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Pomerol 2018 reappraised: full tasting notes

In his series of appellation-by-appellation profiles, Bordeaux correspondent Colin Hay revisits and re-tastes the 2018 vintage in Pomerol from bottle, finding a challenging, heterogeneous yet ultimately excellent vintage. Here are the full tasting notes.

It is easy to forget that 2018 is was, in a way, a ‘miracle’ vintage, given that halfway through the growing season, and in every appellation in the region, there were grave anxieties that not a single bottle of wine would be produced. However, through a combination of luck (the longest, driest, hottest and sunniest summer on record) and more importantly, better wine-making (and better adapted to global warming), there is freshness to be found in the best wines of the 2018 vintage.

For our full analysis on the Pomerol 2018 vintage, see here, with an abridged list of scores available here. 

The tasting process

Given the sheer complexity of assembling samples, the wines were tasted over a 4-month period between September and December, almost exclusively from samples supplied by the châteaux themselves. Other than a handful of properties that I visited (which are identified in the tasting notes below), all samples were tasted in Paris. I have had no qualms about trying to taste these wines at their best. So, where I thought it might help reveal them at their best, I have not been reluctant to decant samples. I have also used a range of glassware from Grassl, Reidel, Zalto and Sydonios. All wines (other than those tasted at the châteaux themselves) were tasted at least three times over a period of 48 hours. I am extremely grateful to all those who sent samples and to all those who helped me in the Herculean task of tracking down samples. Only two samples were rejected and, in both case, kindly replaced by the château.

  • Clos 56 (Pomerol; a tiny 0.56 hectare property purchased in 2010 by Domaines Bouyer; the average age of the vines is 60 years; 95% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 33 hl/ha; 50% vinified en barrique; aged entirely in new oak for 12-15 months; 15% alcohol). This is named, one can only imagine, after the size of the vineyard (0.56 hectares, so Clos 56)! Rich, big, punchy and with that slightly ferrous minerality that betrays where it comes from so evident on the nose, but also showing a lovely touch of violet and rose petals that builds in the glass and a hint of white truffle too. The fruit, which initially seems a little baked actually becomes fresher as the wine aerates and springs to live. I tasted this a few vintages back (different wine, different label) and was much less impressed. The progression is considerable. This is bright, energetic and lively on the palate, with fine-grained tannins, a lovely mouthfeel and a supple and densely-packed mid-palate. Elegant and refined and with the alcohol much less notable than you might imagine. Another super tiny terroir-driven Pomerol; though I suspect it’s even better in the fresher vintages of 2019 and 2020. 91.
  • Le Clos du Beau-Père (Pomerol; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; a property of around 4 hectares planted on a combination of deep gravel and clay and gravel terroirs at René and near Trotanoy, respectively; 15% alcohol). Rich and subtly spicy on the nose – with black cherry, plum and plum skins accompanying frangipane and patisserie notes, a little chocolate, nutmeg and Szechuan peppercorns. On the palate this is svelte on the attack and quite tightly-structured. It’s definitely not as broad-shouldered and punchy as I might have imagined and, for me, all the better for that. Clear and limpid in the mid-palate and quite long. Impressive and certainly well-made if marred, just a little, by the hint of alcohol on the finish. 92.
  • Château Beauregard (Pomerol; 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc; from a well-placed vineyard on the edge of the plateau of 16 hectares on a clay, sand and gravel; certified organic; 14.5% alcohol). Limpid, glossy and enticing in the glass with an almost tangible viscosity to it. This has an authentically Pomerol creaminess on the nose accompanying the herb-encrusted plummy and dark berry fruit. There’s subtle sweet spices in the background – nutmeg, sumac and cinnamon and then sandalwood and a hint of wild lavender. This is svelte on the attack, with fine-grained but still grippy tannins and a nice sense of engagement and forward march over the palate. It needs just a little longer to show its best, the finish at this stage rather breaking up the glossiness of the mid-palate, but there is plenty of promise here. 92.
  • Château Belle-Brise (Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; the average age of the vines is 65 years; from a vineyard of around 2 hectares in the south-western corner of the appellation on a gravel and clay terroir with significant amounts of crasse de fer; aged mainly in 400 litre oak barrels; 13.5% alcohol). One of those hidden jewels of the appellation that is infrequently tasted and little known outside of a small world of Pomerol aficionados. This is a wine available on a handful of exclusive restaurant listings and otherwise almost impossible to source. Immediately open and aromatically expressive, almost explosively so, and rather Burgundian in personality which a rich, already slightly truffly, clove-y, spicy and intensely mineral nose – the crasse de fer notes are very evident. But there is a sparkling freshness that is very pleasing here too. The fruit is a blend of fresh, bright crisp red berries and darker, plumper, softer stone fruits. Incredibly gentle and giving on the opening, with a velvety mouthfeel and a densely-packed quite taut and tender frame. The tannins are, at first, just a little dry on the finish, though that passes with aeration; this is impressively concentrated and will, I am sure, age gracefully. In fact, it’s rather lovely and somewhat different too. Worth seeking out. 94+.
  • Château Bellegrave (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 8.5 hectares in the south-western corner of the appellation on a gravel, clay and sand terroir; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; certified organic and in transition to biodynamic viticulture; 14.5% alcohol). This is open and expressive aromatically with a pleasing herb-encrusted gamey meatiness alongside the more classic blueberry, damson, plum and bramble notes. There are also some red fruit elements – raspberry and even redcurrant – bringing additional freshness. The respect for the environment here seems to show in the wine, which has that energy and additional vibrancy so typically expressive of biodynamic viticulture. Not as complex, nor as long on the finish as other wines here, but this is a very attractive and expressive Pomerol for relatively early drinking. 89+.
  • Blason de l’Evangile (Pomerol; 60% Merlot; 40% Cabernet Franc; aged for 16 months in re-used oak barrels from the grand vin; 14.5% alcohol). Rather more Cabernet Franc here than in the first wine in 2018. This, I guess, is what you might expect (or at least, hope) it to be in a vintage like 2018. For a second wine, even from the plateau, this is big and bold and quite boisterous. But it’s refined too (the hope rather than the expectation!). That natural puissance is beautifully tempered, especially on the nose, by that lovely Evangile heathery element and the dark herbal tones of the Cabernet Franc. Cloves, cinnamon and assorted baking spices, but these too are nicely restrained and it is the pure plum, baked plum and damson fruit that shines. Though the Merlot is probably at close to 15 degrees of alcohol, this has a lovely balance and this is another plateau Pomerol second wine in this vintage that is really worth seeking out and that sings eloquently – and with very much the same intonation – as the grand vin itself. 92.
  •  Château Le Bon Pasteur (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 6.7 hectares on a combination of clay-gravel, pure gravel and gravel-sand parcels, generally close to the border with Saint Emilion and with significant pockets of crasse de fer; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). There’s a pleasing herb-tinged freshness to this on the nose, that very characteristic iron and stony minerality and a red and darker stone and berry fruit – raspberries, mulberries and damsons; with air, a little hint of cedar, some fresh tobacco notes, a touch of vanilla, a little star anise, black pepper and cinnamon. On the palate, this is deep, dark, rich and velvety, as you would expect, but the tannins build in grain towards the finish, breaking up as they do so the sense of harmony and smothering a little the finer grained detail of the attack; the alcohol is also rather noticeable on the finish. In short, this needs a little longer in bottle to come together. 91.
  • Château Bonalgue (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 9.4 hectares on a gravel-sand over deep gravel terroir; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; aging for 18 months in oak barrels, 50% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). Heathery and wild and herbal, with a lovely loamy-earthy note on the nose. This integrates nicely with the combination of baked and fresh plums, damsons and blackberries, a little cracked black pepper and a slight ferrous hint to the cold whetstone minerality. There’s a little hint of cedar and fresh mint with aeration. Fine, fleshy and succulent, impressively compact and nicely composed on the quite delicate, slightly slender palate. Long and slowly tapering, the alcohol nicely incorporated. 92.
  • Château Bourgneuf (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 9 hectares on an iron-rich gravel and clay terroir neighbouring Trotanoy; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, around 50% of which are new; 15% alcohol). A lovely, distinct slightly sweet and spicy nose – almonds, frangipane, toast and patisserie, ginger and cinnamon gently enrobing the dark stone fruit. But there is freshness too, in the form of lavender and violets and a garrigue wild herbal element. Plush, svelte and caressing on the entry with considerable weight and substance, but the mid-palate is a little overwhelmed by the very crunchy and ultimately slightly aggressive tannins. The alcohol is also just a little elevated on the finish. A fine bottle, though the more recent vintages are stronger still. This needs at least 5 years in the cellar. 92.
  • Château La Cabanne (Pomerol; from a well-placed vineyard of around 10 hectares on the west of the Pomerol plateau on an iron-rich clay and blue clay terroir; 94% Merlot; 6% Cabernet Franc; vinified in the new cellar build after the old one was destroyed by fire in 2010 by Francois Estager; 14.5% alcohol). Dark-hued but translucent, with a lovely forthright Merlot-dominated Pomerol nose of baked plums and black cherries, black forest gateau, walnuts and even a hint of sesame seed; there’s a little hint of violet and rosemary too; and a waft of smoke. Rich, plump and yet soft, elegant and refined, this is very impressive and very moreish too, with grippy tannins that do an excellent job of strapping all that fresh fruit to the mineral spine of this wine. Very successful in this vintage, with a lovely shimmer on the long and delicate finish. 92.
  • Château Le Caillou (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 7 hectares in the north-west of the appellation near Clos du Clocher on a sandy-gravel soil over crasse de fer; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.5% alcohol). Simple, pure, quite focussed and with a pronounced saline minerality, and an equally pronounced peppery spiciness – Szechuan peppercorns and Chinese five spice – accompanying the ripe plummy fruit, with a little raspberry too. Fresh, bright and lively with lots of lift and fine-grained if quite punchy tannins that leave just a little harshness on the finish. This lacks a little concentration in the mid-palate and will need a little time, but is a fine, accessible, Pomerol in the making. 89.
  • Château Certan de May (Pomerol; 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; from a fantastically well-situated vineyard of 5.5 hectares on clay and deep gravel directly opposite Vieux Chateau Certan; 14.5% alcohol). Distributed by J. P. Moueix but not made by them, this is often a slightly difficult wine to assess en primeur – and, unlike practically all the other plateau Pomerols tasted for this article, the 2018 remains so now that it is in bottle. Experience tells me that this will age well. But for now I find it a little angular and somewhat burly in personality. The tannins are soft on the entry, which augurs well, but become rather brusque and massive through the densely-packed mid-palate – which, again for now, lacks the delineation and clarity of many of its peers. I’ll be keen to re-taste this and remain confident all will turn out well – but only after a decade or more in the cave. 92+.
  • Château Le Chemin (Pomerol; from Francois Despagne of Château Grand-Corbin Despagne in St Emilion and from a tiny vineyard of 92 ares (0.92 hectares) neighbouring Clos l’Eglise and Rouget producing around 3000 bottles each year; 100% Merlot; 14% alcohol). The wine takes its name from the pilgrimage route or path (le chemin) to Santiago de Compostela that passed through the Pomerol (and, presumably, through this tiny vineyard). I don’t think I’ve ever tasted this before, but I’ll be looking out for it in the future. It’s beautifully aromatic and very expressive on the nose, with a subtle slight ferrous minerality that is very redolent of its excellent terroir on the Pomerol plateau, a beautiful wild herbal note, the beginnings of the suggestion of the truffle and trompette de la mort notes that will develop with more bottle age, that lovely hint of Pomerol cedar and a delightful freshness to the fruit. Sapid, long, racy and quite distinctive – with a hint of goji berries alongside the fresh plums, raspberries and red cherries. Quite moreish. Lovely tannin-management too. A great success in the vintage and tribute to the quality of its terroir. 93.
  • Château La Clémence (Pomerol; from six disparate parcels, vinified separately in 35 hl foudres, that together comprise 2.8 hectares on a range of Pomerol terroirs; the vineyard is planted 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). Quite evolved already, with the rim already shading towards red-brick. The nose, too, is quite evolved – with quite a pronounced saline minerality, a slight ferrous note, hoisin and star anise, dried rose petals and dried autumnal leaves, cinnamon and sweet spices accompanying the baked plum and strawberry fruit. The touch of truffle is rather nice. Quite full on the attack, but the tannins are just a touch harsh in the mid-palate and at this stage the nose is rather more harmonious than the palate. Finishes just a touch dry; one can almost feel the heat and dryness of the late summer. 88.
  • Château 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; 15% alcohol). This is, as it has a habit of being in recent vintages, super-refined and elegant on the nose, with lovely floral highlights – violet, lilac and lavender – wrapped around the dark stone and berry fruit. Very aerial and aromatically expressive with the lilac and violet notes building effortlessly in the glass with even the tiniest encouragement. Cedar, graphite and pencil-shavings, a herbal zing and more and more black cherry fruit as the wine relaxes and inhales. This is very beautiful. Pure, precise, with a lovely focus, a racy acidity and a pronounced forward momentum over the palate, the sleek and slightly slender frame densely packed with fresh fruit and the contours delicately revealed by the filigree tannins. Really excellent. 97.
  • 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; aged for 18 months in oak barrels, 60% of which are new; a final yield of 32 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). An excellent wine from Clos du Clocher which seems stronger each vintage. Soft, gentle, expressive and exuding classic plateau Pomerol qualities – and quality. Violets and rose petals, plums, black cherries and blueberry compote, a touch of cedar and a suggestion of the white truffle notes to come. There’s a little black tea leaf too. On the palate this is ample and softly textured, with a lovely sense of tension and harmony. Long and refined, with a distinct ferrous minerality. 94.
  • Château La Commanderie (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 5.8 hectares on a terroir of sand and gravel bordering Ferrand, Nénin and La Fleur du Roy; 83% Merlot; 17% Cabernet Franc; malolactic and élevage in oak barrels, 70% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). Immediately vivid, vibrant and aromatically expressive, with ripe red and darker berry fruit – raspberry, loganberry, blueberry and bramble – and a delightful heather and herbal element; there’s a little shaving of white truffle too. I love the hint of rosewater and the aromatic Asiatic spices – green Szechuan peppercorns especially. On the palate this is tender, lithe and sinuous – compact, fluid and precise, if perhaps just a little short in comparison to some. I suspect this is a little flattered by the vintage, giving this an amplitude it might otherwise lack. But it is undoubtedly one of the discoveries of this tasting as it’s not a wine I know especially well. 92.
  • Château La Connivence (Pomerol; from a tiny vineyard of 1.4 hectares on the plateau on a clay and gravel terroir, the vineyard jointly owned by Alexandre de Malet Rocquefort and the former footballers, Johan Micoud and Matthieu Chalmé; 1500 bottles produced; vinified in small inverted stainless steel tanks; 70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; malolactic and vinification in new French oak; pH 3.61; 14.5% alcohol). An utterly beautiful and radiantly expressive, archetypally plateau Pomerol nose. Damsons, a touch of fig, brambles and blackberries, raspberry too, a lovely violet, hibiscus and rose florality, a little note of graphite and there’s just a hint of Asiatic spice too. Overall, this has great elegance despite the opulence of the vintage. Tight, compact and with incredibly voluptuous, soft and embracing tannins that stretch this wine out over the palate whilst keeping the bright fruit tightly packed around a very clear and distinct central spine. The tannins have been beautifully managed and this is very refined for the vintage, whilst losing none of the hedonism and natural sweetness that marks this out as 2018. Whilst there are other vintages of this wine that I prefer, there is no escaping the quality. 95.
  • Château La Conseillante (83% Merlot; 17% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 32 hl/ha; pH 3.65; 14.5% alcohol; tasted at the property and then again in Paris). Even for La Conseillante this is incredibly spicy and vibrant. It is warm-tinged, sunny in disposition and seductive in a sort of ‘Cos d’Estournel pre-2005’ kind of a way! Cinnamon, fennel, all spice; and quite a noticeable iron and slightly saline minerality. Supremely tender and yet densely packed in and through the mid-palate. But this is also impressively fresh and lifted for the vintage. Walnuts and their cracked shells; very pure ripe berry fruit, blueberry purée and lots of freshness. Not the delicacy and finesse that one so often finds here, but very expressive of its terroir in this hot and sunny vintage nonetheless. 96+.
  • Château La Création (Pomerol; from 5.5 hectares on a combination of clay and clay on sand terroirs in the south-west of the appellation; the property is owned by Yseult de Gaye who is married to Jean-Antoine Nony of Grand-Mayne; 49% Merlot; 43% Cabernet Franc; 8% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.1% alcohol). Fresh and aromatic on the nose, with a nice tension between the spice-tinged baked plum notes that are very ‘2018’ and the herbal aromaticity from the Cabernet fruit. There are blueberries, cassis notes and raspberries too, always good in Pomerol! On the palate this is lithe and quite vibrant, though the fruit is just a little baked. A sunny wine from a hot vintage (‘solaire’ as the French would say), but with pleasing fresher notes too. It doesn’t entirely cohere at this stage. I’d like to revisit this a year or two down the line and I’m keeping an open mind, but I fear the heat will win out over the freshness. If so, it might be best to drink this relatively soon. 89.
  • Château La Croix (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 10 hectares in Catusseau between Beauregard and Nénin in the heart of the appellation on a gravel terroir; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% alcohol). Dark in the glass, with a purple/garnet core, an impressive limpidity and a lilac rim. Slightly shy and reticent at first on the nose, but there is a nice earthy dark cherry and plum fruit profile here, accompanied by raisins and charcuterie. Soft on the entry, but with quite substantial tannins. This is fresh and direct if not especially complex, but with a pleasing chewy cherry skin finish. 89.
  • Château La Croix de Gay (Pomerol; a vineyard of 4.2 hectares comprised of plots distributed throughout the appellation, including fine parcels near Trotanoy on the plateau; 93% Merlot; 7% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). Full, plump and rich, with prominent baked plums and baking spices, notably cloves, a suggestion of vanilla from the oak, this is mineral-charged with a pronounced ferrous note that is very typical of this terroir (though that reminds me a little of Gazin too). On the palate, this is impressively dense and broad-shouldered yet tender and with fine-grained and gentle tannins. A strong effort from this very reliable property. 90.
  • Château La Croix du Casse (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 8 hectares owned, since 2005, by the Castéra family of Trottevieille and Batailley, amongst others; planted 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 15.5% alcohol). In a high alcohol vintage, this has one of the highest final alcohol levels of the entire appellation – and it shows just a bit, if perhaps less than you might imagine. Big, bold and intensely spicy on the nose, with loads of ferrous minerality almost drowning out the baked plum and baked berry fruit. A blockbuster of a wine, but it needs to be to compensate for the alcohol. In the end, I like this more than I would perhaps expect to. It’s chunky but it is authentically of its terroir and its appellation in what was a very hot vintage. 90.
  • Château La Croix Saint-Georges (Pomerol; 94% Merlot; 6% Cabernet Franc; from a vineyard of 4.5 hectares just outside Catusseau, the average age of the vines is just over 40 years; aged in a combination of traditional oak barrels, larger format oak barrels and cigar-shaped barrels, 60% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol; sealed under a DIAM cork). Always big and punchy and before ‘peak Parker’ typically a little over-oaked for my taste, but it is a sign of the times that even in this massive vintage there is delicacy, freshness and restraint here. Glossy, limpid, big and deep in the glass and open and aromatically expressive on the nose. Cinders, liquorice, baked plum, violet, lavender and wild rosemary intermingle enticingly. Svelte on the attack and broad-shouldered, as one would expect, this fans out nicely through the well-structured mid-palate with a lovely taper on the long finish. The tannins are just a little aggressive on the finish, but this is promising and just needs time. 92+.
  • Château La Croix Taillefer (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 5.5 hectares on a black sand and gravel over crasse de fer terroir; 98% Merlot; 2% Cabernet Franc; certified organic; the vines are between 30 and 95 years of age; 14.5% alcohol). Dark, rich and quite spicy on the nose, with a loamy, earthy, almost mossy note accompanying the soft, ripe dark berry fruit.  Fresh and lively on the attack and very much at the top of the palate. The tannins are just a little harsh, especially on the finish, but they are nicely intermingled with the juicy, sappy acidity of the fruit, giving this a natural lift and radiance – as well as long, fine and slender finish right at the roof of the mouth. This needs to be given time for the tannins to soften and I just hope the bright fruit hasn’t started to fade by then. 88.
  • Château du Domaine de l’Eglise (Pomerol; from a well-situated set of parcels, mainly clustered on the plateau, of 7 hectares; 95% Merlot; 5% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 34 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). Pure, lifted and quite sweet-scented on the open and expressive nose, with rose petals, dried cherries, raspberries, cinnamon and darker berry fruits, a little almond and frangipane and, in the background, crushed black peppercorns. Soft, svelte and lithe on the attack, this is fluid, dynamic and very fine. It may lack the richness, depth and concentration of many, but it compensates with a lively, bright and sprightly aerial aspect that is very enjoyable. For relatively early drinking. 91.
  • Duo de Conseillante (Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aged in French oak barrels, 50% of which are new; a final yield of 32 hl/ha; pH 3.8; 14% alcohol). A wine that makes me think a lot about the identity of second wines. This is very ‘La Conseillante’ on the nose and on the attack – and bravo for that. Lots of lovely classic raspberry, blueberry and chocolate notes, a wild heathery element too that is very ‘plateau Pomerol’. But it’s perhaps a little short on the finish and it tapers quite quickly. In short, it’s like a baby plateau Pomerol and, as such, a stylish second wine which I really rather like – but which those seeking power and length might find more problematic. This is how I would make a second wine, if only I knew how; but it’s a style based on finesse more than puissance. 89.
  •  L’Eclat de Valois (Pomerol; from a selection of 0.8 hectares of the oldest parcels on the Château de Valois vineyard on the southern edge of the Pomerol plateau; 82% Cabernet Franc; 18% Merlot; certified organic since 2015; 14.5% alcohol). Does this have the highest proportion of Cabernet Franc in the blend in the appellation? I presume so; indeed, I can’t imagine that anything else gets close. Elegant, ethereal and very complex, this is much darker in its fruit profile than de Valois itself, as you’d expect – with blueberries, brambles, a hint of damson (the purple capsule’s just right!). It’s also much more floral, with a lovely violet notes and a suggestion of peony too. There’s a quite intense earthy minerality here that links this to the terroir. On the palate, this is dense and compact. Yet it builds as it unfurls in the mouth, drawing in the air as it does so. There is an impressive crescendo through the mid-palate and then the fine-grained almost crumbly tannins start to grip and rein this in, drawing it back to the spine and focusing the wine around a long and sustained tapering finish. This is the first vintage of this wine that I’ve tasted and I’m impressed. 92+.
  • 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; 15% alcohol). Sweet, rich and plummy on the nose, but with its typical floral and herbal notes too, and a trace of liquorice – a little less oaky than it used to be (a positive for me). Open and aromatically expressive. On the palate, this is again ample, rich and substantive, quite sweet, with saffron and rose water notes alongside the damson and bramble fruit. Quite long and tender on the finish, the tannins just hinting at a slight dryness; and just a little too much caramel for me (though this has always been part of its signature and there is a place for that). This will need time, but there is plenty of promise. 93.
  • Château L’Eglise Clinet (Pomerol; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; pH 3.63; 14.5% alcohol; tasted at L’Eglise-Clinet with Noëmie Durantou and again from bottle in Paris). If Evangile is Catholic Pomerol then this is Protestant Pomerol; and it is just as good, if very, very different. Dark, cool, intense and slightly sombre in tone – with weight, depth and breadth. Here we find fresh pure dark berry fruit, brambles, mulberries and cherries (red as well as black), truffle notes, candied violets, rose petals, a little graphite and a touch of mint. There is great tension in this wine and a rich iron minerality. It is leaner and more precise and layered than Evangile and it is sombre and serious where Evangile is more ebullient and exuberant. 98.
  • Château L’Enclos (Pomerol; from the same team as the excellent Château Fonplégade in St Emilion; 88% Merlot; 12% Cabernet Franc; aged in oak barrels, around 40% of which are new; 14.5% alcohol). This is fascinating. I had forgotten that this was organic, until I tasted it – it has that directness and vibrancy that one so often finds in organic wines, especially in this vintage and that gives it a brightness and freshness that some Pomerol 2018s lack. Wild, like an overgrown garden. Floral (more hyacinth than, say, than violets), quite herb-encrusted too and with a distinctively ferrous note that comes from the terroir and that I have noticed in other vintages of L’Enclos. Svelte on the attack but this needs time; the tannins are a little strict at this still early stage. Baked plums, freshly ground coffee beans, newly turned earth and quite a dense and compact mid-palate with that ever-present saline ferrous minerality. Direct, authentic but perhaps lacking a little of the refinement now to be found in Fonplégade itself. 90.
  • 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; 14.5% alcohol). Very fine, refined and elegant on the nose, with archetypal plateau Pomerol florality and a sublime herbal streak indicating immediately the delicacy and freshness of this. This, I recall, was austere, locked-in, somewhat massive and very difficult to assess en primeur – one sensed it was almost grumpy to be tasted so young. Here it is light, ethereal, elegant, lifted and very fine indeed. Supremely voluptuous on the attack (less of an attack, in fact, and more a refined and elegant entrance – understated, yes, but still attracting every eye in the room), this is dense and compact but beautifully shaped with a gloriously fluid, dynamic evolution over the palate. Really impressive and although still very much in its infancy, incredibly accessible already. Top Pomerol and very, very classy in this vintage. 97.
  • Espérance de Trotanoy (Pomerol; the second wine of Trotanoy, sourced from clay-gravel and black clay terroir parcels; 92% Merlot; 8% Cabernet Franc; 14% alcohol; around 5000 bottles produced). Enticingly limpid in the glass and supremely floral and elegant on the aromatic and expressive nose. Fresh, vertical and with lots of tension. Camphor, baked rooftiles under the heat of the direct summer sun, cracked black peppercorns, violet and verbena around a dark berry fruit. On the palate, the tannins are soft and svelte on the entry, the mid-palate focussed, fluid and almost crystalline and the finish impressively long. That said, this still needs a little time to come together and the finish lacks the refinement of the grand vin. But a lovely introduction to Trotanoy if you can find a bottle – and, unlike many second wines – and on the nose especially – one has a very strong signature of the identity of Trotanoy itself (leading me to nudge up my score). 92+.
  • Château Evangile (Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aged in oak barrels, only 50% of which are new; aged in oak barrels, 75% of which were new; pH 3.9; 14.5% alcohol). Deeply impressive and true to its punchy, boisterous, broad-shouldered and slightly angular style. After losing all of its Cabernet Franc to frost in 2017, Evangile is back on top form with a very complete, exciting and exuberant wine. There is nothing subtle about this; but it is gloriously succulent and opulent. The fruit density is considerable – plump black cherries and plums with a touch of chocolate – and there are wonderful floral notes – rose petals, peonies and violets. Sweeter, creamier, richer and altogether more indulgent and hedonistic than most, even in 2018 – but it works very well. A wine with significant aging potential. 97.
  • Château Fayat (Pomerol; from around 40 different parcels on a variety of terroirs, amounting to around 10 hectares; 80% is aged in oak barrels, half of which are new, the rest in cuves and amphorae; 14% alcohol). Nutty and aromatically expressive on the nose, this is quite classically Pomerol, but with a nice hint of freshly crushed peppercorns and a trace of graphite minerality alongside the pleasing hint of violets. Impressive on the palate, with a nice pick-up establishing forward momentum and stopping this ever from becoming heavy despite the evident density and concentration of the mid-palate. The freshness has been well preserved and this is bright and energetic, with a good sense of balance. The moderate alcohol level helps too. 90.
  • Château Feytit-Clinet (Pomerol; from a well-situated vineyard just down the hill from Clinet and Eglise-Clinet and opposite Latour à Pomerol; 92% Merlot; 8% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels, 70% of which are new; 15% alcohol). Rich, dark, glossy, quite limpid in the glass and pretty opaque at the core with a still luminous rim. Slightly slow to release and gather in the glass, but this is a very strong vintage for Feytit-Clinet, with lovely floral and herbal aromatics, a deep dark berry and stone fruit – mulberries, brambles, blueberries and black cherries. Soft and gentle on the broad-shouldered and ample attack, with nice grippy tannins that structure the evolution of the wine across the palate towards the long and tapering, mineral-rich and slightly peppery finish. Already very accessible and gloriously textured, but there is plenty of potential here for those prepared to give this a decent passage in the cellar. 94.
  • Château Le Fleur de Gay (Pomerol; 96% Merlot; 4% Cabernet Franc; a final yield of 30 hl/ha from 2.26 hectares in three blocks on the plateau, next to Lafleur and at Le Gay and at Groupey; pH 3.60; 14.5% alcohol). Very beautifully refined on the nose and very true to the personality of this wonderful but, frankly, lesser known star of the Pomerol plateau. Immediately floral and herbal in all the best senses of the adjective – fresh, bright, lifted, vivid and vibrant. I really love the nose, which is both sublimely ‘of the plateau’ but distinctive and unique at the same time. This is, here at least, the Margaux of Pomerol. Elegant rather than powerful, refined yet full and rich and beautifully structured with a long and rolling finish. 94.
  • Château La Fleur-Pétrus (Pomerol; 91% Merlot; 6% Cabernet Franc; 3% Petit Verdot; pH 3.9; 15% alcohol). Of the Moueix plateau Pomerols tasted en primeur this was the darkest and the richest – and it remains so. It is perhaps a little firmer now but once it starts to open in the glass it really is sublime. We are immediately taken, as if by the nose, to the parfumier’s boudoir, with gloriously intermingling floral essences – lavender, lilac, peony and violet! The fruit profile is quite distinct too – more raspberries and brambles, a little blueberry, perhaps a little cassis and a peppery spicy, sleek and stylish finish. This is sunny in a way, but austere and serious at the same time – almost a little left-bank. Yes, it’s opulent. But the overriding impression remains one of restraint and composure. The tannins are supremely svelte on the entry and the mid-palate is crystalline and finely detailed. The sense of grip is remarkable, drawing out the wine along its slender but articulate and precise spine. Glorious in all its potential and still very much in the fine flush of its infancy. 98.
  • Fugue de Nénin (Pomerol; 88% Merlot; 12% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). Fresh, bright, crisp and herbal on the nose – a very pleasing hint of lavender, mint, rosemary and thyme. There is a touch, too, of almonds and frangipane. That slightly sweeter note appears more on the palate, but what I like is the sapidity, the clarity and the translucence of the mid-palate, even if I find the tannins on the finish at this stage just a little severe. 88.
  • Château Le Gay (Pomerol; from 10.5 hectares of well-positioned parcels on the plateau, the Château nestled between Lafleur and Rouget; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 15% alcohol; tasted at the property and then again from bottle in Pars). Always a bit of a law unto itself and stylistically very different from the rest of the wines of the appellation, produced as it is from micro-vinification in new oak barrels, this is deeply impressive in a vintage like 2018. The result is the most remarkable velvet texture and a wine that is archetypally voluptuous. Le Gay in 2018 is pure silk and opulence. Blueberries with notes of chocolate, lavender, Russian caravan tea and mocha wrapped in the most alluring robe of tannic velour – and, oh, what power and concentration in the mid-palate. Massive, but with lovely floral freshness too – the oak, though evident at this still nascent stage, bringing vanilla and sweet spiced to the party. Exotic and exciting in equal measure and a great success in the vintage – if not for the faint-hearted! 94.
  • Château Gazin (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 22 hectares on the clay-gravel plateau; 93% Merlot; 7% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). This is, as it was en primeur, and as you might expect it to be big, bold, rich and slightly burly in personality with that distinctive plummy fruit and its almost iconic iron minerality much in evidence. There is impressive mid-palate density and concentration, but a fair bit of detail and delineation too – perhaps more than I imagined. The small amount of Cabernet Franc really lifts this. Quite plush, with plenty of baby fat and still a hint of the vanilla oakiness notes that will be shed long before this is ready to drink. Very true to its style – succulent, plush and plump. 93.
  • Château Gombaude-Guillot (Pomerol; from a family-owned vineyard of 7 hectares on glacial gravel over clay in the heart of the plateau farmed organically since 1997 and biodynamically since 2006; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; aged in oak barrels, around 50% of which are new; 14% alcohol; sealed under a long DIAM cork). This jewel of a vineyard is fabulously situated in the heart of the plateau and not nearly as well-known as it deserves to be. Beautifully limpid in the glasses and quite translucent – the product of a very gentle extraction. This is aerial, lifted, pure and fresh on the nose, with gorgeous shades of violet that build in little waves as the wine breathes in the glass. The ferrous minerality is also more prominent with aeration. Quite herbal and with an archetypally Pomerol blueberry, damson and mulberry fruit, sloes too. On the palate this is plump, full and deep, yet focussed, tender, lithe and dynamic with a beautiful mouthfeel and a cool precision rare in this hot vintage. 92.
  • Château Guillot Clauzel (Pomerol; the property has existed since 1991, but this is the first vintage with Guillaume Thienpont, of Vieux Château 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 on a classic Pomerol gravel-clay terroir; the old-vine Merlot was planted in the 1960s and the early 1980s; 75% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; aged in French oak; pH 3.65; 14.4% alcohol; tasted with Guillaume Thienpont at the property and then again from bottle in Paris). A revelation for me, though the wondrous 2019 was in fact my first introduction to this wine. This is to Pomerol what L’If is to St Emilion – practically unknown and largely un-fêted simply because there is so little of it and it is so rarely tasted. But it is utterly fabulous. Cool, suave, soft and elegant, yet spicy, rich and richly mineral with great salinity and also a pronounced sense of crushed flint. The tannins are super soft and there is a lovely slight austerity to this (very recognisable in both the 2019 and 2020 as well) which is rare even on the plateau in this vintage. And the fruit is sublimely pure, precise and intense – blueberries and brambles. There is something a little protestant about this. I love it. 95+.
  • Château La Grave Trigant de Boisset (Pomerol; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; a property of 8.5 hectares or so neighbouring Latour à Pomerol and not far from Clinet on a largely gravel terroir, if you hadn’t guessed; 15% alcohol). Often a little burly and stern, even austere, en primeur especially in bigger, richer vintages such as this. But now that this is in bottle, it’s rather more relaxed and open with a pleasingly fresh, intensely herbal and floral nose – lavender and violets, wild rosemary and thyme, a little horsehair and a waft of tobacco smoke all accompanying the bright blueberry and blackberry fruit. Lovely soft tannins outline the contours of a very fluid and dynamic mid-palate. This has quite a compact frame, accentuating the fruit density and intensity whilst show-casing the impressive detail and layering. Fine and fresh on the finish too – the 15% alcohol being hardly noticeable. This exceeds my expectations from en primeur. 92.
  • La Gravette de Certan (Pomerol; the second wine of Vieux Château Certan; 90 Merlot; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; aged in oak, 50% of which is new; tasted with Alexandre and Guillaume at the property). Quite brilliant in the sheer freshness and profound eloquence of the pure cherry, raspberry and darker berry fruit. This is both rich and sumptuous, yet refined and layered, with a striking purity to it, rolling and rippling as it does on the long, tender and ultimately grippy quite sapid finish. Very fine, very refined and very sleek and stylish for the vintage. 93.
  • Château Haut Maillet (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 5 hectares to the north east of Catusseau on gravel and clay; vinified in the new cellar at Château La Cabanne by Francois Estager; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). Lots of sweet spices accompany the baked plum and fresher red and darker berry fruit on the nose; a pleasant hint of cedar and none of the overpowering ferrous minerality of Plincette, tasted just before. The tannins are more fine-grained too and although this doesn’t develop very much complexity in the mid-palate it is a fine and accessible expression of the appellation in this vintage. 88.
  • Château Hosanna (Pomerol; 70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; from a vineyard of 4.5 hectares at the heart of the plateau neighbouring Vieux Château Certan and Certan de May; 15% alcohol). A Pomerol superstar is born! Each en primeur tasting this property rises in my expectations and re-tasting this from bottle confirms my impression that Hosanna is now very close to its Moueix plateau Pomerol peers, La Fleur-Pétrus and Trotanoy. On blue clay and gravel terroir, this is cool, plush and exotic with enticing graphite and cedar notes and, clearly, a great future ahead of it. Intense and compact, yet sleek and elegant with oodles of cedar, violet and blueberry Pomerol typicity. 96.
  • L’Innocence de Séraphine (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; matured in 300-litre French oak barrels for 16 months; 13,5% alcohol). Gosh, this is super good as a second wine. It needs a little air and gentle encouragement to spring to life – and ‘spring’ is the operative word here. That levity, purity and verticality especially on the nose that is actually rather more 2019 in general than 2018. Helped by being ‘only’ 13,5% alcohol (for Pomerol in 2018, that is already an achievement). Lovely notes – on the nose and on the palate – of crushed grapes and plum/damson skins (imagine pounding them in a pestle with a little cinnamon and clove perhaps and maybe a scratch of white pepper); lilies too. Nice persistence, with the same vertical presence on the palate as one finds on the nose too. A hint of fresh black tea (maybe more) and also a lovely nuttiness – walnuts and almonds, with just the slightest hint of frangipane and patisserie (but this wine is not at all sweet and has a fantastic freshness for the vintage). Honestly, I find this deeply impressive. Interesting terroir notes that are a little difficult to put one’s finger on but have you coming back to seek to understand the wine, very pure, precise and focussed and much more delineated than, say, the Clos Cantenac 2015. Beautiful tannins too – lovely and soft and refined. Great wine-making and a fascinating terroir; would that all were second wines in the appellation were like this! 92.
  • Château 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). More translucent in the glass than the Lafleur-Gazin tasted alongside. Spicy yet bright and fresh – with roasted coffee bean, camphor and Szechuan peppercorns alongside the more aerial herbal and floral elements. Wild thyme, lavender and a dark stone/plum fruit. With air, a lovely truffle note starts to build … and build – once you align your palate to it, it becomes ever more evident. Full and a little more rustic on the palate than Lafleur-Gazin, the ferrous minerality being very prominent at first and giving almost a slightly rusty dimension to this – but that fades as the wine rounds out with more air. The tannins on the finish are just a little dry and this is not the most refined of the Moueix Pomerols in 2018. But it captures the heart and soul of the appellation very well. Authentic. 90+.
  • Château Lafleur (Pomerol; 54% Bouchet; 46% Merlot; 14.8% alcohol; tasted at Château Lafleur with Omri Ram). A wine of staggering originality and complexity that words almost fail to do justice to – certainly mine. This had potential perfection written all over it when tasted from the barrel en primeur, bringing a shiver to my spine and a tear to the corner of my eye as I remember well. Tasted now from bottle it is no less profound and no less perfect. And, as perfection tends to be, it remains more difficult to capture in words than any other wine I have re-tasted from this vintage. A mirror pool of cool dark and red berry fruit and that signature Lafleur florality – iris bulbs, violets, candied violets and cracked black pepper. It is succulent, opulent in its way, tense, tender and incredibly structured it is supremely pure and balanced yet energetic and bright and its finish seems eternal. Magical. 100.
  • Château 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). Translucent at the core and with a beautiful limpidity in the glass; fresh, bright and with immediately evident herbal notes, shading more to violet and lavender as the wine inhales. Very pretty, very aromatically expressive and with lots of freshness. With more air still, the sunny natural sweetness of the vintage comes through more and we pick up walnut and even coconut notes. There’s a little suggestion of the ‘Gazin’ ferrous minerality that characterises wines from this part of the appellation, but the minerality is a little more saline and less ferrous in fact than Lagrange à Pomerol. A rich dark berry and stone fruit – damsons and black cherries. On the palate this is relaxed, harmonious and quite opulent but with plenty of freshness and good structural integrity. Sapid on the finish and an impressive result for a monocépage Merlot wine in this robust vintage. 92+.
  • Château Latour à Pomerol (Pomerol; 100% Merlot in this vintage; from a well-situated vineyard of 7.9 hectares just down the gentle incline from Clinet and between Feytit Clinet and La Grave à Pomerol; 15% alcohol). Lots of cinnamon and pain d’épices on the open and expressive nose, but also a very pleasing herbal element – lavender and wild rosemary, even verbena. Dark berry and cherry fruit intermingle and, with air, the graphite and pencil-shaving notes build too as does the ferrous-red earthy minerality that I so often find with this wine. Voluptuous and quite opulent on the attack, but very rich and densely packed – a sensation accentuated by the slightly compact structure and frame. But this is also very long too and the softness of the tannins combined with a lifted and slowly tapering finish help this feel subtle, sleek and elegant despite the considerable power. 96.
  • Château Mazeyres (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 25.6 hectares on a mix of clay-gravel and sandy clay terroirs; 73% Merlot; 24% Cabernet Franc; 3% Petit Verdot; certified organic and biodynamic, the latter from 2018; aged in oak barrels, 30% of which are new; 14% alcohol). Vibrant, vital and, as the French would say, ‘vif’, this is beautifully limpid and glossy in the glass. Mazeyres is a wine I used to find somewhat heavy, burly and rustic; it is now the very antithesis and the transformation is an excellent advert for the biodynamic wine-making here. Wild, lively, bright and dynamic, this has lovely zingy fresh fruit and herbal notes, with an intense dark crushed berry fruit – brambles, blackberries and loganberries. Soft and pure on the attack, with lovely focus and an impressive sense of amplitude too. Spicy, if just a little severe, on the finish – a hint, perhaps, of its former self. 91.
  •  Château Montviel (Pomerol; 80% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 15% alcohol; tasted at Le Gay and again from bottle in Paris).  From Vignobles Péré-Vergé and, like Le Gay and La Violette, now made using 100% micro-vinification, Montviel is close to achieving the same effect texturally. Intense and expressive on the nose – baked plums, cinnamon spice, but with a lovely dark herbal element from the Cabernet Franc and that archetypally ferrous minerality that I recall from previous vintages. Lithe, dynamic and quite sinuous for the vintage and with very soft and fine-grained tannins, this almost floats and glides over the very top of the palate. Elegant and graceful – more than I recall en primeur – and yet with decent girth and substance and an impressively deep dark berry fruit. Quite spicy and peppery on the finish and that’s when the 15% alcohol starts to become more noticeable. Very good, but it would be even better a half a degree less alcohol. 92.
  • Château Moulinet (Pomerol; from a vineyard near Château de Sales of around 18 contiguous hectares on a mix of sand, clay and gravel terroirs; Stéphane Derenoncourt is the consultant here; planted 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 15% alcohol). Slightly ungainly and quite chunky despite the clearly light extraction. Baked plums and baking spices, a little hint of vanilla and a very warm-vintage feel to this wine. One senses the alcohol too and this finishes both a little hot – accentuated by the spicy and peppery notes – and a little short. There is an almost palpable feeling of the struggle with the climatic excesses of the vintage here and although good choices have been made, I don’t find this very harmonious. 87.
  • Château Nénin (Pomerol; 63% Merlot; 37% Cabernet Franc; aging in oak barrels 45% of which are new; pH 3.64; a final yield of 33.8 hl/ha; 14.5% alcohol). Limpid and glossy in the glass, nicely translucent at the core and still with a radiant pink/purple rim. Aromatically expressive, and immediately very ‘Pomerol’, with sloes, damsons and blueberries (the Cabernet Franc higher even than usual) and a lovely floral-tinged herbal note that makes this feel wild and vibrant. A hint of liquorice too, graphite and subtle sweet spices, but very much in the background. Plush and full on the attack with fine-grained yet chewy tannins through the mid-palate that suggest a long future. Cool, fresh, focussed and precise and another recent Nénin that shows the fine progression now being made here. One can see the family resemblance to Las Cases – a certain ‘left bank’-style austerity that I very much like, especially in this sunny, hot vintage. Very accomplished. 93+.
  • Château La Patache (Pomerol; from a vineyard comprised of 9 parcels and amounting to 3.18 hectares on a clay and fine gravel terroir; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; aged in oak barrels for 15 months, 30% of which were new; 14.5% alcohol). I am a massive fan of the wines of Vignobles K, but this has never been my favourite – the ferrous notes can dominate, especially in its youth. It also often has the misfortune of being tasted alongside the exquisite Enclos Tourmaline, though not on this occasion. Bright, quite lifted, slightly sweet scented, pure with plenty of red berry and stone fruit character on the nose – raspberries, wild strawberries, red plums with Kalamata tapenade, black tea and herbal garrigue notes too. With air, a pleasing suggestion of truffle alongside the more obvious red liquorice and dark chocolate – and the ferrous notes subside a little. What I like very much is that the personality of this wine seems to come from the Cabernet Franc (even though it’s only 15 %). The tannins are very soft on the entry and they remain very delicate and finely-textured. This builds nicely on the palate too, but as it does so the spicy, peppery and ferrous notes increasingly dominate and that throws me just a little. This is very well made, but it never quite captures my imagination; I think it just needs a little longer to come together. 91.
  • Les Pensées de Château Lafleur (Pomerol; 54% Bouchet; 46% Merlot; only around 300 cases made; from parcels amounting to 0.7 hectares on clay, sand and gravel; tasted at Château Lafleur with Omri Ram). In a way, the true plateau Pomerol of Château Lafleur – in that the grand vin comes from such a unique and singular terroir that it is far from representative of the plateau itself. Glistening shades of purple, garnet and black in the glass, with great limpidity and viscosity. This is visceral, alive, energetic and radiant. A wine of great complexity too – cedar, incense, plum, a hint of vanilla, blueberries, Kalamata tapenade and those lovely iris and violet notes all intermingling seamlessly. Texturally svelte and sublime this almost glistens and sparkles in the mid-palate with great delineation and definition. Ample, generous but never opulent due to tension, poise and finesse. Sleek and slightly slender like a cheetah. Wonderfully natural in spirit. 95.
  • Château Petit Village (Pomerol; 72% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 8% Cabernet Sauvignon; from an excellently well situated vineyard of 10.5 hectares on the Pomerol plateau at 38m of elevation on deep gravel and clay – le triangle d’or; a final yield of just 23 hl/ha after losses from both coulure and mildew; aged largely in oak barrels, 40% of which were new, with a further 5% aged in amphorae; 14% alcohol). Not always the easiest wine to taste en primeur, its exceptional gravel and clay terroir typically producing a wine inaccessible in its youth but much more expressive with even a little time in the cellar. This is fabulous and the staggering potential here is more obvious now. Tight, dense, compact and singing eloquently of its fine terroir, this is oh so gentle on the attack, with gorgeous filigree tannins marking out the architecture of the wine like a draftsman’s pencil. Glossy, sleek, gossamer-textured with lots of pyrazine herbal notes from the Cabernet (the Sauvignon just as expressive as the Franc). Tender, long and grippy on the sapid, fresh finish. 95.
  • La Petite Eglise (Pomerol; 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc; aged in oak barrels 35% of which are new; just under 5000 bottles produced; 14.5% alcohol; tasted at L’Eglise-Clinet and again from bottle in Paris). This contains young vine Cabernet Franc from opposite the Château for the first time. Lovely and a bit different. Immediately smoky and nutty (walnut), but fresh and vibrant with lots of energy and a radiant bright floral and herbal character. Red and black cherries, mulberries and brambles, and lots of pyrazine Cabernet Franc notes; a pleasing panoply of crushed peppercorns on the finish too. This is really now reliably one of the star ‘second labels’ of the appellation -and all the better in 2018 for the natural freshness that comes with that relatively young vine Cabernet Franc. There’s power and concentration here but so much vivid fruit that you might struggle to pick the vintage (though the mid-palate density does help re-focus the mind on a big and great vintage). Really sapid and juicy for the vintage – in other words, all the greatness of 2018 without any of the problems. Excellent. 93.
  • Petrus (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; aged in oak barrels, 50% of which were new; tasted with Olivier Berrouet in the chai for the first time as I was not able to taste this en primeur). We are in the presence of greatness. Alongside Lafleur, the wine of the vintage for me. One might imagine that 2018 would prove almost too much at Petrus – but not at all, and that is testimony to the skill, craft and dedication of Olivier Berrouet. 100% Merlot on pure clay on the Pomerol plateau in 2018 is a recipe for sugar production. But the careful management of the canopy, retaining foliage to protect the fruit, and the extraordinarily gentle maceration of tiny grapes has produced a wine of phenomenon impact and intensity but also one of incredible refinement, finesse, splendour and freshness. Pulsing, radiant, lively, this is staggeringly pure, utterly sensuous and incredibly special. I’m almost at a loss for words – or, rather, my words fail to capture the wonders of this wine. Simply, fabulous. 100.
  • Le Pin (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; a final yield of 30 hl/ha; pH 3.7; 14.5% alcohol; tasted at the property – slowly). Another strikingly brilliant star of the Pomerol plateau in this vintage and yet utterly different in personality to Petrus. This is extremely pure, focussed and linear in form, with a subtle and understated charm and elegance which is quite captivating. I love above all the slight sense of austerity. There is deep dark rich berry and stone fruit here enrobed in graphite and velvet. There is also a most beautiful stony and even iodine minerality and the most wonderfully refined of velour tannins. The mid-palate is fantastically detailed and one is struck again and again by the eloquence, precision and fine delineating and definition. And the finish is sublimely lifted and sapid, leaving a pure grape-skin signature on the palate for minutes. Cool, studied crystalline beauty. 99.
  • Château Plince (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 8.7 hectares on a sand over crasse de fer terroir; 79% Merlot and 21% Cabernet Franc; aged in French oak barrels, a third of which are new; 14.5% alcohol).  Dark hued but from an evidently quite light and gentle extraction, this is limpid but translucent in the glass.  Very open and aromatic with a lovely cedary character accompanying the red and purple berry fruit.  Soft on the entry, with impressively fine-grained slightly chewy tannins, this is a very honest, accessible and quite classic Pomerol.  I like the slightly spicy and yet stony mineral-charged finish.  91.
  • Château Plincette (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 2 hectares on sand and gravel; vinified in the new cellar at Château La Cabanne by Francois Estager; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). Very ferrous and saline on the nose – at first a plume of raspberry, but then the minerality starts to take over; quite sweet-scented too. On the palate this is round and initially soft, but the tannins build quickly and become increasingly angular. Robust, true to its terroir, classic in a way, but not the most refined of the Estager wines in this vintage. Needs time. 85.
  • Château La Pointe (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 23 hectares on a combination of small gravel and pebble, clay-gravel and more sandy soils, over clay and gravel sub-soils; 74% Merlot; 26% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). Dark-hued though limpid and translucent in the glass; expressively herbal on the nose, with an iron-tinged mineral edge accompanying the dark cherry and berry fruit. A suggestion of baking spices too. Soft and engaging on the attack, but with quite a pronounced tannin bite in the mid-palate. A little harsh on the finish and just a little rustic. Needs a year or two to soften. 88.
  • Château Porte Chic (Pomerol; 70% Merlot; 25% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% alcohol; just 8963 bottles, each numbered). A fascinating wine and this is the first time I’ve tasted it. It comes from a tiny vineyard of around 2 hectares on what used to be the horse racing track very close to the village of Pomerol itself; it was acquired in 2010 and is produced by Benoit & Jean-Louis Trocard – better known for Clos Dubreuil (in St Emilion) and Clos de la Vieille Eglise (in Pomerol). Oh, and appropriately enough, it’s named after a race horse (Papillon Porte Chic)! Quite light and very limpid and glossy in the glass. An engaging and quite complex nose – rich, dark berry and stone fruit, garrigue herbs, but also cinnamon and nutmeg, violet and vanilla, and baked earth. Rich and spicy on the attack, but also gentle with incredibly soft and enticingly seductive tannins that build in texture and power as this unfurls. Long, dense and compact and yet impressively bright with a lovely floral fan-tail on the finish. As at Clos Dubreuil the style is for a rich, powerful and, one imagines, relatively late harvested wine – and that is reflected a little in the alcohol level (the Merlot, one imagines, may well have been at 15.5%). But there is plenty of freshness here too. Distinctive, interesting and worth seeking out. Great pedigree and likely to go the distance! 92+.
  • Château La Renaissance (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 3 hectares on a sandy gravel and clay terroir; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). This is slightly closed at first, but when it does start to open, we have plump ripe red berry fruit – predominantly wild strawberries and raspberries and a slightly dusty even rusty ferrous minerality. This lacks a little density in the mid-palate. Peppery and quite spicy on the finish with just a suggestion of dryness in the tannins. But light, accessible and easy drinking. 86.
  • Clos René (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 18 hectares down the hill from Château Clinet and neighbouring Château L’Enclos; 75% Merlot; 20% Cabernet Franc; 5% Malbec; 15% alcohol).  Dark in hue and quite extracted too. Viscous and with a nice glossiness in the glass. A distinct and very evocative Pomerol nose (after tasting 179 St Emilions, this is very different). Dark and briary berry fruit, fruits of the forest compote, with a delicious herby earthiness that I really like, a touch of wood smoke, cinnamon, a little hint of ferrous minerality, a natural sweetness and a suggestion of cedar, alder and even apple wood. Plump, rich and quite glossy on the palate too with reasonably fine-grained but assertive tannins. There is a pleasing sense of grip and freshness to this and the aromatic nose draw me back. This should age very gracefully. Exceeds my expectations. 91.
  • Cuvée Romana (Pomerol; from Château le Renaissance; 100% Merlot; vinified and ages in Tuscan terracotta amphorae; no added sulphur; only 949 bottles produced; 14.5% alcohol). Limpid and glossy in the glass, with that pleasing slightly rusty ferrous minerality that cries out Pomerol alongside the increasingly deep purple floral scents, with mulberry, blueberry and a hint of lavender. Interesting, a little different and very aromatic – with lots of the parfumier’s floral essences and a little rosemary, lavender, a little wild thyme and fresh mint. Quite smoky, with little hints of tobacco too and a pleasing walnut oil nuttiness. On the palate, this has refined and very fine-grained tannins and a lovely sinuous, silky mid-palate – almost more 2019 than 2018. There’s impressive freshness, though as the wine breathes in the air and grows in volume, some of that definition and precision and finesse starts to be overwhelmed. But don’t get me wrong; this is very impressive and rather lovely in its singularity. Worth seeking out. 93.
  • Château Rouget (Pomerol; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc;  aged in oak barrels, only 30% of which were new; 14.5% alcohol). Big, rich, voluminous and plummy on the nose, with warm baking spices, graphite, a touch of vanilla and a hint of walnut oil accompanying the deep damson, blueberry, black cherry and blackberry fruit. Soft and supple on the attack, with velvety soft, fine and open-grained tannins with just enough grip to stretch the wine out through the well-delineated mid-palate. There’s a lovely white truffle note appearing already that wraps itself around the violet and lavender. These secondary characteristics will only become more prominent with even a little more bottle age. The touch of the warmth on the finish betrays the vintage. But this is elegant, stylish plateau Pomerol that is very accessible already and much more voluptuous and ample than it used to be. 93.
  • Sacré Coeur (Pomerol; from a tiny vineyard of 1.5 hectares on gravel and light clay; 100% Merlot; with a final yield of 41 hl/ha; just 6500 bottles; malolactic in barrel; aged in Darnajou oak barrels, a third of which are new; 13.5% alcohol). Tasted alongside La Croix, this is a shade lighter in the glass, marginally more translucent at the core and more viscous and glossy. It is also a little more open and the fruit is a shade lighter in colour – more red cherries, redcurrants and loganberries, with a hint of rosemary. I like the saline minerality here that seems to weave itself into the fine grains of the tannins. It is the key to this wine, reinforcing its sappy juiciness and, in so doing, giving this more delineation and length than its stablemate. Fresh, pure and lively, this is the first time I have tasted this and I am impressed. 91+.
  • Château Saint Pierre (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 3 hectares on the plateau and, in fact, right next to the church and pretty much adjacent to La Fleur-Petrus; the back label indicates 100% Merlot though, mysteriously, I have also read that this is the first vintage to include Cabernet Franc. Indeed, it is. For, despite the protestations of the back label, this is 86% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc – the young vines incorporated into the blend for the first time; 14.5% alcohol; Stéphane Derenoncourt is the consultant here). Darker, richer and much more earthy than La Renaissance tasted alongside. Brambles and blueberries, a pleasing herbal element – wild thyme sprigs and a hint of lavender. There’s much more depth and density in the mid-palate too and a sense of profundity. Seductively textured, if slightly austere and the tannins are, again, just a little harsh though without ever shading over to dryness. This needs time, but there is clear potential and the quality of the terroir is evident. Quite possibly the best ever from St Pierre. 91+.
  • Château de Sales (Pomerol; from the largest vineyard in the appellation, even if only just over half of the 90 hectares are actually under vine; aged in oak barrels, but just 18% of them new; 69% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Sauvignon; 16%; Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). This is the vintage where the clear progression at de Sales becomes most noticeable. Plump and plush but also herbal, floral, bright, fresh and crunchy with that subtle natural sweetness that one associates with top Pomerol in a warm and sunny vintage like this. Quite sinuous in texture and with fine-grained tannins though lacking the depth and concentration that one finds in the 2019 and 2020. But this leaves an impressive calling card – the start of something. 91+.
  • Château Séraphine (Pomerol; from a tiny vineyard of 2.2 hectares in two parts and over a variety of sand over clay and gravel, deep gravel and sand over gravel and blue clay, at Plince and Mazeyres, but with only 1.2 hectares making it into the grand vin; 100% Merlot; just 2400 bottles; yield 35 hl/ha; aged in 300-litre French oak barriques, 50% of which are new; 13.5% alcohol). Tasted twice over the last six months, with impressively similar notes.  Garnet/ruby, more crimson highlights the second time. Not over-extracted. Limpid and glossy. Very pure, lifted, quite vertical nose, with just a hint of Pomerol sweetness.  A lovely supremely fresh primarily red fruit nose – raspberries, wild strawberries, red cherries, even a hint of redcurrant and a slight hint of Christmas spices. What I really like here is to find these spice-box notes alongside the freshness of croquant red berry fruit rather than the more baked plum/darker berry fruit notes that more usually accompany them. Cracked white peppercorns, even a hint of Szechuan spice and a walnut husk note too. With air a little cedar starts to reveal itself, hinting at some of the wonders to come with bottle age; frangipane too; and beautiful floral notes. Very lovely. Full and rich on the attack with super-svelte but not inconsiderable tannins. Broad and quite potent but with that signature drive, precision, focus and purity. Lifted and sappy with a lovely juiciness. Tapers beautifully and very slowly towards a long finish, with those cinnamon spice notes and a little ferrous-inflected minerality. Very fine and with very considerable promise, the oak already very nicely incorporated. Needs 10 years really, even although it is gorgeous now. Deceptively powerful with that balance and tension coming from the freshness of the fruit. Distinctive, beautifully marked by its terroir and up there with the leading crus (and micro-crus) of the appellation. Though the motto on the label is ‘fatum nostrum est’ (‘it is our destiny’, I think), not much has been left to fate here – there is very fine wine-making and vineyard-management on evidence here. 94.
  • Château Trotanoy (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; from an exceptional vineyard of 7.2 hectares on a mix of gravel on clay and black clay terroirs; 15% alcohol). The first vintage where this is 100% Merlot. Here we have a further contender for wine of the vintage. This is sombre and suave, pure and deep with intensely dark, velvety berry and cherry fruit, fresh spring flowers and violets, with just the faintest suggestion of wood-smoke and of white truffle. It is cool and svelte and like diving through crystal clear water. It is, like so many of the best wines from Pomerol in this vintage, utterly glorious. Staggeringly long on the finish and yet so pure, precise and elegant with it. 99+.
  • Château de Valois (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 8.22 hectares on the southern side of the plateau; 78% Merlot; 22% Cabernet Franc; certified organic since 2015; 14.5% alcohol). Bright and slightly sweet-tinged nose of red and (albeit, in the background) darker berry fruit – predominantly raspberry, with a hint of bubble-gum and frangipane. Soft, round, quite voluptuous, with an impressively fleshy and compact core. Not terribly complex, but nicely made and very accessible. This sings eloquently of its appellation and terroir and is approachable already. 90.
  • Clos de la Vieille Eglise (Pomerol; from a tiny vineyard of just 1.5 hectares well-situated at the heart of the appellation, owned by Jean-Louis and Benoit Trocard of Clos Dubreuil in St Emilion; 70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc; 15% alcohol). A first bottle was corked, alas; but the second – tasted a week later – is excellent. Glossy and quite viscous with a beautiful limpidity in the glass. Aromatically very open and complex, too. There loads of earthy minerality here, lovely wild herbal notes too and vibrant fresh dark briary autumnal fruits and subtle vanilla notes. With more air, a hint of cedar, a touch of violet and a suggestion of truffle. This is very attractive and quite distinctive. The tannins are incredibly soft and seductive and this has an impressive sense of both structure and density about it. Full, plump, rich and yet tender, refined and sapid – a quality that many lesser Pomerols in 2018 lack. That gives this loads of tension and energy. Really excellent. 93.
  • Vieux Château Certan (Pomerol; 70% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Franc – essentially all of it (!); A final yield of around 40 hl/ha; pH 3.78; 14.4% alcohol; tasted with Alexandre and Guillaume in the Château). This remains, as it was so clearly en primeur, another potential right-bank wine of the vintage, stylistically somewhere between Evangile and La Conseillante in its combination of great depth and intensity on the one hand and fabulous precision, elegance, finesse and grace on the other. One of the most tense wines of the vintage, this is cool and composed with lovely compact, dense filigree tannins and very great precision. The nose and palate are in perfect harmony – with fresh raspberries and a compote of red berry fruit accompanied by violets, crushed rose petals, verbena, freesias and even camomile and menthol, with just a hint of green tea. It is beautifully poised, elegant, balanced and energetic without being in any way boisterous or brash – a lovely tight-rope walk. Sublime and so lithe and tender. 99.
  • Château Vieux Maillet (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 8.65 hectares on a mixed terroir of gravel, sand, clay and crasse de fer on the edge of the plateau; 85% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% alcohol). This takes a little while to reveal itself aromatically, but it’s very beautiful when it does – here we have archetypal plateau blueberries, brambles, sloes and damsons; black cherries and a hint of lavender. This is soft, gentle, voluptuous and tender with a gorgeous silky texture, very refined tannins and a glorious rich, intense deep black cherry fruit. Seductive Pomerol at its best. This is wine I tend to like; but this is probably the best I’ve tasted from here. The slight hint of lavender on the finish is delightful. 92+.
  • Vieux Plateau Certan (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; 14.5% alcohol). A somewhat obscure wine that is never going to be flattered by comparison with its near-eponym; but that is hardly a fair comparison! Bright and lifted, yet quite sweet on the nose and certainly seductively-styled with some of the sweetness clearly coming from the oak. Gentle on the attack with fine-grained tannins that grip nicely and quite a nice sense of evolution and development in the mouth. Easy, elegant and approachable – and not to be left in the cave too long. 88.
  • Clos Vieux Taillefer (Pomerol; from a vineyard of 3.8 hectares on, as the name implies, an iron-rich sandy terroir; 100% Merlot; 14.5% alcohol). Quite light and translucent at the core with a pronounced and also reasonably evolved rim. The ferrous salinity is very evident on the nose, with sundried tomatoes, hazelnuts and a touch of thyme alongside the baked plums and Christmas spices. On the palate this is punchy, rich, full and quite thick and chewy – a bit of a blockbuster. The finish is a little strict and the tannins just a touch dry, but there is an authentic rusticity to this that I rather like.  88.
  • Château La Violette (Pomerol; 100% Merlot; from a tiny vineyard of 1,65 ha situated between Trotanoy and Le Pin in the heart of Pomerol plateau; a final yield of around 25 hl/ha yielding just shy of 5000 bottles; 14,5% alcohol; tasted at Le Gay and again from bottle in Paris). With the individual grapes plucked by hand from each bunch before the same micro-vinification in barrel as Le Gay, La Violette takes this to another level altogether. In 2018 this produces a wine that is, in a way, the pure essence of Pomerol – an incredible textural sensation of cashmere-wrapped black cherry fruit. It is sublime and, in 2018 more than any other previous vintage I have tasted, this serves to magnify, intensify and accentuate the terroir notes. In its own very distinct way, another exceptional wine. 98.
  • Château Vray Coix de Gay (Pomerol; 90% Merlot; 10% Cabernet Franc; from a finely-situated; vineyard of 3.57 hectares on clay and gravel in the heart of the Pomerol plateau, producing just 5600 bottles; certified organic and, from this vintage, biodynamic; 14.5% alcohol). Aromatically enticing and very open and expressive as soon as the cork is removed, this has a lovely pure concentrated dark berry fruit which is rapidly accompanied by a fresh and wild floral component. There are striking notes of peony, hibiscus, violet, lavender and rosemary alongside the loganberry, black raspberry, bramble and blueberry fruit. This is compact and concentrated again on the palate, with impressive purity and freshness for the vintage. The oak is scarcely noticeable and very well-incorporated and the tannins are fine-grained and beautifully managed. Very refined indeed, despite the depth and power, and very different from the style of wine that used to be made here before Pénélope Godefroy’s arrival in 2014. 93.

The next in the series will profile the left bank profiles with articles on each of the leading appellations of the Médoc and Pessac-Léognan. 


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