Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pomerol: The Little Appellation that Could

Pomerol, at 800 hectares, is one of the smallest communes in Bordeaux.  This home to some of the most lauded Bordeaux offerings is generally grouped with St. Emilion and other neighboring communes into an unofficial sub-region called Libournais.  The commune is located 3 km from the city of Libourne and  approximately 30 km northeast of Bordeaux on a rolling plateau that slopes to the Isle River at its confluence with the Dordogne.  Pomerol is bounded by the Barbanne stream to the north, St. Emilion to the east, and Libourne to the south and east.  The area was originally a part of the St. Emilion AOC but was awarded its own AOC by INAO (the AOC governing body) in 1936.  A total of 150 producers currently operate in the defined area of Pomerol.

Pomerol is blessed with a mild maritime climate with drier summers and higher daytime temperatures than experienced in other Bordeaux communes.  The risk of frost is very low due to the moderating influences of the Dordogne and Isle rivers.

The soil is a gravelly topsoil with layers of clay and sand with the clay more prevalent in the west and sand more apparent close to Libourne.  The subsoil has a high proportion of a ferruginous sandstone called "crasse de fer" by locals.

The vineyards are planted to Merlot (80%), Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dollop of Malbec.  The Pomerol vines were destroyed during the Hundred Years' war but were replanted during the 15th and 16th centuries with the wines gaining acclaim for high quality during the latter half of the 19th century.  The current vines are very old and low-yielding.  This, coupled with the small surface area available for planting, results in sky-high prices for the wines.

Chateau L'Evangile
The wines of Pomerol are elegant and distinctive, characterized as they are by intense aromas, ripe fruit, and supple tannins.  The wines are velvety and fruity in their youth and exhibit flavors of grilled almonds and black truffles in later years.  The average yield is 38,000 hectoliters annually.  Wineries of note include Petrus, Lafleur, Le Pin, and L'Evangile.

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