Château Pavie 2020
• Domaine: Château Pavie
• Appellation: Saint-Emilion
• Classification: Premier Grand Cru Classé A
• Origin: Right Bank, Bordeaux, France
Sometimes great success takes time to attain. The Saint-Émilion Premiere Grand Cru Classé A producer, Château Pavie, is proof of that sentiment. It took this esteemed estate approximately 2,000 years and significant financial investment to achieve critical recognition on a global scale. The story of Château Pavie is in many aspects an underdog story. It’s a story of setbacks - with its fair share of controversy along the way. Yet despite all of this, the wines this Saint-Émilion powerhouse produces are phenomenal expressions of Right Bank Bordeaux, and proof that this property more than deserves its classification of Premiere Grand Cru Classé A status.
The vineyards of Château Pavie share a similar history with Château Ausone – they were both planted in the Roman Era, during the 4th Century. The limestone terroir with heavy sun exposure proved perfect for Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Château Pavie was a respectable producer during the 19th Century, and it was one of the largest estates in the Right Bank. It changed hands many times throughout the centuries: weathering wars, phylloxera, and economic setbacks. But it wasn’t until 1998 when Gerard Perse – a millionaire and former cyclist – purchased the property that the wines of Château Pavie began their meteoric rise in terms of quality.
Gérard Perse purchased Château Pavie for 31 million in 1998 and invested significant sums of money in a renovation of the tasting rooms and vat rooms. The latest renovation caused a bit of controversy – as some critics did not appreciate the lavish marble entryway of the new tasting room. This did not discourage Perse, and he continued to do whatever he could to make Château Pavie a top tier Saint-Émilion producer. He hired Michel Rolland, one of the top oenologists, as a consultant. Stylistically, the wines shifted from the more delicate versions of the past to more powerful, richly hued wines with heavier tannins and higher alcohol.
The critics were divided about these changes. Robert Parker raved about the new style of Grand Vin at Château Pavie but other critics, such as Jane Anson from Decanter were not as enthused. The conflict peaked during the 2003 vintage when Jane Anson gave it a negative review and Robert Parker sung its praises, escalating in an all-out war of the words between the two critics. Thankfully, things have calmed down since that fateful vintage and it appears both critics mutually agree on the superb quality of these wines.
The vines at Château Pavie all grow in one block – something that is highly unusual for Saint-Émilion producers. Château Pavie practices sustainable viticulture and is hoping to convert to organic farming in the future. Under the reign of Gerard Persé, the team is not afraid to break the mold and make radical changes to ensure top quality wine – regardless of what the critics say. His efforts paid off in 2012 when Château Pavie received its promotion to Saint-Émilion's Premiere Grand Crus Classé A ranking. The estate had finally achieved the recognition it deserved.
"Composed of 50% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2020 Pavie weighs in with an alcohol of 14.82% and a pH of 3.61. It is aging in French oak barriques, 75% new. Opaque purple-black colored, notes of plum pudding, blueberry pie and dark chocolate-covered cherries charge out of the gate, followed closely by hints of eucalyptus, star anise, unsmoked cigars and fertile loam with a hint of cedar chest. The full-bodied palate is built like a brick house, offering very firm yet wonderfully ripe, velvety tannins and seamless freshness to support the densely laden, muscular black and blue fruits, finishing very long and with loads of mineral-laced layers. As hedonic as it is cerebral this year, it is a beautiful paradox." - Lis Perrotti-Brown, Ratings: 97-99, Drink: 2027-2062
"The Cabernets dominate the blend on the aromatics, and you can really see they are moving the needle on the architecture and sculpting of this wine. A ton of concentration on the nose and upfront, but it is well balanced by damson and blackberry, and has a sense of energy, uplift and clear minerality. This shows the limestone terroir in a way that, with the best will in the world, the more concentrated style of Pavie just didn't do. There is density and glamour, with layers of black chocolate, graphite and liquorice. It is pretty disarming overall, and will age extremely well. 3.61pH. A yield of 31hl/ha, average age of vine 49 years. 75% new oak." - Jane Anson, Decanter, Ratings: 97, Drink: 2027-2044