Wine of the moment

The hard life of a Master of Wine: vertical Pomerol tasting

It’s a hard life being a Master of Wine but somebody’s got to do it. And when a vertical tasting comes your way, you don’t decline the invitation. It is nigh on impossible to put together a tasting from one property spanning several decades of wine without a) being the property owner with a library of older vintages or b) being a wine-lover with lots of money and patience to build up your own spectacular cellar. Being neither of these, I was thrilled to be invited to this vertical of Pomerol Château Certan de May with wines ranging from 1990 through to 2017.

Château Certan de May, a small estate of 5.5 ha, is situated in one of the best locations in Pomerol on loam and gravel just opposite Vieux-Chateau-Certan and not far from Pétrus. There is a high percentage of Cabernet in the blend (by Pomerol standards, which are predominantly or often entirely Merlot) which gives the wines good depth and backbone alongside the seductive opulence and fleshiness of the Merlot. The grapes are picked by hand as late as possible, de-stemmed, undergo a long maceration on skins and are then aged in barriques, of which around 40% are new. Interestingly with this tasting, some lesser vintages, such as 1991 and 1999, showed really well, whereas 1990, which ought to have been stunning, was past its best. My favourites were 2006 and 2008, neither of which are usually considered to be the best vintages, but which both showed ample, supple plum, sloe and liquorice fruit, a silky, elegant texture and fine-grained, well-integrated tannins. A couple of observations: there seemed to be a style change from 2010 onwards, with the wines becoming riper, softer and less tannic and the difference between vintages was extremely marked ie the house style was more difficult to define.

If you ever get the chance to take part in such a tasting, then grab it with both hands. This is „compare and contrast“ at its best.