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CHATEAU PUY - LACOSTE BORIE

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Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste
There are one or two (or maybe more, in fact) chateaux at the bottom of the 1855 classification that are certainly worth knowing, tasting, buying and drinking. The lowest rung, the cinquièmes crus, are dominated by the chateaux of Pauillac, which take up twelve of the eighteen slots here. Some offer merely good value for money, but there are some that offer fine quality, indicative of the their eligibility for promotion, should such a feature of the classification exist. Lynch-Bages is an old favourite for many, frequently trotted out as an example of an over-performing estate more akin to a second growth than a fifth. But nowadays, Pontet-Canet offers the same, sheer quality. Grand-Puy-Lacoste is another.

The origins of Grand-Puy-Lacoste, as well as that of its twin Grand-Puy-Ducasse, lie in a single estate that existed in the northern parts of the commune around Pauillac in the Middle Ages. The estate incorporated the Grand Puy, one of the many gravel croupes which are a feature of the Haut-Médoc, and which often provide the perfect terroir for Cabernet, and as a consequence they have an association with many of the greatest estates of the region. The Grand Puy, puy being another of the seemingly endless litany of words which refer to a hill or mound, lies a few kilometres inland of the town of Pauillac, and the soil that lay on it five centuries ago belonged to a Monsieur de Guiraud. He had two daughters, one of whom married a gentleman named Dejean, and the estate seems to have been passed down this line. From here it passed to their son, Bertrand, and it was possibly during his tenure that the estate was divided, giving rise to the two Grand-Puy estates that exist today. Dejean was a fairly wealthy landowner, buying and selling land; he owned the nearby Lynch-Bages as well as the vineyards on the Grand Puy. In 1750 he sold some of the latter vineyards to Pierre Ducasse, and common sense would suggest that this was the origin of Grand-Puy-Ducasse. What remained with the family, subsequently inherited by one of his daughters, was the origin of Grand-Puy-Lacoste. The estate was passed down the female line through two generations, to the next daughter and then to the granddaughter, who married a Monsieur de Saint-Guiron. At this time the estate was known as Saint-Guiron, and is listed as such in documents from the mid-19th Century. Their offspring, another daughter, married François Lacoste, and it was through this union that the estate's modern name originated.

By this time viticulture was firmly established on the estate, and both Lacoste and Ducasse were selling their wines alongside those from other nearby properties. Their presence and prices were sufficient for them to be listed in the 1855 classification of the Médoc, both ranked at the level of cinquième cru. Around this time the family added an attractive chateau to their assets, in place of the house which dated from the previous century. François Lacoste bequeathed the estate to his son, Frédéric, who then passed it on to his daughter, Madame de Saint-Legier. She sold the estate to two gentlemen, Messieurs Neal and Hériveau, who themselves sold the estate to Raymond Dupin in 1932. Dupin was an absentee landlord, and although he was not too distant - he resided in Bordeaux, living a lavish, bachelor lifestyle - the estate naturally fell into a decline during this time, a decline no doubt reinforced by the obligatory sequence of phylloxera, oidium, war and depression which characterised the late 19th and early 20th Century. From a starting point of 55 hectares, the vineyards were less than half that in the 1960s, when they reached a low point of 25 hectares. The necessary turn around in this inadequate approach began the following decade, and really gathered pace when, in 1978, Dupin sold half of his shares in the estate to Jean-Eugène Borie of Ducru-Beaucaillou. Over the years since the acquisition, the Borie family have gradually taken over responsibility for the chateau, estate and vineyards in their entirety, and it is now François-Xavier, Jean-Eugène's son, that runs the estate. There has been an impressive program of investment and innovation, with new equipment installed in the expanded cellar. Under Borie's direction quality, which never took a nosedive in the way that some estates did during the 20th Century, has risen even further, and the wines today are without doubt worth seeking out.

The vineyards now cover 55 hectares of the Pauillac commune, lying across two of the all important gravel croupes. The vines stretch away from the chateau as far as the D206, which runs between Pauillac and Saint-Laurent, but they do not extend across onto the Bages plateau on the other side of the road. They also run down to the southwest, towards the vineyards of Batailley and Lynch-Moussas. The vines are predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, accounting for 75%, the remainder Merlot, planted at a density of 10000 vines/ha, and with an average age of 40 years. As might be expected, harvest is manual, the fruit destemmed and then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless-steel where it remains for up to three weeks before going into oak for up to twenty months. Of this, up to 40% will be new wood each vintage. The grand vin is Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, of which there are up to 18000 cases per annum, and there is a second wine, Lacoste-Borie.

Over the years I have tasted a few vintages of Grand-Puy-Lacoste, and my most recent tasting notes are presented below. What I have tended to find is that this estate can turn out some great wines, in favourable vintages. I found the 1997 lacking. The 1975 was marred by oxidation, but admittedly there were many faulty or otherwise disappointing wines at that tasting. But in 1981 and 1983 there were two very good wines, the former a little more impressive in my opinion. I have been sufficiently convinced to add some more recent vintages to my personal cellar, and will look forward to tasting and drinking these in future years.


vino za bogove, 5 flasa u steku od 2003

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