Pomerol 2016 from bottle wins big
Including brands at $35-$55 per bottle
(Bordeaux 2016 from bottle, part I)
4 November 2018
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com
Writing about 2016 from bottle, let’s start with Pomerol, an appellation that is often better now in bottle than it was from barrel in April 2017. This small appellation of some 150 estates is not cheap, but the 2016 vintage seems to have lifted many boats, including less expensive $35- to $50-a-bottle wines.
2016 tends to have more acidity than 2015. The tannins seem more structured, too. The vintage conveys cooler blue fruit but not without Merlot charm, richness and body. Some wines exude dark fruit opulence, but not as obviously as they did in 2015 (and certainly less so than in 2009). With some exceptions, they are not as big and as bold as the 2010s, either. The most successful Pomerols in 2016 convey polish, fruit purity, structure and palate density, with long finishes marked by pleasing lift and tonicity.
Sounds good, right? Well, for the most part, it is!
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One other thing: I missed a few from bottle this time around, including Clinet, Evangile, Lafleur, Le Pin and Eglise Clinet. I will try to get to them in future.
All Pomerols that I assessed were served non-blind. I post in order of tasting during my week in Bordeaux last month, so some of the very top wines come at the end, so read through J.
As usual, if in bold, I liked in particular. If red and bold, even more. If underlined, too? A kind of wine nirvana 😉. An asterisk* denotes truly “coup de cœur” wines.
Among over 120 wines at the Grand Cercle at Château La Rose Perrière on October 10, some Pomerols …
Château Bourgneuf – Lovely, elegant cool fruit on the nose. The palate is a bit more austere, but there is fruit. Needs more time in bottle to soften. Indeed, going back to it, and I can only conclude that it is a lovely Pomerol! The Cabernet Franc lends some freshness. This I tasted again in two days, with positive results, too. 14.5% alcohol. 93
Château La Clemence – A bit too much oak on the nose for me, and not as interesting as the above. The palate exudes oak derived tannin, but not as much as one would expect from the nose. The wine is rather smooth and the texture appealing, however for this wine of 14.5% alcohol. It blends 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, having been aged in 100% new oak. 90
Château La Commanderie – Rather floral aromatics with new oak as well. This is tight, and a bit pinched, and lacks enough of the sensual that one expects from Pomerol. Juiciness on the mid palate reassures. 89
Château Lécuyer– Clocking in at 13.5% alcohol, I like the balance here; a bit serious at this stage, yet the wine engages you with ripe tannin. There is a certain austerity but I like the grain of the tannin. 91
Château Mazeyres – Needs time in glass to develop. The Cabernet Franc making itself felt and a touch of Petit Verdot. The tobacco leaf aspect kicks in on the finish. After tasting the 2015 from bottle, for an article on Pomerol published in the November issue of Decanter, this one seems better. There is a cool blueberry fruit as well as a more subtleripeness, and here we have 13.5% alcohol nicely integrated. Lovely wine. 93+
Château Le Moulin – This has a bit of oak derivation on the nose. The palate is cleaner, however, with a certain lift from the vintage’s acidity. There is ripe fruit and even a brisk aspect to the ripeness. Nice job! 92
2016 wines from bottle at Jean-Pierre Moueix, as tasted on 12 October 2018
Château Lagrange* – Coming from a nine-hectare vineyard and blending 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, this is an excellent price/quality ratio. There is a tannic edge here, but more suave than the inferior Château Bel Air Lalande de Pomerol, tasted just before. Sure, more expensive, too but at about $30 retail (in Europe), a great deal. A rather sumptuous wine, but with fine grip with wet-stone like appeal. The ripe fruit leads to a finish with bright lift. 14% alcohol. Go for it! 92
Château Plince – Quite smooth, with a protruding tannic edge that makes it somewhat foreboding. The ripe fruit is there and so is fine, mid palate density, so give it five or seven years in your cellar before opening. The vineyard size of 8.5 hectares is nearly the same as that of Lagrange and the blend has more Cabernet Franc at about 20%. Also the terroir includes the famous iron rich subsoil crasse de fer. However, its retail price of about $60 doubles that of Lagrange, so I would go for the former in terms of p/q ratios. Also 14% alcohol. 92+
Château Lafleur Gazin – This blend of 94% Merlot and the rest Cab Franc has tannic edge, too, yet there is supple elegance that will shine through in glass. The tannic edginess is a bit more obstructive at this stage than the above and yet I am sure that the supple elegance and ripe fruit, along with cool fruit, will come together with another 10 years of aging in bottle. Somewhat conservative with this score at 92
Château La Grave A Pomerol* – So here we come to a rather pricy wine – or a brand that has gotten pricier but that still – and in 2016 especially – is well worth your $50 retail while. Why? The blend of 96% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, from vines grown on gravely soil over fine clay, yields a gorgeous and floral and elegant wine. It lacks the depth of the bigger boys that cost four or five times as much, but oh so smooth and refined. Buy this Pomerol with confidence, as it will get better in bottle. By the way, my from barrel review ranges between 92-94 points, but this deserves 94+ easily, from bottle! Alcohol is 14%.
Château Bourgneuf – At 14.5% alcohol, no overt headiness found in this blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Paired in a flight with La Grave A Pomerol. Whilst tasting with Jane Anson, I made a remark that you could take a bath in either one. Bourgneuf is smooth and refined, albeit a tad more sumptuous than the La Grave, and slightly pricier, too. Lovers of what seems from bottle to be a more “traditional style” may prefer the La Grave, as I do. Tasted also at the Grand Cercle two days earlier, the lovely and elegant cool fruit on the nose stood out among more modern styled wines. Just a lovely Pomerol, confirmed in two tastings. 93
Château Latour A Pomerol – Quite serious in tone overall, tension and balance, welcoming ripe fruit and yet also a very fine tannic grain that should welcome aging. Proves the wonders of Merlot, when grown on top quality terroirs like these 8 hectares of fine gravel over clay. Approaching $100+ at retail, the price could be right for some, a bit too much for others. Yet again, for more budget conscious buyers, I would opt for a wine like La Grave A Pomerol at half that price. This blends 96% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. 95
Château Certan de May – I loved this more from barrel, placing the score between 94-96 and the bottle experience includes a lovely, airy aspect, deceptively light yet substantial and even floral. But it is a tad closed in this early stage in bottle, as the tannins seem more present, requiring time to settle. In any case, a fine Pomerol that clocks in at about 13% alcohol. 94
Château Hosanna – Coming from soils that include the famous blue clay of Pomerol, this blend of 85% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc exudes ripe, fruit driven suppleness. It has just enough energy although not as much verve as the La Fleur Petrus, tasted just afterwards. I really liked it but at about $160 per bottle retail, I think Latour A Pomerol – at about $100 – give you better value. 95
Château La Fleur Petrus*– This is gorgeous. As I had experienced from barrel, a candidate for top ten of the vintage and far better than the Hosanna, tasted just before. So much more lift andrefinement: a fantastic blend of 91% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc, it brings about floral aspects, ripe red and black fruit, subtle depth and more than evident length, leaving the taster with the impression of finesse and silk on the long finish. Aged in 50% new oak. OK, it costs about $220 per bottle, so only for those with the means… Or for very special occasions. Has the staying power to reward another 20+ years in your cellar. 98
Château Trotanoy – Ever the “Pauillac of Pomerols”, there is no exception in 2016, as this displays so much power. Quite coiled in, but give it time. Very deep – and even a bit muscular, but it was even more so from barrel. This powerhouse blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc was bottled in May, after having aged in 50% new oak. I thought it was almost tooforeboding and tootannic from barrel and preferred the La Fleur Petrus. Today, I still prefer the La Fleur Petrus – if only because Trotanoy will cost you another $100per bottle, at about $325 retail. But, as I had discussed with Jane Anson, as we tasted together the Moueix line in Libourne, we agreed that Trotanoy will outlast La Fleur Petrus. But I do not think that it will ever be as sumptuously charming. 98
Pomerol group tasting at Château Clos du Clocher on 12 October
Château Beauregard – Perhaps the bottling was more recent here as it seemed a tad closed in, with tannic edginess. But time in glass yields leafy freshness and ripe red fruit that I so liked from barrel. The second wine, with same proportion of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, is more forward and has more of a jam like aspect. 13.5% alcohol for both. Nice job. 93
Château Bonalgue* – This is a lovely blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Indeed, there is a certain bigness to the fruit, but it is balanced. Somewhat harder tannin on the finish, perhaps as compared to the Beauregard, tasted just before, but I am splitting hairs. Clocks in at a well-managed 14% alcohol. For about $30 retail, you cannot go wrong! 92
Château Bon Pasteur – Clocks in at 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc and 14.5% alcohol. Lovers of the style will be very pleased, and it deserves at least 90 points – in that regard – but I still get a bit of hard tannin on the finish and a palate where the extraction is noticeable. Chalk it up to style. 90
Château La Cabanne – At 14.5% alcohol, this wine blends 96% Merlot and just 4% Cabernet Franc. I like its fresh aspects (compared to Bon Pasteur, just before). It has a juicy mid palate, and even if the tannin comes across just slightly rustic, as compared to, say, Bonalgue (about the same price retail), this is a nice wine, and counts among the better examples of La Cabanne in recent vintages. 90+
Château Clos du Clocher* – Bargain alert! At under $50 retail, here we have a lovely blend of 25% Cabernet Franc and 75% Merlot, clocking in at 14.5% alcohol that is very well integrated and balanced. The wine is smooth and refined, with smoother tannins than chez La Cabanne, for example. It has greater potential for complexity, gaining potential for longer term cellaring, as the Cabernet Franc lends noticeable yet suave structure. If you purchase, please wait five years for a more optimal early drinking window. The finish is marked again by smooth and refined tannins. Three cheers: hip, hip hurray! 94
Château La Croix de Gay – After Clos du Clocher, this comparatively priced wine has somewhat more austere tannins, yet the ripe fruit is there as is the acidity. I prefer Clos du Clocher. Anyway, we get some pleasing brownie and milk chocolate, in a good way. And it has an overall sumptuous nature on the attack. And so much better balance than so many of the Grands Crus Classés from Saint Emilion that we had tasted the day before. So, in the end, this is pretty darn good! 92+
Château Feytit Clinet – I have somewhat mixed feelings here, because the price is getting high at about $70 per bottle retail. But let’s talk about the good news from this blend of 93% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc: fine refined fruit on both the nose and palate is a start. I like the bright ripe fruit (both blackberry and red). Also, palate density impresses without being heavy or extracted feeling. Lots of “matière” here! Its recent bottling may explain a lack of enough charm, with some foreboding tannins, but going back to it, there is bright fruit with fine, leafy tobacco aspects coming from the Cabernet Franc component that mark the finish. Tasted also at the Grand Cercle with similar results. 93
Château Fleur de Gay – Floral notes are fine, and they mingle with oak derived aromas. So far, so good. But to pay over $100 a bottle, you do not want the somewhat hard tannins, clearly oak derived, whereby the taster gets a sense of somewhat bitter coffee grounds. Too “modern” in style, also because it lacks needed lift on the finish. When you return to Château Feytit Clinet, tasted just before, you get that sort of lifted freedom – and for at least $20 less a bottle. 90
Château Le Gay – A deception here. Sure there is ripe fruit, but the balance is not ideal: the alcohol comes across too prominently, lending a certain monotony and massive nature to the wine that contradicts its namesake. 88
Château Gazin – This blend of 87% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, clocking in at 14% alcohol seems a bit more Pauillac in style, as the tannins are prominent. Yet one cannot deny the fresh nose with white flower and ripe fruit, so one should just wait for the “quite serious” palate to mellow. It lacks the sheer floral elegance of Château La Fleur Petrus and the sheer power+weight of Château Trotanoy. Located somewhere in a happy middle, this wine makes you happier still by the rather decent price of about $85 per bottle retail. As Jane Anson remarked during our tasting, it may not be all put together, but it is a very fine wine. 94+
Château Haut Maillez – This wine is not too pricey and can be had in some locations for under $40 a bottle. I would not rush out to buy it, however, as the tannins came off a bit raw and a bit rustic. You can find better juice in Pomerol for that price tag. 88
Château Mazeyres* – This is even better than the 2015, which I had tasted for an article on Pomerol in the November 2018 issue of Decanter. What I like most is the floral and red fruit purity on both the aromatics and the palate: a pretty wine that is pretty fine. Indeed, the palate has underlying serious depth, yet remains supple. While it lacks the depth of the better Moueix wines, which I had tried one day before, the price is more than right – about $35 retail in the U.S. 13.5% alcohol. Do not hesitate because this is another – can you believe it? – Pomerol bargain. 93
Château Monregard La Croix – I could not find this in the U.S. but in Europe it fetches about $35 a bottle. Ripe plum fruit pleases the nose. The palate has depth but a bit too “glossy” and somewhat extracted in feel. It just lacks the finesse of better Pomerols, even at this moderate price range. There is substance and ripe fruit to be sure, but it lacks nuance and finesse of, say, Château Mazeyres, tasted just before – and for about the same price. 90
Château Montviel– True to “modern form”, this exudes rather sweet, black fruit. I recently published an article in the November 2018 edition of Decanter about more economically priced Pomerol wines and tasted the 2015 and 2005. The style remains quite oak driven, and this reveals touches of oak on the nose, also noticeably extracted on the finish. You do get sweet oak derived vanilla notes with the very ripe fruit that is sure to please so called modern palates. Keep in mind that the wine now costs about $50 retail, so for you modern lovers seeking good price/quality ratios, it may be getting a bit too pricey. 90
Château Nenin – At 14.5% alcohol, this estate again produces a somewhat firm and tannic expression from Pomerol. It is not hard, mind you, and it greets you with much poise and character. But a bit more overt charm and a bit less Medoc structure would get me to give it a higher score. 😉 91+
Château La Patache – First time I recall ever trying this Pomerol, which retails for under $30. The nose is OK, in the sense that it conveys ripe fruit and wet stone aspects. Medium bodied palate, sure, but the finish is attenuated. I can think of better bargains from Pomerol. 88
Château Petit-Village – Clocking in at 14% alcohol, this wine exudes floral elegance, and one could say a “better version” of Château Gazin, as it comes across more polished (both tasted in the same series). While not as ethereal or as beguiling as Château La Fleur Petrus, for example, it goes in that direction, displaying a continued Renaissance for this estate in recent years. 96
Château Plincette – Could not find this in the U.S. – at least not yet. But it sells in Europe for just over $30 retail. Good price, but at 13% per cent alcohol, it comes across just a tad vegetal, which is disappointing considering the vintage. The palate is easy to drink, with some charming aspects, but no great shakes either. 88
Château La Pointe – Well-mastered aromatics, integrating some oak derived tannins, which come across a bit hard and raw, at this stage, on the palate. I like the ripe fruit and suave texture, so give it time. I had recently tasted the 2015, which may actually turn out to be a more balanced vintage with Château La Pointe, but let’s re-visit next year. Score on the conservative side. 14% alcohol. 92
Château Rouget – This clocks in at a lofty 15% alcohol. The nose is pretty darn impressive, but the palate is indeed quite heady, actually. There is a “full on” feel to the wine, with ripe fruit but not being hard. This is an estate that somehow manages high alcohol readings better than others. Still, the balance achieved is not as impressive as other wines at lower levels of alcohol in 2016, with just as much terroirexpression. 92
Château Vieux Maillet – The palate is certainly smooth and lush, but one cannot escape a bit of “drying out” tannin on the finish. Furthermore, it lacks the “heart” of some of the better wines tasted in this series, such as Château Bonalgue or Château Mazeyres. I get a sense of more cellar than vineyard and agree with Jane Anson’s remark as we went through this series of Pomerol wines including this one at Château Clos du Clocher: “Too clever by half”. But, hey, the price is pretty good at $35 from Millésima. Alcohol is 14% and the wine blends 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 90
Château La Violette – Nose is deep and impressive. This has quite a bit of depth, but – again – I get a slightly drying feeling on the finish, that speaks “modern” to me, and that detracts from the overall picture. Why pay so much cash – this is at least $100 – when you can get, say, Vray Croix de Gay for about halfthe price? And yet, overall, the depth and body and richness on the mid palate are certainly impressive. If you like the style – and have the cash – it merits at least 92 points.
Château Vray Croix de Gay*– Blending 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc and clocking in at 14% alcohol, this wine offers up a pure fruit driven (and clean) nose. The palate may be just a tad austere, but it is purity of expression of ripe tannin and fruit lead to fresh lift on the finish, reassuring the impression of a baby wine just bottled and not out of the gate just yet. The good sign here is that their second wine, L’Echanteur de Vray Croix de Gay, at 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, may be shorter on the finish, but both fresh and pleasing as well. 94+
Tasted at the properties on Friday 12 October
Vieux Château Certan*– Mea culpa! I underestimated VCC from barrel. Sure, back then, it seemed a perfect example of 2015 being more “charming” than 2016. But even in those barrel notes, I stressed that the 2016 should last longer. As fellow taster Jane Anson had written: “A muscular, big wine, more so than in some years, but it is so precise and intellectual” … I agree today, and I forget how barrel aging softens tannins (a basic concept that all tasters must keep in mind). From bottle, this is a gorgeous expression of ripe red and black fruit and refined, crushed tobacco. There is vivacity from the balance of acidity and ripeness in this blend of 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, that was bottled in early June after aging in 70% new oak. It clocks in at 14.5% alcohol. The oak is so well integrated that you do not notice an iota of vanilla or extracted oak tannin (what happens with so called modern wines). Owner Alexandre Thienpont prefers it to his 2015, dubbing it a hypothetical blend of the 2009 and 2010. I was thinking more like a mix of 2014 and 2015. Whatever, this easily gets 98
La Gravette of Vieux Château Certan – This second wine deserves special mention, as it includes a bit more than one third of the 2016 harvest and has 7% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend with 75% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc. Co-owner Guillaume Thienpont points out that as the Cabernet Sauvignons age in the vineyard, more of them will be included in later years in the grand vin, but it is already getting interesting (replanted some 10 years ago) and the second wine is quite appealing in 2016, thanks in part to a cool and rather refined Cab aspect. You know? I may buy some Gravette. 91
Château La Conseillante – Tasted at the estate, the wine recently bottled exhibits lovely, floral notes and ripe fruit displaying balance. The palate shows some tight tannin, but never hard or over extracted. The wine blends 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc and was aged in 70% new oak, clocking in at 13.8% alcohol (the 2015 was 14.5%). Sure, one gets touches of oak derived tannins but never obstructive and the cool, lifting – and long – finish is marked by some fine dark chocolate notes. 97
Pétrus 2016*– This was just amazing and I am sorry to keep using such words to describe this wine, but the truth cannot be denied. Sure, prices are absurd, but let me explain what makes this wine so special. Take Trotanoy as an example of power and glory. But this wine, having aged in 50% new oak exhibits just as much power but more grace. It is as if you have the obvious grace and floral attraction of La Fleur Pétrus and add the depth of Trotanoy and voila, you get Petrus. I love the pure violet and damson aromatics and the density and subtle opulence on the palate. To some extent one could say that 2015 was more “obvious” and 2016 more classical, more structured. But you get this beguiling brownie flavor (I am talking home made) of highest quality to remind you that Pétrus is succulent, too. Harvest at moment of ripeness to preserve complexity of aromas, early August bottling, and 14.5% alcohol. Lovely aromatics indeed on the long finish. 100