The Iconic Magnificence of Chateau Lafleur – Tasting the 2018 Barrel Blend and Older Vintages with Omri Ram…

I’m very fortunate to meet up with some very gifted and highly talented winemakers who oversee the production of some of the great icon wines of the world. As a bit of pre-En Primeur 2018 campaign orientation, I caught up with Omri Ram from Chateau Lafleur in London to contemplate the true potential of the 2018 vintage and also reflect on some older classics over lunch.

Omri Ram presenting a selection of 2018 Barrel Samples in the Justerini & Brooks cellars

My initial Chateau Lafleur 2018 Barrel sample rating came in at a lofty 97-98/100 GSMW for what almost certainly must rate as one of the top wines of the vintage. But more interestingly, after the 2018 sample we got to drink some older vintages over a superb lunch laid on by Chateau Lafleur’s UK agent, Justerini & Brooks.

Pensees de Lafleur 2009, Pomerol, 14.5 Abv.

A very small vintage for Pensees, the nose is superbly fragrant, perfumed, earthy and expressive with layers of black currant, sweet tobacco, lavendar and earthy cassis. The palate is super polished, elegant and an all round uber suave crowd pleaser with a very sophisticated manner. Does not put a foot out of place. Classical, elegant yet open and overt, this is a wine for Bordeaux lovers looking to start tucking into a very smart, earlier drinking icon wine!

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Lafleur 2007, Pomerol (Magnum), 13.5 Abv.

Along with 1999, Omri Ram’s favourite wine to drink. The end of an era where there was more Merlot that Cabernet Franc. An underestimated vintage for sure that in many ways breaks the stigma of the “7s” curse. 67, 77, 87, 97… etc. This wine is now beauty personified. Fragrant ethereal perfume wafts from the glass with intense nuances of cedar spice, caramelised cranberries, plum liquor and black berry depth. Underpinning the whole expression of the wine is dusty, stony minerality with the most incredible elegance, satin soft tannins and sublime harmony. If the Queen was coming for dinner and you knew she loved Claret, this would be the dream ticket to seal the relationship! Benchmark Pomerol.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Lafleur 2000, Pomerol, 13.5 Abv.

This block buster vintage displays a wonderfully expressive nose of gunpowder, struck flint, graphite, piquant black berry and herby grassy spice notes. Quite soft, fleshy and accessible, this wine has density, gravitas, concentration and weight of fruit with a subtle soft rounding acidity with a plush, creamy mineral tannin texture. Still youthful but deliciously opulent and seductive now. Start drinking but no rush at all. An iconic vintage from an iconic winery.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Pomerol Icon Chateau Lafleur 2017 En-primeur with Cellar Master Omri Ram in London …

Excellent tasting today with Omri Ram from Chateau Lafleur. A lot of intrigue surrounds the 2017 vintage in general and Omri feels they have a slightly different storyline to their neighbours. For Chateau Lafleur, 2017 was a good continuation of 2016 in a dry mode and rising temperatures. A hot beginning and an early start to the season normally leads to a great finish. But vine growth starting early exposes the vines to a frost risk, which has not struck in a serious way in Bordeaux since 1991. In that year, Lafleur made only 8 barrels compared to a long term average of 40 to 50 barrels and the trauma is sorely remembered.

In 2014 they bought anti-frost bucket candles, deploying 1500 of them in the vineyards in 2017 the day before the frost struck. With forecasts of frost, the candles were lit which acted to stabilised the temperatures to around 0.82 degrees C while neighbours vineyards dropped to -3 or -4 degrees C, resulting in severe losses to young green shoots.

Vintage comparisons… according to Omri Ram…

2015 = like a super 2009

2016 = like a super 2010

2017 = also more like a 2016-styled wine

Chateau Lafleur Cellar Master Omri Ram

Chateau Grand Village Rouge 2017, Bordeaux Superieur

97% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc in the 2017 blend with a very pure clay-limestone expression. Big, plump, opulent nose brimming with black fruits and limestone linearity. The palate is beautifully taut, crisp and pure, showing beautiful freshness, clarity of fruit and wonderful harmonious length. A real triumph for the vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 89-92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Acte 9 2017

100% Merlot picked on the 21st of September and 2017 is the first and possibly last vintage to be made from pure Merlot. Normally the blend includes up to 50% Cabernet Franc. Almost like a mini-Lafleur in essence, only 1,200 bottles were produced. Full and expressive on the nose, there are wonderful black plum notes, buttered brown toast, blackberry confit with just a dusting of mocha and cocoa powder. Super elegant palate, very pinpoint and precise, excellent purity, harmony and subtlety with a soft, feminine, sultry length.

(Wine Safari Score: 90-92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Les Pensees de Chateau Lafleur 2017

Smallest parcel in Lafleur at 0.69 hectares. Not made as a second wine to Lafleur, more as a defined expression from the same clay dominated parcel. Using 52% Merlot and 48% Cabernet Franc, the aromatics are more vibrant, crunchy and fresh revealing hints of cassis reduction, graphite and a saline, kirsch note. The palate boasts sweet violet tinged black berry, cherry confit with fine core depth and a plush, long length. An accessible, classy expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 91-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Lafleur 2017

With vineyards unharmed by the frost, the blend is 47% Merlot and 53% Cabernet Franc. Merlot was picked before the rains on the 8-12th September as the fruit was beautifully ripe. The aromatics are wonderfully precise, pure and focused, with black bramble berry fruits, black cherry and blackberry jam on buttered brown toast. The palate is broad and expansive, filling the mouth, coating it with concentrated black plum, creamy saline cassis, milk chocolate nuances and chalky, gravelly fine tannins. Wonderful front palate weight, a dense core of fruit and a really profound textural harmony and elegance. Still embryonic, this wine has the genetics and the pedigree to be another fantastic Lafleur vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 96-98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Note: The lovely red wines of Lafleur were blended already at the end of January 2018, allowing almost the full passage of maturation to take place as a “finished wine” in oak. Usually a more common practice of the past Omri says, but nowadays, most chateaux show “cleverly constructed wines” with a notional blend drawn from the best barrels to show trade buyers at En-primeur. So yet another subtle level of authenticity in the portfolio of the Guinaudeau family reds.

Can new world wines challenge the French classics… when matched with food!? 

I remember back during the 2008 Lehman Bros. banking crash period, how wine merchants the country over reported seeing a massive and sudden consumer movement back to the French classics. Apparently this trend manifested itself at all levels, from supermarkets up to fine wine merchants.


As a buyer for a niche high-end merchant in London, I can confirm after a brief look over sales figures by region for these years, that this certainly was the case for us. In the mainstream, stats were undoubtedly influenced by the parallel factor of a strengthening Aussie and Kiwi dollar against the pound, which raised prices by 20%-30%+ over a very short period of time. As key volume component players in the UK market, a drop in sales was perhaps inevitable for these countries. But was there more to it than economics at work?

Pollsters reported that consumer behaviour flocked back to the security and safety of the classics that espouse a sense of quality, prestige, and a subconscious feel-good factor. 


Well, my Sunday lunch today definitely stuck to the classics, with a sensational bottle of Comte Lafond Sancerre 2014 (94/100) kicking off proceedings, followed by an opulent, but very attractive Chateau Le Bon Pasteur 2011 Pomerol from Michel Roland to match the roast chicken. Both hit the spot perfectly. 


I think perhaps South Africa has had more recent success in cracking the food and wine pairing category although Californian classics are very compatible too. It is perhaps the riper sunshine styles from Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina that have fallen behind the fine dining food & wine matching curve? My figures are anecdotal, but with many South African producers making fresher styles of wine, with reds exhibiting crisper, crunchier acids and sappy, spicy minerality at lower alcohol levels, these wines will undoubtedly appeal to European sommeliers and consumers alike. 


Tasting Note: The Le Bon Pasteur 2011 Pomerol, an 80% blend of Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, was rich and opulent with complex multiple layers of sweet black cherry, cassis, salty Victoria plum with a hint of liquorice on the finish. What makes this wine so appealing is its intense concentration and vibrant fresh acids that make it perfect with food. At 14 abv, it’s not a “cool” style Bordeaux, but it is certainly perfectly balanced with the most lush fruit balanced with sweet tannins and seamlessly integrated oak. Certainly the best estate wine in the Roland Collection in my opinion. (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


When it comes to food and wine matching, new world wines with their varying degrees of sweet fruit, lower acids and sunshine ripeness, will always struggle to compete with the fresh acids, austere restrained fruit intensity and dry minerality of an old world classic, whether from Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone. 

But this is an important factor that I believe weighs heavily on new world producers and is one that drives them vehemently to achieve better freshness, structure and restraint. No bad thing!