Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bordeaux: The Wines of Pomerol - An Introduction, France

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at Chateau Petrus in Pomerol

Pomerol is remarkable for being unremarkable. It is not a long-established area. There are no beautiful chateaux. There is no real town center, just roads connecting the lands and small, farmhouse style wineries. Pomerol has no classification system. With 800 hectares, it is a small area, with small domains. By contrast: The vineyards of St. Emilion cover more than 5000 hectares; the production of Petrus is just 10% of that of Lafite.

Picture: Map of Bordeaux

Nevertheless, Pomerol has managed to earn itself a place among the region's most-respected names. The list of the Pomerol’s best properties includes Le Pin, one of the precursors of the Garagistes style, Petrus and Lafleur, with all three of them regarded as "hors classe" growths, and: Eglise-Clinet, Trotanoy, Vieux-Château Certan, L´Evangile, Certan-de-May, La Fleur-Pétrus, Clinet, Bon Pasteur, Le Gay, Rouget, Clos l'Eglise, Nénin, Petit-Village, Lagrange and Gazin. Pomerol, with the wines of Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pen, now commands higher prices than those of the long-established Medoc.

Pomerol has the highest Merlot share in Bordeaux, with Merlot accounting for 80% and Cabernet Franc for the rest. Vines are old and yields are extremely low.

Pictures: Pomerol

Over the centuries, Pomerol had always been in the shadow of Medoc, Graves and even St. Emilion. Only at the beginning of the 20th century, things changed when Belgians and primarily Dutchmen were more and more interested in the red Pomerol wines. It was not until the 1950s that British merchants woke up to the wines and began to import them into the UK. 

Château Le Pin

This is a very recent story. Its wine is periodically one of the world's most expensive red wines. The vineyards extend over 2.0 hectares of clay soil, with a grape variety of 92% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc and the vines averaging 32 years of age. Typically 600 to 700 cases are produced per year. Château Le Pin is considered a predecessor of the garage wines.

Pictures: Pomerol

The vinification is done in two small rooms under the house of the property using stainless steel fermenting tanks and oak barrels for malolactic and aging, where the wine stays for around 18-22 months depending on vintage.

Chateau Le Pin was first produced in 1979, the year when the Thienpont family (wine merchants from Belgium) purchased the property from Madame Loubie, whose family had owned it since 1924. The Thienpont family owns six properties in Bordeaux including the neighboring Vieux Chateau Certan. The property was given the name Le Pin by the Thienponts from a solitary pine tree that grows near the winery. Before the Thienport family took over, the wine was sent off to be made into generic Pomerol.

The 2009 vintage sells currently for around Euro 2800 per bottle.

Château Petrus

Petrus belongs to the family of Libourne wine merchant JP Moueix. In 1920 Mrs Loubat inherited the Petrus vineyard. 20 years later she was joined by JP Mouex and the success story of Petrus began. JP Mouex put Petrus on the map.

Today, Petrus is under the sole control of Jean-Pierre's son, Christian; the once relatively inexpensive wines are today some of the most expensive in Bordeaux.

Picture: Chateau Petrus

There is no château on the estate, but rather a modestly sized country house, with decorations of symbols and keys of St. Peter. The vineyard of Pétrus totals 11.4 hectares and is located on a plateau in the eastern portion of Pomerol. The grape variety distribution is 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. The average age of the vines exceed 45 years.

The 2009 vintage sells currently for around Euro 3100 per bottle.

Château Lafleur

Although the property has been in Jacques Guinaudeau’s family since it was founded in 1872, he has been directly involved only since 1985. For decades before that it was famously run by his reclusive aunts Marie and Thérèse Robin and it was wine merchant JP Moueix, who put Lafleur on the map. In fact the winemaking at Lafleur was overseen by the Moueix team, who still sell most of the wine, for some time until Jacques and Sylvie Guinaudeau were able to take sole charge on the decease of the surviving aunt, Marie, in 2001.

The vineyard area consists of 4 hectares with the grape varieties of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc. The annual production averages 1,000 cases of the Grand vin Château Lafleur and approximately 750 cases of the second wine Les Pensées de Lafleur. Located in the vicinity of Château Pétrus.

The 2009 vintage sells currently for around Euro 1300 per bottle.

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