|Vineyards in Pomerol's Chateau La Conseillante. Credit: La Conseillante|
Sandwiched between these world-renowned Right Bank properties is the small Pomerol estate La Conseillante. These are not "inexpensive" wines in the clearest sense of the word. But, given the incredibly high prices of their neighbors, La Conseillante is impressive. Some of the lesser-heralded vintages can be found for $50, while the exceptional vintages can be found for $175-$200. And, as a recent 16-vintage vertical tasting demonstrated, the quality is really exceptional.
La Conseillante dates back to 1871, when the Nicolas family bought the estate. It's still controlled by the same family, now in the fifth generation. Bertrand Nicolas and Jean-Valmy Nicolas are co-managing directors, and, since 2015, Marielle Cazaux has served as the estate manager. Comprising about 30 acres divided into 18 plots, the estate is planted to about 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The soils here are rich in clay, where Merlot thrives, while Cabernet Franc is planted in the soils with more gravel.
I had never tasted a wine from La Conseillante before, so I jumped at the chance to attend a massive, 16-vintage vertical tasting. Organized by Bordeaux whiz Panos Kakaviatos, the tasting was held at the French embassy, and estate manager Marielle Cazeaux was there to present the wines. This was quite the introduction to this estate, to say the least!
Across the board, the wines were beautiful. Some vintages (2005, 2015) were mind-bogglingly good and seem to have the stuffing for decades of glorious evolution. As the older vintages show, these wines can age wonderfully. Out of the entire lineup, I only found one wine (2008) that didn't pop out and wow me completely. Most of these wines would benefit from more years in the cellar or a serious amount of time in the decanter. But even the very young-tasting wines showed gorgeous balance, depth and flavor.
My notes on the 16 vintages of La Conseillante are below...
1990 Château La Conseillante
With all the really young wines, it was nice to taste this vintage to see how it has aged - wonderfully, is the answer. Love the nose: mulled fruit mixed with musk, leather, anise, black tea. Silky, fresh, tangy on the palate, dusty tannins. Crunchy red cherries mixed with seriously detailed elements of black tea, earth, mineral, fallen leaves, pepper, old leather couch, soy, herbs. Lovely, refined, so pretty. (96 points)
1998 Château La Conseillante
Loved this vintage and where it is in its evolution. Tart cherries, black currants on the nose, with violets, anise, cedar, tobacco. Silky, tangy, fresh and vibrant on the palate but still a solid core of tannins. Tangy currants and plums mix nicely with a host of complex spice, soy, pepper, leather, black tea and dark chocolate notes. Still time ahead, but it's balanced and smooth at the moment. (95 points)
1999 Château La Conseillante
Nose shows tangy dark currants, along with violets, leather and soy elements. Dusty tannins, bright acidity, this is a refined vintage with currant and plum compote. Notes of violets, spiced tea, leather, soy. Vibrant, approachable, crisp, fresh, with an herbal, spicy finish. Drinking nicely now. (93 points)
2000 Château La Conseillante
Very exciting stuff. Lovely nose of plums mixed with earth, leather, tobacco, pine forest and coffee grounds. Suave and rich, structured with a solid tannic backbone, fresh acidity, the balance is lovely. Cherries, currants and plum topped in beef drippings, black tea, pepper, tobacco and mineral notes. Balanced, lovely depth, showing wonderfully now but plenty of life and evolution ahead. (95 points)
2001 Château La Conseillante
Lovely crushed currants on the nose, with menthol, sage, leaves, still boasting fruit but those complex secondary elements are starting to pop quite a bit. Structured well still, with a backbone of fine tannins and fresh acidity. Concentrated plums and currants still, with earth, leaves, tobacco, mint. Complex, vibrant, showing well right now but no rush. (94 points)
2003 Château La Conseillante
So dark on the nose. Plums and deep, dark currants with violets. Rich, chewy, deep on the palate with concentrated fruit. The notes of earth, cedar and mint are a bit muted. So much fruit, but it's not raisined or sweet. However, this vintage was a stylistic outlier for sure. Maybe another five or ten years will coax this wine out? Delicious, still, no doubt. (92 points)
2004 Château La Conseillante
Aromas are deep and concentrated, this seems young, but showing some violets, earth and smoky subtleties. Built well on the palate, dusty but fresh. Dark currants and plums mix nicely with elements of pepper, earth, spiced tea, soy. Still time ahead, but approachable, this is a spicy, earthy vintage. (93 points)
2005 Château La Conseillante
Well, this was my wine of the night. What a total beauty. I kept a glass off to the side to revisit at the end of the night, and it was glorious from the start, but mindblowing with time and air. So much crunchy but rich fruit on the nose, laced with inviting violets, earth, cedar, mint, so much going on here. Gorgeous concentration on the palate, the balance is beautiful between tannins and acidity. Deep, profound fruit (plums, currants, black cherries), and complex elements of cedar, violets, mineral, loamy earth, smashed rocks, dried leaves. Pure, lively, elegant. This has so much time ahead but I was really impressed with how expressive it is already. (98 points)
2006 Château La Conseillante
This showed gorgeous, deep fruit on the nose, along with cedar, leather and cigar shop. Plush, chewy, deep, tannic on the palate, but shows lovely velvety feel, too. Plums, currants, plush fruit, a bit primal still but the fruit is absolutely delicious. notes of cedar and earth. This is really powerful and delicious, but needs a bunch of years I think. (94 points)
2007 Château La Conseillante
Wow, this was shockingly good, far more so than I expected. Gorgeous depth of fruit on the nose, lots of complex non-fruit aromas: cigar box, a bit of everything from the spice rack, mint, cedar. Pure and plush on the palate with vibrant acidity and smooth but structured tannins, a really silky feel. Currants, plums, velvety fruit mixed with charcoal smoke, mint, menthol, herbs, anise. Drinking very well right now. (94 points)
2008 Château La Conseillante
A good wine, it was just an outlier in a lineup of excellent ones. The director had tasted all wines before and deemed them correct, and while this was not flawed in any way, it was just muted and less expressive, by far, than the other vintages. Spicy, dark, peppery, earthy nose. Closed on the palate, shut down, the dusty tannins show themselves strongly, while the other elements hide underneath. Maybe another ten years will bring this one together. (88 points)
2009 Château La Conseillante
Stunningly beautiful wine. So deep and dark on the nose (concentrated plums and black cherries) with notes of incense sticks, mesquite, anise, fallen leaves. Plush yet rich, dense but expressive at the same time, the balance is on point, and while this is young and deserving of much more time, I loved how it showed. Notes of coffee, anise, dark chocolate - a lot more to come out for many years. (96 points)
2010 Château La Conseillante -
This was less expressive than the 2009, but, at the same time, just stunning. Darker and needs more coaxing aromatically, but there is a lot of pretty fruit and earthy, floral goodness deep in there. Tannic and young on the palate, with concentrated but beautiful red and black cherries and currants. Deep notes of earth, mineral, leaves, cedar, dark chocolate. So young (I'd bury this for 15 years), but so, so good. (96 points)
2012 Château La Conseillante
Deep aromatics of concentrated plums, currants, with some violets and herb tones showing from underneath. Rich, young, built like a truck but freshness is there, too. Plums galore, so juicy and rich, with some earthy, spicy, coffee elements. This needs 5-10 years to show its best, but very nice stuff. (93 points)
2014 Château La Conseillante
Deep, dense fruit on the nose (plums, plums, plums), with notes of smoke, earth and graphite. Tight and young on the palate but fresh acidity, too. Deep fruit mixes with saucy, savory, earthy elements. This needs at least five years, I'd wager, but showing a lot of promise. (93 points)
2015 Château La Conseillante
Wowee, this is great but will only get better. Rich but suave fruit on the nose, along with violets, earth, coffee, graphite. Pure, vibrant, balanced even at this young age, structured tannins and lively acidity are framed so nicely. Core of pretty red and black cherries and plums, along with mineral, graphite, charcoal, scorched earth, anise. Wow, this is beautiful, but I almost felt guilty tasting it so young. Almost. (96 points)