Beautiful Vistas, Beautiful Wine
The highest vineyard in Pomerol, Château Petit-Village creates mouth-watering reds
Article by Catherine Ferguson
Sometimes overshadowed by their big brothers just up the road in Saint Emilion, the vineyards and indeed the wines, of Pomerol are utterly delightful; few more so than those of Château Petit-Village.
Breaking free from Saint Emilion to become an appellation in its own right in 1936, Pomerol was named after the old orchards in which the monks grew apples, peaches and the occasional vine. I would be surprised if there’s a single apple or peach tree left, as the vines stretch as far as the eye can see. Situated on the Pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela, Petit Village takes its name from the clusters of tiny hamlets, inns and hospitals where pilgrims laid their weary heads en route.
Thirty six metres above sea level may not sound like dizzy heights, but for Château Petit-Village, the benefits of being the highest winemakers in Pomerol make all the difference. Their Technical Director, Diana Berrouet-Garcia, tells us tales of their neighbours on lower ground who have been badly affected by this year’s late frosts, employing every tactic from fires around the perimeters of the vines, to early morning helicopter flights to help circulate what little warm air there may be. While she laments the fate of some other local crops, she seems to be at ease as her vines appear to have escaped relatively unscathed. Nonetheless, the Agricultural Engineer turned winemaker assures us that she could never rest on her laurels and remains, like any farmer, at the mercy of the elements.
Château Petit-Village, above all else, is absolutely beautiful. Their recently restored buildings were designed to ensure visibility of their small, but perfectly formed vineyard from every window. They sit at the heart of a triangle of ten hectares of Southwest-facing fields, which are home to a dominance of Merlot with a smattering of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Despite much evidence of new equipment and technology, it’s heart warming to hear how many of their practices have evolved or simply been maintained from their forefathers. Horse-drawn ploughs are used on rows of vines planted just after World War 2 to limit soil compaction, whilst they also grow grass cover and rest their fields with a bee-friendly meadow to aid pollination.
So what about the wines? Well they’re pretty damn delightful too. Le Jardin de Petit-Village is 100 per cent Merlot. Young, light, with an abundance of red fruit, it’s a great summer lunchtime wine and would be the perfect accompaniment to the pâté, ham and soft cheese stalwarts of any self-respecting picnic basket. Château Petit-Village is their grand vin and sets itself apart from many Pomerol wines through the addition of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Described by our host as a ‘shy’ wine, it has more depth and length and the strong blackberry notes offer a more Autumnal feel.
For those lucky enough to find themselves at a loose end in Bordeaux, visits can be arranged and the opportunity to take a picnic from local producers, Ferme Assiette, should not be passed up. On this side of the Channel, they are widely available online or from several London-based wine merchants, including Friarwood and Davy’s Wine Shop.
Photographs courtesy of ©Château Petit-Village 2008 A Benoit