Premium Pomerol 2018

The gorgeous Château Evangile

Quite consistent, too.

by Panos Kakaviatos for

26 April 2019

Pomerol was excellent in 2018. Akin in consistency to Saint Julien. Especially cooler terroirs, with more clay and less sun, or at least those wines made with especially careful winemaking, succeeded best. And where it did succeed, it counts among the very best that Pomerol has done. Not necessarily “the best” but certainly up there. Already, many of my most favorite wines from barrel for the 2018 vintage come from Pomerol.

As always, if in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. And if underlined, too, a potential wine nirvana!

Château Beauregard – Assessed at the press tastings of the UGCB, this blend of 75% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, at 14% alcohol and with a 3.77 pH has a certain imposing aspect as if the dry hot season comes across with somewhat tougher tannins. Time in glass reveals mid palate juiciness however. In a word, it is somewhat tight, but should loosen up with barrel aging. Similar reaction at Pomerol Seduction. 91-93+

Château Le Bon Pasteur – The nose is fresh, so bravo! Rich, yet not over done, with fine, mid palate sap. I like the finish, as it does not come across as too drying. This reminds me a bit of the delectable 1998 Bon Pasteur, at least that is the vintage that popped in my head. 92-94

Château Bourgneuf – The nose is a bit reticent and the palate somewhat closed as well. Not sure here, as the tannin is there, but kind of imposing without being hard. Note withheld for now, as I think that I need to re-taste!

Château La Cabanne – The nose from this barrel sample seemed a bit nondescript, but the palate displays ripe fruit and elegance, and shows how much better this estate has been in recent years. The tannins end just a bit hard, but that is what barrel aging is for, so I look forward to tasting from bottle ! 91-93

Château Certan de May – Initial “glucose sweetness”, even on the attack, but the Cabernet freshness (25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) kicks in, with crushed mint on the nose, with a fresh and rather bright aspect for the vintage countering an initial “sweet” impression. This is a lovely wine! It shows both nuance and grip – and keep in mind that the barrel aging will soften it further. 92-94+

Château Clinet – This blend of 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon, aging in 75% new oak, is a top wine from Pomerol and for Bordeaux in general. Ripe red fruit, with refined tannins that surpasses many other wines. The opulence is paired with truly crispy and juicy freshness, so that the 14.5% alcohol is very well balanced by freshness. Still, a somewhat tannic and hard finish, but not astringent. There is a slight “1986” aspect to the otherwise 1985 juiciness! And the estate de-leafed on both the sunrise and sunset sides, without any sense of roasted grape. A great success here, marrying the richness of Merlot with the ripe structure of Cabernet, that makes me like it more and more. Tasted again at Pomerol Seduction and outshined them all, except for La Conseillante. 95-97

After the UGCB tasting in downtown Bordeaux, with Château Clinet director Ronan Laborde and wine critic Yohan Castaing. Laborde is also president of the UGCB, which organized superb press tastings before the official en primeur week!

Château Clos du Clocher – This blend of 70% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc clocks in at 14.5% alcohol and delivers both fine sap on the mid palate as well as density, although the finish is somewhat austere, and there is a hint of drying that one does not encounter with, say, Clinet, tasted just before. I am not liking this one as much as the 2016, at this early stage, but a darn good wine, to be sure. 91-93

Marielle Cazaux is justifiably happy with her La Conseillante.

Château La Conseillante – Easily one of the best wines of the vintage, this wine from barrel comes across diaphanous and elegant, fresh and floral on the nose, and very long on the finish. Here a case where “best ever” or at least “among the best” would apply, surpassing even the magnificent 2016. The tannin index is a whopping 95, but you do not feel it. With acidities higher here than at neighbour Vieux Château Certan, and the alcohol 14%. For the first time, the estate is using amphorae to lessen the influence of oak flavors on the wine, even if these containers account for just 3% of the wine aging. In some ways, the 2018 at this estate most resembles their fresh and elegant 2016, and that is a good thing. Bravo! 96-98+

Château Eglise Clinet – A bit less than average in terms of production, this wine blends 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. It clocks in at 14.5% alcohol and is aging in 70% new oak. This wine has refined yet present tannins. Impressive length and much density, and more “serious” than the second wine, which nevertheless deserves special mention (see below). In any case, the overall impression, while very positive, did not match the nuance and the dimension of the top Pomerols in this vintage. 93-95

High pH? Who cares! It’s all good here.

Château Evangile – Let’s look at the positive sides first, shall we? I love the understated plushness of this barrel sample, blending 80% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. It has fine density, with smooth and rather silky tannins. Full bodied on the palate, with ripe fruit and an impressive finish. But here is a case (unlike with, say, La Conseillante) where the 2016 for me at least was superior in terms of vivacity and éclat. It will be really interesting to compare this, the 2016 and the 2015 from bottle, so I will ask the estate to send me one full case of each so that can be done, with friends. Just kidding. If you have the cash, I would first go for La Conseillante and Vieux Château Certan before Evangile, but this is still an excellent Evangile. Clocks in at 14.5% alcohol with 3.9 pH. Now, in terms of pH, technical director Jean Pascal Vazart said that he does not worry too much: “Our 2000 vintage had a pH of 4.” So well, there you go. Maybe I should not worry so much either, but I will keep the range wide for now. 93-96

Château Gazin – Blending 93% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, the nose comes forth with floral aspects but only after a bit of time in glass. The palate displays impressive density albeit somewhat closed in at this stage of barrel tasting “A bit held back”, was my impression at the press tasting organized by the UGCB. Maybe a bit more open at the Pomerol Seduction tasting. Actually, give it time and it gets better. A fine expression of terroir! Let us see how it performs from bottle. 93-95

Château La Grave – The nose of this blend of 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc is promising, but the palate not quite as nuanced or as evidently contoured as the Lafleur-Gazin, tasted just before at the Libourne offices of Moueix. Overall impression of some unresolved and even somewhat hard tannins as compared to other wines, but barrel aging should take care of this. 89-91

Château Hosanna – Density on the palate, some crushed tobacco on the nose, perhaps due to the 30% Cabernet Franc. This has tannic bite as well… perhaps the finish is marked by some slightly harder tannins (as compared to Certan de May, which I prefer), but with time in barrel, this should turn out just fine! 91-94

Taking notes at Château Lafleur

Château Lafleur – Take note that Lafleur cellar master Omri Ram called Cheval Blanc “one of the best wines of the vintage”. But his Lafleur should make any top wine list from 2018 barrel tastings. Lots of hot gravel soils with a bit of clay could make you think that the wine may have been “hotter” in expression, too, but the nose is noble and conveys elegance, iodine, and complexity. Intensity and power, too, yet poised and even tightly knit. I sensed just a touch of warmth on the finish, but just vaguely. What reassures are the fresh, crushed mint aspects to the finish, with good acidity to balance the 14.5% alcohol. In technical terms a pH closer to 3.6, which is lower than many Bordeaux in 2018). A brilliant wine where the Cabernet Franc (54% of the blend) is so fresh and refined. 97-100

You want elegance in Pomerol? Here you go!

Château Lafleur Gazin – This is good stuff, with fine aromatics, and almost textbook Pomerol, if you will, as somehow the 100% Merlot here has not just plump and pleasing fruit, but fresh, Cabernet Franc-like qualities. The palate shows depth, focus, dark and ripe fruit. Delicious. Barrel aging will add more density. A star in the making. 92-94+

Château La Fleur Petrus – Density again, and perhaps a touch of ether? A bigger style, here, which, for me, reduces the elegance, perhaps, as one notices more the heft and structure. But it is not aggressive in terms of oak. This has mid palate juice, to be sure … but I prefer at this very early stage the Latour a Pomerol and its clay. 93-95

Château Lagrange – The nose is impressive, with very ripe fruit, plum, and even a touch of “serious” graphite, for (100%) Merlots on gravel! The palate has a certain hard aspect, but never raw or rustic, perhaps lacking 2016 elegance and freshness by comparison. Still, a wine that should age well, given the high tannin and dry extract, so keep in a cool, dark and humid cellar. 😊 91-93

One of my favorite Latour à Pomerols from barrel.

Château Latour à Pomerol – Subtle freshness. There is fine, ground chocolate with ripe fruit. The cooler deep clays from this estate dealt perfectly with the hot and dry summer. The palate is a bit imposing, but in a good way: a certain element of impenetrability bodes well for aging. Clearly the depth and density impress. For those seeking excellent “high end” price-quality ratios, this is your ticket. 93-95+

Château Mazeyres – Blending 66% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc and the rest Petit Verdot, this wine exhibits finesse and elegance, but I feel that it lacks a bit of density to be really great for this vintage. I like its high toned freshness and a certain verve, but the length is medium. Not bad, but not among the top Pomerols in this vintage, as based on this barrel sample. 90-92

With Pierre Graffeuille and Jean-Hubert Delon of Château Léoville Las Cases. With famous wine writer and author Jane Anson. We both got loads of “lead pencil” in the Nenin, and not just because it was tasted in the Médoc 😁…

Château Nénin – The best Nenin from barrel that I have had, this blend of 63% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. It is graphite city! Tasted both at Château Léoville Las Cases, with owner Jean-Hubert Delon, and at Pomerol Seduction, at La Conseillante, this is very Médoc in approach. Both Jane Anson and Elin McCoy, with whom I tasted, came up with the same lead pencil aspect, so prominent here. You have a rather sumptuous mid palate however that appeals. The strategy for harvesting the Merlot was early, on 17 September, and then wait for perfect phenolic maturity of the Cabernets, remarked director Pierre Graffeuille. The harvest ended on 10 October. Although the alcohol is “quite high” at around 14.5%, the pH is just 3.64. “Alcohols high, but it is a matter of balance, and I am not afraid”, Graffeuille said. I like the purity of fruit and refined tannin. Long finish. 92-94

La Petite Eglise – 80% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc aging in 35% new oak. Clocking in at 14.5% alcohol, the palate is rich and opulent and very tasty, with both red and dark ripe fruit. 2018 marks the first time that this second wine of Eglise-Clinet has any Cabernet Franc, which was used to freshen things up and it is really delicious! Long finish. 92-94+

Château La Pointe – This blend of 74% Merlot and 26% Cabernet Franc is impressive for the juiciness on the mid palate, but I cannot help but think that the 2016 is a better vintage here, as it seems to lack the vivacity from that vintage. Then again, very good density.  Could it be that the sandier soils from this estate had a harder time with the water stress and dry heat? 90-92

Aging in 40% new oak.

Château Petit Village – At 14.3% alcohol with fine balancing acidity, this barrel sample impresses aromatically with elegant, fresh red fruit aspects. The Cabernet Franc was so successful, remarked director Diana Berrouet Garcia, that “we will bottle only a few bottles of it at 100% because it’s the best”.  The final blend with Merlot has a juicy, rounded mid palate with depth, leading to a clean and pure, bright, fruit driven finish. “We have quite tannic wines, already so why oak them?” Aging 15 months in just 40% new oak. A wine to buy! 93-95

Les Pensées de Lafleur – Blending 54% Bouchets (Cabernet Franc) and 46% Merlot, from vines grown on lots of clay soil, with a bit of gravel. This has finesse on the palate, and it comes across rather fresh. Creamy and svelte. You feel some heat, but the Toblerone chocolate aspect is seductive. Very rich and opulent with a gorgeous texture. “Black Forest Chocolate”, quipped writer Georgina Hindle. I agree. 93-95

With the legendary (and really nice guy) Jean-Claude Berrouet at Petrus.

Petrus – Rich, dense and juicy. Excellent depth and even freshness, even though it strikes 14.5% alcohol. Director Olivier Berrouet says that 2018 resembles a combination of the “fleshiness” of the 2015, the more “classical style” of the 2016 and “perfumed elegance” of the 2017. “Because the weather was so good, the temptation was to extract more and to pick later, but “we resisted”, he said. Quicker approachability than the 2010 or the 2005, he said, yet ripeness may be “greater” in 2018, than these two other great vintages. In any case, a brilliant wine where the Merlot is so fresh and refined. 97-100

Château Plince – Bargain alert. More evidently fresh than Château Lagrange, tasted just before, at the Moueix offices in Libourne. Could it be the 21% Cabernet Franc? The nose has wintergreen mint, as well as dark ripe fruit; the palate has grip but also shows ripe maturity of fruit. Quite a nice wine indeed. 91-94

Château Rouget – This blend of 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc is lovely indeed from barrel, with plenty of mid palate sap and ripe fruit. No sensation of drying tannin on the finish. May lack the density and length of some of the top wines here, but if the price is right, this could be also a bargain alert. 92-94+

Another year, another impressive Trotanoy.

Château Trotanoy – Blending 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, what nuanced finesse on the nose! One gets ripe fruit and fine, ground chocolate, again, but something more to it (as compared to the Latour à Pomerol). Sometimes this wine can be almost “armored” to a fault, but here we have lots of smooth tannin as well as density. OK, some headiness, to be sure. For some reason, this makes me think of a Right Bank version of Montrose. I suspect this will be just grand from bottle. 95-97

Another year, another impressive VCC (that’s Alexandre Thienpont).

Vieux Château Certan – The wine results from a vintage of “contrast”, remarks owner Alexandre Thienpont. No Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend this year, as the vineyards were subjected to severe water stress. But water reserves that had built up over the spring enabled most other vines to cope with the stress, Thienpont explained. Certainly the 15% Cabernet Franc, harvested along with that of Cheval Blanc on 9 October (thankfully a bit of rain beginning of October helped to dilute a bit the wines), enhanced the blend with length and “pedigree” he said. The 40 hectoliters per hectare was a more than respectable yield for the vintage, with Merlots ensuring strength and opulence in this wine of 14.4% alcohol and low acidity. Lovely elegance, density and … length. 96-98+

Château Vieux Maillet – This blend of 73% Merlot the rest Cabernet Franc displays refined tannin and an approachable warmth to the palate. While not as fresh and lifting as, say, Château Clinet, the barrel sample is rather delicious, if just not as lifting on the finish as the top wines here. 91-93























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