Tag Archives: Pomerol

Pomerol, a quiet revolution.

Pomerol is an intriguing appellation. To the north-west of Saint Emilion, it is small, 800 ha but, despite a lack of a classification, it remains one of the most prestigious appellations of Bordeaux.

There are the obvious big names, Petrus, le Pin, La Fleur, Evangile, Conseillante and so on, but with a total of 130 chateaux, there many small, lesser known family owned properties scattered across the appellation.

 The soils of Pomerol are complex. The famous blue clay dominates the centre of the plateau with a mix of sandier and gravel soils around it. The underlying iron oxide pan is said to give the characteristic truffle notes to the wines as they age.

For a detailed blow-by-blow analysis of each of the estates I highly recommend Neal Martin’s seminal book ‘Pomerol’. Despite their small size many properties have plots throughout the appellation profiting from the diversity of soils, which all adds to the complexity of their wines.

 Pomerol is known for its opulent signature of Merlot (80% of the appellation), complimented by the Cabernet Franc (15%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) grape varieties all thriving on the Gunzian gravel interspersed amongst the more famous clay. In some plots the gravel is so dense it could be mistaken for the left bank– all part of the wonderful Bordeaux mosaic.

A gravel outcrop in Pomerol

A gravel outcrop in Pomerol

 Things may move slowly in Pomerol, but they do move. A perfect example is Chateau ClinetClinet takes its name from an area of ‘incline’ on the edge of the famous Plateau. It was purchased by the Laborde family in 1998 and since 2003 has been managed by Ronan Laborde. A business and marketing graduate with a love of wine, he took over the reins of family property at the grand age of 23.

 The property had a prestigious legacy, obtaining 100 Parker points with the 1989 vintage under the previous owners. Ronan managed to recreate this performance in 2009.

Chateau Clinet

Chateau Clinet

 The changes introduced by Ronan at Chateau Clinet have been both respectful of tradition in wine making and agricultural practices but very innovative in marketing – quite a combination.

 Vineyard investments came first, increasing the trellising height by 10-15 cm improving the leaf surface area for greater photosynthesis and riper grapes. The agricultural practices at the property are inspired by sustainable agriculture; a method Ronan calls ‘gentle farming,’ cherry-picking ideas from both organic and bio-dynamic methods. These include the use of horses to reduce soil compacting and bending over vines during the growing season rather then strimming to control vigour.

Controlling the vigour of the vines.

Controlling the vigour of the vines.

 Technical investments parallel those in the fields; a new gravity fed cellar in 2004 and last year replacing the oak fermentation vats with stainless steel for a better fruit expression. Ageing in a mix of new and one year old barrels with limited racking in an oxoline storage system facilitates the cellar work. Ronan has a young and international team at the property including the Italian technical director, Leonardo Izzo, also in his 20s. 

 Clinet produces about 5 000 cases a year, but growing a brand and increasing production in Pomerol is not easy; vines for sale are few and far between, reaching astronomical prices of several million euros per ha on the plateau.

Up until recently Clinet produced a second wine, La Fleur Clinet, from the younger vines. As the replanting has now matured and there are no longer enough young vines to merit a second wine. The average age of the vines is now over 50 years, with the oldest plot reaching 75 years. In 2005 all the grapes from the property went into the Grand Vin. Since 2006 La Fleur Clinet is a branded Pomerol, vinified by the same team as Chateau Clinet from some plots of the vineyard but mainly from other plots selected throughout the Pomerol appellation.

The Clinet range

The Clinet range

 In 2009 Ronan took another step creating a new brand: Ronan By Clinet. Playing on the success and reputation of the ‘Grand vin’ and using the same wine making team he has produced a more accessible, Merlot driven wine, from grapes purchased from other vineyards on the right bank appellations; Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux, Bourg Cotes de Bordeaux and Bordeaux. The result is a Bordeaux AOC with a Pomerol feel and excellent value for money.

 In 2012 he added a Bordeaux dry white to the brand. Bottled with a screw cap, the grapes are hand selected from vineyards on the heights of the Entre Deux Mers and are cold, stainless-steel fermented from 80% Sauvignon, 20% Semilion giving a remarkably fruity expression of this Entre Deux Mers terroir.

 These brands have now become so successful they have outgrown the original wine cellar at the Château, so Ronan and his team are just putting the finishing touches to a brand new wine cellar for the 2015 vintage. This cellar will be dedicated to the production of Ronan by Clinet and Fleur de Clinet, leaving the Chateau cellars for the Grand Vin Chateau Clinet.

Welcome to the new Clinet cellar

Welcome to the new Clinet cellar

With a 450 000 bottle potential there is plenty of room to fulfil future demand. The mix of old and new, plant, wood and limestone have created a elegant and highly efficient space for wine making, storage, logistics and also the offices of the company.

Stainless steel and concrete vats inside the new cellars.

Stainless steel and concrete vats inside the new cellars.

 Once the content is redesigned so must be the container.  Many properties are redesigning labels making them clearer and easier to understand and identify and Clinet is no exception – using a bright red signature throughout out. They have gone a step further also redesigning their case, using the same signature to make their wines stand out from the crowd.

The new Clinet cases

The new Clinet cases

If you want to get a feeling for this modern approach check out the you-tube video for Ronan de Clinet, sensuous wines indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you want to know more about Bordeaux wine?

Of course you do and the obvious place to learn about Bordeaux wine is in Bordeaux, at the Bordeaux Wine School. But if you can’t get to the Bordeaux Wine School, the Bordeaux Wine School can come to you.

Since 1990 The School has been teaching consumers, distributors, sommeliers, in fact anyone with an interest, professional or otherwise in Bordeaux wine. As part of the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessional des Vins de Bordeaux) or Bordeaux Wine Council, their objective is to teach an up to date vision of Bordeaux wines, breaking some of the out-dated myths surrounding the region and presenting the dynamism of the wine makers to wine enthusiasts and professionals. This is done via a range of training programmes from 2 hours to several weeks.

Over 200,000 people have followed the Bordeaux Wine School programmes world wide since its creation and last year 48 000 of them did so outside of Bordeaux. This is thanks to a network of over 200 certified Bordeaux wine Educators and 40 partner wine schools both public and private. The schools include leading hotel schools such as Cornell and Johnson and Wales in the US, AWSEC, IVE and ASC in Asia as well as many other WSET programme providers worldwide.

A worldwide networks of schools to learn about Bordeaux

A worldwide networks of schools to learn about Bordeaux

These tutors have been selected as wine experts in their own field and country and after an intensive training in Bordeaux have successfully passed a exam certifying them as an accredited tutor. You can download the list of accredited tutors here to find out where you can take Bordeaux wine classes with a certified Educator near you.

If you prefer learning at home there are so many books about Bordeaux to help and new ones appear on the shelf every year. Here are a few of my favorites perhaps as late Christmas presents for enthusiasts; Oz Clarke’s Bordeaux, is a great introduction to Bordeaux, covering the whole of Bordeaux not just the famous names. The Finest Wines of Bordeaux: A Regional Guide to the Best Chateaux and Their Wines by James Lawther is another good read and James also wrote the excellent Heart of Bordeaux about the all too often-overlooked Pessac Leognan appellation. On the subject individual appellations Neal Martin’s recently published Pomerol is a seminal work on this small but fascination appellation.

If you like history, 1855, A history of the Bordeaux Classification by Dewey Markham Jr remains the go-to guide for understanding why and how the famous 1855 classification came into being and also on this subject, if you want to understand the history of the top 5 growths of this classification, Bordeaux Legends by Jane Anson (also a certified Bordeaux educator) gives an intimate account of each of the properties.

Bordeaux Legends by Jane Anson

Bordeaux Legends by Jane Anson

The new edition of the ‘FeretThe Bordeaux Bible has just been published. It lists in detail all the chateaux, growers and negociants of the region – a really useful guide, especially to some of the lesser-known properties of Bordeaux and a great tool for those of you looking for information about the wines you are tasting.

The web can help too. www.bordeaux.com is, of course, a great source of information and another of the Bordeaux Wine School partners; Berry Brothers and Rudd has excellent education content on its website where you can also purchase the wines of course.

And then there are wine apps, of which there are many. One, Smart Bordeaux, helps explain what is behind the label, an issue some consumers struggle with. The lack of blend information for example can be confusing if you don’t know much about Bordeaux appellations (the education above will of course help with that!). If you can’t remember your Saint Emilion from your Saint Julien blends for example download the Smart Bordeaux app and by taking a photo of the label on the bottle of Bordeaux in front of you all should be revealed.

The best way to learn of course is with a glass of Bordeaux in your hand, so enjoy your homework!

Cheers

Cheers

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Right bank or Libournais?

There is so much that is new on the right bank of Bordeaux at the moment that I hardly know where to start. “Right bank “is a misleading name. After all, there are two rivers and an estuary that run through Bordeaux, all of which have a “right bank”. “The Libournais” is a more accurate descriptor as the  appellations to which we refer surround this ancient waterside town.  It was an important centre for wine trading and export with continental Europe in the middle ages, with the Libourne Merchants trading directly, rather than through ‘La Place de Bordeaux’, all thanks to the charter granted to the town in 1224 by the King of England.

Libourne on the Dordogne river

Libourne on the Dordogne river

Despite its ancient history, with vineyards dating back to 56 BC, this region of Bordeaux is a hotbed of innovation and has been since the ‘garage wine movement’ was pioneered by the likes of oenologists and winemakers, Michel Rolland, Jean-Claude Berrouet, Jean-Luc Thunevin, Jonathan Maltus and Denis Durantou in the 90’s.

It is a curious mix of old and new. Saint-Emilion is the first winegrowing area in the world to be listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in the “Cultural Landscapes” category in 1999. These landscapes have succeeded in preserving the traces of their history; the medieval village of Saint-Emilion, Romanesque churches, grottos, windmills and dovecotes, etc.  In 1884 the first French Syndicat Viticole saw the light here and in 1933 the 1st cooperative cellar of the Gironde was established here too.

The land of 1000 chateaux from the Steeple of Saint Emilion

The land of 1000 chateaux from the Steeple of Saint Emilion

Compared to the rest of Bordeaux, the average size of properties here is small; for a total size of 12 000 ha there are less than 2000 properties, so do the math and you’ll see that the average size of 6-8 ha is half that of the Bordeaux average of 15 ha.

This structure of numerous individual wine estates is one of the reasons behind this constant innovation.  Small is beautiful but also perhaps more flexible than larger corporate ownership?  That, and the dominance of Merlot, which lends itself more kindly to experimental wine making than Cabernet.

The Libournais is also perhaps more ‘democratic’ than the left bank. Driving around the Medoc, the wealth seems to stop at the Chateau gates with vast tracts of vine and not much else in between except rather dreary villages (Bages being the exception that proves the rule). In the Libournais, cellars and chateaux are all side-by-side surrounded by their ‘gardens’ of vines, it is known as the land of 1000 chateaux.

Out of the 10 appellations only Saint Emilion ‘enjoys’ a classification. This came into being in 1954, almost 100 years after the Medoc/Graves/Sauternes classification of 1855. I’m on dangerous ground here, but it could also be considered more democratic being up for grabs every 10 years (or so). The last classification, in 2012, was a revision of the previous controversial 2006 edition, and no less controversial if you listen to a few disgruntled producers and certain sensationalist journalists. Despite this they are now the holders of a classification including 82 classified growths of which 18 are first growths and 4 are As with two new A’s  (Chateaux Angelus and Pavie) added to Cheval Blanc and Ausone, for the very first time since the classifications creation.

So what is new? As elsewhere at the top end of Bordeaux, there is a rash of new and beautiful cellars. They are easy to spot here, as the properties are all much closer together. Promotional opportunities perhaps, but also a desire to incorporate the new technology in a more efficient way and also open their doors to visitors.

Cement tanks have always been traditional on the right bank, their thick walls being resistant to rapid temperature change, and smaller family estates couldn’t afford to destroy them when the trend towards stainless steel started in the 70s so they remained and are now the height of fashion again, see the new cellars at Cheval Blanc.

With an increased understanding of the soils on the properties leading to more precise plot by plot management, it is not unusual to see vat size reduced or the older, larger vats replaced by smaller ones and even to see a mix of oak, cement and stainless in a single cellar allowing the wine maker even more flexibility. I must admit a certain affection for these older ‘art deco’ tanks that are now being spruced up again.

The old cement tanks at Chateau Petrus pre renovation

The old cement tanks at Chateau Petrus pre renovation

Cheval Blanc is not the only one to reinvent concrete. Family owned Château La Conseillante in Pomerol has created a super efficient oval cellar of 22 brand new elegant concrete vats for the 12 ha property, allowing for precision vinification for Chateau La Conseillante and the second wine Duo de Conseillante. The cellar is an elegant illustration of the style of their wine underlined with their purple signature.

The elegant new vat cellar at Chateau La Conseillante

The elegant new vat cellar at Chateau La Conseillante

A close up showing the attention to detail

A close up showing the attention to detail

Visiting Saint Emilion can be a religious experience. In the 8th century, the hermit Emilion stopped off on his pilgrimage from Brittany to Santiago de Compostela and  sheltered in a cave in the rock, the remains of which can still be seen near the 8th century monolithical church (Europe’s largest). There then followed a Benedictine monastery a century later reinforcing the religious importance of the town.

The religious theme can be seen in the names of many properties, l’Eglise Clinet, La Dominique, l’Evangile, Prieuré, Angelus, Saint Georges, etc. and the influence is clear in some cellars, such as Croix Canon recently brought to life by Chanel.

A religious experience in the cellars of Croix Canon

A religious experience in the cellars of Croix Canon

Chanel purchased first growth Chateau Canon in 1996, two years after their purchase of Chateau Rauzan Segla 2nd growth of Margaux, in 2011 they purchased the neighbouring classified growth, Chateau Matras. Wary of the influence of the INRA (the body governing wine appellations and classifications) and the effect it could have on their classification they were prepared not to include the new land into Chateau Canon. However they were given the right to include 1ha12 of old Cabernet Franc vines into Chateau Canon.  With the 2011 vintage they changed the name of Matras to Croix Canon, now the second wine of the property replacing Clos Canon. As these new hectares join the younger Canon plots to make the second wine Clos can no longer be used as the new plots are not within the (beautifully restored) walls that surround Chateau Canon.

The renovated walls around the vines of chateau Canon that gave the name to Clos Canon

The renovated walls around the vines of chateau Canon that gave the name to Clos Canon

Chanel know about renovation, having already renovated the cellar, underground caves and walls of Canon they are now working on the Chateau itself – more of which next year.  The cellars of Matras were within a badly run down 12 century chapel, now renovated to more than its former beauty to showcase the vat room and barrel cellar surrounded by a gallery, complete with pulpit. The tasting room has a spectacular stain glass window with a camellia at its heart as a subtle reference to Coco Chanel. They have even rebuilt the bell tower and if you have a head for heights, you can climb the wooden ladder to the top to see views across the vines and admire the new bell made by the foundry that made the bells for Notre Dame de Paris.

The stunned glass window designed by director John Kolasa

The stained glass window designed by director John Kolasa

Talking of bells, the Croix Canon cellar is just next door to Chateau Angelus. Angelus made the headlines with the 2012 classification, being one of two properties along with Chateau Pavie to break the glass ceiling of the A classification taking the total from 2, at which it had remained since its inception in 1954, to the grand total of 4. To celebrate, their 2012 vintage will be sold in bottles embossed with a golden label.

The new 2012 and the classic Angelus labels

The new 2012 and the classic Angelus labels

The property has also just opened its brand new cellars. The wine making and ageing cellars themselves have not changed that much but the building including the bell tower has. The new entrance hall is a spectacular wood and stone renaissance structure topped with the bell tower, which will peal out your national anthem for you as you pass through the portals.

The new entrance at Chateau Angelus with bells on!

The new entrance at Chateau Angelus with bells on!          Photo Manfred Wagner

The renovations however are more than just a PR opportunity. They have enabled the integration of new wine making techniques, the signature of experimental co-owner and winemaker, de Bouard. In 1986 Angelus was the first property in St Emilion to use a sorting machine, and his La Fleur de Bouard, in neighbouring Lalande de Pomerol, has a spectacular cellar of suspended inverted vats that could be considered a testing ground for these techniques.

The new inverted vats at Angelus Photo Manfred Wagner

The new inverted vats at Angelus
Photo Manfred Wagner

He has introduced two of these vats, one in oak and another in stainless, into the new cellars at Angelus alongside the classic cement, stainless and oak vats already in place. He has also reduced the temperature of the 1st year barrel cellar to 10°C enabling a more efficient precipitation of lees and a slower, longer 12 months aging on the lees. The lower temperature also reduces the inherent risk of brett and the use of sulphites and gives a more elegant uptake of oak allowing for a longer, 2 year aging in barrels.

If all this talk of new cellars has worked up an appetite, help is on hand. After Chateau Troplong Mondot and Chateau Candale. Chateau La Dominique, Saint Emilion cru Classé on the border of Pomerol, has also opened a restaurant.  Construction tycoon, Clement Fayat, owner of Chateau Pichon Clement in Haut Medoc, has commissioned a spectacular new cellar designed by French architect Jean Nouvel inspired by the work of British artist Anish Kapoor. The artist’s fascination for red is perfect for Saint Emilion. The red plastic surfaces on the curved walls of the winery reflect the vines and the sky. The building is topped by an enormous ‘Terrasse Rouge’ the floor of which is covered with red glass pebbles, designed to look like the top of an open fermenting vat full of grapes.  Here you can sit admiring the view over neighbouring vineyards and watch the chefs busy at the grill, preparing your steak and other regional specialities.

La Terrasse Rouge

La Terrasse Rouge

Bon appétit!

 

 

 

A new cellar at Le Pin

As mentioned in my previous post it certainly is the year of the cellar.
It’s all happening on the right bank, after the opening of the wonderful new cellars at Cheval Blanc, La Dominique, right next door is under renovation and Petrus is finishing its new underground cellar.
Smaller but perfectly formed the new cellar at le Pin has also been christened with the 2011 Harvest.
For many years, pilgrims to the tiny estate (2.48ha with the latest purchase) have struggled to find the rather insignificant looking building, home to Jacques Thienpont’s baby. Only the pine trees overshadowing the house on the Pomerol plateau, about 1 km from the family’s Vieux Château Certan, gave the game away.
Now however the striking modern building in white and slate is a lot easier to spot and the pine trees are still there. Started in 2010 and designed by the Belgium architect Paul Robbrecht (The Thienponts are Belgium wine negociants as well as Bordeaux Chateau owners) the whole cellar is designed as a wine makers dream as far as efficiency is concerned. Gravity feed is clearly illustrated as you climb the stairs up to the terrace, strangely reminiscent of a Californian roof-top pool, with fabulous views over towards Château Petit Village, another very modern addition to the skyline of Pomerol.
Le Pin has no second wine but if you’re lucky enough, try and get hold of Trilogie, a non vintage blend of declassified Le Pin with a dash of Cabernet Franc, unlike Le Pin which is 100% Merlot. The name Trilogie is a reference to the blend of 3 vintages. There’s not enough I imagine per vintage, seeing as the total production from the property is only about 5 000 bottles a year.

The view across Pomerol from the terrace of Le Pin’s new winery

An exception to the rule

Bordeaux wines are always blends right? Bordeaux wine makers have a large pallet of red and whites varietals to choose from, more or less 6 of each, not as large as the Rhone perhaps but a lot more leeway than Burgundy.
Yes Bordeaux blends but, of course, there are always the exceptions. Quite a few properties seem to produce 100% Merlot wines now. These wines fit market demand for easy drinking wines. The second wine of Château Petit Village in Pomerol, Le Jardin du Petit Village is one of my favourite Merlots
For the white wines 100% Sauvignon Blanc is not rare either, not surprising perhaps given the vast improvement in aromatic whites (see previous post) a favourite is Château de Rochemorin, surprisingly 100% Sauvignon.
But for the lesser-planted varietals such as Muscadelle, which represents less than 1% of Bordeaux, and counting, a mono-cepage wine is a rarity. This variety produces lovely aromatic wine, however in the Bordeaux climate it tends to be difficult to cultivate with its susceptibility to rot and more often thought of as the floral influence in the great sweet white wines of the region. Only a few passionate wine makers persist, such as Prune and Philippe Armbruster at Chateau Haut Maugarny in the Entre Deux Mers
They took over this small 12 ha domain in 2008 of which only 7ha are currently in production due to investments in re planting. Half of this is under red vines – as you might be picking up their dry white, 100% Muscadelle, is a tiny production of about 3 000 bottles.
Vineyard practises are not dissimilar from the top growths: low yields, hand picking, environmentally friendly. As for the winemaking, after cold maceration, to accentuate the specific aromatic characteristics of the Muscadelle the wine is barrel fermented and aged for 11 months on the lees, still in the oak barrels. The finished product is dominated by floral and muscat aromas with white flowers, a good length and a great mid palate, which makes it a perfect food wine as well as an interesting aperitif – your guests will never guess the origin.

An exception to the rule to look out for.

The Year of the Cellar

What will spring 2011 be remembered for in Bordeaux? The exceptional dry and hot weather leading to flowering 3 weeks early, Vinexpo with the Fête de la Fleur at Château Lascombes or the ‘interesting’ primeur campaign – we’re spoilt for choice.
For me it is the year of the new wine cellar.
There is no shortage of candidates from Château Clerc Millon, to Château Soutard. Cos d’Estournel doesn’t count as they led the way a few years ago following in the steps of Pontet Canet. Pavie has yet to come, Mouton should be finished any minute now and there are still cranes hanging over Le Pin and Petrus.
The prize however has to go to Château Cheval Blanc. They certainly got their timing right with the launch of their amazing new cellar just in time for Vinexpo. The ballet of helicopters flying to and from the show everyday for lunch and visits was an example of how no expense was spared to ensure that the great and the good discovered the new jewel in the LVMH crown.

The uniquely shaped vats in the new cellars at Château Cheval Blanc

Cheval Blanc is remarkable in many ways compared to its Saint Emilion neighbours. Along with Château Figeac it lies along the boundary with Pomerol where it enjoys a soil so very different from other Saint Emilion estates being dominated made by sand, gravel and clay sediment from the nearby Isle river rather than the traditional clay and limestone of the other classified growths of Saint Emilion. Hence the unusual dominance of Cabernet Franc in the blend.
The vines are a single vineyard situated all around the château which dates back to 1871 and covers 37 ha, large for Saint Emilion where the average is around 6 ha. Cheval Blanc was Classified as an A (along with Ausone) at the beginning of the Saint Emilion Classification in 1954 and has remained at this level in each subsequent revision (see previous post)
Pierre Lurton was already managing the estate for the previous owners when Bernard Arnaud and Baron Albert Frère acquired the property in 1998. They wisely kept him on and he now also runs Château Yquem for the LVMH group.
Until the launch of these new cellars everything seemed to be in keeping with tradition and history. However behind the apparent tranquillity changes have taken place that perfectly illustrate trends throughout the Bordeaux vineyard, including agricultural practices with a greater respect for the environment and a better understanding the soils (Kees van Leeuwen, terroir expert at Bordeaux university was interpreting the soils of Cheval Blanc long before soil analysis became common practice)
This better understanding of the soils has lead many chateaux to undertake investments in the cellars to increase the number and reduce the size of tanks so that each parcel of land now indentified can be vinifed separately. This allows for a better expression of each parcel of land with a more accurate decision on picking time and wine making techniques from vat to vat. A student recently asked me ‘What’s the point if it’s all going to be blended anyway?’ Blending is after all one of the signatures of Bordeaux. Wine makers will answer that this allows for a much more precise decision of when to pick but perhaps more importantly a more precise choice of which parcels will enter into the first and the second wine, and in more and more cases the third wine (Latour, Leoville Lascazes, Haut Bailly, etc)
At Cheval Blanc the majority of wine making has always taken place in concrete tanks as is traditional on the right bank, and in particular in Pomerol, where most of the top properties continue to use concrete, appreciating the thermal inertia that the thick walls offer and the flexibility that made to measure concrete tanks give (see the recent cellars in Petit Village).
The architect Chrisitan de Portzamparc was given the challenge of the creating something beautiful enough for these men from the luxury and fashion worlds and practical enough to please the cellar master. Giving the impression of being a rolling hill amongst the vines, albeit a white one, the suspended garden on the roof and the use of wood does blend into the surrounding vineyard even though driving past during the construction ‘flying saucer’ was heard from the locals.
52 elegantly shaped concrete vats are housed in this Eco building qualified by the material used for construction, its energy efficieny and waste management. It is a spectacular marriage of past, future and nature.

A few weeks after Vinexpo Cheval Blanc released its price for 2010 futures, up to €750 bottle over €600 last year – someone has to pay for that $ 18.8 million cellar!

Pomerol on the move

Summer has come early to Bordeaux, taking primeur tasters by surprise and turning minds to wine tourism with new oeno-tourism initiatives in the air. Pomerol is one of the smallest of the most prestigious appellations in Bordeaux with only 800ha shared between 150 estates. The small average size, at only 5ha, and no classification have conferred an image of exclusivity to this corner of the right bank. This is changing with some new open-door initiatives.
Some Chateaux, such as Petit Village belonging to the Axa Millésime stable, and Chateau Beauregard, have long been open to visitors. They both belong to an association called ‘Pomerol Seduction’ grouping together 9 producers of the appellation that organise joint tastings, open days for their properties and even a gift package of 9 WIT tasting tubes from the properties in a partnership with trendy Parisian perfumer Annick Goutal. So if you can’t make it over for a visit you can always pick up a tasting kit on the Vins Fins website
As of February the syndicate of the Pomerol AOC are opening their doors on the 1st Saturday of every month. With a morning’s tasting from different growers followed by a visit to a property in the afternoon their objective is to show that, despite it’s small size, Pomerol offers a complexity and variation in style reflecting the different terroirs of the appellation and how they influence the expression of Merlot, the dominant variety of the appellation.
Chateau de Sales is the largest and most spectacular Pomerol property, dating back to the 17th century and still in family ownership. They have taken the initiative together with a group of other chateau from the appellation, to create ‘Pomerol Oeno-tourisme’ offering Discovery days ranging from a visit of one or 2 properties to a complete 18km discovery rally through the vineyard with a series of clues leading you to a surprise and tasting which can even include a food and wine tasting lunch at Château de Sales. Keen to make it a family day out, children are welcome with a special grape juice tasting – got to keep those future consumers happy!

The ultra modern cellars at Petit Village show Pomerol is perhaps
not as traditional as you thought.

Château Pavillon Bel-Air

Pomerol is one of my favourite Bordeaux appellations; small but perfectly formed. The proximity of its 150 properties spread over just 800 ha make it feel, dare I say, almost Burgundian.
However just to the North of the Barbanne river is the less well-known Lalande de Pomerol appellation. Larger than Pomerol at 1100ha and 200 properties, it is perhaps not as homogenous in style but there are many hidden treasures to be found. I discovered another one this week. Visiting Château Beauregard in Pomerol we were introduced to their property in Lalande de Pomerol : Château Bel-Air.

Managed by the Beauregard team since 2003, the property is organic although, as is often the case, this is not mentioned on the label.
The gravel and clay soil is planted in the classic right bank blend 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. Two plots adding up to about 1ha of the 40 year old vines on the gravel have been selected for their cuvee ‘Le Chapelain’. With the malo and ageing in new oak barrels these selected parcels create a delicious wine, very much in a Pomerol style and like a lot of this appellation, at excellent value.

Cabernet Franc ripening in the August sun at Château Beauregard this week

2009 on the Right Bank

Just in case you hadn’t heard that the 2009 vintage is going to be great – I’ll repeat it again, but this time in the words of the right bank or rather the Libournais.

The Saint Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac appellations are now working together (yes different appellations do work together in Bordeaux!) to present the new vintage.

The fermentations have now finished and tasting of the vintage as it is ‘entonné’ or run off into the barrels for ageing confirms what the winemakers were hoping for: an extremely promising vintage.

After the cold winter and then early flowering, a very hot summer (30 days over 30°C) led to homogenous ripening and the hydric stress giving good phenolic concentration in the skins. The contrast between night and day temperatures was up to 15°C, one of the keys to the characteristic elegance one expects from good Bordeaux vintages.
The climate also allowed for a perfectly healthy crop, a breath of fresh air after the last couple of vintages, allowing the growers to wait relatively serenely for harvesting which started on 20th September and finished late October
A thought please to those poor properties so badly hit by the hail in the Spring that they have hardly any wine to run into barrels – very galling in such a promising vintage.