On Tuesday evening, at Otto’s, Paul Marus and I hosted a Chateau Picque Caillou dinner with the Proprietor Paulin Calvet

Picque Caillou itself is in Pessac-Leognan and is an estate we have worked with consistently since the 1960’s. Paulin spoke very well on the evening, he has an almost unique position in that he has a view as a producer and owner but also, having worked with Ets J-P.Moueix, a view as a Merchant and Negoce. This gives a very real and balanced view of the wines and trade in Bordeaux.

The venue, Otto’s, has been open since November 2011 and is going from strength to strength with traditional French cooking the backbone of all that goes on. A visit is strongly recommended.

So, Chateau Picque Caillou, a producer of both red and white with a total size of 20 hectares. The Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, which has a normal blend of 60%/40% accounts for 1.5 hectares, the remainder is Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and split fairly evenly. There is no desire here to make “thick” wines with richness at the expense of fruit and freshness. Quite the opposite in fact. Elegance and classicism would be more apt words.

The format of the evening was a relaxed one, a few words (and some very amusing anecdotes) from Paulin with each wine and vintage and then lots of good conversation.
We started with Picque Caillou Blanc 2008 on arrival, the only white of the night as sadly it all sells out so quickly on release. A honeyed nose that opens up as temperature in the glass rises…there is good balancing grapefruit acidity…a wine in it’s mid-life phase. As the Ravioli of Snailsarrived we shifted to the Red – the 2010 and 2011 vintages.
Picque Caillou 2011 – I really liked this, fresh red fruit and a good acidity that mean this wine has focus but accessible charm at the same time. Very enjoyable now, straight off the bat…now and for the next 10 years.

Picque Caillou 2010 – Delicious, masculine and darker in fruit than the 2011. In no way hard though. Complex and fascinating. Very enjoyable and appreciable now but one to leave tucked away for 3-5 years, if you can, and then enjoyed for many years.

“A great wine is always a great wine from day one onwards”

Was what Paulin said by way of a general comment that applied well to this 2010. The vintage was almost ignored until it was picked such was the obsession with how good 2009 looked. It was then a little embarrassing when producers had to say the 2010 was another “once in a lifetime experience”.

The 2009 vs 2010 question reared it’s head and when asked for a comparison between 2009 and 2010 Paulin used a new (to me) but very good analogy…”some people prefer a soft bed that is easy and a little decadent (2009) and others prefer a harder, stricter bed (2010)”.

With a “pair” of Beef Wellingtons hovering by the table is was most certainly time to move to an older maturing vintage in Magnum:

Picque Caillou 2000 – There is a seriousness and mineral intensity about this wine, still quite tight it is more “strict” that “flirty”…a savoury wine for serious conversation. A very fine effort, drink from now on but no rush at all.

Cheese then followed and with it a vintage where the high percentage of Merlot in Pessac really made a difference – 1998. You had to pick early and once that was done the later ripening Cabernets got rained on, rather heavily. The resulting wine is really lovely… 

Picque Caillou 1998
As with the 2000 this was from magnum. A real charmer, easy structure and lovely sweet aromatic softly developed red fruit. I could drink rather a lot of this. Perfect now but the balance is such that there is no hurry at all.

We did add in one other wine to finish things off –Chateau Briatte 2007, Sauternes. It showed very well and the freshness belied the high Semillon content.

It had been a cracking evening. The next morning the first thing I did was buy a case each of the 2011 and 2012 (not tasted but good Merlot you see!). I am hoping to go and see Paulin in August whilst on holiday, I’ll report back more afterwards!