Visit at Petrus in Pomerol
After the visit and the lovely lunch I had at Cheval Blanc in Saint Emilion, the next visit for THU afternoon, on June 23rd, was at Petrus in Pomerol. This 11.5 ha property produces around 3000 cases, each vintage, of one of the most sought after wines in the world. The Petrus land is unique: a topsoil of blue tinged clay and a subsoil of gravel, the whole lying on Pomerol’s iron rich crasse de fer. The choice of grape varieties, and the extreme attention to detail, count for much also. 95% of the vineyard is planted with Merlot, and 5% with Cabernet Franc, yet the latter is often not included in the grand vin for want of maturity. Petrus is thus frequently a 100% Merlot wine. The average age of the vines is 40 years, where 30 or 35 is the norm.
The estate goes to extreme lengths to safeguard the quality of its fruit: in 1987, to counter the effect of rain at harvest time, a helicopter was hired to hover over the vines and dry them with its down wash. In 1992 plastic sheets were used to cover the ground and prevent the rains from infiltrating the soil.
Just as I arrived in time for the 17:00 appointment, I was about to have the biggest surprise ever. I tried to open the door to enter the courtyard but it was locked. A woman appeared from the office building in the courtyard, and, from a far distance, she loudly asked: “Vous etes les Roumains ?” I replied “Oui Madame“. I received the warmest welcome that anybody can only hope for. At Petrus. Talking about life being full of surprises.
The lady from Petrus has shown a genuine warmness and it was an extremely enjoyable host during the whole time we spent visiting the property. I found out that she was an American, living for over 20 years in Bordeaux and working at Petrus for 4 years now.
We walked on the perfectly ordered alley through the Petrus vineyards, while my host was explaining details about the terroir, vines, grapes and gladly sharing all the information about this acclaimed property. The soil is just 80 cm deep before the blue clay starts. This clay provides water when there is not enough rain for the vines, and acts as a permeable layer when there is excessive rain. Therefore, the vines almost never suffer from drought.
Roses are planted at the beginning of each row of vines – a common thing I noticed everywhere in Bordeaux. The purpose is to give warning signals about any potential diseases that might attack the vines. Usually the roses being more fragile are attacked the first ones, therefore these diseases can be prevented by humans prior to reaching the vines.
The vegetative cycle of the vines is more developed than usual, just as it is in the rest of Bordeaux, but the grapes look perfectly healthy. When you would think that the wines sell for hundreds and thousands of Eur per bottle, you would expect to see shiny brand new materials used in the vines and in the cellar. Aside from the new winery that is in the process of being built – just next to where the tasting room and the building hosting the cement tanks are – the work at Petrus is characterized by simplicity, and seems to be made exactly the same as it was 100 years ago. And still, the vines look perfectly aligned and healthy.
In the cellar, they use cement tanks for fermentation using indigenous yeasts(this was a big surprise for me) and then the wine is aged for about 12 months in 50% new French oak. According to our host, the aim is to let the terroir speak and not silence it with excessive use of new oak or prolonged barrel aging. We were not able to visit the barrel room due to the construction site.
Just like the rest of the property, the tasting room follows the same spartan design, but with excessive attention to detail.
The tasting room is a large chamber with a wooden table for the tasting in the middle and a cup filled with the famous blue clay in a corner to showcase the soil. Only a large format bottle wearing the famous Petrus label hints where you are. I wonder if this simplicity is not meant to liberate your senses as much as possible from anything that can disturb, so you could focus on what is important here: the wine.
It is useless to say that nobody did spit the wine while tasting it. I am not sure if it was because of the high price it will sell for or was it because is just that good ?
2010 Petrus Pomerol
A deep dark red-purple almost opaque color. As young as it is, the wine explodes in the glass with very intense aromas of black fruit, stewed plum, very well integrated oak; floral and elegant. There is incredible depth on the palate, with silky tannins, dense, a perfect balance between elegance and power, having even a spicy, meaty flavor. The finish is very long, keeping the same line of elegance, power and freshness. (95-97/100)
I left Petrus happy that I was able to taste such a famous wine coming from the acclaimed 2010 vintage, a wine rated almost a perfect 98-100 points by most important International wine critics. I just hope I will have the opportunity to taste this wine again in the future.
It is good I did not have any other visits arranged after Petrus for THU, as I am sure I would have been biased tasting any other wines.
P.S. By the time I wrote this article, Petrus still did not release the en-primeur price for its 2010.