Chateau La Conseillante
The 1855 classification system casts a long shadow over
Bordeaux. Despite being the subject of much criticism over
the past century or so, the system, and its various ‘grand
cru’ epithets, still maintain a hegemony, of sorts, with the
aristocratic cru classe chateaux lording it over the middle
class cru bourgeois and the plain old working class AOC
Pomerol, though, was spared having its wines allotted
their individual social classes in this way, primarily
because the appellation, together with Saint Emilion and the
Graves (with the notable exception of Haut Brion), was not
particularly highly regarded at the time. The irony is, of
course, that Pomerol’s top estates, such as Petrus and Le
Pin, have been producing some of the most highly regarded
and expensive wine in the world for some years now – an
irony perhaps not lost on the estates themselves, which,
unlike neighbouring Saint Emilion, have never felt the
necessity of introducing their own system.
Most fans of Pomerol, though, will know that there is a
widely established, albeit slightly covert, pecking order. And, at
the top of this order, sitting alongside such wines as
Lafleur, Petrus and L’Evangile, is the lesser known, and,
thankfully, considerably cheaper, Chateau La Conseillante; a
wine that embodies all that is great about Pomerol.
Situated near to the border with Saint Emilion (and just
across the road from Cheval Blanc), La Conseillante’s vines
sit on mixed soils; there is some clay, some sand and some
gravel. There are twelve hectares of vines, and the mix is
around 75% merlot, 15% cabernet franc and 5% malbec, which,
generally is mirrored in the blend of the final wine.
Harvesting is manual, and the wine is aged in primarily new oak
barrels for around eighteen months prior to bottling.
For those of you brought up on the notion that merlot
dominated wines are flavoursome, but ultimately shallow
wines that one drinks before progressing to more serious
stuff, a great Pomerol, like La Coinseillante, will come as
something of a surprise, such is the sheer depth of flavour
of the finest examples.
Our recommended vintage – the 2005 – exemplifies
everything that is fine, both about this estate and the
appellation in general. On the nose there are extremely well
defined notes of plums and damsons, whilst the palate
exhibits a supremely stylish combination of redcurrants,
bitter dark chocolate and a notion of vanilla pods. The
tannins are well developed, but do not dominate, lending the
wine ample complexity and a firm but smooth finish.
This is a wine that will develop for many years in the
bottle, but, although it will reward patience, it remains a
comparatively forward wine that will not punish, with
austerity and harshness, the inquisitive early drinker.
In essence, despite its long history, La Conseillante is
not an outwardly showy wine; it does not have the fame of
Petrus, the infamy of the right bank’s garage wines, or the
honorific titles of the grand premier cru gang. Instead, it
lets the wine speak for itself, and with a wine as good as
this, that is all that is needed.