Monday, May 18, 2009

Chateau Petite Village - Pomerol


We awoke to slightly cloudy skies, but by late morning they faded away and we were treated to another sunny blue sky with a high of around 68 F. After a pleasant breakfast with Bernard, we packed our luggage and said good-bye, but not before buying 2 bottles of his wine – 2003 to drink now and 2005 to save – as well as 2 of the boxed bottles of merlot salt he was selling. We then headed towards our destination in Pomerol, passing Ausone and Cheval Blanc along the way – both estates I was privileged to visit last April.

We then drove to Chateau Petite Village – a short 10 minute drive through the vineyards, and were greeted by Lori Julia, the PR director who provided an excellent tour of the winery. Originally from San Francisco, Lori spoke excellent English with an American accent. She explained that the rather strange name of the chateau of “petite village” came from the fact that the center of Pomerol was once thought to have been near the chateau. Indeed Pomerol is tiny – consisting of one small main street and a beautiful church. However, all around the village you can see famous names such as Petrus and Le Pin. Lori pointed out these properties to us while we walked around the Petite Village vineyards – the origins of which were thought to be planted in the 18th century.

With only 800 hectares of vineyards in the Pomerol AOC and 140 producers, most are quite small. Petite Village is one of the larger ones with 11 hectares arranged in a triangle shape on gravel, clay, and the distinct red iron pan rock of the region. With 75% planted to merlot, the vines are single guyot with 1.5 to 1.3 spacing and yield 4 to 6 bunches per vine. They achieve 35 hectoliters per hectare and employee lutte raisonnĂ©e viticulture. An interesting fact that Lori shared was that Pomerol is the most expensive vineyard land in Bordeaux ranging from $60k to $2 million Euros per hectare – which calculates out to around $300E per vine. However, Pomerol is not filled with the massive and ancient castles of other regions – but has smaller wineries, with many looking like fancy barns.

At Petite Village, the grapes are picked by hand with the first triage (selection) in the field and another very careful one in the cellar using a sorting table with an elevator that gently lifts the grapes at each phase along the way. They are destemmed, but not crushed and gently transported to new, square, black, cement fermentation tanks (the winery has just been refurbished and looks like a work of art). The tanks are built in different sizes – though it doesn’t show from the outside – to accommodate different sized lots. All grapes are fermented separately by lot and varietal. Indigenous yeast is used with a 3 day cold soak, 10-15 day alcoholic fermentation at 29C, and a post maceration – causing total maceration time to last around 20 days. Pigeage and pump-overs are conducted 3 – 4 times per day. Lori showed us the pigeage pole which looked rather like a large steel pogo-stick.

After fermentation the free run juice is pumped to barrel, while the remainder is pressed with a vertical basket press. ML takes place in barrel with the Chateau Petite Village first label receiving 60-70% new oak for 14-16 months with medium toast. They rack 3 times, adding SO2 as needed. They blend in Jan/Feb in stainless steel tank and fine with egg whites at the same time. The wine is then placed back into barrel before being bottled in April using a mobile bottling line – which is common for smaller wineries in both Pomerol and St. Emilion. There are only 5 full-time employees at Petite Village, though they are part of the famous AXA Millesimes group of 8 European wineries.

We tasted the 2004 and 2005 Ch. Petite Village and found the first to be a dark red garnet with a spicy fruitcake nose and earth, herbs and anise on the palate with fine tannins. It was made in the softer more elegant style of Pomerol, but had the leaner herbal edge of the cooler 2004 vintage. The 2005 was a much darker red-black color with a cassis/plum nose and palate, great velvety tannins and firm structure and med++ acid. Definitely a more concentrated wine, but still possessing the finesse of Pomerol.

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