Château Moncets and Lalande de Pomerol

Sep 10, 2010

My father and step-mother recently returned from a trip to Northern-Western Europe. They visited Amsterdam, Bruges and Paris. Before they left, I asked if they could bring back a bottle of nice French wine, something special they found along the way.

Last night I dropped by their house with two bottles of fun French wine to celebrate their homecoming. My father pulled out a beer t-shirt from Belgium, a beer calendar, a pencil drawing of Amsterdam and my French wine, a 1999 Bordeaux from Lalande de Pomerol.

Bordeaux is huge, vast and much larger than Burgundy, being greater than the vineyard acreage of Germany. There are about 15,000 wine growers at work and the region easily produces 700 million bottles yearly. 

The small bottle apparently cost my parents 20 euros. They bought the wine in Paris at a street-side stand.  The man wore a traditional Parisian straw hat and a red-white striped apron. I wanted to open it last night but my father urged me to save it for a special occasion. I took my 375ml bottle home and promptly opened it this morning - around 11:45.... I was trying to be patient. 

First off, a lovely bouquet, dusky and dark. Earthy, black cherries with a spicy-damson vanilla touch. On the palate, there is a rich plum-chocolate presence matched by a more than velvety wave of vanilla. Strong tannins guide the wine, the mid-palate is warm but I admit slightly bare. It's the first sip and the finish that are the wine's best features.

Sipping the wine I turned to my Hachette Guide to French Wines. It is an older edition  (2004) but helpful. Their note on Château Moncets: "This lovely 19th century house has been in the same family for 130 years. It is surrounded by an attractive park and a vineyard planted on clayey soils." For the 2000 vintage, the guide recommended drinking the wine with 2-5 years.

I can only surmise from my own experience and the guides' recommendation for the 2000 vintage that my 1999 is at peak if not a little over. (I don't like to admit it but there is a light, ghostly hint of must on the wine, giving me the impression that I'm drinking the wine perhaps a little after the ideal time.)

Pomerol, like its famous and much larger neighbour, St-Émilion, is considered part of the Right Bank of Bordeaux. The wines are opulent and Merlot-dominated (as opposed to the Cabernet-Sauvignon-dominated wines of the Left Bank's Médoc). 

I find it interesting that in the early 20th century, the wines of this small region (780 ha/1,930 acres) were popular with Belgium wine merchants (my parents fell in love with Bruges and their travels throughout Holland and Belgium brought them in contact with the wine I'm enjoying). The wines of Pomerol often went to markets in Paris, Belgium and Holland while the traditional Left Bank Bordeaux wines continued to provide England with their 'clarets'  and sweet wines from Médoc, Graves and Sauternes. 

Lalande-de-Pomerol  is immediately north of Pomerol. Though the wines are often considered 'rustic', their concentration and body is similar to their southern neighbors at a fraction of the price. Lalande-de-Pomerol is also a little bigger in vineyard size at 1,100 ha/2,700 acres. The land is cheaper than in Pomerol with investors coming from St.Émilion and other established properties to make some excellent and affordable wines.

It's hard to recommend a wine that is difficult to find. I dislike it when wine writers discuss wines that only the select few can uncover, uncork and wax poetic about. As much as I love wine, the exclusivity of the industry can be intolerable and the elitist attitudes of many leading wine critics continually keep the doors shut, as if barring entrance to those looking to find a means into discovering the fascinating nuances of an agricultural product.

There is something to be said when philosophers like Pythagoras have cryptically noted that one should avoid the common road. The mainstream is a victim of its own success. All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare as the philosopher Spinoza once put. Sipping alone can be lonely and challenging (especially with a Bordeaux) but there is something beautiful about the solitary. 

I like to write about wine from the perspective that it is available to all but everyone's tastes are different despite the vast availability of international style wines. We all have our fun finds and discoveries. The best wine writing should both edify and entertain.

As much as I enjoy this wine, I still have a difficult time with Bordeaux. The region alone suggests tradition and pedigree, failing not to mention it's allure and imposing wall of snobbery and expensiveness. The wines are seductive and never cheap and sadly, at best they remind me of the expensive prostitutes one might find in the Red Light district of Amsterdam. You are drawn in, you are romanced but unless you have the resources, your wallet will only feel lighter.

Bordeaux is for the business men who are rich and even though I love to drink, and this is the kind of wine much appreciated by my ancestors in Holland, I somehow feel like a stranger in paradise in its presence.

The Hachette Guide to French WInes 2004. Mitchell Beazley, London, 2003.
Robinson, Jancis (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2006.


Post a Comment

About This Blog

My focus is mainly on wine culture, history and education. I love the stories behind wine - the people, places and the regional personalities of the wine-countries around the world.

  © Blogger template On The Road by 2009

Back to TOP