I got to know Jean-Charles of Lynch-Bages a bit on my trip. He was a good looking chap, possibly in his mid-thirties, the face of a schoolboy… but he wore seriousness quite comfortably. His humor was there, though. In the first five minutes, he pointed to a house and told us it was his. “See that playground in the backyard?” It was quite elaborate. I imagined it was for the community or guests. He continued, “My parents built that for me.” At which point, I noticed no ring on his finger. “What can I say, eh? It is a pretty big hint, no?” Introductions that begin with laughter are always the best ones.
That first night in Pauillac, we stayed on the property in the breathtaking Relais & Chateaux Cordeillan Bages hotel and dined at the Café Lavinal, a tasty laidback bistro. This along with a bakery, gift shop, and art gallery came to comprise a little market square appropriately named ‘Bages Village.’ Cater to tourists? Yes. Cute nonetheless? Definitely. Plus, the food and wine were terrific. The real testament.
Though we began with some pleasant aperitifs of rose and white, the true treat was the 1990 Lynch Bages. It was drinking superbly—very well-integrated, loud with complexity yet soft spoken in its movements on the tongue. The best part? It smelled unmistakably of Pauillac—to me a more austere, hard-nosed appellation that demands you wait until it is ready to consume.
We actually sampled a Margaux, St. Julien and St. Estephe for comparison. The Pauillac seemed to stand above the others in terms of structure or backbone, if you will. This might even explain why three of five First Growths are to be found in Pauillac: Mouton, Lafite and Latour (if unsure what I am referring to, look up the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux). The Lynch-Bages had a mineral core, something like granite, with a peaty scent of earth lingering in the background. The St. Estephe was rougher, grittier…dirty; oozing with black fruit and currants. Some have even been known to call it slutty (I’ll let you decide why). Margaux is the one that is comparable to taking a walk through a flower shop. St. Julien, to me, is the most elegant, bearing some forest petals, dark berry fruit, a little more spice and herbal tones.
It was a very memorable evening, followed by an evening more memorable tour the next day of this immaculate, gorgeous winery. Everything has its place. It was a remarkable duet of the present and the past, as relics from early days of winemaking speckled their modern day facility. If you ever have a chance to visit Bordeaux, this is certainly a place that caters to visitors. Whether in the biz or not, you are certain to have a thorough, fascinating tour of this grand estate.