Château Petrus Château Petrus
March 31, 2017, James Molesworth
“This has lush, fleshy layers of blackberry, fig and black currant confiture rumbling through, pushed by notes of charcoal and warm tobacco leaf. Ganache hints fill in on the finish. Bass-driven, with a serious knot of tannins that have yet to stretch out, but the core of fruit is way too serious to doubt. Best from 2020 through 2035.”
Little known 50 years ago, this château has seen the rise of a myth about the uniqueness of its wine. The wine’s inimitability is due to many factors including an exceptional terroir. The vineyard is 40 meters above sea level, the highest point of the appellation, and has a layer of heavy clay soil and an iron subsoil. These are ideal conditions for the expression of the Merlot grape. With such a special terroir, the approach in the vineyard and cellar is traditional and respectful.
The 11.5-hectare vineyard of Pétrus is located on a plateau in the eastern portion of Pomerol. 100% is planted with Merlot grapes. The soil consists of a high percentage of iron-rich clay. The estate was among the first in Bordeaux to implement green-harvesting as a way to lower crop yields and raise the quality of the remaining grapes. The yield is among the lowest in Bordeaux partly through éclaircissage or green-harvesting to concentrate the power and quality of the remaining crop (eliminating up to 50% of the crop in certain years). What makes the terroir of Pétrus so unique? The clay soils of Pétrus are at least 40 million years old. The thick gravel on the surrounding plateau is only 1 million years old. There are two layers of clay at Pétrus; the topsoil of dark clay is 60 to 80 centimeters thick. But it's the unique subsoil that is not found in any other vineyard. The soil is packed with very, dense, deep, dark blue clay. The clay is so hard, that the roots cannot penetrate. The clay is smectite. When this type of clay absorbs water, it becomes impermeable. The water molecules are able to penetrate the interlayer molecular spaces of the clay. When the dry summer months arrive, the vines are still able to feed on the much needed moisture. The majority blue clay on the Pomerol plateau is about 15 hectares in total. Pétrus is unique as its entire 11.5 vineyard is right on top of the clay. Neighboring vineyards only have a portion of blue clay in their soil. The work done in the vineyard is fastidious - severe pruning in the winter, regular ploughing, crop-thinning, de-leafing, manicuring the clusters in the summer - and allows the perfect ripening of the fruit. Severe pre-assemblage vat selection is carried out and certain parcels are rejected from the Grand Vin. The grapes are manually harvested within two to six days and sorted before crush. Fermentation is carried out gently, without any over-extraction, in temperature controlled concrete tanks. The blend, very often pure Merlot, is defined in December and the young wine is aged in 50% new French oak for 18 months.
Pétrus displays an intense color, a rich and complex nose and an opulent fruit. In great vintages, the wine can easily be kept 25 years or more.
Varietals: 95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc