Pomerol and Saint-Émilion – The Intensity and Complexity of Wines from Libournais

‘The Right Bank’, the vineyards located on the eastern bank of the Dordogne and the Gironde, is the area where two of the most famous appellations of the Libournais region are located, Pomerol and Saint-Émilion, both known for their wines that are excellent in their youth but able to give their best over time.

Saint-Émilion and Pomerol are appellations next to each other which have some remarkably different characteristics such as, for example, the extent of the vineyards and the composition of the soil. But, at the same time share some factors, such as the influence of the Isle and Dordogne rivers that moderate the hot temperatures in summer and cold ones in winter, especially the latter factor is very important in offering protection against the risk of frost to which the region is prone.

The Growing Environment

With about 800 hectares of vineyards, Pomerol is one of the smallest appellations of Bordeaux. Among its identity features there is the soil composition, a plateau that degrades into consecutive terraces towards the Dordogne, where on the surface there is limestone and sand, while the rocky subsoil is formed by clay rich in iron, known as “Crasse de fer”. The scarce depth of the soil, combined with its draining capability, could make the vines suffer, in particularly in dry years.

The extension of the Saint-Émilion appellation is about 5,500 hectares and here the soils are more varied. A limestone plateau surrounds the village that gives its name to the appellation, while soils composed of limestone and clay are found on the gentle hills that extend further away until you get to the plain of the Dordogne valley, which is made of sand and pebbles. In 1999, the village of Saint-Émilion was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, to protect its “cultural landscape”; an important recognition of the unique character and universal importance of the Saint-Émilion vineyard.

The climate of Libournais allows a balance between tannins, sugar and acidity in the grapes to be reached, an essential factor in obtaining the typical longevity of the great vintages of Bordeaux.

The Bordeaux region as a whole has a maritime climate, in which the Atlantic Ocean from the West plays an essential role with its cold influence, but this influence affects to a lesser extent Libournais which is inland and therefore less exposed.

The difference in temperature between winter and summer, as well as a low diurnal range, in the best years the temperatures are quite warm and steady throughout the season, around 13°C on average and relatively dry and warm autumns, especially in their initial part, ensure constant and complete maturation.

Rainfall levels are around 900mm per year, a level appropriate to the development of plants and the ripening of grapes. However, the difference in the amount of rainfall from year to year, as well as the timing of raining during the season, are extremely variable and this can cause problems during flowering with delays in ripening, as well as an increase in the spread of fungi and diseases with potential negative effects on yields, but especially on the quality of the yields.

Climate change in Bordeaux is now an undeniable reality. In the last twenty years warmer and drier summers have been recorded, to which the varieties, both white and black, cultivated in Bordeaux have proven to be able to resist for now. However, in recent years where conditions have been particularly extreme, some wines have been found to be unbalanced showing lower acidity and higher alcohol than in the past.

Biodiversity and Sustainability

Sustainability is about a productive approach, with a broad spectrum, that also includes areas such as corporate social responsibility and actions to adapt to climate change.

The entire Bordeaux region has been trying, for a long time now, to take countermeasures to fight back climate change, focusing on the safeguard of natural resources, the ecosystem and more generally the enrichment of biodiversity, with the long-term aim of achieving a more sustainable viticulture.

The fact that the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel Du Vin De Bordeaux) each year invests around €1.2 million in research (of which €400,000 is intended to reduce the use of pesticides) shows the effective efforts of the entire region in tackling these issues.

Due to the wide extension of the Bordeaux region, there are a large and varied number of producers, and at the same time different production approaches, which result in an equally large number of labels and environmental certifications that very often coexist. The producers covered by today’s article have selected different environmental certification paths.

High Environmental Value (HVE)

The French Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty has introduced a voluntary approach to recognise the performance and improvements in the environmental field of farms and among these wineries are also included.  The certification ensures that the pressure of agricultural practices on the environment is kept to a minimum.

The HVE system is based on 3 levels; to reach a higher level is compulsory to comply with all the requirements of the lower one. HVE Level 3 represents the highest environmental certification that farms can achieve in France and is based on four key areas: maintaining biodiversity, conservative agriculture, conscious use of fertilisers, and water management. If all conditions are met, the company can show the HVE logo on its products.


This certification program assures respect for the environment, society and more generally the economic sustainability of the winery; Terra Vitis is a double certification scheme where every member is certified HVE Level 3. The certification is valid for both the company and its products and is the only specific for the wine sector recognised by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty.

Vineyards and Vines

Traditionally, the density of vineyards in Bordeaux is high, for the most renowned vineyards about 10,000 plants per hectare, one metre apart with one metre between the rows. The less prestigious vineyards, on the other hand, have a planting density that is drastically reduced to even 3,000 plants per hectare.

Here is a summary of the characteristics of the grapes used to produce the wines tasted: 

Merlot: a medium ripening black grape variety that can also be grown on “cold” soils such as those of Libournais. It is characterised by large berries and can accumulate high levels of sugar and thus reach high levels of potential alcohol. In the Bordeaux blends it gives aromas of strawberry, red plum, herbaceous notes in the colder years and blackberry and black plum in the warmer years, as well as medium-high levels of alcohol.

Cabernet Franc: an early budding and medium ripening black grape variety, which can be harvested before the autumn rains begin. The variety is resistant to cold climates and the wines made from it are characterised by intense aromas of raspberry, red currant and violet. It is light bodied with medium tannin, but with high acidity.

Château Franc La Rose – Grand Cru Saint-Émilion A.O.C. – 2019

75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc 

The Trocard family has been running vineyards for 15 generations in the heart of Libournais. The business started in the seventeenth century with a few hectares of vineyards, but the real development occurred in 1976 when the size of the company increased from 20 to 90 hectares scattered on selected terroirs in the appellations of Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Lussac Saint-Émilion. The company is certified as TerraVitis.

Château Franc La Rose is located on a clay-limestone plateau in the municipality of Saint-Émilion and the vineyard has an extension of about 6 hectares, where vines have an average age of 40 years old are carefully trained. The grapes are hand-harvested. The wine after fermentation spends 4 to 5 weeks in contact with the skins and ages for 18 months in French oak barriques before being bottled and put on the market.

  • Look: deep ruby.
  • Smell: pronounced aroma intensity of rose, red cherry, redcurrant, red plum, blackberry, blackcurrant, black plum, cinnamon, liquorice, vanilla, cloves, chocolate.
  • Taste: Dry, high acidity, high ripe tannin, high alcohol, full bodied, pronounced flavour intensity, long finish.
  • Pairing: entrecôte à la Bordelaise.

Château Maillet – Pomerol A.O.C. – 2018

95% Merlot , 5% Cabernet Franc

Château Maillet belongs to the Moze-Berthon family, whose history has been linked to Pomerol since the beginning of the 19th century. Over time, the company bought vineyards also in the appellations of Saint-Émilion and Montagne Saint-Émilion. Château Maillet is a “new” wine within the Pomerol appellation; in fact, it has only been produced since 2015. The winery is part of the Vignerons Indépendants and certified HVE Level 3.

The grapes come from a vineyard of just 1.5 hectares located in the far north-east of the appellation. The soil is composed of sand and gravel with a clay-silt subsoil characterised by “Crasse de fer”. The wine is produced with micro-vinifications in 100% new oak barrels and is looking for the perfect integration and balance between the wine and the oak.

  • Look: deep ruby.
  • Smell: pronounced aroma intensity of red cherry, red currant, red plum, blackberry, blackcurrant, black plum, liquorice, black pepper, vanilla, cloves, charred wood, smoke, earth, mushroom, tobacco, meat.
  • Taste: dry, high acidity, high ripe tannin, high alcohol, full bodied, pronounced flavour intensity, long finish.
  • Pairing: veal chop with morel mushrooms.

For more information on the wines tasted, here are the producers’ website: Vignobles Jean-Louis Trocard | Vignboles Moze-Berthon

Did you like this article? Share it now!
Have you had a chance to taste these wines? Leave a comment, let us know what you think.
posted in:
Red Wine

I live in a stunning and charming land, where wine culture is a pivotal element in everyday life and has been part of the culture for centuries.
I believe that wine tasting, although requiring a certain rigor, should be fun, and above all it has to be a sensory and enriching journey.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *