Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pomerol AOC (Bordeaux): Where excellence reigns

Two nights ago, Zachys hosted a tasting of the wines of Chateau Lafleur at New York's SC Culinary Suite. I will be reporting on that tasting but, prior to that, will provide background on Pomerol (this post) and the estate (following post).

Pomerol, at 800 ha, 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 designation by INAO (the AOC governing body) in 1936. A total of 150 producers currently operate in the defined area.

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 influence of the Dordogne and Isle rivers.

A rough approximation of the Pomerol soil is shown in the graphic below. The composition 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 which the locals call "crasse de fer." Several types of clay can be found in the soil but the blue clay is the most highly regarded. The Petrus vines are planted almost 100% on blue clay.

Pomerol soil composition with the Pomerol plateau shown in 
gray. (Source: Handout at 12/4/17 Zachys Lafleur Tasting) 
Originally from Neil Martin's book Pomerol.

The Pomerol plateau (the area shaded in gray in the map above) is home to the best producers. Its soil is a complex blend of gravel, clay, sand, crasse de fer, and iron oxide.

The vineyards are planted to Merlot (80%), Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dollop of Malbec. 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.

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 Hl annually.

A map of the Pomerol wineries is shown below. Wineries of note include Petrus, Lafleur, Le Pin, and L'Evangile.

Pomerol wineries (Source: Handout at the tasting)

Chateau L'Evangile

I will cover Chateau Lafleur in my next post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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