2021 Bordeaux En Primeur | Pomerol

by Jack Chapman

How on earth to summarise a vintage by appellation, which more or totally defied homogeneity? I鈥檓 going to try my best, almost solely using our own meandering experience and stack of tasting notes.

Luckily Pomerol, which is where we began, makes is rather easier than most. If someone were to ask me to fill in the blank 鈥2021 is a _____ vintage鈥, I鈥檇 stick the word Pomerol in there. We arrived with a lot of daft preconceptions, the first of which was that 2021 was going to be a screamingly awful year (it wasn鈥檛) but the second and less general was that Merlot had an awful time 鈥 a notion which checks out when you consider the severity of the mildew.

What that really should have read though, is that Merlot had an awful time on the left bank. Whilst it wasn鈥檛 all smooth sailing on the right, and Cabernet Franc was the most in evidence it perhaps has ever been (hurrah!) Merlot faired reasonably well. The biggest fear with Merlot falling to bits is the lack of sensuality to a wine 鈥 it loses fleshiness and sometimes even an entire mid-palate, something we very rarely found in evidence in Pomerol. Instead, what had perhaps in the past been something that many would frown upon and type as 鈥榓 bit new world鈥 or 鈥榦verly generous鈥 was tempered expertly, creating refreshing, harmonious and supremely elegant Pomerol. The aromatic intensity of which were sometimes astounding.

As travelling companions, David and I shared a lot of time in our lovely hire car together (sorry Fiat, your clutch may never be the same again鈥) and he got more and more very politely nauseated with me comparing 2021 Pomerol to Burgundy. Production parallels are always easy to make (which excites me in itself, as you feel like there鈥檚 still plenty to explore) but, as William Kelley so eloquently put it when describing the 2021 Conseillante, there was a 鈥rare structural elegance and almost Burgundian aromatic range鈥. If that doesn鈥檛 make me tediously rabbit on about an appellation, nothing will鈥

Chateau Le Pin

Chateau Le Pin

Denis Durantou

Chateau L'eglis clinetOur tour began, as they so frequently seem to, at an enormous highpoint. With the fog settling over Pomerol, we were welcomed at the cellar door of the late Denis Durantou, by his daughters Constance and No茅mie. There was such a wonderful, hospitable atmosphere in the tiny winery, with both seemingly very eager to prove that they were capable of seizing the reins going forward 鈥 any degree of nervousness exhibited was utterly unnecessary. We鈥檝e always been huge supporters of the 鈥檖etite鈥 wines from the Durantou family and this year is no exception 鈥 they showed wonderfully, supplying the depth and elegance you鈥檇 expect from far higher priced wine. Montlandrie was a particular favourite, but each should be (and I鈥檓 sure will be) sought after.

Ch芒teau L’Eglise Clinet

L’Eglise Clinet had shifted up a register from what you might expect in this vintage. There鈥檚 still dark chocolate and a concentrated rich core, but accented by violets and lots of red berry. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ch芒teau Clinet

Chateau ClinetOnwards to Ch芒teau Clinet, where they always quite literally roll out the red carpet. Monique was on hand to take us through the wine and explain the challenges of the vintage. As a baseline for success in 2021, it seemed essential to have a good poker face and play the meteorological odds. With the saving grace of an Indian summer, the best producers picked really late (mid-October for some) to maximise their ripeness. A move which no doubt lost yield but was necessary to create a higher quality product. Clinet did a fine job here, and the most marked character of the wine is its lancing freshness (it has the highest proportion of Cabernet in the blend that they鈥檝e used since 2003 鈥 but please don鈥檛 take that as a valid comparison, it isn鈥檛). Whilst retaining the depth and charm you would expect, this acidity pulled the whole thing perfectly into line, balancing on a razor edge. I wouldn鈥檛 be surprised if in ten years’ time, it鈥檚 a wine everyone opens and wonders why they didn鈥檛 buy more.

Ch芒teau Feytit-Clinet

Chateau Feytit-ClinetSo here it comes again. 鈥Don鈥檛 you think this is so much like Burgundy鈥, I bleated to David as we pulled into the driveway of Feytit-Clinet. As much as he was tiring of the comparison, it really was. Jeremy had just finished pulling up some of his smudge pots (we got stuck behind their little tractor earlier) and the garden was replete with a football goal, a stack of these frost candles and an old fermentation tank. It all felt very proper. What鈥檚 more, we were welcomed, not into a grand salon, a beautiful barrel cellar nor a purpose-built space, but just into his little dining room. Family pictures were on the wall and the table had been covered with a plastic sheet to stop clumsy English wine merchants from dribbling on it.

The wine was fantastic. One that I daresay had what one might refer to as Pomerol 鈥榯ypicity鈥. It didn鈥檛 defy the vintage in any unpleasant way, but pushed toward richness and muscularity, with generosity of dark fruit backed up by a touch of pleasing oak. We enjoyed it very much.

Vieux Ch芒teau Certain

Vieux Chateau CertanSpeaking of enjoying things, we were then whisked up the road to stand for 10 minutes looking at what is perhaps Pomerol鈥檚 greatest wisteria plant. Lord knows how old the thing draped over Vieux Ch芒teau Certain is, but it鈥檚 a very beautiful vine on one of the prettiest Ch芒teau in Pomerol. Moving on from a horticultural blog I perhaps needs to engage with in my own time, I daresay this was the wine of the vintage. The perfume was spectacular and, upon entering I started looking for a spittoon (cannily hidden behind a pillar in the cellar) but after my first mouthful, I didn鈥檛 care about its location. The wine struck that rare chord where everything aligns perfectly 鈥 sapid fruit, fresh acids and wonderfully savoury tannins that turn 鈥業鈥檒l just have a glass鈥 into drinking the whole bottle. This will be a wine that you鈥檒l be desperate to get your hands on and drink.

Ch芒teau L鈥橢vangile

Pomerol vineyardContinuing our low-key adventure, Ch芒teau L鈥橢vangile was next on the list. It was difficult here to deduce who had more energy, the wine of Juliette Couderc, their new technical director. Having worked all over the world (most recently three years exploring the terroirs of China) Juliette only joined l鈥橢vangile just before the 2020 harvest, but it鈥檚 obvious why Saskia de Rothschild hired her. 鈥業 talk too much鈥 she said to us, as one of her colleagues popped her head around the door of the tasting room like a TV producer trying to wrap things up (then carried on!). Some of the top wineries, when asked what their plans for the future, give a more nonchalant shrug as if almost to say 鈥榳hy re-write the perfect recipe鈥. Here, there鈥檚 a sense of pioneering spirit, driven by Juliette, to make something remarkable even more so. The most poignant descriptors for 2021 L鈥橢vangile are velvety and fine. The texture of the tannins, fine satin beads, wash through the wine, which packs ample concentration, especially given the vintage.

Ch芒teau La Conseillante

It’s easy, at the end of the day, to lose focus. You鈥檝e tasted a lot of wine, had a lot of conversations and travelled quite a few meandering miles (perhaps even had a nice lunch, if you鈥檙e lucky 鈥 David and I ended up grabbing something in what we thought was the equivalent of a French trucker鈥檚 caf茅, so naturally was probably a shade better than a British gastro pub). It was, with such fatigue and in slight haste to finish the tour, that we entered Conseillante. Sometimes you flit through these last appointments, taste what you expect to taste, then disappear, but when handed a glass of this absolutely remarkable Pomerol, we were no longer concerned whether we鈥檇 be late for our dinner. A few days down the line, when you鈥檙e bumping into other wine merchants or being asked by other producers 鈥榳hat have you had which was really good鈥, Conseillante was always the first to come to my mind. Not just because it was very finely made, but the aromatic intensity and spectrum were something totally unique 鈥 not replicated by any other wine we tasted and quite possibly something I鈥檇 never experienced from a Pomerol before. Lavender and violet shot their way out of the glass. It was so elegant; I was momentarily transported to the C么tes de Nuits. They鈥檙e now using less new oak and lower toasts whilst cooling the chai, all to emphasise this prettiness. The palate still packed a hit of sensual fruit, but this is a vintage which will haunt you for its elegance.

Chateau De Sales

Alongside these visits, we also tasted many other Pomerol at larger appellation or n茅gociant tastings (although by no means an exhaustive list). Of note were:

– Ch芒teau Clos l鈥橢glise
– Ch芒teau Beauregard
– Ch芒teau Petit-Village
– Ch芒teau de Sales
– Ch芒teau La Pointe

 

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