What made the event so special was the chance to taste a range of vintages from Chateau Picque Caillou with the charming and highly articulate owner – Paulin Calvet.
Pessac-Leognan, or Graves, as it is more usually described, is the Bordeaux everyone ends up appreciating more the older they get. Graves develops smoky, tobacco flavours as it ages – what I call tarbacco. The region has long been a favourite in Britain – in fact, Chateau Haut-Brion was the first Bordeaux Chateau to be mentioned in print, when Samuel Pepys spoke of drinking “a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.” Picque Caillou is a next-door neighbour of this fabled wine, though the price is somewhat more reasonable.
The evening was possible thanks to Sanlam, one of the leading financial services groups and sponsors of The Week Wines, plus one of our partner wine merchants, Haynes Hanson & Clark. Following a reception of Champagne and canapes, the first wine we tried was the Picque Caillou blanc from 2016, served with fresh crab, bisque, lardo and apple. Predominantly Sauvignon Blanc with a dash of Semillon, it was wonderfully cleansing with a hint of apricots in the aftertaste. It is too easy to forget that a generation or two ago, Bordeaux produced more white than red wines. They age magnificently and are far more subtle and satisfying than the bolder contemporary wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape.
Paulin Calvet started our red tasting with his 2014 vintage with its spicy, peppery overtones. It coped easily with the partridge and mushroom dish, but will show even better in five years or so. This was followed by a veal cheek and purée of potato that crumbled to the touch and was the perfect foil for the next two wines. The 2012 was elegant and fully justified Paulin’s comment: “Don’t judge a wine by its weight, but by its complexity”. However, it was overshadowed by the splendid 2009 with all of the quality and expression of this great vintage.
The final wine of the night was from the 1998 vintage, which was exceptional in Graves. This was served in magnums, meaning it had more chance to mature slowly in the bottle. It was a real treat to see the way it evolved in the glass – after 10 or 15 minutes, it was completely different with a beautiful expression of the classic attributes of Graves. Paulin spoke convincingly of how winemakers in Bordeaux are now showing far more interest in creating complex wines rather than merely powerful “fruit bombs” so beloved of the American wine critic Robert Parker. Bordeaux was never meant to saturate your palate with its power and now it is returning to its original brief of offering elegant, balanced wines that are perfect with a whole range of food and cheese. Chateau Picque Caillou costs a mere fraction of the more famous labels in Graves, yet has the ability to give immense pleasure, even when it is relatively young. It was a privilege to have an understanding of the various vintages, helped immensely by the descriptions and passion of its owner.
Thank you to everyone involved in making it such an enjoyable evening - the food was exceptional, as always; the wine was the perfect match and the feedback we received from guests was lovely to hear. Tickets to our next event have sold out, but I’m looking forward to the dinners we have planned in 2019 already. Watch this space for more details soon…
Editor, The Week Wines
Two wines from the evening are available to purchase - click here to view the collection.