Lynch Bages - an Asian twist
One of the Performing Drinking Wines ... Lynch Bages
Lynch Bages leapt into the wine drinking limelight in the 1990’s when Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong based airline, bought into the Chateau’s future with a long term commitment to provide it to its first class customers. Initially an old colleague coined the phrase the Lynch Bages Upgrade between Hong Kong and Singapore, a US$100 to upgrade from business to first class where you could then drink Krug or Dom Perignon before take off and then settle in to a main course of Lynch Bages or another fine wine. When this writer started to travel throughout the region getting on the plane in Jakarta one had the perfect flight back to Hong Kong arriving in the late evening. Alongside Lynch Bages there was an opportunity to sample Tignanello, a fabulous Tuscan wine that scores in the 90’s with Mr Parker.
The promotion by Cathay of this drop has certainly influenced the status of the wine in Asia despite its lowly fifth growth beginnings and relatively high volumes. In my portfolio of investments the 2005 showed some solid early returns, but some of the older 1994 vintage bought at the same time I had to have delivered and it drank very well.
Owner: The Cazes Family
Classification: Fifth Growth
Vineyard area: 90 hectares
Average annual production: (300,000 bottles p/a)
Standard blend: Cabernet Sauvignon (73%), Merlot (15%), Cabernet Franc (10%), Petit Verdot (2%)
Other wines: Chateau Haut Bages Averous now called Echo Lynch Bages (120,000 bottles p/a)
History of the Chateau
At the close of the seventeenth century, John Lynch of Galway fled the political and religious turmoil of Ireland and settled in the port city of Bordeaux. There he married a local woman named Guillemette Constant and quickly established himself as a successful merchant. The couple’s son, Thomas Lynch, appears to have developed a keen interest in the region’s viticultural potential, having acquired two wine estates in Pauillac and one in Margaux. Through his marriage to Elizabeth Drouillard, Thomas then inherited an estate in the village of Bages, which he subsequently renamed “Cru de Lynch” - later altered to Lynch Bages.
Though the family did much to advance the estate’s reputation, their 70-year tenure was somewhat tumultuous, with both Jean-Baptise Lynch and Chevalier Michel Lynch imprisoned for a time during the French Revolution. And when the brothers died without leaving an heir, the estate was sold to a Genevan wine merchant named Sebastian Jurine, signalling the end of the Lynch family’s reign.
In 1855 the chateau was classified as a Fifth Growth, after which it passed through the hands of the Cayrou brothers before being sold to Jean-Charles Cazes in the 1930s. This was a turning point for the estate. Jean-Charles was an innovative winemaker who became involved in the wine business through clients he met as an insurance salesman. After acquiring Les Ormes de Pez, Cazes began living and working at Lynch Bages, which was, at that stage, neglected and in need of attention. After several years, Cazes bought the estate from his landlord, marking the start of an era of rapid viticultural improvement.
Today, Lynch Bages is still managed by the well respected Cazes family and has transformed into a global brand with a strong following in Asia, Europe and the United States. And according to last year's Liv-ex classification, which attempted to mimic the Bordeaux 1855 classification by ranking chateaux based purely on price, the modern-day Lynch Bages sits comfortably among the Second Growths - a telling reflection of the extent to which the brand has developed in recent years.
Lynch Bages 2009
Lynch Bages 2009 is composed of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Its alcohol is listed as13.4%.
The most recent vintage has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from the major critics, with James Suckling of the Wine Spectator judging the wine a near-perfect 96-99 out of 100 – “Powerful. Blockbuster, but balanced…Lynch has not made a wine like this since perhaps 1989 or 1982. Better than Wine of the Year 1985 Lynch.”
Robert Parker rated the wine 94-96+, describing it as “the greatest Lynch Bages since the outstanding duo of 1989 and 1990.”
Neal Martin, it seems, was equally enamoured (94-96): "Very fine definition: reminiscent of the 2006 but with a little more horsepower. Tons of freshness, that acidity really driving the wine to the finish and then the persistency is superb.”