[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was sell-off or fail for Etienne de Bailliencourt. The only child from Edouard de Bailliencourt’s brood, Etienne yearned to bear the precarious undertaking of owning and making a success the waning family-estate in Pomerol. The preceding two centuries had spelt a concoction of prosperity and despondency for Chateau Gazin, with many owners, personalities and business attitudes passing over its clay and gravel soils.
Gazin’s origins reportedly go back to Gallo-Roman times, though the Middle Ages heralded the genesis of its vinous prospects. Upon the de Bailliencourt’s acquisition of Gazin by virtue of Etienne’s mother in 1918 and as the 20th century progressed, a myriad of adversities crystallized. It was blighted by phylloxera, battered by depression, war, and vine disease… it certainly looked a sorry case.
Etienne’s solution? Sell a blue-ribbon vineyard plot to adjacent Chateau Petrus, to enable him to buy out his siblings of their Gazin shares. The estate today can feel bitter-sweet about vending a prime chunk of land that indelibly enabled it to remain in family custody, but which meanwhile assisted a Chateau neighbour to eventually achieve the covetable status of most expensive red wine in the world. What’s more intriguing is the fact that Pomerol, unlike other Bordeaux regions, has no classification system. Through the advantage of a smaller appellation, which enables straightforward control of quality, the Chateaux in Pomerol have the ability to command remarkable prices through pure product excellence, a little hype, and brand loyalty. To put things in perspective, Chateau Petrus Pomerol 2000 averages €3,883.00, while Chateau Gazin 2000 averages €87.00. In nearby Saint-Émilion, Premier Grand Cru Classe Chateau Cheval Blanc 2000 is currently valued at €967.00 (data courtesy of wine-searcher.com).
Deservingly, Chateau Gazin is recognized as one of the great growths of Pomerol. Vines cover 56.8 hectares of land and the estate’s potential production is 100,000 bottles. When we consider the qualitative merits of this Chateau in the context of surrounding Bordeaux regions and Chateaux, it is resoundingly affordable.
Chateau Gazin 2000, Pomerol
No more than 8000 cases were produced of this intriguing, complex wine that takes time to work out. Appealing game and funk to begin, evidently delivered by virtue of the predominant Merlot. I suspect more Cabernet Franc is in here than the 3% it states. When Cabernet Franc is ripe, you’re greeted with beautiful cigar and tobacco notes. Conversely, unripe Franc will bear green tobacco characters which are resistible. Here the nuances of cigar, incorporating a touch of anise, mint and coffee are very sexy and inviting. The 2000 Gazin has luscious, brooding ripe fruit, indicative of the fantastic vintage. This clearly shows in relative price points. There was nothing inky or heavy about this wine, rather, elegance and a perfumed, fragrant essence prevailed.
Notable is the interesting experiment had with glassware at the restaurant in Verona, Italy where we gloried in this wine. Burgundy Grand Crus’ were presented alongside it, but we politely insisted on sticking with the reigning Bordeaux glasses. The difference was quite profound. The Burgundy’s emphasised a vegetal character, altering the aromatic profile dramatically. The Bordeaux displayed more of the secondary development characters – cigar, tobacco, leather and game, placing more emphasis on the Franc, yet did not shy away from presenting the best of the fruit spectrum and perfume. The palate parades what a well-aged, excellent vintage Right Bank Bordeaux should be redolent of – soft Merlot tannins, complex flavour profile and poised acidity consummating balance. A fantastic wine for comparative pennies.