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 1982 Lafleur, at least for my palate, while qualitatively no better than Mouton Rothschild, Latour, and La Mission Haut Brion, is off the charts in terms of the hedonistic and intellectual pleasure it gives me. I have only a few bottles remaining in my cellar, and this 1982 is still a young wine. The extraordinary intensity and purity of the kirsch liqueur and licorice, the remarkable opulence, the thickness and richness, yet the ability to seem fresh with laser-like precision are all things that must be tasted to be believed. This wine is showing a little bricking at the edge, but has off the chart concentration as well as a viscous texture and unreal purity and fruit. It is as close to some of the legendary 1947s that were produced in Pomerol as anything made in the last thirty years. This is a remarkable wine! Anticipated maturity: now-2030. Release price: ($325.00/case)
Probably not a perfect wine for the classicist, this flamboyant, exotic, lavishly rich, concentrated, low acid fruit bomb exhibits remarkable aromatic complexity (espresso roast, roasted herbs, caramel, chocolate, and oodles of sweet plum, fig, and berry fruit). It is very jammy and incredibly low in acidity, but it is still intact, and the dense plum/garnet color is just beginning to show some lightening at the edge. This is another 1982 that I thought would have one, possibly two feet in the grave at age 27, but lo and behold, it is still going strong. Release price: ($400.00/case)
This wine is more tightly knit, more tannic, but every bit the blockbuster concentrated effort that its younger sibling, the 1990, is. It seems to need more coaxing from the glass, but the color is virtually identical, a dense ruby/purple with no lightening at the edge. In the mouth the wine cuts a broad swath, with spectacular intensity, richness, massive concentration, and high levels of tannin, yet the wine is fabulously well-delineated and like its sibling, the 1990, has a finish that goes on for nearly a minute. It does not seem to be quite as evolved as the 1990, and my instincts suggest there is a bit more tannin, but both are as prodigious as Petrus can be. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2040. Last tasted, 8/02.
One of the great modern-day Bordeaux, the 1989 Clinet still has a saturated purple color and a sweet nose of creme de cassis intermixed with incense, licorice, smoke, and mineral. As the wine sits in the glass, more blueberry and blackberry notes emerge, intermixed with some toasty oak, earth, and spice. This spectacularly concentrated, full-bodied, multi-dimensional wine is the stuff of dreams. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2025. Last tasted, 10/02
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.