Château Lafleur Pomerol 2008
I have selected this wine for a recent private dinner, as I love Pomerol and Château Lafleur, and wanted to taste the 2008 vintage, that I had not tasted for a long while.
2008 in Bordeaux is a good vintage overall, but not a great one, due to several reasons and factors, including devastating severe frost in April, followed by nasty hailstorms later on, which significantly impacted the yields of the Merlot, more particularly in Saint-Emilion and Côtes de Castillon, accentuating the risk of rot.
The summer ended up being damp and cool, with limited sun apparitions, up until mid-September and October, when, despite some occasional showers, the sun finally provided more clement weather, ideal for the maturation of the merlot grapes, with warm days and cool night. Although not good enough for the late-ripening Cabernets, which ended up being slightly green, tannic, and astringent, despite some producers harvesting well into October and even early November to obtain full maturity and optimal ripeness.
It is said that the stars of the 2008 vintage were mostly from Pomerol, where the crop was small due to frost and hail, yet, those with a significant, equal, or higher percentage of Merlot succeeded in producing some stunning wines.
In his review from May 2011, Robert Parker (WA), despite rating it 94 (then, 96 in July 2017), described Chateau Lafleur 2008, as: "Certainly one of the most backward 2008s from Pomerol", which does not sound so good, and, thus, triggered my interest and the desire to taste it, as, for me, good year, bad year, Château Lafleur has always been in my Top 5 best Pomerol.
#1 Petrus (obviously, as I loooooooove Petrus), but most importantly #2 VCC - Vieux Château Certan, which I fell in love with 25 years ago during a visit of the cellar tasting at the barrel with the master himself: Alexandre Thienpont, who bewitched me with his words, prose and extensive knowledge, skills, and passion, while being one of the shyest, most timid, reserved and unassuming winemaker I know.
Can't wait to meet his son Guillaume one day, who is walking in his father's shoes with the same passion, dedication, rigor, and discipline, while adding his own footprint by further enhancing the technical parts of the winemaking, with the addition of a wine laboratory (within the estate), allowing both the father and the son to now reach deeper into the individual study of each parcel and how the constituents/components of the soil, subsoil of a parcel and its immediate environment, impact the intrinsic qualities (richness, complexity, texture, structure, acidity, tannins, etc...) and potential of the wine it produces.
As for my Top #3, #4, and #5 wines from Pomerol, it is always a complicated choice process between Lepin, L'Eglise-Clinet, La Conseillante, L'Evangile, and Trotanoy... Yet, I also love Le Bon Pasteur, Gombaude-Guillot, Clinet, Gazin, Petit-Village, etc, etc... In fact, I just love Pomerol in general, which makes it very complicated for me to choose from. However, the 12 Chateaux cited, constitute the core of the wines I love from Pomerol.
I first posted a short version of this post on FB and IG, and, in one of the comments, a person was asking me if I would rather buy 1 bottle of Petrus (for example) at roughly HKD 32,000 a bottle (around 3,885 Euros / 4,070 USD) or 5 cases (60 bottles) of Olivier Techer's exquisite Gombaude-Guillot at roughly HKD 540 a bottle (around 65 Euros / 69 USD). I told him: "Gombaude-Guillot with no hesitations, for sure". Can you imagine the price difference? 60 times... That's literally insane!
Moreover, even if I love and have profound respect for Petrus, which is one of my favorite wines in the world, (that I had the chance to buy, sell, prepare, taste, decant, and serve many, many times over my 30 years Sommelier career), I have never had the finance to buy even one bottle for myself, for my personal consumption, not even one.
And, in any case, even if I had the money to do so, I think I will rather buy 1 or 2 mixed cases of much more affordable and quaffable wines, and use the rest of the money to do something else. Actually, if I had the money, I will be traveling, as it has been 3 years already since I last went back to my hometown of Bordeaux with the kids, and HKD 32K = the budget for a go-return trip, Hong Kong > Bordeaux > Hong Kong, for 3-4 people, + the car rental in Bordeaux for 8-10 days, + a few lunches/dinners at small restaurants, + a few bottles of wines. Definitely travel, to live great moments with my family and friends, and fill my head with timeless memories.
Sorry, I slightly deviated from the original subject of the post (as usual), let's go back to Chateau Lafleur 2008, shall we?
Where was I? Ah yes, Robert Parker rating the wine 94 pts, while describing it as "the most backward of 2008's Pomerol". Strange how confusing Wine Critics can be sometimes, isn't it? (If interested I have written a post about this, which you can read here). The wine is supposedly the "most backward" of the appellation in that particular 2008 vintage but still received 94 pts. Does that mean all the other Pomerol received higher ratings? No, of course not, but it could easily be interpreted that way.
Anyhow, Robert reviewed his score from 94 to 96pts, 6 years later, demonstrating that some wines really need some time before waking up from their close and restraint period, to open up and elaborately express their full potential. And, that is definitely the case for Chateau Lafleur!
As I mentioned in several other posts before (notably this one here), Château Lafleur is a moody wine to be drunk at the right time, which tends to open up in its youth for a few years, then can suddenly close down for a decade or two before reopening again to show its full potential. This means that if you miss the window when it opens up, you might often find Lafleur closed and restrained, while it is an absolutely amazing wine when the timing is right.
Standing almost anonymously between Petrus and La Fleur-Petrus, Chateau Lafleur is a classic style of Pomerol wine, for connoisseurs who know when and where to drink it, and for amateurs who dare have the patience to understand it and wait for it to fully open to appreciate it. It is what I call a "cerebral wine"!
2008 Chateau Lafleur Pomerol Bordeaux France
Estimated Average Market Price HKD 6,260 (around 760 Euros / 798 USD)
Unsurprisingly, right after opening, the wine appeared a little closed, slightly restrained, rather shy on the nose, discreet but pleasant nonetheless. It needed to breathe after being enclosed for the past 13 years in the bottle. After decantation to give it a boost, it started to unveil subtle, fresh aromas of red berries and cherries mingling with darker fruits, licorice, forest floor, and flowers, as well as earthy notes of leather, truffle, smoke, and spice box. The palate was quite gentle and velvety, boasting both red and dark fruit flavors, (subordinated by enhanced versions of the aromas found on the nose), ample and generous, with a good concentration, yet without being too fat or too heavy, thanks to a good amount of acidity to balance the whole structure and texture, from beginning till the end of the persistent finish. The tannins, once very present and tight during its youth, have had the time to mellow down and seem better integrated now than a few years ago, adding some backbone and aging potential to this rather strict wine that took its time to reveal its charms.
That's all folks! Until next time, be safe and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.
(aka Dominique Noel, aka LeDomduVin)
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