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stirring the lees with james molesworth

Like a Good Neighbor, Gazin Is There

In Pomerol's ritziest area, Château Gazin is the value play
Photo by: James Molesworth
It's Pétrus to the left, Gazin to the right, on the Pomerol plateau.

Posted: Aug 21, 2014 12:00pm ET

In Pomerol, Château Gazin owner Nicolas de Bailliencourt is more than happy to talk over the fence, so to speak. And why not? His 64-acre property has some pretty tony neighbors, as it sits partially on the blue clay plateau that is the heart of Pomerol, encircled by such lofty names as Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan, La Conseillante and L'Évangile.

"The new school is about communication," said de Bailliencourt, 68. "In this circle, we all talk and share information. And I'm happy with that. I don't want a winemaker who just spends all day inside. The old school spends all day inside, but they should be out here," he said, gesturing toward the rows of vines around him.

Charged with being outside as much as inside, Michel Obert has been technical director since the 2005 vintage. The winery is equipped with the standard Pomerol lineup of cement vats for fermentation, with élevage done in 50 percent new oak for 15 to 18 months, depending on the vintage.

Gazin has been in the de Bailliencourt family since 1917, and Nicolas has run it since 1990. With 42 of the estate's 64 acres right on the plateau, it enjoys prime terroir. The estate is planted to 91 percent Merlot, with 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc. Typically 8,333 cases are made a year, with three-quarters making the cut for the grand vin, while the rest goes to the consistently very good second wine, l'Hospitalet de Gazin.

But while the prices of wines from the châteaus neighboring Gazin run in the low triple digits to four digits (for Pétrus), Gazin remains the relative value of the bunch, topping out at just about $100 a bottle in prime vintages, and a more sane $70 in the less impressive years. One of the ways de Bailliencourt is able to get his wine to market at a more reasonable price is the relatively uncommon practice of leasing barrels for the aging, rather than purchasing several hundred new barrels every year (top-quality oak can run $800 to $1,000 per barrel). As the wine is racked and ensuing barrels go empty due to the slight evaporation that takes place, de Bailliencourt can return barrels he's not using and reduce his overhead along the way.

The Château Gazin Pomerol 2012, made entirely from Merlot, shows the house style to a T, as it has an opulent mouthfeel but isn't overdone or overripe. There's a light singed mesquite note and a core of crushed plum, blueberry and blackberry paste flavors. It's long and toasted on the finish, staying polished and integrated. And even in off years, the wine has stuffing and complexity, such as the Château Gazin Pomerol 2007, which shows lovely black tea and warm raspberry coulis notes, with a gentle singed mesquite edge again as the finish is marked by caressing structure.

Wilfred Wong
San Francisco,CA, USA —  August 28, 2014 11:46am ET
James is one of my favorite writers. His notes are thoughtful and insightful. I encourage everyone who loves wine to take note of what he does. BTW, I am a big fan of Ch Gazin.

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