Pomerol is a fascinating part of the Bordeaux wine region in the south west of France. Despite its relatively tiny size, there is a lot happening there at the very highest levels. Indeed, the area has developed rapidly in a very short period of time to stand today among the most prestigious areas of not just Bordeaux, but the wider world of wine.
One could write a book on the region, and indeed the esteemed wine writer and Bordeaux specialist Neal Martin did just that. Instead of getting into too much detail, the point of this article is to give a brief overview for those that may be interested by this wonderful region, but are at a loss as to where to begin.
What (and where) is Pomerol?
Pomerol is a tiny wine region on Bordeaux’s right bank, neighbouring the larger Saint ?milion region. It is Bordeaux’s smallest fine wine appellation, covering barely 800 hectares of land under vine. The vineyards of Pomerol lie in a relatively unremarkable area of countryside land, with little more than a church to signify that the commune is anything more than farmland.
What makes Pomerol special?
At the risk of oversimplification, the wines produced here are fantastic and quantities are so small that guarantee they are always in high demand. Of course, there is more to it than that. Pomerol’s more unique selling points include the following:
- Unlike the other fine wine subregions of Bordeaux, Pomerol has no classification system. For anybody who has ever tried to make sense of Bordeaux’s many archaic systems of classification, this is a relief.
- The soils here are unique and are optimal for fine winemaking. Sandy soils are common, with slightly denser gravel also present. The very best soils in the region are the precious “argile bleue” (“blue clay”), best known at Petrus. No other wine region in the world has such a concentration of blue clay. This clay is incredibly dense, making it incredibly difficult for grapevines to penetrate, while also retaining moisture. The resulting wines, Pomerol’s best, are profoundly dense and rich.
- As in Saint Emilion, Merlot is the dominant grape in Pomerol wine blends. These are rich and supple wines that are approachable (and delicious) while young, though they also have fantastic capacity for long ageing. This is in contrast to the more austere Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines of Bordeaux’s left bank regions, which require a lot more ageing time to become enjoyable to drink.
- Pomerol is home to Bordeaux’s most expensive wines, some of which we will speak about next.
Three of the best Pomerol wines
- Petrus tops the table in Pomerol, and is arguably the world’s finest wine. The tiny vineyard is planted exclusively on blue clay, which makes it as unique a wine as you are likely to find. Château Petrus 2003 is a perfect example of why this wine is so special: Powerful, deep and rich with layer upon layer of complexity and a dizzying array of aromas and flavour.
- Château Le Pin is of an almost equal standing to the longer-established Petrus. Established as recently as 1979, Le Pin occupies a microscopic 2-hectare estate and produces barely 600 or 700 cases per year. It is constantly in huge demand amongst fine wine connoisseurs, due to its uncompromising quality. Château Le Pin 2006 is a fine expression of this elusive wine.
- Château Lafleur has a 4-hectare vineyard and produces tiny quantities of wines that would – and frequently do – put many of the official Médoc first growths to shame. Château Lafleur 1999 demonstrates the beauty of an aged Pomerol, while the estate’s second wine, Pensées de Lafleur, offers an insight into the estate’s magic for a (relatively) more affordable price. The 2009 and 2010 vintages of this one are outstanding.
Have you had the good fortune to try one of these iconic wines? All serious wine lovers surely dream of one day opening a bottle of one of these wines. No Pomerol comes cheap, but there are many other fabulous producers to look out for, including Châteaux Certan de May, Nenin and La Conseillante, to name just a few. What are your favourite Pomerol wines?