2009 Château Lafleur Pomerol Bordeaux France Wine Tasting Note
Chateau Lafleur, Vineyards, Terroir, Grapes, Winemaking
The 4.58 hectare Pomerol vineyard of Chateau Lafleur is planted in a shape that is unique to Pomerol as it is close to a perfect square. Chateau Lafleur is located in the heart of the Pomerol plateau. Their closest neighbors are La Fleur Petrus, Petrus, Vieux Chateau Certan and Hosanna. No sign exists announcing you are at Lafleur. It remains a humble, understated property. Four different soil types complement each other in a unique way to make their terroir.
To the north-west, they have a gravel hillock with a brown gravelly soil.
To the south, brown sandy-gravelly soil over a gravelly-clay sub-soil.
To the east, brown sandy-gravelly soil over a sandy-clay sub-soil.
Located exactly dead center in the middle of the Chateau Lafleur Pomerol vineyard is a crescent-shaped area with deeper soils ranging from sandy-silt to brown sand. This small,.69 hectare parcel is where the grapes used to produce Pensees de Lafleur come from.
The combination of these different, complementary soils gives the wines of Chateau Lafleur their uniqueness, balance, complexity and most importantly, character. According to the owner, Jacques Guinaudeau, those soils are poor, which makes them perfectly suited to grape vine growing. He added, "It is our job, as vine growers, to do everything to enable each vine plant to find its best expression. We have to monitor and follow the vines throughout their natural growing season, taking into account the character of each vintage and without excessive intervention".
The soils at Lafleur are never turned. They are simply raked. This allows the large gravel stones to remain at the top of surface where the stones can capture and radiate the heat from the sun to the vines. At Chateau Lafleur, they installed a new drainage system that helps to remove excess rainwater during periods of wet weather.
They have also developed soil maintenance techniques (hoeing, spiking and deep ploughing) that avoid turning over the soil and result in improved aeration in the soil, while avoiding excessive transpiration in the spring. Finally, they never work in the soil in July to favor the slight vine water deficit in the summer. This aids in the ripening process.
At Chateau Lafleur, they manually prune and work with each vine, one at a time. Jacques says, "Lafleur's vineyard is tended like a large garden where each plant is given its own particular attention". This work is necessary at Chateau Lafleur, due to how the vineyard is organized. The organization takes into consideration both the terroir and number of vines. For example, in the gravel with clay soils, there are 7,500 vines planted. In the gravel with sand, that is in the middle of the vineyard, you find 5,250 vines. The largest section of the vineyard, with more clay and gravel soil, you find 8,250 vines. In total, there are close to 21,000 vines planted at Chateau Lafleur. Trust me on this, at Lafleur, they know each and every vine.
At Chateau Lafleur, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are often located next to each other in the same parcel or row of vines. The vines have been marked and color coded allowing the workers to know which vine is which. The vineyard is divided into 24 separate parcels. The vineyard is planted to a vine density that ranges from 6,000 vines per hectare to 7,500 vines per hectare. The vines are old, which gives the wine of Chateau Lafleur much of it's character. The average age of the vines is close to 40 years of age, but the estate also has much older vines as well, because many of their vines were not replanted after the frost of 1956.
The unique quality and character of Lafleur comes from their blend of equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot, a blend more often seen in St. Emilion that Pomerol. At Chateau Lafleur, they use the highest percentage of Cabernet Franc in the entire Pomerol appellation. Once the fruit changes color for both varietals, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, they begin visiting each plot on a daily basis, checking on the progress of the grapes.
It is important for Jacques to walk in the vineyards tasting fruit from different blocks to determine the level of ripeness on a daily basis. At Lafleur, they are truly seeking full phenolic ripeness, when it is possible, which of course depends on the character and quality of the vintage. The plots and sub plots are picked one at a time, to ensure they are all harvested at the maximum level of ripeness.
To produce the wine of Chateau Lafleur, after sorting, the grapes arrive at the vat cellar where they are vinified in small, traditional cement vats for grapes destined for Chateau Lafleur. They have 12 tanks that range in size from 30 hectoliters up to 80 hectoliters. Malolactic fermentation takes place in barrel, a practice that started in 1991. Following a maceration period of three weeks, the wine is run off the skins into French, oak barrels where it stays for several months before they decide on the blends. The amount of new French oak varies, depending on the quality and character of the vintage. In general, Chateau Lafleur is aged in an average of 50% New, French oak barrels for about 15 months.
At Chateau Lafleur, they do not consider Pensees de Lafleur a second wine. They feel that as it comes from a specific section of their Pomerol vineyards, and it's blend is quite different from that of Lafleur, Pensees de Lafleur is its own unique wine. The fruit used to produce Pensees de Lafleur is vinified in temperature controlled, small, stainless steel tanks and aged in less new oak barrels than they use for the Grand Vin.
Jacques and Sylvie Guinaudeau also produce two red wines and white Bordeaux wine at their home estate in Fronsac, Grand Village and G Guinaudeau which comes in various different bottling's each vintage. That is because each vintage has its own, unique, numbered name, Acte 1, Acte 2, Acte 3 and so on.
The best vintages of Chateau Lafleur are: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1986, 1985, 1983, 1982, 1975, 1964, 1961, 1959, 1955, 1950, 1948, 1947 and 1945.
Chateau Lafleur is a unique expression of Pomerol. In the best vintages, it combines power, elegance, opulence and an exotic, kinky, over ripe, dark cherry and minerality character, that delivers one of the finest and most unique sensations found in any wine. It is also among the longest lived wines from Pomerol as well as in all of Bordeaux. The best vintages take 2 to 3 decades to develop their incredible character.
1982 Chateau Lafleur is a contender for the wine of the vintage. Having tasted it on multiple occasions, that is certainly my view. The 1982 Lafleur was made by Christian Moueix and Jean-Claude Berrouet. I bring this up because it's interesting to note that even though this is one of the great wines of the 20th century, the wine was made with almost no selection and perhaps at most, 10% new, French oak barrels.
Not that long ago, Lafleur was not an expensive wine. Catalogs from the 70's show Lafleur selling for about the same price as Grand Puy Lacoste. Petrus at the time was selling for the same price as a First Growth. This changed during the 80's, when people began tasting this remarkable wine. Today, only millionaires can afford it. But for people that can find the wine and afford it, Chateau Lafleur offers one of the world's most compelling wine tasting experiences.
Chateau Lafleur is not a wine to drink young. It needs time to develop its nuances. Depending on the vintage, 15-20 or 30 years of bottle age will add dramatically to the wines complexities and unique textural characteristics. This is the one wine in Pomerol that not only rivals Petrus, it can even be better in certain vintages!
Serving and Decanting Chateau Lafleur with Wine, Food, Pairing Tips
Chateau Lafleur is best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift. Young vintages can be decanted for 2-4 hours. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment. Chateau Lafleur is best paired with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes. Chateau Lafleur is also good when matched with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, mushrooms and pasta.