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2012 Ch. Pape Clement Blanc, Pessac-Leognan
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Château Pape Clément is a Cru Classé Graves property that has one of the oldest documented histories of any Bordeaux vineyard, having been planted in 1300 by Bernard de Groth, the future Pope Clément V. In 1939 the estate was bought by the Montagne family and is now owned and run by Léo Montagne.
Pape Clément is located in the Bordeaux suburb of Pessac and consists of a chai and 32 hectares of vineyards, planted with Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (40%) and small amounts of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle.
The quality of the wines at Pape Clément slipped in the 1960s and 70s, largely because of under-investment. Bernard Magrez was appointed as general manager in 1985 and he turned Pape Clément's fortunes around. He introduced more rigorous selection in the vineyards, as well as installing stainless steel vats and raising the percentage of new oak casks used in the maturation process.
Pape Clément now produces one of the finest clarets in Pessac-Léognan.
The blend used for White Graves and Sauternes and rarely encountered outside France. In the great dry whites of Graves, Sauvignon Blanc tends to predominate in the blend, although properties such as Smith Haut Lafite use 100% Sauvignon Blanc while others such as Laville Haut Brion have as much as 60% Sémillon in their final blends. Sauvignon Blanc wines can lose their freshness and fruit after a couple of years in bottle - if blended with Sémillon, then the latter bolsters the wine when the initial fruit from the Sauvignon fades. Ultimately Sauvignon Blanc gives the wine its aroma and raciness while Sémillon gives it backbone and longevity.
In Sauternes, Sémillon is dominant, with Sauvignon Blanc playing a supporting role - it is generally harvested about 10 days before Sémillon and the botrytis concentrates its sweetness and dampens Sauvignon Blanc`s naturally pungent aroma. It contributes acidity, zip and freshness to Sauternes and is an important component of the blend.
In 1986 a new communal district was created within Graves, in Bordeaux, based on the districts of Pessac and Léognan, the first of which lies within the suburbs of the city. Essentially this came about through pressure from Pessac-Léognan vignerons, who wished to disassociate themselves from growers with predominately sandy soils further south in Graves.
Pessac-Léognan has the best soils of the region, very similar to those of the Médoc, although the depth of gravel is more variable, and contains all the classed growths of the region. Some of its great names, including Ch. Haut-Brion, even sit serenely and resolutely in Bordeaux's southern urban sprawl.
The climate is milder than to the north of the city and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay, and the wines are lighter, fruity and suitable for earlier drinking.