On the left, a glass of 2007 Zuccardi Q Mendoza Malbec. On the right, a glass of 2004 Château Lagrézette Cahors—also a Malbec. The Zuccardi is fruitier, with slightly jammy overtones and good structure (though the acidity seems a little out of place), while the Cahors has an earthier, more brooding presence with more substantial, velvety tannins and great length.

What’s that duo all about?

Practice for the International Malbec Days, where I’ll be heading out on May 20. The trip will also be host to a little challenge raised by the people at Château Lagrézette, in Cahors, following a certain article (Vanity Winemaking: Cranking Cahors to Eleven) I wrote on Palate Press about the 1999 vintage of Le Pigeonnier, the Château’s top reserve cuvee. My rather negative review of this Super Cahors went like this:

‘Smells like a cedar box. Dark, dense. Blackberry, maybe? Tough tannins. Dry. Rough. Only wood, with a mentholated finish.’ And that’s it. Around the table the displeasure was unanimous. Nobody found anything good to say about it. A friend summarized it as ‘a whole tree, with a single cherry in it,’ to approving laughter.

The overall analysis of the wine was that it provided an illustration of the limitations of the Michel Rolland approach to winemaking: pushing everything to the max—low yields, extraction, new oak—resulting in rather absurd wines.

The post found a direct echo in Cahors. Jean Courtois, Château Lagrézette’s general manager, reacted strongly, leaving the following comment:

Your condemnation of our wine and the people involved is so intransigent! It looks like a settling of old scores with Lagrézette, Mr. Perrin, Mr. Rolland, and Mr. Parker…Anyway, let’s not start a polemic.

Mr. Perrin and I, invite you to come to Château Lagrézette at your earliest convenience for a blind tasting of a few different wines including Le Pigeonnier.

We would of course pay for your air plane ticket if the results of the blind tasting confirm your previous written comments about Le Pigeonnier 1999.

Palate Press publisher, David Honig, and I were surprised at the challenge issued by the Château and took time to discuss whether or not we should take Courtois up on his rather intriguing offer. Most other bloggers and wine folks I discussed this with were encouraging us to go ahead, while expressing some worries that Courtois and Co. would likely “stack the deck” with purposefully selected wines. I’m still unsure as to whether the Lagrézette GM was really expecting us to answer yes, and David and I are both perplexed that the offer seems to create an incentive for me to dislike the wine again.

Shortly afterwards, an opportunity presented itself: the International Malbec Days, which takes place in Cahors—birthplace of the malbec grape—from May 20 to 23. The event is welcoming a number of journalists from around the world, and agreed to include me in the group, along with Joe Roberts of 1WineDude and several other American bloggers. This allowed us to set up a precise date for the Château Lagrézette challenge and begin discussing how the tasting would take place.

Alain Dominique Perrin, Lagrézette’s owner and the CEO of Cartier, the luxury goods company, offered the following conditions (translated from French) himself:

A simple blind tasting of various malbecs, without regards to year or place of origin, this is not a trap or a contest. We are offering eight wines, to be tasted blind, with the only guarantee being that it is Malbec. You judge and evaluate, it remains confidential if you so desire.

Mr. Perrin originally was supposed to conduct the tasting himself, but his schedule unfortunately will not allow him to do so. Instead, it will take place with Courtois, Lagrézette cellar master Cédric Blanc, and another person of my choice to validate the process and taste along with me. The tasting will take place on May 20, at the Château.

Frankly, no matter what the results, I’m glad to have the opportunity. The fact that Mr Courtois issued this challenge showed that something in my piece on “Vanity winemaking” hit the heart many current debates on modern winemaking. The possibility of engaging a discussion on the whole matter is always welcome to me, and I promise to undertake the challenge with an open mind.

For the record, between the Zuccardi and the Lagrézette, it’s the Lagrézette that I preferred. Now, we’ll just have to see about the Pigeonnier.

Note from the Publisher—Palate Press has the utmost confidence in Rémy’s honor, the most important part of this curious challenge. It is “curious” because Lagrézette is not challenging him to identify the wine in a blind tasting, but to identify and dislike it. Palate Press is paying part of Rémy’s travel expenses, as any publication might in sending a reporter to an event, but Lagrézette will reimburse the cost of the ticket only if he identifies the Le Pigeonnier and does not like it. That makes it a very curious contest indeed. Perhaps the most important part of this challenge, though, is that Lagrézette even felt the need to make it and follow through in response to an online review. What this might mean for online media and wine bloggers we do not yet know, but we expect that it will be followed with fascination as the whole world of wine media continues its shift to the electronic future.

We look forward to the challenge, however it turns out, and thank the people at Lagrézette for giving Rémy and Palate Press this opportunity. We would also like to thank Paul Mabray and everybody at VinTank, and Eve Resnick and the people at International Malbec Days, for inviting Palate Press to the event. Please look forward to Rémy’s coverage as he learns about and tastes his way through the  Black Wine of Lot, Argentina’s pride, and more, as Malbec producers from around the world converge to study and compare their wines. —DBH

Rémy Charest is a Quebec City-based journalist, writer and translator. He has been writing about wine and food for over 12 years in various magazines and newspapers. He writes two wine blogs (The Wine Case, in English, and À chacun sa bouteille, in French) and, as if he didn’t have enough things to do, he recently started a food blog called The Food Case.

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About The Author

Remy Charest

Rémy Charest is a Quebec City based journalist, writer, and translator. He has been writing about wine and food for over 12 years in various magazines and newspapers. He writes two wine blogs (The Wine Case, in English, and À chacun sa bouteille, in French) and, as if he didn’t have enough things to do, he also started a food blog in English, The Food Case, and one in French, À chacun sa fourchette.

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10 Responses

  1. 1WineDude

    I’m sorry I’ll miss the challenge itself, but am looking forward with anticipation to discussing the results with Remy in Cahors!

  2. Evan Dawson

    Wait, Joe is going to miss the challenge? My initial response was that this is a horrible idea, designed to make Remy look like a fraud. That is the only beneficial outcome for the chateau. Naturally, I found myself distrusting the process. I don’t mean to malign the fine folks at the chateau, but again, their motivation is to change Remy’s mind or make him look like a fool.

    I was comforted somewhat by the idea that Joe would be there to help ensure the fairness of the process. Remy, can you explain the setup, now that we know Joe won’t be there?

    Safe travels, and I’m fascinated to see the result, though I’d be shocked if you changed your mind.

  3. Michael Gorton, Jr.


    What a fantastic opportunity for you and for Palate Press. Lagrézette is really putting their neck out on the line.

    No matter the outcome, this will be a day rememebered and should be remembered by all bloggers. Yes Lagrézette may be looking to catch you and as Evan said, make Remy look like a fool.

    But for bloggers around the world, that day is a day we get a little respect. This is showing the influence of Palate Press and the influence that blogging has on the wine world.

    This little blogger from Long Island is happy for you, Remy and for Palate Press as well. I cannot wait to read the results, no matter what they are.

    Be safe on your adventure.

  4. Cahoring Around – Louisville Juice

    […] Palate Press has accepted a challenge from Château Lagrézette to compare French and Argentine Malbecs. The challenge includes a convoluted offer of subsidized travel for Palate Press contributors Remy Charest and Joe Roberts to attend International Malbec Days in Cahors at the end of May. […]

  5. Nick Gorevic

    I’ll be there to witness and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure they don’t pull any funny business! Go Rémy!

  6. Remy Charest

    Thanks for the comments, guys. Evan, there will be someone there to validate the process – that’s Nick, as he commented before me.

    I’m hoping that this will be a great learning experience, and that it will allow an interesting, spirited discussion about Lagrézette and modern winemaking with the people who actually make the wine. And above all, that whatever comes out of it will be interesting to readers.

  7. Nick Gorevic

    I was thinking about this a little more, and I think it’s pretty strange that they set is up as they will only pay for Rémy’s travel if he picks out their wine, and dislikes it. Let’s say hypothetically he picks it out but actually does like it? Then they’ve set up a nice little conflict of interest for him. Not to say that Rémy would be anything but honest here, but when you set up blind tastings, you have to be really careful to make sure there’s no bias either way. I’ve been to quite a few blind tastings, so I’ll keep a sharp eye peeled to see how fair this thing is.

  8. En route vers Cahors et le défi de Lagrézette « À chacun sa bouteille

    […] N’ayant pas particulièrement apprécié la note de dégustation, qu’il trouvait intransigeante, M. Courtois m’a invité, par un commentaire sur Palate Press, à venir refaire la dégustation au Château, à la première occasion – en offrant de payer le billet d’avion… si mon opinion défavorable restait la même. Une invitation aux Journées internationales du Malbec, qui couvriront mes frais de séjour sur place, a offert cette occasion. La dégustation « revanche » aura donc lieu demain, au Château Lagrézette (pour en lire plus sur le contexte de la dégustation, cliquez ici). […]