The village of Pauillac is found on the most impressive gravel plateau of the Medoc. Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild occupy a peak on an impressive plateau in the north of the commune which stands at 27m (88ft). Latour is situated in the south of the appellation and stands 14m (47ft) above sea-level, providing further drainage and the best view of the Gironde. The high mounds mean that the roots have to dig deep to find the water basin, struggling and concentrating their energy. The soil contains iron adding an extra minerality and richness to the wine. This is why it is known as the most legendary Bordeaux village, three of the five First Growths are located here.

Outside the First Growths Pauillac has only two Second Growths; Pichon Lalande and Baron and one Fourth Growth; Duhart-Milon. One could argue that this was due to the village’s focus being on these leading five estates in the 18th and 19th century. However, the incredible terroir meant that while most investment went into the leading estates, Pauillac boasts nine Fifth Growths. Of these nine two unquestionably should be considered Second Growths; Pontet Canet (currently performing like a First Growth), and Lynch Bages. Batailley, Armailhac (owned by Mouton) and Grand Puy Lacoste should be considered Third Growths, with Lynch Moussas, Haut-Batailley and Grand Puy Ducasse not far behind. Pedesclaux and Croizet Bages are perennial underperformers.

Grand Puy Lacoste is found behind Lynch Bages and on the same longitude as Mouton and Pontet Canet and without gilding the lily it is fair to say its potential is great and production small by comparison. The vineyard, once shared with Grand Puy Ducasse, is roughly 36 hectares (90 acres) found on deep gravel top soil with a limestone base. It produces 12,000 cases a year, fermentation occurs in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and the wines see 50% new oak ageing for 18 months. The name Puy means small height or hillock and the estate stayed in the same family from the 16th century to 1920 before connecting with the Borie family; currently under the management of Francois-Xavier Borie. Interestingly Grand Puy Lacoste is known as the Crocodile Wine in China due to it sharing the same name as the well known French sports brand Lacoste.

In 2009 and 2010 Grand Puy Lacoste produced its greatest ever back to back vintages, both scoring 95 points from Parker, hardly surprising when one considers how similar their terroir is to Mouton and Lafite Rothschild. The big difference is price. Their efforts in 2009 and 2010 mean they have produced a wine that could outmuscle First Growths from traditional vintages, but at an eighth of the price. 2009 is a vintage to cellar, there will be few, perhaps no vintages like it in the next twenty years. We believe from tasting this wine over the last four years that it is possibly the best wine from the vintages in terms of price versus quality. Wines between £40 and £150 a bottle will perform well over the next ten years with buyers looking for great wines at sensible prices.

Performing better from bottle than it did from cask (and comparable to their wines 2005, 2000, 1990 and 1982), this is a great classic from Xavier Borie’s estate situated on the back roads west of the town of Pauillac. Its dense ruby/purple color is followed by hints of spring flowers, crushed rocks, black currants, cedar and earth/underbrush. Precise and elegant as well as backward and foreboding, it should put on weight in the bottle and evolve for two decades. Very concentrated as well as velvety-textured, it is a beauty of finesse, balance, purity and nobility. It will benefit from 5-7 more years of bottle age. Robert Parker