The immense success of Petrus and other top wineries of Pomerol brought fame to this Bordeaux wine region.
The wines of Pomerol are some of the most famous and valued in Bordeaux, in France, and the world, and the high prices reflect the interest in these wines. For example, the 2015 and the 2016 vintages of Petrus can command retail prices of over $3,000 per bottle. You may expect to pay even more for older exceptional vintages.
What is Pomerol and what makes the wines from this small commune in Gironde so special?
Pomerol is northeast of Bordeaux, on the right bank of the Dordogne river, between the towns of Libourne and the Pomerol’s famous neighbor, Saint-Emilion. It takes about 40 minutes to reach Pomerol by car from Bordeaux and only about 10 minutes from the village of Saint-Emilion.
Today, Pomerol isn’t a real village – just a few houses and a church. It is a winegrowing community with houses and chateaux scattered through vineyards.
The earliest mentions of vines in the region go back to Roman times (4th century AD).
The is a lot of evidence of winegrowing around Pomerol from the 12th century. From then, and until the French revolution, grapes were grown on the lands belonging to the Commandery of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, Rhodes, and Malta, one of the oldest knight orders in France.
Many Pomerol chateaux still use the eight-pointed Maltese cross on their labels today in memory of the Order.
During the Middle Ages, Pomerol was a stopover of one of the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. There were churches, houses, and hospitals built for the pilgrims.
There is no unity as to the origin of the name.
According to one of the theories, Pomerol comes from poma, a Latin word for fruit with pips, meaning grapes.
Others say that the name comes from the French word pomme (apple) after apple orchards common in that area before the vines took over in the 18th-19th centuries.
Pomerol appellation of protected origin AOC was created in 1936. It is one of the smallest in Bordeaux, only 3 by 4 kilometers with approximately 800 hectares of vineyards.
Pomerol is home to 140 wineries. Most are small wineries with vineyards of less than 10 hectares.
Different from other Bordeaux wine regions, there is no official classification of wineries in Pomerol. Therefore, the label would not tell much about the relative quality of the wine, however, the price may.
At Chateau Beauregard
Merlot is king in Pomerol. The Merlot variety accounts for approximately 80% of all vines in the appellation.
Prior to the mid 18th century, Merlot was not as spread in the area. In fact, the land was focusing on white wines in the past. Before mass plantings of Merlot, Pomerol wasn’t strictly a wine-making region. It also produced linen, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Today, these types of agriculture can no longer be seen in Pomerol. The lands are quite valuable and therefore, are all devoted to viticulture. The price of land in Pomerol reaches a few million euros per hectare.
The clay soils of Pomerol are the best suited for Merlot.
Merlots would generally ripen earlier than other grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. There are risks of Merlot becoming overripe and wines too alcoholic in years with hot summer months. However, in Pomerol thanks to the cool clay soils, the Merlot wines display freshness, finesse and complexity, and avoid jammy, overripe flavours, and high degrees of alcohol as some Merlots grown in warmer gravel soils would display.
“Round”, “velvety” and “powerful” commonly describe the wines of Pomerol.
Other grape varieties grown in Pomerol are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec.
Not all Pomerol wines command skyrocket prices. Some are quite affordable. As Pomerol wineries are not ranked, the fame of Petrus and a few others help small producers to market the wines and pull prices higher, however, many good wine are sold under $30 per bottle.
The explanation of prices on the most prestigious bottles lies in a few factors.
Although there is no classification of wineries in Pomerol, wine critics and wine lovers mention these as the wineries as the top of Pomerol:
Chateau L’Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol, France
1955, 1921, 1947
Chateau L’Evangile, Pomerol, France
Chateau Lafleur, Pomerol, France
2005, 1947, 2000, 1950, 2015, 1945
Chateau Latour a Pomerol, Pomerol, France
Le Pin, Pomerol, France
Petrus, Pomerol, France
2009, 1990, 2015, 1989, 1921, 2016, 2000, 1929
Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol, France