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La Petite Église Pomerol 2005

La Petite Église 2005

The planets fell into alignment for La Petite Église this weekend, or at least that’s how it felt, as a number of events all conspired to induce me to pull this wine from the cellar. Before coming to those, however, I have to first backtrack a little, as I wrote in my recent Bordeaux 2005 at Ten Years retrospective tasting, featuring more than sixty wines from the vintage, that I wouldn’t be pulling any 2005s from the cellar for the moment. The reason? This is a superb vintage, which I am sure one day the wine world will rank not just among the very good vintages, but among the truly great years. And it does it in a classic, concentrated but balanced style, so this is not a voluptuous vintage like 2009, 1990 or perhaps 1982. You probably have to go back to 1961 to find something comparable (I write this while acknowledging I have tasted a lot less 1961 Bordeaux than I have 1982 or 1990 Bordeaux). Right now, therefore, the wines are simply too young. While many vintages still have a lot more to give at ten years of age they usually show some signs of evolution, bringing pleasure of some sort to the glass. The wines of 2005, however, are currently tightly coiled springs of potential which demand to be left well alone.

I am, however, making an exception for 2005 La Petite Église, for several reasons. First, this is the second wine of Château L’Église-Clinet, and while I found every level from the likes of Château Belgrave and Château Potensac up to Petrus and Le Pin needed more time, I am not convinced we can extrapolate this conclusion onto the second wines. Secondly, during a recent trip to Bordeaux I attended a vertical tasting of Château L’Église-Clinet hosted by the man himself, Denis Durantou, starting with the 1995 vintage and then moving forward through time, finishing up with the 2005 vintage, eleven vintages in all, several of which I was able to taste from magnum as well as from bottle. I was bowled over by the concentration and confidence of the 2005 vintage, a superb wine which showed much better here than in the my recent Pomerol 2005 report (Denis had some concerns about the transport of that bottle to London for the tasting). And so I realised, on remembering that I had a few bottles of the second wine tucked away, that I should pull one for comparison (I am not that confident I will be tasting or drinking 2005 Château L’Église-Clinet too many times in the future, so this might just be the only opportunity to do so). And thirdly, as I will be publishing my report on the L’Église-Clinet tasting tomorrow, I can’t think of a better time to open and take a look at how this wine is coming along.

La Petite Église Pomerol 2005

There was a time when I wouldn’t have dreamt of buying and cellaring the second wines of Bordeaux. So many of the top grand cru classé wines seemed within my financial reach, so there really was no point. More recently, however, as prices for Bordeaux continue to look strong, I have sometimes been forced to lower my aspirations, and one way of dealing with this is to look to the second wines. Especially interesting are those which are not really second wines, made purely from ‘rejected’ or young-vine fruit, but are actually sélections parcellaires, wines made from a particular section of the vineyard deemed by the proprietor to have a less compelling terroir (perhaps with a little rejected fruit thrown in, if appropriate). Les Pensées de Lafleur is perhaps the best example, and certainly one of the most compelling second wines I have ever tasted (when the second wine wipes the floor with most of the grands vins in the same appellation you realise that to be sniffy about such wines is to shoot yourself in the foot). Les Griffons de Pichon-Baron is perhaps the latest to join the fray, and is similarly interesting.

La Petite Église is another, a wine that Denis has been making for aeons, and largely sourced from the same two parcels named La Patache (presumably closer to the foot of the slope, in the zone of the same name, on the way towards Château La Patache) and Pignon (surely towards Pignon, where Château La Croix de Gay and Château La Fleur de Gay are to be found), and on occasion a third parcel named Buzette may have contributed. The 2005 vintage does, certainly, have some features in common with the grand vin. The aromas on the nose speak of the same lightly roasted concentration, and there is a subtle seam of sweetness running through it, a little toasty caramel note. The palate is concentrated, highly textured, not glossy but certainly brimming with confident fruit. The tannins are low-key, mainly because they have a polished ripeness rather than being integrated, and despite the creamed-fruit character it has a stony, chalky edge and very fresh acidity. This is a wine of very solid character, with a long, robust finish. Second wine or not, this certainly needs more time, not for the sake of the structure but because there is complexity yet to come I think. This is yet another 2005 that needs to be left alone to see the wine at its greatest. 16.5/20 (18/5/15)

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