Bordeaux 2020 by appellation: Pomerol & Lalande de Pomerol
Before tasting a single barrel sample, my expectations for Pomerol in 2020 were extremely high. If there was a single appellation that was going to have shone in 2020, then it was surely going to be Pomerol, writes Colin Hay.
There was a certain logic to this. As I wrote, before the first cork was pulled on the first sample, “The claim that 2020 is ‘potentially outstanding’ strikes me as entirely reasonable … Given what we know about the climatic conditions, the best wines are likely to come from terroirs with both excellent drainage and the capacity to cope with hydric stress.
There are terroirs of this kind throughout the leading appellations, but Pomerol (above all its hallowed plateau), the plateau of St Emilion and those parts of the appellation bordering Pomerol, the better terroirs of Pauillac and the strip of St Julien vineyards bordering the river seem the best placed to have produced excellent wines. We will see”. Most of that turns out to be right – and the logic behind it is right too.
But if it the above passage were offered now as a description, rather than a prediction, of 2020 it would still be somewhat misleading. For, above all in Pomerol, the reality is just a little more complicated than the expectation.
So what might a better description look like? It is tempting to suggest that Pomerol in this vintage turns out to be rather more heterogeneous and uneven than we might have imagined it to be. But that’s not quite right either. For this is a story of the quality of terroir above all; 2020 turns out to be a terroir-magnifier in a variety of ways. As such, it is not really a question of heterogeneity per se. More accurately, it is a story of the quite steep descent in potential quality as one descends from the plateau itself.
As that already suggests, the plateau is in fact far from heterogeneous at least in qualitative terms. The vineyards on the plateau have produced, almost without exception, truly brilliant wines; the only heterogeneity here is in the diversity of the ways in which that brilliance is expressed. The plateau, in other words, is homogeneous in its qualitative excellence, producing a rich diversity of utterly beautiful and compelling wines of timeless elegance and finesse yet exceptional depth and concentration.
Each is very different. For one of the most exciting facets of the vintage is that the very best wines express so eloquently their terroir. But that makes it very difficult to rank them in any usefully discriminating way. They will make for a wonderful horizontal tasting in a decade or two’s time – a brilliant education in the diversity of the terroirs of the plateau of Pomerol. They deserve to be seen collectively, not individually; that is perhaps the highest compliment of all.
That said, if I were pushed to express any kind of a preference it would perhaps be for the architectural glory of Lafleur and the sheer Pomerol classicism of Trotanoy. But I could just as easily make the case for the potential perfection in the grandeur and opulence yet austerity of Petrus, the unique shimmer, sparkle and clear brilliance of Eglise-Clinet, the rich and layered complexity of Le Pin, the svelte and singular beauty of Vieux Chateau Certan or the archetypal Pomerol-typicity of the best La Conseillante that I have ever tasted.
But that is just to scratch the surface here. There are simply stunning and staggeringly beautiful wines from so many of the leading properties – Clinet, Evangile, La Fleur-Petrus and Hosanna to name just a few. There are also excitingly brilliant wines from up-and-coming and less well-known names – most notably, for me, Guillot-Clauzel and Séraphine – but also a fabulous Petit Village and fantastic wines from the likes of Beauregard, Bourgneuf, Clos du Clocher, Enclos Tourmaline and Latour à Pomerol. The devil is in the detail of the tasting notes below (and very little of that is conveyed in the indicative ratings).
But Pomerol is 2020 is not just a story of brilliance. For what we also see is a steep drop off in quality as one descends to slightly less hallowed terroirs. Here, many wines lack brightness, freshness and mid-palate delineation. They taste and feel like hot-vintage wines, they are marked by quite high levels of alcohol and, at times, their tannins are dry and, worse still, drying. This is the effect of the summer excess; and it is an indication of the challenge that global climate change poses to the leading appellations.
A similar story can be told about Lalande de Pomerol. Here we find quite a rich diversity of excellent wines being made on the plateau of Néac (in effect, the continuation of the plateau of Pomerol across the appellation border). And we also see a very similar descent in quality – with a very similar catalogue of problems – as soon as we descend from the plateau.
Alongside the reliably fabulous and very well-known Le Plus de la Fleur de Boüard and Noemie Durantou’s wonderful and now almost equally renowned La Chenade and Les Cruzelles, I would particularly single out de Chambrun, Romik Arconian’s Canon-Chaigneau and Jean-Louis and Benoit Trocard’s L’Ambroisie. These wines have their own identities, but they really do deserve to be considered alongside their more illustrious neighbours. Needless to say, they offer fabulous value for money.
I have also included here my notes on the Guinaudeau family’s other wines – the truly unique and singular Les Perrières de Lafleur and the ever more impressive Grand Village. Both are from vineyards increasingly planted with massal selection Bouchet and Merlot from Lafleur itself on calcaire and argilo-calcaire terroirs respectively. Both deserve very serious attention.
Picks of the appellation: La Conseillante (97-99)
Eglise Clinet (97-99+)
La Fleur Petrus (97-99)
Le Pin (97-99+)
Vieux Chateau Certan (97-99+)
Truly great: Clinet (95-97)
Enclos Tourmaline (95-97)
Latour à Pomerol (95-97)
Le Petit Village (96-98)
Value picks: Beauregard (93-95)
Clos du Clocher (93-95)
Revelatory: Guillot Clauzel (95-97+)
Stars of Lalande de Pomerol: L’Ambroisie (90-92)
Canon Chaigneau (90-92+)
De Chambrun (90-92)
La Chenade (90-92)
Les Cruzelles (91-93)
Le Plus de la Fleur de Boüard (93-95)
Other stars: Les Perrières (94-96)
Grand Village (92-94)
Full tasting notes
Wines not tasted: La Connivence; Le Gay; Gombaude Guillot; Montviel and La Violette
Bel-Air (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; aging in oak barrels, 30% of which are new). Very dark, almost black, at the dense and almost opaque core, which is quite rare for this vintage. An interesting nose, instantly placing it in the appellation, with nice floral notes, a glossy deep plump dark berry and stone fruit and Chinese five spice. But, at the same time, I find this a little sombre, almost dour, and lacking in the brightness of many of the best wines of the appellation. On the palate I find this quite heavy and it feels to me as if the extraction has been pushed just a little too far. The tannins are a bit aggressive and this is a touch dry on the finish. I miss the signature freshness of the vintage.
Beauregard (Pomerol; from a well-placed vineyard on the edge of the plateau of 16 hectares on a clay, sand and gravel; 65% Merlot; 35% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels for 16 months; a final yield of 36 hl/ha; 14% alcohol). Tasted at the UGC in Paris and then over Zoom with Vincent Priou. A property that has been on a steep upward ascent for a number of vintages that has made another excellent wine in 2020. Deep in hue and, although still translucent at the core, there is quite a lot of extraction here, showing the ambition. Very viscous and limpid.
A sumptuous nose that is very redolent of plateau Pomerol at its best – violets, gorse and heather with damsons, blueberries and a little black forest gateau and with loads of graphite and a hint of the cedar to come. Very pure, precise and focused on the palate with a lovely soft and gentle attack, considerable amplitude and a lovely diaphanous feel in the mouth. The tannins grip very effectively in the mid-palate, tempering and reining back the fruit and muscling it into a long, tapered and gentle finish. They are just a little dry, but I am being very picky as this is a super Pomerol that is destined to bring oodles of pleasure.
Belle-Brise (Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; average age of the vines is 65 years; aging in 400 litre oak barrels, a third of which are new; an impressive moderate 13.5% alcohol). It’s always exciting to taste this singular wine. Very dark in colour at the core, intensely viscous and limpid in the glass with a lilac rim. This takes a little time to come together on the nose with interesting notes of horsehair, leather accompanying the baked plums and damsons. On the palate there is quite a pronounced saline-ferrous minerality which helps bring interest and definition alongside the fine grained and slightly crumbly tannins to the rich, plump mid-palate. Very long and quite charismatic.
Blason de l’Evangile (Pomerol; 87.5% Merlot; 12% Cabernet Franc; 0.5% Cabernet Sauvignon). This has a lovely, elegant crisp and pure cassis and redcurrant fruit, naturally leafy and fresh. It feels very natural. There is a touch of cedar and graphite too. On the palate, the cassis is joined by dark plump blackberries, brambles, a little red cherry and lovely peppery and floral notes. Fresh, lithe, lifted and much more sinuous and elegant that in recent vintages. A subtle change in direction here reinforcing the sense of precision and purity.
Bonalgue (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 9.4 hectares on a gravel-sand over deep gravel terroir; 95% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; aging for 18 months in oak barrels, 50% of which are new; a final yield of 42 hl/ha; pH 3.5; IPT 90-95; 14.5% alcohol). Deep, dark and rich – purple/blue/magenta at its core and extremely limpid. A flamboyant and gloriously opulent Pomerol nose of ripe plump black cherries and blueberries, with cedar and those archetypal violets so redolent of this vintage – a little bit of vanilla too and baking spices from the oak. Big, rich, plump and opulent (that word again!) on the palate, this is charged with bright, plump fruit. It has wondrously soft tannins and, crucially, excellent balance because of the acidity and freshness. A substantial Pomerol and a real crowd pleaser in this vintage.
Le Bon Pasteur (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 6.6 hectares on clay-gravel and sand-gravel terroirs next to Evangile on the plateau; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 37 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). This has a lovely intense nose of incense, tar, cedar, graphite, black cherry, cassis and blueberry pie; with air, there is a pleasing floral note too – violets and candied rose petals. This is plush and full with an impressive tannic pick-up in the second part of the wine’s evolution. Another wine (actually, a little like La Dominique, where Michel Rolland is also the consultant) with an excellent sense of structural form – an exoskeleton in effect. This is bold in terms of extraction but not at the expense of either freshness or definition and delineation. A great success in this vintage and, for me, the best recent vintage of this wine.
Bourgneuf (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 9 hectares on an iron-rich gravel and clay terroir neighbouring Trotanoy; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 35% of which are new; 15% alcohol). Incredibly dark-hued yet translucent at the core and extremely viscous, with a more radiant lilac/magenta rim. Another sumptuous nose, here with a little more toast from the oak accompanying the graphite, cedar, black cherries and blueberries, with a hint of fine dark cocoa powder and candied violets. Big, plump and super-soft on the palate, this is extremely seductive and impressively layered and complex. I love the sappy juiciness of the fruit even on the mid-palate and the sense of dynamism and energy that it brings to the wine. This is big, bold and incredibly concentrated, yet it is also light, bright and fresh. Needless to say, that produces great tension. Classic Pomerol.
La Cabanne (Pomerol; 96% Merlot; 4% Cabernet Franc; 14.7% alcohol). Very dark purple/blue in the glass, intensely limpid and viscous and with a radiant magenta rim. A lovely nose – lavender, violets, tar, summer rain on baked terracotta roof tiles and plump dark berry and stone fruit, kirsch, with a hint of vanilla crème brûlée too. Luscious and plump on the attack with super-svelte tannins and a rich and deep mid-palate before a little wave of grape juice enrobed in tannins refreshes the palate, gathering all the elements together for a relatively long and nicely composed finale. This is big and rich, but fresh and lithe too. Nicely done.
Cantelauze (Pomerol). A strange wine. This has a very sweet and confected nose and honestly don’t think it’s the sample – floral honey and, indeed, beeswax, candyfloss and even burnt sugar, with confit rose petals and baked plums and the spices that go with them. The palate is soft on the entry with grippy tannins, but it’s a little hollow in the mid palate – almost as if the grain in the tannins rubs through and erases the fruit a little. But, overall, is the sense of residual sugar here that I find disconcerting – it seems to unbalance the wine. One to retaste perhaps.
Certan de May (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 5.5 hectares on clay and deep gravel; 65% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; aging in oak barrels; 14.5% alcohol). This is less extracted than most of the Moueix wines it seems with a lovely extremely translucent magenta-garnet core. The nose is darker than most of the other Pomerols and, like La Grave à Pomerol, with more Cabernet, this is more classically Pomerol on the nose – blueberries and mulberries, damsons and sloes, with graphite and violets, even a hint of lavender. Cool and dark, with supple tannins that grip nicely in the mid-palate, if like many of these wines with just a hint of sweetness. This is pure, precise, nicely layered and very elegant – with a more refined and sinuous passage over the palate than the Merlot monocépage wines in the line-up. Stylish and seductive, if just a little more sombre and serious.
La Clémence (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 2.8 hectares on a terroir of blue clay, sand and gravel; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 33 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). This is slightly reductive on the nose with, eventually, a rich and ripe red berry and stone fruit, almonds, frangipane and toasted baguette. This has a bright and very natural sweetness on the entry, a plush and round mid-palate and a nice tapered finish as the fine-grained but quite textural tannins grip and rein in the fruit, bringing it ever closer the tannic spine. I do fine the tannins themselves just a little dry on the finish, but I like the structure of this.
Clinet (Pomerol; from a fantastic and rightly famous vineyard of 9 hectares on the plateau on a prime clay-gravel terroir; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 38 hl/ha; 15.5% alcohol). Tasted at the UGC. A wonderful wine. On the nose we have all forms and varieties of cherries – dried, fresh and preserved, red, black and yellow, just ripe and very ripe, but always plump and crunchy; there are blueberries too, of course, and a broad range of the parfumier’s floral armoury (and the skill to combine them).
On the palate, this is dark and bright, compact and yet sinuous; though there is density and one is aware that this carrying a lot of substance, it remains bright and glossy and diaphanous – almost billowy. It is also wonderfully refreshing, charged as it is, especially on the finish, with great freshness. Above all, though, it is the silky texture that sets this apart. Luminous and clear, it simply exudes harmony. Another sumptuous wine from Clinet.
Le Clos du Beau-Père (Pomerol). Limpid and glossy, quite viscous and yet light in extraction with a shimmering lilac-pink rim. Bright and expressive on the nose if a little reductive as first. Boiled sweet and a hint of pear-drop accompany the bright almost crunchy red cherry fruit with a nice earthy mineral undertone and a hint of liquorice and pencil-shavings; with more air, we pick up black cherries too. Soft and quite plump and plush on the palate, this has good concentration and a nice slightly grainy mouthfeel from the tannins that brings focus and precision. More pure and precise than it used to be and with less obvious oak presence, this is a very attractive expression of the vintage, charged as it is with fresh fruit.
Clos du Clocher (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 5.8 hectares on an excellent plateau terroir with parcels close to the church of Pomerol and next to Trotanoy; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; aging for 18 months in oak barrels, 50% of which are new; a final yield of 45 hl/ha; pH 3.6; IPT 95-100; 14.5% alcohol). Dark and intensely viscous, with blue, indigo and magenta highlights on swirling, the light bouncing off its surface like moonlight off a mountain lake.
A sumptuous Pomerol nose – intensely floral and charged with violets, but also a plump rich black cherry and wild blueberry fruit, with graphite and black pen ink too and a little earthy-loamy undertone. Glossy, rich and plump on the entry, the filigree soft tannins seem to hold the ripe fruit in suspension, defying logic – and gravity – in so doing. A sumptuous, opulent and yet at the same time quite a refined and elegant wine. A great success in this great vintage for the plateau of Pomerol.
La Commanderie (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 5.8 hectares on a terroir of sand and gravel; 95% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 40 hl/ha; malolactic and élevage in oak barrels, 70% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). This is charged with rich ripe blueberry fruit, some red cherry too and more delicate spring floral notes, all over a deeper undertone of heather and wild garrigue herbs. There is a slightly saline, spicy element too – hoisin and star anise and a touch of cedar (that will no doubt come through more with age, reinforcing as it does the floral notes). On the palate this is nicely focussed, quite precise and layered and with an impressive degree of mid-palate density and concentration. Harmonious, elegant and with a nice sappy finish as the tannins grip and seem to wrap themselves in fresh fruit juice as they do so. This has undoubted potential.
La Conseillante (Pomerol; 87% Merlot; 13% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of around 39 hl/ha; pH 3.64; 14% alcohol). Tasted with Marielle Cazaux at the Chateau. Wow – what a brilliant expression of top plateau Pomerol terroir. Cedar. Blueberries and black cherries. So dark, so rich and intense on the nose – a super-charged La Conseillante. The cedar seems to wrap itself in the parfumier’s essence of violet – there is no way any natural plant could produce a floral note so pure and concentrated and yet at the same time this feels entirely natural.
There is cassis and raspberry coulis too, with a trace of saffron. On the palate, this is dense and compact, layered and luminous – and yet richer and with greater density than used to be the case here. That works fabulously in this vintage, giving the wine both a plunge-pool depth and profundity yet at the same time it also retains that wondrously diaphanous and luminous quality. A lovely cool minty authoritative finish. Honestly, I can’t recall a better La Conseillante. I loved the 2019; I love this even more. Chapeau!
Croix du Casse (Pomerol). Not quite what I was expecting. Quite dense and compact on the nose, with rather more Cabernet character than most wines of the appellation. But I actually rather like that. It’s less floral than many, and the floral notes are more redolent of roses than violets. The fruit is a little subdued – brambles, plums, a hint of cassis and hoisin notes. On the palate I find this to be dominated by quite an intense saline and ferrous minerality that weighs quite heavily on the fruit. Overall this feels four-square, a little surly and a bit harsh and unyielding. Time will tell, but I miss the bright freshness of the vintage.
La Croix de Gay (Pomerol; 97% Merlot; 3% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 38 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). Tasted at the UGC. Baked and fresh plums, with quite a pronounced saline mineral note; not very floral and the fruit is a little monotonic. This is fresh on the attack but loses its focus a bit thereafter; I find this a little shapeless and the tannins on the finish a touch severe.
La Croix St.-Georges (Pomerol; 91% Merlot; 9% Cabernet Franc; from a vineyard of 4.5 hectares just outside Catusseau, the average age of the vines being 43 years; aging in a combination of traditional oak barrels larger format oak barrels and cigar-shaped barrels, 60% of which are new; a final yield of 37 hl/ha; 14.6% alcohol). This used to be a wine that, to my taste, was rather too marked by the oak; not any more. This has a pure and lifted, but rich, nose of crushed raspberries, blueberries, red cherries, assorted crushed peppercorns and wild but dried garrigue herbs. On the palate, this is broad-shouldered, dense, quite compact and with considerable mid-palate concentration. It’s a bit of bruiser and very much a vin de garde; but, as with Sacré Coeur, there’s enough acidity and freshness here to compensate for the richness without this ever threatening to become heavy. It’s one of the bigger wines of the appellation and won’t perhaps be to every taste; but it’s going to be a very impressive bottle of wine in a decade’s time.
Clos L’Eglise (Pomerol; from a fantastically well-situated property directly opposite Eglise-Clinet on the plateau; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 70% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). Tasted just after Feytit-Clinet, this is similar in hue but significantly lighter in extraction (which probably wouldn’t have been the case a few vintages ago). A sumptuous and extremely expressive nose much less defined by the oak than in recent vintages – with a pure, bright and quite lifted baked plum, black cherry and blueberry fruit, aromatic baking spices and crushed hazelnuts. A lovely soft plump and slightly spicy attack, this has great amplitude, impressive concentration and depth and very fine-grained but still textured and tactile tannins which stop this from becoming soupy and monochromatic. It’s not as complex or layered as some of the very best wines from the plateau in this vintage, but it has plenty of energy and appeal and is archetypally of its appellation.
Domaine de L’Eglise (Pomerol; 96% Merlot; 4% Cabernet Franc). Another Pomerol that is very much towards the magenta/indigo/purple end of the chromatic spectrum, this is also very glossy and limpid in the glass catching the light beautifully. A lovely fresh lifted floral nose – peonies and lilacs and rosemary and thyme too alongside the quite pure blueberry fruit. This has a lovely sinuous mouthfeel, the softness of the tannins deceiving one into thinking this is lacking in density or concentration when in fact it’s quite the opposite. This has lift and tension and energy and, crucially, lots of freshness. Shimmering, luminous and crystalline.
L’Eglise Clinet (Pomerol; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 80% of which is new; 14.4% alcohol). Tasted with Noëmie Durantou over Zoom. Like La Petite Eglise this slightly austere but utterly sublime wine needs time to open – it is in no rush to reveal to us its charms. But what charms they are! This is dark and mysterious, slightly gothic, even a little sombre. The fruit is incredibly dark and intense – black cherries and blueberries, with a hint of damson and sloe – and it is wrapped in the most gloriously silky and quintessentially Pomerol combination of cedar, graphite and dark chocolate-coated violets. It is utterly beautiful and breath-taking in its timeless perfection – like the stained glass of La Sainte Chapelle.
The palate is no less breath-taking, though here one is more aware that this is a vin de garde that will need several decades to reveal all of its glories. The tannins are fantastically soft on the entry, but their ultra-fine granularity is a tactile presence right from the start. They chisel, structure and shape the fruit as they build the architecture of the wine whilst also illuminating the detail of the mid-palate as they do so. It is like witnessing the construction of a gothic cathedral, with the beauty as much in the fine-grained detail as in the totality. Sumptuous, utterly compelling and brilliantly vibrant and fresh from start to finish; it also builds fantastically over the palate.
L’Enclos (Pomerol; from the same team as the excellent Chateau Fonplégade in St Emilion; 88% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 2% Malbec; aging in oak barrels, 40% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). I had a good feeling about this wine, and it is confirmed in the glass. Shimmering and extremely limpid with a dark garnet core and the most shocking of punk pink rims. Creamy but extremely fresh and nicely lifted on the nose – fruits of the forest, wild blueberries and graphite, with a gentle undercurrent of wilds herbs, moss and damp earth. This is gloriously soft on the entry, though the tannins are actually quite punchy and assertive though crumbly and extremely fine-grained and they seem to pick up the acidity, reinforcing the very natural brightness of the wine on the mid-palate. There is a lovely saline-iodine minerality on the finish and a nice hint of walnuts too. Not especially complex and quite austere in a way, this it will need time to soften; but it’s nicely balanced and wonderfully sappy.
Enclos Tourmaline (Pomerol; from a tiny vineyard of 1.2 hectares, of which only 1 hectare is currently in production on a fine blue clay and gravel terroir; 100% Merlot; vinification and aging in new oak barrels; pH 3.67; 14.7% alcohol). Purple/garnet at the core, viscous and limpid as ever, with a radiant indigo band around the rim. A sublime plateau Pomerol nose – a slight very natural sweetness, graphite and cedar, violets and lilacs, wild herbs and loamy-earthy notes all wound around the succulent plump blueberry and cherry fruit.
Yet it’s the minerality and the sheer quality of the tannin management that make this wine so unique and so wonderful. The texture is incredible, with tannins so soft that it takes a while to pick up their grain and texture, but that tactile quality is actually crucial to the delivery of the fruit across the palate. Ultra-pure, ultra-focussed and ultra-precise, the effect in the mouth is fascinating – a cool cylinder of silky soft blueberry and black cherry fruit progressing ever so slowly along the mineral core of the wine’s backbone. Truly excellent and although this is a wine to last through the ages, it’s already amazingly accessible. Sumptuously svelte.
L’Evangile (Pomerol; 88% Merlot; 12% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, only 50% of which are new; pH 3.8; 14.5% alcohol). There is a subtle change in style here, giving this greater precision whilst accentuating further the fabulous complexity that comes from this great terroir. Bright, energetic and quite aerial on the nose, with mulberries and brambles, rose petals, pencil shavings, sesame seeds, cedar and acacia wood, with spring flowers and wild oregano too. This is gregarious but with lots of lift and precision despite the characteristic depth and concentration. Big, grand and ample, but more refined, stylish elegant and fresher, with lots of tension. Some excellent choices have been made here – the changes are subtle but there is still a nice line of continuity. The cardamom and cinnamon spiciness and the slightly toasty notes on the finish remind one that this is still Evangile. I really like that.
Feytit Clinet (Pomerol; from a well-situated vineyard just down the hill from Clinet and Eglise-Clinet and opposite Latour à Pomerol; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 70% of which are new; a final yield of 42 hl/ha; pH 3.7; 14.8% alcohol). Tasted twice from samples send from the property, the second rather fresher. Extremely viscous, dark in the glass and more extracted than many, if still just about translucent at the glossy black/garnet/purple core. I think I could pick this blind, though it’s actually more floral on the nose than it often is en primeur. Violets, gladioli and blackberry, mulberry and blueberry fruit, with just a trace of the cedar that will come through with bottle age.
This is very ripe, rich and plump on the palate with a lovely svelte attack and a glossy and limpid palate. The tannins are incredibly soft – velvet and velour – and this is ample and expansive, almost pillowy, the intense and concentrated fruit almost seeming to defy gravity. Opulent, open and seductive, if not quite as purely focussed or precise as the excellent 2019 and with a touch more extraction it seems. What I do like very, however, is the contrast between the shimmering, almost translucent, mid-palate and the bright, fresh and lifted finale which is very much at the top of the mouth. I am a great admirer of Jeremy Chasseuil and the work he has done at Feytit over the last decade; this is the latest in a series of great wines.
La Fleur-Pétrus (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 18.7 hectares on gravel and deep clay on an iron-rich subsoil; 93% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; 2% Petit Verdot; aging in oak barrels, 50% of which are new, for 16-18 months; 15% alcohol). Utterly sublime and beautifully harmonious. This has a cool, dark, achingly soft and slightly sombre nose of violets, candied violets, Palma violets, blueberries and brambles and fresh finely ground peppercorns, with a deep earthy-loamy undertone too. Creamy, soft, gentle and incredibly refined, this has the most incredibly fine-grained yet intensely tactile tannins that almost seem the massage the fruit into the palate. There is a plunge-pool cool bright intensity, like the sensory thrill of diving through crystal clear cool water (or at least that’s how I imagine it). Sublime.
Gazin (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 22 hectares on the clay-gravel plateau; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). Tasted at the UGC in Paris and then from a sample sent from the property. There is no Cabernet Franc in the blend here for the first time, just Cabernet Sauvignon. A beautiful wine to look at in the glass, with incredible viscosity and limpidity, its translucence at the core accentuating the blue, purple and garnet highlights that appear on swirling. A fabulous nose too, with all that Gazin ferrous-saline minerality but also big, rich, plump blueberry and black cherry fruit – wow – and also gorgeous notes of cedar and graphite.
This is super silky in the mouth. The attack is sumptuous and opulent in the very best tradition of the appellation and the property; but there is a lovely grip from the tannins that reins in the fruit, wrestling it back to the mineral-tannic spine of the wine. But it’s quite a battle as this is so lively, bright, energetic and charged with freshness. The titanic struggle produces great tension. This is a truly fantastic Gazin that captures the essence of the vintage so well – I can’t recall better at this stage. The influence of Thomas Duclos as consultant oenologist is very clear.
Grand Village de Lafleur (Bordeaux Supérieur; 79% Merlot; 21% Bouchet; aging in oak barrels, 30% of which are new). Tasted with Omri Ram at Chateau Lafleur. The progression here in recent vintages is startling. Another Guinaudeau wine that sings so eloquently of its terroir – here, argilo-calcaire. On the nose this is pure, lifted and rich, with smoky and nutty elements, a touch of cinnamon spice and fleur d’oranger intermingling seamlessly with the dark plump brambles. The clay gives great amplitude to this on the attack but then the limestone tannins grip and draw the wine back to its spine, before their fine-grains start to create little fresh ripples of sapid juicy fruitiness around the edges. This has great volume and textural interest, but no sensation of weight. Aerial, bright and energetic; yet with consideration depth and concentration. There is also a lovely salinity to the finish – the vinous equivalent of adding a little fleur de sel to accentuate the details of a dish.
La Grave à Pomerol (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 8 hectares on gravel and fine clay; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 40% of which are new; 15% alcohol). A little lighter in colour and extraction than Bourgneuf but at least equally beautiful on the nose – here, with a little more Cabernet Franc, we have the most classic aromatic statement of Pomerol with rich blueberry fruit, cedar and bunches of violets. It’s glorious and not quite what you expect from a wine that’s so young. Cool and indulgent on the palate, with filigree tannins and an incredible density and concentration to the fruit. Despite the heat of the summer on this predominantly gravel terroir, this has retained plenty of freshness. Fabulous.
Guillot-Clauzel (Pomerol; the property has existed since 1991, this is the third vintage with Guillaume Thienpont, of Vieux Chateau Certan, as wine-maker and general manager; a 2.4-hectare vineyard on a south-facing slope on the southern limit of the plateau of Pomerol, next to Trotanoy, Enclos Tourmaline and Le Pin on a classic Pomerol gravel-clay terroir; the old-vine Merlot was planted in the 1960s and the early 1980s; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc). Tasted at Vieux Chateau Certan with Alexandre and Guillaume Thienpont, just after Le Pin. There aren’t many wines in this vintage that could hold their own again Le Pin and VCC; this is one of them – though it is very different from both.
This wine would be even more of a revelation, had I not recently tasted the 2018. That prepared me, up to a point, for this sheer brilliance of Guillot-Clauzel in 2020; but this is still some achievement nonetheless. Limpid, glossy with blue-purple highlights at the core, this is wondrously pure, clear and precise on the nose, with bright and focussed, almost chiselled, graphite and blueberries, a touch of cinnamon, a hint of cedar and a little red cherry, before the black and redcurrant notes fully arrive, bringing with them a vibrant, herby, leafy freshness. On the palate, this is tender, taut and tactile, with a cool, slightly austere, dark berry fruit (cassis and blueberries) and a simply breath-takingly glistening and shimmering mid-palate. I love, too, the fresh early spring floral notes on both the nose and the palate. In this, the third of three great vintages, the Thienponts have fashioned three great Pomerols.
Haut Maillet (Pomerol). More earthy than floral aromatically, which already sets it apart from many of its peers. There is quite a pronounced ferrous and saline minerality too which seems to weigh this wine down in the mid palate. For me this lacks the bright vivacity that characterises the vintage at its best. A bit stolid and four-square, though I rather like the chewy, sappy black cherry skin finish.
Hosanna (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 4.5 hectares on an iron-rich blue clay on red gravel terroir; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 50% of which are new; 15% alcohol). I thik this is the best vintage of Hosanna that I have yet tasted. Again, we have this most incredible and incredibly classic Pomerol nose – here with a fruit profile that is a shade darker because of the presence of wonderful Cabernet Franc than Latour à Pomerol. Cedar, mulberries, brambles and blueberries, with maybe a hint of damson too, violets and lavender, flakes of very dark chocolate and wild thyme and maybe even sage. On the palate this is diaphanous, luminous and radiant yet there is great density and concentration too. Vital, vibrant and thoroughly thrilling, this is a quite brilliant wine with so much energy and tension that dances the tight-rope between opulence and austerity, seductiveness and sobriety, depth and levity. I love it.
Lafleur (Pomerol; 46% Bouchet; 54% Merlot). As ever, the most architectural and structured wine not just of the appellation but of Bordeaux itself – and perhaps the most complex too in this vintage. On the nose we have sloes, damsons and blueberries, graphite and walnut shell, black tea leaf and black cherry, an earthy/smoky note from the Merlot, an almost feral element and then the wonderful floral notes from the Bouchet – violets, lilies and irises. The attack is simply divine and lifts one almost into a different dimension, such is the complexity of the unfurling of the wine across the palate.
We have the sublime concentrated presence of cedar and graphite, a fabulous cornucopia of floral elements – iris, lilac, peony, violet, rose petal and a touch of saffron. But it is the weightlessness of the mid-palate that I find most incredible – this is floaty, almost velouté and souffléd in texture, despite having massive depth and profundity. Diaphanous, radiant, profoundly lithe and energetic and, quite simply, brilliant, this has staggering potential.
Lafleur Gazin (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 8.5 hectares on gravel, silt and clay; 100% Merlot; aging in oak barrels, 35% of which are new, for 16-18 months; 15% alcohol). As ever this is one of the lighter Pomerols in the Moueix line-up, but it has a fabulous and quite opulent nose of cedar and graphite with blueberry and black cherry fruit. On the palate this is quite sweet, does not have massive concentration or depth, but certainly does have nicely textural and tactile fine-grained chewy tannins which grip nicely and bring interest. Whilst I love the cedar and graphite here, I do find the slight sense of sweetness on the attack a little off-putting.
Lagrange à Pomerol (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 9 hectares on gravel and clay and old, deep, blue clay; 100% Merlot; aging in oak barrels, 30% of which are new, for 16-18 months; 15% alcohol). A little darker in hue and extract and more limpid and viscous in the glass than Lafleur-Gazin and, as it always is, a little bigger, deeper and richer. On the nose this too is charged with the most beautiful cedary notes – quite glorious and so rare for an en primeur sample and they incorporate the black cherry fruit very seductively. On the palate this is very fine, lithe and elegant, and it has a lovely sense of balance and composure. It, too, is ever so slightly sweet, but in a very natural way and there is plenty of compensating zingy energy and freshness stopping this from becoming heavy. Very fine, though it lacks the mid-palate depth and concentration on the very best of the Moueix line-up.
Latour à Pomerol (Pomerol; a vineyard of 8 hectares on gravel and clay and sand and clay terroirs; 100% Merlot; aging in oak barrels, 40% of which are new, for 16-18 months; 15% alcohol). For me always one of the greatest wines of the appellation and invariable underappreciated. In this great vintage for Pomerol, once again, it excels. This is intensely aromatic and it has an utterly beautiful nose – blueberries and blackberries, brambles and cherries with oodles of cedar and graphite and the most beautiful violet and peony floral notes. This is heady and sublimely seductive. On the palate this is rich and plump and so gentle on the entry, but there is considerable density and concentration, lovely grip and bite from the tannins and a wonderfully rolling, juicy, sappy finish. Utterly exquisite.
Maillet (Pomerol; 95% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; aging in a combination of oak barrels and amphorae for 18 months; pH 3.75; 14.5% alcohol). This is good. A deep rich purple in the glass, matching the very pure and vertically presented classic blueberry fruit, with a little bit of black cherry for good measure and a nice graphite minerality, a touch of salinity and an earthy-gravelly undertone. On the palate this is bright and fresh, with fine-grained tannins bringing definition and focus to what might otherwise be a little monochromatic. Dense but never heavy, this is a nicely balanced and very accomplished wine from Maillet.
Mazeyres (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 23.8 hectares on gravel-clay and sand terroirs; 72% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; 3% Petit Verdot; gaining in a combination of oak barrels and foudres, concrete and amphorae; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol; farmed organically and biodynamically). Fresh, very bright and direct on the nose with ripe pulpy red cherry and early season plum stone fruit, a touch of almonds and frangipane, a little hint of walnut shell too and some pencil lead.
With a little more air this becomes a little wilder, with fresh mountain herbs as well as a hint of acacia and a lovely subtle violet note. Plush and plump on the entry with a nice sense of pick-up and forward progression on the palate, the fruit is vivid, bright and ripe and there is plenty of it to cover the structure. It maybe lacks a little complexity but it more than makes up for that with its lovely focus and precision, the quite luminous mid-palate and the juicy fresh lift just before the long and tender finish. This is accessible, unpretentious and brimming with energy.
Monregard la Croix (Pomerol; from a vineyard of just 1.3 hectares on the mid terrace just outside Catusseau on a sandy-clay over deep gravel terroir; 100% Merlot; aging for 18 months in oak barrels, 30% of which are new; a final yield of 45 hl/ha; pH 3.6; IPT 90; 14.5% alcohol). Another very deep coloured and rich Pomerol from Jean-Baptiste Bourotte and Herities Audy. This is intensely floral on the nose, with Palma and candied violets and confit rose petals accompanying the crunchy super-ripe black cherry fruit. This is very much the hedonists’ style of Pomerol – it’s not that subtle and rather full on, but it couldn’t be from anywhere else and it’s rather joyous. Not an intellectual wine, but there is plenty of indulgent fun to be had from this bottle.
Le Moulin (Pomerol; a tiny vineyard of 1.5 hectares on clay and gravel; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 42 hl/ha; aging in oak barrels, 100% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). An interesting wine that I haven’t tasted before. For me it seems a bit stuck between two rather different and competing styles. The nose is bright and fresh if rendered a little discordant by the very prominent ferrous-saline minerality which rather dominates, for me, the fresh and baked plum fruit; but I like very much the graphite notes and a touch of black cherry comes through with more air, giving this a richer and rounder feel. On the palate, this is at first quite compact, dense and even a little harsh, but with air the wine fills out a bit more and the flesh seems to cling better to the tannic architecture. But I still ultimately find this a little severe, the tannins a touch dry. It will be interesting to re-taste this.
Moulinet (Pomerol). On the nose this opens with plump red cherries, fresh and baked plums, lots of Christmas spices – nutmeg, cinnamon, a hint of vanilla and cloves – a little wood smoke, roasted coffee beans and chocolate ganache. On the palate this is quite broad, round and ample with an impressively soft and juicy mid-palate, an interesting ferrous minerality and a fresh sappy finish. It perhaps lacks a little delineation in the mid-palate, but the freshness on the finish provides ample consolation.
Nenin (Pomerol; 68% Merlot; 32% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels 40% of which are new; pH 3.65; IPT 72; 14% alcohol). On the nose, this is spicy and smoky, with fresh and baked plums, hoisin and star anise, baking spices, strawberries too, and a slight ferrous minerality. On the palate, the tannins are immediately svelte and silky, but they grip nicely in the mid-palate and bring the fruit back towards the spine, giving this a more structural and architectural aspect than in recent vintages. I like the finish, especially the little hint of floral peppercorns.
La Patache (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 3.18 hectares on a clay and fine gravel terroir; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 30% of which are new; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; pH 3.78; 14% alcohol). Garnet at the core, a radiant crimson/magenta at the rim and with plenty of evident glycerine. This is very pretty on the nose, with loads of cedar wrapping itself around the plump, pulpy plum and blueberry fruit – this is really very seductive. Soft and supple on the entry, bright if just a little sweet-tinged and for the first time one picks up a little vanilla pod from the oak. The is full and rich with baked plum and baking spices but not, as yet, the cedar from the nose. This will turn out well and it’s always excellent value, but for now it’s the nose that wows me.
Les Pensées de Lafleur (Pomerol; 29% Bouchet; 71% Merlot). In a way this is the classic plateau Pomerol of Chateau Lafleur in that its 0.7 hectares of clay, sand and gravel terroir is more representative of the rest of the plateau than that of Lafleur itself. An utterly fabulous wine in this vintage. On the nose, we have blueberries, sloes, damsons, blackberries and cassis, with a lovely trace of violets. This is sumptuous, full and quite ample on the palate, fanning out quickly on the attack; it’s dense and compact; but at the same time, and in way very characteristic of the vintage, it’s also lithe and supple and very open-textured. As with the more chiselled Les Perrières, the fine-grained tannins seem only able to scratch and slightly break up the edges of the broad, plump rich and deep mid-palate. One senses the opulence to come, but for now this remains slightly sombre and austere – but with incredible potential. Another top Pomerol that seems to glide, float and levitate in the mid-palate.
Petit-Village (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 10.5 hectares on a graves argileuses terroir, 2.5 hectares of which are being replanted and only a half of the remaining 4 hectares was uses for the grand vin; 60% Merlot; 32% Cabernet Franc; 8% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 27 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). Tasted over Zoom with Diana Berrouet-Garcia. A remarkable transformation since this was acquired by the Moulin family in June 2020. An utterly brilliant wine and a complete revelation. This is now right up there, for me, with the very best wines of the plateau; and one of the things that really makes the difference is the elevated proportion of Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon) in the blend.
Intensely purple and intensely limpid in the glass, even if it seems like the colour has still to set and has been dropped in with a pipette as it shimmers and seems to change in density as the viscous liquid rolls around the glass. The nose is Pomerol perfection – peonies and violets first, then plump freshly plucked and perfectly ripe blueberries, black cherries, maybe mulberries too, graphite and cedar and black pen ink. This is the closest to cashmere in terms of texture of any wine I have thus far tasted in the vintage. Rich, deep, plump, plush with a rippling, undulating current of juicy, sappy fresh fruit. Petit Village used to be slightly strict and stern; this is the very antithesis. It is light, dynamic, vibrant and exuberant but at the same time it has succulence, depth and profundity. I was expecting this to be good, but not this good. A new benchmark for Petit-Village and a property that really deserves your attention.
La Petite Eglise (Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 50% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol; just 4500 bottles in 2020 with a part of the vineyard being replanted; a separate wine with an identity of its own that should not be thought of as Eglise Clinet’s second wine). Tasted with Noëmie Durantou over Zoom. For the first time this includes the little parcel of Cabernet Franc just in front of the chateau next to the cemetery. Fascinating and very distinctive on the nose, though it needs a little bit of time to open. This is earthy and a little wild, it feels very natural, with heather and wild herbs, dried violet petals, a quite pronounced saline minerality and, with air, more and more acacia and cedar notes alongside the ‘just ripe’ crunchy dark cherries, blueberries and loganberries.
On the entry this is fantastically soft, with that plunge-pool sense of shimmering cool depth, but then a fabulous lift as a wave of juicy fresh ‘just ripe’ blueberry and loganberry juice crashes over the palate, rippling all the way to the long dynamic finish. The energy and vitality of this wine is incredible and the Cabernet Franc brings a lovely gravitas and authority to the mid-palate too. Tense and charged with refreshing bright fruit, this is fabulous stuff. Interestingly, this is so fresh that it feels more like 13.5 than 14.5 degree of alcohol.
Les Perrières de Lafleur (Bordeaux Supérieur; 71% Bouchet; 29% Merlot). Tasted with Omri Ram at Chateau Lafleur. On pure limestone, with no clay. This is now the third vintage of this wine under its new name (previously Acte 1 to Acte 9). Made from Lafleur’s massale clone Bouchet and now Merlot too. Fabulous and now reliably excellent. The nose itself divulges the terroir – with that saline lift and aerial fresh energy that can only really come from pure limestone. Crunchy, fresh, crisp blackcurrant, blueberry, blackberry and bramble fruit, with wild herbs, a touch of dark chocolate and whetstone.
The tannins are wonderfully fine-grained and, as ever here, very present and very tactile – they seem to break up and ripple the surface of the rich, deep, dark concentrated linear core of this wine, bringing as they do a pixilated detail to the edges of the wine if not yet to the compact, dense core itself. This is a vin de garde that needs at least a decade in bottle before it will even start to reveal its secrets. But the raw ingredients and the respect for terroir that they reveal are just fantastic – as is the potential. Unique and, for me, one of the most compelling and exciting wines of Bordeaux.
Petrus (Pomerol; 100% Merlot). Tasted at the Chateau with Olivier Berrouet. It is hardly a revelation this this is brilliant; but one still cannot really prepare oneself for how brilliant it is. As ever, my notes do less justice I feel to this wine than any other wine I ever taste – it is very difficult to describe and a simple list of superlatives seems facile and almost disrespectful. Let me try to do better. On the nose, this is pure, aerial and opulent, very fresh if a little closed to start with – one needs to adjust and adapt to the wine’s rhythm. One senses the graphite minerality first, then the floral elements – rose petals, rose stamens, the parfumier’s absolu de roses, a touch of violet.
Then the fruit starts to sing – black cherries, blueberries, dark mulberries with a hint of fresh mint leaf, even spearmint. On the palate, this is unbelievably dark, deep, rich and concentrated. One has the sensation of layering, but the layers are just so multiple that one cannot grasp fully the complexity and that gives this a rather intellectual quality – as one is drawn back to the mid- palate to try to decipher and decode more of its secrets. There are slightly smoky notes, earthy/humus elements, graphite and cedar and nutmeg and cinnamon too. The finish seems eternal and instils a sense of absolute harmony and calm. Miraculous and wondrous in equal measure.
Le Pin (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; a final yield of 24 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). Tasted at Vieux Chateau Certan with Alexandre and Guillaume Thienpont, just after Vieux Chateau Certan itself. It is fascinating to taste this alongside the other Thienpont Pomerols. A simply gorgeous wine in 2020, though it’s actually a little less expressive aromatically at this stage than VCC. But it still brings goose pimples to the back of my neck. We have more cedar than VCC and a nuclear reactor core of graphite rods! Walnut oil, red and black cherries and dark chocolate coated Palma violets.
This is, paradoxically, both more open-textured and yet more compact still than VCC. Full, rich and yet lithesome, the texture and mouthfeel is sumptuous and diaphanous. This, too, floats but whereas VCC flirts and dances this rolls around the palate. It is also strikingly refreshing, with an intensely sapid rolling fresh finish – like an Atlantic breaker crashing ashore on sun-baked sand. The wine is very tactile in and through the mid-palate, with velour layered in milles feuilles and those ultra-fine yet granular Merlot tannins picking out the detail. Once again I am viscerally aware of being in the presence of greatness.
Plince (Pomerol; 84% Merlot; 16% Cabernet Franc). Tasted at J-P. Moueix in Libourne. One senses very much the contribution of the Cabernet Franc here. On the nose, cassis and brambles and that lovely sensation of fresh rain on baked roof tiles. There’s lots of slightly ferrous minerality here too – from the crasse de fer terroir. On the palate, this is quite full, rich and plump but limpid and svelte, with an impressively silky mid-palate and a nice grippy bite from the tannins on the finish.
Plincette (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; 14.5% alcohol). Lighter and more simple than La Cabanne (tasted alongside), with quite a delicate sweet-tinged nose of fresh spring flowers and red berry fruit – wild strawberries and raspberries. Light and bright on the palate, but just a little sweet and just a little lacking in mid-palate intensity and complexity too. But this will make for very pleasant easy drinking quite soon.
La Pointe (Pomerol; 76% Merlot; 24% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. There is a pleasing freshness and lift to this. It has a pure and nicely focussed cassis fruit, a touch of blueberry and a shaving or two of pencil lead. On the palate this is quite simple in a way, but with some precision and a nice compactness to the fruit. The tannins are fine-grained and bring detail to the mid-palate. Good if not especially complex.
Rouget (Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 32 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol; in converstion to organics and biodynamics). Tasted at the UGC in Paris. Plump and plush and with a nice croquant black cherry and blueberry fruit, a grating of fine chocolate, pot pourri, pathchouli and fresh rose petals, with a nice trace of ferrous salinity too. This is soft and quite voluptuous on the attack with plenty of lift and acidity too. There is a lovely ‘flow’ over the palate, with that tannins sculpting and tracing out an impressively curvaceous shape. It’s as if the tannins bring detail more to the grand architecture, form and shape of the wine than to the layers out of which the palate is constructed. There’s something rather Burgundian about that. An excellent wine, with a lovely suggestion of dark chocolate on the finish.
Sacré-Coeur (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; a tiny vineyard of just 1.5 hectares on gravel and sand, the average age of the vines is 36 years; a final yield of 38 hl/ha; aging in oak barrels from Taransaud and Damajou, 50% of which are new; pH 3.7; 14.3% alcohol; just over 500 cases made). Very smoky on the nose, with a lovely freshly roasting coffee bean element too alongside the bright, earthy, plum, raspberry compote, blueberry and bramble fruit; fresh mint, thyme and rosemary too. This is big, rich, deep and concentrated, but with just enough freshness and acidity to hold it together and to stop it losing focus through the dense mid-palate. The tannins are ever so slightly dry on the finish – but crucially they are not drying and in a few years this will be a lovely, if quite punchy, 2020 Pomerol.
Saint-Pierre (Pomerol; 87% Merlot; 13% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 50% of which are new). Very dark – almost jet black at the practically opaque and inky core. Tarry, smoky, big and very powerful on the nose; but this, for me, lacks the bright energy, vivacity and freshness of the vintage. I don’t find much fruit here and the oak seems to crowd out the floral elements too. Soft and plump on the attack and despite the evidently quite considerable extraction there is no dryness to the tannins, but I still find this a little heavy and lacking delineation. A bit of a bruiser.
De Sales (Pomerol; from the largest vineyard in the appellation, even if only just over half of the 90 hectares are actually under vine; 79% Merlot; 14% Cabernet Sauvignon; 7%; Cabernet Franc; aging in oak, but only 18% of it is new; 13.5% alcohol). A lovely authentically Pomerol nose for the vintage, with lavender and violet, cedar and graphite, blueberries and brambles and a delightful note of thyme and rosemary. This feels bright and super fresh on the attack with quite an exciting pick up and sense of forward momentum. The fruit is compact and the tannins bind it nicely to the quite linear spine. Long and nicely focussed, this stays fresh and bright all the way to the long peppery finish. Very impressive and probably the best wine I’ve tasted from de Sales.
Séraphine (Pomerol; from a little vineyard of 2.2 hectares comprised of three parcels – two at Mazeyres on gravel and sand, gravel and blue clay, the other at Plince on sand over clay and gravel; just 3200 bottles; 100% Merlot; aged in French oak barrels and a 1000L clay amphora; 14% alcohol). Ultra-viscous and glossy – purple/black at the core and with a radiant violet rim. This has a sleek yet very stylish classic Pomerol nose of blueberry compote and hedgerow flowers, with a hint of cloves too. Succulent and supremely svelte in the mouth, with plush, opulent black cherry and blueberry fruit, a hint of walnut oil, freshly roasted coffee beans and a cool slightly menthol finish. Long and undulating on the palate this, too, is the best wine made yet by this very promising and highly ambitious estate. Bright and energetic yet at the same time really substantial and with the most glorious mouthfeel. This is going to be fabulous.
Taillefer (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 12 hectares on an iron-rich silica and gravel over clay terroir; 91% Merlot; 9% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 35 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). Dark and limpid in the glass; translucent at the core. Somewhat lacking in personality on the nose and palate, I find this a little hollow, with the fruit stretched quite thinly over the broad structure. I also find the tannins a little severe; and the oak influence seems just to mute somewhat the freshness of the fruit that is surely the signature of the vintage. Maybe I need to re-taste this; but for now I find this a bit of a struggle.
Trotanoy (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 7.2 hectares on gravel on clay and black clay; 100% Merlot; aging in oak barrels, 50% of which are new; 15% alcohol). Many of these Moueix Pomerols in this vintage come close to flirting with perfection, this one quite possibly attains it. It is very different from the others and the nose alone brings a slight tear to my eye and goose-pimples to the back of my neck. We have pure violet and pure blueberry fruit but they are accompanied here less by the cedar of Latour à Pomerol or Hosanna and more by pure graphite – and that brings somehow an even more pure and crystalline focus to the nose. On the palate this dances and rolls and glides and shimmers with brilliant clarity and a luminous quality that sets it apart from the other wines in this exceptional line-up. It is also the most challenging to describe as if so often the case the closer one gets to perfection.
Clos de La Vieille Eglise (Pomerol; 70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol; from Jean-Louis and Benoit Trocard). The last of quite a long line-up of Pomerols, just as I was starting to flag – and by some distance the best of the lot. This is sumptuous and seems, to me at least, to capture the essence of the vintage so well. It’s bright and fresh and lifted and fruit-forward on the nose, but richly floral too – lilacs and lily of the valley with a slight hint of lavender – and then there is a lovely waft of the cedar and graphite that will appear with more age. The blueberry and black cherry fruit is ‘just ripe’ and that’s just right for the vintage.
It keeps away the additional sucrosity and sur-maturité that destabilises a number of right-bank wines in particular in 2020. But it is the texture on the palate that really sets this apart – wonderfully soft, ripe, opulent and yet layered, dynamic and multi-dimensional with the fine tannins bringing clarity, definition and focus to the long elegant and seductive mid-palate. A superb and archetypal Pomerol, just as Clos Dubreuil is a super and archetypal plateau St Emilion in this vintage.
Vieux Chateau Certan (Pomerol; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). Tasted with Alexandre and Guillaume Thienpont at the Chateau alongside Le Pin and Guillot Clauzel. This is simply stunning. Beautiful in the glass, intensely limpid and shimmering even in the cool light of the cellar, with crystalline blue highlights. This is sublime and lifted on the nose with plump, crunchy black cherries, blueberries and fresh walnuts and hazelnuts, then wisteria, peonies and violets – and then the graphite and cedar notes start to build, wrapping themselves around the floral elements and weaving themselves into the texture of the fruit.
On the palate this is supremely bright, clear and luminous – it just shines and shimmers as it glides and floats around the mouth. It has the most extraordinarily fine-grained of gossamer tannins, with just enough texture to provide pixilated detail to the mid-palate. Vibrant and extremely energetic, this is utterly brilliant. A profound expression of its terroir and one of the real stars of the vintage.
Vieux Maillet (Pomerol; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; a final yield of 37 hl/ha; aging in oak barrels, 40% of which are new; 14% alcohol). This is impressive. There is a lovely purety but also depth to the fresh blueberry, early season plum and blackberry fruit, a little bit of red cherry too; I like also the slightly leafy note, the hint of wild herbs and mossy earth and the gentle graphite undertone. On the palate this is pure, precise, nicely focussed and with excellent layering and definition. It is lighter in feel than many Pomerols, but the depth and concentration are there. A lovely and very balanced wine.
Lalande de Pomerol
L’Ambroisie (Lalande de Pomerol; Jean-Louis & Benoit Trocard; Derenoncourt consulting). Blueberries, red cherries and peppercorns, Baie de Timut too, touch of toast from the oak, with a nice lift. Quite precise, pure and crystalline, no unnatural sweetness and nicely focussed; initially compact, but it opens nicely with air; well-made, quite sinuous, the tannins gently extracted. Sappy, juicy rolling finish. Very impressive.
De Bel-Air (Lalande de Pomerol; a vineyard of 15 hectares on an iron-rich gravel on clay terroir; 73% Merlot; 19% Cabernet Franc; 8% Cabernet Sauvignon; aging in oak barrels, 40% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). Black cherries and almonds on the nose, with a touch of graphite and a hint of thyme. Quite plump and full on the palate, with soft if quite grainy tannins which become a little harsh towards the finish.
Canon Chaigneau (Lalande de Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 5% Malbec; with an impressive final yield of 55 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol). This is bigger and richer on the nose than the cuvée béton – with a lovely half-roasted coffee bean element alongside the wild herbs, cracked black peppercorns, cassis, dark berry and stone fruit. It is deeper and glossier too, more opulent, more dense and compact, but perhaps just a little less sinuous. The fine-grained tannins seem to grip and hold the fruit to the spine, contributing in so doing to this wine’s impressive length and sense of focused precision.
Interestingly the oak brings out more the gamey, charcuterie notes, even a slight barbeque element, with tobacco leaf too and it also accentuates the saline-ferrous minerality; a second sample, apparently closer to the final blend, was more complex and more balanced still, bringing a rather pleasing wild thyme note and accentuating the hint of dark roasted coffee beans. The tannins are very soft and gentle and yet have lots of grip and give this a very impressive structure. The cuvée béton is for drinking younger; this needs more time in bottle. It’s exciting to see the rapid progression in the precision of the wine-making and the quality of the tannin management.
Canon Chaigneau cuvée béton (Lalande de Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 5% Malbec; with an impressive final yield of 55 hl/ha; 13.5% alcohol). The final name for this cuvée has yet to be chosen. It was very good last year, and it’s very good again this year – and an interesting comparison with the grand vin itself. The is very lifted and fresh with mint leaf and baie de Timut on the nose accompanying the rich dark berry fruit – brambles but also plums and damsons. This is super-svelte on the palate with a lovely gentle attack, the fine-grained and well-managed tannins arriving slowly and bringing precision and definition to the mid-palate. The ferrous saline minerality is nicely tempered – it’s been more direct and brutal in previous vintages, but here it just brings interest and character. Very fine and very finely textured I find.
De Chambrun (Lalande de Pomerol; 90M/6CF/4CS; Derenoncourt). Limpid, bright and lifted, black cherries and Chinese five spice, star anise and hoisin, white pepper and saline-marine notes; a nice earthiness too, and maybe a hint of girolles. Rich, plum, soft on the attack with quite substantial density despite remaining fresh and silky. No residual sugar and a nice sense of balance. Lacks complexity, perhaps, but very well made and all in harmony. Fresh chewy grape and cherry skin finish.
La Chenade (Lalande de Pomerol; made from the younger vines of the 10.5-hectare vineyard of Les Cruzelles on gravel/sand and gravel terroirs on the plateau de Néac; 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc; aged in oak barrels, 30% of which are new; 14% alcohol). Tasted with Noëmie Durantou over Zoom. A lovely bright crunchy red cherry, redcurrant and cranberry fruit nose, a little cassis, with a hint of frangipane and an interesting slightly gamey note and the ferrous minerality of the Cruzelles vineyard (normally more evident in Les Cruzelles itself). On the palate this is lively, bright and lifted, with a little more concentration than in previous vintages; the tannins grip nicely in the mid-palate bringing with them an injection of juicy, sappy fruit. Very clean, crisp and refreshing.
Les Cruzelles (Lalande de Pomerol; from a vineyard of 10.5 hectares on the plateau de Néac and just 1 kilometre from Eglise Clinet on a clay and gravel terroir; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aged in oak barrels, 50% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). Tasted with Noëmie Durantou over Zoom. This is bigger, bolder and more feisty than La Chenade with lots of personality and interest.
On the nose it’s very pure and quite direct – blackcurrant, redcurrant and red cherries, wild herbs, more spice than La Chenade, some black pepper and a hint of roasted coffee beans; with air the ferrous salinity of the terroir becomes more prominent, bringing with it a more spicy element. On the palate, this is plump yet lithe and fluid with lovely fine-grained but very tactile tannins that bring precision and focus to the detailed mid-palate and that seem to bind the fruit more closely to the spine than in previous vintages. The high class wine-making is very much in evidence here. I love the chewy grape-skin note on the finish and the plumpness of the fleshy fruit on the attack that is reined back by the tannins in the mid-palate.
Enclos de Viaud (Lalande de Pomerol; from a vineyard of 3.2 hectares on a clay and fine gravel terroir; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; from Vignobles K; aged in oak barrels, 10% of which are new; a final yield of 36 hl/ha; pH 3.72; 13.8% alcohol). Gosh this is good. Searing fresh bright blackcurrant leaf and blackcurrant fruit on the nose, with a little cracked black pepper. Pure, precise, quite ample but with lovely soft gentle tannins, at least at first; impressively plump and rich, this turns slightly more burly as the ferrous minerality that is the signature of this vineyard weaves its way into the grains of the tannin. Nicely done, this will be accessible early.
La Fleur de Boüard (Lalande de Pomerol; from a vineyard of 29 hectares, including 16 hectares on the plateau de Néac; 82% Merlot; 9% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 4% Petit Verdot; a final yield of 45 hl/ha; aging in oak barrels, 75% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). Big and rich but with a lovely floral nose of violets, peonies and pink rose petals accompanying the glossy plump blueberry fruit, with a nice graphite-mineral note adding complexity. On the palate, this has a bright, crisp fresh attack before it becomes more creamy in the mid-palate; the freshness that is lost just a bit there returns however on the lifted and fragrant floral finish. Quite a gracious Fleur de Boüard, but that could do with just a little more delineation and precision in the mid-palate.
Domaine de Gachet (Lalande de Pomerol; 66% Merlot; 34% Cabernet Franc; 14.4% alcohol; from Vignobles Estager). Smokier, spicier and perhaps a little sweeter on the nose than La Papeterie, this has a generous and almost opulent mouthfeel, with nicely fine-grained and slightly crumbly tannins which help sustain focus and interest. Good length and a nice sappy finish. I like the saline minerality too – it’s like adding a little fleur de sel to complete the dish.
Grand Ormeau (Lalande de Pomerol; 80M/10CF/10CS; 14% alcohol; Derenoncourt). Just a touch of over-ripeness, but remains fresh on the nose. One senses the alcohol. Kirsch, red cherries, graphite and a gentle herbyness. Quite plush on the palate but broad-shouldered and open-knit sinuous if a little hollow in the mid-palate. Slight harshness of the tannins at the end.
Haut-Surget (Lalande de Pomerol; from a 25-hectare vineyard on a mix of gravel and argilo-calcaire terroirs; a long maceration and aged partly in new oak; mainly Merlot, but with both Cabernet varietals making up the balance; 70% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 15% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% alcohol). There’s a nice brightness and freshness to this, but it’s very open-textured on the palate and lacks a bit of focus and shape through the mid-palate. Baked plum, raspberry and loganberry, black tea and a touch of wood smoke. The tannins are very slightly dry on the finish.
Les Hauts-Conseillants (Lalande de Pomerol; 95% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 42 hl/ha; aging in oak barrels, 35% of which are new; pH 3.6; IPT 90; 14.5% alcohol). A lovely bright and quite sweet – but natural – red and darker berry fruit nose, with black cherries arriving on aeration, and a little graphite too. On the palate the attack is soft and this has a nice pick-up and sense of forward momentum, but the tannins are just a little dry and I fear this has been pushed just half a step too far. That said, the ingredients are very good – give it a couple of years in bottle and I actually think this will be rather impressive.
Jean de Gué (Lalande de Pomerol; Derenoncourt). Red cherry fruit; hint of cedar; walnut skins; tree bark. Gentle, soft attack; nice focus and grip from the fine-grained tannins; good structure if perhaps lacking in complexity; well-made with a nicely chewy, grainy finish, with the sensation of sucking on a cherry stone which I rather like.
Maine-Chaigneau Cuvée JS (Lalande de Pomerol; 100% merlot; 45 hl/ha; Derenoncourt). Peardrops, plum skin and grape skin nose, cassis and blueberriesé quite lifted on the nose, brioche (from 100% new oak – but it’s not that prominent), nice mouthfeel, just a little lacking in definition and soupy. Fresh and bright with crunchy plum fruit – finishes on plum skins. Not bad at all.
Maison Blanche (Medoc). Closed. Quite firm. Odd clay almost rubbery note. Rather brutal tannins.
Moncets (Lalande de Pomerol; 73M/21CF/6CS; Derenoncourt). Limpid. Glossy. A touch of reduction – pear drops, blueberries, quite pure. Not very complex. Lithe and bright and fresh on the palate. Quite crystalline, nice mouthfeel. Chewy finish. Good.
Le Plus de la Fleur de Boüard (Lalande de Pomerol; from a vineyard situated on a gravelly mound which includes 15% to 20% of clay; 100%% old vine Merlot, average age of 60 years; a final yield of 25hl/ha yielding just 5000 bottles; vinification and aging in 100% new oak for 33 months; alcohol level not disclosed). Garnet/ruby at the core with a lovely inviting glossy sheen, this is quite translucent at the core, despite the dark hue.
This has a gloriously indulgent, opulent and flamboyant nose of pure graphite (the cooling rods from the reactor core!), wild herbs and heather, and blueberry compote. Full, rich and ample on the broad-shouldered attack, as you’d expect, this has lots of forward momentum on the palate and a very bright crunchy cherry and berry fruit that brings gravity-defying lift and energy to the mid-palate despite the considerable density and concentration. But what I really love is the tidal wave of fresh sappy dark blueberry juice that washes across the palate as this reaches its crescendo, rendering this extremely refreshing and dynamic. A great wine which combines density and levity so well.
Domaines des Sabines (Lalande de Pomerol). Blue-purple at the core and intensely viscous. Slightly reductive on the nose, with pear-drops, boiled sweets, cassis, lavender and red cherries. There is something almost Italianate about this, with a pronounced ferrous-saline minerality bringing some complexity to the rich, slightly heady and dense mid-palate. This lacks a little definition and comes across just a little soupy, though I rather like the chewy tannins. There is just enough freshness to keep this in balance.
La Sergue (Lalande de Pomerol; 78M/16CS/6Malbec; 14% alcohol; Derenoncourt). Pepper and cloves alongside the baked plum on the nose; bright, fresh, quite plush and with a lovely mouthfeel. Nice balance. Not overly extracted. Fresh crunchy grape-skin finish. Good.