Perhaps the greatest and certainly one of the most important wine growing regions on earth, Pauillac is the home of grand Châteaus, manicured gardens, wine-industry wealth, and of course, a collection of fine red wines that is urivaled in terms of overall quality. Pauillac is the face of Bordeaux, home to some of the most famous wineries on the planet: Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Lafite-Rothschild. Like many superstars they require only one name. Despite producing almost one million cases of wine per year, Pauillac is known for ridiculously high standards of quality, along with some ridiculously high prices as well. There are few other wines that can boast of being enjoyable when young, yet have the stuffing to improve in bottle for decades.
Flanked in the Haut-Médoc by Saint-Estèphe to the north and Saint-Julien to the south, Pauillac is divided in half by a small stream called the Pibran. Some of the greatest Château here were already famous before Dutch engineers drained the swampy Gironde, revealing the mounds of heavy gravel that would became the breeding grounds of benchmark wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon. Perched slightly above many of the other Châteaus, the first growths still enjoy more favorable conditions of higher elevations and exposure to the southern sun. The 1855 Classifications of Bordeaux Wines ranked three of the five first growths of Bordeaux in this commune, with another fifteen classified wines as well. The heavy gravel soil, mixed with touches of sand, limestone and iron in certain spots, provides just enough nutrients and minerals to give the wines a combination of finesse, elegance, and intensity that can only be matched on rare occurances elsewhere in the world.
Pauillac is the home of Cabernet Sauvignon based wines, with elements of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot as well. But it is the former of the two Cabernets that really holds sway. So much so that for years wine makers all over the planet have tried to recreate the successes found here. The soil in Pauillac is key, but the commune can also boast of meticulous standards in wine making and grape growing. The practice of estates producing a second wine that hails from younger vines or less favoured spots has increased the quality of the top wines as well, so that today even in the "off" vintages the high end stuff is more consistently great than in decades past.
The mix of fruit, earth, spice, tannins, texture and longevity are what stand out in Pauillac wine. More enjoyable in their youth than some of the other great wines produced in the Haut-Médoc, the best wines from the best vintages of Pauillac will hold for deacades or more, with the occasional example dating back to the turn of the 20th century, let alone the 21st. Though these examples are rare, it is a great indicator of the quality we are referring to.
Pauillac does not come without its faults, as the prices have risen steadily for years, only to take off recently in such a dramatic fashion that even the lesser wines are now out of reach for many. Second wines and purchasing from "off" vintages can be a great way to sample the riches of Pauillac without parting with riches, though as certain trade magazines roll out their "vintage of century" mantra every couple of years, the prices will continue to rise. White wines from the region are rare, and are sold as AC Bordeaux or AC Bordeuax Supérieur.
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