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Pomerol


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Vineyard in Pomerol

Château Gazin is an outstanding Pomerol estate. Photo by Antoine Bertier. License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Oak barrels

The oak influence is often felt in Pomerol's Merlot-based wines. Photo by Antoine Bertier.
License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Pomerol is a tiny village on the Right Bank of Bordeaux, with less than three square miles of area, and a population of less than 1,000. This miniscule area's wines define the Merlot grape at its very best. While good varietal Merlot exists in California and a host of other places, and St-Émilion's Merlot-based wines are undeniably stellar, it is Pomerol that brings the grape to its maximum of elegance, richness, and complexity.

Pétrus is considered the greatest château in Pomerol, making a soft but complex wine from almost 100% Merlot. There are many competitors, but Pétrus has remained on top. All the wines, however, command high prices, even more so than the Cabernet-based wines of the Left Bank. They have carved out their own niche in Bordeaux and differentiated themselves entirely from all potential competitors.

History

Pomerol's legendary status in the wine world, and its status as a symbol of wealth and success in the world in general, is even more impressive considering the fact that the area's history is relatively short. Up until the 1700s, Graves dominated the wine market, and even after the Médoc was excavated and became popular Pomerol was still a relatively obscure area. Grapes were consistently being planted in Pomerol, but it simply didn't attract the international attention that its competitors did.

In the early 1900s, it began to emerge that Merlot was extremely successful in Pomerol, and the bland white wines which had up until then dominated the market for Pomerol, became less popular. Rapidly, châteaux such as Pétrus made a name for themselves. But it wasn't until after WWII that Pétrus began to be considered one of the world's top red wines. The French government apparently never found the area worthy of classification, which is remarkable considering the fact that it is now just as famous, or perhaps more so, than the carefully classified growths of the Médoc. Nowadays, growers in Pomerol no longer want a classification.

Clay soil

Highly concentrated clay soil in Pomerol is what makes the Merlot
in Pomerol so wonderful. Photo by RowenaR on Flickr.
License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Climate and Viticulture

Much less maritime influence and the different nature of the Dordogne, versus the Garonne, river, helps to differentiate Pomerol's wine from that of the Left Bank. Is the Pomerol climate more exclusive? Not necessarily.

The main influence, in reality, is the clay soil that is in Pomerol. On Pétrus's vineyards, the clay is possibly the most concentrated of anywhere in Bordeaux. Gravel also plays some part, but is nowhere near as prominent as on the other side of the rivers.

Grape Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon does not thrive in Pomerol due to the fact that the area likes the gravel-based soil that Cab thrives in. No white grapes are of any significance there, either. And producers seem less inclined to blending than on the Left Bank. So only two grapes are of crucial importance in Pomerol.

Major Producers

There are relatively few Pomerol estates, so most of them are quite good, and very few offer extremely affordable prices. Indeed, paying $50 for a Pomerol is towards the bargain level, whereas on the Left Bank such a price tag would be midlevel. Although the lack of a classification has its negatives as well as positives, quality is strictly controlled by the AOC regulations.

It is tempting to compile a tiered list of Pomerol's best wines. Time after time, classifications have been suggested, but they have been voted down for whatever reason by the châteaux in question. Since a long history of stellar wines and no classification evidences the fact that Pomerol wines do not need classification, we have simply compiled a list of the most reputable Pomerols; thrown in with them are a few well-priced "bargains". Let your own palate be the judge!

1996 La Conseillante

A 1996 La Conseillante.
Photo by BerndB on Wikipedia.
License: click here.

Subregions

No important subregions here. Don't get confused with Lalande-de-Pomerol, as this is an entirely separate appellation.

Gazin

Château Gazin makes some of the best wine in Pomerol, and for competitive prices too. Photo by Antoine Bertier. License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.