The wines of Bernard Magrez
Part 5: Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan

After the portfolio tasting, we checked into Pape Clément, which as a place to stay, offers tasteful, period-style luxury. Very nice.


Named after its most famous owner, Pope Clément V, Pape Clément is the most illustrious property in the Bernard Magrez portfolio. It’s located in Pessac, close to the city of Bordeaux. But it isn’t one of his recent acquisitions – in fact, he started started managing this property back in 1985 in conjunction with co-owner Léo Montagne. [Magrez told me that it is 10% owned by his father-in-law, and 90% by him – I’m assuming from this that Montagne is Magrez’ father-in-law.]

There’s a story of two consultants here. The property was bought by Léo’s father, Paul Montagne in 1939, and the revival of its fortunes was largely down to the intervention by famous consultant winemaker Emile Peynaud. Magrez’ intervention, which has elevated Pape Clement to new heights – where it is competing successfully with the very best in Bordeaux in blind tastings – is in large part through the help provided by the most famous Bordeaux consultant of today, Michel Rolland. And Pape Clément has done incredibly well in the blind tastings of the respected Grand Jury European, regularly beating first growths – although it could be argued that the Grand Jury have collectively a slightly ‘new world’ sort of palate that seems to favour riper, more modern wines.


Total vineyard area is 32.5 hectares, split 30 red and 2.5 white. Reds are 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, with the latter planted in the soils richer in clay. Vine density is very high (7700–9000 vines/hectare). Vines are trained double Guyot with three buds left on each cane.


Winemaking is in small lots, with a large number of small wooden fermentors employed. Remarkably, all the bunches are hand destemmed, a process that is labour intensive and adds about 2 Euros to the cost of each bottle. For the reds, the free run juice goes to barrel via gravity flow. Quality, as you’d expect, is impeccable.

The sorting tables where the grapes are hand destemmed 

Château Pape Clément Blanc 2006 Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
A blend of 45% Semillon, 35% Sauvignon, 5% Sauvignon Gris and 5% Muscadelle. Very richly textured with bold fruit and a hint of oak. The palate is concentrated with a hint of grassy, citrussy freshness and lots of richer, more tropical fruit. Nicely judged: a weighty white. (11/08)

Château Pape Clément 2006 Graves, Bordeaux
Deep coloured. Concentrated, sweet, intense dark fruits nose. Pure blackcurrant/blackberry fruit with spice and roast coffee notes. The palate is dense and concentrated with nice freshness, quite a bit of oak and firm tannins. Fresh, spicy and rich with lovely focus. There are also some gravelly notes. Lovely focus and freshness. 93/100 (11/08)

The two Château Pape Clément 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon cask samples, showing the difference between regular barrels and a special barrel called ‘X blend’.

(1) Radoux, high quality barrel.
Dense, chocolatey and spicy with a hint of roasted character. Nice tannic structure. Quite bold and lovely. The tannins stick out a bit more than in (2).

(2) Radoux ‘X blend’ barrels, which are ultra high quality and cost 1200 Euros each. Just three were used. Super structure here: a bit finer with lovely density and super-fine but firm tannins. Amazing.

Vertical tasting of Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan, held in London, March 2009:

Château Pape Clément 1986 Pessac-Léognan
Yield 46 hectolitres/hectare, blend is 37% Merlot, 63% Cabernet Sauvignon. Open, evolved sweet nose shoring gravel, spice and liqueur-like cherry fruit notes. The palate is open and sweetly fruited with elegant, evolved spicy fruit and some earthy undertones. Delicious. 92/100

Château Pape Clément 1988 Pessac-Léognan
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, yield 48 hl/ha. Sweetly evolved earthy, spicy nose is nicely defined with some gravelly freshness. The palate is elegant and expressive with sweet plum and cherry fruit and some earthy structure. Nice open character to this wine, which is drinking well now. 93/100

Château Pape Clément 1995 Pessac-Léognan
Yield 47 hl/ha; 40% Merlot, 60% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dense and focused with lovely ripe fruit (berries, blackcurrants) backed up by spicy tannins. Nice tension between the rich fruit and the fresh, grippy structure. Drinking perfectly now, a lovely wine. 93/100

Château Pape Clément 2000 Pessac-Léognan (from magnum)
Beautifully balanced and elegant, with focused blackcurrant fruit subtly framed with minerality and acidity. This beautifully expressive wine is at the same time delicate and powerful, and it’s drinking really well now. 95/100

Château Pape Clément 2003 Pessac-Léognan (from imperial)
Bold, dense, spicy and rich with nice focus to the raspberry and blackcurrant fruit, with a tarry, gravelly edge. Structured, fresh and grippy with nice acidity, finishing with some structure. 92/100

Château Pape Clément 2004 Pessac-Léognan
Yield 38 hl/ha; 46% Merlot, 64% Cabernet Sauvignon. Beautifully focused dark fruits nose with a gravelly, spicy edge – quite pure and fine. The palate shows density and elegance with taut blackberry and blackcurrant fruit with some spicy structure. Sophisticated oak influence. 94/100

Château Pape Clément 2005 Pessac-Léognan
Yield 38 hl/ha; 55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. Focused bright, fresh fruit here. Plums, cherries to to the fore, with firmer structure than other years and a taut, grippy finish. Not in a flattering phase at the moment. 92/100

Château Pape Clément 2006 Pessac-Léognan
Yield 40 hl/ha; 55% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lovely tarry, spicy, subtly minty blackcurrant and berry fruit nose. Lovely aromatics. The palate shows lovely depth of fruit, and is focused and fresh with a spicy finish. Reminds me of a really good Margaret River Cabernet. 93/100

Château Pape Clément Blanc 2005 Pessac-Léognan
An impressive white Bordeaux. Rich, rounded and textured with lovely melon and herb fruit. Bold and rounded with a hint of grapefruit. Sophisticated stuff with a subtle pithy, herby finish. 92/100

Also in this series:

Wines tasted as indicated; visit was in 11/08  
Find these wines with

Back to top