Arvo Pärt - Spiegel im Spiegel
presents the 2022 vintage at Pichon Comtesse.
2022 began with a chilly January, followed by a mild February. With the exception of December 2021, the winter’s total cumulative rainfall was lower than the ten-year average. March was also dry and mild with temperatures peaking for the first time at the end of the month.
Frost appeared on 1 April and continued for 5 days running, making another fleeting appearance on the 10th. Candles were lit in the vineyard at nightfall for four nights in a row. Ground temperatures slid up to -2.5°C, enough to prevent the buds from freezing.
While bud break occurred early, from 7 to 15 April, it nevertheless arrived one week later than in 2021. The vines were then able to relax until the last days of a lovely month of May, which heralded excellent conditions for flowering.
Temperatures rose in early June. Storms brewed as the month progressed until the fateful night of 20 June when a violent hailstorm struck the Médoc vineyards. At dawn on Midsummer’s Day, hearts were heavy to witness severe losses among the vines at Saint-Julien and north of Pauillac. Miraculously, the Pichon Comtesse vineyard was spared. At Saint-Estèphe, Pez was less fortunate. The further north we travelled, the greater the losses… up to 80% in some of the appellation’s plots.
Although spared from the hail, Pichon Comtesse recorded double the normal monthly rainfall on 30 June, totalling 120 millimetres. With it came the threat of mildew, hanging like a shadow over the vineyard…
Instead, a long drought set in from early July onwards. A meagre 4 millimetres of rain fell during the month, while August recorded 25 millimetres, mainly during storms on the 13th and 14th. This was far from anecdotal, especially for the Cabernet Sauvignon, which found itself drawing upon scarce resources to try and perfect its photosynthesis and ripen serenely through a long period of drought, which was quickly joined by an onset of heatwaves. Véraison (colour change) spanned from 30 July to 9 August due to these conditions and resulted in early ripening, much like the 2020 vintage.
July’s conditions hinted to variations in vine growth among the grape varieties, but by the end of the summer, harmony reigned. The harvest lasted no more than three weeks, starting on 6 September. Other vintages claiming such early harvests include the 2011, 2003, and 1989. Plus, the conditions were excellent: rain did not fall until the 26th, the second to last day of the harvest.
How excited we were to finally see the grapes in the cellar!
Such unprecedented fresh, smooth and opulent Merlots! Could they be the greatest ever at Pichon Comtesse? While notes of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel start to fill the air in the cellar, so do floral and fruity fragrances which are at once captivating and ethereal. The Cabernet Sauvignon has reached its full phenolic ripeness.
It already reveals an unmistakable, precise tannic texture. The expertise of the extraction process would go far in confirming the wine’s elegant, stylish character. The Cabernet Franc is ethereal, fresh and floral. The Petit Verdot’s wild and spicy temperament has been accentuated by the weather conditions, thus begging the question, how can we use it sparingly and appropriately in the blend?
Telling a story
As the time comes for selecting and blending, the grape varieties are fully expressing themselves.
The Merlot wines are smooth and delicious with a vibrant character that comes to life when tasted. They are redolent of blue and black fruit with very elegant bitter notes of blood orange zest. Their floral character – slight mineral notes of iris and violet – bring the 2020 vintage to mind. The overall impression is of an understated and incredibly fresh wine.
Cabernet Franc rounds out the aromatic profile. Its highly assertive tannic texture is the perfect match for the Médoc’s main grape variety.
Such minerality, precision and meticulousness in the subtle, polished, grainy tannins of this Cabernet Sauvignon give the blend a finesse, elegance and restrained power possessed by the greatest vintages. A tannic power that ties the wine together, lengthens the tasting and endlessly prolongs the wine’s body and structure. The kind of great Médoc wine that ages so well.
Petit Verdot joins the Réserve blend, giving it a power and aromatic complexity that makes this second wine a nectar in its own right, asserting its unique character and offering a gateway into the world of Pichon Comtesse. It bodes well for the Grand Vin’s tasting potential.
What does this 2022 vintage – the second year following official conversion to organic farming – tell us from inside the cellar?
From a broader perspective, within the context of climate change, it speaks of the typical character of Bordeaux wines. Predictions foretold of a trend towards more southern wines, with almost baked aromas and notes of prune, garrigue and herbes de Provence… 2022 demonstrates the opposite to be true. This confirmation of the long-established character of Bordeaux grape varieties comes as a surprise, and raises questions as much as it delights.
It also showcases the very identity of Pichon Comtesse in all its charm and elegance, coupled with today’s great ambition to further assert the estate’s distinctive Pauillac terroir dedicated to Cabernet. The result is the epitome of smoothness, delicious flavours, elegance and finesse.
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