Though it doesn’t conform to many people’s mental image of Bordeaux – charming, humble outbuildings, rather than fairytale chateaux with elegant turrets and terraces – Pomerol has become one of the most alluring appellations in recent decades and of great interest to collectors and investors.
This small, but perfectly formed pocket (813 hectares under vine) of clay, gravel and sandy soils may only have begun producing wine in earnest in the 1800s, yet in the years since, it has more than made up for lost time in sheer quality and uniqueness.
Its special microclimate and unusual subsoil with its iron oxide deposits makes for wines that are greatly varied. In the higher ridges there are rich clay deposits, giving way to sandier soils in the lower slopes, producing wines. Pomerol blends generally give Merlot a leading role, giving them lightness of aroma and smooth supple textures, often paired with the Cabernet Franc that lends a gloriously rich and deep colour.
Somewhat of an anomaly in Bordeaux, there is no official classification here. Previously known only to locals and a limited market in Switzerland and Belgium, Pomerol’s beautiful wines were catapulted into the limelight in 1982 by the influential critic and tastemaker Robert Parker Jr. Prices for the produce of properties like Petrus, Lafleur and Le Pin skyrocketed in the years since, in a reflection of the gargantuan demand that exists for wines of bijou estates whose production rarely exceeds 1,000 cases in a vintage.
The harvest at Petrus took place between September 27 and October 12, and the 2010 finished at 14.1% natural alcohol, which is slightly lower than the 2009's 14.5%. The 2010 reminds me somewhat of the pre-1975 vintages of Petrus, a monster-in-the-making, with loads of mulberry, coffee, licorice and black cherry notes with an overlay of enormous amounts of glycerin and depth. Stunningly rich, full-bodied and more tannic and classic than the 2009, this is an awesome Petrus, but probably needs to be forgotten for 8-10 years. It should last at least another 50 or more. Someone told me recently that Petrus had a second wine, so I asked Olivier Berrouet, their young, talented administrator, whether that was true, and he flatly denied it, so if any Asian wine buyers are running across second wines of Petrus in Hong Kong or on mainland China, be warned – they are not genuine. Proprietor Jean Moueix, who I believe is in his late twenties, has taken over for his father, Jean-Francois, who has largely retired, and the younger Moueix has really pushed quality even higher at this renowned estate. Anyone visiting Pomerol would have undoubtedly noticed the renovations at Petrus, as it was once one of the most modest and humble buildings in the appellation. Moreover, I suspect that multi-millionaire/billionaire collectors will have about 50 years to debate over which vintage of Petrus turns out better, the 2009 or 2010. In a perfect world, most people would love to have a few bottles of each, or at least the opportunity to taste them once in a while, as they have become more of a myth than something real, but these wines do, in fact, exist!
Made from 100% Merlot (one percent for each rating point I've assigned), this wine is explosively rich and compelling. Dense plum/purple, it boasts the remarkable delineation and freshness that are hallmarks of this vintage. From a much smaller production than normal because of Merlot's poor flowering, the very hot, dry growing and harvest conditions, this is a super-endowed, very rich Le Pin with its exotic new oak largely buried behind its extravagant concentration, power and richness. I don't know what its natural alcohol level is, but I suspect it is pushing 15% in 2010. Rich, tannic, but exceptionally well-endowed, this is a sublime example of Merlot at its very finest. Forget it for 5-7 years (which is somewhat unusual for Le Pin) and drink it over the following three decades.
An opulent Petrus very much in the stylistic family of the 1990, this 100% Merlot has a dense plum/purple color and a sweet nose of mulberries, black cherries, some subtle toast and licorice as well as a floral element. A wine of great intensity, a multidimensional mouthfeel and full-bodied, stunning concentration, the 2009 Petrus is everything one would expect of it. Given the sweetness of its tannin, much like the 1990, I suspect this wine will always be “open for business,” appealing even in its youth. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2050+. This is one of the larger productions of Petrus over recent years, with nearly 3,000 cases of this vintage turned out by proprietor Jean Moueix.
An astonishing effort from the Rothschild family, the 2009 l’Evangile may be the reference point offering from this estate for decades to come. A blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc aged in 100% new oak, with 15% natural alcohol, it exhibits a sumptuous bouquet of caramels, black raspberry liqueur, blackberries, violets, graphite and truffles. Thick, viscous flavors are reminiscent of such super-ripe vintages as 1982, 1959, 1949 and 1947. The striking aromatics, massive, full-bodied mouthfeel and multilayered palate that resembles a skyscraper in the mouth offer an abject lesson in great winemaking, extraordinary terroir, and the ability to combine power with precision, elegance and freshness. This is unquestionably a huge wine, but it also possesses mindboggling complexity and finesse. Because of its sheer extract and velvety personality, it will be drinkable in 4-5 years, and will keep for four decades or more where well-stored. The most profound L’Evangile ever made?
Exceptional purity and a blockbuster nose of mocha, black cherry liqueur, mulberries and plums are followed by an extravagantly rich wine that seems to have a nearly endless finish. Truly haute couture of Merlot, so to speak, this wine has a finish that goes well past a minute, with wonderfully sweet tannins and a provocative, concentrated, broad mouthfeel that is remarkably luxurious. This is amazing stuff! It should drink well for 20-25 years. This is undeniably the greatest Le Pin I have tasted at such an infantile age. There are about 500 cases of this wine, which is made by the Thienpont family, the owners of Vieux Chateau Certan. One hundred percent Merlot, it continues to possess the exoticism of previous vintages, but the oak at present is far better crafted and integrated than in the debut vintage of 1979.
Clinet has been on a hot streak lately and the 2009 appears to be the greatest wine ever made at the estate, surpassing even the late Jean-Michel Arcaute’s monumental 1989. A blend of 85% Merlot and tiny amounts of Cabernet Franc (12%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (3%), this big Pomerol boasts an opaque, moonless night inky/blue/purple color in addition to a gorgeous perfume of blueberry pie, incense, truffles, black raspberries, licorice and wood smoke. Viscous and multi-dimensional with silky, sweet tannin, massive fruit concentration and full-bodied power, there are nearly 4,000 cases of this thick, juicy, perfect Clinet. It should drink well in 3-5 years and keep for 25-30.
A sensational effort from proprietor Denis Durantou, this 2005 is a compelling wine, but purchasers should wait at least a decade to begin the magical liquid tour. One of the monumental wines of the vintage, it boasts a dense purple color as well as a glorious perfume of caramelized blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, a hint of toast in the backward, fully integrated oak, full body, and exceptional density and richness. Prodigiously concentrated, this layered, broad Pomerol reveals a seamless integration of acidity, tannin, alcohol, and wood. It is a massive, yet remarkably elegant wine that is as singular as it is exhilarating. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2040.
A prodigious Petrus, this wine has that extra level of intensity and complexity that is monumental. The magic is clearly Petrus, and the 2000 will always be an interesting vintage to compare to another legend in the making, the 1998, or more recently, of course, the 2005, 2008, and 2009. Extremely full-bodied, with great fruit purity, an unmistakable note of underbrush, black truffle, intense black cherries, licorice, and mulberry, the wine seems to show no evidence of oak whatsoever. It has a sumptuous, unctuous texture, plenty of tannin, but also vibrancy and brightness. This is a remarkable wine that seems slightly more structured and massive than the 1998, which comes across as slightly more seamless, as if it were haute couture. This wine needs at least another 5-10 years of cellaring and should age for 50+ years.
An utterly awesome wine, the only problem with the 2000 Lafleur is that I indicated its maturity window would be 2012-2040+. Based on two tastings of it, I would now argue 2020-2060+. Yes, it is that backward, but it has extraordinary potential. Dense ruby/purple to the rim, this fabulously concentrated wine has a sweet nose of kirsch liqueur intermixed with licorice and subtle floral notes as well as a hint of truffle in the background. It is stacked and packed on the attack, with a multi-dimensional mid-palate of unbelievable intensity of concentration and richness, yet at the same time all this power is allied to striking elegance, purity, and depth. This is great Bordeaux, a profound Lafleur, and in about ten years, much of its magic should begin to be unleashed. If you can find it, it is an extraordinary wine, and as expensive as it was a decade ago, it will look cheap compared to prices for more recent vintages.
The 1990 Petrus remains incredibly young, one of the least evolved wines of the vintage (along with Montrose and Beausejour-Duffau). This dense ruby/purple-colored effort is beginning to hint at the massive richness and full-bodied intensity lurking beneath its wall of tannin. The vintage's sweetness, low acidity, and velvety tannins are present in abundance, and the wine is massive in the mouth as well as incredibly pure and well-delineated. I thought it would be drinkable by now, but it appears another 5-10 years will pass before it begins to reach its plateau of maturity. This wine is capable of lasting at least four more decades. An incredible achievement! Release price: ($5000.00/case)