Château de Pommard, an exceptional terroir.

CHÂTEAU DE POMMARD

First visit and tasting

 

 

Years ago, I have been speaking with Emmanuel Sala, the winemaker, on a french speaking wine discussion website. 10 years later, I eventually meet him, taste the wines and discover the Château de Pommard. I must say that it was worth the waiting.

 

The Château(x)

Only shortly will I describe the architectural aspects and location, for many things are about to be transformed. The Château actually is constituted of two different parts. First is an 18th century style building, alongside with the wine production infrastructures (under heavy renovation) and visiting facilities. Then there is the “real” Château Marey Monge, same style, situated in the heart of the vineyard. Everything considered, the building area is huge and shows an incredible potential in terms of wine travel. No surprise, both of the two last owner have aimed at developing this side of the Château de Pommard. It is indeed a surprise for me to see how many people are already visiting the place.

We start the visit by a tour of the vineyard. Since it is quite big an relatively complex, I add a map of the “Clos Marey Monge” (one of the name of the plot), that you can refer to later in the tasting notes:

 

Copyright Château de Pommard

 

First interesting fact is that deep terroir studies have been conducted since Emmanuel Sala took over the winemaking. One have to be reminded that the vineyard of the Château de Pommard, which have long been considered as one the best in the village, has not been awarded the level of 1er Cru when the classification of Pommard took place. Therefore, it is only a village level appellation according to Burgundy classification. Many a reasons can explain the situation. Among them is the bad reputation given without further examination to vineyard settled on the alluvial fan. For example, in Gevrey-Chambertin, under the same configuration, all the vineyard of this part of the village are not 1er Cru. An other possibility is the poor judgment of producers in Côte de Beaune, who have bet on brand logic rather that terroir when it came to classification. This made sense at the time but not so much anymore. This is why there is no Grand Cru in Beaune, Meursault or Pommard. But this situation raises questions. All the more since the Château de Pommard is actually a single plot of 20ha under vine, which is quite an exceptional size for Burgundy. It reminds me of Clos de Vougeot… an other Clos, bigger, of 50ha, in Côte de Nuits, located in a similar way but awarded the level of Grand Cru and which used to be a monopoly.

Since 2007, two exhaustive studies have been conducted. The results have been beyond all expectations. First, the terroir is, as expected, not homogeneous. The proportions of clay, sand and limestone vary quite a bit, which already proves the limit of the usual geological charts of Pommard, what depicts the terroir of the Château de Pommard as being part of one big alluvial fan. In fact, the upper part of the Clos is characterized by huge proportion of extremely high quality clay when the bottom part is rather dominated by limestone and the expected alluvial deposits. Furthermore, some plots within the Clos, the closest to the village of Pommard (the west side, on top of the slope), are actually constituted of highly qualitative clay. They are similar in composition to the one found in the Richebourg and Musigny. The quality of the clay being key to producing great red wines, this is an essential finding that would support the reevaluation of the cru and that also shed some lights on why some plots of the Clos produce exceptional wines.

An other interesting point about the vineyard is that being a “Clos”, that is a vineyard enclosed by a wall. It makes it possible to implement an efficient viticultural strategy. Nowadays, the Château is in conversion to organic and is using some biodynamical principles in some parts of the vineyard. In any case, the viticulture has been rationalized for a very long time.

Finally I would add one precision, the vineyard is already pretty old. Most of the vines are over 30 years old, which is more or less the perfect age. Some plots date back to the 40’s. The youngest vines are 15 years old, which is already old according to viticultural standards. However, we have not discussed about clones and rootstock. That will be for the next visit.

This first part of the visit was completed so we moved to the winemaking building.

Red wine 2017, barrel sample (négoce). 

In the beginning we decided that we would only taste wines coming from new barrels. The goal of this choice is double sided : first, this way, you can eliminate the oak variation, second you can get a very good idea of the quality of the wines considering how much you can taste oak. If the wine is not oaky when spending its aging in new oak, it proves its quality. If it is weak, then you will only taste the oak.

Considering that this tasting is based on barrel sample, my evaluations are synthetic and indicative. I will use the following scale: average, good, very good, excellent, exceptional. A full and complete assessment will only be possible once the wine is blended and bottled. Last thing: we tasted using Schott-Zwiesel Pure glasses. A very good and polyvalent glass, though not designed to enhance Pinot Noir.

Nuits-Saint-Georges 2017 

We are starting with an already truly beautiful wine. Structure is impeccable. Fruit is black and expressive. Very nice finish, pretty long aftertaste. Oak is almost invisible. This is a mere village wine, beautiful. Emmanuel was right, 2017 is impressive. Very Good.

Volnay 2017

The change of texture is self evident. The wine has a much more charming component, the architecture is softer, less austere. Soft and silky, equivalent quality wise but very opposite style. Very Good

Volnay Roncerais 1er Cru 2017

Same first feeling but it is as if there is much more wine here. The gap in quality is visible, notably considering the mouth presence of the wine. More intense on the spice side, specifically in the finish. Perfect ripeness, very good persistence. Really beautiful. Very Good-Excellent.

Grand Cru Echézaux 2017

Dry and rough. A bit thin. It is acceptable but it is hardly at the level of the Nuits-Saint-Georges, which is disappointing for a Grand Cru. There is one interesting thing about this wine, it proves that no matter how skillful is the winemaker, poor fruits produces poor wine. Average-Good.

We go on with:

Chambolle 2017 (1st fût).

This wine is an absolute beauty but it is tragically crushed by the oakiness from the barrel. According to the winemaker, this is due to that specific barrel maker. Save this problem, the wine is superb. But for those who know the Côte de Nuits, Chambolle is definitely a king among the villages. Very Good-Excellent, despite the oak.

Chambolle 2017 (2nd fût).

Emmanuel will not remain on a “fail”, we taste wine from an other barrel. Now this is it! Even if the nose is less expressive than the Nuits, for example. The elegance, the complexity are over the top. Despite the innate power of the wine, it remains delicate and subtle. Great stuff! Excellent.

We finish this series of wines with:

Maranges 1er cru les Loyères 2017

Now we get back to a more juicy, crunchy wine. Bit more simple, bit easier too. What it loses in depth, it gains in drinkability. This is already delivering a lot. Perfect wine to drink while waiting for the Chambolle. Very Good.

We have eventually finished with the négoce red wine, let’s switch to the wines from the Château.

2017 Wines from the Château de Pommard own plots, barrel sample.

Bourgogne red 2017

I don’t know how to start about this one. Cursing? Exaggeration? Shortly put, thais wine is challenging the Chambolle and beating the others… this Bourgogne is stunning after tasting all of these fine wines. Nothing too much, no over extraction but an extraordinary fruitiness and mouthfeel. This sample has been aged in 100% new oak and yet, oak is hardly felt. It is simply pure pleasure. Quality wise, this is the level of most village I have been tasting over the past years. And yet, it is a Bourgogne, in the “worst” part of the Clos. Excellent

In my opinion, this wine already demonstrate that the Château de Pommard is worth the level of 1er Cru… but I will soon be proven how great the wines from this terroir can be.

Paules Jeunes 2017 (These are relatively young, since planted in 2001.)

we start tasting a plot that has been regularly trained, that is “rogné” meaning that the top of the vine has been pruned a couple of time when it was considered too tall. The wine is more serious than the Bourgogne, the built is more present. Smell is a bit oaky, but nothing exceptional. Mouth is soft, rich and balanced. Imperceptible tannins. Excellent.

Then we taste wine from a plot that has not been pruned, but the vine are tied up together “tressé“. No real difference. The wine is maybe a tad more acidic. As if less ripe. But the difference is so minimal that it is not really relevant. Excellent.

Chanteries Jeunes (jeunes vignes) 2017

Similarly old vines, on a different terroir, where high quality clay is found. At once, the smell gains density and depth and complexity. In the mouth it is striking how much power is packed here. It is charming to the point of being irresistible. Such wine is give so much of everything that for me it shows clearly the level of 1er Cru. Excellent.

33 Rangs 2017 a plot of 33 rows… what a surprise 🙂 !

Yet an other level up. We start to reach sublime now (I still have no idea about what is coming). Again this is one step further in term of power and complexity. And at the same time, it remains perfectly balanced and integrated. This wine is already a wonder of potential as well as drinkability. Excellent-Exceptional.

Grands Champs 2017 SO2 added when put in the barrel. The goal is to compare the use of SO2 at that moment of the winemaking.

Expressive and full fruit. The mouth is powerful with and exacerbated fruit and a great energy. The wine is vertical but at the same time full until the end. The persistence is very impressive and intense. What a body! We go on our trip to perfection. Excellent-Exceptional.

Grands Champs 2017 no SO2 added when transferred to the barrel.

Contrary to the previous comparison in vine training that was not very convincing. This comparison proves extremely relevant.

Here, the difference with and without is so huge that it is impossible to guess that it is the same wine to begin with. With SO2, we get a wine somewhat analytic, well defined with clear fruit. Now everything is much more integrated. As if the wine was older. The smoothness is particularly striking. It is almost unbelievable compared to the dynamic of the first sample. Aromatically speaking, I am more inclined to the first one however, the mouthfeel of the second one is brilliant. A difficult choice :). Excellent-Exceptional.

75 Rangs 2017, a specific plot (see map) in the middle of Grand Champs.

We find here the power and finesse suited for an excellent 1er Cru. The wine is truly impressive from the aromas as well as from the sublime structure that conclude in a sumptuous finale. Delightful: aerial as well as powerful. The wine develops a very fine acidity, almost saline. The impact and use of that kind of wine in the final blend is self explanatory. Exceptional.

Paules Vieilles 2017 (plot planted in 1947).

The smell is simply great and absolutely classic. The density of aromas is enormous. Again the structure leap forward, more intense more concentrated. The final is exceptionally long. At the same time the aromatic richness is to the top. The wine is super intense, super complex and perfectly balanced. Wonderful. In my opinion, with this one, we enter the realm of Grand Cru. Exceptional.

Chantrerie Vieille 2017 (planted in 1902)

An even higher level of energy and intensity. This wine is even more impressive than all the previous ones and I wouldn’t have thought it possible since they were already close to perfection. My own understanding is that this is a mix between the power of the Clos de Bèze and the elegance of Musigny. I love this wine, plain and simple. I understand how much it will bring to the final blend but I would so much like to taste it on its own. We are close to a 100/100 but since it is just a barrel sample, i rate it Exceptional.

Simone 2017

Last but not least (of the 2017 red wines), the Simone 2017 is the most prestigious plot and wine of the château. The wine was transferred to the barrel without using SO2. How to describe it… power, structure, intensity, magnificent fruity aromas and spices, sublime finale. This is also close to perfection. Exceptional.

As a temporary conclusion, I can tell from this tasting that the 2017 are spectacular. What a vintage!

We are not loosing more time, now we head to the white wine barrels. The white wines are made with bought grapes as the château can only grow red grapes.

White wines, 2017, barrel sample.

As a starter :

Meursault Village 2017

An other stunning wine. What a crystal clear wine. It is pure yet extremely complex and powerful. This proves me that most of the white Burgundies from Côte d’Or are over oaked. Here, this is the opposite. Fantastic fruit, almost tropical, soft spices. Clearly these were world class grapes and this is world class wine. Love it. Magnificent. Excellent-Exceptional.

Chassagne Village 2017

Contrary to the Meursault, characterized by its purity, the Chassagne is a bit more on the oaky side. It is also more simple. Still… it is really really good. Very Good.

Ladoix 1er Cru Les Gréchons 2017

It is a shame that I have never heard before of that climate. We taste first a sample from a new oak barrel. The oakiness is present but not that much. Smell is not very intense but shows very promising notes of fruit and flower. Conversely, the mouthfeel is gigantic. The complexity and the persistence of the wine are to the top. This is a splendid wine in terms of structure and balance. Great wine! Excellent-Exceptional.

But now comes the real one. Sample from a used barrel.

This is plain and simple extraordinary. Huge in every sense. Aromas, structure, complexity. It is intense and long-lasting… immensely long-lasting. What a wine! Exceptional.

Corton Charlemagne 2017

I will sound redundant since we have tasted so many exceptional wines. Yet an other one! Aromas are a bit more original than the previous wines, more on the citrus side and also tropical. In this case, I know where the wine come from. I must say that I can understand now the full extent of how much the winemaking can impact the original fruit. Compared to what I have tasted from the original producer… it is leagues over. It is a bit sad to think that most of the production of this plot is not handled with as much talent as Emmanuel Sala… This is on the verge of Exceptional too. Excellent-Exceptional.

Samples 2018 from the tank (Fermentation still going on)

Motivated as we are, Emmanuel tells me that we could taste the 2018, even if the alcoholic fermentation is still on its way. The idea is to see the difference of vintage, which is already very easy to spot, according to him. What is interesting in 2018 is the specificity of the vintage in terms of climate. It was extremely hot and dry in summer (after a very wet spring). The result is quite striking. The wines feels almost like they come from southern France. Of course, acidity is low ans alcohol rather high but mostly it is the aromatics that shows uncommon characteristics. These wines remind me of Californian or Australian Pinot Noir. This will be very interesting to follow as the winemaking process goes on. For sure, they will end up in a very different place as 2017.

 

Back at the Château de Pommard for bottle tasting.

Unfortunately when we emerge from the cellar, it is already pretty late and we have only a few minutes left to taste something from the bottle. We rush back to the Château and Emmanuel grabs a handful of bottles. One white and three reds. Since we are in a hurry and I start to be quite tired, my notes will be even shorter.

Ladoix les Gréchons 2014 (white)

The smell is deliciously delicate. The fruit is very intense, oak aging felt but really like the glazing on top. However delicate is the wine, the structure is powerful. Very good acidity, great persistence, fruity and mouth watering. This is clearly a superb wine, though I suspect it being already opened for a while. This terroir seems absolutely perfect… Excellent.

As a conclusion to this fantastic trip, we are going to taste three vintages of Clos Marey Monge, the main wine of the Château (their iconic wine being the single vineyard Simone, that I could not taste this time, because of the lack of it!). Once again, we are not tasting in specific wine glasses, so you can imagine the reserve of potential.

Château de Pommard Clos Marey Monge 2016, 2012, 2011

Clos Marey Monge 2016 packs loads of energy. Very intense in the nose and the mouth. The balance is perfect, with a wonderful fruitiness. We mostly find red berries with a spicy development. Structure is fantastic and tannins are soft, thin and delicate. It is still in its prime youth and it needs time but it is undoubtedly delicious. Not a hint of oak. Excellent.

Clos Marey Monge 2012 is the more firm of all. Also, it is the less expressive, which is logical, not being old enough but not young anymore. If the smell is quite discrete, the texture in the mouth is impressive and shows the potential and the quality of the vintage. It shows clear connections with 2016. Definitely a great wine in the future. Balance is again excellent and there is no hint of oak. Excellent.

And as a final wine:

Clos Marey Monge 2011… is surprisingly open. This is a fantastic way to warp up the tasting. This is very expressive, elegant, rich, displaying the very characteristics of a great ready to drink Pinot. It shows very nice and complex nose, dominated by the dark berries that I have found in Simone 2017. The idea that this wine is a plain village is ludicrous. This is one of the best Pommard I have ever tasted, worth many a 1er Cru. I have rarely encountered such plenitude and perfection in any thing but a grand cru. The connection to an Echézeaux is not without sense… what is very surprising is how much elegance is packed here, this differs greatly from the usual roughness expected from a Pommard. This wine delivers so much more and with such sensuality that I can’t say better. Exceptional.

 

As a conclusion

And there finishes eventually five hours of tasting. With 10 years of delay, I have been able to fullfil my promise to come and taste the wines of Château de Pommard. And what a tasting it has been!

The wines from the Clos are absolutely stunning, among the very best of Burgundy. From the regional to the Simone, everything is excellent or even better. Considering the limited comparison I could draw from the tasting of the wines from négoce, it seems to me that it is not just genius from Emmanuel Sala. Sure, he is a fantastic winemaker but the quality and specificity of Clos Marey Monge shines through. This shows the limit of the traditional classification of Burgundy. A reevaluation of the terroir from Château de Pommard is under way, and we can only wish them to get to the highest level. It seems to me that everybody in Pommard would benefit from the reevaluation to 1er Cru of the Château de Pommard but jealousy can be ridiculously powerful. It is however self evident that the whole appellation would benefit from the reevaluation of these 20 hectares into 1er Cru.

If you ever visit, don’t hesitate to go there. The team is incredibly professional and the wines are superb. Sure, prices are a bit high, but I don’t think Burgundy has anything to offer yet in the bargain category. In term of quality, the Château is in line with the wines of the same level in the region.

More information on the webpage of the Château de Pommard: https://chateaudepommard.com/fr 

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