• Michael Unger

"Wines are like children."

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"It's simply nice to see how guter Bordeaux has become more complex and deep over the years," says wine merchant Michael Unger. His favourite good: Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac.

I can taste the uniqueness of the exceptional Bordeaux Pichon-Comtesse - without drinking it. I only have to imagine for a second how I pour the dark shimmering red wine, wait a moment, lift the glass, smell and then sip it with pleasure. It's all here already: The sweet, fine, pure fruit, perfectly flanked by noble tannin and supportive acidity. It is a round, impressively structured wine, complex and multidimensional. And completely uncomplicated at the same time. A wine that always whets the appetite for the next sip.

Why the Bordeaux of Pichon-Comtesse is so extraordinary cannot of course be described with one word. Many fortunate circumstances come together: the sandy, stony soils of Pauillac, the perfect location of the winery on the Gironde river, and the great craftsmanship of director Nicolas Glumineau. And last but not least his love for wine and viticulture - and the gentle treatment of nature.

I never thought I'd get a foothold in the wine business. Actually, I'm a vehicle engineer. But I've always had this love for pleasure and top wines - I like the emotional aspect of the product and that every year something new, something special is created.

After my brother and I entered the wine business in 1992, we quickly put our focus on the high-end sector. I remember exactly how frightened my brother was when I bought a bottle of 1986 Château Pichon-Comtesse for 20 Marks right at the beginning. "That much money for a single bottle?"

But I already knew the winery from a visit to the Napa Valley, where I had dinner with friends in a 1928 Château Pichon-Comtesse de Lalande. This wine was so sensationally good that I knew: This quality would convince my brother.

It also made economic sense for us to focus on top-quality wines: We didn't have large storage areas initially, and since each bottle of wine takes up the same space, it was sensible to target the upper end of the market. In the meantime we have more than 5000 square meters of underground storage space near Lake Chiemsee, guaranteeing optimal conditions - which is also very tidy by international standards.

A good friendship has developed with Nicolas Glumineau over the years. His Château is one of the most famous wineries in Bordeaux and has been part of the Louis Roederer Champagne House since 2006. In the 1855 classification, Château Pichon-Comtesse is classified as Deuxième Grand Cru Classé. This is the second highest level among the top wines in Bordeaux. The estate's great cuvée consists of classic Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. A 0.75 litre bottle costs from 170 euros. One of the best and most famous Pichon Comtesse vintages ever vinified was the 1982's - a poem. Anyone who can buy a bottle like this should have access to it, even if it will hardly be available for less than 700 euros. It's a great investment in drinking pleasure.

In fact, there are very often bottlenecks in top wines. Quality from limited cultivated areas cannot be produced in unlimited quantities. The 2016 vintage is currently being launched. The wine is now still in the barrel for twelve to 18 months and will be delivered to the customers in two years. To show the bandwidth: In bottle sizes of three litres or larger, they are usually ordered for large celebrations, birth cohorts of children, weddings or company foundations. Not only does this look very nice, the wine also ripens better in large formats. And if you only want to drink a glass occasionally, order the small 0.375 litre bottle.

A Comtesse is always a perfect food companion. One of my great hobbies is cooking - with a crispy grilled beef steak and spicy porcini mushrooms, enjoyed in good company by family and friends, the Pichon-Comtesse is the culmination of a perfect evening. Just give it a try.


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