Historic Pomerol Estate Showcasing the Promise of the Underrated 2014 Vintage

Today’s Story: Château L’Évangile

Château L’Évangile is a historic Bordeaux wine estate located in the appellation of Pomerol on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. L’Évangile traces its roots back to the year 1741 when it first popped up in the land registry under the name Fazilleau, and it was owned by the Léglise family from Libourne. By the turn of the 19th century, the estate was fairly close to its current configuration and consisted of 13 hectares (32 acres) of vineyards. In 1862, Paul Chaperon purchased L’Évangile (as it was known by this time) and he built the reputation of the estate to greater heights and constructed the château in 1874. By 1900, L’Évangile was widely considered the third-best wine of Pomerol behind Vieux Château Certan and Château Pétrus. Chaperon’s descendants, the powerful Ducasse family, continued to run the estate until 1990 when it was purchased by Domaines Barons de Rothschild who own Château Lafite Rothschild on the Left Bank amongst other highly-regarded properties.

Today Château L’Évangile consists of 22 hectares of vineyards planted in prime sandy clay and gravel soils on the plateau of Pomerol. The property borders Château Pétrus to the north and Château Cheval Blanc to the south, so one can say they are in good company. L’Évangile’s vineyards are planted to about 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, though there is now a small plot of Cabernet Sauvignon that was blended into the wine for the first time in 2019. The vines at L’Évangile average about 30 years of age, and the estate started shifting to organic viticulture in 2018 before ultimately becoming certified organic in 2021.

In the cellar, all plots are vinified separately in vats with traditional pump overs and controlled maceration. The goal by the end of fermentation is to try to determine which plots/vats ultimately make it into the Grand Vin and which may end up in the second wine called Blason de L’Évangile. The Grand Vin ages for 18 months in 70% new French oak barrels, and total production of the Grand Vin and Blason de L’Évangile averages about 5,000 cases per vintage.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Château L’Évangile

82% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc; 14% ABV

The 2014 Château L’Évangile is deep ruby in color. Given my first taste and a check-in after 2 hours, I decided to decant this for a full 4-5 hours as it was rather shy. Once it opens up, the aromas are of medium intensity and the nose showcases notes of black cherry, spiced plum, cigar box, new leather, black truffle, clay, cinnamon, and toasted oak. The flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of blackberry, cassis, plum, black licorice, tobacco, scorched earth, sage, chocolate, and oaky spice. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but refined tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $160 (I paid $143). On a relative basis, this wine offers considerable value compared to stronger vintages like 2015 and 2016 which for this bottling are priced closer to the $260-300 range. This wine also shows incredible promise for the future, as I think it needs probably 3-5 more years of cellaring and should drink well for a couple decades beyond that.

Another Solid Value From the 2014 Vintage in Bordeaux

Today’s Story: Château La Conseillante

Château La Conseillante is a historical family-owned wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. The estate traces its roots back to the mid-18th century under the management of Catherine Conseillan where it gets its name, and they produced wines at least as early as 1756 which makes Conseillante one of the oldest estates in Pomerol. Though ownership changed hands a couple times after the passing of Catherine Conseillan, the Nicolas family purchased the estate in 1871 and they run it to this day now in their fifth generation. The original label on the wines dates back to 1871 as well, and it showcases the iconic shield and silver border of the estate. The purple capsule even dates to 1871, when it was chosen to represent the color of the wine, aromas (namely violet) often found in the wine, and so the bottles would stand out in cellars.

Château La Conseillante consists of 12 hectares (30 acres), the same size as when the Nicolas family purchased it, and the vineyards are planted to about 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. Though these vines are in a single vineyard block, they are broken up into 18 different parcels which are vinified separately in the modern winery. All fruit is harvested by hand from yield-controlled vines and then rigorously sorted to ensure only the highest quality fruit makes it into the winery. Once in vats, the fruit goes through cold pre-fermentation maceration for two to four days and then alcoholic fermentation for about a week and one to two weeks of maceration. Free-run wine is run off and any remaining fruit is gently pressed separately to produce “press wine” that is aged separately and only included in the final blend if of utmost quality standards. The Grand Vin ages in 50-80% new oak barrels depending on vintage and this typically lasts around 18 months. The wine is then bottled fined with egg whites but unfiltered.

In addition to the Grand Vin, Château La Conseillante released a second wine called Duo de Conseillante beginning with the 2007 vintage. Total production is about 4,500 cases of wine per vintage, with about 80% of that being the Grand Vin. To explore the estate further, you can visit their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Château La Conseillante

78% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

The 2014 Château La Conseillante is deep ruby in color with hues of deep garnet. I decanted this for 3-4 hours which seemed to put it in a good spot at this point in its life. The aromas are of medium intensity but the nose is fairly complex, showcasing aromas of blackcurrant, black plum, black cherry, violet, cigar box, a hint of black truffle, grilled herbs, pepper, and a touch of oaky spice. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of plum, crème de cassis, black cherry, anise, tobacco, dried green herbs, coffee grounds, and chocolate. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but silky tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $125 (I paid $107). While not the greatest 2014 Pomerol I’ve tried so far, this is certainly a solid value wine for Bordeaux. The “good not great” 2014 vintage proves once again that it deserves attention and considering the 2015 and 2016 vintages of this wine sell for closer to $200 and $250, respectively, this 2014 is certainly worth trying.

Historic Pomerol Estate Showcasing Solid Value in an “OK” Vintage

Today’s Story: Château Certan de May

Château Certan de May (fully Château Certan de May de Certan) is a relatively small but historic wine estate situated in the Right Bank appellation of Pomerol in Bordeaux. The estate was established by the de May (Demay) family, who were Scottish settlers in France during the Middle Ages and received the land by royal decree during the 16th century. It wasn’t until the 18th century, however, that the de May family started producing wines which were well-regarded and products of this excellent terroir. To provide you an idea, the estate once included what is now Vieux Château Certan and Château Certan-Giraud but was divided up following the French Revolution. When the last member of the de May family passed away in 1925, the estate passed to the Barreau-Badar family and they own it to this day under Jean-Luc Barreau.

Relatively small in size, Château Certan de May consists of 5.5 hectares of vineyard land planted to 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon with an average vine age of 35 years. The vineyard soils are made up of clay and deep gravel, in turn yielding grapes and wines that are powerful and structured, yet elegant and complex. All of the fruit is hand-harvested and the winemaking style is quite traditional before the wines age in 60-80% new oak barrels for 16-20 months. From the mid to late 1980s until the mid to late 2000s, quality was hit or miss but has been drastically improved since then. Annual production sits around 2,000 cases per vintage, and pricing generally isn’t too “terrible” relative to many other wines in the appellation.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Château Certan de May

Merlot dominant proprietary blend (vineyards planted to 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon); 13% ABV

The 2011 Château Certan de May is opaque medium ruby in color. This certainly requires decanting, and I found it showing beautifully around the three hour mark and it only got better from there. The aromas are of medium intensity and include blackcurrant, black raspberry, plum, anise, violets, cigar box, forest floor, black truffle, grilled green herbs, and crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors on the palate are of medium intensity and showcase black cherry, plum, blackcurrant, dried tobacco, earthy mushroom, chocolate, cola, cracked pepper, green herbs, and cedar. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $80. I was pleasantly surprised with this bottle, and I believe it offers very solid value given the “ok” vintage. For instance, the incredible 2009 and 2010 vintages sell for closer to $120 or $130. This is a very strong effort.

Beautiful and Opulent Right Bank Bordeaux

Today’s Story: Vieux Château Certan

Vieux Château Certan (VCC) is a preeminent Bordeaux wine estate established in the mid-1700s in Pomerol on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. Though the early years are somewhat murky, the estate was founded by Jean Demay de Certan and the château itself traces to around 1770. Back then, the wines were bottled under the label Sertan. VCC quickly became one of the greatest wines produced in Pomerol and remains at that stature today, with the vineyards flanked by the great Château Pétrus and a short drive from Château Lafleur and Château Le Pin.

In 1924, change occurred when Belgian wine merchant Georges Thienpont (who owned Château Troplong Mondot) purchased VCC. Though the wines remained revered under his ownership, Georges sold everything through his own negociant business and limited its international exposure by doing so. It would not be until the 1980s when VCC started selling en primeur and racking up international acclaim. Though the estate weathered great troubles during the depression of the 1930s, it remains with the Thienpont family to this day. Alexandre Thienpont took over management and has since renovated the estate in 1988 and 2003 to continue constant improvement of the quality of wine. Today, Alexandre’s son Guillaume helps manage the estate and the team remains steadfast in their dedication to traditional winemaking aided by modern technology.

VCC consists of 14 hectares of vineyards, planted to roughly 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The estate practices sustainable farming and come harvest often moves row by row or even vine by vine depending on fruit readiness. VCC vinifies the wine using traditional oak and stainless steel vats that are temperature controlled, with an assortment of vats to allow for parcel by parcel vinification by variety and age of the vines. Production typically caps out at 5,000 cases per year, though there is a second wine called La Gravette de Certan which was introduced during the 1980s by Alexandre.

Fun Fact: Georges Thienpont introduced the iconic pink capsules as a way to track which of his negociant business clients purchased his VCC. Not wanting to offend his clients or make them uncomfortable by asking, he used these pink capsules to quietly and easily spot his wine in his clients’ cellars…or see if it was missing.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Vieux Château Certan

80% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon;

The 2014 Vieux Château Certan is opaque medium ruby in color with deep garnet variation. I let this decant for 4 hours and drank it over the following 3. Once it opens up, the nose expresses aromas of blackberry, plum, blueberry, violet, cigar box, pepper, wet slate, dried herbs, chocolate, and slight oak. Moving to the palate, the wine showcases blackcurrant, black cherry, purple and blue florals, tobacco leaf, black truffle, forest floor, green herbs, mocha, cedar, and rocky mineral. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but velvety tannins, and a long finish. Very opulent and gorgeous wine.

Price: $200. This is a tough price-point to call a wine a good “value,” but I honestly think this fits the bill. 2014 Bordeaux is really starting to show nicely (though it has more than plenty of life left) and the pricing is much easier to stomach than more highly prized vintages around it. I would stock up on this one.