Dating back to the 18th century, Clos L’Eglise is situated in the heart of Pomerol, on Bordeaux’s Right Bank of the Gironde Estuary. The estate covers 5.9 hectares of the gravelly, clay plateau located in the center of the appellation, with L’Eglise-Clinet and Clinet to the south, Le Gay and Lafleur to the east, and Latour A Pomerol and Feytit-Clinet to the west. The estate has a long, storied, and complex history, but was purchased in 1996/1997 by Sylvaine Garcin-Cathiard, who is the sister of Daniel Cathiard, the owner of Smith Haut Lafitte outside of the village of Leognan. At this time, Sylvaine’s daughter, Hélène Garcin, took over the management of the estate and was joined by her husband, Patrice Levêque, shortly thereafter. The estate was in dire need of repairs (the first vintage had to be vinified at Chateau Haut-Bergey, also owned by the Cathiard family) and the family quickly went about renovating the cellar as well as the vineyards. Consultant Michel Rolland joined the team at this time, followed by Alain Raynaud, and most recently, the talented Thomas Duclos in 2015. The estate is managed today by Hélène and husband Patrice Levêque, with both taking an active role in the vineyards and winemaking.
Despite the Clos in the name, which normally means a vineyard is surrounded by a wall, Clos L’Eglise has no such wall and consists of eight parcels, all located around the winery. While the vineyard was planted to upwards of 20% Cabernet Sauvignon in the past, today it is comprised of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, planted at a vine density of 7,150 vines per acre, which certainly falls into the high-density category for Pomerol. The farming is all organic and is managed brilliantly by Patrice Levêque.
There are roughly 2,000 cases of the Grand Vin in most vintages, with a second wine, the Esprit de l’Eglise, being introduced by Hélène and coming from the deeper, sandier portions of the vineyard. The wines are vinified in stainless steel tanks and the aging consists of 16-18 months in 100% new 300-liter, French oak barrels. While early vintages saw long macerations and plenty of extraction, the focus has shifted slightly towards lighter extractions and an emphasis on purity and freshness today. Nevertheless, the style at this address has remained relatively stable, which I think is a mark of a great terroir, as well as a great winemaking team.
This tasting took place at Château Barde-Haut and was a blind tasting of vintages spanning from 1998 to 2016. Walking through the vintages, both the 1998 and 2000 are powerful, concentrated Pomerols drinking brilliantly today. These are both fully mature yet blossom with air and have plenty of life ahead of them. There is no need to delay gratification with these. The 2001 isn’t far off and shows a much more elegant, finesse-driven, medium-bodied style. Those that cherish old-school, finesse-driven claret favoring complexity and precision over texture and richness will like this even more than I did. I wasn’t able to taste the 2002, but the 2003 was still alive and kicking, although it showed dry tannins and the stressful, hot character of the vintage. It’s best drunk up.
The 2005 is more in the rich, powerful style of 1998, 2000, 2009, and other more blockbuster years. Still, it shows wonderful elegance and purity and is a beautiful wine just now at the early stages of full maturity. While 1998 to 2003 are all fully mature, from 2005 on, the wines are still relatively young, yet always accessible. The 2006, 2007, and 2008 are all classic, seamless, approachable Pomerols drinking well today. I was shocked at how well the 2007 showed, and this vintage is just incredibly expressive and satisfying today.
My favorite of the tasting was the 2009 and this gorgeous effort offers massive richness while still possessing the classic elegance this appellation is known for. Time will tell if the 2010, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019 will reach the same level (I wouldn’t bet against them) but for current drinking, the 2009 is pure gold. The 2010 was more closed and backward, showing a more focused, structured style compared to the 2009. It needs a solid decant if drinking anytime soon and another 2-3 years of bottle age should put it in a sweet spot. The 2011 also was surprisingly good, with beautiful fruit as well as sweet tannins. This vintage has been maligned by the press but the tannins have softened since release and as a whole, most 2011s are drinking well today. Both the 2012 and 2014 are charming wines that have plenty of upfront appeal. 2012 is clearly a better vintage, but this estate made a beautiful 2014. Both are textured, balanced, and should cruise for 15 years or more. I think the 2015 and 2016 are on another level, with the 2015 reminiscent of the 2009 in style and the 2016 a slightly sexier version of the 2010. The 2016 is a step up, but I have both of these in my cellar.