One man who is considered just as influential in Bordeaux as the legendary American wine critic Robert Parker is the oenologist Michel Rolland. Rolland is a consultant oenologist to hundred of wineries in the Bordeaux and around the world. He is credited with turning around the quality of such famous estates as Château Lascombe and has been a consultant to some of the best estates in California, counting names like Araujo, Harlan Estate and Dalla Vale among his clients.
Bordeaux is all about the blend, and according to wine critic James Suckling, “Rolland’s blending skill is phenomenal… It’s not so much that he is better than other top tasters at evaluating the quality of a wine, or that he knows more tricks as a veteran winemaker. Where he shines is in his ability to taste different lots of wine in a winery and then decide which ones work best together to make a great bottle.” Rolland’s palate is backed up by some formidable science. He has a laboratory in Libourne that employs eight full-time technicians who analyse wine samples from about 800 estates in France each year. (Top Gun: Consulting enologist Michel Rolland makes some of the world’s best red wine by James Suckling, Wine Spectator, 30 June 2006)
At Chateau Pape Clément Rolland works with one of France’s leading businessmen and winemakers Bernard Magrez. Pape Clément is a jewel in the crown of 35 vineyards owned by Magrez in France and around the world. In 2009 the International Wine and Spirit Competition awarded Magrez the title of French Wine Producer of the Year.
Together, Rolland and Magrez have made numerous improvements in the vineyard and the winery over the last decade. Yields are limited through crop thinning, and de-leafing helps the grapes to ripen by allowing in more sunshine. The grapes are hand-harvested in small plastic crates, and are destemmed by hand by more than 200 people! Like at Château Haut-Bailly, the wine is moved by gravity, rather than pumps, through all the different steps of winemaking. It is aged on its lees for nearly a year.
Magrez is certainly upholding an illustrious legacy. Château Pape Clément celebrated its 700th anniversary last year. It is the oldest winery in Bordeaux and up until the French Revolution, it was owned by the French clergy – taking its name from the original owner, Bertrand de Goth, who became Pope Clément V in 1305.
The vineyard area consists of 32.5 hectares, 30 of which are planted 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot. The remaining plots are cultivated with white varieties of 45% sauvignon blanc, 45% semillon and 10% muscadelle.
The estate makes four wines. The two grand vins, Château Pape Clément, red (7,000 cases), Château Pape Clément, white (350 cases) and two second wines, which were introduced in the 1980s – Le Clémentin du Pape Clément and Le Prélat du Pape Clément respectively .
Typically composed of a blend of two-thirds cabernet sauvignon and one third merlot, the grand vin is aged in new oak for 18 months. Robert Parker rates Château Pape Clément as among “the greatest wines of Bordeaux, clearly a wine of first-growth quality.” (Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate # 182, April 2009)