The Morning of Day Three: Chateau Lynch Bages

We kicked off the weekend by checking out of our hotel to head into the city of Bordeaux.  But first, we headed to Chateau Lynch Bages to take a tour and participate in a blending session.

One of the very first Bordeaux wines that I ever had was a 1985 vintage of Chateau Lynch Bages from Pauillac.  I don’t remember the specifics of having that particular wine 22 years ago, but I became hooked on Bordeaux and Lynch Bages from that point on.  I have been a long time fan of Lynch Bages and have really enjoyed getting to know Jean-Charles Cazes over the last six years.  Chateau Lynch Bages makes big muscular cabernet dominant wines that become elegant with age and are classic Pauillac in style.

The stainless vats.
The stainless steel vats.
A barrel room.
The barrel room.

The wine style of the Chateau may be very traditional, but it uses state of the art technology (stainless steel vats, optical sorting) to help produce their wines, which is a real asset to ensure consistency.  Chateau Lynch Bages is one of the few Chateaux in Bordeaux to have their own bottling machines, as most rent bottling trucks – talk about a crazy business during the crush!

Lynch Bages is one of a few Chateau that has its own bottling equipment.
Lynch Bages is one of a few Chateau that has its own bottling equipment.

We also saw where they are producing their whites – the Blanc de Lynch Bages that we had enjoyed at a previous Bordeaux Fete wine dinner in Seattle.  It’s a wonderful wine – crisp, floral, bright fruit with juicy acidity and minerality – we bought a bottle on our way out of the Chateau – and happily drank it a few days later, wishing we could get more at home.

The tanks for the Blanc de Lynch Bages.
The tanks for the Blanc de Lynch Bages.

The Chateau also houses a small wine museum, where they keep old winemaking equipment as a nod to the not-so-far-off techniques of their winemaking past.  They joked that in a pinch, they could also roll out this equipment to help with a harvest should technology ever fail them!  The more rustic equipment was juxtaposed with very contemporary art, combining to make it a hip and cool viewing experience.

The old wooden vats.
The old wooden vats.
The wine making and art museum.
The wine making and art museum.  They say no one has fallen through the floor yet!

While we were at Chateau Lynch Bages, we had the opportunity to take part in a blending session.  We were given four wines of a single grape varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot, all from the 2008 vintage and without any oak influence. These were the component parts of the 2008 Chateau Lynch Bages, and it was really interesting to taste them in their “raw” state, pre-blending.  Each varietal brings it’s own flavor profile and characteristics, from the mellow Merlot to the more wild Cab Franc.

The blending session.
The blending session.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – Deep red/black sweet dark cherry fruit, dry and very tannic.

2008 Cabernet Franc – Darker black fruit, wild, brambley, slightly sour and more acidic, very tannic.

2008 Merlot – Sweeter red fruit, rounded in the mouth, tannic but not dry.

2008 Petite Verdot – Darkest of the four, wild blackberry and spice, hint of tobacco, powerful, very dry and very tannic.

The four varietals - and the finished product!
The four varietals – and the finished product!

At the end of the blending session, we were given a taste of the 2008 Lynch Bages – the blend was made up of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petite Verdot, with aging in 75% new French oak barrels. The blend was so much better than any of the individual parts – and it gives you a real appreciation for the subtleties the winemakers are working with.  Here’s my review of that wine:

2008 Chateau Lynch Bages – Sweet dark blackberries, with a little bit of red pie cherries, rich spicy fruit flavors that were slightly dry and very tannic on the medium-long finish.  This is a very nice wine, but it’s still just a baby.

A few of us were then given the opportunity to try our own blends.  I decided to reduce the Cabernet Sauvignon, and pump up the Cabernet Franc, so I made a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petite Verdot.  The results were a very dark wine of sweet black berries that were spicy, rounder in the mouth and with a smoother tannic finish.  Who knows how my wine would’ve aged, but you could definitely taste the difference a few small percentages in one direction or another makes – it’s certainly fun to experiment!

Next up, exploring Bordeaux city…

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