We asked long-time Decanter contributing editor James Lawther MW to select his favourite estates from these Right Bank appellations. His choice highlights the evolving nature of the region since the 1990s...
Bordeaux became my home in 1996, St-Emilion and the Right Bank an agreeable 25-minute drive away. Leaving the rolling hills of the Entre-Deux-Mers, the road dips and crosses the Dordogne running on towards the elevated epicentre of St-Emilion, the limestone plateau and côtes. Advancing further, the terraces, slopes and châteaux appear. It’s a heartening sight and one that hasn’t palled over the years. Likewise, the medieval town itself – whether bustling from spring to late summer or slumbering in the winter.
In the 1990s the Right Bank was a flurry of activity. The start-up ‘garage movement’ was in full swing, a revised classification for St-Emilion in 1996 caused something of a stir, and viticulture and winemaking were in the spotlight, with ‘progressive’ methods such as green harvesting, grass cover, late-harvesting, extraction and ageing in new oak hot topics.
Scroll down for Lawther’s top picks from his favourite Pomerol and St-Emilion chateaux
Some 20-odd years on, revolution is no longer in the air, the viticultural methods are standard practice and the wilder extremes of winemaking have been toned down. The garage wines that survived are now part of the establishment, the talk these days imposed by wealthy investors and the latest acquisition and amalgamation. Unchanged is the quiet rurality that still holds.
Choosing my top St-Emilion and Pomerol châteaux, I’ve tried to show the fabric of the region, illustrating the evolution since the 1990s. Both the official (Angélus, Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Pavie) and unofficial (Lafleur, Petrus, Le Pin) top growths have been left aside to allow for a little more scope. It’s a choice that is personal rather than one that is dictated by points.