuations of the $NZ.
Ruby, carmine and velvet, a great colour, the second deepest wine. Bouquet shows rich aromatic berry even hinting at black pepper and cassis in this cooler year, but unfortunately the varietal beauty of the fruit is somewhat obscured by far too much and too toasty oak. Below that mask is dense dark bottled plum fruit such as black doris. Palate has the wonderful freshness of berry the very best 2010 Northern Rhone syrahs show, great richness and length, and great cellar potential, but here with the risk the whole wine will be corrupted by the excess oak and end up tending leathery rather than velvety. This level of oak completely masks the floral notes fine syrah is famous for, and pretty well obscures any subtle pepper. Certainly in future comparative tastings of these great 2010 Northern Rhones, Le Pavillon will lose out on varietal precision compared to some of the more subtly raised syrahs from Hermitage and nearby districts, notably from producers such as J L Chave, Domaine Jamet, Auguste Clape, latter-day Jaboulet La Chapelle, and maybe possibly even Guigal’s Ex Voto, but the wine nonetheless will appeal to many. Sadly, these days, many, including too many winewriters, mark up oak. It was well received by the group, two first places, four second. Cellar 10 – 35 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 98. GK 10/18
Ruby, carmine and velvet, the richest and deepest wine in the set. Bouquet shows wonderful fruit richness and depth, and it is beautifully fragrant – though part of that fragrance is new oak. It is a little too ripe to show varietal florals or cassis aromatics clearly, but the depth of darkly plummy and nearly blackberry fruit is great. It is very much the soulmate of the 2003, but it seems both riper and less tanniny. Palate shows tactile rich fruit, but with a lot of toasty oak too, so like the 2010 there is the risk this wine will lose varietal focus as it ages. It is softer and riper than the 2010, less acid, a seductive wine and more accessible, in a more popular modern style. In the first flight of wines it was well-liked, four first places, two second. Cellar 10 – 30 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 96. GK 10/18
Vibrant ruby and velvet, showing relative youth for its age, just below the richest three in depth of colour. Bouquet shows beautifully ripe, sweet, fragrant, darkly plummy berry, a little too ripe for cassis and clearly too ripe for florals, but fresh and fragrant and not too oaky. Palate immediately introduces more obvious oak into the equation, but the strength of ripe berry with nearly a hint of blackberry and blueberry as well, balances the oak pretty well. This is a lovely wine, but tanniny, showing yet again what a mistake so many English winewriters make, in assuming that hotter years can never produce fine wines. In the Northern Rhone Valley, warmth is critically needed. But yes, I concede that a cooler year would have allowed greater syrah varietal expression, as the 2010 and 1999 wines try to show. This 2003 was well-liked by the group, seven first places, two second. Not yet quite on its plateau of maturity, cellar 10 – 25 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 94. GK 10/18
Ruby and velvet, some garnet creeping into the edges so a little age showing, above midway in depth. This for me was the best wine of the second, older, and lesser flight, because of the quality of the not-too-hot-year fruit, and the wine is showing less oak than many. There is nearly cassisy berry but it is browning now, plus more darkly plummy fruit, with oak that does not show excess toast. Palate is softening, harmonious, but like too many of these wines, also oaky / tanniny, the wine now embarking on its plateau of maturity. It is richer than the 2005. There was some some support for this wine, two first places, one second. Will cellar another 10 – 20 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 96. GK 10/18
Vibrant ruby and velvet, not as deep as 2003, above midway in depth. This wine opened up appealingly in the glass, showing good syrah varietal character a little riper than the 2010, not exactly floral or cassis, but beautifully fragrant on dark bottled plums and nearly blackberry fruit. There is even a hint of black pepper spice, and some garrigue-like aromatics, though like the 2010 they are nearly masked by the oak. Like the 2003, the oak comes in with a rush on the palate, and coupled with the high tannins of the 2005 vintage, there is a dryness on palate now, which I hope with time the fruit richness will cover. The 2005 brings together aspects of the 2003 and 2010 vintages, but it is not as rich. This wine too was popular, three first places and one second, but also one least place – perhaps the tannin load. Cellar 10 – 25 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 94. GK 10/18
Ruby and garnet, still some velvet, just below midway in depth. At the tasting this wine was TCA-affected to a degree, but the more professional tasters could see through the fog to quality fruit in behind. Putting the glass to bed with 100 mm² of Gladwrap® allowed full flowering of the wine overnight, the wine then showing fragrant but browning darkly plummy fruit, with some chestnutty notes from the elevation. Palate has beautiful fruit richness and velvety texture, just how you imagine the 2003 will develop. I'd prefer a less overt oak regime, but this is attractive nicely mature wine. I'd like to see it alongside 1991 Penfolds Grange – an unusually subtle edition of that ‘loud’ wine. On the day, it was not realistic to seek a ranking, but a good bottle would have done well. At nearly 30 years of age, it is well along its plateau of maturity, but will hold a few years yet. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 92. GK 10/18
Ruby, some velvet, just above midway in depth. This is a smaller wine in the field, and it is almost as if the makers have backed off on oak accordingly. There is a dusky rose floral quality, and near-cassis and black pepper spice making this wine more clearly syrah than most. Palate is much fresher than many too, fragrant berry definition, again nearly cassisy berry and fruit, attractive acid backbone, and the oak in remarkably good balance to the smaller fruit weight. It highlights the excesses in elevation so many of the other wines show. No ratings from the group at all, a wine to cellar 5 – 25 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 92. GK 10/18
Ruby, carmine and velvet, the third deepest wine. Bouquet shows good freshness and nearly floral notes, port-wine magnolia, on cassisy, plummy and nearly blackberry fruit. The vanillin of still-new oak is noticeable too. Palate reveals good berry richer than expected from the vintage, and the same mix of berry flavours as bouquet, in an appealing cleaner / lower toast oak regime. It seems not quite as rich as the 2012, yet tastes markedly younger. One person had this as their second wine. Cellar 10 – 25 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 91 years. GK 10/18
Ruby, some garnet and velvet, just below midway in depth. Like the 1991 and 1999 in the second flight, this is one of the fresher wines bespeaking a temperate year, with the wine showing an appropriate cassis level of ripeness browning now, plus a good depth of darkly plummy berry. Oak is somewhat less noticeable in this wine, making it an attractive example of maturing syrah. Palate is firm, not generous, but the browning cassisy berry continues, and is attractively balanced by less toasty oak than too many of these wines show. Nett flavour reminds of the 2006 with an imagined further 10 years down the track, perhaps a little tanniny. This wine did not speak to tasters on the day, no positive votes, one least. Cellar another 10 – 15 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 90. GK 10/18
Vibrant ruby and velvet, in the top quarter for depth / richness. This is another wine which reminds of the 2010 in freshness of berry character, nearly varietal florals and suggestions of black pepper, clear cassis and darkest plum, fragrant with almost a cool hint making you think: check this on palate. Palate is again one of the smaller wines, but there is good varietal vibrancy on palate, not too much masked by oak. Palate weight and length are more like the 2012, lingering attractively on berry flavours. Fruit / oak balance works well, here. The 2006 recorded three second-place votes. Cellar 10 – 20 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 92. GK 10/18
Good ruby and some velvet, younger than the 2001, just in the top quarter for depth. This is one of the wines in the tasting to improve dramatically with air. Initially, cooperage-related chestnutty factors were prominent. Later the still-oaky but dark bottled plums and a hint of blueberry nearly dominated. With a little maturity now, this wine epitomises the Chapoutier style, too much winemaker artefact, irrespective of the quality of the fruit. Palate shows good fruit richness and furry oak tannins, all embarking on its plateau of maturity. This wine passed without notice on the day, probably for the reason given. It was much better 24 hours later. Cellar 5 – 15 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 88. GK 10/18
Good vibrant ruby, some velvet. This is a softer wine on bouquet, a clear blueberry component in plummy berry, but a lot of toasty oak too. Palate is already soft and accessible, a wine more in the style that wins gold medals in frankly commercial judgings, where judges reward artefact (for example chocolate notes) rather more than berry flavours which accurately reflect the grapes the wine is made from. But the ratio of fruit to tannin is favourable, so the oak use here is sophisticated, in the sense of artful. It could be scored higher. On the day three people rated it their second favourite in the first flight. This will be a relatively early-developing wine, cellar 5 – 25 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 92. GK 10/18
Good ruby, a little garnet too, in the fourth quarter for depth. Bouquet shows one of the fresher wines in the second flight, with clear plummy berry and a suggestion of blueberry too, and oak not too prominent. Palate brings up the oak more, hints of the leathery Chapoutier factor, in a quite good weight of fruit finishing on an unexpected acid streak. This seems a richer wine than the 2006, more like the 2007. It was well-liked in the second flight, two first places, five second. The 1997 is some way along its plateau of maturity, cellar 5 – 15 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 88. GK 10/18
Good ruby and some velvet, older than the 2006, below midway in depth. This is another edition on the smaller side, and more forward than some older vintages. Bouquet is nearly floral (though oak vanillin is contributing), with bright berry character hinting at cassis, more clearly dark bottled plums, plus just the beginning of some secondary characters. Palate brings up the oak rather much, with suggestions of the leathery fruit / oak interaction character which detracts from the Chapoutier winestyle, for me, but there is fair berry too, and quite good length. One person rated this their top wine of the first flight, but two their least. It is a slightly shorter-term cellar prospect, 5 – 20 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 91. GK 10/18
Good ruby, some velvet, some garnet creeping in, ‘older’ than some wines of greater age. This is a fragrant version of Le Pavillon, light garrigue aromatics and trace brett more on the attractive 4-EG side, all on good cassisy berry starting to brown, and suggesting a temperate year. With air the ratio of berry to oak improved markedly. Palate reflects the bouquet accurately, good crisp cassisy syrah berry, attractive acid balance, good length, not too oaky. I liked this wine more than the group, no positive votes, three least. The wine is around midway on its plateau of maturity, and should cellar 5 – 10 years more. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 90. GK 10/18
Ruby and garnet, right in the middle for depth. Bouquet is distinctive for its aromatics, almost an Australian twang to this, garrigue anyway, on well-browning berry melding with the cooperage to produce another ‘good’ example of the Chapoutier elevation style – all getting a bit leathery / chestnutty. Palate has fair fruit but a lot of dry furry tannin: one hopes the also-tanniny 2005 will mature with the balance more to the berry than the tannin side. Attractive wine in its style, but not the elegance one seeks from Hermitage. The second flight of wines was more modest, and this vintage looked good in the company, one first place and four second. It is well along its plateau of maturity, cellar another 10 years or so. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 91. GK 10/18
A surprisingly ruby / youthful colour for its age, a little garnet naturally, but scarcely older than the 2000, good velvet, in the second quarter for depth. Bouquet is complex, fragrant, lifted by trace brett in its most benign 4-EG phase, good browning cassisy berry, the wine syrah-dominant, not Chapoutier-dominant, appealing. Oak is attractively balanced. Palate is a little older than the bouquet suggests, the brett more noticeable here, the wine at a perfect point of maturity. It will likely not hold this level of charm much longer, as the brett influence grows, the finish just starting to dry. I like the way you can taste a cassis level of ripening (i.e. the fruit not over-ripened) right through the palate, even though it is markedly browning. Far and away the most popular wine in the second flight, eleven first places, three second, showing that when it is subtle / minimal / just complexity, ‘even’ winemakers can enjoy a little brett. It might be best to cellar this only five or so more years, noting however that individual bottles will vary greatly as to the level of brett developed / displayed. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 89. GK 10/18
Ruby, some velvet, and some garnet starting to creep in, just in the third quarter for depth. This is much more evolved for its age than say the 2000, reflecting the lesser year. It is one of the wines smelling much more like a Chapoutier wine than a syrah from Hermitage, fruit and cooperage all melding into something chestnutty more than varietal / grapey. Palate shows one of the smaller wines, but it is mellow in a tanniny way, already on its plateau of maturity, not as rich as some. No positive votes for this one, five least votes (in the markedly better first flight). Cellar 5 – 10 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 82. GK 10/18
Ruby and considerable garnet, one of the lighter wines in the fourth quarter. Bouquet is quite different on this edition, a very sun-struck quality which is quite tanniny in one sense, or like grenache in another. The contrast with the more sensitive Clape approach could not be more vital, when comparing the two 1998 wines. And yet it is quite fragrant, the berry opening up markedly in the glass and wrapping around the tannin. Mike Parker in his introduction referred to a more oxidative style of winemaking for Le Pavillon, and this is a good example of it. Fruit notes are almost red plum, but browning now. There is not much syrah varietal quality here. Palate is quite rich in one sense, but markedly furry on the tannins, so much so it almost seems to lack fruit. This is an old-fashioned wine style now, but it reflects the season. Reception was mixed in our group, with one first-place vote, one second. In its almost Southern Rhone Valley style, it will hold a surprisingly long time. Cellar 10 – 15 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 90. GK 10/18
Ruby, a little garnet and some velvet, fractionally older than the 2000, in the middle for depth. This wine smells quite evolved for its age, but is let down by light brett more in the 4-EP phase, tending a little pharmaceutical. But behind that is good berry browning now, melding with tending-chestnutty oak. Palate is short, firm, the berry clipped by brett, so the oak is more noticeable, but still reasonably in style. The level of impairment (in its way) so far is no greater than is usual in a euc'y, overly-oaky, tartaric-adjusted Australian shiraz of similar age, so most people wouldn't notice the fault (unless they are sensitive to brett). Nonetheless because the first flight was so good, this wine was rather slammed, no votes in favour, seven as least wine. Though only half way along its plateau of maturity, this is another to cellar for a relatively shorter period, 5 – 10 years. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 89. GK 10/18
Ruby and garnet, the lightest wine. This wine was the only sample from a magnum. It opened very much needing air, a kind of oxidised initial impression. Its fruit quality unfolded dramatically in the glass, but like the 1998, it seemed very much the wine of an overly sunny year, smelling of tannins as well as browning plummy berry. Palate matches, a fair level of fully mature berry fruit well browning now, but also a lot of furry tannin, so the finish tended to be raisiny, short and dry. Nonetheless it was quite well liked on the day, two first places, two second, and no leasts, so mine was a minority view. In 750s, this might be best finished up in the next five years, if this bottle is representative. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 97. GK 10/18
Ruby and garnet, the second to lightest wine. Bouquet reflects a battle royal, between browning plummy red fruits on the one hand, and interesting gamey / horsey / seaweedy / pharmaceutical bretty qualities on the other – in short, both phases of Brettanomyces in full flight. The nett impression is still quite winey, in a very rustic way. Palate confirms the wine is still in possession of reasonable fruit, maturing fast, but the gamey at best / horsey at worst brett flavours are becoming untoward, and drying the finish markedly. Important for purists to register that there are wine-lovers who think this level of corruption is positive, thus one second-place vote, but seven least. As to the future, remember that no two bottles will be the same, with this level of brett. In general, it was a poor vintage, and the label Le Pavillon probably should not have been offered for sale. Bottles would be best drunk soon. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 79. GK 10/18
The first thing to say is, this bottle is almost certainly not representative, the wine opening quite oxidised, as random bottles do, even when the cork appears perfectly good. Colour is garnet, scarcely any ruby, in the fourth quarter for depth. Bouquet is fragrant but tending caramelised in an almost amontillado-like way, and quite rich and raisiny. Palate is strongly autumnal, brown and raisiny again, even coffee notes, no fruit in a red wine sense, but the wine is not thin at all. No positive votes, two least votes. The wine seems both clean and quite rich, so good bottles should have significant cellar life left in them. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 88. GK 10/18
Garnet and ruby, the third to lightest wine. If the 1992 reflects battle royal, the 1993 reflects the aftermath: brett is rampant, and what was (presumably) reasonably pleasant on bouquet in a gamey sense before, is now being infiltrated by relatively more unpleasant nearly-faecal notes. Palate is a little better, at best still gamey going on horsey, no fruit left as such but the browning residue is not thin or actively unpleasant, unless you are paranoid about brett. But this wine is very much on the decline, and will soon be unpleasant in both smell and flavour. Again, it was a poor vintage, and Le Pavillon probably should not have been offered for sale. As to the future, bottles will vary markedly, but likely the future is negative across the board. As for the 1992, some will opt to drink the 1993 up soon, others will send it to auction. No votes in favour, naturally enough, seven least votes. Wine Spectator quality rating for the vintage 78. GK 10/18