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Pichon Baron at Hatfield's

by Joe Marchant (Director, BI USA)

“We call it crack-corn..” murmurs Karl, barman of Hatfields restaurant and purveyor of a bar snack so insidiously more-ish, it’s a wonder it’s legal.

Popcorn, the drab cardboard, cinema staple has been taken to the level of art form here, freshly puffed and suffused with salt, rosemary and dark magic. We’re into our 3rd bowl and 2nd Negroni / G&T – (St George’s gin, another CA discovery) – while the table is being set for a midweek Pichon Baron smackdown.

Despite the prominence of the B in BI, it’s been a while since we’ve meandered down the Bordeaux path here. Barolo and Burgundy seem to capture the imagination of the Los Angeles vigne-scenti a little more vigorously these days, even though our guests proved to have equally deep cellars of the Gironde's finest.

First up, served alongside Hatfield’s signature ‘Croque Madame’ (Yellowtail sashimi, prosciutto, quails egg on toasted brioche – and just as richly delicious as it sounds) were the 96 and 01. I’ve been guilty in the past of underestimating the aromatic complexity of the good Baron but if ever proof were needed to confirm it can be just as delicate and expressive as that other place, the 96 was it. Textbook pencil lead and delicate briary cassis. A refreshingly firm, middle weight of a wine that was effortlessly balanced and harmonious. The 01 provided an interesting foil - darker, a little less expressive and a tad shorter perhaps, but fleshy and refreshing nonetheless.

Next up were the heavyweights. 2000 has always been a favourite of ours. It’s a rich, decadent Pichon B that shows plenty of ripeness without forsaking balance and complexity. It’s one of a handful of 2000s that has been great to drink almost since release and has a long and pleasure-filled life ahead of it. The 05 (ta Conrad) is a different animal altogether. Still blue black, with a core of graphite and mineral laden fruit and a firm tannic spine. It’s much more reminiscent of the 1989 and like that wine, is one that puts the ‘Pau!’ in  Pauillac....

Last to go with the 36hr braised short rib of beef was the monumental 89/90 pairing. Sadly the 1989 was suffering on the night, brownish at the rim and with too much tomato for comfort. Given other recent examples have been youthfully un-evolved, heat damage was the verdict. No such problems with the 1990 which is a thoroughly charming, blockbuster. Built along similar lines to the 2000, it remains notably young for such a ripe vintage and shows all the signs of aging effortlessly for another couple of decades.

The Verdict? Frankly we could have saved ourselves a few hundred words. These are great wines by any measure and tasting multiple vintages side by side just re-enforces why they’re worth putting in the cellar, year after year. Votes for another evening in our favourite corner of South-West France? Unanimously in favour. We’re thinking, Ducru, Montrose or Leoville Las Cases – drop us a line if you’d like to come along - [email protected]

Thanks to all at Hatfield's for the superb food and wine service - see you all again soon. 

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