Pavie is situated northeast of the village of Saint Emilion and occupies a famed plateau with a limestone rich terrior and south facing slopes. The vineyards date back to the 4th Century AD, along with Chateau Ausone, which was given its name by virtue of being owned by Ausonius, Consul of Gaul, Pavie is one of the most ancient winemaking sites in Bordeaux. The name derives from the red fleshed peaches or ‘pavies’ which grew on the site during antiquity.
The modern vineyards were shaped by famed negociant Ferdinand Bouffard who purchased a portion of the already highly regarded Pavie in 1885 and increased his holdings through further acquisitions to create the largest estate in Saint Emilion. Following a change of ownership at the beginning of the First World War Pavie was categorised as Premier Cru Classe B in 1954.
Pavie was catapulted to global success in 1998 when it was purchased by Parisian supermarket millionaire and former cyclist, Gerard Perse. Perse embarked on a hugely ambitious programme of rebuilding, including a state of the art cellar and ripping out antiquated equipment. Famed oenologist, Michel Rolland was employed and yield severely cut. The result of Purses’ ambition was a truly outstanding transformation, before the 1998 vintage, Robert Parker had not awarded Pavie a score of 90 points or more since 1961, since 1998 it has not scored less than 94 points. The reward of this quite unprecedented increase in quality was the promotion, along with Angelus, to Premier Cru Classe A in 2012. Pavie has now taken its place alongside Cheval Blanc and Ausone in the top echelon of Saint Emilion.
The vineyards of Pavie demonstrate unique changes in terroir, the layers of limestone and deep clay give way to sand and gravel lower down the plateau. The vineyard is planted with 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Despite Pavie’s commercial and qualitative success over the last 18 years, it has become a divisive wine. Many critics love its highly extracted, concentrated style while some feel the estate has gone too far. No vintage illustrates this more than the 2003, born from a particularly trying growing season which included a relentless heatwave, Jancis Robinson scored it 12 from a possible 20 points and commented, “Completely unappetising overripe aromas. Why? Porty sweet. Port is best from the Douro not St.Emilion. Ridiculous wine more reminiscent of a late-harvest Zinfandel than a red Bordeaux with its unappetising green notes…” Conversely, Robert Parker felt it was one of the wines of the vintage, awarding it 99 points and in his typical style described it as “off the charts”. Parker felt so strongly about the wine even publically accused Robinson of lying in her tasting notes!
Parker seems to be somewhat vindicated on the 2003 vintage, over a decade after its release, it is still developing well and drinking superbly. One thing that cannot be disputed is that Pavie is one of the world’s greatest wines year after year all thanks to the vision, hard work and investment of Gerard Purse.
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