Chateau Pichon Longueville
We visited Chateau Pichon Longueville in Pauillac. As you can (just about) see, it is flanked by two buildings in the style of Egyptian tombs which won architectural awards in the 1990s. We went in the one on the right of the photo. The walkway sloped gently downwards. Electric doors swished open to let us through and carved sphinxes glared at us from the furniture of the ante-rooms. We felt as if we were in a James Bond film. At last we reached the main chamber, far below ground level. It was vast and circular, twenty-eight massive stainless steel vats standing around a large flagstone floor with two manholes in it, leading into a 1500 hectolitre vat below.
The vineyard is owned by Axa and the style of wine making is completely different from the family owned chateaux which we'd visited. The families all said that they vary the Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot ratio year by year depending on the quality of the Merlot harvest. Pichon Longueville scoffs at this. "Our customers like our wine because they know it is dependable: it's always 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot. We just put Cabernet into some of the vats, Merlot in the others and when the time comes, we pump 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot into the manholes under the floor, stir it about and pump the blend out the other end."