Chateau Petit-Villages 2012. Pomerol. (£40, Fine & Rare).

I’m just back from another trip hosting wine events in Australia ….. ‘can’t get enough of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide and tasted some fab. Aussie wines …… Mount Mary Quintet 1996, Penfold’s 1999 Bin 407, Tahbilk’s Marsanne 2010 to name a few ….. so I thought that I’d push the boat out and crack open an Old World red to celebrate being back in Blighty. From the wonderful Pomerol vineyards on Bordeaux’s ‘right bank’, Chateau Petit-Villages 2012 hit the spot.

“Right Bank?”, I hear you say. It’s Wine Trade lingo that, surprise surprise, is quite useful. It means  that if you’re sailing up the Dordogne River towards the Atlantic through the Bordeaux vineyards, guess what, the “right bank” is on your right hand side! Even after a few glasses of Claret (that’s just an old name for Bordeaux red wine by the way) we can work out that the so-called “left bank” vineyards, (such as Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac and St. Estephe), are on the left hand side as the Dordogne flows into the Gironde River on its way to the ocean.

The famous ‘right bank’ vineyards of Pomerol, a neighbour to St. Emilion, boast some of the world’s most expensive wines. Le Pin (next to Petit-Villages) and Chateau Petrus are probably the most famous (and expensive) but look out for Chateaux Vieux Chateau CertanConseillanteL’EvangileLafleurTrotanoy, NeninBeauregard, Feytit-Clinet and Le Gay. It’s useful to know the names of the chateaux as Pomerol is the only Bordeaux appellation that is not formally classified. That said, the heady price tags on Petrus and Le Pin do elevate these illustrious vineyards.

Pomerol is the smallest of Bordeaux’s major appellations with about 150 producers working approximately 800 hectares of vineyards where Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are king. The Petit-Villages 2012 is a blend of  80% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. Interestingly, unlike most of Bordeaux’s regions, Pomerol has many small producers some of which produce only about 1000 cases a year.

Pomerol’s vineyards may not be the most photogenic but the uneventful, gently elevated plateau does hold the key to the quality of these amazing wines. The best vineyards lie on the famous blue clay in the centre of the plateau; on the sides of the plateau the soil becomes sandier and the wines lighter. Chateau Petrus is unique as the vineyards lie wholly on the circle of blue clay that sits in the north east corner of the plateau. Petit-Village’s vineyards comprise gravel with sand, chalk and clay, which is said to give the wine ‘truffle’ flavours. My scribblings notes didn’t mention truffle but simply juicy black cherry, velvety tannins, a touch of liquorice and a pleasing spicy blackcurrant finish.

For those of you who are a bit skint I’ve found a red Bordeaux that’ll surprise you; Chateau Pey la Tour Reserve 2011 (£11.50, from The Wine Society) fights well above its ‘Bordeaux Superieur’ label. The property lies between St. Emilion and Bordeaux city where the clay-limestone soils support a cepage (blend) of Merlot (90%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Petit Verdot (2%). The result is a blackcurrant pleaser with friendly tannins and a spicey plum finish that’ll bring a smile to your face.

It’s a pity I didn’t have these two Bordeaux reds with me in Sydney to compare to the top Australians. Tasting notes are fine but there’s no substitute for tasting wines side by side, preferably with a couple of mates; one Aussie, one English would guarantee a noisy but really enjoyable taste-off!