Pomerol power in 2016
By Panos Kakaviatos for wine chronicles.com
30 May 2017
Last year’s Pomerol Panache is followed by more serious tannin this year.
Whatever the case, Pomerol now has a run of three excellent vintages in a row. With some exceptions, 2016 is the most powerful among the three – more Pauillac than Pomerol. 2014 showcases brightness, and 2015 more inviting richness.
Tannic seriousness was best evidenced tasting through the Moueix stable, culminating in a Château Trotanoy that is more muscular than ever. By the same token, Vieux Château Certan was the most forebodingly powerful that I can recall from barrel. Petrus hit the scales at nearly 15% alcohol; it too, packs particular punch. Lafleur’s lofty, towering structure resembles that of Pauillac first growth Latour.
So in 2016 for Pomerol, more often than not, the tannins impose, although the best estates managed to include, too, much elegance, floral aspects and sumptuous charm.
In reading fellow critics, I agree with Jeff Leve, who “gives the nod” to 2015 for the appellation, on a general level. As he wrote in his review: “2016 is not a weaker vintage; 2016 Pomerol is just different.”
For me, the difference lies in the tannic power for so many of the 2016 Pomerols. Many will likely last longer than 2015, but will they convey the same charm as 2015? I am not an optimist. Crystal ball prognostications are as reliable as Greek trains being on time, however, so seeking Pomerol in 2016 would make for a wise choice, as the appellation features some of my top 2016 wines, as you can read in the Top of the Pops section.
So, without further adieu, wines in bold, I liked in particular. When red and bold, even more. And when underlined, too, a kind of barrel sample nirvana.
Let’s start with the very best, shall we?
Candidate for wine of the vintage indeed comes from Pomerol: Château Lafleur. Sure it was tannic, but Decanter wine writer Jane Anson, fellow blogger and photographer Miguel Lecuona and I could not stop marveling at the wine’s impressive floral aromatics: violets and lily of the valley came to mind. On the palate, fresh roasted espresso of the finest quality, with an almost sweet brownie aspect, without actually being sweet. Blended just two weeks before we tasted the barrel sample, the 55% Cabernet Franc dominated the palate, as if it were indeed Pauillac, with tannins both structured and powerful on the attack. However, through to the finish, we sensed mid palate juicy sumptuousness coming from the old Merlot vines, leading to a minute-long finish marked by more fresh floral aspects, aniseed, dark cherry and damson. Indeed, pure expressions of ripe fruit truly impress, as does the balance between just over 14% alcohol and bright acidity. The second wine was excellent, too. 98-100
Rivaling Lafleur is the even more famous estate Petrus, a neighbor in Pomerol. No one guessed that it was 14.9% alcohol, as it, too, displayed almost Pauillac-like tannins with crushed tobacco like freshness. Jean-Claude Berrouet, former winemaker, and father to current winemaker, Olivier Berrouet, said that the 2016 reminds him of a modern day 1975, “a vintage of tannin” but there is more evident juiciness on the palate at this early stage compared to how the amazing 1975 was from barrel, he recalled. The aromatics showed off floral elegance and rich plum and blackberry fruit. Olivier Berrouet remarked how very ripe the tannins were, but with freshness and good acidity. “It is very rare for us to have a Petrus so precise aromatically at such a young stage,” he said. The finish was long, leaving the impression of tremendous grip: a wine built to last a long time for you, for your children and for your grandchildren! 98-100
Château Evangile What an amazing array of both power and opulence! I would agree with fellow taster, Decanter’s Jane Anson, who wrote that Evangile is “absolutely” to be counted amongst the greatest of the Pomerols this year. It is. The depth of flavor, the Lindt like milk chocolate, the bright red and ripe cherry, the damsons with blackberry, all make it utterly irresistible. And yet there is the vintage’s underlying seriousness, a strong tannic edge to the wine that augurs very well for long-term aging. Get this one! 96-98
Château La Fleur Petrus This has “larger scale” written all over it. More Trotanoy than Fleur Petrus. Along with its floral elegance come distinct notes of dark cherry pit and succulent red fruit, but somewhat overshadowed by an almost Left Bank, graphite aspect. The high tannin of the vintage is evident, and it impresses the taster at once with large scale and fine tannic grain. A slightly brooding aspect combines with juicy ripe dark fruits kept just a bit in check on the palate, so that the wine is more “serious” than I can ever remember from barrel. Christian Moueix agrees that it is his more “powerful” La Fleur Petrus. It is important to note, as Decanter writer Jane Anson did in her review, that “less interesting parcels had been pulled and the vineyard now reflects a complete footprint of 18.7ha around the ‘plateau’, not dropping below 30 metres (their definition of a plateau).” So, in many ways, the elements are all there for a wine that will reward aging, as it will start to yield its evident, sumptuous charms with about 10+ years in your cellar. 95-97
Château La Conseillante I love the sheer elegance and racy yet juicy fruit expressions of damson and blackberry, along with vivid violet aromas. There is a sense of control on the palate, where silky smooth tannins combine with succulent fruit in structured harmony. At 14 degrees, about one degree less alcohol than in 2015, the wine yields lift and freshness on the palate. Not as evidently opulent as in 2015, but I prefer the 2016, in this case, as it seems to have a bit more length and lift on the finish, marked by lovely floral aromas. 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc aged in 70% new oak. 94-96
Château Certan de May Perhaps an unusual choice as one of my very top Pomerols, as both Trotanoy and Vieux Château Certan likely will last longer, and both are great. But they both have more noticeable tannin that will require more years to resolve. Taking into account a more moderate price, and a most beguilingly floral nose in this Certan de May, with red and dark fruit, pure and fresh, this wine makes my top Pomerols of 2016 list. A particularly successful Certan, with sneaky density on the palate, and the best that I can recall ever having tasted from barrel. Its long finish marked by more floral aromas and excellent lift. Lovely! 94-96
And now for the rest, in more or less alphabetical order
Château Beauregard Well, what I like about this Pomerol in particular is its friendly opulence amidst a sea of Medoc-like tannin in 2016 from many in this appellation. Leafy freshness, red fruit, ripe and delicious. Bravo. I like the freshness and the robust mid palate. And this has quite a bit of tannin, too, but it does not overwhelm you. 92-94
Château Bellegrave Fresh fruit nose. Blueberry fruit. The palate is smooth and even “streamlined”. Does it lack a bit of nuance? The barrel aging will flesh it out. This sample is lovely. Bravo. 88-91
Château Bonalgue Full-on nose and density on the palate, with nuance and oak rather well integrated, the tannins present but not (too) drying. I suspect that this wine will develop very nicely! 89-91+
Château Le Bon Pasteur Rich and heady, there is loads of up front fruit and ripeness with yummy coffee notes sure to be a crowd pleaser, but just a bit drying on the finish for yours truly to make the score any higher. Tasted twice with consistent notes. 89-91
Château La Cabanne An estate that is making strides. Fresh and frank. No great shakes. But not the underripe expression of yesteryear. 89-91
Château Clinet Comes across as so well balanced with juice and ripeness. There is substance here, lost of mid palate sap and density, that will turn out very well with time in barrel. Bravo! 93-95
Château Clos l’Église Fresh and bright, with underlying weight. Here we have 2015 redux: just as good, just as sumptuously inviting but perhaps with more focus: a 2010 to 2009, comparison, sans the excess alcohol, barrel influence and drying tannin. Long finish, suave and charming. This property is getting better and better. 92-94+
Clos René Here we have an old school method that couldn’t wait. In a vintage that needed later picking (but not too late), perhaps the picking here was not … late enough. Anyway, the wine seems just a bit vegetal. 86-88
Château La Croix de Gay Juicy yes; but a bit too much oak derived tannin on the palate, it seems. 88-91
Château La Croix Taillefer Quite a smooth aspect overall although the tannins show some firm aspects that are not so appealing. Time in barrel could soften them. I suppose. 87-89
Château Feytit Clinet Starts out juicy enough. Then the tannins dry out to the finish. Not sure…
Château La Grave a Pomerol Floral aromatics with ripe red and black fruit. Quite savory and fresh on the attack, albeit – again – with serious notes of tannin. Never drying, but rather imposing… Lock it away for 10 years. It should be quite nice! 92-94
Château Gazin Rich red and black fruit on the nose. The palate shows much tannin (so goes the vintage) but opulence with sap. Sure, a bit of austerity, on the finish, but not drying. Lovely wine in the making. Bravo! 92-94+
Château Hosanna Coming from a warmer soil that Certan de May, tasted just before and not quite as fresh. You get richness and coffee bean like torrefaction, with dark plum. But the tannins are particularly foreboding and it lacks the charm of brighter vintages. Well, give it time! 92-94
Château La Fleur de Gay Quite a bit of depth, very dark color but there is brightness, too. Like tasting the skin of the grape. Intense, like fine black tea. Time essential to soften this (as with many other Pomerols in 2016), but never hard, never drying. Quite a deep wine. 92-94
Château Lafleur-Gazin This exudes contained sumptuousness. While it has the serious tannin of the other Moueix wines, one senses more velvety contour. Lovely! 92-95
Château Lagrange Among the first wines tried at Moueix and it sets the tannic tone, as well, but there is a suave, haute couture like aspect to the tannins that bodes well for aging. Not as deep or as long as the more prestigious terroirs, but I would buy this, as it shan’t be too pricey. 90-92
Château Mazeyres A bit raw. And yet, with repeated tastings, it comes across as sappy enough on the mid palate to be enjoyable. 87-89+
Château Petit Village Best ever I have experienced from barrel from this estate. Similar in profile to Gazin, but more of a wet stone aspect on the nose. As is typical in the vintage, tannic power that almost overshadows the fruit, but it does not. This is Pauiliac-Pomerol but one that will age gracefully and reveal its charms in some 15+ years. 93-95
Château La Pointe Quite likeable and seductive actually. La Pointe is getting better and better. Hats of to Hubert de Bouard for his consulting here. Tried a second time and the sample not quite as good, but benefit of the doubt: 90-92
Château Rouget Here we have a “value” Pomerol that meets expectations. Ripe forest strawberry and plum precede a juicy enough mid palate that leads to a decently long finish. Give it time in barrel – and a few more years in bottle – before enjoying with, say, duck breast. 88-90+
Château Taillefer Refreshing and substantial in its expression of cool blueberry, as well as ripe red and black fruit. This is rather smooth today, and a second sample proved better. Anyway, I think barrel aging will tame some of the tannin, which is already rather suave. Nice job! 89-91
Château Trotanoy This wine is always armored en primeur, as the most forebodingly tannic in the Moueix stable. But 2016 takes it up a notch. La Fleur Petrus has the better balance this year, in terms of tannic spinal column and density of fruit, but there is no mistaking the long haul quality of this wine. But don’t you dare open it before 25 years in bottle … 94-96
Vieux Château Certan A perfect example of 2015 charming me more in Pomerol than 2016. And yet, this will last longer. While tasting, the owner of Le Pin dropped by at the estate and said “this reminds me of the 1945.” Now, I do not have such a reference, which is very promising, but there is no denying the sheer strength of the wine, and the foreboding tannin. As fellow taster Jane Anson wrote: “a muscular, big wine, more so than in some years, but it is so precise and intellectual” … I agree. I guess my score is conservative because I miss a bit of the charm of the 2015. Still, a great wine in the making. 94-96
Château Vieux Maillet Tasted twice with rather consistent notes. The nose is red fruit, if not as smooth as, say, Taillefer. The palate has tannins that are just a tad rustic but ripe, so some aging will smooth things out and this should be just fine. 87-89
Château La Violette A gorgeous Pomerol. Tasty and flavorful – with juiciness. While Bon Pasteur had a “hard landing” this is juicy smooth. Lift on the finish. 90-93
Château Vray Croix de Gay This is smooth and fresh and has lift. A lovely Pomerol in the making. Some discussions over this at breakfast with fellow hacks and one French journalist gave it a poor note, while another one loved it. The perils of barrel samples. I rather love this. 89-92
A few Lalande de Pomerol, too
Château Grand Ormeau Red fruit aromatics, damson, and then the palate shows a frank and fresh delivery. The overall impression is of a wine that combines medium density with a certain crackling red fruit. Barrel age will lend a more rounded aspect. Nice overall! 88-91
Château Siaurac Cool fruit, a hint of vanilla from the oak but not obtrusive. Some ripe plum. The palate is medium bodied, shows sap and especially a smooth tannin, not glossy delivery. Medium finish. Barrel aging may add more fullness. Tasted twice with consistent positive notes. 88-91
Château Jean de Gue High toned red fruit on the nose. The palate has sap and energy, just a bit tart however, but I like the quality of the tannin here. 87-89
Château La Sergue Polished aromatics, oak derived but fruit driven too. The palate has fruit but now the oak derivation is a bit stronger, with somewhat drying tannin. Not sure about this one…