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Bordeaux Wine Guide: Pomerol

Pomerol

Pomerol has a long history of viticulture and winemaking, although it is not one that has much in common with the development of the grand appellations of the left bank, or even with neighbouring St Emilion. While on the banks of the Garonne viticulture in Graves and Sauternes has flourished since Medieval times, in Pomerol it has waxed and waned. Although there may well have been vines planted here even during Roman times, the ravages of the Hundred Years’ War saw the land completely abandoned, its crops and vineyards destroyed.

It was not until the 15th century that there was any replanting, preceding the draining of the Médoc by more than a hundred years. This would have been part of a landscape of polyculture rather than the see of vines we see today, and so the region remained an obscure one in viticultural circles. Even as the vineyards were developed many still thought of it as little more than a satellite of St Emilion. There was no influx of rich landlords as there was around St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux; Pomerol had no Marquis Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur to name as the Prince des Vignes, and no Baron Hector de Brane to similarly christen as Napoléon des Vines. There were no wealthy bankers or landed gentry interested in this rural backwater, and thus the landscape remained one dotted with farmhouses, criss-crossed by country lanes, with no grand châteaux, no mansard roofs (well, almost none), and barely a tiled turret to be seen.

Pomerol

Even as the vine began its march of dominance during the late-18th and 19th centuries, when much of Pomerol was planted up, the wines of this supposedly ‘minor’ region were still not widely appreciated. The vignerons and merchants that settled here had to work hard to develop export markets for their wines. Whereas the wines of the great châteaux of the left bank were being shipped to London and other ports in the United Kingdom, Pomerol found buyers in France, Holland and particularly Belgium, and the market they built up in the latter country perhaps goes some way to explaining the Belgian presence that exists in Pomerol today. As a consequence British consumers developed no real awareness of this region of Bordeaux, or the quality of its wines. It was not until the 1950s that British merchants woke up to the wines and began to import them into the United Kingdom, and as they were unknown the prices of many of the wines were extremely favourable, especially compared to the astronomical prices some of them fetch today.

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