Over the last few months, we’ve offered a steady drip of direct-import Bordeaux reds sourced during our recent trip to the region. What a fruitful trip that turned out to be: After receiving the wines from their Bordeaux négociant, then allowing them time to rest in our own temperature-controlled cellars, we’ve finally gotten to share them with you.
And it’s with a combination of relief and excitement that we open each one of these wines now and find them to be just as they were when we tasted them in Bordeaux many months ago—perfectly sound, delicious, and representative of their place of origin. The 1997 Pomerol from Château La Clémence, was one of the rarer gems presented to us during our visit, and it took just one sniff and one sip for me to lock up the whole lot (about 20 cases). At nearly 20 years old, this was the wine most vulnerable to diminishment during shipment, but I’m happy to report that it’s in pristine condition. What a great chance to drink an aristocratic, long-aged red Bordeaux, from a prestige appellation, at an incredibly reasonable price. Re-visiting this wine made me want to re-visit Bordeaux, soon, to find more treats like this. In the meantime, we’ve got a decent-sized chunk of this succulent ’97 to share: Do not miss it!
Pomerol, the ‘Right Bank’ appellation known for its blue clay soils and boutique, Merlot-driven wines from châteaux such as Le Pin and Pétrus (two of Bordeaux’s most expensive wines), is the smallest of the major Bordeaux appellations, and, unlike the others, has no classification system. This is the place where garagiste producers like Vieux Château Certan dazzled critics in the early eighties and where celebrity winemaking consultant Michel Rolland calls home (Château Le Bon Pasteur is Rolland’s family estate). Pomerol neighbors St-Émilion to the west, sitting on a gently sloping plateau not far from the market town of Libourne.
La Clémence is a tiny property that was purchased by the Dauriac family in 1996, on the advice of Rolland. At the time, the cellars at La Clémence were in disrepair, so several vintages were vinified at Le Bon Pasteur while Christian Dauriac built a new, state-of-the-art winery (completed in 2001). This 1997 was sourced from La Clémence’s 3 hectares of vines, which are rooted in a mix of clay, sand, and gravel (while there are pockets of ultra-pure blue clay in Pomerol, most famously at Pétrus, there are also areas with more sand and gravel, as at Cheval-Blanc). The blend is 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, vinified in small batches in thermo-regulated wooden vats and aged for 18 months in 100% new French barriques.
This 1997 is in a beautiful place right now, showing off not just the inimitably silky texture of great Pomerol but both the red- and black-fruited dimensions of Merlot. In the glass, it’s a still-deep garnet-red with some bricking at the rim (to be expected), with aromas of black and red currant, plum, dark cherries, and lots of savory notes including pencil lead, cedar, tobacco, and leather. It is medium-bodied and perfumed, not chunky and dark—a very elegant expression of Right Bank Bordeaux that glides across the palate and finishes with a woodsy, rose petal-y flourish. It is in great condition, and ready to go now—I would decant it just before service (for sediment) in Bordeaux stems at 60-65 degrees, and my suggestion is to go with something refined and not too heavy as a food pairing. The attached lamb loin recipe will highlight the wine’s savory side and respect its elegance. That’s an extremely memorable dinner right there. Enjoy!
Merlot 85%; Cabernet Franc 15%
100% New French
30 Minutes (For Sediment)