Bordeaux 2019 by appellation: Pomerol
The more I reflect on it, the more convinced I am that 2019 is not a vintage in which any particular appellation was more feted than any other. But each time I pose again the question, I dwell a moment – a little longer, each time – over Pomerol, writes Colin Hay.
But then I tell myself that there is nothing terribly unusual about that. For in a great vintage like 2019 in which no appellation is particularly feted a strikingly high proportion of the best wines are always going to come from Pomerol. In my more reflexive moments I also add that these are subjective judgements (as ever) and that I have a particular soft spot for Pomerol. So now you know.
If that is not a very definitive conclusion, then two things I think are rather clearer. First, if there were to be an appellation of the vintage in 2019 it would have to be Pomerol, at least for me. And, second, what makes this credible is the exceptional quality of this vintage for the wines of the plateau itself.
Each and every one of these – and I have pretty much tasted them all – is exceptional. These are on at least a qualitative par with 2016, and superior in my view to any other vintage since perhaps 2010.
But they are stylistically very diverse. And this diversity is, in a way, reinforced by the character of the vintage itself – above all, the choice or trade-off that it presents on grands terroir such as these between elegance, on the one hand, and opulence on the other.
In my head I have constructed a kind of continuum. At one end of the stylistic spectrum we have Evangile, a glorious and exuberant wine in this vintage, but one characterised by richness and opulence rather than elegance and finesse. Close to it in style are the explosive Enclos Tourmaline and the profoundly aromatic and expressive La Violette.
At the other end of the spectrum we have the simply brilliant Eglise Clinet, the supremely sensuous Trotanoy, and the strikingly structural Lafleur. These are characterised by restraint, refinement, mid-palate delineation, layered complexity and precision – in short, elegance and finesse.
And right in the middle, we find find Petrus – a wine whose unique terroir gives it an unprecedented and profound natural richness and opulence, yet which in this vintage is beautifully tempered by the restraint of the wine-making. The result is a wine of haunting beauty.
And then we have Vieux Chateau Certan and La Conseillante, also somewhere in the middle but moving in opposite directions in this vintage. La Conseillante, for so long a study in restrained elegance and precision, has followed up its somewhat more opulent 2018 with a wine that is bigger and bolder than ever before in 2019.
And yet Vieux Chateau Certan, typically grand, ample and opulent, has in 2019 crafted a quietly contemplative wine of sombre elegance and considerable beauty – for me the best wine I have ever tasted from here.
My point here is not to pick out my favourites, nor really even to indicate my mild preference for elegance over opulence – though the tasting notes themselves probably come close to revealing both.
Rather it is to suggest that Pomerol in 2019 is characterised by excellence in diversity. That diversity is itself a strength, whatever one’s personal preferences.
I cannot resist a final word on my wine of the appellation in 2019 – L’Eglise Clinet. This is a truly remarkable and extraordinary wine and, of course, the last vintage made by the much loved and much lamented Denis Durantou.
All tastings are subjective, but rarely if ever have I tasted a wine with such a sense of poignancy and emotional intensity. Its balance and harmony are the most eloquent and fitting tribute to the genius of the man who created it. It was a privilege to taste it and a deeply moving experience.
Wines of the appellation: L’Eglise Clinet; Lafleur
Outstanding: La Conseillante; Evangile; La Fleur-Petrus; Petrus; Trotanoy; Vieux Chateau Certan
Second wines/labels of the appellation: Les Pensees; La Petite Eglise
Most improved: Beauregard; L’Enclos Tourmaline; Hosanna
Quality/price ratio: Clinet; Latour a Pomerol; La Petite Eglise
Quality/price ration (satellites): Les Cruzelles; Les Perrieres
Colin Hay is Professor of Political Science at Sciences Po in Paris where he works on the political economy of la place de Bordeaux and wine markets more generally. His Bordeaux 2019 coverage will continue further appellation profiles in the coming few days.
Detailed tasting notes
All tasted from samples supplied by the chateau unless otherwise stated. Samples tasted, at least twice, from Zalto, Grassl and Reidel stemware over a two-month period from early May to early July. Around 5% of samples were rejected as damaged and/or unrepresentative of the barrel from which they were drawn.
Beauregard (planted 70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 14,5% alcohol; pH 3,7; 17,5 ha; yields of 40hl/ha; aged in 50% new oak and 50% amphorae). Tasted from a sample supplied by the chateau. For the first time this was micro-vinified in 225l barrels. Elegant, quite gentle and restrained at first on the nose. Lovely cassis and cedar notes, touch of graphite and a little thyme, walnuts. Very classic and very attractive, and with a lovely calm sense of quiet restraint. Quite cool. Lovely quality of tannins, the product of a very gentle extraction.
There has been a big step up in quality here in recent years, especially evident in 2019. Fans out nicely, with nice slightly chewy tannins. One picks up the same herbyness from the nose again – thyme, oregano, marjoram. The sappy, saline minerality is very attractive and adds to the interest and seems to extend the length of the elegant finale – which ends on walnuts and walnuts skins. Really good wine; nice and lively. Exciting to see the progress here – a reward for the significant investment in the vineyard and chai. Best ever.
Le Bon Pasteur (80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. Reductive on the nose. Red and blue berry fruits; more blueberries with air. Sweet tinged. Spicy notes – cloves and cinnamon. Plump. Big. Rich. Glossy. A bit of a blend of fruit – a compote, all rather mushed and crushed and combined. And a little heavy on the extraction for my taste.
Lacks mid-palate delineation and definition; but has a solid structure and plenty of length. A little monotonic, but attractive nonetheless – sloes, damsons, brambles and a little cassis; hints of fresh tea leaves. The fruit is darker on the palate, as if the red berries got swamped in the blending. Just a little and over-worked. Just a hint of alcohol heat on the finish too. Others will (and do) like this more.
Bourgneuf (J-P Moueix) (85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; aged in 35% new oak). Tasted from a sample supplied by J-P Moueix. Neighbours Trotanoy. This has a striking freshness on the nose. Very fruity. Bright and lively red berry fruit, redcurrants, hints of cassis too. Slightly croquant. A lovely gentle sweetness. Fresh. Nice vein of acidity. Dances very much on the top of the palate; decent mid-palate concentration and length too. Not terribly complex. Quite substantial but attractively sprightly. Needs time to come together. But promising and likely to represent good value.
Certan de May (J-P Moueix) (65% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon). Tasted from a sample supplied by J-P Moueix. Big and rich with a salty minerality, plump and tannic; with air, a pronounced grated chocolate note. Quite extracted. Not for me as elegant and stylish as the 2018. Slightly smoky. Creamy textured but lacks the delineation in the mid-palate of many other Moueix Pomerols in 2019. Plum and damson jam. Quite saline. I suspect that this isn’t the very best sample. I will reserve judgement for now.
Clinet (80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; aged in 75% new oak). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. Sweet nutty nose. Vanilla oak spiciness; floral notes too – irises, violets too. Dark and quite extracted. Glossy, almost viscous. Soft and rich. Black cherries, mulberries, raspberries and grated chocolate, then it becomes more sappy, with hints of sel et poivre and more earthy notes – and then, in a third phase, more fresh and lifted and we are back towards the fruit on the finish.
A story in three episodes, with a gripping (and grippy) ending! Lovely complexity. The power here is nicely disguised. Very much of the appellation. Blueberries and black cherries. Even a touch of black forest gateau about it. Maybe not the most refined, but opulent, rich, sensual and seductive – rather more so than usual. This embraces the exuberance of the vintage very nicely and it’s almost a little out of character. All the more striking for that. Less sombre and austere than recent vintages. Excellent.
La Conseillante (84% Merlot; 16% Cabernet Franc; 14,5% alcohol; aged in 70% new oak; 27% Y1 oak; 3% in amphorae; yields of 34,5 hl/ha; no canopy thinning). Tasted from a sample supplied by the chateau. Garnet/deep purple in the glass. Pure. Graceful. Very effusive and yet at the same time a very precise and pure nose. Pure black cherries and those Conseillante blueberries, with a hint of violet and a touch of cedar. Spearmint too. Cool, like many of the best wines. Nutty – hazelnuts and hazelnut shells, almonds and frangipane.
Gorgeous attack, so soft and yet, then, wham, a big hit of fresh, pure blueberry and cassis fruit hits you – with redcurrants, as in the 2018 I recall. Fan outs beautifully. Succulent. Crumbly, chewy tannins. Lovely ripples of fresh fruit. Energetic and lifted. More at the top of the palate than Eglise Clinet. Not dissimilar in style to the 2018, but with the structure and depth of the 2016, especially after a little aeration. Very classy; very impressive; very accomplished. A pinnacle of Pomerol once again and a wine that seems to grow in stature with each vintage. This feels very comfortable in its own identity.
Clos du Clocher (70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 5,76 ha; 60% new oak; micro-vinification en barrique). Tasted three times – with a sample that travelled too far and, above all, for too long; another sample that got lost en route before arriving in less than perfect health and, finally and successfully, at a Bordeaux negociant. Thanks to Jean-Baptiste Audy for his patience and perseverance throughout. Blue/purple in the glass. Limpid. Seemingly quite a gentle extraction. Creamy, pure dark berry fruit nose.
Dried purple flowers, pot pourri. Blueberries and wild bilberries, with a touch of grated dark chocolate. Hint of cracked black pepper. Pretty. Slightly austere, but I like that. Glossy tannins. Gentle at first, but the tannins are actually quite considerable and a just little aggressive on the finish. Pure and precise. A bead of acidity on the finish. Pronounced saline minerality. Lacks a little mid-palate delineation. But impressive in this vintage. A property that has been on a steep upward trajectory in recent years.
L’Eglise Clinet (90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 14,5% alcohol; aged in 70% new oak, blend of casks). Tastesd from a sample provided by the Durantou family. Purple/blue with radiant purple highlights. Profoundly fascinating on the nose. Very floral. Irises and violets first, then hints of blossom and whiff of graphite minerality – and then the fruit starts to appear – it’s a little reticent at first and needs gentle coaxing to reveal itself. Cool. Damsons and blueberries, brambles and both black and red cherries. Truffles too.
Warm spices, as in La Petite Eglise (cinnamon and star anise and a hint of vanilla) – but more moderate in the grand vin. Gorgeous texture. Broad and intense, yet deep and brooding and so soft it’s almost difficult to discern at first the considerable structure. The tannins, unlike many of even the very best wines in this vintage, remain exceptionally svelte across the entire length of the extraordinarily long palate, leaving just a little dryness on the very tip of the tongue. Quite exquisite. A very fitting if exceptionally poignant tribute to the genius who created it. A privilege to taste this and a deeply moving experience for me. This will always be a very special wine.
L’Enclos Tourmaline (100% Merlot on blue clay; alcohol 14,5%; yields of 32 hl/ha; 1,2 ha; micro-vinification in 225 litre barriques, 100% new; c. 250 cases). Tasted from a sample provided by Vignobles K. From the Clinet lieu-dit, neighbouring La Fleur-Petrus and Trotanoy. Profound purple; pretty opaque, almost viscous in the glass; limpid. Quite closed on the nose at first. Needs some encouragement at first to reveal itself – but, gosh, when it does … Pure, radiant blueberry fruit – we must be in a hallowed part of Pomerol, you can almost sense the presence of the blue clay in the sub-soil.
A bit of cassis too, pine nuts, hints of almond skin, a touch of pepper, grape skins. The first vintage of this wine that has really impressed me en primeur – it’s usually so firm and held-back (and it is here too, but just a little less so). La Conseillante-like on the nose – but bigger and broader on the palate (more Evangile than La Conseillante on the palate). Wow – the texture. Fantastically svelte at first, then, wallop, a big wave of fresh yet creamy blueberry intensity hits you before the rippling tannins enter the fray, supporting an exceptionally long finish. Kalamata olives. Great complexity and phenomenal intensity. Quite massive and will need a long time to be properly approachable; needs time to calm down a little; but excellent potential.
Evangile (83,5% Merlot; 16% Cabernet Franc; 0,5% Cabernet Sauvignon). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. Reductive nose. Pure. Very exuberant with blueberry puree and, with a little more air, black cherries. It is difficult to imagine a nose and palate that sing so much from the same hymn sheet – they mirror each other perfectly. The acidity gives a lift and freshness that is both cool on the palate and, at the same time, a little like the addition of salt and pepper to a savoury dish. This is, if you like, beautifully seasoned.
The acidity also brings a certain crunch to the fruit – yet this seems almost paradoxical since one is struck too by just how soft and svelte this wine is. Utterly lovely. Floral notes – irises and violets. And almond cake and marzipan too. This is big and punchy, yet refined and suave. It is not dissimilar in style to the 2018 but has, if anything, even more swagger. Very powerful and, you might say, not as delicate as some of the other stars of the vintage. But that is a matter of taste – hopefully there is enough in this note to help you make an informed choice. There are certainly more elegant wines, but it’s difficult to think of anything more impressive.
Feytit Clinet (92% Merlot; 8% Cabernet Franc; 14,8% alcohol; yields of 42 hl/ha). Tasted from a sample provided by the chateau. Refined, slightly smoky nose, a little taciturn at first. Garnet, almost black in the glass. Black cherries. Pure but also creamy. Lovely tannins. Flamboyant. Alcohol a little more noticeable on the mid-palate, but just enough acidity to maintain a lithe tension. Lovely intense black cherry fruit, but this is a complex and layered wine that releases slowly on the palate. Black forest gateau – black cherry and chocolate, but with a gathering minerality. Opulent. Classy. Very seductive style of Pomerol. Lovely in this vintage. Exceptionally glossy. Helped a lot by the freshness. Needs time. More of a vin de garde than the 2017 or 2018.
La Fleur de Gay (89% Merlot; 11% Cabernet Franc). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. An interesting and quite intellectual wine this. Distinctive and a little different. Attractive and engaging nose – Szechuan spice and cinnamon. Slightly exotic. Plum and hoisin. Nicely composed, rather elegant and refined and entirely non-flashy. Svelte tannins, but also pronounced acidity from the start. Hidden depth. Power in disguise (iron fist, velvet glove … that kind of thing). Salty. Tense. Energetic. But at the same time quite deep, dark, cool and sombre – almost a little serious, with a touch of austerity about it. Cool classicism in a way. Lovely chewy, grippy, crunchy tannins on the finish. You can probably tell by now, but I rather like this.
La Fleur-Petrus (J-P Moueix) (92M; 5CF; 3PV; 50% new oak). Tasted from a sample provided by J-P Moueix. It is always exciting to taste this. A sense of aura when one pulls the cork (even on a sample). Exuberant Pomerol nose. Cool, captures the interest immediately and drags you in – quite intellectual. More approachable and less sombre than the 2018; a little sweeter too.
Candyfloss, blueberry compote, hazelnuts, root liquorice, cinnamon and damsons, but with mineral notes too; then, with more air, it becomes more floral – lavender and rose petals and violets. Wonderfully soft tannins. Slow to unfurl, but broad and deep, rich and intense. Broad-shouldered. Opulent and very dense in the mid-palate. Freshness builds to accentuate the very long and refined finish. Glorious texture. Sappy, juicy finale – waves of fresh fruit ripple on the palate for minutes. Quite radiant.
Le Gay (90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 14,5% alcohol; yields of 35 hl/ha). Tasted from a sample supplied by the chateau. Gorgeous, complex nose. Better than the 2018. Cedar, vanilla oak, fresh blueberries, blackberry leaves, liquorice root, autumn leaves, truffles, rose petals. Very cool tasting. Super svelte tannins. Plush, deep, slow-releasing, with a lovely mouth-caressing yet cleansing presentation of the tannins. Fine structure imparting considerable length. Very approachable, yet at the same time this has great long-term potential. Needs time to absorb the considerable presence of the toasty oak, but it will and it will be even more impressive when it has. Finishes on grape skins. Fresh. Lovely Pomerol.
Gazin (88,5% Merlot; 4,5% Cabernet Franc; 7% Cabernet Sauvignon). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. Quite extracted. That Gazin minerality on the nose. Ferrous and even a little feral. Saline and marine, notes of iodine too. Earthy. Plums and brambles and blackberries. Quite autumnal in its fruit profile. Dark and rich. Plush and opulent. Nice touch of white pepper. Not especially complex, though the minerality is always present and brings interest. Lovely Pomerol plateau mid palate richness. Crunchy, almost croquant finish. Chewy, spicy tannins. Very distinctive and very authentic to its terroir.
Hosanna (J-P Moueix) (69% Merlot; 31% Cabernet Franc; aged in 50% new oak). Tasted from a sample provided by J-P Moueix. Surrounded by the top crus – Petrus, Fleur-Petrus, Lafleur and VCC. Deeper, darker and cooler even than Latour a Pomerol with more cedary notes on the exquisite nose. Hints of Havana cigar too and a gentle sweetness. Refined and elegant yet seductive too. Damsons, blueberries and pepper. Glorious svelte tannins. Black cherry palate. Long, grapeskin finish.
Very Pomerol – the essence of the plateau. Really attractive. Nice tension and balance. More compote and richer and rounder in style than the more focussed and linear Latour a Pomerol. The nose reveals more of the complexity and potential than the palate at this stage; but the texture and mouthfeel of this wine are already ravishing. Probably the best yet from this super terroir.
Lafleur (47% Bouchet; 53% Merlot). Tasted at the chateau with Omri Ram. This is just glorious. The nose is so alluring. Fresh berries, plums, damsons, sloes, a touch of spice and irises and peonies. But that’s just the start. For this gathers in the air, breathes, relaxes and then exhales just a little – more floral notes now, almonds too, pain d’epices, cassis and then, eventually, graphite and cedar. Quite ethereal. But what is most amazing about this wine is its structure and the dynamism in the mouth that it imparts.
This is remarkably cool and deep and soft on the entry. The effect is calming and it serves to focus one’s attention on the very centre of the palate as an amazing wave of rich deep dark fruit starts to build, at first with all the softness of a wave forming a long distance from the shore. It builds and builds as the amplitude of this profound wine starts to reveal itself. And then, finally, it crashes ashore releasing a beautiful aerial plume of fresh sappy juiciness at the top of the mouth to accompany the rumble of the breaker at the bottom.
And then it does it all again as a succession of rollers quietly build and then crash ashore injecting ripples of freshness and spicy minerality on the palate. Paradoxically, though, this is a wine that is still remarkably closed – and half an hour later it is in fact more closed than it was. The potential is quite staggering; for at this stage one has little more than the merest glimpse of the structure and architecture of the wine. There is so much more to come. One of the most remarkable tasting experiences of my life – and a lesson in structure.
Lafleur Gazin (J-P Moueix) (100% Merlot; aged in 30-40% new oak). Tasted from a sample provided by J-P Moueix. Between Gazin and La Fleur Petrus in the North of the appellation – on gravel, clay and silt. Cedary. Plump. Nice fruit profile – plums, blueberries, touch of red berry fruit too. Saline minerality. Not unlike Gazin in this vintage. Quite big and punchy. Alcohol a little bit noticeable, but impressive.
Lagrange a Pomerol (J-P Moueix) (100% Merlot; aged in 30% new oak). Tasted from a sample provided by J-P Moueix. Gravel on clay and deep blue-clay. Sloes and damsons. Big attack. Rich and round. Nice structure. Perhaps a little sweet and a trace of alcohol – finishes slightly hot. Hot weather wine, but nice cedar notes in the mid-palate. A success. Plump. Not especially complex.
Lagrave a Pomerol (J-P Moueix) (85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; aged in 40% new oak). Tasted from a sample provided by J-P Moueix. Gravel terroir – and suffered a fair bit of hydric stress. Very concentrated small berries. Nice freshness on the nose. Red and black crunchy berry fruit, hints of liquorice stem. Quite linear and precise in style. Well-structured and slightly strict and serious but with good definition. Again, not especially complex. Fine. Finishes with grape skins and a touch of cedar. The wood is well-absorbed.
Latour a Pomerol (J-P Moueix) (100% Merlot; aged in 40% new oak). Tasted from a sample provided by J-P Moueix. Oh, just lovely. Deep, rich, plunge-pool cool dark fruit – black berries, damsons, brambles and also raspberries; touch of very dark chocolate and even freshly ground coffee. Mint leaf (just a hint), and hints too of subtle spice – clove and nutmeg, even fennel seed. Earthy and loamy. Very complex and beautifully refined. Pure; precise; focussed; lovely definition – really striking. Rich but almost crystalline vein of fresh blackberry and blackcurrent and blackcherry fruit, with hints of cedar. Really lovely freshness. Wow. Lots of definition. Peppery finish and lovely chewy tannins that kick in at the end. Superb.
Les Pensees (45% Bouchet; 55% Merlot; made now from a tiny 0,7ha parcel of the Lafleur vineyard on clay). Tasted at the chateau with Omri Ram. Not any longer a second wine in any conventional sense of the term. If Lafleur itself is, in effect, a bit of an exception in Pomerol – on the basis of its rather unusual combination of terroirs – then, in a way, it is Les Pensees that is the authentic ‘Pomerol’ of Lafleur in that it comes from a tiny parcel on classic Pomerol clay.
This gives it, especially, in 2019 an opulence and amplitude that sets it apart from the other Lafleur wines. This is graceful, aerial and lifted, despite its great richness, depth and mid-palate concentration. It starts, like all of these wines, with a beautiful sense of calm coolness and deceptively gentle tannins, before then broadening out on the palate incredibly. It is very different structurally from Les Perrieres staying very broad in the mouth with a lovely rolling, rippling sappy finish. A really great wine and part of a fantastic trio of great wines (Lafleur-Les Pensees-Les Perrieres).
Maillet (95% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc). Tasted from a sample provided by the chateau. Ruby/garnet, quite extracted. Peppery but distinctly Pomerol nose. Blueberries, mulberries, red and black cherries – fruits of the forest; almonds; hints of liquorice. Attractive and nicely fresh and bright. Broad attack, quite big and rich, with impressive depth and intensity. Muscular and perhaps just a little forced, certainly for my taste – trying just a little too hard to impress. A touch of alcohol heat on the finish accentuated by the peppery notes, but good raw materials. A little more restraint and this would have been even better in my view.
Mazeyres (80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc). Tasted with a negociant in Bordeaux. This is excellent in this vintage – the best I think I have tasted from here. Peppery. Late harvest dark stone and berry fruits – sloes, damsons and brambles. Nice sense of crisp freshness for a wine that is also svelte and gentle on the palate. Nicely focussed. Impressive and likely to represent excellent value.
Montviel (80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 14,0% alcohol; yield of 40 hl/ha). Tasted from a sample provided by the chateau. Big, quite sweet plummy nose, little hints of brambles and blueberries too – more compote fruit than berries and, on the nose at least, a little simple. Good fruit concentration, focussed and pure. Nice freshness and lovely texture (a characteristic of Vignobles Pere-Verge).
Impressive balance. Very approachable and very attractive – a nice dark core; very much at the top of the palate – focussed and quite linear. This is a wine that deserves more attention than it receives. Interest comes from the almost ferrous minerality. Quite earthy. Very well made. For relatively early drinking. Not especially complex or long, but good ingredients that are already nicely integrated. Likely to be good value.
Nenin (70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 14,45% alcohol; pH 3,59). Tasted at Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases. Well situated vineyard on the plateau next to Trotanoy and a stone’s throw from Le Pin. A pure and lifted nose of pure blueberries and sloes. This is quite big and powerful, yet at the same time fresh and sappy, with an attractive crunchy fruit and plenty of bite and grip. Floral notes too – violets and heather. Good delineation and good length. This is well made and will be approachable earlier than most of the Domaines Delon wines in this vintage.
La Patache (85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; alcohol 13.9%; yields of 39 hl/ha; with 30% new oak). Taasted from a sample provided by Vignobles K. Also micro-vinified en barrique. Stylish, seductive Pomerol. Bright red fruit, almonds and frangipane. A little sweet perhaps. Wood not yet fully incorporated. Touch of mint. Salty, spicy – hoisin and baked plums. Big, rich, quite long, round. Impressive tannic presence if not the precision, layering, finesse or elegance of the really best of these wines.
La Petite Eglise (80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc – the first vintage with Cabernet Franc, the Merlot comes from sandier soils; 14,5% alcohol; aged in 35% new oak, blend of casks; only 375). Due to replanting a very small production in this vintage. Wow. Spicy, quite exotic on the nose – plums, damsons, blueberries, but with sweet-scented spice box ingredients too – cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and a hint of hoisin too. Very engaging. Fresh, lively, bright and energetic. This dances on the palate.
Black cherry skins and damsons and a lovely slight nuttiness – the Cabernet Franc brings an extra dimension and a shade of extra darkness and depth to the fruit which I really love. Beautiful tannin management. Chewy. Very elegant but deceptively powerful too. A lovely balance and poise. Opulent for a Durantou wine, but so lively too. Lots of tension and interest. Perhaps the best La Petite Eglise I’ve tasted; drink this in anticipation of L’Eglise Clinet. Only 375 cases made – well worth the hunt to track one down.
Petit-Village (80% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14,5% alcohol; pH 3,8; 10,5 ha; yields of 40hl/ha; aged in just 30% new barriques). More restrained and closed than Beauregard at this very early stage. Serious, quite austere and a little timid on the nose. Stylistically similar. Cool plum fruit, blueberries and then, on the palate, a little cedar. Tannins are very well managed giving a little more structure than for Beauregard; and there is just a little more mid-palate concentration and intensity too. Salty minerality. Rolling, fresh chewy tannic finish. Nice potential. More of a vin de garde than its new stablemate, if just a little sombre. But very fine.
Petrus (100% Merlot on iron-rich blue clay). Tasted at the chateau with Olivier Berrouet. A staggeringly beautiful wine which is intensely rich and powerful yet so refined, so soft, so gentle and so elegant. The challenge of 2019 here was simply one of restraint. This is a terroir of such natural power and opulence that, in a vintage like this, it would be so easy to have produced something massive. What we have instead is a beautiful thing of near perfect balance and poise, something serene, cerebral, calming and almost monastic. This is a simply exquisite, eloquent and profound expression of its unique terroir. A force of nature sensitively allowed to express itself in all its glory.
La Pointe (76% Merlot; 24% Cabernet Franc). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. Disappointing. Rather harsh, almost astringent and a little hollow too. Predominantly red berry fruit. Not much energy despite having the signature freshness of the vintage. Doesn’t shine amongst its hallowed peers. A tricky comparison. Soupy and tough.
Rouget (85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. Like the 2018, rather more extracted than it used to be – quite inky in fact. Nutty and slightly smoky. Spicy. A little closed and needs tempting from its shell. Big, rich, plump, full and quite opulent in style. Nice focus and purity too and no sweetness, which is good. But it’s a little one-dimensional, the oak is rather prominent (albeit at this very early stage) and one has the impression that they are trying just a little too hard. Cassis, blackberry and cherries, hints of almonds but not the sweetness of frangipane. Long and creamy. Quite elegant, if just a touch forced. Again, others like this more than I do – and I can see why. I preferred the more restrained 2017 here.
Trotanoy (JP Moueix) (100% Merlot; aged in 50% new oak). Tasted from a sample provided by J-P Moueix. Almost black in the glass. Brooding. Colour yet to set. Wow – so floral. Cedar and graphite too – loads of it. Wild purple flowers, a gentle sweetness (frangipane), quite lovely – but changes with every swirl to reveal little complexities. Ferrous notes. Slightly gamey too. Loganberries, red cherries, redcurrant yet also dark berry fruit – brambles and blueberries especially. The most gorgeously soft tannins. Velour.
Cool on the palate. Builds almost imperceptibly at first – shockingly and caressingly soft. Blackberry and blueberry velour. Little mint leaf notes. Briary notes too. Exceptionally long and spicy/peppery finish – seemingly endless. Finishes at the very top of the palate. Probably, for me, the best of five truly exceptional and fascinating wines here. A privilege to taste these together (and a joy to savour these at home during confinement tasting conditions).
Vieux Chateau Certan (78% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 7% Cabernet Sauvignon; pH 3,75; alcohol 14,5%; yields of 40 hl/ha; picked after the rain from the 23rd of September onwards). Tasted at the chateau with Guillaume Thienpont. This is glorious. Damsons and sloes, black and red cherries, violets, dried petals and saffron, cumin and curry leaf too – and then cedar and graphite from the Cabernet.
This too is cool and fresh and lifted with cashmere tannins and a plunge-pool depth and elegance. Guillaume tells us that it reminds him of the 1998 – perhaps my favourite Pomerol vintage. This is wonderfully harmonious and it just flows across the palate in the most inviting way. The latest in a succession of great wines from VCC and probably the best of them all. There is just something beautifully dark and gothic about it.
La Violette (100M; 30hl/ha; 1,65 ha; 14,5% alcohol; 5k bottles). Picked from 17th September to 1st October. Absorbing. Quite saline on the nose. Very reticent to release its fruit – but it quietly yields to a little swirling and the nose builds in complexity, releasing with it that pure dark fruit. Vanilla-toasty oak notes – needs time to integrate. Walnuts, mocha, dark chocolate. The fruit just a little hidden at this stage. Blueberries, plums and damsons, hints of petals too (violets perhaps, but too much vanilla really to tell for now). Hoisin.
The most amazing texture – one expects that with La Violette but one is never quite prepared for it. It’s almost as if the tannins weren’t there – but they are and they give a wonderful frame, structure and substance to this wine. Cool. Deep. Remarkably intense and yet very fresh and lively too. Nice cedary notes; very dark berry fruit – black cherries, blue berries, brambles, sloe, with a little grated chocolate. Crumbly, chewy tannins on the finish combine with little ripples of grape and blue berry skins. Lovely freshness on the finish. Very long.
Lalande de Pomerol & others
Canon-Chaigneau (Lalande de Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 5% Malbec). Tasted from a sample provided by the chateau. Garnet/violet highlights. Opens quite slowly and needs time to come to life. The wood jars a little at first, but it does serve to accentuate the ferrous-saline minerality and it also brings a hint of smokiness which is not present in the unoaked sample tasted alongside this. The fruit is just a little darker too – raspberries, again, but also loganberries and mulberries.
And with more air, a little more complexity emerges, with notes of black cherries and almonds too. A little more structured and defined than the basic cuvee. Nice persistence and more of a clear evolution on the palate. More tannic and more grippy on the finish too. Nice mineral notes. Needs time, but promising. More complex than the other sample and the tannins, though bigger, are softer.
La Chenade (80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aged in 30% new Taransaud barriques; 1500 cases). Tasted from a sample provided by the Durantou family. Younger vines on gravel from the vineyard of Les Cruzelles. Bright ruby/garnet with purple highlights. Red cherries. Very pure nose. Little hint of almonds. Very attractive and immediately one is struck by the brightness of the fruit and the freshness of this. Redcurrants too. Very much a Durantou wine. Pure, precise, very linear and with a strong vein of acidity and freshness the gives structure and delineation. Fine, elegant and beautifully composed. Long, juicy, mouth-watering fresh fruity finish of red cherries and their skins. Great harmony. Lovely.
Les Cruzelles (80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 14,5% alcohol; aged in 40% new Darnajou barriques; 2200 cases). 11ha less than 1km from the plateau of Pomerol but across the appellation boundary, visible from Eglise Clinet itself. Much darker and more extracted than La Chenade. Garnet/purple. Much deeper coloured fruit profile with more Cabernet presence on the nose.
Black cherries, damsons, cassis, tobacco and a little toasty hint from the oak; almonds. Very soft tannins on the attack, but they are much more obvious on the mid-palate. Spicy and energetic – cloves, pepper, liquorice, fennel seed. Impressive intensity and concentration with a nice vein of black cherry fruit running down the spine which lasts all the way to the cherry skin finish. Impressive potential – though, as ever, will need a few years in bottle.
Enclos de Viaud (Lalande-de-Pomerol) (85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; alcohol 13,8%; yields of 41 hl/ha; aged in 10% new oak). Tasted from a sample provided by Vignobles K. Attractive sweet, Pomerol-esque nose, hints of cedar. Cassis, wood smoke, white pepper. Big, broad, svelte tannins. Big attack but closes quite quickly. Barbeque notes – salty, iron minerality, touch of meat fat; appropriately rustic. Nicely done.
La Fleur de Bouard (Lalande de Pomeol) (85% Merlot; 12% Cabernet Franc; 3% Cabernet Sauvignon). Garnet/purple in the glass, slightly less extracted than Clos de Bouard. More limpid and with more evident glycerine. More serious and slightly more austere on the nose. Cedar notes; earth; autumn leaves. Quite peppery. Lively and fresh. Nice intensity in the mid-palate. Graphite core (like a nuclear reactor!). Baked plums, cassis, touch of cinnamon and nutmeg, liquorice. Fresh. Pure and nice focussed. Oak is better integrated than in the Clos de Bouard.
Les Perrieres (de Lafleur) (59% Bouchet; 41% Merlot). Tasted at Chateau Lafleur with Omri Ram. A riveting wine that deserves considerably greater attention than it ever receives. One of a trio of strikingly great red wines produced by Chateau Lafleur in this vintage. This is what you get if you grow Lafleur’s wonderful massale-cloned Bouchet (the traditional name for Cabernet Franc) on the calcaire plateau de Menet of Fronsac.
This is wonderfully vertical in the mouth and hence completely different in structural terms and the presentation of the tannins from Les Pensees. But it is every bit as profound. It also has the most beautiful nose of cedar, graphite and blackberries, finishing on freshly ground single estate-grown coffee beans. A wine that shows with crystal clarity precisely the same passion, dedication and attention to detail that has made Lafleur the wine that it is. Quite simply for me the best wine in Bordeaux at anything approaching this price point.
Le Plus de la Fleur de Bouard (Lalande de Pomerol). (100% Merlot). Purple, pronounced pink rim. More of a red-fruit profile than Le Fleur de Bouard itself from the Merlot. Focussed and precise nose – very linear and pure. Raspberries with cassis and fresh black currant in the background – nice notes of blackcurrant leaf too. Black tea. Sappy, juicy and very pure – almost crystalline. Very attractive if, at this stage, not especially complex. Super-soft tannins. Often difficult to appreciate en primeur, but I like this – a step up in focus, precision and purity from La Fleur. Nice fruit concentration in the early-mid-palate too; and the tannins are more elegant than in previous vintages.