If you compare Pomerol vs. Saint-Émilion in a blind tasting, can you tell the difference? Even many well-educated Bordeaux connoisseurs can’t tell these wines apart. Because these appellations are neighbors located in the northwestern region of the Right Bank, their climates are very similar and both areas produce rich, complex Merlot-based blends with great aging potential.
Still, there are a few subtle differences in flavor between Pomerol and Saint-Émilion wines. With practice, you can train your palate to identify some of these nuances. Whether you want to improve your blind tasting skills or you’re just looking for a Pomerol or Saint-Émilion wine that matches your tastes and preferences, this guide can help you gain a deeper understanding of these two iconic Bordeaux regions and the wine they produce.
Comparing Pomerol vs. Saint-Émilion Wine Characteristics
In a blind tasting, it would be immensely difficult to pin down the exact appellation of Right Bank wines like 2010 Château Pavie or 2010 Vieux Château Certan. Both of these wines are made from a similar blend of grapes–Saint-Émilion’s Château Pavie contains 84 percent Merlot, 14 percent Cabernet Franc, and two percent Cabernet Sauvignon; Pomerol’s Vieux Château Certan contains 86 percent Merlot, eight percent Cabernet Franc, and six percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Even professional wine critics use similar tasting notes to describe these two wines. For example, Stephen Tanzer of International Wine Cellar describes both wines as having prominent aromas of licorice and bitter chocolate. They are also both somewhat chewy and tightly wound right now but will soften and develop greater complexity after many decades of age. When you place these deep ruby wines side by side, it’s easy to see–and taste–a kinship between them.
If the wine has a high concentration of black fruit flavors and you taste very little oak in the blend, then it’s probably from Pomerol.
However, that doesn’t mean that these wines are exactly alike. They each have characteristics that are unique to their appellation that you can use to tell them apart. One of the main differences you’ll notice when comparing Pomerol vs. Saint-Émilion is that Saint-Émilion wines often (though not always) contain slightly more Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. In vintages where a high percentage of these two varieties is used in the blend, Saint-Émilion wines have strong structure and acidity as well as more red fruit notes and oak spices. This is because Saint-Émilion producers often heavily oak their Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. You can taste this in the 2010 Château Pavie vintage. Tanzer says this wine has “sexy oak” and “pungent spice” flavors but doesn’t use these types of descriptors for the same Vieux Château Certan vintage.
In general, if the wine has a high concentration of black fruit flavors and you taste very little oak in the blend, then it’s probably from Pomerol. These wines may appeal slightly more to collectors who enjoy the bold flavors of Napa Valley Merlot or Cabernet but who prefer wines that are less heavily oaked than most New-World offerings. If, on the other hand, the wine has notes of baking spices or a slightly brighter fruit character, it’s likely from Saint-Émilion. These wines will appeal to you if you enjoy more oak or often drink New-World wines from cooler climates like Washington or Oregon.
Differentiating Pomerol and Saint-Émilion Producers
Another way to tell Pomerol and Saint-Émilion wines apart is by becoming familiar with the unique styles of individual producers. For example, Château Pétrus tastes unlike any other wine from Pomerol. Its sticky blue clay soil is located nowhere else in Bordeaux and it retains a great deal of water. Merlot thrives in deep, dense soils like this because it keeps the vines cool and allows the grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. As such, Château Pétrus wines are richer in flavor and far more complex than many other wines made in either Pomerol or Saint-Émilion; as a result, they tend to be easier to pick out in a blind tasting.
Before doing a tasting of any of these producers, make a list of the descriptors that critics most often used to describe the producer’s wines.
To practice comparing and contrasting Pomerol vs. Saint-Émilion wine characteristics, select a few of the top producers from each region and familiarize yourself with their most notable characteristics. Start with these top producers:
- Château Certan de May
- Château Clinet
- Clos L’Église
- Château Gazin
- Château La Conseillante
- Château Lafleur
- Château La Fleur de Gay
- Château La Fleur-Pétrus
- Château Latour â Pomerol
- Château L’Évangile
- Château Le Pin
- Château Pétrus
- Château Trotanoy
- Vieux Château Certan
- Château Angélus
- Château Ausone
- Château Beauséjour
- Château Beau-Séjour Bécot
- Château Belair-Monange
- Château Canon
- Château Cheval Blanc
- Château Clos Fourtet
- Château Figeac
- Château La Gaffelière
- Château La Mondotte
- Château Larcis-Ducasse
- Château Magdelaine
- Château Pavie
- Château Pavie-Macquin
- Château Troplong-Mondot
- Château Valandraud
Before doing a tasting of any of these producers, first make a list of the descriptors that professional critics most often used in tasting notes to describe the producer’s wines. When you drink wine from these producers, see if you can identify the flavors on this list. This unique combination of flavors will give you a sense of the profile of each producer and help you identify that producer’s wines in the future. You should also try to separate cool vintages from warm vintages, as this impacts the overall flavor of the wines.
Next, sample wines from the same vintage but different producers. You could separate this tasting into three rounds. In the first round, try a flight of wines from different Saint-Émilion producers. In the second round, do the same for Pomerol producers. In the final round, sample a mix of wines from both regions and see if you can tell the difference between them. After some practice, you may be able to identify some of the best producers above by taste alone.
Pomerol and Saint-Émilion Taste Very Similar in Warm Vintages
One important thing to keep in mind as you learn to contrast Pomerol vs. Saint-Émilion wines is that wines from these two appellations tend to taste more similar in warm years than they do in cooler years. This is because Merlot grown in warm vintages is often bolder in flavor and higher in residual sugar. Normally, wines from Saint-Émilion aren’t quite as bold in flavor as those from Pomerol, but when the weather is hot, these wines develop darker fruit flavors overall, making them taste more similar to Pomerol wines. It’s also more difficult to identify the subtle oak spices in Saint-Émilion wines when the wine is more fruit-forward than usual.
If you’re practicing for a Bordeaux blind tasting or you simply want to improve your tasting skills, take a look at the list of notably warm vintages below. These will be some of the trickiest vintages to tell apart:
|Pomerol Wine to Try
|Saint-Émilion Wine to Try
|2017 Château L’Évangile
|2017 Château Angélus
|2015 Château Clinet
|2015 Château La Mondotte
|2013 Château Lafleur
|2013 Château Troplong-Mondot
|2003 Château Pétrus
|2003 Château Pavie
|1998 Château L’Évangile
|1998 Château Ausone
You should still be able to taste the difference between individual producers from Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, but these vintages may be difficult to identify in a blind tasting. Practicing your tasting skills on these wines, in particular, will help you hone your palate.
Pomerol vs. Saint-Émilion: Which Should You Collect?
Ultimately, the differences between Pomerol and Saint-Émilion are so minor that it may not be worth spending too much time on them. In the end, the vast majority of wine drinkers who enjoy Pomerol will also enjoy Saint-Émilion and vice-versa. Wines from the top producers and vintages of both communes also have high secondary market value and you can make a profit from reselling bottles from both Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. Pomerol’s Château Pétrus makes the most valuable wines in the Right Bank, but you can also make a profit from reselling quality bottles from other excellent Pomerol producers like Château Lafleur and Clos L’Église or Saint-Émilion producers like Château Angélus and Château Pavie.
The Pomerol and Saint-Émilion regions produce some of the finest examples of Merlot in all of France.
The best Pomerol and Saint-Émilion wines age for ten to 20 years, sometimes more in top vintages. There’s no regional difference in aging potential, which makes it easy to collect and age a mix of these wines. For example, if you buy 2005 Château l’Église-Clinet from Pomerol as well as 2005 Château Larcis-Ducasse from Saint-Émilion, both of these wines will be drinking well in about five years time. The Pomerol and Saint-Émilion regions produce some of the finest examples of Merlot in all of France. By building a collection of wine from both areas, you’ll sharpen your palate and broaden your wine expertise.
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