Pomerol panache!

Seduction or power from Pomerol #bdx15 barrel samples: you pays your money, you takes your choice

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

1 May 2016

Readers take note: Revised note for La Cabanne based on new sample

The appellation as a whole is successful in 2015. Indeed, many writers have propelled Pomerol to the top of the vintage pedestal. It’s in that vicinity at least, with plenty of superb samples, from moderately-priced estates (for Pomerol, that is) to the most famous. And that’s saying a lot for the smallest of Bordeaux’s major fine wine regions, spanning only three kilometers wide by 4 kilometers long.

Ella Lister at VCC

Fellow taster Ella Lister has the right look on her face. VCC was so good that maybe I was just perplexed about it.

But I found something rather interesting about this vintage. First off, alcohol levels were quite high for many Pomerols, as were the tannins. The best estates balanced everything very well. But readers who prefer freshness and elegance should know that Pomerol is not as homogenous as some say, at least in terms of style. Indeed, I found generally speaking two distinct styles. On the one hand, I found barrel samples that indeed harkened back to a combination of the 1985 and 2005 “5” vintages, as mentioned in my introduction to the 2015 barrel samples. On the other hand, very high tannins and alcohol levels encountered especially in many estates of Jean Pierre Moueix reminded me, too, of a modern version of 1975. Christian Moueix said that IPT levels reached 90 for some and alcohol up to about 14.5%. Many came across as “serious” samples, stressing power over sensuality. My most enthusiastic reactions in Pomerol are thus elicited by barrel samples stressing both seductive and bright tones, and underlying structure.

I rather liked Pomerol in 2014, but the highs from last year do not quite match the (higher) highs of this year. Having said that, certain barrel samples from 2014 in Pomerol pleased me more (Latour à Pomerol, for one example), because they conveyed more freshness and lift.

On to the 2015 notes, with those in bold I liked in particular. When red and bold even more. When underlined, too, a sort of wine (barrel sample) nirvana.

  • 2015 Château Beauregard – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This is textbook 2015 Pomerol with pleasing floral aspects, ripe plum and touches of dark cherry. The palate is smooth and elegant, leading to a lifting finish with cool fruit. If priced moderately, it should be one to seek for savvy #winelovers, at least for special occasions. Bravo! 91-93
Beauregard lovely 2015

Hopefully a moderate enough price

  • 2015 Château Le Bon Pasteur – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Tasted after the Beauregard, it comes across as a bit heavier by comparison, where I could feel the extraction more, but there is power on the mid palate, ripe tannin and a heady finish that some tasters like more than others. 89-92
  • 2015 Château Bourgneuf – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc comes across as forebodingly tannic and powerful, somewhat closed in. The aromatics are pleasing, but one gets the impression that while many 2015 barrel samples harken back to the 1985 and 2005 “5” vintages, this one has 1975 in it, too. Hide in a cellar corner and you may be in for a very pleasant surprise 20 years down the road. 88-91
  • 2015 Château La Cabanne – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Changed note. I subsequently learned that the sample I had tried at the Bordeaux tasting was not proper. Or at least not the best representative sample. The owners at this estate sent me another sample. Indeed this is a better barrel sample and is pretty darn good! The aromatics remain as lovely as before, but they are more expressive and appealingly vivid: damson/plum and spice, such as clove and licorice. Almost like Christmas. The over extracted aspect that I felt from the sample in Bordeaux is not the case here. With this one, however I do get slightly heady expressions, from 14.5 alcohol that is felt, but the enveloping ripe fruit gives this sample hedonistic appeal. With amazing kindness, the estate sent me a 2014 sample as well, upon my request, which I had really liked en primeur last year. It is one degree alcohol less and more hightoned, with more red fruit. I can see why fellow critics like the 2015 more, as it has more body, but I may prefer the cooler 2014. What if there were a theoretical blend of 2014 and 2015? That would be really cool. In any case, here a revised note for this delectable Cabanne, thanks to a clean sample. 89-92
  • 2015 Château Certan de May – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Lovely aromatic elegance, but again we encounter somewhat raw tannins stressing power over grace. Compared to Latour à Pomerol however, tasted just before, this estate is more elegant and more seductive… so I give the benefit of the doubt to barrel aging to sort things out. 91-93
  • 2015 Château Clinet – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Delectable ripe fruit aromatics and a bright opening with loads of opulence seduce immediately. Yet I detect a bit of hardness on the finish. Barrel aging should soften things out, so overall a very good job! 92-94
  • 2015 Château La Conseillante – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Easily among the very best Pomerol barrel samples from 2015, with nearly 20% Cabernet Franc, which lends structure and needed freshness. Although just a touch heady on the finish – 14.5% alcohol – the overall impression is one of excellent structure combined with … sheer deliciousness. Floral, fruit driven and layered and with a long finish. Aging in 70% new oak. Bravo! 93-95+
  • 2015 Duo de Conseillante – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    A great success for the second wine of La Conseillante. Wonderful violet perfume and much charm from this barrel sample, made from about 25% of the production. The 14.5% alcohol is very well integrated. The moderate acidity buffers things well enough, but the dry extract lends structure. Nearly 90% Merlot. Great job and if priced right, I am a buyer. 89-92
  • 2015 Château La Croix de Gay – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This conveys very fresh aromatics, both floral and fruit, with a bright opening and a smooth mid palate. It delivers the goods in a suave manner, with much lift on the pleasing finish. Another sample, another successful Pomerol. 90-92+
  • 2015 Clos l’Église (Pomerol) – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    When I came across this at the Ulysse Cazabonne tasting, I encountered not just refinement and elegance but also opulence without any heaviness, headiness or hardness. An excellent Pomerol indeed! 92-95
  • 2015 Clos René – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Bright aromatics, ripe fruit and I love the medium-bodied, sap filled palate, very juicy and fine with a fresh finish. This should not be expensive. 90-92

A more armored style of Pomerol from the JP Moueix stable in 2015

  • 2015 Château La Fleur-Pétrus – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Lovely aromatics mixing bright ripe fruit and violets. This barrel sample succeeds in blending much power with seashell freshness – at last – in the context of this vintage chez JP Moueix. In many ways – and compared to previous vintages – it still comes across rather big and brawny. By comparison, the refined grace at Vieux Château Certan is miles ahead. 92-95
  • 2015 Château Lafleur-Gazin – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Like some other Jean-Pierre Moueix 2015 barrel samples, this exuded a lovely nice nose, airy and minty fresh; yet the palate came across as rather imposing, stressing high tannin and power rather than freshness and elegance. 88-90
  • 2015 Château Gazin Pomerol – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This sample was full bodied, but subtle, with floral and dark fruit aromatics leading to a pleasingly tonic finish. A superb Gazin, whose ripe and smooth tannins easily count among the best I have tried from barrel. I would say that this is more elegant and charming than either the 2009 or the 2010. A clear case where 2015 is indeed great! Bravo! 92-95+
  • 2015 Château La Grave a Pomerol Trigant de Boisset – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Very tannic and yet there is substance and elegance on the aromatics. I like the palate presence and the power, but easily the most “armored” style I’ve yet tried from this estate en primeur. 89-91
  • 2015 Château Hosanna – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Quite imposing on the palate, and as Michael Besch of the Washington D.C. chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux remarked: “These are going to need a lot of time to come around”. Once again, a bit of modern styled 1975 in this vintage. A large-scaled, almost brawny style, an “iron plum” that will need time to come around so my score is conservative… 90-93
  • 2015 Château Latour à Pomerol – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    A mild disappointment. Aromatically is it great, with floral and ripe fruit aspects, but there is awkwardness on the palate, which is very imposing, and even a touch heavy, with some of the high alcohol noticeable as well as rather hard tannin on the finish. 87-89
  • 2015 Château Nenin – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This has rich ripe fruit aromas preceding a rather opulent and quite sap filled palate, delectable, perhaps just a touch of raw tannin on the finish but barrel aging should smoothen this out. 91-93+
Father and son Petrus

Olivier and Jean-Claude Berrouet: easily top five barrel sample of the vintage.

  • 2015 Pétrus* – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This was an amazing barrel sample, rich and robust, opulent yet structured and integrating its whopping 14.6% alcohol very well. I generally prefer lower alcohol balances. As at Vieux Château Certan, I recall adoring the brightness of the 2014 Pétrus just as well, making me think that 2014 is at least nearly as good, for lovers of freshness. Pétrus 2014 may well be less expensive than 2015, even if still for millionaires. Yet it is undeniable that 2015 is great. What else should one expect from the humble, talented and thoroughly likable father-and-son team of Olivier and Jean-Claude Berrouet? If you can afford it, buy it! 96-98
  • 2015 Château La Pointe – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    Tasted after Gazin at Ulysses Cazabonne, this was comparatively more “fluid” and easy on the palate, not quite as layered or complex, but with fine grip, making it a worthy drink to enjoy in the mid-term as you await, say, Vieux Château Certan or Gazin, to age in your cellar. 89-92
  • 2015 Château Trotanoy – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    This estate has always been the most brooding of Pomerol and for lovers of brooding (or even brooding lovers), you’re in for a treat. This is the Panzer to the Rolls Royce at Vieux Château Certan. And yet, what a nose! Vivid, floral aromatics gorgeously engage you. Then the palate turns very Pauillac like, an armored style, very large scaled and powerful. High score because there is an impressive balance and will likely be amazing with age. 94-96
VCC excellent as usual

Bravo to Alexandre and son Guillaume for a superb VCC in 2015

  • 2015 Vieux Château Certan* – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
    The estate dubs its wine under the title Force Tranquille (Gentle Strength) and I get it: in spades. Somehow this estate manages to combine the best aspects from 2015 in Pomerol: charm and elegance, but also power and structure into a spherical whole. Rather high yields mean a bit more wine than normal, but that should not bring prices down, alas. I recall adoring the 2014 and bought six bottles at the first tranche (a price no longer available). I adore the 2015, too, but it has a higher alcohol balance – with a whopping 14.6%, over a full degree as compared to last year’s 13.5%. And yet the ripe and silky Merlot tannins and the freshness and structure of the nearly 20% Cabernet Franc blend seamlessly. “It looked like we were facing another 2003 in late July,” remarked the affable owner Alexandre Thienpont. As other vintners said, August “saved” the vintage. His son Guillaume explained that 30mm of rain in August really helped relieve the vines and then fine weather permitted phenolic ripeness. “We waited – and we could wait – to pick at the right time for optimal ripeness,” he said. The result? Magnificence. 95-97


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